Don Bosco Novena. Theme: LET US CULTIVATE THE ART OF LISTENING AND OF ACCOMPANIMENT

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1 Don Bosco Novena Theme: LET US CULTIVATE THE ART OF LISTENING AND OF ACCOMPANIMENT : Content: - Day 1 of this novena provides a kind of introduction to the overall theme of the novena, inviting reflections on the Salesian mission of accompanying young people on the journey of holiness. The Salesian readings come from a variety of sources so that each community or each member of the Salesian Family might find the appropriate reading ready for use. - For Day 2 to Day 9, each day, the novena text provides two readings, one from Don Bosco s life or writings, and one from the Rector Major s comment for the 2018 strenna. Format: For those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the readings of the novena could be incorporated into evening prayer, with the possibility of using the novena readings after the Scripture Reading of the day. The novena can also be used at some other moments of prayer during the day. In that case, after the readings of the novena, one might consider adding intentions, an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be, with the invocation, St. John Bosco, pray for us. As we reflect on the life of our Founder, may he inspire us to cultivate in every moment a vocational culture Fr. Angel Fernandez

2 January 22 - Day 1 Memorial of Blessed Laura Vicuña We, Salesians, are Called to Accompany Young People on the Path of Holiness Scripture Reading: The Samaritan woman said to him, I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything. Jesus said to her, I am he, the one who is speaking with you. At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, What are you looking for? or Why are you talking with her? The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah? They went out of the town and came to him. Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, He told me everything I have done. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world. (John 4: 25-30, 39-42) Church Teaching: Spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. (Evangelii Gaudium, #170) Salesian Reading: The Salesian Mission: Don Bosco - Dream at the age of nine A dignified man appeared, called me by name, told me to take charge of these children, and added these words, You will have to win these friends of yours not by blows but by gentleness and love. Start right away to teach them the ugliness of sin and the value of virtue. Common Identity Card of the Salesian Family of Don Bosco: (The mission of the Salesian Family is) the bringing about of an integral personal and social education of the young and of people in general. It accompanies them, through education to the faith and apostolic commitment, until they can make their own choice of vocation in the world and in the Church. (Art. 10) SDB Constitutions: We educate the young to develop their own human and baptismal vocation by a daily life progressively inspired and unified by the Gospel. (37) FMA Constitutions: The goal towards which all our pastoral work must be directed is the education of young women to discern God s plan for them in their lives and to accept this as their mission. Open to the particular perspective of the vocation of the woman in the Church, we shall help young women to become aware of the important issues of our times, and to be capable of contributing with competence and a Gospel spirit, to the building of a society more in keeping with the aspirations of the human person. (72) Cooperators Project of Apostolic Life: The Salesian Co-operators take up the task everywhere of educating and evangelizing as Don Bosco did, in order to form honest citizens and good Catholic to be the fortunate inhabitants of heaven some day convinced that they are always on the way to greater human and Christian maturity. (#9)

3 January 23 - Day 2 Young people s great need for a personal encounter and for being listened to From Memoirs of the Oratory, Chapter 6: I would see good priests working at their sacred ministry, but I could not strike up a close relationship with them. Often I would meet on the road our parish priest or his curate. I would greet them at a distance and bow to them as they passed. In their distant and courteous manner, they would return my greeting and go on their way. Often, I used to cry and say to myself and even to others, If I were a priest, I would act differently. I would approach the children, say some kind words to them, and give them good advice. How happy I would be if I could talk with my parish priest as I used to talk with Fr. Calosso. Why shouldn t it be so? I can testify to you that, in the hundreds of meetings I have had in these almost four years with young people from the five continents, I have gained the certainty that in the houses and works led by the groups of the Salesian Family there are thousands and thousands of good young people, open to life, eager to be formed, to learn; young people in search. Many of them have a great and generous heart, and wish to serve others, to do something for others, to help, to donate themselves. They are young people who request our help to continue to grow and mature in their faith. And there are others who do not ask explicitly, but who feel a great need for a personal encounter and for being listened to. There are many who would be willing to take a personal and communal path of discernment and accompaniment. So I ask myself: what are we waiting for? Why do we not decide to be much more available to accompany all our young people in what is most important to their lives? What is holding us back? Why be busy or spend time in other things when the real priority is for education and evangelization?

4 January 24 - Day 3 Don Bosco s example: Our Presence, Our Listening and Our Openness to Dialogue From Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco, VI, Despite his many and serious occupations, he was always ready to welcome in his room, with a father s heart, those young people who asked him for a special audience. Actually, he wanted them to treat him with great familiarity and never complained for the lack of discretion with which he was sometimes bothered by them... He gave each person full freedom to ask questions, to put forward burdens, defenses, apologies... He received them with the same respect with which he treated the great lords. He invited them to sit down on the couch, while he sat at the table, and listened to them with greatest attention as if the things they exposed were all very important. (quoted by the RM in his letter on 2018 Strenna) We will take many more significant steps, my dear brothers and sisters, on the day when we will truly convince ourselves that, more important than what we do, is what we are and who we are; that more important than the things and activities we offer to teenagers and young people and their families, is our presence, our listening and our openness to dialogue. This is what leaves traces of life forever. It leaves them in young people and in their families.

5 January 25 - Day 4 From Memoirs of the Oratory, Chapter 28 & 29: Listening is an Openness of Heart (After the meeting with Bartholomew Garelli) During that winter, I concentrated my efforts in helping grown-ups who needed special catechism, above all those who were just out of prison. I was beginning to learn from experience that if young lads just released from their place of punishment could find someone to befriend them, to look after them, to assist them on feast days, to help them get work with good employers, to visit them occasionally during the week, these young men soon forgot the past and began to mend their ways. They became good Christians and honest citizens. This was the beginning of our Oratory. It was to be blessed by the Lord with growth beyond my imagining at that time. On feast days, I gave all my time to my youngsters. During the week I would go to visit them at their work in factories or workshops. Not only the youngsters were happy to see a friend taking care of them; their employers were pleased, gladly retaining youngsters who were helped during the week, and even more on feast days, when they are in greater danger. Listening is always an art. We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur (Evangelii Gaudium, 171). It is for this reason that the gift of the word, especially in personal relationships, must have as its counterpart the wisdom of listening. This listening, which is so important in our mission as Salesian Family, must have as its starting point the encounter, which becomes an opportunity for human relations and humanization, lived in complete freedom, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

6 January 26 - Day 5 Listening to Someone From Memoirs of the Oratory, Chapter 2: Don Bosco - Dream at the age of nine [The lady] took me kindly by the hand and said, This is the field of your work. Make yourself humble, strong, and energetic. And what you will see happening to these animals in a moment is what you must do for my children. Listening is, in short, the art that requires solicitous attention to people, to their struggles and weaknesses, to their joys, sufferings and expectations. In fact, we do not limit ourselves to listening to something, but we are listening to someone. The pages of the Gospel that narrate the encounters of Jesus with his people are rich in this solicitous attention. Our look as educators, especially for adolescents and young people, and also for their families, assures us that there is a lot of positive in every heart; we need to bring out these positive aspects. Therefore, listening must mean for us much more than listening patiently; it is making sure that we understand in depth what the persons tell us and why they tell us. It is paying attention to what really concerns the other, teenagers and young people, and their families.

7 January 27 - Day 6 Listening Begins with Making Ourselves Available From Memoirs of the Oratory, Chapter 4: (John Bosco s meeting with Fr. Calosso) Why do you want to study? I d like to become a priest. And why do you want to become a priest? I d like to attract my companions, talk to them, and teach them our religion. They re not bad, but they become bad because they have no one to guide them. These bold words impressed the holy priest. He never took his eyes off me while I was speaking. I put myself completely into Fr Calosso s hands. I bared my soul to him. Every word, thought, and act I revealed to him promptly. This pleased him because it made it possible for him to have an influence on both my spiritual and temporal welfare. It was then that I came to realize what it was to have a regular spiritual director, a faithful friend of one s soul. And we well know from our own formation of educators and evangelizers that it is more common for [young people] to come close if we ourselves make some gestures of rapport, if we show some interest in them; if we go and meet them, if we show we are available. This is why, sometimes, these meetings and casual conversations may open doors to a deeper and more profound path of growth... This was the case during the encounter of Jesus with the woman, who had gone to the well simply to draw water.

8 January 28 - Day 7 The Holy Spirit At Work in Young People From Life of Dominic Savio, by Fr. John Bosco, Chapter 7: We found common ground immediately and a relationship of trust and mutual confidence sprang up spontaneously. I recognized im him a soul where the Holy Spirit reigned supreme and I marveled at the way grace had already worked in his young heart and mind. (W.C. Cornell, Don Bosco: Spiritual Director of Young People, p. 53) And for us who draw from the waters of the stream that flows from the Salesian charism stirred up by the Spirit in Don Bosco, the proposal of faith as the starting point for any further discernment is based on one sole certainty: We truly believe that God loves us and loves the young. We believe that Jesus, the Lord, wants to share his life with young people; and we believe that the Holy Spirit is present in them, and is at work in each one of them. More than ever, there is a need for education, a personal and communal journey, for listening and dialogue that foster the depth and interiority of life.

9 January 29 - Day 8 Young people s need for a father, teacher, and friend From Don Bosco, The Preventive System in the Education of the Young : The practice of the preventive system is wholly based on the words of St. Paul who says, Love is patient and kind. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Hence only a Christian can apply the preventive system with success. Reason and religion are the means an educator must constantly apply; he must teach them and himself practice them, if he wishes to be obeyed and to attain his end. In the preventive system, the pupil becomes a friend, and the assistant, a benefactor who advises him, has his good at heart, and wishes to spare him vexation, punishment, and perhaps dishonor. Jesus himself, in so many passages of the New Testament, becomes a neighbor and companion in the street to communicate and to meet in a personal way with the people of his time. The encounter of the Lord with the Samaritan woman shows how the Spirit of God can act in the heart of every man and woman: that human heart which, because of frailty and sin, often feels confused and divided, attracted to different and even contrary feelings. In the face of this human reality personal accompaniment appears as a very valid means of the Christian spiritual tradition, providing believers with instruments and resources that allow them to recognize the presence of the Lord, his demands and his calls. How can we define accompaniment? As a form of permanent dialogue among companions to welcome Life, accompanying life; a dialogue whose ultimate aim is to foster the relationship between the person and the Lord, helping them to overcome any obstacles.

10 January 30 - Day 9 Closeness Leads to Love and Love Brings Confidence From Don Bosco s Letter from Rome : I seemed to be in the old Oratory at recreation time. It was a scene full of life, full of movement, full of fun. Some were running, some were jumping, some were skipping. In one place they were playing leap-frog, in another tag, and in another a ballgame was in progress. In one corner a group of youngsters were gathered round a priest, hanging on his every word as he told them a story. In another a cleric was playing with a number of lads at chase the donkey and trades. There was singing and laughing on all sides, there were priests and clerics everywhere and the boys were yelling and shouting all round them. You could see that the greatest cordiality and confidence reigned between youngsters and superiors. I was overjoyed at the sight, and Valfre said to me: You see, closeness leads to love and love brings confidence. It is this that opens hearts and the young people express everything without fear to the teachers, to the assistants and to the superiors. They become frank both in the confessional and out of it, and they will do everything they are asked by one whom they know loves them. We are well aware of the importance of the encounter in Salesian pedagogy, which focuses on the person of the youth and of each person, with personal relationships that are based on mutual knowledge, on the concern for the good of the other, on understanding, empathy and trust. And we know that Don Bosco was in this an exceptional, incomparable teacher. Ensuring that there is a meeting that is an opportunity for a relationship that is human and humanizing and not utilitarian. With an attitude of listening, which makes it possible to know and understand the reality of the other person, the journey they are on, the situation of pain, lack of hope, fatigue or of searching in which they find themselves, as well as the dreams, desires and ideals hidden in their heart. It will always be an encounter of mediation, because the true Companion is the Holy Spirit. Discovering how God manifests Himself in our lives to the extent of surprising us as we are met by Him. Being aware that the initiative will always be God s; and that responsibility and freedom will be ours.

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