THE SOCIETY OF JOY. The oratory of St. John Bosco: «This is home!»
« We believe sanctity reside in great happiness ». This motto of St. John Bosco is the beating and living heart of this year’s Children’s Village dedicated to his Oratory. In the bicentenary his birth, the exhibition will be an occasion for everyone to discover the life and unconditioned love for the youth of this Italian Saint, a man that brought Christ in his eye to the less fortunate and most shunned, at the Ends of the Earth.
« This is my home » is the inscription found on the door St. John Bosco’s house, in Castelnuovo, 20km from Turin. It may seem a short trivial phrase used to describe the simple household where he lived the first years of his life, but those few words actually testify to the simplicity of a miraculous life touched by the Mystery. So here is the true miracle: in his elementary day-to-day life, in the relationship with his family, began the story of the saltimbanco, the “comedian”, that became priest and embraced thousands of young people all over the world.
Everything started on an isolated hilltop, in a village of very few houses, in a farmstead where life was shared in the hard work of fields and cattle breeding. John was born here, where life is not taken for granted and everyday is hard earned. His father knew it very well: Francesco Bosco died of a high fever after a long day of work. John was only two years old at that time. He will say, later in his life, that the first memory of his childhood was the voice of his mother telling him of his death.
In the firm but loving eyes of their mother, Mamma Margherita, John and his brothers grew up in the teaching that the God that made the sky and its stars, the flowers in the fields and the wheat for their bread, was also taking care of all of them. So she used to pray: «The Lord gives and the Lord takes. He knows His reasons. If we misbehave, we must remember that one cannot fool God ».
From one End to another. From the poverty he was brought up in, don Bosco, now priest, went to live on edges of a pre-industrial Turin where he dedicated himself to the most fragile and disadvantaged youth, who suffered most from the change of the society and its consequent secularisation. « Everyone of them had a, though small, open window on Good I could appeal to. From that cracks in their heart I got more than I ever expected ». In his visit to the city Juvenile Jail and through the horrible view of those children nibbled by the bugs, he understood their necessity of having a friend that would take care of them, not just in paying visit, but in their life outside the prison cell. Former convicts, groups of young manual workers, chimney sweeps away from home and hundreds of orphans will become the first “small army” around don Bosco who will love them as a father.
The Oratory. Everything in the life of the Oratory, place where he would gather with his young friends, revolved around the Blessed Sacrament and Confession. This central point will be the key to our telling of his story, of what he lived with them and of his way of dealing with everything and everyone, from politicians to church members, from rich businessmen to poor people.
Together with the understanding that the Blessed Sacrament is the only possible answer to the human life, the desire of happiness that moves him in every single action is most important and fundamental to him. As in the example he tells of a boy called Michael. At only thirteen years of age, he was already the head of one of those groups. A month after having entered the Oratory, a month full of games and adventures, the boy seemed sad: « Michael had lost the happiness he had at the beginning when he understood that real joy comes from the friendship with Jesus and from the peace of one’s conscience. He saw his friends getting closer to the Holy Communion and through It becoming kinder and kinder. He didn’t feel like he had a clear conscience… After Confession he finally and emotionally said: “How happy I am!” ».
The charm of a Christian life. The children living in the Oratory were extremely poor and considered delinquents: their life changed completely sharing that of don Bosco. So he used to write to his young friends: « You won’t find many that will love you more than I love you in Jesus Christ, that want your true happiness more than I do ». There were no sticks and stones for them, only the charm of a Christian life that embraces it all. He loved them and engaged with them with the appeal of a beauty that comes from love and charity. For all his life he exhorted his other educators with these words: « You will get more from love, from a word of encouragement that trusts one’s heart, than from scolding…» and again: « Why should we replace love with the cold-heartedness of a rule? ».
Only God knows the hearts of His creatures. Only His presence can give us the key to know it and conquer it: « Education is a matter of the heart and only God is its master. We won’t be able to build anything if He doesn’t teach us and give us its keys first ».
Oratory life at the Meeting. Around the exhibition the Oratory will come back to life. Adults and children will participate in laboratories, don Bosco’s time games, plays, music, songs, movies and much much more. The exhibition dedicated to Saint John Bosco will be a “life of happiness: a journey to sanctity”!
Curators: Davide Cestari, Miriam Grandi, Giovanni Barrani, Luca Fiorin, Daniele Ciacci
Partner: Piccola Casa Editrice