All around us, this miracle of nature reveals the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost – when the same Spirit who at the dawn of time hovered over the chaos of nothingness to give us God’s gift of creation – breathed new life into the hearts, minds and souls of the once frightened Apostles, and the ever-faithful Virgin Mary, and in this way gave birth to the Church. From the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the Spirit of God, like a mighty wind and with tongues of fire, went forth to draw to the Risen Jesus people of every race and tongue.
Eighteen centuries later, that same Spirt worked a new Pentecost in Turin, Italy. The Holy Spirt breathed new life into the heart, mind and soul of a little boy who would grow up to be the voice of the Spirit for the young, St. John Bosco, whose bicentenary of birth we celebrate this year.
The Holy Spirit spoke to Don Bosco through many different means, including dreams. As a nine year old boy, the Spirit revealed to him the scope and purpose of his life: to teach the young the ugliness of sin (life outside the life giving power of the Spirit) and the beauty of virtue (a life crafted in response to the Spirit’s promptings).
To the young, the poor and the abandoned of Turin’s Industrial revolution, the Holy Spirit sent Don Bosco to stir up new flames of hope from the ashes of despair, to breathe transforming dignity into places of shame, and to enkindle a network of meaningful relationships through education, faith formation and responsible social service. Thus, generations were freed from the bleak, dehumanizing cycle of poverty and exploitation… and the ever-expanding Salesian family was born.
In apostolic times, the Holy Spirit commissioned Christian disciples to become witnesses of the Lord, even to the ends of the earth. That same Spirit would inspire Don Bosco to send Salesian missionaries beyond Italy to every continent on the planet. Ever since November 11, 1875, Salesian missionaries have brought the Gospel to every continent, to peoples awaiting the Springtime of Divine Love, inviting them to join the symphony of joy and optimism that comes through knowledge of Christ and active membership in his Body, the Church.
This year, the Great feast of Pentecost falls on May 24, which is also the feast day of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Mary Help of Christians. Just as Mary did for Don Bosco back then, so she does for us today: she helps us to fix our gaze on Jesus, to say YES to his life giving Spirit, so that we may continue the work of Pentecost, in the style and spirit of Don Bosco, praising God for our share in that symphony of life that is written in the “key of youth”, a privilege and a responsibility which divine providence has entrusted to us as sons and daughters of Don Bosco. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Written by Father Michael Pace SDB, Pastor, guest blogger.