Don Bosco is bigger than the Salesians and his 200th birthday is being celebrated beyond the Congregation. Evidence of this is everywhere in Turin where festive tribute is offered to her most celebrated son. A travel brochure issued by the city of Turin reads thus:
Turin welcomes the many pilgrims who reach and visit its Holy Places. 2015 is an extraordinary year, with a lot of holy events. From April 19th to June 14th, the Holy shroud is exhibited in the Turin Cathedral of St. John, while the celebrations for the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco continue until the end of August. Both events – the Exposition of the Holy Shroud and the Salesian Jubilee – are graced with the visit of Pope Francesco to the city of Turin…
Toronto’s St. Benedict Parish and Filipino Salesian Past Pupils paid homage to Don Bosco and the Holy Shroud as the last stop of their April 12 – 27, 2015 Bicentennial Pilgrimage.
Admission to the Holy Shroud has been extremely well planned and is conducive to prayerful veneration. Online registration is mandatory and assures groups their admission time. Volunteers offer a smile and a wheelchair service for any visitors requiring special assistance.
Devotees are streamlined along Via dei Partigiani and across the Royal Gardens where food vendors sweeten your wait time. There was even an authentic Sicilian cannoli stand! At the bottom of the Gardens, pilgrims pass airport-like security and wind their way through the “Passage of the Saints” en route to Cathedral. This winding white tarp corridor is lined with images and quotes of Turin’s vast array of saints and blessed, Don Bosco foremost among them.
Having emerged from the Passage of the Saints, visitors are escorted into a presentation room where the Shroud is explained before entering the Cathedral. A life-size projection of the Shroud appears on a screen, high above everyone’s head for maximum visibility. In silence, a concise, written description of the Shroud is displayed in six languages as the projector zooms in on one part of the crucified body at a time, identifying the details which might otherwise be difficult to discern.
The pilgrimage winds its way through one final passage before arriving at the Cathedral. This passage is covered in plain, seamless raw cotton canvas with soft backlighting. The effect is dramatic: step by step, you feel like you are being enveloped by the very shroud you are about to venerate.
Having entered the Cathedral, one is impressed by the silence that reigns there in spite of the massive crowds. One has the sensation of crossing into the empty tomb on Easter morning. A warm golden glow emits from gilded baroque side altars, while the stark stone nave pays homage in darkness. The Shroud stretches majestically across the sanctuary. Before it, a three-tiered platform provides the faithful ample gathering space with an unobstructed view of the precious relic, 150 or so people at a time. A meditation is led over the sound system. After a few moments of quiet veneration, visitors are gently invited to exit to the right so others may have their turn to pray as they arrive from the left. The visit is short, but highly impacting, impressive for its calm reverence.
That the Holy Shroud of Turin be on display for Don Bosco’s bicentenary is most appropriate. It keeps the focus of our celebrations where Don Bosco would want it: on the Risen Jesus, to whom the Salesian spirit and the Shroud still lead us today.
Written by Father Michael Pace SDB, Pastor, guest blogger.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring