Don Bosco: A Bicentennial Tribute
Fr. T.C Joseph Sdb, Bosco B.Ed. College, Dimapur
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irdose A. Vandrevala, the Executive Vice-chairman of Essar Steel, writes that Mr. Russy Mody had hired him for Tata Steel when he was still a student at IIT- Kharagpur. Mody hired him in October 1971 and handed him an appointment letter dated a year from then! The pay? Rs. 500/- The condition was that he must secure a first class. By 1972, Vandrevala got a superb offer from DCM with double the pay! But, he accepted Mody’s offer! “To put it very honestly,” Vandrevala wrote, “I did not join Tata Steel – I joined Russy Mody” (The Week editorial, June 22, 2014).
People often do not join a movement, or an association, but they join a person. Radical changes are always brought about by an individual, not a group or a majority. The first disciples of Christ did not join a new religion but a Person. The history of any movement in general will attest the fact that the personal charisma of the founding individual had a tremendous influence on the early followers which became the foundational core of that movement. The story of Don Bosco and his monumental works for the upliftment of the young bear testimony to the same fact that it is only individuals with a passion and vision that can stand the storm of history.Born in Turin, Italy, on 16th August 1815, Don Bosco is arguably one of the greatest saints of the 19th century and a unique educator of youth. Originating from a poor background, from a very young age he was convinced that he had been specially called to work for the marginalized and the poor youth of that era, when Europe was under the grip of the Industrial Revolution and youngsters were easy victims of exploitation, social evils and moral degradation. He was acutely sensitive to the needs of his times. After being ordained a priest of the Catholic Church in 1841, Don Bosco came to the rescue of these poor youngsters with his novel method of education based on the three pillars of reason, religion and loving kindness, which meant a total and uncompromising involvement with the life of the young. His personal presence in the midst of the young and their activities yielded great dividends. Don Bosco knew that to cast his nets, he had to get into the water. And he totally immersed himself in the life and welfare of the young, winning them over to a life of dignity and wellbeing.
Don Bosco was a ‘visionary’ in the real sense of the word, with will and determination. He believed that life is too precious to be wasted on what does not grip the heart. For him, life was the testing ground for eternity, and he embraced it with both hands, heart and soul, with total dedication and personal involvement in the lives of the young and their problems. Open to the unending adventure of life, he saw paths where none seemed to exist. He sought solutions where others only encountered problems; he experienced triumphs and tragedies; he dreamt things that others could never even imagine. In an age infected with darkness, he became a beacon of hope, exuding sparkle and vibrant optimism. Don Bosco teaches us that though in the gutter, we must look at the stars.
He had an insatiable hunger for life, and discovered the marvels of life in any situation. Don Bosco made a significant difference in society by adding value to people’s lives, having a greater understanding of events and trends of his own times and milieu. And in his own unique way, he became a champion of the underprivileged youth and the downtrodden of the society. He spent his entire life in the service of goodness. His strength was always his cheery frankness, which attracted especially the young to him. For him doing good surpassed every other personal enjoyment. He always envisaged his ministry and mission as a work of love. Truly a medium of God, he was never bankrupted by his generosity and benevolence. Divine Providence remained the perennial Source of his resources.
Don Bosco never waited for extraordinary circumstances to do good actions; being acutely sensitive, ordinary situations provided immense occasions for him to do good, always and everywhere. Goodness precedes greatness. Let our ambition be goodness, not glory, teaches Don Bosco by his life. He was the maximum humanitarian. He was a man who saw tomorrow with a penetrating vision, and with his commitment and perseverance he achieved heroic heights. Total fidelity to his God-given mission was a remarkable virtue possessed by Don Bosco. He had the ability to sustain loyalties in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems that he found thriving around him.
The positive impact of Don Bosco and his educational system throughout the world is something undeniable. And our North-east India is no exception. As we are beginning the yearlong bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Don Bosco, which begins on 16th August 2014 and will culminate on 16th August 2015, it is only fitting that all who are and all who have been associated with Don Bosco institutions pay our grateful tribute to this great saint and educator. Don Bosco teaches us that action and contemplation are capable of fusion in a brilliant synthesis of a unified and integrated life, and that salvation is not only spiritual, but also secular. In dealing with people, and the young in particular, Don Bosco knew that the tough challenge is not in identifying potential winners; it is in making winners out of ordinary people. And history has canonized his wisdom. Long live Don Bosco!