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04 Holiness, Even For YOU!

posted Jan 24, 2019, 6:48 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 14, 2019, 6:14 PM ]
Yes, holiness, nothing less! Not only for the saints staring austerely down on us from our cathedral heights, but even for you, sitting in the pew below, standing outside the church, or even wandering far from anything explicitly religious. No one is excluded. That is the theme that animates the Salesian Family of Don Bosco this year - 2019. That is the message of the recent Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.

On the last day of January every year, we celebrate an expert in turning street kids into saints - Don Bosco. Unlike other great founders whose founding companions were adults like them, Don Bosco worked with teenagers, juvenile delinquents from the streets of Turin, a town then looking somewhat like the present Dharavi slum of Mumbai city, with all the young ragamuffins migrated and let loose from the countryside. In such places, God lets loose His saints, proving that holiness was possible also for them. Sure enough, he succeeded in bringing out the holiness hidden in them - Dominic Savio being just one example.

Saints always come in clusters, never alone; because holiness is contagious. Today, the Salesian Family, founded by Don Bosco, has some 170 officially recognised for their holiness, from Saints to Servants of God. They come in all colours and shapes: street kids, students, children of broken families, tribals from new Christian communities, lay men and women from ordinary families, priests, nuns, lay men in their early adulthood, princes, bishops, seminary professors, housemaids, farmers, industrialists, mothers and fathers, handicapped and what not. All kinds of people are saints. That is why holiness is also for you!

The annual message of the Rector Major of the Salesians, Rev. Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, to the Salesian Family for 2019 is: "So that my Joy may be in You (Jn 15:11); Holiness for You, too! This is a call coming from the Lord Jesus Himself. To most youngsters today, holiness is a particularly unattractive or repelling idea. "Holiness? For me? Outrageous. You are kidding," they would say. What an outlandish idea, at odds with progress, modern lifestyle, happiness and enjoyment of life. Am I not perfectly happy without all this religious stuff?

But the idea keeps nagging us, refusing to disappear, like the live embers under the ash: Can it be true that I too am called to be a saint? And why? What are my gains? Here comes the answer of Jesus: "So that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." Don Bosco said to Dominic Savio: "Here we make holiness in being completely joyful." Nothing else makes a person joyful as holiness. Secondly, Don Bosco said that holiness is your birthright, your DNA. You were created a saint. Our natural inheritance is holiness.

Thirdly, Don Bosco told his kids that to become a saint was an easy affair. Just be what you are. In Creation, everything is marked with holiness, the imprint of God. Animals can never be sinners, because they just live as they were made. The heavens proclaim God's glory, because they reflect His image. It should be the same with God's best creation – human beings. Why is it often not so? What has gone wrong? This is because God has given us that most unique gift called freedom, the ability to love and become greater than what we are. This is an INVITATION, free and respectful. That is how we speak of a CALL to holiness, a vocation. It is concomitant or identical with being human. We are human only because we are called to holiness, and vice versa. Don Bosco would say in simple words: "Do your ordinary duties well daily, and holiness is yours."

As we celebrate our 70th Republic day this year, let us remind ourselves that living personal lives of holiness will translate into being duty-bound citizens of this great country. Holiness begins with the self, and then permeates into every aspect of the family and society at large. Have a Happy Republic Day!

Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga SDB is General Councillor for South Asia Region, based in Rome.