The special mass, overseen by Don Bosco’s portrait

For the last ten days or so, there have been a series of events connected to the 90th anniversary of the Instituto Don Bosco in Perugia. Don Bosco is where our boys play soccer. There have been lectures, concerts (we are going to a performance of the Salesiani youth orchestra from Oświęcim [Auschwitz] tomorrow), picnics, youth tournaments, and a booth at the Chocolate Festival. There was also a special mass at the Cathedral in Perugia; all of the kids on the Don Bosco teams met at the institute and paraded up the hill to the center of town.


Offerings of balls

The choir sang, the arch-bishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve presided, institute officials spoke of the life of Don Bosco and the good work of the Institute, and offerings and gifts were presented at the altar, including a set of balls representing the three sports of soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Even the flower arrangements were done in the Institute’s colors of rosso and giallo.

We then found out that Don Bosco himself was coming to visit Perugia the following week, and would be staying the night at the Institute on 22 Oct. Since he passed away in 1888, and was canonized in 1934, this meant a visit by the reliquiario that contains his remains.

The reliquary

The reliquary

A Carabinieri band and color guard were waiting on a pleasant sunny afternoon at San Prospero, the small 11-12th c. church that sits above the Don Bosco playing fields. A speaker rose to the microphone and explained that his whole body was not in fact coming to Perugia, but only parts of him, but that these at least included his right hand, with which he made many of his writings. In fact, Don Bosco’s reliquiario was going on tour; it had already traversed much of southern Italy, and was now making its way through Umbria.


Don Bosco slides down from the truck

During his speech, the representative gave periodic updates on the location of Don Bosco’s motorcade (trying to weave its way through Choco-Fest traffic). Finally, the blast of motorcycle engines and horns announced the approach. Two specially-fitted vans pulled into the parking lot in front of the church, and one backed up to the stone path leading to its door. Tracks were pulled down, and a wheeled carriage supporting the reliquiario was gently let down to level ground by a small  winch. The reliquary was constructed in 2009 of wood, with a glass top, sheltering a painted wooden likeness of Don Bosco, lying on his back, with his head and feet eased by red velvet cushions.


The Fire Dept. is always present for any special events.

More speeches followed by a priest, the cardinal, and a representative of the mayor’s office. It was announced in fact, via letter, that Papa Francesco had issued a plenary indulgence (text and explanation [Italian]) for those who spent time in veneration and prayer before the urna (his reliquary), while on its tour.

After its journey throughout Italy, the urna is continuing on to Don Bosco institutes in 130 countries around the world through 2015, which will mark the 200th anniversary of Bosco’s birth. You can check this website, with a helpful Google Map of his stops, to see when and where Don Bosco will make a visit near you (Chicago is the lone stop in the Midwest).

Two things that most boys love are magic and comic books. Don Bosco helps with both. He is the patron saint of  stage magicians (see this notice by the International Brotherhood of Magicians), because he used to do tricks to keep the boys’ attention while he tried to teach them. January 31st is the special day, and is often used by magicians to give free shows to underprivileged youth.

Everyone’s favorite fictional stage magician is probably G.O.B. Bluth from Arrested Development, so it seemed strangely appropriate that the final number played by the Salesiani Youth Band from Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in Poland, on the last night of the 90th Anniversary Don Bosco celebrations, was, yes, “The Final Countdown.” Here it is, featuring a trumpet player who nearly took the roof off of the Sala dei Notari on several numbers.

Don Bosco the comic book

Don Bosco the comic book

The best-selling religious fumetto (comic book) of all time is a biography by Jijé of Don Bosco, first run as a weekly French-language serial in  1941. Clever cover; my boys all thought he must have been cool if he could walk a tightrope. I’m hoping that reading it will help them with their Italian (there are others in English).

Don Bosco developed a theory and system of educating youth, called the Preventative System. Here’s its premise:

“There are two systems which have been in use through all ages in the education of youth: the Preventive and the Repressive.

The Repressive System consists in making the law known to the subjects, and afterwards watching to discover the transgressors of these laws, and inflicting, when necessary, the punishments deserved. According to this system, the words and looks of the Superiors must always be severe, or rather menacing, and they themselves must avoid all familiarity with their dependents.

The Educator, in order to give weight to his authority, must rarely be found among his subjects, and as a rule only when it is a question of punishing or warning. This system is easy, less troublesome, and especially suitable in the army, and in general among the old and judicious, who ought of themselves to know and remember what the law and its regulations demand.

The Preventive System, on the contrary, makes a friend of the pupil, who looks upon his educator as a benefactor who advises him, wishes to make him good, to save him from trouble, from punishments, and from dishonor.

The Preventive System enables the pupil to take advice in such a manner that the language of the heart presents a strong appeal to him not only during the time of his education, but even afterwards. The educator having once succeeded in gaining the heart of his subject can afterwards exercise a great influence over him, can caution, advise and even correct him, although he may already occupy some position in the world.”

The card given at the visitation

The card given out at the visitation

It was a pleasure to meet you, Don Bosco.