In keeping with the Rector Major's
Strenna for 2018
"Sir, give me this water" (Jn 4:15)
LET US CULTIVATE
THE ART OF LISTENING AND ACCOMPANIMENT.
We want to develop this theme from
a spiritual-educational perspective: how to live and promote the spiritual
journey of the members of ADMA, making use of the presentation of
the text of the Introduction to the Devoted Life of Saint Francis
of Sales, with the guidance of Fr Gianni Ghiglione, SDB, an expert
on Saint Francis of Sales.
1. What is Philothea or
Introduction to the Devout Life? / by Gianni Ghiglione
In August 1608 Saint Francis
of Sales published a book written in a hurry to meet an urgent request
of Fr Fourier, his spiritual director, "a learned and devout
person who felt such a book would be useful for many others."
This was the Philothea or Introduction to the Devout Life.
The work received an extraordinary and enthusiastic welcome. "Monsignor,
the book that you are publishing has captivated, enthused and enchanted
me so much that I have neither tongue nor pen to express the affection
I have for you, in gratitude for the great and singular service you
give to Divine Goodness" (Archbishop of Vienna).
"The writings and the works of the saint were so highly esteemed
that booksellers could not keep them in sufficient quantity to meet
the demand. Among the many commendations of the booksellers, there
was one that said they had never seen a book as useful for the salvation
of souls as the Introduction to the Devout Life. "
Chantal speaks of this book as "a book dictated by the Holy Spirit,"
and St. Vincent de Paul in the first Regulations for the Conferences
of Charity prescribes the daily reading of a chapter. When people
saw Francis they exclaimed, "There is the great Francis of Geneva,
who wrote the Introduction to the Devout Life!"
Already during the life of Francis, there were over forty reprints
and editions. Since then, experts today say that there are over 1300
editions, translated into all the languages of the world! And the
"It is in the character and genius, but above all in the heart
of Francis de Sales, that we have to look for the real origin and
the remote preparation of the Introduction to Devoted Life or Philothea."
So, it is a book that comes from a distance.
Origin of the Introduction
to the Devout Life
Francis was a man of great knowledge and inflamed with charity and
zeal. He felt the need to share with others the spiritual gifts God
had given him in abundance. His heart was moved in pity on seeing
many souls "capable of God, satisfying themselves with a lot
less", because no authoritative voice responded to their call
for help: "Who will make us see the true good?"
All the situations and circumstances in which Francis lived his life
can be considered as the immediate cause of the composition of the
Introduction to the Devout Life.
Certainly, his stay in Paris in 1602 had a special influence. The
"Madame Acarie Circle" was attended by people like Berulle,
Gallemand, Beaucousin, Duval and Olier. It was a true spirituality
school that had wide influence in France. The works of St Teresa of
Avila and St John of the Cross were read. It was thanks to them that
the Reformed Carmel was soon to be introduced in France. The Apostle
of the Chablais came into contact with these eminent people.
It was through contact with this spiritual world that he came to feel
the lack of a text that summarized in a concise and practical way
the principles of the interior life and facilitated its application
for people of all social classes. It is true that everything could
be found in Sacred Scripture, but it was like gold in the rough state.
It needed someone to extract it, to get rid of all impurities, melt
it, polish it ... It was a necessity and so from that year 1602, Francis
began to put together the first materials that would later form the
It should be noted that in 1604 Bishop Francis met the Baroness de
Chantal and with her began an exchange of letters. He did the same
with other ladies like Ms. Brulart, Mme de Villers and others. In
the letters Francis sent them there were not only rules of spiritual
direction applied to the needs of each one. There was also a number
of documents that were to be passed between them. These writings are
all found in the Introduction to the Devout Life. They include the
practices of piety to be made in the morning, a rule for the day,
various considerations on the perfection of Christian life, humility,
sweetness, widowhood, but especially on meditation and prayer. It
is in these principles, matured in the mind and heart of the author
and successfully applied in the lives of various people, that the
first draft of our book to be sought.
The form and style of
Francis had not only sound doctrine, but also the art of explaining
and developing his thoughts, and then the ability to get in intimate
relationship with his readers, capturing them, convincing them, and
appealing to their emotions. Francis was able to include all the spiritual
needs of the society of his time. He wanted his book to be accessible
to all. He tried to make the language simple and attractive, but also
persuasive. His aim was to appeal to all people in order to make them
familiar with the duties of Christian life and to indicate the precise
means to be used.
The first characteristic of the book is therefore its universality.
At that time, it was believed that a holy life was not possible except
in the cloister or, if one had to live in the world, by breaking all
ties with society and living a separate life. Francis, on the other
hand, claims that everyone can reach holiness, even those who live
in the world without having to retire to a monastery! This was an
absolute novelty for those times.
It was also necessary to make virtue attractive. This was easy for
Francis because of his kindness of heart which naturally led him to
be all things to all people so as to win over all. Perhaps this is
the most important aspect. It would have been useless to offer Christians
an ideal of perfection without inspiring in them the desire to accomplish
it. He presents virtue in its natural colours, in its pure and divine
form, and he is able to make virtue loved.
His teaching is essentially practical. Francis does not limit himself
to stating the principles. He spells out the consequences and gives
practical examples. This way of proceeding means that the reader does
not use up all his energies in trying to understand, but is able to
concentrate the energies of his will in choosing what he knows to
be good. The will, then, chooses what is good and directs all its
efforts into doing it. The writing takes on a tone of persuasion.
It is almost as if you can see him and hear him addressing the privileged
souls he had present while writing these pages.
The style is marked by:
Clarity: There is constant clarity and it looks even clearer if you
compare this book with the ascetic works of contemporaries or with
other treatises about devotion.
The use of images that are born from the subject itself. The beautiful
natural ways they appear are one of the main attractions of the book.
Friendliness is the dominant note. The images are presented with tenderness
and gentleness. "Heart speaks to heart." The author opens
his loving soul and, through the sweet tyranny of love, demands from
the reader a return of affection. This tenderness is not inspired
by profane motives. It is the fire of charity that animates the writer
and gives his book a supernatural and irresistible charm.
There is music written in the Introduction and there is music sung
in the life of Francis!
Conclusion: In 1876, at
a meeting of Rectors and Chapter members, Don Bosco said that "it
was necessary for the Salesians to get to know better the life and
works of St Francis of Sales, at least the Philothea!" He would
address the same invitation today to all the members of the great
I leave you with a short passage written by Andrew Ravier, a great
scholar of the works of Francis, which summarizes in a certain way
the essential invitation of the Philothea, which we are beginning
to study. "Whoever you are, in the city or in the countryside,
in the factory or in the office, whether you are young or not so young,
married or not, free or ... in prison, no matter what! The essential
thing is that you have the desire to live according to the Gospel,
take the commitment of your baptism seriously, be a true child of
God! This book is about to fill your heart, as Jesus once said: "I
have come that they may have life and have it in abundance!"
And you, thanks to your baptism and your faith, are you not already
risen with him, through him and in him? For Francis de Sales, Christian
life is Easter every day!"
o Get the text of the Introduction to the Devout Life and start reading
a few pages here and there to get a taste of Francis's style and language.
The adjectives and adverbs make all the difference, so pay attention!
ADAM FAMILIES - RETREAT
IN VALLE D'AOSTA
In the first three weeks of August, a retreat was held in Val d'Ayas
in the Valle d'Aosta region for three groups of families connected
to the primary ADMA in Valdocco, Turin.
Each group has an average of 150 participants, who filled every available
space in the Don Bosco Alpine Village, using also some neighbouring
houses in order to accommodate everyone. The way these days were organized
was the result of several years of experience, with a step forward
every time the initiative was held.
The older children of the families and some other young people (high
school or university students) were trained during the year with the
guidance of some more experienced leaders to take care of the large
group of the younger ones. These were divided into three groups: pre-school,
elementary school and junior high school. Parents can then entrust
their children to the group leaders, and together they offer a rich
formative experience for leaders and young people alike.
Parents can then devote their days to listening, to prayer, silence,
and sharing. This year's theme was the beatitude of the heart - joyful,
ardent, open, and pure - with the light that comes also from the centenary
of the apparitions at Fatima. Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, World Animator
of ADMA, led the way. One of the most beautiful and enriching aspects
of this experience was the sharing of life between families. This
included moments of deep sharing of their experience of faith and
the help they gave each other in meeting the needs of everyday life
(meals, cleaning, etc.).
During the second week, there was the very welcome presence of twenty-four
ADMA friends from Spain who wanted to share in this journey, considering
the possibility of similar programmes in their own country.
Finally, there was the significant participation by some Salesians
and FMAs who shared and animated the experience, manifesting the wealth
of faith and Salesian spirituality shared between lay and consecrated
The Association of Mary Help of Christians - ADMA - of Valdocco, Turin
is composed of families that share the challenges and difficulties
of every other family today and find in the Eucharist and in their
entrustment to Mary Help of Christians a great strength for their
growth in Christian family life. Several of the families have three,
four or even more children, and the communion that is created between
them and with which they are now beginning the journey of married
life becomes a beautiful school of life, which supports and accompanies
those who, for various reasons, find themselves in difficulty.
NEW ADMA COUNCIL IN SALVADOR
The election of the new National Council of ADMA in Salvador took
place in Ciudadela Don Bosco, in the presence of the national delegate,
Father René Torres, and the members of the various groups.
The following were elected: President: Luis Franco; Vice-President:
Sonia Carrillo; Treasurer: Catalina Ascencio; Secretary: Wilfredo
Figueroa; First Councillor: Jorge Mena; and Second Councillor: Griselda
Sánchez. Congratulations to the new council. May Mary Help
of Christians guide you. We thank the outgoing council for their work
and their dedication to our beloved association.
SPAIN - CANONICAL CORONATION
OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS AT ALGECIRAS
(ANS - Algeciras) - The "Canonical Coronation of Mary Help of
Christians" took place on 1 July last, in the María Cristina
Park of Algeciras, during a solemn Eucharistic celebration celebrated
by Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy of Cadiz and Ceuta.
The Salesian Congregation sees in this a reward for the many months
of hard work spent in obtaining approval from the diocese. The Congregation
wishes to thank all those who have made possible the continual growth
of this devotion for over 100 years.
The mayor José Ignacio Landaluce Calleja participated in the
Honorary Committee, symbolically chaired by King Felipe VI, and also
comprising the ecclesiastical authorities of Gibraltar and Algeciras
and representatives of various Religious Congregations and Institutions.
Fr José Antonio Perdigones, Rector of Salesian House of Algeciras,
said that the coronation is "no doubt an acknowledgment to all
the Salesians who fostered the devotion of this city to this particular
One of the requirements for Canonical Coronation is that a specific
Marian devotion be particularly widespread among the population; for
this "the city of Algeciras is responsible since it honours Mary
Help of Christians not only on 24 May but throughout the year!"
said Fr Perdigones.
The members of the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) obviously
enjoyed this event and the local ADMA President Juana González
called it "a precious gift".
The Mayor also congratulated the Salesians for the beauty of the celebration,
saying that it was "a historic moment for the whole city of Algeciras,
when tourists and the inhabitants of neighbouring towns walked down
the street accompanying the newly crowned statue of Mary Help of Christians."
The function was attended by numerous representatives of the various
Salesian Centres of the Province of Mary Help of Christians (SMX).
The function was followed by a solemn procession led by the Provincial,
Ft Cristóbal López,
Finally, on the evening of 3 July, the parish of Mary Help of Christians
and St Isidore celebrated a thank-you mass, during which a mosaic
by the Artist Joaquín Soriano commemorating the Canonical Coronation
The monthly commemoration of Our Lady Help of Christians took place,
with the visit of our Salesian priests, Fr Hugh, the national delegate,
and the former delegate, Fr Francis Preston. Our thanks go to Fr Darryl
for his support of ADMA in the parish of St Thomas.
A thousand thanks for all we have received with prayers, adoration,
confession, and Mass. God bless all those who made this day beautiful.
On Sunday, 20 August 20,
the Lord called Fr Janusz Zdolski, spiritual animator of ADMA in the
Pila Province (Poland). We entrust him to the maternal intercession
of Mary Help of Christians to whom he had great devotion.
On 23 August 2017, Fr
Adriano Bregolin (1948-2017) died suddenly. From 2003 to 2014 he was
Vicar of the Rector Major and in charge of the Salesian Family. We
share the grief and prayer of suffrage for Fr Adriano who always accompanied
ADMA with interest and support. May Mary Help of Christians and Don
Bosco welcome him to the Father's house.
To our dear helper in
Our Mother who watches over her children from the Celestial Throne,
protect us on our journey;
Mother, from Your Infinite Heart, give us the Grace of Love;
Mother from above, forgive our pettiness today;
Mother of yesterday, today and the future,
We pray that a little of Your Light may shine in all of us;
Now and forever. Amen!
(Gregorio Fontana - August 22, 2017)