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Messaggi Don Orione

Contribution to the reflection of the Forum , Rio de Janeiro 25.10.2006




Fr. Flavio Peloso

Don Orione Youth Movement  –  Forum, Rio de Janeiro 25.10.2006


The search for the ideas that stem from today’s world to the Don Orione youths, could be done by reading the present situation in the light of the charismatic traits of the Don Orione youth, portrayed in the Don Orione Project of pastoral work for youth (pp. 22-29). The main features are listed almost like a Decalogue: 1. “God alone!”, 2. charity, 3. love of the Church, 4. trust in Divine Providence, 5. creativity and daring, 6. a simple life, 7, joy, 8, devotion to Our Lady, 9, the Cross, 10, love of work.

If these are the characteristics of the Don Orione Youth, what are the challenges of the world of today that provoke the feelings and the action of the Don Orione youth?

This is not the subject for a lecture or a conference, rather the topic of research and group reflection.

As a small contribution to the reflection of the Forum, I will focus on an aspect of the historical and cultural climate at the beginning to the Third Millennium which calls for, stimulates and tests a particular contribution on the part of us, Don Orione People and of young people especially.


One of the most characteristic and also worrying aspects of today’s world is that of the lack of hope and planning, when looking at the future. The challenge that ensues concerns the ability to live our history with hope. I would say that this is “the mother of all challenges”. Without hope, civilisation turns on itself and decays.

It is a challenge that provokes and stimulates all the Don Orione Family, which’s a Little Work of Divine Providence, a Family that finds its vital force and its typical outlook in trust in Divine Providence. It questions, in particular, the Don Orione Young people who – owing also to the young people’s own charism – are, and are called to be, the forward wing of hope.

We know that hope flourishes and grows on the horizon of a history that embraces the past and looks to the future. Well, today the vision of the future is in crisis and with it there is a crisis of hope. Post-modern times are not at all favourable to hope: the weak “thinking” admits of being incapable and not interested in understanding who we are and where we are going; it falls back on “the present”¸ in the “here and now” to be enjoyed, consumed and defended; it renounces to place the today within a vision of an interesting, loveable and thought-provoking future.

“When I was young” (60s/70s), in the dominant culture – not just that of the printed word and of meetings, but among the people, groups of every kind, speeches, homilies as wells as songs – one could breathe a belief in the progress of humanity. “We will walk together toward a better world” was a typical song of my youth. We even used to sing it in English, in the chapel of Villa Moffa. People like John Kennedy, who dreamed of a “new frontier” or Martin Luther King or Pope John XXIII, were launching space dreams that pooled together feelings and put in motion energies and projects.

In such widespread optimism, some thought that mankind was moving towards a new, capitalist paradise, others still towards a humanism without ideological, political religious and ideological traits, a reasonable, fraternal and peaceful humanism at last. Whichever way the better future was thought of, East and West, left and right, believers and unbelievers, and above all the youths of the “new generation” (the new generation of the 60s), shared the conviction, the enthusiasm and the desire for a humanity heading “towards a better world”, even if “the road is long, the journey is hard”.

Such optimism today, perhaps a little naive, has vanished. We are not quite sure of walking “towards a better world”.

The demise of the  Berlin Wall, in 1989, and the attack on the Twin Towers of New York, the 11th of September 2001, are the tragic and real sign of the downfall of  two systems of life on which people placed their hope of happiness, safety, well being and peace for the whole mankind. Even Latin America, in the last decades, was taken by the vision of a better future to be reached through a process of global liberation, by making people aware of and transforming themselves and the structures; today, it finds itself less optimistic as it looks at the plans and consequences of globalisation. Entire continents, such as Asia and Africa –continent of hope -, are caught up in a poverty that seems insurmountable and the only vision of the future for the people seems to be one of survival.

So, the future seems to set aside more threats than promises. No one today speaks of messianic visions of a better future.  In the XX century itself, hope was dashed by those who had a “vision”, who claimed to know what the better world is. Millions of people died in the soviet gulags, killed by those who knew where humanity was heading to. I remember the feelings I had  visiting the Lager of Auschwitz and the graph of  the railway lines from Norway and Greece, from France and the Ukraine,  all leading to that dead track. It was the product of people who had planned, in a scientific and affective way, the future of mankind. Pol Pot too massacred a third of the people of Cambodia, because he knew which the history to tell in the future was. The power holders of finance have imposed their own vision of the future by impoverishing to death entire populations.

We live at a time without visions of the future, without a goal towards which to move. How can we be Christians (“those who have hope”) and how can we be of Don Orione (“sons of Divine Providence”) today?

Let us recall that Christianity offers a hope that crosses time and history, but without any specific historical vision to attain. We cannot open the Book of the Apocalypse and say: “There you are, lads, five plagues have occurred, and there are two more left. Soon there will be new heavens and a new earth in which justice will always dwell”.

Without doubt, the disciples who had gone to Jerusalem for the feast of Easter had great hopes (vision) that something good was going to happen: Jesus would reveal himself as Messiah; the Romans would be chased away from the Holy Land, or something like that. As the disciples on the road to Emmaus confessed to Jesus: “We had hoped that he would liberate Israel” (Lc 24, 21). The past tense of the verb disclosed their disappointment. No matter the event they talked about, hope had collapsed. Judas had sold Jesus; Peter had betrayed him; the other disciples had fled in fear. After his passion and death, they had nothing to tell and no hope to live for.

At the very time in which the fragile community was about to fall, “Jesus took the bread, blessed it and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body, which is given up for you”. They did not understand the gesture. After his resurrection, he appeared to the Twelve and to the crowd. Some understood, and hope was rekindled in the world.

At a time in which many are attached to the present “to be eternalised” as much as possible (buying it, defending it, consuming it, etc. ) and others are telling stories of a disquieting future, we Christians offer a good news, a hope that is not tied up with any particular vision of the world and of the future. Our hope is Jesus, risen and made present in that mysterious sign of the broken and shared bread and of the chalice of wine handed around the disciples. It is a sign that offers communion with Christ and at the same time opens the thoughts and the desires towards future fulfilment, a future banquet of the new kingdom, “where every tear will be wiped away” and “God will be all in all”.



I think that Don Orione would begin by answering and telling us immediately: “It is not enough to bemoan the sad times and sad people and it is not enough to say: ‘Lord, Lord!’ We must pray and work. We imagine the Saints to be reactionary people. No! They are the most progressive people. The true Saints employed all their talents and very well. Let us throw ourselves in the fire of the new times in order to do good, let’s be among the people in order to save them. If we do not work for human ends, we will always find new faith and new courage. Let’s plough the ground and plant Jesus Christ again, in the soul of the people: mankind today has an absolute need of the heart of Jesus. (Writings, 79. 286-287)

Some practical suggestions.

  • To live Jesus (prayer, sacraments, listening to the Word), hope of the world, yesterday, today and for ever” (Heb 13, 8). He is the project and the architect of the new Kingdom. “With Christ everything is good and noble: family, love of one’s country, industriousness, arts, science, industry, progress, social organisation” (Writings 53, 9). Since they started from Jesus and from the new Kingdom inaugurated by his resurrection, the saints and the holy Church, have become men of hope, advocates of culture, effective reformers of society, builders of peace. Will it not be so in the III millennium? “We need a big heart and Jesus himself must make it so in us. Jesus, my son: I urge you to live and breathe Jesus; only Jesus can make the heart good and big. Let’s put on Jesus, inside and outside, let’s breathe Jesus, let’s live Jesus Christ” (Writings 80. 278).
  • Welcome our uncertain future, not as a threat, but as the way of God and of his Providence.Yes, Work of Divine Providence: to proclaim, against historical materialism, Tua Providentia omnia gubernat. Divine Providence is the incessant creation of all things” (Writings 68. 418). This means resisting the temptation to look for strength in idols and ideologies, in myths and drugs, to fall into depression and in the cynicism of the “all is useless” and “nothing matters”. If there is no hope, it is almost inevitable, because without hope one cannot live. In Christ, present sufferings and difficulties become “paschal”, that is, they are like the “birth pangs”, of life and not of death, they are forces of growth and liberation. “We are Sons of Divine Providence and we do not despair, but rather we have great trust in God! We are not among those prophets of doom who believe that the world is going to end tomorrow; corruption and immorality are widespread, it is true, but I feel and  firmly believe, that the final victor will be God, and God will conquer in infinite mercy. A great era is about to dawn!” (Letters, II, 215). Basing himself on the same hope, Saint Augustine urged: “Let us sing Alleluia here below, while we are still restless, so that we may sing it one day, there, above, when we shall be free from anxieties”.
  • “Charity alone will save the world”: “to do good always, to everyone, evil to no one”, that is to persevere in doing good, to make the most of the present work, knowing that “it will be good for eternity”. We will find out one day that, in the history of Divine Providence, our lives, with their successes and failures, will make sense, however insignificant they may, at times, seem (“Even a glass o water given in my name…), Everything that is good is used, in God’s hands, to foster his project of Providence (even “loaves and five fishes”), because “where the hand of man cannot reach, there is always the hand of God, the Providence of God” (Writings 81. 286). Everything has a meaning and value. Saint Paul reminds us that “by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with those that he has called according to his purpose” (Rom 8, 28). The meaning of our life is given by the mystery of God who encompasses everything in his victorious “instaurare omnia in Christo”: “the one who finally wins is Christ, and Christ conquers in charity and in mercy” (Letters II, 199).
  • To do the will of God. Trust in Divine Providence is practiced in obedience to his Will in our history “here and now. “Son of Divine Providence means son of obedience.  He who does not build up with God, scatters. “If the Lord does not build up the city, in vain do the builders labour”. “We will never produce much when we are not doing the will of God” (Writings 55, 14). It is necessary to remain open to the God of surprises, who is asking us to enter into his ways, in his projects, sometimes turning our own plans for the future upside down and asking us to do things that we had never even thought of. Don Orione used to say: “I am waiting to see which card the Lord will play”. The “doing the will of God”, as sons, with trust in his Divine Providence, does not mean to regress into infantile compliance, but strengthens intelligence and the responsibility in collaborating in a relationship “as sons” with the plan of the Father.
    Benedict XVI, during the Holy Mass for the beginning of his Petrine ministry, the 24th April 2005, said: “Dear friends! At this moment there is no need for me to present a programme of governance. (…) My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history “.
  • Lively, interesting, attractive and apostolic witnesses.
    Our lives, lived with trust in Divine Providence, will be happy, active and progressive, even in a world bound to the present and fearful of the future. Our life has a meaning, it is all precious and it is not “a useless passion” (Camus). By the grace of God, we are at peace and trustful, passionate and committed in all the realms of daily life “collaborating with the hand of God who builds up and are not defeatists with the devil” (Writing 32, 244). And he went on: “the hand of God leads all things. Someone will say: Even evil things? Yes, even moral evils. Even sin? Yes, even sin. Not moral evil for itself, but because it makes us understand that we are nothing in the sight of the Lord” (Words 8, 37). If other young people perceive in us the perfume of the joy of the Kingdom, they will be fascinated and will start following in the footsteps of Jesus and of hope.
  • “Out of the sacristy”.
    A Don Orione youth cannot be and must not be a youth who just attends group meetings, likes guitar songs and the nice days spent together. “We must be saints, but become such saints that our holiness does not only belong to the cult of the faithful, nor belong solely to the Church, but may transcend and throw into society such brightness of light, such life of loving God and men, that we will be, rather than saints of the Church, the saints of the people and of social wellbeing” (On the way, p. 325).This was the attitude that Don Orione used to foster. And he explained still: “Never let  the Church or the sacristy out of sight; rather, your heart must be there, your life must be there, there with the Host; but, with due caution, you must throw yourselves into a type of  work which is no longer the type of  work that you do in Church”(Letters II, 49).How is the huge, political, social and cultural commitment present in our groups and in our Don Orione youth movement?
  • To walk together

Hope has many aspects. It is linked to the Church and to the society in which we live. “Frater qui adiuvatur a frater quasi civitas firma. How beautiful it is to love the Lord and to work together, united and in harmony, for the Lord and in the hands of Holy Church” (Writings 48, 216). Personal ways of being united with Jesus, of trusting in Divine Providence, of being available to the plans of God, must become community attitudes, always wider and embracing the family, one’s own surroundings of life, the parish, society, the Church. Everything that we do in order “to create family”, to make community (lay and church), to join a movement, to make Church,…. strengthens hope.

Together with the up to date action of “doing good always, to everyone”, we need community plans, common goals, common routes. We know that this is what the Church has done, for instance, with the II Vatican Council and with the great church meetings (synods = seeing and walking together) dedicated to discerning and deciding common routes, in order to respond to the Lord in our own times. Our own Congregation is doing the same thing through its Chapters, Secretariats and Movements.

 In this context, how providential it is, dear young people, even your being “on the way” with Don Orione and with the Don Orione Family. It is a school of life. It is a journey of hope.

Even this Forum, with its specific aims of “realising” a project of Christian-Don Orione life and of “coordinating an international Don Orione youth movement” is an act of hope that responds to the challenges of today’s world and to the expectations of the people and of the Churches you come from.

Forward, then, because you are doing something good and holy that goes beyond your own hopes and, in Christ, will be a little work of Divine Providence in the journey towards a better world.

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