Memories of CAIJ XMAS

My first experience of a youthful Corumbaense celebration in Brazil.

Photo memories of 2012 CAIJ Xmas.

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Dom Bosco and CAIJ anniversaries

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August is a month of special anniversaries for CAIJ.   In fact it was a double celebration, the anniversary of Dom Bosco and CAIJ’s 5th year of operation in Corumba, Brazil.  Follow this link to see how the young people honoured their patron saint celebrated his legacy – CAIJ continues to meet the needs of children and young people in a community where families are easily marginalised and live in poverty.

Feast of Corpus Christi

In Brazil, the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday with a mass and public procession when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.   On this public holiday, it is customary to decorate the procession route  with tapetes or salt carpets honouring Christ and illustrating symbols of the Catholic church.   Unlike the flower and petal displays you would find in street processions in Europe, in Brazil, salt, sawdust, coffee and sand are used.

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Pantanal Adventure!

tuiuiu pantanaljacares pantanalcapybara pantanalanaconda pantanalFinally, it was my turn to go to the Pantanal.  I had missed two opportunities earlier in the year due primarily to my fractured tibia and ankle bone which rendered the journey unsafe and impractical.  So wait I did, patiently while other volunteers ventured out to see the largest wetlands in the world.  Yes, my time had come and I was ready to see if the Pantanal lived up to its reputation.  And it did, offering so much more.  I must confess that it is not for the tame at heart or those who go green at long. boat journeys.

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But then you may consider that to be a small price to pay when compared to spotting an alligator or two, catching a piranha for dinner, discovering birds so large you may think of Pterodactylus, and if you are lucky enough you might even get to see an anaconda.  In a nutshell, that is the Pantanal´s  wild side.

family pantanalpiranha dinner pantanalkitchen pantanalpantanalBut there is more, the human element.  I was so blessed to have spent two nights with a  local farming family whose pace and quality of life inspired me anew and resonated with my contemplative side which longs for a slower pace of life, simplicity and periods of  solitude.   On arriving,  I had joked about sleeping in a ´hede´ and to my surprised at bedtime, our hosts produced a hammock so I could sleep under the most magnificent starry sky I have ever seen.  While I consider myself to be a huge fan of nature, without doubt,  the highlight, actually that should be pluralised, the highlights of my experience in the Pantanal was the time spent with the farming community – playing guitar late into the night accompanying the host on the concertina, while throwing back rounds of  local pinga and capirinhas:  sitting around the fire at 5.30 next morning sharing in the communal cup of hot herbal mate tea;  joining in and providing music at the baptismal mass celebration of six babies; receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in this Garden of Eden;  being in fellowship with several other farming families who traveled for hours to join us in the mass celebration and festa.

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pilot pantanalflowering trees pantanalbird pantanalnarrow waterways pantanalwise old owl pantanalpiranha pantanal Yes I was genuinely surprised at how akin I felt during my short time in the Pantanal.   I look forward to my return.

Silent Retreat at Instituto Vincente

DSCF4438Definitely one of the highlights of my experiences so far in Brazil.   I am grateful for the silence in such a beautiful, tranquil setting here in Campo Grande and the enormous hospitality of the Salesians in residence.

DSCF4427The retreat centre is actually located on the site of the botany and veterinary departments of the Don Bosco University but this clearly adds to the ambiance, making it ideal for gentle walks, quiet talks, prayer, reflection, contemplation and relaxation.


Feast of Don Bosco, Apostle of Youth

Don BoscoOn January 31st we celebrate the feast of Don Bosco.  Over the course of his life, Don Bosco worked with the young to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.  He opened churches, youth centres (which he called oratories) and schools as well as orphanages and boarding programmes.  Thousands of homeless and poor youth would gather at these places to learn skills that would help them find honest work.

To support this work, he also founded a society of priests and brothers that he called the Salesians, after St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, whom he had always admired for his kindness and religious zeal.   The Salesian Society was given permanent status within the Catholic Church in 1874.  Don (“Father” in Italian) Bosco died on January 31st, 1888 as the Apostle of Youth.  He was declared a saint on Easter Sunday, April 1st, 1934.

Today there are around 1,600 priests and brothers who serve young people in over 128 countries.  Don Bosco also founded, with the help of St. Mary Mazarello, an order of sisters called Daughters of Mary Help of Christians as well as the movement of lay people known as the Cooperators. 

Contemplative in Action
The life of a Salesian is a life of intense work with and for the young.  He must be united with Jesus Christ in all that he does, so that his work becomes a key means of his prayer.  “Everyone should carry out his duties in the presence of God,” Don Bosco used to say.

Preventive System
Another important aspect of Salesian spirituality is the Preventive System.  In imitation of Don Bosco, Salesians try to create environments in which reason, religion and kindness permeate all they do, thus helping everyone to create a positive environment that is conducive to doing good.

Devotion to the Blessed Mother
Salesians have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother, whom they address as Mary Help of Christians.  Don Bosco summarised this love for the Mother of God by saying, “Nothing has ever been done in this Oratory that has not been done in the holy name of Mary.”

Don Bosco stressed frequent reception of the sacraments by the young people he served.  “Frequent confession and communion are the two columns that support the whole educational edifice.”

St. Francis de Sales
Finally, Don Bosco imitated his patron saint, St Francis de Sales by consistently practicing gentleness and kindness.  And in 1867 he made what is for us an inspiring and challenging statement: “With the gentleness of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesians will bring all the people to Christ.”

(taken from Salesians of Don Bosco, Canada, Vocational leaflet, Journeying with the young)