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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Feliz Páscoa – A Corumbáense Easter

Easter for the catholic church is a huge celebration.  Coming at the end of the Lenten period, when many observe praying, fasting and alms-giving, Easter becomes a joyful time to celebrate the risen Christ.  Last year I spent the Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday – at a silent retreat, with the religious order, the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, at Kairos Centre in Roehampton, London.  I recall writing in my journal  about the Greek word  ‘Kairos’ , which means “favourable time or graced moment”. Taking a couple lines from one of the convent’s posters,  I wrote “Now is the favourable time and Christ is its turning point.  Kairos time calls for an openness to the future and Kairos encourages us to let go and let God”.  DSCF5251So here I am one year later, in Brazil, experiencing Easter the brazilian way and slowly learning to let go and let God.

The week commenced with Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos), a joyous celebration of palm waving during the opening procession walk at Cristo Redentor followed by a mass with lively singing.  Holy Thursday turned out to be a special mass where the priest, as Christ representative washed the feet of parishioners. What made the service so special at Don Bosco parish was the difference in how this ritual was performed. Padre Pascal the parish priest began washing the feet of  teenagers who in turn moved into the congregation to wash the feet of parishioners.  The words, “Do this in memory of me” kept playing over and over in my mind as I watched these teenagers take up the mantle of serving others as Jesus had demonstrated.

DSCF5448DSCF5419On Good Friday, I visited the local parish with the intent of spending a few hours quietly in adoration. Surprisingly, group after group of children and young people kept coming and going every hour as part of their time to watch and pray with the Lord on this holy day of remembering His death.  By early evening, a small group of young people and leaders from Don Bosco project, CAIJ, (my place of work)  joined with other parishes for the Stations of the Cross street procession through the streets of central Corumbá.

DSCF5440DSCF5433We would stop at different homes, each representing one of the fourteen stations telling the story leading up to the crucifixion of Our Lord.  The families had set up small altar type tables decorated with flowers and adorned with devotions to their saints, Mother Mary or Jesus.   As we stopped to pray at each station-home, Padre Pascal in the lead would greet families, give a blessing and pray. So beautiful.  Motorists stopped their cars to pray stations with us.   Passers-by emerged from shops to give reverence to the occasion.  Children ran to watch the procession.  The young lad playing the part of the soldier struck the ground repeatedly with his real whip as we made our way up the steep hill; Jesus carrying his cross, falling three times to the wails and cries of the young  womenfolk.  It all seemed so real and moved me to tears.

Two hours later, we jumped into the Kombi and made our to way Parque da Independencia for an outdoor musical theatre “the story of Jesus”, performed by another group of teenagers.  The story span the life of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection.  Saturday we returned to the parish of Don Bosco for the Easter Vigil and awoke early for an Easter Sunday mass at the local parish of Cristo Redentor.  Jesus is Risen, indeed!

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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. 

SALESIAN SPIRITUALITYSt. Francs de Sales
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.”

Sacraments
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)

Feliz Ano Novo a todos

DSCF3627Henri Nouwen shared that “to give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.  It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light.  To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness.” MAY GOD BLESS YOU EACH AND EVERY DAY IN THE NEW YEAR.