Salesian Youth Ministry: A Holistic Perspective

Glenn Lowe sdb

At the very outset, if you are in search of a proper definition of ‘Spirituality’, forget about it. Search engines on the internet will give you over five million hits to define ‘Spirituality’ and over eleven million entries for a ‘Definition of Spirituality’. I don’t intend to give you another one. Like each one’s fingerprints, each one does possess a unique ‘spirituality’ expressed and lived out in the daily bustle of life.

Pope John Paul II rightly acknowledged Don Bosco as a ‘Master of Youth Spirituality’. As Salesians journeying with the young, we cannot but be proponents of Salesian Youth Spirituality (SYS), a style of educative holiness which prompts every young person each day to grow in Christ, the perfect man, by developing his interior dynamic forces towards maturity of faith.

Salesian Youth Spirituality can best be understood in the following perspective: The adjective ‘Salesian’ distinguishes the project from other proposals offered within the Church. The adjective ‘youth’ underlines the fact that this proposal refers to young people and has the characteristics of youthfulness even when it is lived out by adults, as is the case for the Salesians and the Sisters. The noun ‘spirituality’ attempts to reclaim a serious and challenging commitment based on the tradition of discipleship. Finally we are saying that we want the ‘Salesian’ and ‘youth’ aspects of our spirituality to encourage us to live that gospel radicality that has been the mark of so many Christians before us (RM, AGC 334).

Looking at the present scenario we live in, with the whole focus on ‘Holistic Growth’ and the body-mind-heart-soul paradigm, I would like to focus on the Nazareth Home, the Valdocco Experience, the UN programme for Education in the twenty first century and the four needs of people as proposed as Steve Covey and fit the entire growth process within the Preventive System.

1. The Nazareth Home: (Lk 2: 52)

Jesus is lost, found and then taken home. In one line, Luke explains Jesus’ Nazareth experience for the next eighteen years: He increased in stature (Physical Quotient – P.Q.), wisdom (Intelligence Quotient – I.Q.), favour with God (Spiritual Quotient – S.Q.) and favour with people (Emotional Quotient – E.Q.). Spirituality is about this ‘increase’ in the four dimensions of life: the Body-Mind-Heart-Soul). Salesian Youth Ministry ought to be a reliving of this Nazareth experience where the young people are invited to experience this ‘increase’. There is no spirituality without this total increase.

2. The Valdocco Experience: (Salesian Constitution 40)

In the Salesian Constitution, Article 40 we read: Every Salesian Institution must be a Home that welcomes, a School that educates, a Church that evangelizes and a Playground where friends can meet. Don Bosco, the master of youth spirituality, uses the four metaphors ‘home’, ‘school’, church’ and ‘playground’ that are to be the paradigms for this holistic growth. In today’s world, Home is anywhere where one belongs, School is about building minds with vision, Church is about creating a soul space that bring meaning to life, and the Heart is about living the quality of love expressed in relationships.

3. The United Nations: Learning: the Treasure Within

The report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century was presented in 1996. Simply speaking, the Commission felt that education throughout life is based upon four pillars: learning to do, learning to know, learning to live together and learning to be.

Viewing Education in a broader perspective, the UN chose to focus on holistic formation once again. Learning to do (Physical Dimension), Learning to Know (Intellectual Dimension), Learning to Live together (Social Dimension) and Learning to Be (Spiritual Dimension). Learning is no longer viewed as just a function of the brain. Learning must be a ‘Body-Mind-Heart-Soul’ connection.

4. Steve Covey: The Four Basic Needs of Every Person

For too long, humanity considered food, clothing and shelter as the basic needs of every person. Steve Covey, in Seven Habits of Effective People, rightly proposed the ‘4 Ls’ as the basic needs of every person. These four needs are: to Live, to Learn, to Love and to Leave a Legacy. Effectiveness is seen in the fulfillment of these needs.

The need to Live (the Physical Dimension), the need to Learn (Intellectual Dimension), the need to Love (Social Dimension) and the Need to leave behind a Legacy (Spiritual Dimension) are basic and the quality of one’s life is directly proportional to the fulfillment of these needs.

5. The Preventive System:

Pope John Paul II in his letter to the Salesians for the 1988 Centenary wrote: ‘The originality and boldness of the plan for a “youthful holiness” is intrinsic to the educational art of this great Saint, who can be rightly called the “master of youth spirituality” ’. John Paul II reminded us again in his mess­age to the GC23: ‘an aspect that calls for your care­ful study is “youth spirituality”... it is not sufficient to rely on the simple rationality of a human eth­ic...We must stir up deep personal convictions which will lead to a life commitment inspired by the perennial values of the Gospel’.

When we look at holistic formation in the environment of the Nazareth Home, the Valdocco Experience, Education in the twenty-first Century, and in the needs of an Effective Person we see a very close link between all the four dimensions. To increase in only one dimension at the cost of the other three is no growth at all. Salesian Youth Spirituality is about nourishing all these four dimensions: the Physical, the Intellectual, the Spiritual and the Social.

In all this, where does the Preventive System come in? Don Bosco’s educative system is holistic to the core. The Preventive System stands on four pillars: Presence (Home: physical dimension), Reason (School: Intellectual dimension), Religion (Church: Spiritual dimension) and Loving Kindness (Heart: Social Dimension).

To enable our youth to mature into God-fearing people and responsible citizens, we cannot but propose our Salesian Youth Spirituality.

1 comment:

  1. 15/11/2011

    Salesian Youth Ministry: A Holistic Perspective

    This article is very good. Congratulations. Previously I had read this article in the maganine last year and in fact I took a class on this. Today I was looking for "the importance of playgroun in salesian system" and I came across this article. i was delighted. Thanks a lot

    Bro. Blasius Tete
    Dimapur Province.