by John Roche, SDB
In his Apostolic letter Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis boldly proclaimed, “The Church will have to initiate everyone—priests, religious, and laity—into this art of accompaniment which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other” (169). In a world bombarded with new technologies, and undergoing myriad of cultural and economic shifts, new forms of abandonment arise that primarily affects the young. Such a reality calls precisely upon a Salesian style of accompaniment found in the educational and evangelical style of Saint John Bosco, who offered the young a profound sense of meaning in Christ and his Church.
This study first unpacks our current cultural milieu, and highlights pivotal shifts in recent history that have contributed to today’s turbulent reality – thus uncovering important features of a Salesian Spirituality of Accompaniment. This accompaniment is both a pathway and a mission. The subject of the mission includes the young, their families, and the Church as evangelizers. New evangelization challenges the world to embrace a vision of faith and a wide ranging mission of self-less service to bring Christ into lives easily lost in the chaos.
As we stand at the threshold marking the two-hundredth anniversary of Saint John Bosco’s birth, we are invited to embrace the gift and grace of the Salesian charism, and to give witness to it by offering the world an accompaniment that is life-giving, and restores dignity to those who have been exploited by the realities of our times.