Cardiff St David's Cathedral January 10th
Don Bosco's relics arrived early in the morning to the Archdiocesan Cathedral of Wales, St David's, to a welcome from Canon Peter Collins, the cathedral dean. Actually he was also there to welcome the road crew at 1am the night before after a disrupted journey of the relics team from Birmingham.
The Cathedral has a special link with Don Bosco since a friend of his early years, Lawrence Gastaldi, was appointed as rector of St David's mission in this same church in 1854. It was, perhaps, his conversations with Fr. Lawrence Gastaldi that inspired Don Bosco to have a real desire to engage in a British mission himself. Don Bosco invited Lawrence to preach to the oratory young people, one of whom was the young St Dominic Savio who constantly encouraged Don Bosco to start work in the British Isles after hearing Fr Gastaldi preach. He did not achieve this until 1887 when a group of Salesians arrived in Southwark diocese to work in the then poverty struck area of Battersea. It is noteworthy that when Fr Gastaldi eventually became Archbishop of Turin his relationship with Don Bosco became much more difficult which was a great disappointment to them both.
The morning at St David's was a unique experience since it was focussed on the needs of young people from the ages of 8 to 18. Don Bosco would have been delighted with the range of activities taking place in the benches: action songs, games and magic tricks which were used as a way to introduce the pilgrim experience which was done in small groups led by the crew. After visiting Don Bosco's relic in silence the groups ended up in a space outside the church playing games of “splat!” and other lively games. All these games, conversations and activities were there to emphasise the importance of being cheerful in order to be holy.
Bishop Thomas Burns led the Eucharist and invited the pilgrims to draw on the pastoral creativity of Don Bosco. The mass was described as extremely moving by many participants with music led by Edwin Fawcett and the road crew. Fr Martin Coyle spoke about the importance of holiness as cheerfulness and to let people know that they are loved and in so doing making it easier to believe in God's love. Fr Coyle presented the oratory model: home, school, playground and church as a way of making this love real in ordinary lives and relationships.
After the mass Bishop Thomas commented that the message of Don Bosco was much needed in the hearts of adults as well as in the lives of the young. He also accepted a unique statue of Don Bosco on behalf of the archdiocese presented by Fr Martin Coyle.
Groups arrived from Truro, Gloucester, Newport, as well as a range of schools from S Wales who brought their energy and magic to the pilgrim experience. In the afternoon a steady stream, mainly of adults, moved through the pilgrim experience. These included students from the university, visiting academics from the USA.
Once again, there was a strong and sustained demand for confession. Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy led the closing service and invited Canon Peter Collins to lead the Our Father in Welsh. In the Salesian Goodnight Fr Gerry spoke about finding God in the ordinary and invited Brother Sandy to demonstrate the magic in three ordinary pieces of rope that separated and joined together in an amazing display of conjuring. Fr Gerry spoke about Don Bosco's horror of his work accompanying young people to the gallows. It was the horror of those public executions that drove Don Bosco to set up works that would prevent them ever getting into trouble. Fr Gerry asked us to go out to young people with encouragement and praise and follow in the footsteps of this great saint.
At the end of the service Canon Peter thanked the crew and invited the congregation of 250 to keep them in their prayers for the ongoing pilgrimage. The casket was then covered with a black pall and the formal visit of Don Bosco's relics to Cardiff came to an end.