Westminster Cathedral Fri 11th January Don Bosco's relics
The relics arrived at the Cathedral in the middle of the day and there was a brief delay due to midday mass so that the pilgrim experience had to be set up later. The relic was unveiled simply soon after mass and pilgrims began bringing to Saint John Bosco their hopes and fears, the thorns and roses of life.
Past pupils arrived from across London and some small groups of young people from St Vincent’s School and St Bonaventure's school in Forest Gate visited. The latter school had heard about the visit of the relics and volunteered to come to visit Don Bosco. The school is a wonderful mix of backgrounds and it was good to hear from students from Nigeria, Ghana, South India and the Caribbean because their parents will have known of Don Bosco in those countries. Pupils from the school from Ecuador were delighted to hear that the footballer Roque Santacruz developed his football through a Don Bosco youth programme. Just another demonstration of the way that this spirituality of the young has embraced the whole world.
As the banners flew over the beautifully lit relics of Don Bosco young and old took the opportunity to celebrate reconciliation in a one to one conversation with a wide range of priests spread around the huge Cathedral. This aspect of Don Bosco's ministry, especially with young people is centred around the compassion of God and links into his concentration on experience as a school where mistakes become opportunities for growth. The experience of confession as a school of life experience is one of the ways in which Don Bosco's spirituality weaves into the sacramental life of the church.
Sat in one of the benches in a bright orange t shirt is Rosio a young aupair from Andalucia. She was part of the preparation team for the visit of Don Bosco's relics to Spain but was sad that she had to leave for England before the relics arrived. She was amazed to hear that Don Bosco had followed her to London and spent a good few hours before the relic with gratitude. She now hopes to link up with the salesian youth movement in Great Britain.
Below the Cathedral in the evening Fr John Armitage Vicar General of Brentwood diocese gathered the group for the Brentwood Diocese Don Bosco Camps and as pilgrims made their journey to the relics above, they prayed for the success of a new season of Don Bosco camps below.
A parishioner from Our Lady's parish in Folkestone by chance met a member of the road crew who had been a teacher in Dundee and had taught two troublesome young people she knew and was now supporting with prayer. Both had made huge progress and despite long struggles and with much prayer our crew member heard that they had both engaged with life and with the church in very high profile roles. An example of the power of one woman's prayer.
The closing liturgy began at 8.30 with music by Edwin Fawcett and was led by James Trewby. Psalm 139 led us into meditation through the words of Ste and Jess from the Savio House team. As a goodnight thought James reminded us of his experience of Salesian work across the world and the need for justice and with Don Bosco's optimism to be able to find the positive and draw energy to continue to change the world. He invited Fr Martin Poulsom SDB to sing a song dedicated to Sean Devereux who as a volunteer gave his life in Africa to work for young people in Africa. In distributing aid in Somalia he refused to hand over food to warlords and was shot in the back and died instantly. "While my heart beats I have to do what I can for others" was a motto for the young Sean Devereux.
This song brought to an end a long and memorable day in this great Cathedral which hosted over 3,000 pilgrims to Don Bosco relics in the first half day of veneration.