Southwark Cathedral Don Bosco Relics January 13th
The queues wound around the corner before Don Bosco's relics arrived in its own transport at around 3.00. The road was closed temporarily whilst the casket was brought out into a guard of honour formed by the road crew who sang “da mihi animas” as the relics moved into the church.
There was a great welcome from Southwark Cathedral staff and the diocesan youth service who came along to support the music and the media team for the occasion, The pilgrim experience was followed by groups from across the diocese. From Tunbridge, New Malden, Rotherhythe, Battersea, Balaham and from as far away as High Wycombe.
One of the pilgrims today was a young boy, Jonathan, whose middle name was Bosco because his family had a great devotion to Don Bosco. In his pocket he had brought a relic of his own given to him by his own father. It was a fragment of Don Bosco's right hand contained in a small reliquary. Jonathan s father had been given this by an old salesian priest and it was his most treasured possession.
Among the pilgrims were natives of the Philippines, Venezuela, Kerala, Portugal and Ghana among many others. Each of them were aware of the work of Don Bosco in their own countries. It was a great bonus to have four polish brothers on the team and especially when some Polish pilgrims arrived and could not speak English.
Another pilgrim was delighted to have found some simple books on spirituality for young adults as she was starting a job in prison chaplaincy the following day. It was another reminder of Don Bosco's work with young prisoners which was commemorated at a visit to Feltham Young Offenders Institution by the relics earlier in the day.
One trend in conversations today was that many people wanted to visit the relics but the could not really say why. This experience of the relics seems to draw people in a quite intuitive ways.People are drawn by their own needs, by curiosity, by uncertainty, gratitude and often simply a vague sense of searching. Afterwards visitors seem to have a greater confidence or peace or certainty about some of their issues but still find it hard to answer that question; “why have you come to the relics?”
At 6pm Archbishop Peter Smith welcomed the relics and the Salesians across the diocese. During the mass both the Archbishop and Fr Martin Coyle mentioned the arrival of the first Salesians to Britain in Battersea some 125 years ago. Fr McKiernan SDB then became the first of many Salesians to work in the diocese in Sacred Heart Parish and primary school, in Salesian College and in Bermondsey. The Archbishop expressed the hope that the Salesian family would stay in in the diocese for another 125 years but pointed out that none of us would be around to see it!
Fr Coyle, picking up the theme of the feast of the baptism of Jesus, spoke about the need for The Spirit to move us and to be cheerful because we are all children of God in whom he is well pleased. The optimistic celebration continued as the flags of Don Bosco and panels on his spirituality were brought forward with the gifts. The family that brought the gifts up were overwhelmed to be asked. \They had travelled from High Wycombe and the journe6 had been a gift from the whole family since she wanted to gather her family around Don Bosco. The cost of the whole journey was covered by the eldest son who had recently begun work.
Towards the end of the mass the pilgrim hymn was sung with a fantastic organ support. Thirty four altar serves from Sacred Heart Battersea filled the sanctuary. The road crew gathered under Salesian flags to sing “da mihi animas” before Archbishop Peter gave the final blessing.
Afterwards twelve foot banners closed off the relic until tomorrow morning as the congregation dung “Tell out my soul”.