Day two Southwark Cathedral January 14th
Southwark Cathedral was dusted with snow and whipped by cold winds as the second day of Don Bosco's relics opened. One of the first people through the doors was a local nurse coming off her night shift. She wanted to come to the relics to give thanks for her work that night when she had been able to save a patients life by removing a ligature from her throat. Her gratitude was for the skill and knowledge she carried as a gift from God to help others.
After that many people began to gather to walk the pilgrim pathway on their way to work or after the early mass in the Cathedral. But the day belonged to the young people who began to arrive in numbers from Farnborough, Chertsey, Wandsworth, Chatham and Canterbury. The nursery from Bermondsy came in as well as groups from Notre Dame and Corpus Christi schools close by. The groups divided up among the team and began the banter that Don Bosco always enjoyed. One young lad claimed that his Dad was Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. Another believed that he was already a saint himself but his friends found it easy to disprove that theory. The Cathedral began to echo with pools of laughter, occasional clapping and some thoughtful silence. In the pool of silence around the relic young people and adults met together to bring their concerns to God.
Just before mass there was a partial power cut so that the lights in part of the church failed along with the organ. The priests vested in semi darkness but still turned out looking tidy. Bishop Pat Lynch led the Eucharist with warmth and understanding. Pupils from Chertsey Salesian College read and pupils from St Anselm's Canterbury served at the mass. Fr Coyle, Salesian Provincial spoke after the Gospel and encouraged the congregation to smile and become holy by being cheerful. The offertory saw a procession of banners as the gifts were brought forward by St Anselm's from Canterbury and St John Fisher from Chatham. Communion was followed by a hymn written by Fr Martin Poulsom, “Friend of the young.” The mass ended with warm words of encouragement from Bishop Pat and a hope that the Irish stage of the pilgrimage through his home country would go as well.
Jess Wilkinson, a member of the road crew, met some of the young people she had taught in year one and was delighted that they still remembered her six years later. The team have been receiving much affirmation from the pilgrims because of the way they were living out Don Bosco's spirituality through hospitality. Typical feedback is the comment received by Siobhan who was told that the team had i”nspired people by their joy and graciousness.”
One person was glad to re-connect with Don Bosco after being in a Salesian school in Hong Kong.”I have always loved Don Bosco,” he said ”and it is good to be here and re-connect with this great saint.”
Altar servers arrived from a number of parts of London to meet up for a visit to Don Bosco's relics. They were all part of an association of altar servers in Nigeria and felt drawn to visit Don Bosco and re-live their shared experience in Nigeria.
The closing service at 4pm brought the day to an end with a reflection on listening to the call of God in the ordinary story of our lives. The goodnight focussed on the call coming through gifts but perhaps more importantly through our weaknesses. Don Bosco's sense of abandonment and the absence of a Father in his life led to a commitment to work for abandoned youth and to become a Father to many young people and adults.
As the pilgrimage song was sung the casket was prepared for departure and was taken triumphantly into the street and loaded onto the van ad the crew sang once again “da mihi animas” Don Bosco's motto give me souls (people) nothing else matters. Passers by on coaches waiting at the traffic lights were looking confused. But it was an ending point of the public part of the relics of Don Bosco and the team were aware of the ending even as they were celebrating.
Over 1200 people visited Don Bosco's relics today.