Giovanni Bosco – The marian dimension of salesian spirituality

Don Bosco, a tireless apostle of Marian devotion, emphasised the role of the Blessed Virgin for salvation of the individual in the Companion of Youth: she is the mediatrix of graces, defence against the assaults of evil, support in living a Christian life and on the way to holiness. These are things he draws from St Alphonsus Liguori: true devotion expressed through a life of virtue above all guarantees the most powerful patronage one could have in life and in death.

The issues are taken up in the booklet The Month of May (1858), where the saint frames popular and youthful Marian devotion explicitly within a context aimed at serious and fervent ethical and spiritual commitment, linking Marian devotion and eternal salvation to this.

Ten years later (1868), at the opening of the church of Mary Help of Christians he drew up a work called The Marvels of the Mother of God Invoked Under the Title of Help of Christians. Particularly evident in this is how he frames Marian devotion within an ecclesial perspective, since Don Bosco’s view of things is opening up to this more and more. It is this that guides his missionary and education concerns. Via a number of meditations on the Gospels, the saint also develops other aspects of the spiritual life: Mary is a model of union with God, service of neighbour, practical attention to our brothers’ needs, and her universal motherhood.

After the sanctuary at Valdocco was consecrated, Don Bosco became a tireless apostle of devotion to the Help of Christians: help of the Church in battles throughout history, inspiration and powerful support of Salesian work, maternal and beneficial presence in the lives of those who trust in her.

The Association of Devotees of Mary Help of Christians (founded in 1869 and today known as ADMA or the Mary Help of Christians Association), aimed at “promoting devotion to the Mother of God and veneration of the august Sacrament of the Eucharist”, certainly responds to the religious sensitivity of the time, but it expresses in an excellent way Don Bosco’s efforts to encourage trusting Mary and encourages everyone to imitate her “beautiful virtues”.

Given the worldwide spread of Salesian work the cult of the Help of Christians was propagated everywhere, inseparable from Don Bosco and his mission.

This section, which is a simple selection from a vast amount of material, includes seven meditations (nos. 286-291 and 293), some prayers for ADMA (no. 292) and a “goodnight” to the boys on the efficacy of turning to the Help of Christians (no. 294).

Reference time period: 1858 – 1877

Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 1051-1073.

Reference institution:
Istituto Storico Salesiano
Istituto Storico Salesiano

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