As every year, January 31 arrives punctually, the appointment that means festivity in the entire Salesian world. Perhaps never more than this year in light of the Strenna, we are asked to live this feast with contagious joy. If it is true that Don Bosco ‘s weapon was goodness’, joy was undoubtedly his most concrete calling card. This allowed the boys of his time who were street cleaners, bricklayer apprentices, and employed in various jobs, to live a different kind of day. They knew they were loved by a priest who employed his time to make them happy, to nourish them with true affection. A sad saint is a saint who does not attract or convince, Don Bosco often affirmed. What flavourful joy has spread in the whole world by the saint who sowed it by the fistfuls! It is not the joy of a moment, immediate and superficial. The joy Don Bosco indicates has it origins in interiority and has Jesus as its author. For this reason, it is enduring and stable through any kind of difficulty.
Don Bosco lived in a difficult epoch. He asked his boys to be happy and showed them how, first by witnessing to what he proclaimed, and by living an unconquerable optimism that flowed from the certainty that Providence would not fail him. He responded to this certainty with the joyful trust of one who feels loved.
Often, Salesian happiness is identified with some episodes in Don Bosco ‘s life: the games, the musical band, the theater, the walks, the feasts, forgetting that all these were means and never an end in themselves. Perhaps we need to reflect on the encounter between Dominic Savio and Don Bosco during which the saint of the young indicated happiness to the boy as the way of authentic holiness. Know that here, holiness consists in being very happy. We only try to avoid sin as a terrible enemy that robs us of God’s grace and our peace of heart, and to accomplish our duties with exactness. Joy could not be separated from prayer, from study, from work. Otherwise, Don Bosco would not have been able to affirm, I have only one desire, to see you happy in time and in eternity. As a wise educator, Don Bosco knew the heart of the young. For this reason, he understood that he could fall into the ambiguity of identifying the proposal of joy with a life of melancholy. This is not how it is, dear young people. I want to teach you a method of Christian life that can at the same time make you happy and content, indicating to you real amusements and pleasures, while serving the Lord and being happy. Joyful educators are the most credible witnesses among the young. They are the ones who make the young missionaries to other young people through a contagious apostolate of joy.