Teaghan is the coordinator of Youth Ministry in the Australia-Pacific Province and it is hard to imagine anyone with a greater passion for what is good for young people!
I have a t-shirt which has printed across the back “you might be upset when you realise you’ve spent your whole life rushing” and when wearing it out in public, I’ll often receive comments or a laugh from passers-by saying ‘how true!’
We have sold ourselves a great lie - that we don’t go about our lives in a rush – even though the ongoing pandemic has us buying into the idea that we’re ‘slowing down’.
The rush and impatience we move through our lives with makes me think of our young people – and how we fail them with our continual want to move on and get going. Don Bosco didn’t give us a gift of haste – but rather a gift of presence and familiarity to the young.
In this year’s commentary on the Salesian Strenna – “Do all through love, nothing through constraint”– the Rector Major talks about the kind and friendly way of dealing with people, particularly young people, that we have as Salesians.
Fr Ángel explores the environment cultivated by our Salesian Spirituality as one that is ‘rich in understanding and mercy, in acceptance and the ability to wait patiently for young people to grow’.
The phrase ‘wait patiently for young people to grow’ strikes me, as I can’t help but feel that we are everything but patient with our young people – particularly when it comes to their concerns, schooling, and ambitions in life.
So how do we avoid this want to rush, to keep going, to think of only what is immediately possible rather than dream? Recently, I have been involved with our holiday camp program in Safety Beach, Victoria, an incredibly fun and immersive experience, yet also quite tiring and intense.
The beauty of the Don Bosco Camp Holiday Program is that it heartily encourages hitting pause on life and to just enjoy the moment spent with great people!
One day I was speaking with a group of young campers – each of us commenting on how easily we lose track of time on camp. We spoke about how a lack of physical clocks or technology had us reverting to the rhythm of what our environment was inviting us to join: a game, a conversation, or time to draw the day to a close.
Whilst we enjoy this week, these timeless days, particularly for our older campers who are moving into their final years of high school – still their conversations are peppered with all the things they need to get done. The need to rush is never too far away.
There are jobs to get back to, books to be read before school returns, and the endless uncertainty of what will be waiting for them once they leave school. Whilst enjoying the present, some of our young people are fixated on what’s next: this culture of impatience.
So what is our role as Salesians, lay and consecrated alike, in reviving a culture of patience and presence with young people?
How do we revive Don Bosco’s great gift for giving time to listen to young people without an agenda in mind?
How can we cultivate this once more, whilst existing in our culture of haste?
Like St Francis de Sales – we must look to restore this way of being through small acts. If we look too broadly, we will only become discouraged with what limitations exist, but if we look to ourselves first as individuals, as bearers of the Salesian Sacrament of presence, we will find many ways to revive this culture of purposeful attentiveness to the young and the realities of their life.
It is through this purposeful attention, this want to listen to the young that we can allow their reality, the happenings of their world to slow down, allowing ourselves not to be bound by time or other works to get to – there will always be something to do.
Instead as Salesians we must be models of great kindness and patience, open to the concerns young people trust us with, working with them slowly, rather than searching for urgent solutions.