I talk about dreams because all of our lives have been touched by dreams. When I think about my own life, I can’t help but be convinced that it’s been directed by events and things that were quite unexpected. Today, I’m the Rector Major but when I look back on my past and history, it's just impossible that in those early days I could have ever dreamt that I would be in a situation like this.
I was born into a family of fishermen in the north of Spain and with no knowledge of Don Bosco or the Salesians at all. So for six years I went on the sea with my father working as a fisherman when I was your age. It's clear to me that God did things that I would have never thought of.When I was about 12, a tourist met my father as we were preparing the boat and some nets to go fishing. Gradually they became close friends and the lady of the tourist family asked my father, ‘What do you think your son will do and be?’
He said, “He'll be a fisherman like me.” And I thought, yes, I want to be a fisherman like my father. And I did it very well. The lady said, “I know a group of people who educate young men and I think it would be a good thing if we got an education for your son.”
My mother, who is still alive, said: “Son, what do you think?” And I gave her a very eloquent response. This is what I said: *At this point, the Rector Major simply shrugged*.
A year later, I began studying in a Salesian school. I enrolled to go to university to study medicine because I was interested in it, and I still am to this day. So, when I was all set to go to university, I had this deeply felt experience in my heart that something was missing. And that was to be among young people.
I have no idea why I had that feeling; that’s the mystery of my life.
So, I asked my parents’ permission to have a Salesian experience just to see how it went. And in this case, again, I can't help but see the hand of God in the way my parents responded.
The Rector-Major's life almost turned out very differently!
My father could have said “No, I need your help to continue the fishing business. By all means, go and study medicine but in all the holidays and breaks you've got to come and help me with fishing.” He could have said that straight away and I would have followed through on what my father would have said.
My parents, who are uneducated people with no training, could have said anything, but they said to me “It is you that has to make this decision. Whatever you feel is best for you, do it, and you have our support.” I was delighted to have had that response from my parents. I was happy right from the start and I'm still happy. So why do I always think of dreams? Because in your dreams, happiness is in play.
In my years as a teacher, I've known many people who have been studying things in their lives that they never really loved, and they generally finish up unhappy. Eventually, they leave the profession altogether because that profession didn’t touch their hearts. On the other hand, I've met many young people who follow their dreams, and even if that's been very difficult at times, they turn out to be happy people.
I’ll say it to you in another way; your future does not depend upon a mathematical equation. It depends upon the most authentic sentiment that you carry in your hearts. You must follow what's in your heart and follow it with courage, otherwise you will never really live a happy life. I'm convinced about this because over the years I've met thousands of young people in these various conditions.
That's why I keep insisting on these dreams. I use the word dreams because that is where your happiness in your future career lies.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2023 edition of the Salesian Bulletin