The Companion Series – An Introduction

by | Jun 11, 2023 | The Companion Series

In Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), he identified St. John Bosco among a selection of twelve saints who “stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will.” St. John Bosco, the man known affectionately as Don Bosco, is renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to youth holiness and social media, and these two elements came together most splendidly in his 1847 publication, The Companion Of Youth: in his own words, “a book suitable for the young, adapted to their religious ideas, based on the Bible, and setting out the foundations of the Catholic religion clearly and concisely.”

Written at 32 years of age, this pastoral masterpiece enjoyed some 120 printings in Don Bosco’s lifetime, and includes brief and practical reflections on such topics as: the love of God; the Catholic Church and the Bible; good and evil; human nature; the afterlife; the Blessed Virgin Mary; spiritual exercises; the Catholic Mass and Sacraments; and personal vocation. Reading The Companion of Youth, today, one must appreciate that this book was written in a very different time, to a very different audience; the Catholic Church’s teaching and theology have since been significantly influenced by numerous factors, not least of all by its famous Vatican II Council (1962-1965) and the reforms which proceeded it.

Nevertheless, The Companion of Youth has always been, and continues to be, a great spiritual inheritance for St. John Bosco’s congregation, the Salesians of Don Bosco, and a treasure trove of spiritual insights for Catholics, young and old. In order that Don Bosco’s classic work may continue to inspire and encourage young people to follow Christ, it is as necessary as it was in Bosco’s time that the truth’s presented in it be suitably adapted to their religious ideas.

Thus, the aim of this blog series is to serve as a ‘companion to The Companion,’ by presenting its key ideas in the light of modern theological developments, and suggesting how these can apply to the faith lives of young Catholics, today.

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The Companion Series – Entry Nine

Don Bosco urges youth to frequent the sacraments and trust their spiritual directors, emphasising respect for priests. The 1983 Code of Canon Law reinforces Catholics’ duty to support their parish community and obey sacred pastors. Faith is communal, requiring mutual respect and active participation in church life.

The Companion Series – Entry Eight

Don Bosco advises youth to avoid sin-triggering situations, suggesting prayer and invoking St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s aid. He counters Satan’s lure of fleeting pleasures with the promise of eternal bliss, encouraging reliance on God’s grace. The Catechism underscores the value of temptation in revealing and overcoming sinful inclinations, stressing discernment through prayer as essential for spiritual growth.

The Companion Series – Entry Seven

Don Bosco interchangeably uses “bad conversation” and “scandal,” emphasising their equivalence. He asserts that causing scandal leads to souls in hell, urging the youth to be exemplary. The Catechism aligns, emphasising the seriousness of scandal, especially when propagated by those in authority.

The Companion Series – Entry Six

Don Bosco encourages young people to find purpose in work and leisure, stressing the importance of virtuous companions. The Second Vatican Council echoes this by highlighting work as a duty and right, promoting rest and personal development. Both emphasize the union of work and charity, suggesting that dedicating oneself to one’s labor and companions can lead to a more fulfilling life. In a modern context, where many view study and work as necessary means to their desired life, it’s important for young individuals to recognise the value in their labor and appreciate the impact it has on themselves and their relationship with others.

The Companion Series – Entry Five

Don Bosco compares the Word of God to food for the soul, emphasising its importance in the lives of Christians. Vatican II echoes this view, emphasising the role of Sacred Scripture, Church teachings, and informed clergy in nourishing the spirit. Accessible explanations of Scripture are crucial, with parish priests and the Internet playing vital roles in this endeavour. Collaboration among priests and church authorities is essential in reaching a geographically diverse and technologically advancing world.

The Companion Series – Entry Four

Don Bosco emphasizes obedience to parents and lawful authorities as the path to virtue, linking it to respect for the Church and its ministers. The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the duty to obey parents while also prioritizing following conscience and God’s call. The analogy between familial and Church respect is underscored, reminding that conscience is personal and primary in decision-making.

The Companion Series – Entry Three

God’s special love for the young is emphasised by Don Bosco, based on their innocence and vulnerability. The response to God’s love should motivate them to please Him and avoid offence. The Church, after Vatican II, acknowledges the importance of early catechesis and initiation into the faith. Love for God should primarily be a response to His grace and knowledge of His love for us. Youth’s innocence allows them to be profoundly loved by God.

The Companion Series – Entry Two

Don Bosco argues that evidence of God’s existence is present in nature, leading to the purposeful creation of humans with reason and conscience. The Second Vatican Council explains societal obstacles to accepting God, encouraging introspection for proof of His existence. Both perspectives assert that genuine seekers will find God, and atheism may result from a wilful refusal to believe.

The Companion Series – Entry One

Don Bosco’s “Companion of Youth” addresses young people, cautioning against the devil’s snares: a joyless life and relying on old age for conversion. He teaches a happy Christian life, emphasising virtue in youth for a blessed eternity. Don Bosco expresses love for the young, aiming to guide them towards true happiness and salvation in Jesus Christ.