Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Being Signs

In celebration of the 150th founding anniversary of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Social Communications arm of the congregation launched a logo-making contest. I was not able to make it to the deadline, but I know a handful of those who joined.

I was told that there were about 150 entries to the competition.

The prize includes a pilgrimage to the Salesian holy places such as Rome, Piedmont and Annecy—travel expenses, board and lodging all covered!

Come to think of it, the prize is over a hundred thousand pesos. But more than the monetary value of what's at stake, the invaluable experience of tracing out the life of Don Bosco and even of St. Francis of Sales by visiting the places they lived in, is worth more than the money.

But what's in a logo? Why would the congregation fork out a sizable amount for an insignia that would only be used for a year anyway?

A logo is a graphical element that, together with a uniquely set and arranged typeface form a trademark or commercial brand. The logo is one aspect of a company's commercial brand, or economic or academic entity, and its shapes, colors, fonts, and images usually are different from others in a similar market.

It is hard to think of a successful business or company that does not have a logo. In fact, I can't think of even a single one.

A logo, penetrating people's mind as a selling agent, becomes a synonym of the company or the product it represents. Hence, a logo which is accurately designed, rightly becomes the company's identification card. Perhaps, McDonalds did it so well that more people could identify its golden arches than those who could characterize the Christian cross.

The Salesians are also called to become a logo, a sign, not of a particular brand of food, nor a line of service, nor a mere type of academic institution. More than anything else, we are chosen and given the task to become a sign and a bearer of God's love for the young.

Geez! Isn't that exciting!? We don't only become a look-alike of Christ, but we ourselves concretely represent the unique breed of love that He has!

"To be the signs and bearers of the love of God for young people" is such a wonderful phrase, and in fact, the Constitutions use it eight times! But our "Project of Life," that huge book annotating our Constitutions points out that to become a God's logo "is a very demanding obligation." It requires the whole of our being to become a bridge where the young people and God meet.

I cannot recall any treatise Don Bosco wrote entitled "On becoming signs and bearers of his love." But then, he left with us a splendid family treasure, his life, which guided the four young boys Rua, Cagliero, Rocchietti and Artiglia to become the first Salesians of Don Bosco.

And in my humble opinion, 120 years after the death of Don Bosco, his life has not lost its potency. In it, we still find the dazzling expression of the love of a Good Shepherd.

In one episode in the life of Don Bosco, a cardinal asked him, "How is one to win the trust of the young?"

"By trying to attract them and by eliminating whatever alienates them," Don Bosco replied.

The cardinal asked, "How can we attract them to us?"

"By going to them first, by trying to adapt to their tastes, by becoming like them. Would you like a demonstration? Tell me: where are we likely to find a large crowd of boys?"

"In Piazza Termini or Piazza del Popolo," the cardinal answered.

"Good; then let's go to Piazza del Popolo."

Once there. Don Bosco alighted from the carriage while the cardinal stayed to watch. Spotting a group of boys playing, Don Bosco went up to them, only to see them take to their heels. He called them back in a kindly voice. After a little hesitation, they came up to him. Don Bosco gave them some small things and asked them about their families and their game. He told them to go on with it while he watched or even joined in. Other boys who had been observing this at a distance came running over in great numbers from all sides. Don Bosco greeted them affectionately, and for them too he had a good word and some little gift. He asked them if they were good, if they said their prayers, and if they went to confession. When he turned to leave, they followed him and would only let him go when he got into the carriage again. The cardinal was amazed.

A logo in itself does not really have much meaning behind it. It is not necessary in building the brand. And when it is created, it has no meaning unless it is attached to the name of the business.

The Salesians of Don Bosco, which is now in its 150 years of existence, has been quite successful in its mission to care for, teach and evangelize young people, and therefore, has created for itself a sheltered niche in the Church.

But the task to make our works relevant in the face of so many issues that now confront us, and to make these all the more attractive remains to be a tall order.

Today, we officially enter the advent season. We know from our basic catechism that advent is about "coming." And as look forward to reliving that great mystery of God's incarnation, I do hope that we'll become, in our own right, stars that will lead the people to the right direction.


3 Schlosser, E. (2001). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal .

4 Article 2 of the SDB Constitutions
5 Project of Life

6 EBM V, pp. 600-601

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