Friday 19 July 2013

Bosco Pereira, SDB

When I heard the news this morning that Bosco had died, I felt a sense of disbelief. And then also the news, so sudden, so dramatic, of Bosco Pereira: he's dead. It is difficult to believe that 'BP' is no more. With his sharp wit and his strong character, it looked like he would be around forever. But no. He is gone. RIP. Into the heaven which perhaps he did not quite know how to think about, into that heaven of freedom he has gone.

When I think of Bosco, of course I think of my eventful one year of practical training with him in Bosco Boys Home. I would like to remember Bosco today as someone who cared deeply for the boys, and whose caring expressed itself in a very original and creative way. Certainly the boys knew that they were loved. Certainly the practice of joining them for some of their meals was one way of showing that. Then there was the idea of sending some of them to the local Municipal School: I remember with pride, and Bosco was of course very proud, of the fact that many of them did not only well but very well in that school, with one of them even standing first in the whole of the city. But in those days we had boys of all ages in BBH, and not all of them went to a formal school. Many of them were in the Workshops, and to supplement their technical education we would regularly raid the German and other Embassies for their super-8 format documentary films. How long ago all that now seems, with video and then DVD and all that. It was sometimes difficult to explain to our 'main house' across the road that, far from pampering our boys and spoiling them, we were attempting to educate them, expand their fragile minds, nourish their imagination.

Already in those years - the early 1980s - I remember that Bosco had been told by his doctors that his legs would be able to bear his body weight for perhaps another two years. It was an extraordinary blessing and a great credit to Bosco's determination that he was able to continue with a rather active life and ministry for a full 30 years.

Bosco's sharpness and wit often made people forget that at the bottom of it all he was a person who carried a rather heavy cross. I tend to think that this was the X factor that he tried to handle in a thousand different ways, not all of them always the tried and the tested and the 'faithfull'. But I think God understands us better than we understand ourselves. And I think my little reflection of this morning fits in very well here, as I am reflecting on the life of Bosco. Let me therefore add it on:

"This morning in chapel I saw a young brother offering a 'foot mat' to mother and to the others. Very thoughtful, really. And I thought to myself: perhaps this young brother might not make it to the perpetual profession. Perhaps he might never become a Salesian priest. And yet this act of thoughtfulness and kindness will remain what it is forever: a beautiful and noble act. And again I thought: is not life composed of such little acts, often so unconnected among themselves, rarely working themselves out into the tapestry of an entire life? And: is not, would not, God be content with every little flower, every green leaf, every act of love?

And then the same with the singing of My Jesus, My Saviour: beautiful, extraordinary, lovely, even if Dominic missed a beat. What a lovely song, and how lovely to sing it well, to hear it sung well. An act of sheer praise. A moment of music. Perhaps in the end only aesthetic, but is that it? Does it not soar above individual intentions and will into the truly religious? And, once again, is this also not a deeply spiritual moment, an 'experience'? I think it is.

I was thinking later of Lonergan and what he and Thomas say about God's wisdom: that it is not piecemeal. And yet eternity is also often captured, and refracted, in a moment, in a dewdrop, in the song of a bird."

Bosco's life, our lives - little bits of speckled eternity in a dew drop.

God be blessed.

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