Wednesday 24 August 2016

The Associazione Biblica Salesiana

Something to be very much appreciated about the Associazione Biblica Salesiana is its clear sense of identity and belonging to the Salesian Congregation.

One of the great problems facing it regards membership: there are literally hundreds of Salesian bible scholars and others who have a licentiate in biblical studies, but the membership does not reach 100, active members are even fewer, and the participants in the current meeting are less than 30. However, it might be best to also adopt "the mentality of a movement" as Pascual Chavez said in another context. This means that some will be active, others will be passive, and yet others will not even be members - but the ABS should make it a point to maintain an as complete database as possible of Bible people in the Salesian Family, with their qualifications and publications if possible. One begins and goes on, without great expectations and without getting discouraged. The association is after all a free one, and the question of "forcing" people to join does not arise. Like the sun shining on the summer hills of Italy, the excellence of the Association will be the true drawing force.

To this we must add that the reasons for which Salesians are sent for biblical studies are varied: not all are meant for teaching. I remember Jean-Sylvain Jeannot (HAI) telling me at Testaccio that his provincial was preparing him for youth ministry. What a wonderful preparation, in fact!

A suggestion would be for the Association to interest itself in collaboration not only with Youth Ministry, but also with the other specializations of theology. Bible scholars are either hard-core researchers (like those at the Ecole Biblique) or else - mostly - exegetes or interpreters. But they do belong to the whole enterprise of theology in the church, and they have a vital relationship with patrologists and historians of doctrine, with systematic theologians, and with the pastoral theologians.

Another suggestion would be to seriously engage in the formation of members and others to "experiential" learning. That would certainly be relevant to formators, but to all youth ministers in general. The formal biblical preparation does not include such learning - it is not meant to, I suppose.

And then, finally - it would be a pity if the ABS were not to find moments of true prayer with the bible in hand - moment of lectio divina - during its meetings. The Youth Ministry people are doing it in their meetings. Why not the ABS.

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