Don Bosco: History and Spirit, Vol. 1: John Bosco's Formative Years in Historical Context

By Dickson, John | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Don Bosco: History and Spirit, Vol. 1: John Bosco's Formative Years in Historical Context


Dickson, John, The Catholic Historical Review


Late Modern European Don Bosco: History and Spirit, Vol. 1: John Bosco's Formative Years in Historical Context. By Arthur J. Lenti, edited by Aldo Giraudo. (Rome: Editrice Libreria Ateneo Salesiano. 2007. Pp. xx, 498. euro30,00 paperback.)

This is the first of a seven-volume series that aims for the first time to offer English readers a comprehensive critical historical survey of the history and spirit of St. John Bosco set firmly in the particular cultural context of ninetheenth-century Italy.

What is presented here is not just a critical survey of all the existing historical and spiritual studies of Don Bosco's early life (1815-44) carefully set out in bite-size chunks but also an original contribution to the study of Salesian spirituality.

Father Lenti's survey is caEed "History and Spirit" because it sets the life and work and spirituality of Don Bosco firmly in the rich context of Europe in the Age of Revolutions and the movement for Italian Unification. Lenti offers his readers not just a general historical survey but also a set of specific studies of the political and religious movements and careful pen portraits of the main protagonists that aEow the general reader to grasp the context at some depth.At the same time, he offers his readers unique insights into the spiritual development of John Bosco as a young man.

This capacity to combine historical critical method with a deep appreciation of spirituality is particularly evident in his study of Don Bosco's biographical tradition. Lenti's own training as a biblical scholar enables him to explore the various sources and layers of tradition, including Don Bosco's own Memoirs of the Oratory and the various traditions that became the massive nineteen-volume Biographical Memoirs of St John Bosco, which have dominated the traditional Salesian understanding of their founder, and underline the hagiographie presuppositions of its authors. He offers critical reconstructions of such difficult issues as John Bosco's period of "exile" at the Moglia farm and the resulting chronological problems raised for biographers. …

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