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  • Writer's pictureDavid OMalley

Nurturing Young Souls: Combining Spirituality and Gospel Wisdom for Growth

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

In 1847 Don Bosco wrote a small guide for young people which gathered much of his wisdom and the truths of the Catholic faith in a simple book. It was a phenomenal best seller at the time. Don Bosco said that he wanted to share:

“A method of Christian living which is cheerful and content at the same time, something brief and easy, but sufficient so that young people can become the consolation of their parents, an honour to their town, good citizens on earth and then be the fortunate inhabitants of heaven.”

Over sixty years ago, in Great Britain, our Salesian Province published an updated version in English which was called The Companion of Youth which now needs radically updating. The Young Adults Guide to Life attempts to do the same work as the Companion of Youth for young adults but in a very different and secularised world. It covers much of the ground addressed by Don Bosco but in a way that is much more accessible to today's young adults.

The book begins with a version of the Beatitudes that focuses on how we relate to each other and that theme is written strongly throughout the text. Relationships are the world in which most young adults live as they discover and reinforce their identity through honest and balanced friendships. For young people, and for Salesians, friendships are particularly sacred and can form an important pathway to holiness of life.

Word Cloud of the text

The guide encourage young adults to reflect on their lives and friendships through some of Don Bosco's own patterns of working. Home, school, playground and church become the hangers on which they can capture their experience and open it up to the breath of the Spirit in their lives. There are practices that help young people share their spiritual reflections and support each other in the monthly rhythms favoured by Don Bosco.

There is a significant section looking at life experience because Salesian spirituality and prayer always begins with life and leads back to it. We are told that God speaks through history and even young people have a lot of history to reflect upon. The guide reminds young adults that at the age of 16 years almost 20% of their lives will have gone. In this section questions of meaning, body image, managing moods, and intimacy are explored in a simple direct way. The question of life purpose and vocation is opened up and tested with an easy to use reflective tool. Then there are eight dimensions presented in the guide that help to evaluate healthy relationships. All these approaches are down to earth and expressed in language that is not too 'churchy' for the highly secularised youth in Great Britain.

Religion is looked at in a separate section and the guide offers a check list of what healthy religion might look like in this culture. Saints are presented as 'signposts to heaven' and faithful friendships are seen as a pathway to the dogma of the communion of saints. The place of the church as the biggest non statutory charity in the world is emphasised, contrasting with the negative media image found in the secular culture. The Common Good is expressed as the practical living out the Gospel in our culture. The sacraments are presented as ways of encountering the mystery of presence in ritual and in reality. Moreover, the importance of sacramental imagination is introduced as a way to engage deeply with the prayer life and sacraments of the church. Continuous prayer is discussed and a variety of simple techniques are presented to help that to happen, including the use of rosaries, litanies and some more contemporary approaches. Contemplation and breathing prayer are explained as well as the possibility of making retreats and pilgrimages at critical times in life.

Finally the book returns to Don Bosco to explore his wisdom through many short quotes that provoke practical reflection. I believe that Don Bosco would approve of this little book and give it his blessing because it aims to continue his work of bringing young souls close to Jesus and to the church.

Suitable as a parting gift for sixth formers or those in organisations like Scouting, CAFOD, YCW and Young SVP, Youth Groups in schools and parishes, young chaplaincy supporters as well as Chaplains and RE teachers.

It retails at £7/ copy from Don Bosco Publications

Bulk orders will be available on request from

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