Queen Elizabeth and Don Bosco?
Sometimes it is a privilege to live in London.
As the country mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth and prepares to crown King Charles, this is one of those times. I was able to spend some time at Buckingham Palace, at Westminster Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey as the national mourning began. Crowds stirred together in a mixture of sadness, gratitude, and pride for a person they felt was “their queen”. For a while the cynicism and suspicion of the media was put aside. The short-term motives of elected ministers of the government were put on hold. These days were to be focused on a different set of values which can be traced easily through Queen Elizabeth’s speeches to us. I have presented the main themes in word art here, but the full quotes are at the end of this blog.
Looking at the word distribution reveals something of the heart of Queen Elizabeth’s concerns and values.
It is interesting that the phrase ‘The Beyond’ takes centre stage in the illustration because the spiritual dimension of her role has always been at the heart of her leadership. We must remember that she was the head of the Anglican Church for the last seven decades. Spirituality and church were key elements of all her messages at Christmas. You will also see the phrase reflective prayer embedded in the image and the need to pause, to remember and connect with the deeper spirit of being human. Church was at the centre of her life.
You will find the theme of family emerging strongly in the words of her Christmas messages and especially the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. At times the struggles with her own family difficulties came through and she was able to share something of her own vulnerability in her words. Knowing others and being known, living with kindness and generous harmony, overcoming pride and healing hurts scatter her speeches to us every year. Balancing rights and responsibilities in our relationships helped everyone to feel they belonged. So, Queen Elizabeth was concerned about all of us experiencing a good home.
Looking again at the pattern of words you can see the need to speak the truth and to understand. Learning through our lifetimes, growing in wisdom, and deepening awareness were all huge values for her own lifetime. It is not easy to admit mistakes, to strive forward and build a better future through small steps every day. For Queen Elizabeth each day was a lesson and all of life a school. Trust and truth combine in learning relationships whether in school, in the home or in the ups and downs of life.
Finally, we all know that, despite her sometimes-controlled presentations on television, Queen Elizabeth had a great sense of humour. Appearing with Paddington Bear and getting involved in the James Bond stunt for the Olympics proves that. But she also enjoyed long walks, horse riding and the races. She valued relaxation and tried to live a balanced life. She was good fun, could let her hair down and laugh a lot. She was at home in the playground.
Those of you who understand Salesian Spirituality will know what I am going to say next: Queen Elizabeth valued Home, School, Playground and Church, the four aspects of the preventive system developed by Don Bosco. I hope that Queen Elizabeth bumps into Don Bosco in heaven because I believe they are kindred spirits. She was working in a different context, had different tasks to perform but underneath her story the same values unite Don Bosco and Queen Elizabeth. For that reason, we should celebrate her life as one that resonates with every Salesian community, school and project.
I hope that these days of national mourning will also become days of deepening of our own Salesian spirit and recommitting ourselves to Home , School, Playground, and Church.
Word art quotations
Christmas messages of the queen over many decades.
The Coronation Speech 1953
“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”
Christmas message 1957
Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest
Christmas message from 1960
Although the causes are beyond the control of individuals, we can at least influence the future by our everyday behaviour. It is at times of change, disorder, and uncertainty that we should cling most strongly to all those principles which we know to be right and good.
Christmas message 1956
In all such personal differences, however, there comes a moment when, for the sake of ultimate harmony, the healing power of tolerance, comradeship and love must be allowed to play its part.
Golden jubilee words
“Gratitude, respect and pride, these words sum up how I feel about the people of this country and the Commonwealth –
Christmas Message 2019
It’s a timely reminder of what positive things can be achieved when people set aside past differences and come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation. And, as we all look forward to the start of a new decade, it’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.
Christmas message 2013
We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock. Be it through contemplation, prayer, or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding, even discovering greater spiritual depth to their lives.
“No age group has a monopoly of wisdom, and indeed I think the young can sometimes be wiser than us. But the older I get, the more conscious I become of the difficulties young people have to face as they learn to live in the modern world."
“Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives.”
Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”
“I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad”.