The topics dealt with in this third volume of the series, Don Bosco: History and Spirit, are large and comprehensive. Basically they present a Don Bosco active in a triple capacity–in his roles as educator and spiritual master, as writer, publisher and controversialist, and as founder of the Salesian Society. Each of these activities was of extremely importance in its own right, and fundamental for the future development of the Salesian work.
As educator and spiritual master in the community of students at the Home Attached to the Oratory he set forth an educative method and a way of holiness that has been proved valid to this day. As founder of the Salesian Society he gathered the force that would transmit the method and the way from one generation to the next. As writer and publisher he committed his Salesians to a ministry that would gain decisive momentum in defense of the Catholic faith and the Christian ethos, though Don Bosco the controversialist drew inspiration from a nineteenth-century apologetic style that is no longer regarded as valid.
Don Bosco’s activity through this decade (roughly 1849-1861) is set against a background of social change and political evolution–leading to the unification of Italy.
The series Don Bosco, History and Spirit consists of seven volumes. The first three volumes survey the life and times of John Melchior Bosco (“Don Bosco,” 1815-1888) up to 1864, with particular attention to nineteenth-century political, social and religious history. This survey looks at Don Bosco’s own education, at his spiritual and theological formation. It examines the growth of the work, and the founding and initial development of the Society of St. Francis de Sales, in the context of the liberal revolution and the unification of Italy (1848-1861).
The next four volumes describes Don Bosco’s life and work in the period following the unification of Italy. In this setting Don Bosco, History and Spirit discusses the institutional developments and organization of the Salesian Society. It describes Don Bosco’s further ministerial choices, and surveys the expansion of the Salesian work. At the same time it examines the development of permanent structures to guarantee the continuance of the Salesian work, and discusses some of the founder’s insights and ideas, especially as they emerge from the reflective writings of his maturity.