I recently went on a trip to Turin, and aside from it being one of the most culturally and architecturally rich cities I've ever seen, it's a city that offers an amazing religious experience for anyone of any age. In the short time I spent there, I found that even two days is enough to experience the beauty of a city like Turin, especially when you're lucky with the weather! The fact that I've never been to Italy before probably allowed me to create some more romantic expectations of what I thought the culture of Italy would be like, and I can say that Turin absolutely lived up to those expectations.
On the first day, we visited "Colle Don Bosco" (close to where Don Bosco was born and grew up) it was great to finally see a place of such significance that you hear so much about. It is incredible to experience the sort of environment that Don Bosco grew up in, and to see for myself the type of upbringing he would have had in a typical farm in the middle of the Italian countryside. Not only this, but the chance to gain some insight into the historical context of Don Bosco's youth allowed me to understand much more the purpose of his work. My understanding of Don Bosco's character was further deepened by our visit to the Salesian Museum at Colle Don Bosco. We also visited a couple of the small chapels that Don Bosco would have attended (including one that his brother built for him) when he lived there, and it was a special opportunity to take a look at the places where a young Don Bosco would have prayed. Later on the trip we managed to visit Don Bosco's private rooms at Valdocco, which was quite a contrast to the place where he grew up, but both emphasised his great humility. Colle Don Bosco and Valdocco were both fascinating locations and they gave me the chance to gain some perspective on the sort of environment that Don Bosco grew up in and the kind of work that he engaged in.
When speaking about architecture, Our Lady's Church of Consolation is the definition of grandeur. Fortunately we had the chance to be part of the congregation during a Sunday Mass but as we couldn't speak Italian we got distracted by the glorious interior and our own individual prayers. It was just a small part of Christianity's Italian history that I got to see whilst I was there – but undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. We later visited the Shroud of Turin, which is really an item on the bucket list for me at least. When I was there it took me some time to understand what I was really praying to, because something as significant as that in the story of Christianity does need some time to comprehend. And you definitely could tell by the amount of people that were visiting it.
Finally, the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians was a great way to spend the last day, just taking some time to appreciate Dons Bosco and Our Lady. It would have been Don Bosco's dream to have the basilica built, especially in such a beautiful condition. Furthermore, I was allowed the opportunity to confess; a privilege I was glad of. Thankfully the priest spoke English and it was made a bit easier because I knew I'd (hopefully) never see him again! Being able to be in the presence of the relics of Don Bosco was also a privilege I greatly appreciated, and one that hopefully I'll be able to experience again. The presence of his relics in the Basilica act as a great place of homage and a reminder to anyone today of what he accomplished during his lifetime, and how we as Christians should carry this on.
You can definitely see the effect Don Bosco's work still has on people today; the work that he did was phenomenal and he undoubtedly changed the world for the better. The trip gave me a lot of insight into what it means to be a young Salesian co-operator, that even the smallest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference. If anything it was a simple reminder that as a co-operator I should always be striving to emulate the work that Don Bosco undertook in my everyday life.
I think it would be wrong to say I had a favourite moment, because that would be suggesting that some moments were worse than others, and that's just not true. But overall, I think the most valuable thing you can take from these sorts of experiences is the time you spend with friends and meeting new people. Life is made for travelling and growing as a person; you should always be experiencing new things no matter what. The lesson I learnt was how the people you surround yourself with can influence the type of experiences you have. I found this to be something that I thought was not only applicable to a weekend away, but also to life as a whole. Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy, or maybe in a different case have the same goals as you, and you'll find that anything that you experience is made that much better by your friends, family and loved ones. And I'd honestly like to say that I don't think it's just people that play a part in making these events happen, and that God must play a part in it somehow; whether it's by bringing people together or giving us the places to experience, I think we should all be grateful for that. I can honestly say that it was a weekend I'll never forget, and I know there's at least Someone I have to thank for that.
Henry Hawkins (Year 10)