Salesian Map 2019: Somewhere between Plato and the Mappa Mundi

11 Apr 2019

By Fr. Filiberto Gonzalez, SDB

General Councilor for Communications

(ANS – Rome – April 5) – We know how much Don Bosco loved maps of the world. He would pore over them and refer to them, especially at a time when his horizons had gone well beyond Piedmont, and what was coming together as united Italy in the second half of the 19th century, to the wider world of souls to be saved, young, old, indifferent, and especially souls as yet unenlightened by faith in Jesus.

Such is the Salesian tradition in which, over a good many years now, the patient work of producing a Salesians in the World map has continued, offering us via a map of the Salesian world in Pacific-centered and Europe-centered versions.

In one of his Dialogues, Plato described the sphere of the world as something that a soul, ascending in a moment of supreme transcendence, might behold as fashioned “of colors more numerous and beautiful than any we have ever seen.” Then we have the famous Mappa Mundi (the largest of which, dating back to some time in the 1300s, is preserved at Hereford Cathedral in England). Measuring 5.25 x 4.4 feet, the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

Clearly within a Christian context, Jerusalem is at the center and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ – when geography would cease to be relevant! So, the Salesians in the World map fits somewhere between these two notions, borrowing something of the beauty of the former and the saving significance of the latter: “Holiness for you too” is featured prominently as a reminder at the top.

The Salesians in the World map is a Miller projection map, regarded these days as a successful compromise avoiding the extremes of the Mercator projection (though, interestingly enough, these show up most strongly in the Arctic and Antarctic, neither of which appears in our map for obvious reasons!). It contains a wealth of information, a kind of mini-Annuario (it is based on Vol. 2 of the 2019 edition), enabling one to find a quick statistical summary of nations, provinces, houses, Salesians in their various categories, presented in at least two ways, one of which indicates the city where the provincial center is located. There is even the ubiquitous QR code.

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