St. John Paul’s reflections on St. John Bosco’s Work
ST. JOHN BOSCO, FRIEND OF YOUTH
II. 9. A man of tireless activity in many forms, Don Bosco has provided by his life a most efficacious teaching, to such an extent that even by his contemporaries he was considered outstanding as an educator. Education implied for him a special attitude on the part of the educator and a collection of practices, based on convictions of reason and faith, which serve as guides in pedagogical activity. At the centre of his vision stands “pastoral charity”, of which he says: “The practice of the Preventive System is wholly based on the words of St Paul who says, ‘Love is patient and kind; it bears all things, but hopes all things and endures all things.’” It inclines the educator to love the young person in whatever state he may be found, so as to lead him to the fullness of humanity which is revealed in Christ, to give him the awareness and possibility of living the life of an upright citizen as a son of God. It leads to intuitive understanding and gives strength to what the Saint summed up in the well known threefold formula: “Reason, religion, loving kindness”.
10. The term “reason” emphasizes, in line with the authentic view of Christian humanism, the value of the individual, of conscience, of human nature, of culture, of the world of work, of social living, or in other words of that vast set of values which may be considered the necessary equipment of man in his family, civil and political life. In the Encyclical Redemptor Hominis I recalled that “Jesus Christ is the chief way for the Church: the way leading from Christ to man.” It is significant to note that more than a hundred years ago Don Bosco used to attribute great importance to the human aspects and historical condition of the individual: to his freedom, his preparation for life and a profession, the assuming of civil responsibilities in an atmosphere of joy and generous commitment to his neighbour. He expressed these objectives in trenchant though simple words, like “joy”, “study”, “devotion”, “wisdom”, “work”, “humanity”. His educational ideal is characterised by moderation and realism. In his pedagogical plan there is a successful combination between the permanence of what is essential and the contingency of what is historical, between what is traditional and what is new. The Saint offers young people a programme which is simple but at the same time exacting, happily summed up in an evocative formula: an upright citizen because a good Christian….
11. The second term, “Religion”, indicates that Don Bosco’s pedagogy is essentially transcendent, in so far as the ultimate educational objective at which it aims is the formation of the believer. For him the properly formed and mature man was the citizen with faith, who places at the centre of his life the ideal of the new man proclaimed by Jesus Christ and who bears courageous witness to his own religious convictions.
It is evidently not a question of a speculative and abstract religion, but of a living faith rooted in reality and stemming from presence and communion, from an attitude of listening and from docility to grace. As he liked to put it “the columns of an educational edifice”, are the Eucharist, Penance, devotion to Our Lady, love for the Church and its pastors…
12. Finally from a methodological point of view comes “loving kindness” . Loving kindness is expressed in practice in the commitment of the educator as a person entirely dedicated to the good of his pupils, present in their midst, ready to accept sacrifices and hard work in the fulfilment of his mission. All this calls for a real availability to the young, a deep empathy and the ability to dialogue with them. Typical and very enlightening is the expression: “Here in your midst I feel completely at home; for me, living means being here with you.” With happy intuition he specified: what is important is “not only that the boys be loved, but that they know they are loved.”
The true educator therefore shares the life of the young, is interested in their problems, tries to become aware of how they see things, takes part in their sporting and cultural activities and in their conversations: as a mature and responsible friend he sketches out for them ways and means of doing good, he is ready to intervene to solve problems, to indicate criteria, to correct with prudent and loving firmness blameworthy judgements and behaviour. In this atmosphere of “pedagogical presence” the educator is not looked upon as a “superior”, but as a “father, brother, friend”.
In this connection must be recalled at least the ample space and importance given by the Saint to recreational periods, to sport, music, the theatre or (as he liked to express it) the life of the playground. It is there, in spontaneous and joyful relationships, that the shrewd educator finds ways of intervening, as gentle in expression as they are efficacious because of their continuity and the friendly atmosphere in which they are made. If an encounter is to be educative there must be a deep and continued interest which leads to the acquiring of a personal knowledge of each individual and at the same time of the elements of the cultural condition they have in common.
MEDITATION – Dr. Andrew Seeley
Teaching is a noble profession. We are so much more than enactors of standards. We all play a role in “equipping” our students for “family, civil, and political life.” We share in the parents’ care-full preparing of their young for mature adulthood, in the society’s sacred task of passing on accumulated knowledge to the next generation, in the statesmen’s task of forming responsible and capable citizens. Standards can be helpful, and regular procedures are necessary. But nothing replaces a clear and complete grasp of who our students are and what we hope they will become.
St. John Bosco saw this, embraced it, and urged his teachers to do likewise. His love made him do all he could to ensure his students would become joyful adults, ready to work, eager to learn, able to become wise, devoted to good things, and caring of others.
Have I contributed in appropriate ways to the formation of my students into mature Christian adults? Have I taken advantage of informal opportunities to get to know my students and let them get to know me? Have I been simple yet exacting in what I expect of them?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the example and instruction we receive from Your saints who have devoted themselves to teaching. As You did through them, please make me into a channel for Your presence to reach my students.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary sometime this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.