Reading: From The Preventative System in the Education of the Young
Critical Edition: P. Braido – Translation & Notes: P. Laws Introduction
by St. John Bosco
II: Application of the Preventive System
5: Exercise the strictest vigilance to prevent there being allowed in the Institute friends, books or persons who carry on bad conversations. The appointment of a good doorkeeper constitutes a treasure for a house of education.
6: Every evening after the usual prayers, and before the students go to bed, the Director, or someone in his place should offer a few kind words in public, giving some good advice or counsel regarding things to be done or avoided, and let him try to glean these from events that have taken place that day in the Institute or outside. But his talk should never go on more than two or three minutes. This is the key to good behaviour, progress and educational success.
7: Avoid like the plague the opinion of anyone who would want to postpone First Holy Communion to too old an age, when most times the devil has taken possession of the heart of a youngster with incalculable harm to his innocence. According to the discipline of the early Church it was customary to give to infants the consecrated Hosts left over from the Easter Communion. This helps us realise how much the Church loves to see children admitted to their First Communion in due time. Once a child can tell the difference between bread and bread, and shows himself to be sufficiently instructed, pay no attention to his age and let the Heavenly King come to reign in that happy soul.
8: Catechisms recommend frequent Communion. St Phillip Neri advised receiving once a week, or even more frequently. The Council of Trent states clearly that it greatly wishes every faithful Christian to also receive Communion each time he goes to Mass. But this communion should not only be spiritual but in fact sacramental, so that one may gain greater benefit from this august and divine sacrifice. (Council of Trent, session XXII, ch. VI)
Doorkeeper! First and foremost the parent’s role – passed on by necessity to the priests and sisters who took in the orphaned and abandoned children of Bosco’s time. Clearly this role has in many, many cases passed now to the classroom teacher who may be no less a treasure.
“…Never go on more than two or three minutes…” Prudence and delicacy! How many young people, and not so young, have developed a distaste for religion precisely because they have been harangued and exhausted by someone else’s religious fervor – especially as members of a captive audience, as children so often are?
We might think that in our era, so lax in conscience and rash in excusing ourselves, exhorting the young not to ‘hold back’ from receiving Holy Communion would be unnecessary, even injudicious. No doubt in many cases this would be true. But not all. And perhaps not as often as we think.
While sheer ‘secularity’ may be pervasive in society, the young, the recently ‘converted’, and those simply ‘new to religion’ can easily compare themselves to the ideals and standards of Catholicism and see themselves coming up very, very short. Many of the young easily conclude that they just don’t measure up, they don’t have what it takes, and understand their self-perceived deficiency as “Well, I guess I’m just not the religious type”. What appears to be a cavalier and unconcerned attitude can sometimes be the self-limiting diagnosis: “I’m just not good at this religion thing” – and is more discouragement than disinterest.
The woman taken in adultery, the man born blind, and so many others – Jesus saw these people so differently, looked at them with eyes so different from most of the people around them – saw them in ways they could not even see themselves. Do I seek to see my students through Jesus’ eyes?
Lord of gentleness, prudence and delicacy – grant us the vision and empathy to ‘go easy’ on the discouraged and dispirited, to see through bravado and beyond indifference to the self-condemnation and defeat that is so often there – and invite the ‘not good enough’ to meet One who does not condemn.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.