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Reading: From the Letter from Rome – Part III
Critical Edition: P. Braido – Translation: P. Laws
by St. John Bosco
“How then are we to set about breaking down this barrier?”
“By a friendly informal relationship with the boys, especially in recreation. You cannot have love without this familiarity, and where this is not evident there can be no confidence. If you want to be loved, you must make it clear that you love. Jesus Christ made himself little with the little ones and bore our weaknesses. He is our master in the matter of the friendly approach. The teacher who is seen only in the classroom is a teacher and nothing more; but if he joins in the pupils’ recreation he becomes their brother. If someone is only seen preaching from the pulpit it will be said that he is doing no more and no less than his duty, whereas if he says a good word in recreation it is heard as the word of one who loves. How many conversions have been brought about by a few words whispered in the ear of a youngster while he is playing. One who knows he is loved loves in return, and one who loves can obtain anything, especially from the young. This confidence creates an electric current between youngsters and their superiors. Hearts are opened, needs and weaknesses made known. This love enables superiors to put up with the weariness, the annoyance, the ingratitude, the troubles that youngsters cause. Jesus Christ did not crush the bruised reed nor quench the smouldering flax. He is your model. Then you will no longer see anyone working for his own glory; you will no longer see anyone punishing out of wounded self-love; you will not see anyone neglecting the work of supervision through jealousy of another’s popularity; you won’t hear people running others down so as to be looked up to by the boys: those who exclude all other superiors and earn for themselves nothing but contempt and hypocritical flattery; people who let their hearts be stolen by one individual and neglect all the other boys to cultivate that particular one. No one will neglect his strict duty of supervision for the sake of his own ease and comfort; no one will fail through human respect to reprimand those who need reprimanding. If we have this true love, we shall not seek anything other than the glory of God and the good of souls. When this love languishes, things no longer go well. Why do people want to replace love with cold rules? Why do the superiors move away from the observance of the rules Don Bosco has given them? Why the replacement little by little of loving and watchful prevention by a system which consists in framing laws? Such laws either have to be sustained through punishment and so create hatred and cause unhappiness or, if they are not enforced, cause the superiors to be despised and bring about serious disorders. This is sure to happen if there is no friendly relationship. So if you want the Oratory to return to the happiness of old, then bring back the old system: let the superior be all things to all, always ready to listen to any boy’s complaints or doubts, always alert to keep a paternal eye on their conduct, all heart to seek the spiritual and temporal good of those Divine Providence has entrusted to him. Then hearts will no longer be closed and deadly subterfuge will no longer hold sway. The superiors should be unbending only in the case of immoral conduct. It is better to run the risk of expelling someone who is innocent than to keep someone who causes others to sin. Assistants should make it a strict duty in conscience to refer to the superiors whatever they know to be an offence against God.”
Then I asked a question: “And what is the best way of achieving this friendly relationship, this kind of love and confidence?”
“The exact observance of the rules of the house.”
“At a dinner the best dish is a hearty welcome.”
With that my past pupil finished speaking, and I went on looking at that recreation with great displeasure. Little by little I felt oppressed by a great weariness that became worse at every moment. Eventually it got so bad that I could resist no longer, and I shook myself and woke up. I found myself standing beside my bed. My legs were so swollen and hurt so much that I could not stand up any longer. It was very late and I went to bed, resolved to write these lines to my sons.
In a previous passage Don Bosco saw: “In the faces and actions of many boys there was evident a weary boredom, a surliness, a suspicion, that pained my heart.” So here he asks how to break down this barrier.
“By a friendly informal relationship, especially in recreation,” the barrier will be broken down. “…[I]f he says a good word in recreation it is heard as the word of one who loves.” That’s the answer. Friendliness, especially camaraderie in play, is the key to the hearts of the young.
“Why the replacement little by little of loving and watchful prevention by a system which consists in framing laws?” How true this is! In fact, a school without clear expectations posted within eyesight of every point in the school is considered deficient by many today. So teachers work to ensure there is a well developed system of expectations, rules, and laws, clearly visible to all who walk into the building. Perhaps this task is completed during recess.
Don Bosco’s rules were these:
I will be cheerful.
I will do my duties well.
I will stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist.
I will honor and love Mary as my Mother and helper.
I choose to be kind.
I want to serve rather than be served.
“So if you want the Oratory to return to the happiness of old, then bring back the old system… “ And a promise is given: “Then hearts will no longer be closed and deadly subterfuge will no longer hold sway.” If today’s subterfuge has gained strength, know that the old system is the most ancient of all — it is the Love that created the heavens and the earth.
“When this love languishes, things no longer go well. Why do people want to replace love with cold rules?” Why do we tend to do this? Is it our training? Is it others’ expectations? Have we simply assumed that many rules are necessary in a school, therefore, we should write them explicitly (and maybe in bold letters)?
Is the love of the young more apparent in our school than the rules? in my classroom? in my interactions with the students?
What am I doing while my students are in recreation? When can I join them?
Dear Lord Jesus, You taught through Your Heart of Love. Your rules were few — two great commandments to motivate all the rest. Help me see love and rules as You see them. Help me see these students as You see them. Let us together break the barrier that separates me from them, by truthfully examining my rules and seeking to replace them with Your Love. Give me the generosity and the courage to engage with my students in their play, so as to gain what you promise: the confidence, the open hearts, and the strength to do this work in joy.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary sometime this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.
Please pray for the needs of your fellow teachers:
For all teachers.
– Br. Lucian
Prayers asking for Jesus to heal my my sister, Sherry, who has ovarian cancer. Prayers for her oncologist and anyone who will be tending to her treatment. Thank you, Jesus.
Recently, Mariann Lupinacci-Kosinski, principal of ICLE member school St. John Paul II Classical School in Lincoln Park, MI, passed away. She was diagnosed earlier this year with a fast-growing cancer, and even the school community did not know how serious it was until just before Easter. She was an extraordinary woman who had been widowed twice, never complained, and was completely devoted to the faculty and students of her beloved little school. She was a joyful daughter of God who lived her faith in an unassuming way. Please pray for the repose of her soul, and for the consolation of her family and all who love her in that community.
Holy Spirit guidance and healing for MEA. – Fernanda
Lord, give strength to all school leaders and teachers who face great challenges in this work of education, especially in this very difficult time. Give them renewed vision, deep joy, and great confidence in your help. – Colleen
For a family friend who was hurt in a bad skiing accident. – Elisabeth
For our school families and the safe reopening of our school. – Cyril
For all school leaders as they make the decisions and face the trials of this new school year. Lord, grant them wisdom and peace. – Amy
For the virtues of perseverance and studiousness as I begin graduate studies in philosophy of education. – Tomas
Lord Jesus, bless Annemarie, who is in the hospital, and her husband.
For inspiration, guidance, and blessings for a start-up school working with their home diocese–that the Lord will guide all parties to perfectly carry out his will.
The father of a student of one of our members has died, leaving behind a young family. We pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family, as well as for wisdom and peace for his teacher and the rest of the school community.
Please pray for Phil, a doctor from Denver, CO, who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Phil is the father of 7 young children.
Please pray for the family of Matthew and Terrie Walz. Matthew is a professor at the University of Dallas, and a friend of the Institute. Terrie’s father has been diagnosed with brain tumor; the CoVid crisis has made getting treatment difficult and dangerous.
For the healing and containment of the Coronavirus disease and for all those who have been affected – physically, economically, and spiritually.
Please pray for Fr. John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent in the Diocese of Joliat, Illinois, who will soon be undergoing surgery to repair a broken shoulder.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Suzanne Fessler, long-time principal at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, who oversaw the transition of the high school to a focus on the development of wisdom and virtue.
For Father Frank Brawner and his health, healing, and continued strength in his ministry. – Susan
For the healing of Shirley Balangue, mother of Cyril Cruz, Principal of Holy Innocents School in Long Beach, CA.
For the continued health and healing of Simon Vander Weele, son of Rosemary and Jon Vander Weele of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Classical School in Denver, CO.
Pray for healing for Mr. K., Latin teacher at an ICLE member school. We ask for healing and relief from fluid buildup in the lung and cancer.
Please pray for a wonderful theology professor who is undergoing persecution for upholding Catholic teaching on sexuality. – Andrew
My wife’s conversion to Catholicism. – Adam
Increase in fertility, marriage, families; for grandparents; for a special spouse for a friend. – Rosemary
For the Holy Spirit’s increase in the hearts of all concerned with Catholic education in the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese, especially that He lead us into deeper prayer, greater intimacy with Him. – Leslie
Souls in Purgatory especially those who have no one to pray for them; those in the Bahamas and elsewhere affected by natural disasters. – Lisa
Please pray that I teach and love my students and teachers as would Christ the Teacher. – Joseph & Juliana
For a new teacher in 5th grade; for our Johnsburg Catholic school to become Classical Liberal Arts; for increase in marriage, fertility, families; for young adults’ conversion and love for Jesus and His Church. – Rosemary
Help making good choices about family issues. – Susan
That our parish school community would grow as an evangelizing community, proclaiming, encountering and responding to the kerygmatic proclamation of Jesus Christ. – Nathalie
That Catholic schools and parents be of one heart and one mind by creating their institutions and homes coherently, as “missionary outposts of the Universal Church” with one goal: that the truth of all things, beginning and ending in Jesus Christ, be known and loved through the details in everything. – Ruth
For teachers everywhere. – Chris