Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Heart of a Father and Teacher

Enjoy yourself as much as you like - if only you keep from sin. -- John Bosco.
St John Bosco is a particular friend of our family's. For one thing, my husband's birthday is today, on John Bosco's feast day. I don't think it's an accident! for in many ways my husband's way of doing things reminds me of the kind saint who evangelized through fun and laughter and games as much as by an honorable way of life and a kind of strict loving standard in his fathering that doesn't really need many words or overt disciplining tactics to be an excellent influence on his children.

(Happy Birthday Dear Husband)

There is some information about John Bosco's life at Catholic Culture.Pope John Paul II named Don Bosco "teacher and father to the young." This punctuates his life witness and teachings as recommendable to all teachers and parents.

He is the patron of schoolchildren and the young folk.

Son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. John's father died when the boy was 2 years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks he saw magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.
From this site about Blessed Luigi Guanella and St John Bosco:

"There I had the example of so many virtues, and the spiritual direction of Don Bosco who did so much good to all. Don Bosco's heart was like a magnet which drew all to himself; his words, few and well-pondered, were as lightning flashes to the mind. My eternal gratitude to Don Bosco and his works."

From this Life of St John Bosco

The greatest heritage that Don Bosco left the Church was his "preventive system" for the education of youth. When asked for the secret of his success, which transformed big institutions into a family of love, he answered with three words: reason, religion and kindness. When reasoning is used instead of threats, when God is the housemaster and when there is no fear but rather love, the end result is a true family.
A letter written by John Bosco near the end of his life described his attitude towards the boys from the streets he provided for:

Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalised, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.
There are more details about John Bosco's method of Preventive Discipline in this pdf.
And here is another pdf, an article by Katherine O'Brien-Johnston -- Christlike Discipline.

And more here from the Salesians -- how a saint corrected children (another interesting connection -- that one of my heroes, St Francis de Sales, was the inspiration for St John Bosco in his gentle, loving and high-expecting style of guidance)

This saint of the day site about Bosco quotes GK Chesterton in reference to education:

“Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all” (G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man).

Finally, we have a little book around the house called The Life of Dominic Savio. It is a biography, BY St John Bosco, ABOUT one of the boys in his school, who is also now a canonized saint. So it is a saint's life written by a saint, which makes it unusual. Here is an online version of the book. The book made an impression on my oldest son, so much so that Dominic Savio is his confirmation patron. (And St Francis de Sales is my second-born son's confirmation patron).

God of mercy, You called Saint John Bosco to be a father and teacher of the young. Grant that inspired by his ardent charity we may serve You alone and never tire of bringing others to Your Kingdom.
St John Bosco, pray for us!

ETA: There is a good article about John Bosco at Castle of the Immaculate


Anonymous said...

John Bosco is also one of my favourite saints. Sadly, I often forget about his teachings when trying to instruct my own children! Thank you for posting these resources, I'm off to check them out!

Chari said...

Happy, happy birthday to Kevin from the Bryans!

And, Gloria and I thank you for John Bosco's words......we needed to hear them.

Gloria loves JB!