After all the talk about foster care on the blog recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see the reading in my breviary this morning, the feast of St. John Bosco. May provide a better context for the conversation.
I was particularly struck by the use, in the English translation, of the expression ‚Äúfoster children‚Äù where a literal translation from the Latin would simply say ‚Äústudents‚Äù. Clearly St. john Bosco wasn‚Äôt running orphanages, but many of kids in his schools were orphans. This seems to blur a distinction that seemed crucial in the discussions on the blog. In any case, here‚Äôs the reading. It may serve as something of an antidote to the more Dickensian ‚Äì or worse ‚Äì images rumbling around in many minds.
From a letter by Saint John Bosco, priest:
‚ÄúFirst of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfil their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always laboured lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.
‚ÄúMy sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.
‚ÄúI give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.
‚ÄúSee that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or wilfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.
‚ÄúLet us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. 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.
‚ÄúThis 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‚Äôs mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.
‚ÄúThey 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.
‚ÄúThere 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.
‚ÄúIn 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.‚Äù
The following biographical comment is, I think, by John Allen (this is what happens when you throw things in files without labeling them!):
‚ÄúSt. John Bosco (1815-1888), known affectionately as “Don Bosco,” was shocked by the plight of the poor in Turin, especially the young — the peddlers, shoe polishers, stable-boys, factory workers, vendors, and errand boys who formed the lowest cogs in the wheels of the new industrial machine.
‚ÄúBosco became a tireless catechist among the young, hearing confessions, saying Masses, and organizing “oratories” where his boys could play, study and worship. He was also something of a labor organizer, negotiating contracts for young apprentices insisting that employers use them only in their acknowledged trade, that corporal punishment be abandoned, that proper wages be paid, rest periods be honored, and that decent sanitary conditions be maintained.
‚ÄúThus the Salesian pastoral model was forged: solid, orthodox Catholic piety; an “in-the-trenches” commitment to the young, the poor, and to education; and a smiling closeness to the people, as opposed to the rather foreboding and aloof profile of the typical Italian monsignore.‚Äù
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