I think the first encounter that I could remember that I had with this man was really unforgettable. When I was studying first grade in the Don Bosco Technical Institute of Makati I could remember that one day we were made to copy the most important points of the life of St. John Bosco from the blackboard. Nowadays the teacher would’ve just given us photocopies of the biography, which was very precise. I think that was the first lengthy writing exercise I have ever done in my life (perhaps a harbinger of thinks to come), copying the whole biography of that saint from the blackboard during Christian Living class. I remember the anguish that I felt upon seeing the teacher write more lines on the blackboard, and asking myself when this would end.
Of course I won’t write all about my childhood angst here in this short entry, much less against Don Bosco. But I think the experience I have just shared above was known to me alone until now. Children don’t like to be told to write long documents in cursive. As I’ve mentioned, nowadays teachers would’ve given the pupils photocopies (otherwise erroneously known as Xerox copies, at least in the Philippines) of the whole thing, but the question would be if the children would ever learn to write lengthily in their own hand if teachers would always be pampering them. So I think that Ma’am did things with a wisdom that surpassed my years and went beyond the complaints of my then puerile hands.
I remembered that because I realize that this saint has had such an influence in my life. This saint—Don Bosco—has caused a lot of ripples in this side of heaven (I’ve always liked to call this life as such). One of those ripples had reached up to me. I think his influence started from the day I was baptized. I was baptized precisely in the parish dedicated to his name, adjacent to the school were I spent my first years of education (which continue even until now, here in these lands of Navarra), at the Parish of St. John Bosco, given to the pastoral care of the Salesian fathers. I don’t remember much of any influence that I might have had during my stay in DBTI under the same salesians (except for some things, among them the temporal fear of copying long biographies from the blackboard), other from the fact that I positively dreaded facing the elementary department principal, a certain Mrs. Patrimonio, if I remember the name right.
But as a youngster, now gaining in years, I took pleasure in reading the stories about his dreams. As the years went on, I became more fascinated with his life, especially with the story of his vocation to the priesthood. This was true especially during my years in the seminary.
I didn’t mind him much when I finally became a priest, but recognizing him as a priest who dedicated his life to the youth has recaptured my attention. A few days ago I was doing my spiritual reading and came upon a passage that stated that aside from a firm and constant relationship with the Lord—prayer life—charity was the cornerstone of any pastoral undertaking. This man, Don Bosco, had no other pedagogical method in dealing with his youth other than love. This love as the capstone of dealing with the youth in the apostolate is well evident in the Office of Readings, which presents a letter from him, perhaps written and addressed to his sons in the Salesian order:
I have always labored lovingly for them (those whom he calls “his foster children”), and carried out my priestly duties with zeal.
I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he shared to his new converts…
See that no one finds you motivated y impetuosity or willfulness, it is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this is to be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger….
In serious matters it is better to beg God humbky than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listener, and have no effect on those who are guilty.
Excellent advice for a educators from a man who was a confirmed educator all his life…