Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Wisdom of a Saint

Especially given the Roman resistance that was his lot in life and on the path to canonization, little could St John Bosco have imagined that one of his spiritual sons would one day end up as the Cardinal-Secretary of State. But that's what's happened, and in the wake of the election of Benedict XVI (i.e. who tapped Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for the thankless task of serving as the Curia's helmsman), yesterday's feast of Don Bosco took place amidst a Salesian renaissance, at least in terms of the community's resurgent presence in the upper ranks of church leadership.

Interestingly enough, that the letters "SDB" have become a magic word of this pontificate signals a strong affirmation of the approach outlined by the saint whose foster care of orphaned boys earned him the posthumous title of "father and teacher of youth." The tack was highlighted by none other than the church itself in a letter of Bosco's that was the universal mandatory reading for his feast in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Here are some excerpts, insightful enough to have stood the test of time.
My sons, in my long exeperience 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....

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done is we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.

Let 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.

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 scandalized, and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart....

There must be no hostility in our minds, no conempt 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.
May the wisdom we spread be so wise, and our humility so strong, as to join Bosco in the Heavenly Hall of Fame. That is, after all, what we're called to do.

And. in the meantime, readings like this are a reminder that I need to return to the consistent practice of the Office. So if you've got some words to spare, pray too for that.