Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don Bosco's advice on boys is applicable to our online behavior

In both the traditional and new calendar today, it is St. John Bosco's feast day.  Don Bosco has been near and dear to me for many years.  Perhaps it was his love for homeless and delinquent boys, and his hope in them.  We learn from Don Bosco that you turn boys not by beating them down, but by building them up.  I think his philosophy on raising boys is just as applicable to our dealings with one another, and especially online.  I have a whole separate discussion of this coming in my next post, so check back.

First, here is the second reading from the Office of Readings for today in the Liturgy of the Hours (emphasis mine in bold; my comments bracketed in red).

First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always labored lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.

My 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. [Is it not the same when we deal with others online, especially other Catholics who don't necessarily, "get it" - whatever "it" is at the moment?] 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. [Farmers prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water, wait for them to sprout, then work the soil and fertilize, etc.  Seeds cannot be forced into mature plants overnight. Whether it is boys, or other Catholiccs, or non-Catholics, it's the same principle]

I 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. [As the saying goes, put an ex-smoker in the room with smokers and watch what happens - they forget how resistant they were to efforts by others to get them to stop.  When someone begins to take their faith seriously yesterday, 6 months ago or 6 years ago, there is a tendency to fall into the trap of trying to correct everyone else, and sometimes with great force. God did not force Mary to receive Jesus into her womb; he proposed through the Archangel Gabriel.  Christ did not force the Apostles to follow, or the rich young man to go and sell all he owned; he proposed.  We should consider imitating this model of "proposing"]

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 if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger. [How is it any different when dealing with others online, or in person, when discussing the faith?]

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. [And those online as our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers]. 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. [!!! - so ought we not use this with others?] He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. [Bingo! This is where we fail online.  We think that because others show their unfaithfulness, or roughness, it gives us license to engage in condescension and derision. Sometimes people push an issue errantly, purely out of ignorance, or because others they once trusted as faithful, taught them so]. 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. [Again, SCORE! Reminds me here of what Dom Mark posted the other day in, Sitting on the Basket]

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. [Friends, this applies to dealing with anyone, from your own kids, to relatives and friends, and with people we meet in the digital continent]

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.

I'm going to come back to those last two paragraphs in my next post, so do check back.  I'll drop a link here after it is posted.

St. John Bosco - pray for us.

Further reading:

I've only read a few books on St. John Bosco, and the movie made in recent years with Flavio Insinna, is among my favorites.  I especially recommend the Forty Dreams of Don Bosco.

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