Saturday, January 31, 2009

Commentary: St. John Bosco's lesson on boys and Archbishop Vigneron

Today is St. John Bosco's feast day. I have a great affection for Don Bosco and one of his teenage saints, Dominic Savio.

The Office of Readings for today provided us with some words from St. John Bosco, about raising boys. He should know.....he raised hundreds.

This reading also made me reflect on something else...... and I'm putting in bold certain points I want to make. I couldn't feel stronger about this.

Each time a new bishop is appointed to a diocese, faithful Catholics look for swift changes. Consider that a bishop is the "Holy Father" of the diocese. He can see many of the same problems that we see, but he must exercise prudence in dealing with those problems. If he is harsh and abrasive, he might manage to end something, but it could come at a cost of losing many people in the process.

I would urge metro Detroiters who are looking for swift changes out of Archbishop Vigneron to read and ponder these words of Don Bosco, applied to another level: That is, on the relationship between a bishop and his priests.

Because you don't see every liturgical abuse in the city ending immediately, doesn't mean he is not working to end these things. The same can be said of priests who are indifferent to culture of life issues, who never preach on these things and are even hostile to those who try to advance them in parishes. Ditto with the kind of ambiguity we hear from the pulpit, and in some cases, outright heresy, and yet others who simply do not teach the mind of the Church.

I believe Archbishop Vigneron will work on these things in good order. I'm banking more on the impact he will have on an ever increasing number of seminarians, which I believe will explode under his reign. Heading our archdiocese, is a bishop who is not only Marian and Eucharistic, but very much tuned in to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. I could not ask for greater characteristics in a bishop, and this is what gives me much hope.

With that, meditate carefully on these words and consider that disciplining a boy is much easier than disciplining a priest who refuses to work with the mind of the Church. With such a priest shortage, it is simply not possible to suspend, or to push into retirement, all of those who do not choose humility and heed a bishop's private admonitions (we are not privy to all that a bishop does behind close doors to try to rectify things as displine is suppose to be private and a matter of charity). If he simply pulls such priests from parishes, many would have to close - parishes that in a few years down the road will be home to many solid priests, filled with holy boldness, coming up through the system. They will be influenced not only by Archbishop Vigneron's words, but by his actions.

Once again, I encourage you to pray, make sacrifices, and to have patience. Things will shift, not when and how we want it, but as God guides our new Ordinary, Allen H. Vigneron.

Forgive any typos, as I typed this quickly from today's Office of Readings and could not find a version on the net.
From a letter by Saint John Bosco, Priest

(Epistolario, Torino 1959, 4, 201-203)

First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children adn if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you re 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 trut. 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.

I give you as a model of 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.

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.

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 dto 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 evne 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.

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 oly offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!