Memorial of St. John Bosco

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For the past 40 years or so, a group of researchers have been studying the attitudes, beliefs and values of American college freshman.  It is believed that this is an indication of the direction of our culture.  One of the troubling findings over the past 12 years has been the increasing amount of narcissism in our culture.  Narcissism is a tendency to view oneself as the center of reality.  Simply put, it is selfishness.  More and more people have a tendency only to think about their own wants and care little about the needs of others.  The really dangerous thing about narcissism is that when a narcissist does not get the attention that they believe they deserve they lash out in rage at those that they feel have been not giving them what they deserve.  It has been hypothesized that this increasing narcissism is one of the factors for the increases of school shootings.

It might not be a coincidence that these narcissistic rages seem to take place in schools so often.  For the past 25 or so years our schools have been using methods that seem to foster narcissism.  Under the guise of promoting self-esteem, there is a tendency never to allow a student to fail a test, everyone gets a trophy, and lessons become more individualized.  Students are not corrected or disciplined because we are afraid of hurting their self-esteem.  But all this seems to foster narcissism.

Today the Church celebrates a saint who had a very different approach to education; St. John Bosco.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that St. John was a “spare the rod, spoil the child,” kind of person.  No, St. John told his followers to be very patient with the children in their care, and not to be quick to punish them.  The difference in St. John Bosco’s approach was not to be harsher, but rather to not shield the child from reality.  So St. John encouraged discipline in the children he cared for, letting them know when they were wrong or misbehaving, but then trying to encourage them to do better, and persuading them to see why their behavior was not good.  He encouraged the children to learn a trade and to work together.

Two of the most important factors in St. John Bosco’s approach to education was the centrality of the Eucharist and frequent Confession.  You might wonder what does the Eucharist and Confession have to do with education, but just think about it.  In the Eucharist, we are acknowledging our need for the Divine, our dependency on God.  We also call the Eucharist, Holy Communion; emphasizing that we are called to become one with Jesus, but also to be in union with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Instead of a self-centeredness, the Eucharist calls us to think first of Christ and then of others.  The sacrament of Confession teaches us humility, which is a virtue, so a good thing.  We learn to admit our faults and failures, our sins, but not so to humiliate us, but so that we also confess our belief in a loving and merciful God.  Learning to admit our sins helps us to admit our faults, failures and limitations to others, and to accept the fact that we cannot do it all on our own.  In receiving mercy we also become more merciful to others when they wrong us.

We might not be able to bring St. John Bosco’s wisdom into the public school system, but we can bring it into our lives, and the lives of the children we encounter; whether they be our own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  We can patiently confront their narcissism, to help them move away from that, and learn the virtues of generosity, patience, teamwork, humility, and forgiveness.  We can teach them the need we all have for God and the sacred in our lives; encouraging them to go to Mass regularly and to go to Confession.  In our care for them, we can help them see what St. John Bosco helped so many children to see — the loving face of God.

About Fr. JC

Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trenton, NJ, in 2004. Currently the Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Delran, NJ.
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2 Responses to Memorial of St. John Bosco

  1. Kristen says:

    Do you think that is one reason why Holy Mother Church teaches that birth control is a sin? While reading this, I could not help but think that children with a few siblings really cannot have the universe center around them.

    This is on my mind lately, probably due to a woman who came up to me after Mass yesterday. She is Spanish and told me her English was not so good. She patted her belly and asked if womb was the right word. She said, “My womb turned into a grave yard.” I thought she would tell me that she had miscarrages. She then said she had her “tubes tied” and asked me to promise her that I would never do that. My reply was that at 40 years old after 8 children, it was a little late for that now! ; ) It gave me some real food for thought, however.

    God bless you, Father, and thank you for your blog.
    Kris

  2. Fr. JC says:

    Dear Kris,
    I am assuming that you are referring to what I said about narcissism. Yes, I do think that a concern about narcissism is related to the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In “Humanae Vitae” is is mentioned more as a concern that the increase use of contraception would result in greater narcissism. If we disconnect the unitive from the procreative purposes of human sexuality, it doesn’t just effect one thing. Obviously contraception destroys the procreative purpose of human sexuality, by preventing it, but what so many people do not recognize, is that it has also gravely injured the unitive. People say that it is because they love each other and that is the reason for sex, but inherent in the use of contraception is a selfish denial of part of yourself to the person you love. You are saying, “You can have this part of me (my sexual activity) but not my procreative part.” Eventually this fosters an attitude that seems very common today, that sex is all about giving myself pleasure. Sure, we aren’t upset if the other person also gets pleasure, but the main goal is on pleasing myself. That is selfish, and narcissistic.

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