Monday, November 05, 2007

Holiness through the Preventive System

My first brush with the Preventive System wasn't pleasant enough.

I recall that it was the first day of the school year in the high school department of Don Bosco Canlubang. And I was a novice teacher.

Some minutes before the time, I marched to the designated classroom. From the window, I saw a student standing outside. His body language revealed to me that he wanted to enter the room. And because of my wanting to build a positive rapport, I motioned him to enter. After politely saying thank you, he silently sat down. Soon, his classmates came. And seeing him comfortably seated, they followed suit, they all entered the room. I was puzzled because they seemed to be chuckling, betraying that familiar demeanor of "Bosconian naughtiness."

I knew the reason why when the bell finally rang. The rest of the high school students silently formed their line just outside their respective rooms—except mine.

It dawned on me that it is one of the rules for the students to form first their line outside and when they showed their readiness—manifested by their silence—they are led inside their respective rooms.

That encounter was a humiliating experience but it taught me a lesson. Apart from the subject I need to discuss with my students, I should uphold the rules of the school. There must have some reasons why they are there. I told myself that my not studying from a Don Bosco school in high school is not a sin but my ignorance of the rule of the school is.

In that booklet penned by Don Bosco himself, he described the Preventive System by "making the prescriptions and regulations of an Institute known and then watching in such a way that the pupils have continually the vigilant eye of the Director or of assistants on them."

I read from somewhere that in the realm of the Preventive System, Presence is the most clear and brilliant manifestation that the System is at work. But citing that personal anecdote above, it shouldn't be only mere presence.

In his scholarly book entitled Don Bosco's Pedagogical Experience, Braido emphasized that the three components of Preventive System—reason, religion and loving kindness—are constantly present and reacting to each other to give the system a solid methodological unity.

My experience every Sunday in our own Youth Center has gained for me some valuable insights on the Preventive System. You see, my knowledge of the Cebuano language is meager. And fielding me to give formation and assistance to young people ranging from early teens to early adults wasn't really much of a breeze. It was unimaginable. I felt so miserable.

But the Preventive System allowed me to resort to a different kind of language that is well understood by young. I doubt if they can accurately define what Preventive System is, but one example tells me that they can feel that Prevent System is at work.

One Sunday afternoon, I was suddenly thrust into the role of King Solomon when a crying little boy from the basketball club came to me and told me that a bigger boy punched him. I went to the 'culprit' and with an attempt to speak broken Cebuano, I figured out the reason why. They were arguing about whether the name of the male genital organ printed in the textbook of the little boy was obscene or not. They debated over it until the bigger kid couldn't resist showing that he is correct by showing the little boy his 'might.'

I must have consumed all the Cebuano vocabulary I know of to inquire further—and to hide my amusement. After the long series of questions, the bigger kid realized that what he did wasn't right. Apologies were in order, I told him. And he sheepishly extended his hand to the smaller boy.

Sure thing, the best boys of Don Bosco in the person of Savio, Magone and Bessuco—all products of the Preventive System—may now only be found in the hagiography section of our libraries. But in the midst of our youth centers, schools, seminaries, and the like, I am positive that we still have so much young people waiting to be tapped, to be guided, towards that beautiful path of sanctity.

Don Bosco did not merely leave us an empty challenge "to become Saints." With the Preventive System, he made sure we will really become one.