Sunday, March 30, 2008

Don Bosco in our hearts

Leaving Don Bosco Canlubang, I was fortunate to have landed a teaching post in one big Catholic school in Manila. The facilities of the school are top-of-the-line; even the canteen was wired up. Majority of its faculty members append their names with the initials PhD, or at the very least MA. One can really feel the academic environment inside the campus diffused by excellence and scholarship.

But halfway through my first term, I got homesick and it was not difficult to state the reason why. I sorely missed the warm, familial atmosphere of my previous home. This same observation I would also hear from our Bosconian-alumni whom I would rub elbows with.

There is something in the heritage of a Salesian school that is outstandingly different. Joyful optimism, warm and familiar friendship, games and recreation, family spirit, youth group activities, loving kindness, summer camps, loving presence and the list goes on and on. These are terminologies we know by the tip of our fingers. Far different from other Catholic institutions, it does not make us any better, much less the best, but it distinguishes us from all the rest.

This must have propelled Fr. Pascual Chavez to enjoin us in his 2008 strenna: Educate with the heart of Don Bosco.

In his 30-page explanation of his strenna, Fr. Chavez did not clearly define what the heart of Don Bosco is made of. But he handed on hints that are crystal clear: the heart of a shepherd constitutes the heart of Don Bosco.

His heart only beats for his flock, even among those lost ones. And if I may add, especially for them. He gave the underprivileged youth of his time a good chance of battling it out with their deprivations. He taught them the four R’s and basic life skills. Believing that “a teacher who is seen only in the classroom is a teacher but nothing more,” he was practically all to them. He was an acrobat, musician, actor, writer, teacher, friend and the list is legion. All for the precious reason of saving their souls.

But these did not make them love him. He worked out to make himself loved. He taught his youngsters how to love him by loving them in the first place. He spent time with them. Writing from Rome in 1884, he told his Salesians that “You cannot have affection (from the young) without a friendly informal relationship.”

Our times are a little different from the time of Don Bosco’s. And it is more difficult.

In a striking letter of Fr. Chavez after visiting the Philippines, he challenged the Salesians not only to be “present among youngsters but also to exude a credibility and witness in bringing signs of Christ’s love for them.

There is no way to return to Don Bosco other than using his means in “winning souls.” And we can only achieve this by rediscovering his heart, and transforming our hearts similar into his.