Friday, December 09, 2011

On good (and bad) books

Uncle Charles Cabin” and “The Wandering Jews” Do these titles ring a bell?

For those among us who are taking the Rizal course, they should, for they are two books which greatly awakened Rizal's consciousness in fighting for our freedom.

Hands down, books influence us. I don’t have to argue about it. Was it St. Augustine who said that “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page?”

Don Bosco knew the importance of reading books. This prompted him to issue, three years before his passing away, a circular letter devoting entirely on spreading good books.

But I never thought that in the beginning of the school year of 1883, five years before his death, he wrote a long letter to all Salesian houses regarding one important concern: bad books.

At this point, let us listen to the words of Don Bosco:
The enemies of souls are aware of the influence of this weapon, and experience has taught us how young people avail themselves of it to the loss of their innocence. Strange titles, presentable paper, clean type, fine engravings, low prices, popular style, variety of plot, vivid descriptions: everything is exploited with diabolic artistry and craftiness. Woe to all of us if we doze off while the enemy is constantly alert!
All pupils should be told to hand over any new book they may acquire or that may be brought to them by relatives or friends. Professors, supervisors in the study hall, and assistants must take note of what the boys are reading in the church, at recreation, in class and in study hall.
Speak often on the subject of bad books during the year from the pulpit, in the evening talk, and in the classroom. Point out the harm they do.

If we act along these lines, I hope that no bad books will be smuggled into our schools, and that if they are, they will soon be destroyed.
                                              (cf Biographical Memoirs, pp. 173-177)
This letter was written in 1883. And the popular medium back then was the printed matter. If Don Bosco were alive today, I am certain that he would also write a letter on movies, TV shows, Internet sites.

We have been reminded to choose out friends, to associate only with those who serve as good examples. I believe that, it is also true in choosing the books, and of comics, and of video clips we save in our computers. For we do not just possess them, we also allow them to possess us.

I said a lot tonight. Forget everything, but please remember this. When you receive some cash during the Christmas break, please consider buying good books that will not just satisfy your curiosity, feed your mind, warm your heart, but more importantly, nourish your vocation.

God bless. Read more. Good evening.