Friday, January 31, 2014

Feast Day of the Apostle of Youth

January 31st

"Enjoy yourself as much as you like – if only you keep from sin."

~ St. John Bosco

One of the mottos of our life -- especially since we've raised teenagers, these words of Don Bosco's are simple to understand, but, boy, they can be difficult sometimes for a young person to carry out! St. John Bosco knew the problem well, caring for the bodies and souls of  scores of boys and girls in Italy in the late nineteenth century, and parents today know the same challenge.   It doesn't matter when in history a child lives, life can be full of confusion and trouble -- especially when the child is trying to find his footing on the way into adult life.  In Don Bosco's day, just as in ours, enjoying one's self while not sinning could be a trick to pull off.   Going out to have fun with friends very often carried the temptation to walk the tightrope of morality  in the best case -- and to jump right off, in the worst.

And it is tough out there to "keep your nose clean," especially in the teen years -- when everything's in turmoil, anyway. But, as if that weren't enough, our children today are bombarded with assaults to their purity, their integrity, and their faith at every turn. There's practically no escaping it!  It's too easy for the best of kids to give into pressure and believe that enjoyment means fun that is "adult" or illicit. In their hurry to grow up in a world that forces adult themes on them from day one, it can be easy for young people to forget the simple pleasure of wholesome fun.

I guess most of us here in the choir probably see the problem.  But what can we do?

Here are some thoughts -- stream-of-consciousness style:

(Do please feel free to skip this meandering if you like! It's long!)

Stress wholesome fun!  This is easy.  Just play! * Start with rolling the babies  a ball, end with pitching it to them. * Teach your toddlers to roll the ball to one another. * Teach one to praise the other when they catch it.  Never forget what a joy your babies and toddlers are!  (They grow up so fast!) * Make dimples in your cheeks more than you creases in your forehead.  * Praise one another behind each other's back.  * Never criticize behind another's back.  * Correct, when necessary, gently and in privacy.  * Choose your children's friends wisely and exclusively for as long as you can. * Be ruthless about it.  * Teach them to discriminate friendships safe and unsafe for their souls so that when they can choose for themselves, they'll do so wisely.  * Make up softball (or football or volleyball) teams with parish families and make sure to play together after Mass every Sunday possible. ( This is far more valuable for children's far-reaching growth and development than any "organized" sport you will ever enroll them in.) *  Never take for granted what a joy your single-digit children are! (They grow up so fast!) * Play card and board games as a family. * At the drop of a hat. * Often.  * Turn off the TV.   * Laugh. * Laugh as often as you can.  * But never tease. * See good wholesome movies. * Screen them ahead of time (Google them!) for content and make a big deal out of seeing them together and with friends. * Explain why these movies are good movies. * Explain why you don't see other movies.  * Be a good example; don't see a movie you wouldn't want your children seeing.  * If in doubt, don't go see a movie (or play, or concert) you wouldn't invite the Blessed Mother to attend.  * Enjoy every moment with your adolescents and young teens! (They grow up so fast!) * Read good, wholesome books. * Tell your children about them.  * Read out loud.  * Every day. * Recommend good books to everyone in the family.  * Explain why they're good books. * Explain why others are not. * Tell the story of your life. * Detail your best moments * Include your embarassing moments. * Laugh at the silly stuff!  * Explain your mistakes. * Tell what you should have done differently and why. * Listen to your children's stories. * Ask them about their day.  * Even if you've spent the whole day with them!  * Apologize when you're wrong  * Spend one-on-one time with each child (and your spouse!)  as often as you can. * Even if it's just while you load the dishwasher. * Sing. * Sing a lot. * Loudly. *  Even if it's badly. * Spend every moment you can with your teens and young adults!  (They grow up so fast!)  * Praise good behaviour; never qualify bad behaviour as anything other than bad, but discuss it always in relationship to Our Lord's Sacred heart.  *Talk about God. * In everything you do.  * Be on a first-name basis with the saints.  * Include them in all the good stuff, not just the trouble!  * Blend the Church calendar in with all the other calendars that are important to your family.  * But make God's appointments always take precedence.  * Be sure your children know it is an occasion to be sad for others when they pressure you to put God second (or third, or worse), and never never give in.  * Introduce Mary as a second mother; love her tenderly; depend upon her. * Pray.  * Smile and even laugh when you pray. * Pray alone. * Pray in pairs when you go out walking.  * Pray in groups altogether. * Pray in the morning.  * Pray at night. * Never miss the family rosary.  * Pray when you get in the car.  * Pray when you arrive home safely.  * Bless heaven and earth with smiles and laughter.  * Enjoy every minute of it.  * As much as you like.  * Only keep from sinning.

We're still in the trenches here at our house, in this business of child-raising  -- and I guess we will be until the day we die.  We've found out that parenthood most definitely doesn't end when the children move out of the house!  Out of our ten, we have four sons and one daughter officially "on their own" now and have been parenting for twenty-five years.  And we're still learning; make no mistake!   Each child and each passing year brings its own challenges and lessons.  We don't have it all figured out and never will.

But we have learned a couple things: 1) We can never, ever rest on our laurels; the devil would like nothing better and the world is a tough competitor for our children's hearts and souls.  We have to keep vigilant, keep studying, keep praying.   And, 2) We must always call on our heavenly patrons for their invaluable help. By prayer, and when possible, by reading their words of advice. There is little we've learned about raising children (especially teenage boys), for example,  that we haven't gleaned from St. John Bosco and the Salesian method.  Anything we might have thought we figured out ourselves, we later learned was a teaching of the good Salesian Fathers. You have to know, then, that it's with great caution that I suggest anyone follow any of our examples, but with the greatest confidence I recommend you to the writings of Don Bosco and his the traditional method of his Order.  It's for good reason that our saint is called the patron of youth; his influence with them was great on earth -- and is still great today from heaven.

Good Don Bosco,  Pray For Us!

Prayer to Saint John Bosco

O glorious Saint John Bosco, who, in order to lead young people to the feet of the divine Master and to form them in the light of faith and Christian morality, didst heroically sacrifice thyself to the very end of thy life and didst found a fitting religious Institute destined to endure and to bring to the farthest boundaries of the earth thy glorious work, obtain also for us from our Lord a holy love for young people, who are exposed to so many seductions, in order that we may generously spend ourselves in supporting them against the snares of the devil, in keeping them safe from the dangers of the world, and in guiding them, pure and holy, in the path that leads to God. Amen

(Indulgence of 300 days)

Prayer of St. John Bosco to the Blessed Virgin Mary

O Mary, powerful Virgin, thou art the mighty and glorious protector of holy Church; thou art the marvelous help of Christians; thou art terrible as an army in battle array; thou alone hast destroyed every heresy in the whole world. In the midst of our anguish, our struggles and our distress defend us from the power of the enemy and at the hour of our death receive our souls in paradise. Amen.

(Indulgence of 3 years)

Books for children:
Stories of Don Bosco
St. John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio (Vision Book)

For us older folks:
Forty Dreams of St. John Bosco: The Apostle of  Youth
Biography: St. John Bosco (F.A. Forbes)
Several pamphlets about the Salesian method and Don Bosco can be found here, as well.

Some former posts with more ideas for today's feast day, plus links, here.

* This is a repost from a couple of years ago -- with a couple of small updates to reflect our growing and "moving out and up" children.

1 comment:

Bia said...

i love st. john bosco and i love how much i learn from you.