In the calendar of Catholic Saints there are numerous saints who excelled in the formation of youth. Saints who, in the most varied junctures in history were called to support and sanctify this age-group, so often neglected…but which God never abandons. Among them, perhaps no one is as renowned for the vastness of his work as Saint John Bosco. His life, full of miracles, and his particular charism for carrying out his mission make of the father of the Salesian family the authority par excellence in the area of youth education. His work, born in the midst of adverse circumstances, has today spread throughout the world.
Our Lady Help of Christians and her Divine Son prepared St. John Bosco with an abundance of gifts so as to deeply understand the hearts of the young, be able to interpret their most noble aspirations, and indicate the sure way for a multitude of abandoned children to be transformed in exemplary Christians. One could truly say that Saint John Bosco dealt with all aspects of the so-called ‘integral formation’ of the individual. In this regard, many of his teachings come to mind, but one important piece will suffice: ‘The first step to educate young people well consists in striving to bring them confess and receive Communion with proper dispositions. These Sacraments are the strongest supports for youth. Frequent confession and Communion and daily Mass are the columns which should support an educational edifice.’
Yes, for Saint John Bosco, the main purpose of education was to prepare young people to go to Heaven, and so guarantee that they live well even on Earth. Nowadays, contrary to what one would expect, new theories in Catholic milieu are bringing up doubts, confusion…and more confusion.
Recently Francis has founded a network called Scholas Ocurrentes which aspires to become a worldwide point of reference for youth education. Anyone, hearing about an educational movement founded by the pope, would think that the most urgent needs of youth, among which the same needs that Saint John Bosco pointed out more than a century ago, would be the most prominent. So it’s surprising that this entity would highlight as its mission: ‘technology, arts and sports to foment social integration and the culture of encounter’ based on an education that ‘recuperate an anthropological vision and essential human values, and which embraces the entire reality that young people experience. That is to say, a vision that is holistic and of social integration.’ (Scholas Ocurrentes). There are no religious symbols, nor even a measly mention of God to be found on this page. But rather, an abundance of recurrent clichéd references to integration and encounter….and of course, to the famous ‘values’ that are never defined, but that everyone ‘grabs on to’ – which in itself makes them as dubious as they are mysterious. Indeed, a motley crew – everything from soccer clubs to an assortment of politicians – huddles under the cover of such ethereal values.
But what are these ‘values’ worth if they are not based on the only objective moral basis that exists, which is Catholic morality? And this leads us to other questions: what do young people really need? Of what value are values without God? How should youth formation be as Christians? These, and many other topics, will be thoroughly defined by the Magisterium, and by Mamma Margherita’s son himself. Read more…