A Different Kind of Education

Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest
Hebrews 10:19-25; Mark 4:21-25

A Different Kind of Education

Today the Church remembers a man who, in his own way, was a revolutionary.  St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians, committed his life to educating children, especially those from poor and working class families.  This itself was counter-cultural in the 19th century, when many thought that educating such children was a waste of time because the expectation was they were destined to do the kinds of work that their parents did and social mobility was often constrained by the political, social and economic systems of the time. 

What was more counter-cultural, however, was the way in which St. John sought to educate young people, especially the young men who were in his care.  (He would eventually help to found an order of Salesian sisters who would educate generations of girls.)  The prevailing norms of education at the time tended to emphasize rote learning and discipline reinforced by corporal punishment. 

St. John Bosco, however, took a different approach.  While there was certainly a need to remember concepts and processes, particularly for the young men who were involved in what we would call vocational training, he believed it was essential to educate the whole person.  For this reason, he included catechesis, sacramental preparation and formation in Christian virtue in his curriculum. 

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us: “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works” (10:24).  Jesus tells us that “there is nothing visible except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light” (Mark 4:22).  Hearts and minds that are formed for good character will inevitably lead to words, actions and lifestyles that reveal that character.  Practicing virtue helps virtue to grow. 

Through the intercession of St. John Bosco, we pray that those who are involved in the education of young people—teachers, administrators, coaches, parents, catechists, pastors, et al.—will work to form whole persons, particularly by their own example of living the virtues. –JC