Educational System

Loving Kindness

Not only that the youngsters be loved, but that they know they are loved


Finally, from a methodological point of view, comes “loving kindness”. Here we are speaking of a daily attitude, which is neither simple human love nor supernatural charity alone. It is really the expression of a complex reality and implies availability, sound criteria and an appropriate style of conduct.

Loving kindness is expressed in practice in the commitment of the educator as a person entirely dedicated to the good of his pupils, present in their midst, ready to accept sacrifices and hard work in the fulfilment of his mission. All this calls for a real availability to the young, a deep empathy and the ability to dialogue with them. Typical and very enlightening is the expression: “Here in your midst I feel completely at home; for me, living means being here with you” With happy intuition he specified: what is important is “not only that the boys be loved, but that they know they are loved”.

The true educator therefore shares the life of the young, is interested in their problems, tries to become aware of how they see things, takes part in their sporting and cultural activities and in their conversations: as a mature and responsible friend he sketches out for them ways and means of doing good, he is ready to intervene to solve problems, to indicate criteria, to correct with prudent and loving firmness blameworthy judgements and behaviour. In this atmosphere of “pedagogical presence”the educator is not looked upon as a “superior”, but as a “father, brother, friend” .2l In a perspective like this priority is given first to personal relationships. Don Bosco liked to use the term “family spirit” to define the correct kind of relationship between educators and pupils. Long experience had convinced him that without familiarity it was not possible to show love, and unless love is shown there cannot arise that confidence which is an indispensable condition for successful educative activity. The picture of the objectives to be achieved, the programme to be followed, the methodological guidelines acquire concrete form and efficacy when they are marked by a genuine “family spirit”, i.e. if lived in an undisturbed, joyful and stimulating atmosphere.

In this connection at least the ample space and importance given by the Saint to recreational periods, to sport, music, the theatre or (as he liked to express it) the life of the playground must be recalled. It is there, in spontaneous and joyful relationships, that the shrewd educator finds ways of intervening, as gentle in expression as they are efficacious because of their continuity and the friendly atmosphere in which they are made. If an encounter is to be educative there must be a deep and continued interest which leads to the acquiring of a personal knowledge of each individual and at the same time of the elements of the cultural condition they have in common. It needs an intelligent and loving attention to the aspirations, the value assessments, the conditioning factors to which the young are subjected, to their situations of life, to the local models which surround them, their tensions, their claims and their collective proposals. It is a case of detecting the urgent need for formation of conscience, of a family, social and political sense, for maturing in love and in the Christian view of sexuality, for developing the critical faculty and a proper flexibility in the evolution of age and mentality, keeping always clearly in mind that youth is not only a time of transition, but a real time of grace for the building of personality.

Even today, even though in a changed cultural context and with young people of non-Christian religions, this characteristic constitutes one of the very many valid and original elements in Don Bosco's pedagogy.

(John Paul II, Letter Iuvenum Patris, 12)