Today, January 31, is the last day of the month. Let us thank God for the blessings and graces he has showered upon us during this month that ends today, and reconsecrate ourselves to his glory and honor for all the days of our future.
Today is also the feast day of Saint John Bosco, a priest from the northern Italian city of Turin who spent his adult life teaching and forming the young and founding two religious congregations: the Salesian Fathers and the Sisters of Mary, Help of Christians. He had difficulties in his ministry with the poor children and teenagers of the city of Turin, but he also had a great grace of God: a remarkable success in turning seemingly incorrigible young people into gentle ones who recognized his love and respect for them and reciprocated that love and respect.
I have always been impressed with that quality of gentleness of his; the first four years of my priestly ministry were spent as a high school teacher in Dallas. It was my job to teach junior and senior boys, aged 17 and 18 years old, French and Spanish regularly, and occasionally religion and English. And, as I look back on that period, I don’t think I did a very good job. Many times I lost my temper at the students, yelled at them, punished them, and probably gave them a lot of bad example that Our Lord and Saint John Bosco would not have approved of. Shortly after that, I was talking to my cousin who was a teaching sister, also dealing with teenagers. She said to me with frustration and sorrow, “I began to teach high school five years ago, and I feel like I have been angry for the whole of those five years.” I could certainly understand what she meant and sympathize with her.
You who are parents of young people, or their teachers, I would like to encourage you not to become totally frustrated and discouraged. It is not easy, but you are probably doing a better job than you think. Keep on keeping on, asking God’s help in your ministry, for it should be a TRUE ministry, and then continuing to do the best you can and leaving the rest up to Our Lord. Remember, he became angry and disappointed several times in the gospel. If it happened to him, it will certainly happen to ordinary people like you and me.
I remember one day in class, a bunch of my students had gathered around my desk to talk as they always did in the 5-minute break between classes. One of them said to me, “You know, Father, I think you have a split personality.” He went on to explain that during the break between classes, I could be reasonably normal. But then, when the bell rang for the next class, I turned into what he called “a monster”! The fun and games were over, and it was back to the mines of education! I wasn’t sure whether that impression that I gave was good or bad, but there it was. May God forgive me if I need forgiveness for that. And may he bless all of us who are parents and/or teachers. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.