St John Bosco left the church and humanity his sanctity that was born of a great love of God and a total spiritual and social commitment to the young (love your neighbour). So that his project would not end when he died, he founded the Salesians (SDB), the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA) and the Salesian Co-operators, and the Association of Mary the Helper (ADMA). These would have the task of continuing his work for the young throughout the world, keeping alive the Salesian spirit and the Preventive System that is the memory of his example as a teacher.
“The Preventive system is neither a book nor a pedagogic theory… but a successful praxis that can become a model and inspiration for those that today are interested in using the ‘memory’ of an experience, that is capable of coping with the changing conditions of the young. This experience has given, and continues to offer, very positive results. His genuinely evangelical inspiration is the principle motive” (Fr. Egidio Viganò, 7° Don Bosco’s successor). Don Bosco wrote: “There are two systems for educating the young that have been used throughout time – preventive and repressive. The repressive system consists of making the subjects learn the law, then watching them to find the transgressors and inflicting the merited punishment wherever necessary…
Different and, I would say opposite, is the preventive system. This consists of making the regulations of an institute be known and then watching the pupils in such a way that they always have over them the attentive eye of the headmaster and his assistants. They, like loving fathers, talk and guide them through every event, giving advice and lovingly correcting them. This is like saying: put the pupils in the position of being unable to commit errors. This system is based on Reason, Religion and, above all, Love; it therefore rejects any form of violent punishment and tries to distance itself from the same thoughtless punishment. It would seem that this is preferable…”. Don Bosco gives the reasons for his preference, drawing not from pedagogic books, but from his many years of experience educating the young.
“FATHER AND TEACHER OF THE YOUNG”
Because of his long work for the young, for having given them all his time, intelligence and creativity; in one word – his life; the people have always identified Don Bosco as the ‘saint of the young’.
One hundred years after his death, in 1988, the church, through John Paul II, officially declared Saint John Bosco, ‘Father and Teacher of the Young’ with the letter, ‘Iuvenum Patris’ (Father of the Young). We now repeat some of the more significant excerpts: “His stature as a saint puts him, with originality, among the great founders of the church’s religious institutes. He excels in many aspects – he was the initiator of a truly new and spiritually charming apostolic school; he was the promoter of a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of the Church. He was the testimony of a loyal and courageous ecclesial manner, demonstrated through delicate mediation in the then difficult relations between the church and the state; he was the realistic and practical apostle, open to the benefits of new discoveries; he was the zealous organiser of missions with a truly Catholic awareness; he was the greatest example of a preferential love of the young, especially those in need, to the good of the church and society; He was the teacher of an efficient and genial pedagogic praxis, left as a precious gift to treasure and develop…
For St John Bosco, founder of a great spiritual family, one can say that the peculiar mark of his ‘genius’ is tied to that educational praxis that he himself called the ‘preventive system’. In a certain mode, this represents the condensation of his pedagogic wisdom and constitutes that prophetic message that he left to his people and the church, receiving attention and recognition from numerous teachers and pedagogic scholars… In the church and the world, the integral educational vision that we see incarnate in Giovanni Bosco, is a realistic pedagogy of sanctity. It is absolutely necessary to rediscover the true concept of sanctity, as a component in the life of every believer. The original and audacious proposal of a ‘juvenile sanctity’ is intrinsic to the educational art of this great saint that can be justly defined, “teacher of juvenile spirituality”.
His particular secret was that of never deluding the profound aspirations of the young (the need for life, warmth, joy, freedom and a future), and together, to gradually and realistically lead them to accept that only in the ‘life of Grace’, that is friendship with Christ, is it possible to attain the most genuine ideals.”