By Force of the Heart

A reflection penned by Atty. Luis Jose F. Geronimo on how Don Bosco has captured his heart.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we begin the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we begin the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos

Though often, his historicity is overlooked, John Bosco is both a product and a mover of his times.  By birth he was placed in the heart of upheavals and the inequalities that both engendered and were engendered by those upheavals. It was 200 years ago, in the thick of the Industrial Revolution, in a Europe ravaged by the Napoleonic Wars, and into a family of farmhands that the man Pope John Paul II would dub the “Father and Teacher of Youth” was born. Don Bosco’s years saw him live through the tumult of Italian unification and the annexation of the Papal States – fraught as these were with the intense anti-clericalism that reduced the Pope into a “prisoner in the Vatican.” To say that Don Bosco lived in interesting times is an understatement.

We too, as Filipinos, now live in interesting (and tumultuous) times. Injustice, corruption, and cries for societal change have rattled us for so long, they have become tiresome. What is more interesting though is the seeming tide of change. Hitherto entrenched mechanisms of corruption have been subjected to intense public scrutiny and our Judiciary has recently declared some of these unconstitutional. Our institutions are now on their toes, more cautious than ever in seeking to comply with the requisites of transparency and accountability. Whether these changes shall prove themselves to be lasting or genuine is for our emerging history to reveal.

More important than merely living through the tumult of his times, Don Bosco’s mission was accomplished, nay, thrived amidst the tumult of his times. Successful not only during his time, his work endures and is celebrated two centuries after his birth.

As a people longing for change, it is in how Don Bosco managed to effect change that we can draw inspiration.

“Education is a matter of the heart,” he said. So captivating was Don Bosco’s method that the proponent of laws suppressing religious orders – Urbano Rattazzi – was the same man who instructed him how to beat those laws. Don Bosco’s manner of engagement was not of imposing authority or of coercive force, as is what makes juridical-legal power efficacious. Rather, it was of that first Hail Mary, said with the orphaned bricklayer, Bartholomew Garelli. It was of the patience showed the notorious Michael Magone. It was of the companionship and presence shared with the exemplary Dominic Savio.

Don Bosco actively engaged the concerns of society not by loud demagoguery. He did so, one heart at a time.

We long for change; Don Bosco’s method guarantees something better: transformation.

And, it is one to which I am a witness.

It has been fifteen years since I graduated and left Don Bosco’s halls. While students from elsewhere would relegate their formative years to juvenile nostalgia, I and other Bosconians keep coming back. Long after I have ceased to be under the “jurisdiction” of Salesians mentors, I continue to serve fellow young people in close cooperation with Salesians. Why? It’s really quite simple: Don Bosco has captured my heart.

Atty. Luis Jose F. Geronimo finished High School in Don Bosco Technical College, Mandaluyong; graduating valedictorian and Rector’s Awardee, and having served as Student Council President. He finished college at the Ateneo de Manila University and obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of the Philippine College of Law, graduating with honors in both. He now serves in a director-level position in the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

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