Saving the youth in a dangerous world


In the 19th Century, during the full flourishing of the Industrial Revolution that was radically transforming the society in Europe, especially in Italy, many young people experienced physical, moral and spiritual dangers that they had never confronted before.   An agrarian, farm society was rapidly being transformed into the busy hustle and bustle, rapid pace city life.  With this many families were displaced and launched into a real upheaval. Many young people found themselves as if they were abandoned by family, by society and by the world at large. Many became orphans and wandered the streets of the big cities, exposed to all the dangers imaginable.

Always aware of the struggle, plight, and predicament of man, God would intervene in a most powerful way—especially rushing to the aid of the young people who seemed to be thrown to the mercy of a merciless and aggressive society.  In His Divine Providence God raised up among the ranks of His valiant soldiers the person of SAINT JOHN BOSCO.

This great saint, who had lost his father when he was a little child, brought up in dire poverty, persecuted by a half-brother, became a blazing light, a shining beacon to enlighten the wandering and confused path of so many young people, who were wandering through the streets of Turin, Italy like sheep without the guiding staff of the Shepherd.

Experiencing an impetuous inner call to save the young from the grip of the ravenous wolves, Bosco became their friend, guide, leader, Shepherd, and especially their spiritual leader.  Inspired by God’s grace and trusting in God’s divine providence St. John Bosco established the famous ORATORY for many of the wayward boys of the city of Turin.   This became the home of many of the orphan boys of the bustling city of Turin. Study, work, play and games, conversation, and especially prayer, confession and Holy Mass and Holy Communion--- all of these activities and more  was would constituted the Oratory system of Saint John Bosco

Preventive system was the hallmark and success of his educational system. In other words, better preventive medicine rather than curative medicine. This is to say, better save, support, teach and direct the young on the right path over correcting errors already committed. Still, the great lover of youth would bend over backwards to return the wandering sheep and bring them back to the fold.

Now for us and our youth, what can we do following in the footsteps of the great lover of the young, Saint John Bosco?

First of all we must recognize with humility and honesty  that never has there been a time in society in the history of humanity in which there have been more temptations, struggles, challenges, obstacles for young people, as well as children, to follow in the footsteps of Christ and to live a pure, noble, and holy existence.   Therefore, this short essay is written for the purpose of motivating us to do all we can to help the young generation from falling prey to the grips of the devil, a ravenous wolf on the prey, and pursue their safeguard and eternal salvation.  We will offer ten concrete suggestions; here they are!

1.    RECOGNIZE THE COUNTLESS ENEMIES OF THE YOUNG.   Drugs, drink, pornography and immoral sex, gang-activity, the Gay agenda, suicide attempts, materialism-consumerism, and an overall milieu of disobedience and rebellion—all of these mentioned represent the moral environment that the young are inhaling and polluting their spiritual lungs.  As adults and Good Shepherds of the young we must be keenly attentive to and aware of these numerous, malicious and perilous enemies!   The Good Shepherd must know the pack of wolves that are on the search of their prey!

2.    PRAY!  PRAY! PRAY!!! Hopefully we all find time to pray. What oxygen is to the lungs, prayer is to our soul. Without prayer we suffocate and die. Jesus and the letters of Saint Paul insist that we pray constantly and never giving up hope. In all honesty, we probably do not pray enough for the young people. We pray for world peace, the orphans, the sick and the dying, the Church and its needs, as well as for marriage and the family—all of these are the most noble of intentions, but we should not be remiss in praying for the young. Every day make it an intention to pray for the young, for their security and salvation. Offer prayers, Masses, Communions and sacrifices for the salvation of the young.

3.     PARENTS OF TEENS: CONNECT WITH THEM!  Working with the young, especially the teen-group, can be very challenging to the point of exasperating.  This does not mean that we throw in the towel; this was not the style of Saint John Bosco. Parents should find time, ways, methods and strategies to connect with their teens; the more seemingly rebellious, the more time and effort to connect and save.   Teens can become silent and morose, sad and depressed, angry and scornful—these are all crying signs of their desperate need for the presence, attention and love of their parents.   Parents do not extinguish the smoldering wick! Set apart time to be with and communicate with the young.

4.    MEAL TIME WITH THE YOUNG.  Sociological studies have proven across the board the primary importance of MEAL TIME for the family as a whole, but especially for the young.  Serious studies reveal that parents that sit down at table and eat and talk with their teens result in their young performing better in school, being better athletes, suffering less depression and an over-all sense of joy and well-being is experienced.

5.    WHAT “NOT” TO HAVE AT THE TABLE! Indeed a family can be sitting at a table together and it is as if they were all in their own world, their own play or phantasy world. How is this you might ask?  The response: the ubiquitous presence of the abuse of the ELECTRONIC WORLD. Meal time should be totally free of the t.v.,  talking on and on, the radio and music blaring, the cell-phone and constant text messages, the internet in any size, color and form.  In other words, the human person, the mother, father, son, daughter, brother and sister, grandma and grandpa have infinite value and prevail over all of the electronic devices in the created universe. However, sad to say, for many the gadget, machine, the screen and the inanimate material object transcends in importance the human person.  This is modern IDOLATRY!  Indeed idolatry is when we place anything above God. The human person is God’s temple and should be highly respected for his innate dignity and eternal destiny—the heavenly kingdom!

6.     WHAT DO WE SAY OR DO???  It might be such that dysfunctional families have never really connected on a deep level of communication and have to learn what to do and say at the table. A few suggestions to create a harmonious, free, and joyful atmosphere at the family meal-time. First, start with prayer. Bless the meal and ask the Lord Jesus to sit down at meal with the family; He is the best of Guests and the source of union and love. Second, listen!  When a family member communicates what he believes to be important—listen attentively in a non-judgmental way. Third, encourage all and be a source of consolation. Fourth, share the truth!  A Biblical passage, an Ecclesial event, a social gathering, a personal inspiration, a personal anecdote—all of the following can be food for though and food for communication. Fifth, smile!   One of the most encouraging gestures to foster healthy communication is the smile. It is also one of the clearest signs that we are disciples of Jesus the Lord. Sixth, learn some humorous stories or some good (clean) jokes! Seventh, laugh! In the health field many have come to the conclusion that laughter is the best medicine. Eighth, share knowledge. Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the contemplation to attain love clearly states that if one loves then he is willing to share his treasures with others--- share knowledge! Ninth, if a family member, due to shyness or fear or whatever cause, has said nothing at the table, then the father should encourage him to share anything and all should listen attentively! Tenth, end with prayer!  If these communication principles are embraced and lived out families will communicate better and the young will not experience a crushing loneliness that is all too often their sad plight!

7.    PLAY WITH THE YOUNG.  One of the hallmarks of the Oratory and the success of Saint John Bosco was the importance of recreation time and wholesome and healthy play-time!  Parents should learn to play with your young. Tennis, ping-pong, basketball, biking or hiking, softball or baseball. Playing and especially that of sports can have incalculable value in forming good social habits in the young. Get them away from the electronic world addictions in which they are really living not in a real world but in a phantasy world!

8.     BED-TIME CONVERSATION.  Look for prime-time opportunities to talk on a deeper level with the young.  For children bed-time proves to be a prime time; try it with the teens too!   We all have our hidden fears, wounds, doubts, failures and doubts.  Sit next to the bedside of your teen son or daughter and simply ask how the day went; then, if there is anything in his/her mind or heart that is weighing heavy upon him/her!   This could prove most efficacious in bonding with your youth and preventing bad decisions that we have all made when we acted in a state of desolation.

9.    FAILURES: FORGIVE SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN!  If it is such that your teen has failed morally—drugs drink, porn, cutting, premarital sex, etc., never give up on them but practice mercy through forgiveness. Tell them that our God is a God of love and He is always ready to forgive, always, but under one condition: we tell God we are sorry and are ready to change, ready to be converted. Then take your teen to the fount and source of forgiveness, the Sacrament of Confession. “Though one’s sins be is as scarlet, they will be made as white as the snow.” (Is. 1)

10. CONSECRATE THE YOUNG TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY.  In the midst of the tempest, storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and fierce battles and struggles of life (the young people have their portion) there must be a sound refuge of security and safety.  This secure refuge is the IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY.   We should pray and teach our young people to pray the short, tender but powerful prayer: SWEET HEART OF MARY BE MY SALVATION!  Seeking a true refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary will lead us to the most SACRED HEART OF JESUS and the harbor of eternal salvation. As the great mellifluous Doctor Saint Bernard reminds us in the Memorare: “Never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection or sought her help was unaided.”  May Our Lady place her mantle to cover all our young and gently embrace them in her Immaculate Heart