Assistance: The Essence of Don Bosco’s Preventive System (1876-1884) (Part 2)

· Rik Biesmans, volume 16

by Rik Biesmans, SDB
translated by Gaston De Neve, SDB

Assistance: The Essence of Don Bosco's Preventive System (1876-1884) Part 2

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(The first part of this article is available HERE) In this second part, Fr. Biesmans starts by taking a look at the two aspects of prevention in Don Bosco’s educational system. The first is the protective aspect that depends entirely on the presence of the educator among the young. This protective—preventive assistance will help in avoiding all that which can harm they young and averts any disorders and harmful influences within a Salesian environment. The second aspect which “consists in supporting, assisting and actively promoting the many-sided development of the youngsters.” Again, the presence of the educator is of utmost importance here. Together with the director, “assistants should not only diligently look out to forestall evil, they also, and above all, should promote good. It is their task to help and equip the young in order that they themselves may choose and do what is good.” The author then moves on to give us various examples from the narratives of the lives of young people written by Don Bosco himself. In this way, the author builds a strong argument against the use of punishments, the use of which in Don Bosco’s Preventive System, was eliminated a priori. Fr. Biesmans then move on to discuss how the Preventive System is applied in the cases where young people do not respond to the positive elements of the Saint’s educational system. In such cases, the author asserts, that if there “is a need to remedy or punish, the advice to all is the same: as educators they should act kindly and in almost every case start a personal conversation.” No corporal punishment was ever permitted, and if reprimands were necessary, these should be done privately and never in front of the young person’s companions. It was a way to uphold the dignity of the young, a dignity that was important in the eyes of Don Bosco. Every means must be used to prevent the young from doing wrong. One efficient means, according to the author, was the “collective guidance” applied through the “good nights” – feature in Don Bosco’s houses and Salesian environments still in use today. Finally, assistance can also be engaged by on going formation. Such “assistance”, or rather formation, was transmitted during the Past Pupils Assemblies which started to be held when Don Bosco was still alive. In the Saint’s own words, “Everyone speaks of these meetings of ours because it is the best way to recall to mind the advice and council I gave you when you were boys.” Concluding, Fr. Biesmans says that assistance had the endeavor, throughout the application of the Preventive System, to avoid the young from committing any fault. It was a means to help them avoid all that would harm them or others and to cooperate with their educators in becoming better Christians and to strive to build a better society.


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