,CHILDREN are by nature
irresponsible. We cannot form them to a sense of responsibility if we do not accept this fact, because their
irresponsibility will only irritate us.
This results in a corresponding reaction on our part and a demand that they there and then be completely and totally responsible: this naturally will not lead to gradual growth and formation to responsibility.
What has already been said with regard to b. applies here also, that is that the chief means of doing this are via daily life in the family and school and not simply formal instruction. They have to be helped to a sense of responsibility both before God and man.
They have to be helped to understand that they have to answer first of all for themselves, for the opportunities provided for them at the cost of sacrifice by others at the successive stages of their live.
'They must come to see that they will have to answer to God for the abilities and talents he has given, and first and foremost for life itself, for the wonderful grace of being a child of God, the responsibility they have, not only for themselves, but also for their own family, their companions. and for all mankind.
Leading them to an ever increasing awareness of God and to an acceptance of him willingly into their lives.
This is something quite different to having a knowledge of God and knowing about him there can be and generally is, this latter, without any awareness of God and acceptance of him. Once again this must be principally via the things of daily life in the family and that from the very earliest years. From this there follows on the acceptance of God's law and a willingness not only not to break it, but to preserve and sustain it at all costs and against all odds.
I will come hack on this later on when dealing with the formation of the spiritual life of the child. and will also deal then with the examination of conscience which properly understood, is such a valuable help . . . but sufficient may have been said to indicate the lines along which the formation of the children's conscience should proceed.
There is certainly no greater source of peace and strength in the life of anyone than a conscience which is properly formed. How strong it can he even in early years is shown in the story of the nine year old boy Gerard Valdizan who like his friend and model St. Dominic Savio preferred death to sin.
Gerard Valdizan. a nine-yearold schoolboy of the Salesian Col loge. Quezaltenango, Guatemala, was playing with some friends on a warm Saturday morning of July 1959 in the Guatemala hill-station of Quezaltenango, when a teenage boy tricked him into going to his house nearby, locking the door behind him.
Sensing something was very wrong, the small boy struggled hard while the teenager struck him brutally and tried to attack him. Gerard screamed and wept in terror, fighting furiously to preserve his innocence. His friends already at the outside door, heard him calling again and again: St. John Bosco. save me . . .!
When he saw that he was to be defeated in his wicked purpose the older boy picked up a hatchet and hit him across the back of the head. Gerard spun round and fell moaning Sacred Heart of Jesus, save me.
Instinctively he put up his arm to protect himself and the next blow severed three fingers of his right hand.
By now a crowd attracted by the shouts of his playmates smashed the door down and found the child on the floor. There were two vicious gashes on the back of his neck and his mutilated right hand was held in front of him. Their immediate reaction was to try and lynch the monster who had treated him so viciously.
Gerard was carried to the nearest doctor unconscious. Coming to he asked for Father Palamini of the College and for a drink "I want to make my confession . . ."
After he had made his confession he became lucid, asking for his parents. The doctor bent over him: Here's your mother, Gerard. But the boy had gone blind: Where? Where? His mother kissed him and he spoke again. I'm saved. am I not? Yes. his father answered, you're with us, Gerard . don't worry now. Then it dawned on them that he was thinking of heaven and not of his physical safety.
He was flown the same day to Guatemala City to the General Hospital but shortly after midnight on July 12th, he died: innocence intact.
On August 15th 1958, he had made his First Communion at the College and it was about this time he told his mother he wanted to be like St. Dominic Savio . . . I would prefer to die rather than commit a sin.
Terence O'Brien, S.D.B.