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18. THE EDUCATION OF THE HEART FROM
THREE DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

First of all: to pay attention to the development of sensitivity, knowing that it changes with the growth of the person and it has different manifestations depending on the circumstances.
Second: to educate the heart in the prospect of opening up to others; this is much easier for the youngster living in a situation of hardship and confrontation rather than for the one living in a very protected environment. Therefore from inner motivations to switch to behaviors that are the result of personal decisions. There is a conviction that such education of the sensitivity, of the heart open to others, of making decisions, if well crafted in adolescence, can be the basis of young and adult maturity.

Gilberto Da Câmara

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18. THE EDUCATION OF THE HEART FROM
THREE DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
The sensitivity, the opening and the decision

1. The perspective of sensitivityIt is a way to analyze and to describe the phenomenon of sensitivity in the human person. In the case of children and adolescents, this perspective seeks to analyze the sensitive part existing in every person and manifesting itself through his behavior.
All children are sensitive, they are born with a skin-deep sensitivity so prominent that it does not surprise us to see them crying so easily.
After this first stage another follows in which the child is not feeling so deeply and loses something of his strength, because he has grown and matured and has lost a portion of his sensitivity due to lack of stimuli. In addition this sensitivity may be reduced because of some negative family influence.
In the early days the child experiences sensitivity through all his senses, some of these may be more receptive than others, such as hearing and sight. The child listens a lot during the first months, being attentive to everything that surrounds him. At the same time, through sight, he gradually assimilates the world in which he lives, increasingly improving his perception of the surrounding environment.
The fact that the person is born sensitive to reality and to his inner world is not enough to ensure that he will be a sensitive person in the future. When sensitivity is lost, or neglected, the boy or adolescent somehow moves away from the outside world. He could even become indifferent to what happens outside of himself .
The sensitivity of the child can be observed; even when not everyone expresses it in daily life, the traces could be seen at school and at home. Any educator who takes care of children can notice it and, of course, the parents too, through comments and questions concerning the environment that surrounds the child: does the child interact with more than one person? Does he invite other children to play with him? Does he share the snack? Does he lend his toys? Does he ask for forgiveness when he thinks he has done something wrong? These questions can provide a positive or negative result about the child’s sensitivity. The child will be very sensitive to others and to the world around him, or he will not show a sensitivity that can be perceived and observed.
The education of the heart occurs since childhood, when the child is sensitive to his own world, even if he does not express such a feeling. It can be said that every child, who has adequately developed reason and emotion, has a heart predisposed to sensitivity. The problem becomes more complex in adolescence, which is a period full of mental, physical and spiritual changes. In the presence of so many transformations, the teenager feels lost in his reasoning, emotions and dispositions in front of his world.
Sensitivity does not have the same strength in adolescence as during childhood but even so it continues to be very much alive. The advantage, at the stage of adolescence, is the presence of creativity and imagination. If the adults can awaken the sensitivity of the adolescents, many generous responses can be obtained, such as commitment, love to God and to neighbor.2. The education of the heart in the prospective of opening up

It is the continuation of the first stage, of the sensitivity in infants. If there is sensitivity in infants, and it was pointed out that it exists in all, we need to find out how such sensitivity could open itself to God. The view of opening is a form of analysis, of observation of a period of life, from childhood to adolescence, in an attempt of perceiving at this stage the opening to the divine presence.
An “educated” heart opens himself to the divine and human reality. It is an opening that is growing and maturing since childhood and that at this stage, the adolescence, becomes more intense, but it does not occur suddenly, because it requires continuity in the development of sensitivity to the peak of adolescence.
Let us consider, for instance, a baptized child, educated in the faith by his parents, a child who has learned the prayers in the family, whose parents have always accompanied him to mass, who has assimilated the faith until the age of adolescence. In his own little world, coming and going from home to church, from home to school he will listen to expressions of sensitivity, of acceptance and understanding of such sensitivity. Walking on the streets, knowing and living with people of his own age and of all ages, he will experience and develop his own sensitivity. He will talk about life and the difficulties with his parents. Children living in difficult environments, in suburbs, in border areas where the parents go out for work and come back only in the evening, will have a higher sensitivity and therefore be more open to human reality.
The pain is usually more common in families that inhabit places where life is a daily struggle, full of worries. But at the same time, these are the places of faith, of struggle for life. These are, in short, places for opening to God, because these people often can only rely on Him. These are also areas of mutual aid and solidarity.
A heart educated in view of being open will lead the adolescent to meet with himself and with the world that surrounds him, to desire the things of God, within the youth groups, the confirmation groups, the volunteer ones, or in the various pastoral activities of the parish. What he experienced in childhood will grow up to the time of making a real and fundamental decision, that will be the result of the openness and consciousness of God’s presence in his life

3. In view of a decision

The education of the heart passes through an ongoing sensitivity, of maturation, until opening to the divine, and this, in turn, leads to a decision, which will be the result of attitudes driven by inner values that will translate into authentic actions. It shall be furthermore an inner decision that results in the commitment of a lifetime: to become a priest, a consecrated religious, or to choose a profession that deals with humanitarian issues, or simply a life dedicated to a cause that few are willing to deal with .
Meanwhile, it may happen that the decision is temporary, not final (if anything can be definitive!), such as helping a parish community, a resting home, a kindergarten, or to collaborate with a groups of volunteers for a certain period of time. Simple or challenging decisions that become possible due to the sensitivity of education that leads to such openness. How many persons have decided to give meaning to their life while adolescents or youngsters, and such a decision continues nowadays? A decision that marks the entire life, in all its aspects and definitely
We know, it is not a novelty, that people live their lives by making decisions. . However, the decisions taken in adolescence, marked by sensitivity, will last a lifetime. The greater the sensitivity in adolescence, the greater the chance to make strong and final decisions will be.
Let us consider the decision made by St Leonard Murialdo as a teenager in the boarding school of Savona. A serious decision: to leave that school for a better life, reliable and Christian. A short time later he made another decision full of sensitivity: to become a priest. It was a decision that marked his whole life. This is a proof that a heart educated to sensibility is open to God and this openness bears the freedom to make important decisions.

How many teenagers in the school where Nadino studied, had a heart so educated? Perhaps a few. Nadino was educated by his mother, sensitive and open to God. Nadino’s decision was the result of such education.

Gilberto Da Câmara

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