Know thyself

Know Thyself

Over the many years, parents have asked what was my teaching philosophy; with the fear of sounding out of touch, let me begin by outlining the approach. Many people believe that St. John Bosco and his approach is something new innovative and completely revolutionary. In reality, as a good Catholic educator or as Holy Scripture says in Matthew 13:52 that a good scribe taking a good from the past and bring it forward. St. John Bosco’s principal of using religion and reason seems to echo St. Anselm’s Faith seeking understanding, and also many other scholastics over the years trying to make sense of the scientific and metaphysical nature of the world; St. John Bosco would simplified and make it clear for the youth.

For me one of the key elements of understanding anyone and I don’t do not use it as though it is some form of evangelical principle but it is a work written by a Father Conrad Hoch, “The Four Temperaments”. His book sources the “Peripatetics” and Plato and Socrates and many others. He breaks down human psyche in four different groups. He has the introverts and the extroverts. In the camp of the extroverts, we have the cheerful and smiling sanguine and the stormy, commanding Chloric, while in the camp of the introverts, we find the sensitive and caring Melancholic, and then the stoic, Cold and peaceful phlegmatic. These four groups in any individual are mixed because no one is a pure temperament but this soul helps when you are working with children.

Father Hoch explains his approach with each of the group and than later the cross over. With the Choleric Child must understand who is in charge because of their natural desire for domination they need to cede control to who ever is in charge. While the melancholic could be sat down and quietly explained what the problem is and what satisfactory exclamations have been given this child Will as it said “run though walls for you”. Sanguine though the friendly bubbly and a great element to have in any community, will forget what is needed and tends not to be the person to spearhead any great project. But if the child is a mixture of color and let’s say melancholic: you have a child whom is sensitive, looking out word and extremely loyal and not forget hard working. Reading through the temperaments with some experience one does not make mistakes such as coming down hard on a melancholic and sweetly sitting with a Choleric and wondering afterwards White nothing came of the long sit-down and why you the other child hasn’t stopped crying for three days. The study of the temperaments comes from the wisdom of the Catholic Church over the centuries perfect but better knowledge of the human person. But more than that, with the sweetness of the Gospel and applying reason and religion to this process one may help stormy Choleric Point his compass towards heaven instead of world domination. Help the melancholic out if it’s destructive self-pity and towards looking at Christ on the cross and their suffering neighbor. The Sanguine to be balm for the injured and damaged of the world and the phlegmatic to turn their intellect towards the great questions of God the church and humanity.

In the work of Hoch, he gives saints who exhibited strong characteristics the temperaments for which he belongs. For example St. Paul would be a characteristic example of the Choleric. St. Peter, The one who would die for Christ and then denies him almost in the same breath––sanguine. Phlegmatic, inscrutable St. Thomas of Aquinas. And melancholic, the Curé de ars

I will quote Fr. Conrad Hock “The Four Temperaments, “This manner of reaction, or the different degrees of excitability, is what we call “temperament.” There are four temperaments: the choleric, the melancholic, the sanguine, and the phlegmatic.

The sanguine temperament is marked by quick but shallow, superficial excitability; the choleric by quick but strong and lasting; the melancholic temperament by slow but deep; the phlegmatic by slow but shallow excitability. The first two are also called extroverts, outgoing; the last two are introverts or reserved.”

He again gives an peek into the mind, ““Temperament, then, is a fundamental disposition of the soul, which manifests itself whenever an impression is made upon the mind, be that impression caused by thought – by thinking about something or by representation through the imagination – or by external stimuli. Knowledge of the temperament of any person supplies the answer to the questions: How does this person deport himself? How does he feel moved to action whenever something impresses him strongly? For instance, how does he react, when he is praised or rebuked, when he is offended, when he feels sympathy for or aversion against somebody? Or, to use another example, how does he act if in a storm, or in a dark forest, or on a dark night the thought of imminent danger comes to him?”

This is a question I pose to my students and receive some of the most insightful answers.
“1. Do I react immediately and vehemently or slowly and superficially to a strong impression made upon me?

2. Am I inclined to act at once or to remain calm and to wait?

3. Does the excitement last for a long time or only for a short while?”

The temperaments are how God made us. Through and God’s grace we are able to help both others and ourselves on the road to heaven.

I’m thinking about moving to a series of blog postings on the Temperaments starting with the “hardest of the brunch” which remarkably is one of the largest saint producing groups also the worst in the way of tyrants, dictators and others whom we have seen who rampage to ruin the history of the World.

Any comments? I would be happy to answer

-Br Justin