St. John Bosco
God does not send a kind of “generic holiness”. Holiness is not aone-size-fits-all attribute. Rather, God inspires men and women who aregifted with particular charisms and graces. These holy men and women areconsidered as “specialized experts” who are suited and relevant to thedemands of the world and are sent to start a revolution of charity andhope. This is the story of St. John Bosco.
Little John the Dreamer
- His birth happened just after the conclusion of the Napoleonic
Wars which severely damaged the place. With this situation was also a
drought and a famine, a really unfortunate situation for the birth of
this future saint.
From a Magician to a Priest
After some time, John encountered a travelling group of circusperformers. He was so awed by their magic tricks and acrobaticperformances that he realized if he, too, learned their tricks, he couldattract many people and hold their attention. John patiently studiedtheir tricks and later on learned how to perform some of them himself.
On one Sunday evening, John initiated a show for the kinds he playedwith. He happily performed the tricks he learned and was heartilyapplauded by his audience. At the end of his little show, John began torecite the homily he heard earlier that day. He concluded this by askinghis audience to pray with him. He performed many other shows and duringthis time, John was already discerning the call to the priesthood.
To be ordained a priest, John needed to study. However, because theywere so poor, John had no means to support his study. Motivated andpassionate about fulfilling his dream, John left his family and lookedfor a job. He found a job at a vineyard and worked there for two yearsuntil he met Don Joseph Cafasso, a priest who was willing to help him.
In 1835, John entered the seminary and underwent six years of study andpreparation. On June 5, 1841, John was ordained to the priesthood inTurin. The next day, he Fr. Bosco celebrated his first Mass in thechurch of St. Francis of Assisi.
A Father to the Young
John, now known as Fr. Bosco, had his first assignment in the city ofTurin. At that time, Turin was into these poor neighborhoods. The citywas suffering from the effects of industrialization which was marked bywidespread poverty especially in the slums. Fr. Bosco went to work withthe children of the poor and made several visits to a large number ofboys, between the ages of 12 and 18, who were imprisoned.
Fr. Bosco went into the streets and began to meet young boys where theyplayed and worked. Again, he used his talents and tricks to catch theattention of the children and shared with them his message. Hetirelessly worked to find work for boys who were in need of it. He alsosearched for lodgings for others. “Mamma Margherita”, his mother, beganto help him and became popularly known by this name. By the 1860s, Fr.Bosco and his mother were able to provide lodging for 800 boys. Thelittle Dominic Savio, who later on also became a saint, stands out amongthe most outstanding fruits of Fr. Bosco’s work.
Because of his ardent desire to help the poor, Fr. Bosco asked the aidof his best collaborators among his young people. This led him toestablish the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians). Together withMaria Domenica Mazzarello, who also became a saint, he founded theInstitute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (SalesianSisters). Lastly, together with hard-working lay men and women, Fr.Bosco created the Salesian Cooperators to work alongside him and sustainthe education of young people, thus anticipating new forms of apostolatein the Church.
The last years of Fr. Bosco were difficult for him. He was old andtired, but he continued to work and to keep up with all the activitiesof his Salesians. He did not stop inspiring them to pursue greaterachievements for young people. On January 31, 1888, with the names ofJesus and Mary on his lips, the saintly Fr. Bosco breathed his last. Hewas raised to the altar of canonized saints on April 1, 1934.
5 Interesting Facts About St. John Bosco
- St. John Bosco is the patron saint of young people, schoolchildren,
magicians and juvenile delinquents.
- St. John Bosco’s motto was “Da mihi animas cetera tolle” (“Give me
souls, take all the rest”).
- St. John Bosco’s mother, Margherita, was declared “Venerable” by the
Church in 2006.
- Fr. Joseph Cafasso, the priest who helped St. John Bosco in his
studies, was also a canonized saint.
- On the centenary of St. John Bosco’s death, January 31, 1988, Pope
John Paul II proclaimed him as “the Father and Teacher of the Youth.”
Prayer to St. John Bosco
Lord, You called John Boscoto be a teacher and father to the young.Fill us with love like his;may we give ourselves completely to Your serviceand to the salvation of mankind.We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.