John was born in Turin, in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, to a peasant family. His father died when John was only two years old, leaving he and his two brothers in the solitary care of his mother. The family, quite poor, struggled to make ends meet, and John began to work as soon as he was old enough to correctly manipulate tools. He also demonstrated piety and devotion to the Lord from an early age, and professed his wish to become a priest at the age of nine, following a dream. His goal, even from that early age, was to assist youth who suffered in the same manner in which he did. John wished to spread the word of the Gospel, even as a child. He demonstrated great initiative and creativity and learned magic tricks and acrobatics in an attempt to gather an audience so that he could later evangelize and catechize the children and adults of his town. He would begin with a prayer, and while he still had a crows, would often repeat the homily he had heard in church earlier in the week.
His mother approved his wish to become a priest, but to make that happen, John would have to leave home to receive an education in the city. Being larger than his peers, and noticeably more impoverished, John was the constant focus of his classmates’ ridicule and teasing. To pay for his education, John spent his evenings working in whatever capacity he could—as a tailor, cobbler, and a waiter—returning back to his small room to study through the night be candlelight. Upon graduation, he began his studies for the priesthood.
Like most things he set his mind to, John Bosco was ordained a priest at only twenty-six. During his time as a seminarian, he devoted his spare hours to looking after the urchins who roamed the slums of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and entertained them with stories and tricks. He spent weekdays recruiting the roughest and dirtiest he could find, inviting them to the Sunday gatherings. Before long, his kindness had won their confidence, and his “Sunday School” became a ritual with them.
Upon ordination, Saint John immediately sought to formalize his ministry to the poor boys of the city, opening a hospice. When he was unable to secure a building in a “good” section of town, he took one in the slums. This first “oratory” was soon joined by three others, as educators and religious sought to join him in his ministry. His mother joined him as well, serving as housekeeper. Saint John fed and clothed the boys, but also spent long hours providing them with a basic education, and teaching them skills to obtain employment. Within the hospice was a tailoring and shoemaking room, as well as a printing press. Above all, he instructed the boys in the Gospel, modeling by example the life of Jesus Christ, and creating the atmosphere of a Christian family built on trust and love.
Noting the transformation of the youth he ministered to, Don (Father) Bosco began to gather followers to him, who accepted him as their spiritual advisor, leader, and guide. As their number grew, the Salesian Society of priests and lay brothers was formed. Named after Saint Francis de Sales, noted for his gentleness and kindness, Saint John Bosco dedicated this new society to the saint. Saint John traveled to Rome in 1858, and met with Pope Pius IX who encouraged his new religious community. Four years later, he founded an order for women, The Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to care for abandoned girls in the same manner.
By 1868, over 800 boys were being cared for in the Salesian oratories. Along with this, Saint John oversaw the writing, printing and distribution countless pamphlets that popularized Catholic teaching and answered the objections of anti-Catholics. Moreover, he was reported to receive supernatural guidance from the Lord, it the form of vivid dreams and visions, many of which he recounted. At times, he was able to predict the deaths of those he was close to, revealed by God, so that he might provide Last Rites. He also received a vivid vision of Hell, which he shared with all he encountered. Saint John is also remembered for working miracles, especially the multiplication of food when funds were short.
Saint John Bosco reformed the manner in which children were educated. Rather than the punitive system which was common at the time, John enacted a preventative system which rejected corporal punishment. By tending to basic needs, educational needs, and spiritual needs, the Salesians sought to put children in an environment which reduced the likelihood to commit sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with his boys’ work, study and play. He is remembered for saying to those he ministered to: "It is enough to know that you are young and abandoned for me to love you very much." Saint John Bosco died on January 31, 1888. His incorrupt relics are frequently taken on pilgrimage around the world, to visit the faithful. The work begun by Saint John continues today, with thousands dedicated to education youth at risk. The international society of the Salesians of Don Bosco administers over 3,000 schools, colleges, technical schools, and youth centers throughout the world (in 125 countries). All at risk children are served, regardless of religion or social inequalities. The mission of this tireless ministers is to be “signs and bearers of God’s love to the young.”
Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us to care less about the laughter of the world and care more about the joy of the Lord. Amen
Admirable apostle of youth, founder of religious Congregations, catechist, educator, writer, and a light that shone brightly in our time, you know that one of the greatest powers today is the power of the Press. Prompt editors to be always truthful and to work for the good of human beings, thus serving the greater glory of God. Amen. Text shared from 365 Rosaries - Image Google