At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying:
Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them,
Amen I say to you, unless you be
converted, and become as little children,
you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as
this little child, he is the greater in the
kingdom of heaven.
And he that shall receive one such little child
in my name, receiveth me.
St. Matthew 18:1-5
The Life of Saint John Bosco
Saint John Bosco accomplished what many people considered an impossibility;
he walked through the streets of Turin, Italy, looking for the dirtiest,
roughest urchins he could find, then made good men of them. His extraordinary
success can be summed up in the words of his patron Saint, Francis de Sales: "The
measure of his love was that he loved without measure."
Johnís knowledge of poverty was firsthand. He was born in 1815 in the village
of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and reared on his parentsí
small farm. When his father died, Margaret Bosco and her three sons found it
harder than ever to support themselves, and while John was still a small boy
he had to join his brothers in the farm work. Although his life was hard, he
was a happy, imaginative child. Even as a boy, John found innocent fun compatible
with religion. To amuse his friends he learned how to juggle and walk a
tightrope; but he would entertain them only on condition that each performance
begin and end with a prayer.
As he grew older, John began to think of becoming a priest, but poverty and
lack of education made this seem impossible. A kindly priest recognized his
intelligence, however, and gave him his first encouragement, teaching him to
read and write. By taking odd jobs in the village, and through the help of
his mother and some charitable neighbors, John managed to get through school
and find admittance to the diocesan seminary of nearby Turin. As a seminarian
he devoted his spare time to looking after the ragamuffins who roamed the slums
of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and
entertained them with stories and tricks; before long his kindness had won their
confidence, and his "Sunday School" became a ritual with them.
After his ordination in 1841, he became assistant to the chaplain of an
orphanage at Valocco, on the outskirts of Turin. This position was short-lived,
for when he insisted
that his Sunday-school boys be allowed to play on the
orphanage grounds, they were turned away, and he resigned. He began looking
for a permanent home for them, but no "decent" neighborhood would accept the
noisy crowd. At last, in a rather tumbledown section of the city, where no one
was likely to protest, the first oratory was established and named for Saint
Francis de Sales. At first the boys attended school elsewhere, but as more
teachers volunteered their time, classes were held at the house. Enrollment
increased so rapidly that by 1849 there were three oratories in various places
in the city.
For a long time Don Bosco had considered founding an Order to carry on his work,
and this idea was supported by a notoriously anticlerical cabinet minister named
Rattazzi. Rattazzi had seen the results of his work, and although an Italian
law forbade the founding of religious communities at that time, he promised
government support. The founder-priest went to Rome in 1858 and, at the
suggestion of Pope Pius IX, drew up a Rule for his community, The Society of
Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians). Four years later he founded an Order for
women, The Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to care for abandoned girls.
Finally, to supplement the work of both congregations, he organized an
association of lay people interested in aiding their work.
Exhausted from touring Europe to raise funds for a new church in Rome, Don Bosco
died on January 31, 1888. He was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. The work of
John Bosco continues today in over a thousand Salesian oratories throughout the
world. No modern Saint has captured the heart of the world more rapidly than this
smiling peasant-priest from Turin, who believed that to give complete trust and
love is the most effective way to nourish virtue in others.
From Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
O God our loving Father, through the
intercession of St. John Bosco, grant
that we may recommit ourselves to being
signs and bearers of your love to young people
especially those in most need.
And through us, may all youngsters come to
experience your love for them. May Mary Help of
Christians, keep our youth free from all harm
so that they may grow up to be honest citizens
and good Christians. We ask this through Jesus
Christ Our Lord. Amen
Saint John Bosco, pray for us
January 31 - Saint John Melchor Bosco Occhiena, Priest - Loving Teacher of Youth
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The Apostolic Blessing by the Holy See in Rome is bestowed (October 28, 2013)
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