Saint John Bosco: The Father and Teacher of Youth


January 31 is the day that the Catholic Church honors St. John Bosco, an Italian Catholic Priest who helped the young and marginalized respond to their need for education, work-related problems and spiritual formation.


John Bosco was born into a poor family of peasant farmers on August 16, 1815 in Becchi, a quiet village close to Castelnuovo d’Asti (today Castelnuovo Don Bosco) in Northern Italy. He was born right after the end of Napoleonic war which left the country ravaged and in chaos. There was also drought and famine at the time of his birth.

John was just two years old when he lost his father, leaving his mother to raise three boys all by herself. Little John and his older brother Joseph, together with their stepbrother Anthony tackled the endless hard work in the farm.

Mama Margaret as she was fondly called by the neighbors, made a strong impact in the life of John. She was a woman of character who taught her children the value of work and that it would be easier if done cheerfully. Despite their poverty, his mother could still share some food with the homeless who came asking for food and shelter. With firm kindness and boundless faith,

taught her children the value of work and that it would be easier if done cheerfully. Despite their poverty, his mother could still share some food with the homeless who came asking for food and shelter. With firm kindness and boundless faith,
Margaret taught them lessons in upright living, determination and fear of God, which she taught by example. John attended church and became a devout Catholic because of his mother. For John, praying was a means of talking with God anywhere even if he was herding the cattle.

When he was nine, he had a dream that changed his life forever. In his dream, he saw a number of unruly boys who swore while they played. Then a majestic man and woman appeared before him. The man told him, “You will have to win these boys not with your blows but with gentleness and kindness.” Then the lady told him to be humble, steadfast and strong. And that he will understand everything when the time comes.This dream helped John discern his true calling, to be a priest.

John entertained his peers with juggling, acrobatics and magic tricks before explaining a sermon he had heard or leading them in praying the rosary. His brother Anthony was very much against his studying so he left home to work in Moglia farm at the age of 12. For two years, John worked in the farm until his uncle took him back to Becchi when Fr. Calosso offered to help him study. But that didn’t last long because the priest died.
Johnny was 16 when he decided to continue his studies. He stayed in the house of a tailor and learned the trade. He then moved to Chieri where he spent ten hard years learning different trades in order to provide for himself. Here, he met Luigi Comollo who became his closest friend and Giona, a Jew.

STUDENT LIFE

John was ordained a priest. John was known as “Don” Bosco, a traditional Italian title of honor for priests. He was assigned in the city of Turin which was in the throes of industrialization. A large number of people who flocked into the city were jobless. Slums and poverty were widespread. Don Bosco was shocked to see young boys as young as 12 inside the prison cells.

On June 5, 1841

On December 8, 1841

The Feast of Mary Immaculate, Don Bosco heard the sacristan yelling at a poor young boy who had sneaked inside the church to get warm. He instructed the sacristan to call the boy back because he is his friend. That boy was Bartholomew Garelli and that marked the beginning of Don Bosco’s work with the young. Week after week, more boys started coming. They were stone-cutters, pavers, masons and plasterers who came from faraway places. Thus, the youth centers were born. Don Bosco dedicated his life caring for these boys. He became their spiritual guide and provider along with his fellow Salesian priests and brothers. He provided them lodging, taught them trades and looked for jobs for the unemployed. He even sought better working condition for those who had jobs.

Don Bosco got seriously ill because of hard work. The doctor told his congregation that the priest would not last the night but the boys prayed very hard and did vigil for his recovery. When Don Bosco recovered, he told the boys – “ I owe my life to you and I will give my life for you – the young people.” When Don Bosco returned from his much-needed rest in Becchi, his mother, Mama Margaret came with him to help him in his work. When Don Bosco recovered, he told the boys – “ I owe my life to you and I will give my life for you – the young people.” When Don Bosco returned from his much-needed rest in Becchi, his mother, Mama Margaret came with him to help him in his work.

In 1846

In 1854

Fr. Bosco started the Salesian Congregation of priests and brothers, to ensure stability for his work among the young. Success was not easy for Don Bosco, as he struggled to find reliable sources to fund the need of the boys in the oratory. Life was difficult for religious orders then as Italy was up for nationalist movement and its anti-clerical attitudes even led to assassination attempts against Don Bosco.

He laid the foundation stone of the Basilica dedicated to Mary Help of Christians. Despite the hostilities they have experienced, the Salesians expanded in Europe and beyond. At the time of his death, the Salesians were helping 130,000 children in 250 houses in different countries. He said,” I have done nothing by myself, it was Our Lady who has done everything through her intercession with God.”

In 1864

January 31, 1888

At the dawn of January 31, 1888, Fr. Bosco died. A man whose strength has been sapped by the immense work he had done. Before he breathe his last, he conveyed a message: “Tell the boys that I shall be waiting for them all in paradise.”

He is declared “Blessed” by Pius XI. And on Easter Sunday of 1934, he is declared a saint by the church and was proclaimed the “Father and Teacher of Youth”, the patron saint of the young people, apprentices, and Catholic publishers and editors.

In 1929

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