Tuesday, January 8, 2013


St John Bosco was born on 16th August 1815 in Piedmont, near Turin, Italy. He was the youngest son of a peasant farmer who died when John was only two years old.  He was brought up by his mother in extreme poverty.    "In his life the supernatural almost became the natural and the extraordinary ordinary".  These were the words of Pope Pius X1 in speaking of Don Bosco at his canonization.

A dream when he was nine showed him his future work.  It was the precursor of other visions which, at various critical periods of his life, indicated the next step he was to take.
In this first dream he seemed to be surrounded by a crowd of fighting children whom he strove in vain to pacify, at first by argument and then with his fists.  Suddenly there appeared a mysterious lady who said to him "softly softly, .....if you wish to win them! Take your shepherd's staff and lead them to pasture".  As she spoke the children were transformed into wild beasts and then into lambs.  From that moment John recognized that his duty was to help poor boys and he began with those of his own village, teaching them the catechism and bringing them to church.  As an encouragement he would often delight them with acrobatic and conjuring tricks, at which he became very proficient.  One Sunday morning when a juggler and gymnast was detaining the youngsters with his performances, the little lad challenged him to a competition, beat him at his own job, and triumphantly bore off his audience to mass.

  When he entered the seminary in 1831, his clothes and shoes were provided by charity.
He was ordained priest in 1841 and soon settled into his life work, the education and apostolate of boys and young men, especially the poor.
Turin was the principal place of his activity.  Persuaded by St Joseph Cafasso, [1811-1860] rector of a seminary in Turin that his work with the boys was his mission and introduced by him to wealthy benefactors, and to the slums and prisons which would gain most from his ministry, John was appointed a chaplain of a refuge for girls.  He devoted himself also to the needs of young men.  His attractive  charismatic personality soon drew many to his oratory and his evening classes.
Soon he resigned his post as chaplain and lived in poverty with his mother and about 40 destitute boys in the Valdocco area, later he opened workshops for training shoemakers and tailors.  By 1856 their number had grown to 150 resident boys with four workshops.  There was also 500 children attached to the oratories and ten priests to help teach them.
An eloquent preacher and a popular writer of great skill and diligence, John Bosco also had a reputation as a visionary, a wonder-worker, and one with extraordinary gift for handling difficult youths without punishment but with a gentle and effective firmness.

Don Bosco often used to take boys on Sunday expeditions in the country, with mass to start with, followed by breakfast and open-air games, a picnic, catechism class, and vespers to conclude.  He believed in the value, especially for deprived urban boys, both of contact with natural beauty and the uplifting power of music.

In 1859 he began to organise a congregation which was formally approved in 1874 at the founder's death fourteen years later it numbered 768 members in sixty-four houses both in Europe and South America.

As a church builder St John Bosco, achieved the apparently impossible by heroic trust in Providence to provide necessary finance.  One such church is the Sacro  Cuore, Rome, completed shortly before his death.

St John Bosco died on 31st January 1888.  Forty Thousand people visited his body as it lay in the church, and at his funeral the whole city of Turin turned out to do him honour.
He was canonized on 1st April 1934 by Pope Pius X1

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