Saint of the Day – St John Bosco “Don Bosco” SDB (1815-1888) Founder of the Society of St Francis de Sales now known as the Salesians, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the Association of Salesian Co-operators. His body is incorrupt.
John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing 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 one’s work, study and play.
Encouraged during his youth in Sardinia to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan in Turin and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.
After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, Don Bosco opened the Oratory of St Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoe-making and tailoring.
By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. John’s interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.
John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in re-training young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.
With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organised a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.
John Bosco knew God wanted him to work with boys because of a dream he had when he was young. In this dream, boys who had been playing roughly suddenly began playing together as happily as lambs. John heard a voice saying, “Teach them right from wrong. Teach them the beauty of goodness and the ugliness of sin.” When John told his mother about his dream, she said it might mean God wanted him to be a priest and care for some of the sheep in his flock.
John Bosco spent so much time working that people who knew him well became worried about his health. They said he should take more time for rest and sleep. John replied that he’d have enough time to rest in heaven. “Right now,” he said, “how can I rest? The devil doesn’t rest from his work.”
When John died, 40,000 people came to his wake.