.- Today the Church commemorates the life of St. John Bosco, a priest of humble origins who was devoted to helping boys make something of themselves. Don Bosco’s story is an inspiring example of God’s ability to express his will through dreams.
The founder of the Salesian order, St. John Bosco, began his life as a poor farm boy. Because his father died while John was very young, his mother did her best to hold the family together and was a model of faith for the young John and his brothers.
John was known throughout the village of Recchi, Italy, where he spent much of his youth, for his acrobatics and juggling feats. Conscious of God, he would stop and ask his spectators to join him in prayer before beginning any of his performances.
He used this talent of attracting people’s attention to minister to the young boys who often roamed the streets. His ministry was not accepted by many, as people only saw a rough, unruly and dirty crowd of boys following John Bosco to Mass instead of the miracle of such boys receiving the sacraments.
It s said that Bosco received his mission from God in a dream. When he was nine years old, he dreamed that he was in a field with a group of children. The children started cursing and fighting, so John tried to stop them.
John found himself to be ineffective because he did exactly what they were doing to make them stop. All of a sudden, a man whose face was full of light, covered in a white mantle, appeared. He made John the leader of the group, saying, “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness.”
Don Bosco, as the saint was called after he was ordained, spent his entire adult life ministering to the needs of the children on the streets. He worked to help both boys and girls, educating them, bringing them to the sacraments, and teaching them the trades of shoemaking, tailoring, or to run a printing press.
Pope Pius XI encouraged Don Bosco to gather a group together to continue his ministry. With 17 other men, he founded the Salesians, named after St. Francis de Sales. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to minister to girls. Today, the Salesians are the second largest religious order in the world. Their ministry continues to serve the youth by focusing on the whole person, body and soul united.
St. John Bosco died in 1888 at the age of 73. He is the patron saint of youth, young apprentices, Catholic publishers and editors.