John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815, to a poor
farming family in Becchi, a small suburb of Turin,
Italy. The child grew to be the Beloved Apostle of
Youth. One of John Boscos earliest recollections
occurred at age two. He remembers his mother telling
him upon his fathers death , You have no father
now. Although he stated that he could not remember
what his father was like , his death must have had a
profound effect on him and perhaps sparked his desire
to help troubled boys, many of whom were fatherless.
I cannot say that I have suffered the loss of a close
family member and can only imagine the effect it could
have on my life.
From the time he was a young child, John Bosco seemed
to have a clear understanding of Gods ways; and what
he didnt understand was often made clear to him by
his mother Mama Margaret. She seemed to know, even
at an early age, that her son was destined to do good
in the name of God. She taught him by example from an
early age and continued to support him and all his
good works throughout his life. She eventually joined
him at he Oratory and became Mother to hundreds of
boys. Her positive influence was felt by all of those
boys. It was almost as if the Blessed Mother worked
through her good example and words of wisdom.
Mama Margaret warned her son to beware of bad boys
you may meet on your journey through life. and asked
him one day, Why do you go with such bad boys?
How many mothers have echoed similar words? How
confident John Bosco was in the power of his good
example when he replied, If I am with them they are
better and do not say bad words. Wouldnt this world
be a better place if we all had such confidence and
faith in the power our own good example.
As a young child, John Bosco had the ability to
attract young boys. He went out of his way to study
traveling show folk to learn acrobatic and sleight
of hand tricks to entertain the boys who would gather
around him. After a performance he would discuss a
sermon from a recent Mass or lead the group in a hymn.
If people started to leave he would tell them that
they couldnt come back and see more tricks unless
they stayed for the sermon. Of course they remained.
At age nine John had a dream that clearly indicated
his intentions of becoming a priest. Mama Margaret
understood this dream and set out to educate her son
and prepare him for First Holy Communion. John had a
special ability to understand and memorize the
priests sermons. He happened to impress one priest
with his retelling of the sermon. This priest
arranged for the beginning of Johns education for the
priesthood. His older stepbrother, Anthony, was
jealous of him and often begrudged him his studies by
insisting that he help work on the farm. Even Anthony
could not keep him from his studies. Priests arranged
for him to be taught while he worked at the farm. In
life we may encounter people who may be jealous of us
and try to stop us from succeeding.
Throughout the course of his religious education John
came in contact with many different people and
different work experiences that helped prepare him for
his future work. Living away from home for the first
time ,he explained the way that he best learned to
deal with his new companions. He divided them into
three classes; the good, the indifferent, and the bad.
He avoided the bad as soon as their character was
discovered; he was courteous to the indifferent and
dealt with them only when necessary. He was
determined to make friends with the good. This is
probably the best advice that John Bosco has to offer
young boys. Although he said that he avoided the
bad, I have a feeling that he did not give up on
them too easily.
John Bosco continued to have a knack for being able to
enter the boys world throughout his life. After
being ordained a priest he continued his boy work.
Little by little over the years his Oratories
multiplied in various towns, cities, and countries.
Many of the boys he taught and sheltered followed in
his footsteps and continued his good works. John
Bosco worked tirelessly for the salvation of all of
his boys. He felt that losing one of his boys would
be like losing a limb, and his heart remains with any
who stray from him. Only when there was danger of
harm coming to the other boys would he agree to expel
John Bosco had tremendous faith. He would often
plan for the building of a new Oratory without
securing sufficient funding. It seemed that his
prayers were always answered because the money would
always somehow become available to him at .the very
moment it was needed. His faith in the generosity of
others never failed him.
It is almost impossible to imagine business being
carried out in that manner today, yet it is also
impossible to imagine the religious community existing
without that extreme faith in the generosity and
goodness of others.
John Bosco experienced a difficult, dangerous time
during the period of anticlericalism, around 1849. He
survived numerous assassination attempts from various
undesirable people who opposed the good he was doing
with the boys. These dangerous times did not prevent
brave John Bosco from performing his priestly duties.
He seemed to have a guardian angel in both his mother,
who always seemed to know when he was in danger, and a
mysterious dog named Grigio, who always seemed to
appear when he was needed. Wouldnt it be great if
each of us had our very own Grigio to protect us! It
may be that He already does exist, but we havent
taken notice yet. I have to admit that mothers seem
to have this ability to sense when we are about to get
into trouble whether we know it or not.
Needless to say, John Bosco worked tirelessly for his
boys. A doctor had commented that his body seemed
like that of a much older man. Perhaps that was
because John Bosco never refused a request from anyone
in need. He gave generously of his time, his energy,
and his wisdom. He died on January 31, 1888 and was
canonized in 1934.
While reading this book I could not help but recognize
the similarities between John Boscos Oratories and
our school. There is clearly a feeling of brotherhood
among the students at Don Bosco Prep. I remember how
we all laughed during orientation when we were told
about this feeling of brotherhood, but all of us now
agree that it exists. We are led by the good example
of our teachers and priests, are made to follow a code
of discipline, and are provided academic and religious
instruction. It is an atmosphere that guides us in
choosing between right and wrong and hopefully gives
us confidence and faith in the power of our own good
example. The work of Saint John Bosco continues!
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