St. John Bosco – January 31, 2023

Patron Saint of the Youth

John Bosco was only two years old when his father died, leaving the support of three boys to the mother, Margaret Bosco. His early years were spent as a shepherd and he received his first education at the hands of his parish priest. At the age of nine, John had a dream, which influenced and gave great meaning to the rest of his life. In the dream he saw himself amidst a great throng of young people whom he was charged to care for by means of goodness, kindness and love, rather than by means of force and compulsion. Even as a boy he commented to his mother on the fact that the priests he met were cold and distant and never bothered to speak to him. “If I am ever a priest,” he told her, “I won’t be like that. I will devote my life to young people. Children will never see me pass by them looking distant. I will always be the first to speak to them.”

In 1835 he entered the seminary, and in 1841 he was ordained a priest on the eve of Trinity Sunday. In the first year of his priestly ministry, another incident made an indelible mark on his future ministry. On a visit to the prisons of Turin, he came upon children who had been abandoned to the most evil influences, and with little before them but the gallows. In February, 1842, Don Bosco (“Don” being the Italian name given to a parish priest) established an “Oratory” for the shelter of young boys, all of whom had been taken from the streets. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to the youth. The name “Don Bosco” became extraordinarily well known throughout Europe – especially Italy, Spain and France as a result of his prolific activity in such a wide range of civil and ecclesial projects. When he died on January 31, 1888, the order he founded, the Salesian Society, ( the Society of St. Francis de Sales) numbered 773. Today there are in excess of 17,000 Salesian priests and brothers, 18,000 sisters, and tens of thousands of lay people working in every continent and most countries of the world to continue the spirit and mission of Don Bosco amongst the young.