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Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco

photo Saint John Bosco – Image in public domain


Saint John Bosco (1815 – 1888), also known as Don Bosco, was born in Becchi, Italy, the youngest son of peasant farmers. At the age of nine, he had the first of several divine revelations that would come to him in the form of dreams. He dreamed he was surrounded by a mob of fighting and swearing children whom he tried in vain to pacify, at first by arguments and then by hitting them. A man of majestic bearing appeared and said, “With meekness and charity, you will conquer these your friends!” A beautiful lady standing by the man told him, “Make yourself humble, strong, and robust.” The children were then transformed first into wild beasts and then into gentle lambs.

In time, Saint John Bosco was to understand that this dream was a heavenly sign that his vocation was to become a priest and help poor boys. He left home at the age of twelve to pursue the formal education necessary to become a priest. At fifteen, he met Saint Joseph Cafasso, who recognised his vocation and supported him in his studies. Saint John Bosco was ordained in 1841 and, heeding the call from Our Lord, devoted his life to helping impoverished children in Turin. As part of this work, he built a boarding school for homeless and poor boys and founded the Salesians, an order dedicated to the teaching and care of poor children.

For his ministry, Don Bosco was persecuted by the Freemasons, who undertook several attempts on his life. The streets of Turin, therefore, were a dangerous place for him. But this did not prevent him from going on his rounds. Our Lord, then, in His goodness, protected him for several years in a most unusual way: by providing him with a canine guardian. This dog, which Saint John Bosco named Grigio, was a very large grey dog. It would show up at moments of danger and accompany the saint until he reached safety. It asked for neither food nor shelter, was gentle as a lamb with the boys in the oratory but savage against the saints’ attackers. On one occasion, for example, Don Bosco was returning home late at night and was attacked by two men. Grigio came bounding into the scene, knocked down one of the attackers, and put them to flight snarling menacingly at both men. He then stayed with the saint until he reached the oratory.

Saint John Bosco was also a builder of churches. He had two large churches built in Turin: one dedicated to Saint Mary the Helper and the other to Saint John the Evangelist. He likewise raised funds for building the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome. Worn out and ill from a life of tireless labour, the saint was able to offer one Mass at the main altar of this last church before going to his eternal reward.

Saint John Bosco died on January 31, 1888. Forty thousand persons came to the church to honour Don Bosco, and almost the entire city turned out as his remains were borne to their resting place. He was canonised in 1934 by Pope Pius XI and is the patron saint of apprentices, publishers, editors, and schoolchildren.



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