Feast of St. John Bosco


St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco – Image courtesy of By Fontevrault

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus, saying: ‘Who, thinkest Thou, is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus calling unto Him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, and you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven: and he that shall receive one such little child in My mane, receiveth Me’ (Matthew xviii. 1-5).

Today, in the traditional liturgy, is the feast of that incredible Italian Saint, John Bosco (1815-1888).  And this is the gospel reading Holy Church has chosen in honour of him.

It has been chosen because St. John Bosco understood so well the way of the child.

He knew what it was like to become as a little child. He knew how to remove himself from the stresses and strains of life in order to meet children, face to face, at their own level.

It was this very special gift that led to the creation of the two orders he founded: the Congregation of the Salesian Fathers and the Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians – each of which was founded for the purpose of education and care for poor boys and girls respectively.

Two days ago, we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, named the Doctor of Love.

Today, we celebrate St. John Bosco, who understood the love of God. So much so, that when he did come face to face with a child, love shone out of him so brightly that even the most rough and tough melted in his presence.

He was therefore able to take them under his wing and educate them in the Sacramental life.

A few years ago now, a dear Priest friend of mine introduced me to St. John Bosco.

A few years ago now, a dear Priest friend of mine introduced me to St. John Bosco. I wrote of this in a review of a book by F. A. Forbes entitled St. John Bosco (here) .

As a boy, he had the privilege of attending a St. John Bosco school. He loved this school and was raised in it with a deep understanding of the faith and the miracle at the altar. For the boys were trained to administer to the Priest at Holy Mass.

This is the life that St. John Bosco developed for his boys.

And he developed it from faith. For he had no money and no property, yet he plucked children out of the poverty of the Italian slums.

Yet his faith was tireless – so whenever he was destitute, which happened repeatedly, his faith picked him up and led him onwards.

And miracles would occur, manifesting all that he needed to continue his work in the education of boys into the faith and Sacramental life.

His faith was fuelled by an intense spiritual life, where he encountered mystical experience and the most vivid dreams.

Whilst the mystical experiences pointed him to the life of a shepherd for young boys, the dreams were very much focussed around the dangers of evil.

He would experience most vividly how the Sacramental life was of paramount importance for the health of the soul.

In these dreams, he would witness his boys being attacked – even consumed – by evil, in a myriad of forms. These images were so horrific, that his passion to educate them in the frequent reception of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Penance magnified a thousand-fold.

He saw that without these sacraments, his boys were dying. They were literally being consumed by evil.

So, under the duress of fatigue and illness, this Saint was undeterred in his mission.

Without cease, he educated the boys in the importance of the Sacramental life and administered the Sacraments to them.

And whilst his life was extremely hard, his love for these boys never ceased to shine. It radiated like the sun, fuelling him and applying balm to his own ailing self and all those with whom he came in contact.

And as a fellow teacher of love, he took the name of his dear Saint, Francis de Sales, for his own order: the Salesians, which he founded in order that his work be continued.

And so his work did continue – and mightily. For it spread rapidly throughout the Catholic world.

But sadly, today, the education that many, such as my dear Priest friend, were privileged to have had is now extremely rare.

And so, let us  pray today to St. John Bosco for the education of the young in the faith, in the sacramental life.

Let us pray that the faith will protect their souls from the perils of the world.

St. John Bosco, teach us in the ways of love.

St. John Bosco, pray for us.

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  1. By St. John Bosco by F.A. Forbes (Book Review) on 31 January 2014 at 20:51

    […] St. John Bosco, you have so deeply touched my heart. […]

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