St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco was born in Piedmont, Italy in the year 1815. He was raised in a Catholic family but was too young ever to know his father who died when John was only two years old. John's mother raised four children and taught them the importance of their faith.

At the age of four, John began to do small jobs to earn money to support the household. As a child, John's favorite pastime was going to fairs and carnivals and watching the jugglers, tumblers and magicians. When he returned home, he practiced their tricks until he had mastered them, and then he would go on the street and perform asking only prayers as payment. From his childhood, St. John Bosco had a great desire to become a priest and help young boys who like himself were not afforded all the pleasures in life. He worked hard so he could afford to leave his family and attend school. Eventually John entered the seminary. He excelled in his studies and served as a model to other seminarians on how to live a holy life of happiness. At the age of 26, John was ordained to the priesthood and set out to take his message to the world.

St. John began his ministry to the young by first forming catechism classes that met after Sunday Mass. At these classes he would offer schooling in the faith for free and he soon had a group of over 400 children to teach. St. John's enthusiasm and emphasis on teaching boys drew ridicule from some of his peers who did not see its value, but John saw the need to train the future of the Church and allow their youthful energy to be put to work for the greater glory of God. John's catechism school grew into a full-fledged school where boys could receive an education, learn a trade, and love Jesus. As much ridicule that John received, he also received assistance in the form of money and he also began to attract followers to his ideals. With the encouragement of Pope Pius IX, John gathered 17 men together into a community and founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales in 1859. This society is better known as the Salesians and concentrates on education and missionary work, especially aiming at the needs of the young. St. John Bosco died in 1888 after spending his whole life working for youth and is the patron of editors.

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

from a letter by Saint John Bosco

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