Franciscan Saints

31st January

Saint John Bosco

Confessor, Third Order

St. John Bosco, one of the greatest saints of modern times, was born in a Piedmontese village in 1815. When he was two years old, he lost his father, a humble peasant farmer; and he was brought up by his saintly Tertiary mother, Margaret. It was no doubt due to her example and influence that John too joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Even as a youngster, John recognized that it was his vocation in life to help poor boys; and he began to teach catechism to the boys of his own village and bring them to church. Acrobatic stunts and conjuring tricks were the means he used to get them together.

At sixteen he entered the seminary at Chieri. He was so poor at the time, that the mayor contributed a hat, the parish priest a cloak, one parishioner a cassock, and another a pair of shoes. After he was ordained a deacon he passed on to the seminary in Turin; and there, with the approbation of his superiors, he began to gather together on Sundays poor apprentices and waifs of the city.

Not long after his ordination to the priesthood in June, 1841, he established what he called a Festive Oratory, a kind of Sunday school and recreation center for boys, in Turin. His mother came to be his housekeeper and mother of the Oratory. Two more Oratories in the same city followed. When Father John  Bosco’s mother died in 1856, the Oratories housed 150 resident boys; and there were four Latin classes and four workshops, one of them a printing press. Ten young priests assisted Father John in his work.

Father John was also much in demand as a preacher; and he spent half of his nights in writing popular books in order to provide good reading. Father John’s confessor and spiritual director was the saintly Tertiary priest Joseph Cafasso; and Father John too gained the reputation of being a saint. Miracles, mostly of healing, were attributed to him. By his kindness and sympathy and his marvellous power of reading the thoughts of his boys, he exercised a profound influence upon his charges. He was able to rule them with apparent indulgence and absence of punishment, something which   the educationists of the day could not understand.

In 1854 Father John founded the religious order of Salesians, so called in honor of St. Francis de Sales. Its members devote themselves to the education of poor boys. The new society grew rapidly. Father John lived to see thirty-eight houses established in the Old World and twenty-six in the New World. Today it is one of the largest orders of men in the Church.

Father John also founded a sisterhood called Daughters of St.  Mary Auxiliatrix; and he organized many outside helpers into the Salesian Co-operators, who are pledged to assist in some way the   educational labors of the Salesians. In 1930 they totalled 800,000.

Father John’s last great work was the building of Sacred Heart   Church in Rome, a task which was entrusted to him by Pope Pius IX after it had seemed to be a hopeless project. The holy   priest, who was everywhere acclaimed as a saint and wonder- worker, gathered funds for the church in Italy and France; and somehow he succeeded where others had failed. But in doing so  he wore himself out, and on January 81, 1888, he was called to  his reward. Forty thousand persons came to pay their respects as his body lay in state in the church at Turin; and his funeral resembled a triumphal procession. St. John Bosco was canonized in 1934.


Prayer of the church

 O God, who hast raised up in Thy confessor St. John Bosco

a father and teacher of youth, and dist will that through him

with the help of the Virgin Mary new religious families should

flourish in the church, grant, we beseech Thee, that enkindled

by the same fire of charity we may be able to labor in finding

souls and serve only Thee. Through Christ our Lord, Who liveth
and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.



Habig, Marion A., O.F.M., 1959, ed., The Franciscan book of Saints, Franciscan Herald press, Chicago, Illinois,pp70,71,72

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