St John Bosco
John Bosco wandered the streets of Turin, Italy, and picked out the dirtiest, roughest, least likely urchins and beggars that he could find, and by his love transformed them into good people.
He was born in 1815, in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and lived on his parents' small farm. His father died when John was only 2 years old, and so life on the farm got even tougher, and John was working on the farm from early childhood. In spite of this he was a happy child with plenty of imagination and a zest for life.
To amuse his brothers and his friends he would copy the actions of magicians, jugglers and tightrope walkers at the local fairs, and carnivals, and learn how to do what they did. Then he would put on shows for his brothers and friends, but always on condition that the performance start and end with prayer. Many times he was ridiculed for this, but he stuck to his guns.
As he got older he felt called to be a priest, but poverty and lack of education made this seem impossible. While other better off children had been attending school, he was working on the farm.
A kindly priest , who recognised something special in John, taught him to read and write, and with the help of his mother and casual work, John was able to get through school, and into the Diocesan Seminary in Turin.
In his spare time he went looking after the ragamuffins who roamed the streets of Turin. He taught them Catechism, and entertained them with his lively stories and acts and tricks. His kindness to those poor kids won them over, and his "Sunday School" was well attended.
Because there was nowhere much good that the children could play, he began looking for a permanent home for his boys, but in most areas where he sought accommodation for them, the local inhabitants objected to having such people in their neighborhood.
In a rather slum-like area he at last found a place to establish his first oratory, and he named it after his patron saint Francis de Sales. At the beginning of this the children attended school outside of the oratory, but as more teachers volunteered their time, classes were held there.
By 1849 there were three oratories in different parts of the city. For a long time John had thought of starting an order to carry on his work, and in 1858 he went to Rome and approached Pope Pius I with the idea. The Pope suggested that he draw up a rule for his community, and so the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians) came into existence.
Four years later he founded an order for women (the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) to look after abandoned girls.
Then finally, in order to assist both congregations, he organised an association of lay people to assist.
Exhausted from his work, he died in 1888(Australia's centenary year) and was canonised in 1934 by Pope Pius XI.
from his writings - "Enjoy yourself as much as you like, if only you keep from sin."
As I write this, we are in the "Year of the Eucharist", so this next extract from his writings is particularly appropriate, and is also timeless -
"Do you want Our Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit Him seldom. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are powerful and an indispensable means of overcoming the attacks of the devil. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the devil will be powerless against you."