Acta Sanctorum: St. John Bosco (Jan 31)
January 31, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
January 31
St. John Bosco

Life (1815-1888)

John Melchior Bosco was born in 1815 in Piedmont, northern Italy, the youngest son of a farmer. Losing his father when he was only two, John was brought up by his devout mother. Raising her family was a financial struggle, so the children knew the meaning of hardship.  Giovanni’s career would prove him a man of great administrative skill, but his gifts were not only natural but supernatural.  When he was only nine, for instance, he had the first of many vivid dreams that he firmly considered divine communications. In this first dream he saw himself in the midst of a crowd of fighting, cursing street-boys. He tried to calm them down, first by persuasion, then by flying fists. But a mysterious lady then appeared on the scene and said, “Softly, softly … if you wish to win them! Take your shepherd’s staff and lead them to pasture.” At that the boys in the dream turned into wild animals, then into lambs. Young John believed, from that moment on, that he was called to educate boys, not by harsh but by winning methods. At once the nine-year-old started with the poor boys of his own village, gathering them together, teaching them catechism and bringing them to church. To attract them he learned acrobatic and “magic” tricks, and became adept at these attention-getters.

Desiring to become a priest, Giovanni entered the seminary of Turin. While a seminarian, he got permission of his superiors to work on Sundays among the neglected apprentices and waifs of that large city. During these years he met the future St. Joseph Cafasso, who was then the rector of a Turinese church. Cafasso dissuaded him from aspiring to the foreign missions. His calling, said the saint, was to be a missionary among city boys. Actually, Don Bosco would in the end become a true missionary by spreading his educational work begun at Turin all around the world.

After ordination, Don Giovanni began experimenting with a catechetical and recreational center for apprentices and poor boys, and also started a night school. When this center became overcrowded, he established two additional “oratories”. He also took in a few dozen homeless children. Next he launched a school, with workshops to train shoemakers and tailors, to which he gradually added cultural courses. By 1856 he had 150 resident boys in the school, plus 500 in the oratories. The money to build shelters for all these activities came from Heaven-knows-where. Father Bosco had the marvelous gift of being able to control these lively pupils without any of the common methods of discipline, simply by positive means. Love, rather than formal punishment, was his secret. Meanwhile the young priest wrote many popular books, printed by the presses of his school.

Most of the work thus far was performed largely by Don Bosco himself, loyally aided by his mother. In 1859, to continue and expand his labors, he established a religious congregation called the Salesians, after St. Francis de Sales. By the death of the founder, the Salesians numbered 768, and they had already undertaken missionary work in other continents. Wherever they went, the Salesians, in addition to pastoral work, established schools at every level, trade schools in particular, printeries and bookbinderies, and hospitals. Don Bosco also established, in 1872, a religious order of sisters, the Daughters of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

Along the line, St. John Bosco had become noted as a preacher, and his reputation as a worker of miracles, especially healings, enhanced his influence both as an educator and a preacher. Because of his skill as a builder and financier of churches, Pope Pius IX entrusted him with the task of funding and building a church in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome. Thanks to his begging in France as well as Italy, Don Bosco succeeded in getting the church built; but he survived its dedication only nine months, dying on January 31, 1888. Forty thousand attended his wake in Turin, and all Turin, it seemed, took part in the funeral of this internationally important citizen. “In his life,” said Pope Pius XI, who canonized Don Bosco, “the supernatural almost became the natural and the extraordinary, ordinary.”  --Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture (Phil 4:4-9)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.

(Year B) All the earth, Scripture tells us, is filled with divine mercy, misericordia Domini plena est omnis terra. God's benefits are evident wherever our gaze should fall. The air we breathe, the sun that gives us light, the elements that sustain us, fire, water that serves for so many uses, the animals which are there for our comfort, whatever is beautiful to the eye, precious or magnificent everywhere, demonstrates divine goodness. How many accidents a man might meet with by day, by night, eating, drinking, on the road, at work and in anything else he does, but God has preserved us until now. And that is what we see in temporal matters; so what can we say about what God is doing for us in spiritual ones? The intellect, by which man knows the truth, reason by which he can distinguish good from evil, his will with which he follows the way of virtue and gains merit in the Lord's sight, his memory, the faculty of speech, reason, knowledge, in other words the thinking principle, the soul: they are all gifts the Lord has given us and through his everyday kindness and providence preserves for us. Churches, Sacraments, all other spiritual comforts make this divine mercy for man's benefit so much the more evident.

The Lord also assures us that these benefits are shared by just and sinner alike. “He causes his sun to shine on bad men as well as good and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike”. Since the sinner forfeits many of these gifts by sinning, it would seem that the Lord goes to seek him out and gives him more, restores what he has lost through sin. We see how he has one of his holy prophets say: “If the sinful man leaves his evil ways and returns to his Lord, he will have compassion on him”. Come to me, he says elsewhere, and I will give you back what you have lost while you were far from me, I will give you not only what you do not have, but what you did not even consider. Our Saviour does the same when in the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation he had particular regard for the just souls who were waiting so long for him; and he himself assures us that he did not take on human flesh and do all that we read in the Gospel for he just, but for sinners, non veni vocare justos sed peccatores, and elsewhere: I came to save what was lost: veni salvum facere quod perierat. Almost as if to say: by his sinfulness the sinner despises and rejects all the favours of divine goodness and is worthy only of eternal death; I came to give him the hope of life and give him back all he has lost: veni salvum facere quod perierat. Besides, after sin, all of creation rebels against the sinner. St Thomas says that by nature and instinct fire, earth, water, air tend to punish the sinner to vindicate the injury done to their Creator. Omnis creatura excandescit adversus iniustos.

Only God takes pity. While all the elements want to exterminate sinful man from the face of the earth, not only does he restrain them, but he sees that they continue to serve man almost, as Holy Scripture puts it, glossing over the view he has of people's sins so they may repent. Dissimulans peccata hominum propter paenitentiam. He continues to lavish his gifts on everyone without distinction; he looks regretfully on the sinner who stands far apart from him and encourages him in a thousand ways, wanting to show him mercy. But who would believe it? Despite such moving kindness from our God, many live as if they are insensitive to the mess their lives are in, not heeding the fact that the time for mercy might well come to an end and that they will have to submit to his rigorous justice. It happens unfortunately that the sinner who is far from his God no longer thinks of him, and while God seeks him out to show him mercy it would seem that the sinner is challenging him, annoying him and moving him to punish him. Let us ponder this divine goodness well, and how it is renewed each day on our behalf! Let us no longer be ungrateful; and if sin should ever distance us from God, let us detest it in the most heartfelt way and return to him as soon as possible. Since the sinner, after falling, does not usually think about returning to his Lord, let us today, especially enlightened as we are by God, prostrate ourselves before the throne of divine mercy and call on him to send his divine grace down on the obstinate sinner, to enlighten him so that he may return. Deploring the unhappy state of all sinners, let us detest our own sins and let us speak to God this way: My Lord, I know that today I should be in Hell but, through your mercy, you have given me this day to throw myself at your feet and know that you wish to lavish mercy on me and forgive me so long as I repent of the insults I have given you.

Yes, my God, I thank you for all the benefits you have given me and continue to give me each day; in the past I ignored these, but now I love you with all my heart, and I repent for having offended you; I am more sorry for having offended you than I am for any harm I might have incurred; enlighten me, o infinite goodness, and help me to understand my terrible ingratitude; ah, that I may never offend you again! O my Jesus, pardon me and see that from today onwards I may love you alone, and live only for you who died for me. This grace that I ask for myself, I also ask for all sinners that they may know your great goodness through the benefits you give them, and may leave the unhappy state they find themselves in and return to taste the delights of the loving Father that you are. I ask this grace through the infinite merits of your divine Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ. May you, loving Mother of mercies, kindness and comfort of sinners, see that this is granted me since there has never been a grace that you have asked of God that has not been granted. (Devotions to the Mercy of God)

Musical Selection
From nine years old he knew his mission, be humble persevere be strong. The lamb and wolf skin is your care now, God's love will carry you along.
Mary Help of Christians, Pray for us. Mary Help of Christians, Pray for us. Pray for us. 
Don Bosco made no move without you, a loving mother, friend and guide. You lead him to your Son redeemer, His loving arms are open wide.
From that cold morning on your feast day, your holy mission he'd begun. With one Hail Mary and God's blessing, O Mother, look what you have done.
And now he's crying on the altar, these tears of joy he understands. The dream at age nine has come true now! His sons have spread throughout the land.
And now we pray to you, dear Mother, we are your children, make us one. "Da mihi animas" we live by, O Mary, lead us to your son.
All-powerful God, 
who called John Bosco 
to be a loving father and prudent guide of the young: 
give us his fervent zeal for souls 
and enable us to live for you alone; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
God, forever and ever. Amen. (English Missal)