Feastday: January 31
b. 1815 d: 1888
Saint John Bosco
John Bosco (Italian: Giovanni Melchiorre
Bosco; 16 August 1815– 31 January 1888), was
an Italian Catholic priest, educator and writer of the 19th
century, who put into practice the convictions of his religion,
dedicating his life to the betterment and education of street
children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth
and employing teaching methods based on love rather than punishment,
a method that is known as the preventive system. A follower
of the spirituality and philosophy of Francis de Sales, Bosco
dedicated his works to him when he founded the Society of
St. Francis de Sales (more commonly known as the Salesian
Society or the Salesians of Don Bosco). Together with Maria
Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters
of Mary Help of Christians, a religious congregation of nuns
dedicated to the care and education of poor girls, and popularly
known as Salesian Sisters. In 1876 Bosco founded a movement
of laity, the Salesian Cooperators, with the same educational
mission to the poor. In 1875 he published Bibliofilo Cattolico
- Bollettino Salesiano Mensuale (The Catholic Book Lover -
Salesian Monthly Bulletin.) The Bulletin has remained in continuous
publication, and is currently published in 50 different editions
and 30 languages.
Bosco succeeded in establishing a network
of organizations and centres to carry on his work. He was
canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.
What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't
they just random images of our mind?
In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John
Bosco because he wouldn't take his dreams seriously enough.
Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint
who worked with neglected boys, he
learned of the dreams that John had been having since the
age of nine, dreams that had revealed God's will for John's
life. So Pius IX had made a request, "Write down
these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely
and in their natural sense." Pius IX saw John's dreams
as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration
for those he ministered to.
Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition
respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he
had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed
that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children
started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd
to try to stop them -- by fighting and shouting. Suddenly
a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a
white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him
leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge
of these unruly gang. The man said, "You will have to
win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness
and kindness." As adults, most of us would be reluctant
to take on such a mission -- and nine year old John was even
less pleased. "I'm just a boy," he argued, "how
can you order me to do something that looks impossible."
The man answered, "What seems so impossible you must
achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge." Thenthe
boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like.
The man told John that this is the field of John's life work.
Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and
strength, he would see a change in the children -- a change
that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned
into gentle lambs.
When John told his family about his dream,
his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different
interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd,
a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage
advice we have heard through the years, "You mustn't
pay any attention to dreams." John said, "I felt
the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out
of my head."
Eventually that first dream led him to minister
to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that
seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful
and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle
and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once
he had their attention he would teach them and take them to
Mass. It wasn't always easy -- few people wanted a crowd of
loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little
money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who
promised to help would get frustrated and leave.
Two "friends" even tried to commit
him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a
carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him.
But instead of getting in, John said, "After you"
and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the
carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off
as fast as he could go!
Through it all he found encouragement and
support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into
a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding
the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent.
He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through
a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps,
his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When
he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told
him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second
time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor
closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto
the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed
them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in
thorns. Yet those who watched said, "How lucky Don John
is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn't a worry
in the world. No troubles at all!" Many of the helpers,
who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some
stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and
thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed
his torn skin and healed his wounds.
In his interpretation, the path was his mission,
the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were
the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would
stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear
to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his
mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.
Often John acted on his dreams simply by
sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different
individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the
dream. "Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed
my mind," he would say.
The groups he most often shared with were
the boys he helped -- because so many of the dreams involved
them. For example, he used several
dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life.
In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds --
tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread,
which represented the state of the boys' souls. He said he
would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which
bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion
to give them moral guidance.
He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two.
His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.
In His Footsteps:
John Bosco found God's message in his dreams.
If you have some question or problem in your life, ask God
to send you an answer or help in a dream. Then write down
your dreams. Ask God to help you remember and interpret the
dreams that come from God.
Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children
whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us
to care less about the laughter of the world and care more
about the joy of the Lord. Amen
As a boy, John was very religious and wanted
to share his spirituality with other boys, so he would learn
tricks from the circus performers and then he would gather
boys for a show, after the show he would speak about the homily
he had heard in Church. While he studied, he tried different
trades in order to gather money to go to College and to the
Seminary; eventually he became a Priest. He would organize
places to meet with young people, he entertained them first
and then he would evangelize them. He founded the Oblates
of Saint Francis de Sales (O.S.F.S.) "the Salesians",
priests who educate and care for boys, under the protection
of Our Lady Help of Christians, and Saint Francis de Sales.
His order grew into other countries to continue the great
work of caring and instructing the youth. He also founded
the Daughters of Our Lady, Help of Christians.
"Imagine yourself to be with me on the
seashore, or better, on an isolated rock and not to see any
patch of land other than that under your feet. On the whole
of that vast sheet of water you see an innumerable fleet of
ships in battle array. The prows of the ships are formed into
sharp, spear-like points so that wherever they are thrust
they pierce and completely destroy. These ships are armed
with cannons, with lots of rifles, with incendiary materials,
with other firearms of all kinds, and also with books, and
advance against a ship very much bigger and higher than themselves
and try to dash against it with the prows or burn it or in
some way to do it every possible harm."
"As escorts to that majestic fully equipped
ship, there are many smaller ships, which receive commands
by signal from it and carry out movements to defend themselves
from the opposing fleet. In the midst of the immense expanse
of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little
distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there
is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs
a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum
- "Help of Christians"; on the other, which is much
higher and bigger, stands a Host of great size proportionate
to the column and beneath is another placard with the words:
Salus Credentium - Salvation of the Faithful.
"The supreme commander of the big ship
is the Sovereign Pontiff. He, seeing the fury of the enemies
and the evils among which his faithful find themselves, determines
to summon around himself the captains of the smaller ships
to hold a council and decide what is to be done.
All the captains come aboard and gather around
the Pope. They hold a meeting, but meantime the wind and the
waves gather in storm, so they are sent back to control their
own ships. There comes a short lull; for a second time the
Pope gathers the captains around him, while the flag-ship
goes on its course. But the frightful storm returns. The Pope
stands at the helm and all his energies are directed to steering
the ship towards those two columns from whose summits hang
many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
"All the enemy ships move to attack
it, and they try in every way to stop it and to sink it: some
with books and writings or inflammable materials, of which
they are full; others with firearms, with rifles and with
rams. The battle rages ever more relentlessly. The enemy prows
thrust violently, but their efforts and impact prove useless.
They make attempts in vain and waste all their labor and ammunition;
the big ship goes safely and smoothly on its way. Sometimes
it happens that, struck by formidable blows, it gets large,
deep gaps in its sides; but no sooner is the harm done that
a gentle breeze blows from the two columns and the cracks
close up and the gaps are stopped immediately.
Meanwhile, the guns of the assailants are
blown up, the rifles and other arms and prows are broken;
many ships are shattered and sink into the sea. Then, the
frenzied enemies strive to fight hand to hand, with fists,
with blows, with blasphemy and with curses.
"Suddenly the Pope falls gravely wounded.
Immediately, those who are with him run to help him and they
lift him up. A second time the Pope is struck, he falls again
and dies". A shout of victory and joy rings out amongst
the enemies; from their ships an unspeakable mockery arises.
But hardly is the Pontiff dead than another
takes his place. The pilots, having met together, have elected
the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope
coincides with the news of the election of the successor.
The adversaries begin to lose courage.
"The new Pope, putting the enemy to
rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right
up to the two columns and comes to rest between them; he makes
it fast with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor
of the column on which stands the Host; and with another light
chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite
end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands
the Immaculate Virgin.
At this point, a great convulsion takes place.
All the ships that until then had fought against the Pope's
ship are scattered; they flee away, collide and break to pieces
one against another. Some sink and try to sink others. Several
small ships that had fought gallantly for the Pope race to
be the first to bind themselves to those two columns. Many
other ships, having retreated through fear of the battle,
cautiously watch from far away; the wrecks of the broken ships
having been scattered in the whirlpools of the sea, they in
their turn sail in good earnest to those two columns, and
having reached them, they make themselves fast to the hooks
hanging down from them and their they remain safe, together
with the principal ship, on which is the Pope. Over the sea
their reigns a great calm."