St. John Bosco
Born : 16 August, 1815
Died : 31 January 1888
Declared Venerable by Pius X : 21 July 1907
Beatification by Pope Pius XI : 2 June 1929
Canonization by Pope Pius XI : 1 April 1934
Declared ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’ by Pope John Paul II : 31 January 1988
Early Years And Eventual Priesthood
John Bosco was born in the evening of 16 August 1815 in a little cabin at Becchi, a hill side hamlet near Castelnuovo d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy, to a family of peasant farmers. He was the youngest son of Francesco Bosco and Margherita Occhiena. He had two older brothers, Antonio and Giuseppe. The Boscos of Becchis were farmhands of the Moglian Family. His father, Francis Bosco, died when John was just two, and Margaret Occhiena found herself bringing up Anthony, Joseph and John alone.
With firm kindness and unbounded faith Margaret, wise educator that she was, made her family into a domestic church.
In 1825, when he was nine, Bosco had the first of a series of dreams which would play an influential role in his outlook and work. This first dream “left a profound impression on him for the rest of his life”, according to his own memoirs. Bosco apparently saw a multitude of very poor boys who play and blaspheme, and a man, who “appeared, nobly attired, with a manly and imposing bearing”. The man said to him : “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness. So begin right now to show them that sin is ugly and virtue beautiful”. While still a lad, John began to do magic tricks, learned with hard effort, for his friends, and he alternated this with work and prayer.
The elderly Fr. Joseph Cafasso, who identified some natural talent in John Bosco and supported in his initial schooling and then studies for the priesthood, studies that cost him effort. He had to leave home because of his brother Antonio ‘s opposition, as he wanted John to work in the fields.
As a seminarian at Chieri, he thought up the idea of the ‘Cheerful Society, which gathered boys from around the town. In June 1841 he was ordained priest. His spiritual director, Fr. Cafasso, advised him to complete his studies at the Ecclesiastical Institute. Meanwhile Don Bosco gathered his first boys around him, and organised a festive oratory, initially on the move but then stabilised at Valdocco. Margaret, by now elderly, accepted to come to Turin and help him, and become ‘Mamma Margaret’ for the boys.
Don Bosco began to give a place to boys without a home to go to. He taught them to work, and to love the Lord; he sang, played and prayed with them. With the first boys came his first helpers. Thus he developed his famous educational method, the Preventive System. “Be with the boys, prevent sin through reason, religion and loving kindness. Become saints and educators of saints. Our boys must know they are loved”.
Over time the first helpers, with the help of Pope Pius IX, became a Congregation called “Society of St. Francis de Sales”, aimed at the salvation of the young, fighting all forms of poverty and taking as its own the motto : “Give me souls, take away the rest”.
Young Dominic Savio is the first fruit of the Preventive System. Mary Help of Christians, who always supported Don Bosco in his work, obtained many graces for him, even extraordinary ones, as well as the funds necessary for his enterprises. She helped him build the Basilica which bears her name.
Salesian Sisters And Salesian Cooperators
With the help of Mary Mazzarello and a group of girls in the hill town of Mornese. In 1871, he founded a group of religious sisters to do for girls what the Salesians were doing for boys. They were called the “Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.” In 1874, he founded yet another group, the “Salesian Cooperators.” These were mostly lay people who would work for young people like the Daughters and the Salesians, but would not join a religious order.
Don Bosco died at the age of 72, on 31 January 1888. Today the Salesian Family is throughout the world.
Life of Don Bosco in Pictorial format
Places to Remember in Don Bosco’s Life
The Chapel is dedicated to the Risen Saviour hence the mosaic above the main altar. The plaque (in Italian reads: “The Oratory started by Don Bosco in the church of St. Francis of Assisi on 8th December 1841 moved successively to the Refuge of the Marchioness Barolo, to Molini by the Dora, to St. Peter In Chains, to the Moretta house and to the Filippi field after which it was providentially led by Mary Help of Christians to its permanent setting which was the poor Pinardi shed: This humble beginning of the mother-house of the Salesian Society and for six years the unique and poor chapel that Don Bosco blessed and occupied on 12th April 1846 the Feast of the Resurrection.
This place is built on the site of the old shed where for many years Don Bosco sat with his boys. In memory and in homage – this chapel was restored and dedicated to Glorious Risen Christ on 31 January 1928, marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Don Bosco.
The first stone of this church was laid on 20th July 1851 and it was consecrated on 20th June 1852. It would remain at the heart of the newly born Salesian Congregation. Mamma Margaret dropped in every day to spend a few moments praying her Rosary.
It was in this church that Dominic Savio, in 1854 consecrated himself to the Virgin Mary and many youngsters to this day have made this prayer their own. “Mary I give you my heart…”
In 1860, Michael Rua celebrated his first mass in this church, assisted by Don Bosco himself.
It was in this same church, behind the main altar that Dominic Savio stood in an ecstasy which lasted more than six hours.