My husband took St. John Bosco as his Confirmation saint when he was received into the Church. As it’s the good saint’s feast day today I thought I’d write about him.
He was called by God pretty early in life and knew long before adulthood that he was to become a priest and care for children. I love the fact that he learned circus acts like tightrope walking and had the people say the rosary when they gathered to watch him.
Once he was ordained he set about establishing the schools for boys, many of whom were not so much poor as destitute and who often had some serious behaviour problems as a result of their nasty background. Fr Bosco insisted that he and his fellow priests treat the boys as sons and called the priests foster-fathers especially once the boarding schools were established.
Meanwhile girl’s schools were being established by some of the women who had helped F. Bosco with his work for boys.
Fr. John insisted on firm but kind discipline for the children. He warned against temper induced punishments. Many of the boys were undoubtedly used to vicious punishment having lived on the streets quite often. Fr. John wanted them to learn another way of life and they could not be expected to do this if the priests caring for them behaved as badly as the other adults they had known.
Letters from Fr John explain his method and exhort his priests to remember they were as parents to these boys and must love them as sons.
Of course one of the things about this saint that makes him so well known are the visions and dreams that God granted him. He knew when a boy was going to die and could therefore ensure the child was properly prepared. He was granted an awful vision of the boys hurtling to hell, and this helped motivate him to ensure their formation and rescue them from lives of crime and ugly behaviour. His most famous vision of course is the one where he saw the Barque of Peter like a great ship with the Pope guiding it. The ship was buffeted and attacked in many ways on stormy seas and the Holy Father was killed but a new Pope was soon elected. Then at last the ship came to rest anchored between the two pillars of the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady. (The pillar of the Eucharist was larger).
At the time the Church was facing the growth of modernism the synthesis of all error. In 1886 Pope Leo XIII had seen a vision in which Satan was granted a century to attack and test the Church. The poor Holy Father was so horrified at this warning that he wrote the Prayer to St. Michael which is still said by many today and increasingly parishes have re-established the saying of this prayer after Mass.
It would seem that St John’s vision was part of the same prophecy and a reminder that God is still in charge of His Bride and He will bring Her safely to harbour in the end.
It is also the feast day of two English Martyrs St. Alban Roe and St Thomas Green (Reynolds). Both were priests working for the persecuted Church in England and although they were executed for being priests on Jan 21st 1642, their feast day is today.