January 31st - St. John Bosco
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Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco accomplished what many people considered an impossibility; he walked through the streets of Turin, Italy, looking for the dirtiest, roughest urchins he could find, then made good men of them. His extraordinary success can be summed up in the words of his patron Saint, Francis de Sales: The measure of his love was that he loved without measure.
John's knowledge of poverty was firsthand. He was born in 1815 in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and reared on his parents' small farm. When his father died, Margaret Bosco and her three sons found it harder than ever to support themselves, and while John was still a small boy he had to join his brothers in the farm work. Although his life was hard, he was a happy, imaginative child. Even as a boy, John found innocent fun compatible with religion. To amuse his friends he learned how to juggle and walk a tightrope; but he would entertain them only on condition that each performance begin and end with a prayer.

As he grew older, John began to think of becoming a priest, but poverty and lack of education made this seem impossible. A kindly priest recognized his intelligence, however, and gave him his first encouragement, teaching him to read and write. By taking odd jobs in the village, and through the help of his mother and some charitable neighbors, John managed to get through school and find admittance to the diocesan seminary of nearby Turin. As a seminarian he devoted his spare time to looking after the ragamuffins who roamed the slums of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and entertained them with stories and tricks; before long his kindness had won their confidence, and his Sunday School became a ritual with them.

After his ordination in 1841, he became assistant to the chaplain of an orphanage at Valocco, on the outskirts of Turin. This position was short-lived, for when he insisted that his Sunday-school boys be allowed to play on the orphanage grounds, they were turned away, and he resigned. He began looking for a permanent home for them, but no decent neighborhood would accept the noisy crowd. At last, in a rather tumbledown section of the city, where no one was likely to protest, the first oratory was established and named for Saint Francis de Sales. At first the boys attended school elsewhere, but as more teachers volunteered their time, classes were held at the house. Enrollment increased so rapidly that by 1849 there were three oratories in various places in the city.

For a long time Don Bosco had considered founding an Order to carry on his work, and this idea was supported by a notoriously anticlerical cabinet minister named Rattazzi. Rattazzi had seen the results of his work, and although an Italian law forbade the founding of religious communities at that time, he promised government support. The founder-priest went to Rome in 1858 and, at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, drew up a Rule for his community, the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians). Four years later he founded an Order for women, theDaughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to care for abandoned girls. Finally, to supplement the work of both congregations, he organized an association of lay people interested in aiding their work.

Exhausted from touring Europe to raise funds for a new church in Rome, Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. He was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. The work of John Bosco continues today in over a thousand Salesian oratories throughout the world. No modern Saint has captured the heart of the world more rapidly than this smiling peasant-priest from Turin, who believed that to give complete trust and love is the most effective way to nourish virtue in others.
January 31 – St. John Bosco, Confessor
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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At the close of the month dedicated to honoring the infancy of our Savior, St. John Bosco leads to the Child Jesus—to Jesus the worker—the multitude of young people and workers to whom he dedicated his life.

Let us turn our attention to the Lessons which abbreviate this holy man’s life and work.

John Bosco, born in the poor town of Castelnuovo d’Asti, and having lost his father at the age of two, was raised by his mother in a most saintly manner, and from his earliest years gave evidence of an extraordinary future. Docile and pious, he had a remarkable influence over those of his own age, whose fights he soon began to settle, and whose indecent words and improper jokes he stopped. Then he busied himself with drawing them to him by good stories, by including prayers in their games, by repeating in an attractive way the complete sermons he had heard in church, and with persuading them to receive the sacraments of Penance and of the Holy Eucharist without delay and frequently. His unassuming manner, his affability, and his innocence drew everyone to him. Although pressed with difficulties at home, and forced to work hard in his youth, he ardently desired with trust in God to become a priest.

His wish was fulfilled, and he went first to Chieri, and then to Turin, where under the direction of Blessed Joseph Cafasso, he made rapid progress in the science of the Saints and in the learning of moral theology. There moved by divine grace and personal liking he began to take an interest in the youths, whom he taught the rudiments of the Christian religion. Their number increased day by day, and notwithstanding great and persistent difficulties, under divine inspiration he made a foundation for them in that section of the city called the Valdocco, on which he began to spend all his energy. Shortly after, with the help of the Blessed Virgin, who in a vision to him when a boy had revealed his future, John founded the Society of the Salesians, whose principal purpose was to be the saving of youthful souls for Christ. In like manner he founded a new family of nuns, who were called the daughters of St. Mary Auxiliatrix, and who would do for poor girls what the Salesians were doing for boys. To these he finally attached the Third Order of Salesian Cooperators, who by their piety and zeal were to assist in the educational work of the Salesians. And so in a short time he made great contributions both to the Church and to the State.

Filled with zeal for souls, he spared himself no labour and no expense to build recreational centres for the young, orphanages, schools for working children, schools and homes for the training of the young, and churches far and wide throughout the world. At the same time he did not stop spreading the Faith throughout the Subalpine country by word and by example, and throughout the whole of Italy, by writing and editing good books and by distributing the same, and in the foreign missions to which he sent numerous preachers. A simple and upright man, bent on every good work, he shone with all manner of virtue, which was fostered by his intense and ardent charity. With his mind always on God, and showered with heavenly gifts, this holy man of God was not disturbed by threats, nor tired by work, nor overwhelmed by care, nor upset by adversity. He recommended three works of piety to his followers : to receive as frequently as possible the sacraments of Penance and of Holy Eucharist, to cultivate a devotion to St. Mary Auxiliatrix, and to be the most loyal children of the Sovereign Pontiff. It should also be mentioned that John Bosco in very difficult circumstances went to the Pope more than once to console him in the evils coming from laws at that time passed against the Church. With a life of such accomplishments he died on the 31st day of January, 1888. Illustrious for his many miracles, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius XI, beatified him in 1929. Five years later, in the nineteenth centenary of the anniversary of our redemption, he was canonized among a vast gathering come to the Eternal City from every part of the world.
We hasten to you, after so many others, acclaiming together with the Church, to implore your favor and seek your counsel. Your exhortations are nourishment for the soul, yet sweet as honey: “You who work and are burdened with pain and fatigue, if you want to find an inexhaustible source of consolation, if you want to be happy, be holy. To become saints, we need only one thing: to desire it. The Saints are sanctified in their own state. How? Doing well what they had to do.” Beseech the Lord, then, O humble and glorious Saint! that we may finally understand a lesson so simple, pure, and true; and give us at last a sincere willingness to put the lesson into practice, that so we may ourselves become saints.

Untiring and zealous, you always nurtured priests and missionaries: “The first thing I advise you, to become a saint,” you said to young Dominic Savio, the boy destined to precede you in the heavenly Choir, “is to win souls to God, because there is nothing more holy in the world than to work together for the good of souls. Jesus Christ has paid for them with the last drop of his Blood.” Would by your prayers that this zeal burn within all the Faithful, as all are called in one way or another to cooperate in the great work of redemption begun by our Savior.

Great mentor of youth! teach us to turn often to Mary, Help of Christians, whose intercession had you perform wonders and miracles, and gave you the faithful Grigio for protection against those who threatened your life and mission. Obtain for us by your prayers the grace to follow your example, that we likewise may be so set on fire of love that we may seek diligently after souls, and give ourselves wholly unto the service of our Lord. Pray that we may remain faithful to the lessons of Bethlehem and Nazareth, to keep you as a childlike trust in divine Providence and live only to praise the glory of our heavenly Father and make it a perpetual thanksgiving.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Source:  The book that informed this post was, 40 Dreams of St John Bosco which is available at TAN Books.

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In his dream, John Bosco and a group of schoolboys were traveling in a carriage through the lush countryside of North Italy. Suddenly the carriage came to an abrupt stop, and John Bosco alighted to see why the journey was halted, and he met an extraordinary chap.

This chap was so paradoxical in his appearance that he baffled Bosco. He was both tall and short, red-faced and yet pale and he walked through the air and yet he seemed to walk on the earthen ground. Try as he did to gauge the chap's size, John Bosco could not determine if he was fat or thin. John Bosco was no coward, but he had to summon the nerve to ask the extraordinary chap, "Who are you?"  But his question was ignored, and instead the extraordinary fellow commanded him, "Come."

The extraordinary chap ordered John Bosco to turn the wheels of the carriage into a big, flat field. John Bosco was amazed that the chap's voice was soft and loud at the same time and he spoke in different accents, and in his multi-tonal voice he bade Bosco and his boys to crouch down. Bosco was perplexed by this request to stop and lower themselves and asked the extraordinary chap, "Your Excellency will condescend to inform me why you have stopped us in this strange place." The chap gave Bosco this sober reply, "For a very weighty reason; it is because I want to avert a great danger from you."

"What danger?" asked Bosco.

"The danger lies in an infuriated bull that kills any person it meets...Call your followers to your side. Warn them carefully and ask them to lie flat with their faces to the earth as soon as they hear the deafening roar of the bull, and to remain in such a position until the bull has gone by."

This put Bosco on notice as to the raging bull, and he followed the extraordinary chap's orders to the letter when he asked his boys to lay down on their stomachs, faces to the floor of the field.

The chap added chillingly, "Woe to the one that does not pay heed to your voice. He who does not lie with his face to the ground shall be lost, for we read in Holy Scripture that, "he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be humbled.""

The extraordinary chap then warned, "Quick, quick, the bull is about to come, shout, shout at the top of your voice and bid all lower themselves."

Bosco and most of his boys with their faces to the ground started yelling as loud and best they could, and they still yelled when they heard the roar of the bull approach. There is something preposterous, even absurdist in the way the boys were yelling into the dust and the earth, perhaps making fools of themselves, but they were actively humbling themselves. Some boys, however, were seduced by curiosity and wanted to see the bull. The roar of the bull grew deafening, and the extraordinary chap kept chanting, "he who humbleth himself shall be exalted..."

While John Bosco lay with his eyes in the dust, he was given a vision of the ferocious bull. The bull had 7 horns in the form of a crude circle.

The bull came upon Bosco and the boys, but in that very instant that his horns sought to shred them, they were lifted into the air to a great height, to where the merciless bull was not able to penetrate them.

Those curiosity seekers who had stood proud and had not lowered themselves were torn to bits by the bull. The bull jumped into the air and rapaciously tried to stab Bosco and the humble boys with his spiky horns, but he could not reach them because they had been exalted high up over the ground. When the bull was defeated, it stomped off.

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