Students from Heywood Community School in Ballinakill, Co. Laois reflect on Don Bosco’s story and their experience of Salesian Spirit in their school today.
This year as a Novena preparation to the feast of Saint John Bosco we want to present the living spirit of Don Bosco in Ireland, and the series is entitled: “Don Bosco is Alive Today” and will include 9 parts.
John Bosco was born on 16th August, 1815, to the east of Turin. From a very early age he decided that he would dedicate his life to helping young people. He wanted to become a priest to help them morally and he wanted to help them educationally by assisting them to cope with the world around them. He was ordained in June, 1841, and began his work for the poor youth of the city of Turin.
As his work grew many young men came forward to help him. They became the first members of his religious congregation known as ‘Salesians’. (Currently numbering nearly 16,000). These young men became the core group who would further his work. Many lay people including his mother ‘Mama Margaret’ came to help in his work. John had wanted everybody who helped him, whether lay people or religious, to be part of his ‘congregation’, but Church regulations, regarding the setting up of new religious congregations, partly thwarted his dream. John, with the help of Mary Mazzarello, later founded the Salesian Sisters to work for girls. (Currently, there are over 400,000 lay people working as part of the wider Salesian family).
John Bosco had a great admiration for St Francis de Sales (1567-1622). Francis, who was born near Geneva, 21 August 1567, was patron saint of Piedmont and Savoy and much loved by John Bosco. He admired his joyful, optimistic spirituality and simplicity of life. St. Francis used a simple metaphor to sum up his work when he said: ‘you catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.’ In other words: Love is stronger than violence or force of any kind. Because of the gentleness of his approach, he chose him as a patron of the Congregation, hence the name Salesians. He wished his followers to be filled with the spirit of Francis de Sales – a kindness that was all-embracing, a gentleness that was strong, a love that was humble and a faith that was steadfast.
John’s work and message spread throughout the World. He himself worked tirelessly throughout his life for the young people of Turin and beyond until his death on January 31, 1888 at the age of 73. In 1934, Pope Plus XI canonized St. John Bosco as saint of the Catholic Church. And in 1988 Pope John Paul II called him “Father and Teacher of Youth.”
Prayer to Don Bosco:
Saint John Bosco, Friend of the young,
Teacher in the ways of God,
Your dedication to empowering the needy inspires us still.
Help me to work for a better world,
where the young are given the chance to flourish,
where the poor’s dream for justice can come true,
and where God’s compassion is shown to be real.
Intercede for me as I bring my needs to you and to
Our heavenly Mother, the Help of Christians.
St John Bosco, Pray for us!