ST. JOHN BOSCO (1815-1888): a spiritual outline

da | 23/01/2014 | AAS BLOG | 0 commenti

Giovannino Bosco was born on 14 August 1815 in a poor family of peasants near Asti (Northern Italy). At 2 he lost his father and “Mamma Margaret” brought him up together with two other children. God enriched him with many gifts; when he was  9 years old in a mysterious dream He called him to a special vocation: to give himself totally for the good of the young.
From his youth Giovanni was known for his piety, his industry and his realism. He founded, with his schoolmates, the “Cheerful Society”, whose end was to fulfill their school and religious duties “serving the Lord with joy”.

Having overcome many difficulties, Giovanni became a diocesan priest (1841). “Don Bosco” began his work in Torino for the disadvantaged youth, the orphans, sons of ordinary workers, deprived of whatever spiritual help, like the many boys who would leave villages and countryside to go to the city in search for work to live by.
Moved by his great zeal “for the salvation of souls”, Don Bosco took care of them using all possible means. He went around to look for them, gave them a roof and a friendly heart, he opened the  “Oratory”, established schools and workshops. He took care of both their religious formation and elementary instruction, also writing short manuals of piety and elementary text-books.  Concerned with their material and professional welfare, he went as far as signing with their employers just and fair work-contracts.  For these and other reasons he was somehow ahead of his times.

Don Bosco, first with his saintly life and then with his teachings,  guided the youth to an authentic Christian life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to Our Lady and to the Pope. In this way, he enabled them to take their rightful place both in the Church and in the world, as “good Christians and honest citizens”.

As the range of his ministry broadened and the demands increased, he was encouraged by Pope Saint Pius IX to give stability to his work, looking for “partners” who would embrace a common religious life. He chose them among his best young-adults, and spent his energies in the formation of each of these, according to their specific personality. With them, he founded the Salesian Congregation (1959). Many other clerics, in their hundreds, he formed for several dioceses which, due to the anticlerical laws of that time, had no seminary.  To reach out to the girls of the popular classes, he also founded, assisted by Saint Mary Mazzarello, the Congregation of “Mary Help of Christians” (1972). Later on he sent some of these sons and daughters to the far away missions of Argentina (1975). In addition to that, he gave a “rule of life and apostolate” also to lay people who, remaining in their houses, would spread his spirit in all layers of professional activities and daily life: The “Salesian Cooperators” (1876).

Don Bosco’s  educative system, based on “reason, religion and loving kindness”, aims at accompanying the young alongside the integral development of their  capacities. And so, preventively equipped with inner motivations and strong virtues, they will be able to resists the attacks of evil and to grow in all forms of good,  up to the perfect maturity. Saint Dominic Savio, who died at 15 years of age, is a masterpiece of this “pedagogy of sanctity and joy”. The wellspring of this all, is the gentle meekness of Jesus’s heart. But this divine love must be expressed in concrete tangible ways; Don Bosco used to recommend: “It is not sufficient to love the young; they need to feel that they are really loved”.

At the end of his life, though he had consumed all his strengths in the service of the Church and of the young, Don Bosco humbly confessed: “If my faith had been a little bit greater, how many more miracles would the Lord had done!” But he also prophetically added: “I just started this enterprise, you will foster it and bring it to ever greater expansion”.

And in fact in a very short time his “Salesian Family” expanded throughout the world. In 1891 his first successor, the blessed Michael Rua, sent the Salesians to the Holy Land. They merged with the existing Congregation of Fr Antonio Belloni. Among the best fruits of this merger was the Venerable Simaan Srougi  of Nazareth (+1943). Today the “Salesian Family of Don Bosco” counts 15.373 Fathers and Brothers (among them  6 cardinals and 121 bishops), 13.404 Sisters, and thousands of Cooperators ministering  in 123 countries. In addition to that, in the course of time, more than 30 new Religious Congregations and Lay Institutes were established which share the same spirit and mission of Don Bosco, at the service of the Church and of  the  young people.

Don Gianni

As the range of his ministry broadened and the demands increased, he was encouraged by Pope Saint Pius IX to give stability to his work, looking for “partners” who would embrace a common religious life