Saint John Bosco, who died on this day in 1888, offers us one of the most exemplary and endearing models of the priesthood, similar in some ways to Saint John Vianney, who died three decades earlier in 1859. Both men dedicated their lives in an heroic way to the ministry of alter Christus, Vianney to the parish and confessional, and Bosco, to the education and formation of boys.
John Bosco grew up in dire poverty in northern Italy, but by the grace of God, his own determination and some human help, he made his way through school and to priestly ordination. Realizing that he had been given his gift freely, he chose to give freely. Seeing, even living through, the dire needs of myriad of young boys around him, he set up a school and training centre for them, for otherwise they were left more or less to a feral life, with all the moral and spiritual degradation that entailed.
Father John was gifted and charismatic: Strong and athletic, he learned to juggle and do acrobatics, so to raise money to put himself through school, and dedicated himself like a dervish to his studies. Like the future Karol Wojtyla, he was a gifted man: handsome and intelligent, noble of brow and square of jaw, he forewent marriage to focus on the higher things, on the souls of boys and all those under his care. Like Wojtyla and Vianney, his life was almost entirely self-gift, a generous offering to God. The fruit of that sacrifice is evident through the world to this day, and the ‘Bosco’ method transformed how children were taught.
In the midst of the evil around us, all the deviant sexuality and selfishness that so corrupts man and society, we must always remember, with the example of John Bosco and countless others like him, that goodness, excellence, magnaninimty and holiness are not only possible, but eminently so, for this is the path upon which God leads us, through that still gentle voice of conscience, which calls us suaviter et fortiter, sweetly but insistently, to do His will, in which alone is our peace and our salvation.
Saint John Bosco, ora pro nobis!