Saint John Bosco

31st January

Saint John Bosco was born in Becchi, a small village near Turin, Italy. He was not a martyr putting down his life for his Faith, he was neither a great theologian nor a famous writer or a great reformer of the Church.

The greatness and saintliness of Don Bosco arose from his charisma that drew to him so many people, especially youths, because he “radiated the warm love of God.”

At the time when Don Bosco lived, many boys, most of them orphans, roamed the streets. They were poor, hungry and illiterate. Very often they resorted to stealing, getting into fights, using bad language, hurting each other in violent outbursts, ending in prison.

It was for these ‘street boys’ that Don Bosco dedicated his mission, his life. He started to meet boys in a form of Sunday school where he created an opportunity to teach the boys the Christian Faith, to spend time in prayer with them and also to play! This Sunday school developed into a Youth Centre, and later into a boarding house, an Oratory.

John Bosco’s mother, fondly called “Mamma Bosco” or “Mamma Margherita” supported him in his mission catering for the basic needs of the boys. She was a mother figure at the Oratory where her motherly presence provided psychological support for the boys.

Saint John Bosco, together with 17 other men founded the Salesians, under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, hence their name. The Salesians opened schools that prepared boys for the Seminary, they opened Sunday schools, night schools for working men, technical schools, organised apprenticeships, built printing presses and even built hospitals. Don Bosco also founded the Salesians Sisters to carry out a similar mission with girls.

The Salesians started their mission even in Malta, way back in 1903.  The mission of the Salesians goes on even today, in 2020!

Coming from a poor family and being an orphan himself, Saint John Bosco had to struggle to reach his aim, that of becoming a priest. When he started his mission with the ‘street boys’ he had many setbacks. But Don Bosco never lost heart. He was steadfast in his work, he persevered to carry out his mission.

Perseverance is a virtue that kids need to develop to be able to face challenges, because as they grow they will find that life is full of challenges.

Discuss with the children situations that you are aware of, where they need to be encouraged, where they need to have more confidence in themselves, where they need to persevere:

  • schoolwork
  • sports activities
  • skills
  • even winning / losing a board game!

A great deal of nurturing the virtue of perseverance depends on us, adults!

 Our messages to children should include beliefs that mistakes are opportunities to learn, so that they should not be disheartened by setbacks. We need to base our praise and encouragement on their hard work and efforts, for not giving up, for completing work/a job.

Saint John Bosco believed that his mission had to be based on kindness to resolve conflicts to steer the youths from violence.

Violence does not necessarily mean physical abuse. It could be verbal or emotional, both of which are equally hurtful.

Explore with the children their experiences of fighting, heated arguments, with friends, siblings, parents/guardians, other members of the family.

How did they feel? What did they do? How did they feel afterwards?

 When and how would they consider themselves to have been ‘peacemakers’ or ‘peacebreakers?’

Discuss basic conflict resolutions skills:

  1. Stop and think before acting. 
  2. Use ‘I’ messages like “I feel hurt when you…”
  3. Talk to find a solution, a compromise.
  4. Apologize, if there is the need.

When the conflict resolving involves us, the adults, and we need to correct, let us do it in private, when both of us have ceased to be angry. Let us end with an encouraging word in a context of love.

During Family Prayer Time let us thank God for providing us with teachers and catechists who spend time in preparation for the kids’ education. For so many generous people who have adopted or fostered children and care for them so lovingly.

If you have adopted or fostered, thank God for trusting you with the children who are praying with you. Express your love for them.

Let us ask God to ‘show the way’ to young people who have steered from the path that leads to Him.

Let us ask Our Lady to help us follow the Lord CHEERFULLY

As St. John Bosco always advised, let us do the best we can, in doing our duty at home, at school at work and… at play, to “Serve the Lord JOYFULLY.

Even though Don Bosco’s father died when Bosco was rather young, and although he came a very poor family, his mother helped and encouraged him to study. He became priest and helped lots of children and adolescents. Bosco never gave up on orphans and he made sure to help and love and see everyone happy!

Grab some Popcorn and watch this movie about St. John Bosco’s life.

Let’s show we love and care! 

Grab some sticky notes and different messages to show that you care, love and pray for others. Distribute these messages to your classmates, family or those who are lonely. These little acts will make others feel loved and happy. 

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.