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St. John Bosco

Why he’s the patron saint of young people

St. Giovanni Melchior Bosco (St. John Bosco)

Born: Aug. 16, 1815

Died: Jan. 31, 1888

Feast: Jan. 14

His one-boy show:

Giovanni was born to poor parents in a little cabin in Becchi, a hillside hamlet in Italy. His father died when he was only two years old, and his mother Margaret was left with three sons to raise on her own. As soon as Giovanni was old enough, he learned magic tricks from performers at carnivals, fairs and circuses. He gave one-boy shows to earn money, and then repeated the priest’s Sunday homily to his audience of children.

On deciding what to do with his life:

Giovanni Bosco also worked as a shepherd and had little time for school, but did receive instruction from the parish priest. He was drawn to the priesthood and entered the seminary at Chieri in 1835, at age 20. To pay for his schooling, he worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker and carpenter. After six years, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Franzoni of Turin, and acquired the title, “Don.”

A tragic scene – children in prison:

Don Bosco visited prisons in Turin and was appalled by the condition of the children confined there. He decided to devote his life to the rescue of abandoned and outcast children. In December 1841, he began instructing a young street urchin named Bartolomeo. By March 1842, he had 30 students, and by 1846, 400. 

Unfortunately, Giovanni was forced to give up the rooms he was using for a school and chapel, and his ministry was beset with obstacles for a time. His quiet perseverance and intense dedication prevailed, however, and finally he was able to open a school and home, aided by his mother, which housed more than 700 boys. The home was known as the Salesian Home, named in honor of St. Francis De Sales. In 1868, he – and a group of priests and teachers who worked with him – formed a society called the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Why he’s the patron saint of young people:

St. John Bosco was known for his gentleness and patience with children. He never punished– he instilled a sense of duty instead. He believed music was a powerful force for good, and started a band for his pupils. Children loved him for his sense of play, which he recommended as a vital part of a child’s life. Because of this, Don Giovanni Bosco is the patron saint of boys, schoolchildren, students and young people.