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Saint John Bosco

Born: August 15th, 1815     Died: January 31st, 1888
Feast Day: January 31st

What he said

"Do you want our Lord to give you many graces? Visit him often."

What the world was like

John Bosco was born at the end of the War of 1812, which was between the United States and Great Britain. During his lifetime, the Gold Rush took place in California, encouraging many settlers to travel to and settle in the American west. Abraham Lincoln was president and the American Civil War was fought. Alaska was purchased from Russia. The first railroad linking eastern United States to California was completed. In other parts of the world, Ireland suffered the potato famine and the Suez Canal was opened.

The telephone, the light bulb, and the phonograph were all invented during John Bosco's lifetime. The first postage stamp was introduced. Anesthesia was used for the first time in an operation. The periodic table was discovered and the first construction of a steel-framed skyscraper was completed.

Who he was

John Bosco was born in Italy in 1815. His father died when he was only two years old. He lived on a farm with his mother and two brothers. Because John had to help take care of the sheep, he was not able to go to school full time. Although he had to work hard, he was happy and had a great imagination. He learned how to juggle and do acrobatics from circus performers and would often entertain others with his tricks. John Bosco would begin and end each performance with a prayer.

Even as a young boy, John Bosco wanted to become a priest. This seemed impossible because he was very poor and he lacked education. He was taught to read and write by a priest who recognized John Bosco's intelligence. Through the help of his mother, some kind neighbors, and money he earned doing various jobs, he was able to finish school and enter the seminary. As a seminarian, he spent his free time working with boys who were neglected and orphaned. He taught them religion, entertained them with his acrobatics, and told them stories that they could understand. He did not believe in punishment; he treated all with kindness and respect. John Bosco believed that God lived within each person he met and he treated each person with love.

At the age of twenty-six, John Bosco became a priest. He wanted to continue his work with neglected boys. He started a boarding school where these boys could live and learn the skills needed to make a living. With the help of a friend, John Bosco also started a home for poor neglected girls.

John Bosco founded an order of priests, the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), an order for women, the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, and an organization of lay people to help work with and teach the boys and girls.

What this saint means to us today

The schools that John Bosco began are still in evidence today and have spread all over the world. The Salesians continue to operate these schools, carrying on John Bosco's philosophy of education. John Bosco believed in teaching the skills necessary to enable young people to get jobs. This is still a focus of his schools today.

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