31 January 2007

Our Saintly Cousin

John Bosco and the many religious, priests and laity who take him as their patron are some of our favorite relatives here in the Salesian family. Most people associate the adjective "Salesian" with this great saint who cared deeply for young people -- and rightly so. For Saint John Bosco put his humble catechetical program under the patronage of Saint Francis de Sales and thereby gave root to an esteemed and valued branch of our Salesian family tree.

Perhaps one of the more humorous (and human) anecdotes that comes down to us about this saint, fondly referred to as "Don Bosco" is his escapade at the abandoned church near the mill. Having taken his motley group of boys to the local parish Church, Bosco was soon "unwelcome" by the pastor due to the shenanigans that one can expect when gathering young men. Finding an empty Church near a mill, Bosco moved his group and soon enough the mill workers were complaining about the youngsters. The bishop sent two priests to visit St. John Bosco and to invite him to take a "ride" in a carriage which would be arriving shortly. Bosco suspected a plot and graciously agreed. When the carriage arrived he carefully suggested that the two priests precede him into the carriage and, slamming the door, instructed the driver to take them to the local asylum -- the very place they intended to send him! In the days before email, faxes, digital images and text messages, the asylum had no idea which priest they were expecting and the two who arrived at the institution were a long time talking themselves out of an extended stay. With a wink and a smile this cheerful friend of young people narrowly escaped an unexpected "vacation."

A few words from from his own pen regarding youth:

"Give them ample liberty to jump, run, make a din as much as they please. Gymnastics, music, theatrics, hikes, are very effective methods for getting discipline; they favor good living and good health."
St. John Bosco

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