This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31 -- Feast of St. John (Don) Bosco

Don Bosco was an Italian priest during the second half of the nineteenth century, a perilous time to be a religious leader, especially one with a social mission. Yet Don Bosco perceived the great need for someone to work with the older boys of Turin, those who lacked vocational skills, education, and direction in life. He founded a small oratorio (prayer house) for six homeless boys, dedicating it to St. Francis de Sales. During his life, this house would assist more than 800 boys by providing shelter, food, work, entertainment, and marketable skills. [Entertainment: Don Bosco was a juggler and acrobat.]

Leading a religious organization was dangerous work in post-unification Italy. The Church was seen as a rival to the fledgling state, resulting in arrests and closures all over the country. Don Bosco and his boys were evicted by a nervous landlord, but they found new digs and kept on.

During a cholera outbreak, Don Bosco and his boys worked hard to comfort the sick and remove the dead. The boys were understandably worried that they might contract the disease, but he told them that as long as they washed with vinegar after touching someone infected, they'd be okay. They must have also had a good source of clean drinking water because none of them fell ill.

Bosco dreamt of state funerals and wrote a letter to the king, advising him on an anti-religious bill. The King blew off Bosco's advice, but after four members of his family died, he relented. Of course he also accused Bosco of the deaths, but not in a formal, legal way. Admitting that he believed a priest could kill someone from so far away would be tantamount to admitting the supernatural powers of the Church, a position counter to the rational anti-clericalism of the age.

His order, the Salesians, continues worldwide to this day.

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