By Denise Trull
Today is the feast of the wondrous St John Bosco.
Talk about a "shepherd living with the smell of the sheep." His chosen flock? Homeless, teenaged boys. Jostling, noisy, loud, guffawing, boasting, smelly, smoking, testosterone led, cussing, arrogant, angry sometimes, know-it-all, awkward, teenaged boys. Lots of them. Together in one place - a small, makeshift barn discovered in the slums of Turin. The mere thought of all this is enough to make the rest of us close the door quietly and go back to bed.
But every day, like a spiritual pied piper, he gathered them up and talked with them, prayed with them, entertained them with magic tricks and circus antics on a makeshift tightrope, managed to teach them about Jesus, coaxed them into the confessional with gentleness and understanding, showed them how to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, who, he reminded them often, knew and understood their poverty.
He talked his shocked but willing mom into cooking for them all, knowing how rough and tumble those meals were going to be. He was absolutely convinced she would do it. And she did - for her Johnny. The boys grew to love her and would hug her roughly with a clumsy affection and call her Mama Margaret.
Many of the boys gave St. John great joy by becoming good men. But inevitably there were many who probably disappointed him unto tears. But he kept on going and believing and loving them and trying to find a safe place for each and every one of them despite continual opposition from his own local Church who did not want the ‘rabble’ hanging about bringing down the neighborhood. How many heartbreaks did he survive over the course of his life even from the Church he was trying to serve? And still he remained a man whose merry heart was like a medicine to a group of lonely, wandering, heartsick boys who desperately needed a father and got one because he said yes.
John was deeply devoted to Our Lady, Help of Christians and loved her like a little child who expected all things from his mother and eventually got them in miracle after miracle.
And in the end, countless rough and tumble boys learned a trade, learned to love Jesus, learned to go to confession, and became good, solid men simply because John got up every morning and believed that it would be so because of the love God had for them. What a beautiful, humble soul.
Merry St. John, pray for us!