Saint John Bosco is a saint of modern times. He died in 1888. He came from a very poor family. In fact, on his way to the seminary in Turin, he stopped at the local “Salvation Army!” Well, they didn’t have Salvation Armies at that time, but he stopped at the local “thrift store” to get himself some shoes and clothes so that he could have something to wear in the seminary because his family was very poor.
After his ordination, immediately he began what he is known for, namely working with the youth of his time especially those who were the most troubled youth, whom everybody thought were the outcasts who had no hope of any good in their lives, the troublemakers. They were the ones who nowadays most people would say, “Agh! That’s why the world is so bad! Look at those kids!” Isn’t that what happens all the time?
But John Bosco had a great love and caring for young boys. He helped a woman start an Order to care for young girls. His work formed what we call the Salesian Order, the Salesians of Don Bosco. They care for youth.
John Bosco got the youth to work. That is the best thing for everyone who is in trouble—teach them how to work. You know that old saying: “you don’t give someone fish. Instead you give them a fishing pole and teach them how to fish and then they will have fish for the rest of their live.” That is kind of how John Bosco dealt with these young boys. He started a printing press and he was actually the first priest or religious, the first person in the Church, to be interviewed by the media in our time. So he is a great example.
He had opposition from all corners especially from the government who tried to destroy his work and even to destroy him. But he, with God’s help, is a saint of the Church who worked with young people, had no fear of young people. That is what we need in our days, to have no fear of young people because we all have good in us and we are all created in the image and likeness of God. You look at Pope John Paul II. He is another leader who is like a John Bosco of our time. Can you imagine millions of young people cheering “John Paul II, we love you!” It’s beyond the imagination. The greatest gathering in the world today was with Pope John Paul II. Four or five million people in the Philippines for World Youth Day—the largest gathering ever.
So John Paul had that same spirit, the care and love for young people. That is really how the Church and the world will be renewed. If, in the heart of the young people, there is a love for the Church, a love for the faith, a love for Christ Himself, they will pass that fire on. Let us today pray for all of our young people, especially those who seem mostly without hope. We see that a lot in young people. We just saw that in the young actor who died of a drug overdose. He was starring in a new Batman movie. How sad that is! But there is still a great hope because, if we can reach the heart of the young people, we reach the heart of the Church.
God love you,