You know “that priest”? The one who always has really great advice. He challenges you to be holy, and doesn’t accept excuses but is somehow incredibly merciful all at once? When you listen to him, you truly feel a connection to God?
I hope you know him. Every Catholic needs a priest like that in their lives…
For us “lucky” folks living in the age of social media, we have an incredible example of this type of priest in Fr. Mike Schmitz. He’s manages to pack incredible spiritual punches into his weekly videos that are only a few minutes long. Though he’s deeply profound, his advice is always simple, practical, and something I can remember –even if I haven’t had my morning coffee yet!
St. John Bosco
‘Giovanni’ Bosco was a priest, teacher, and educator in 19th century Italy. He grew up poor due to the early death of his father. This background made him incredibly sympathetic to the young boys he met while doing prison ministry after his ordination. The majority of the “men” in prison were between the ages of 12-18. The deplorable conditions of the place made him resolve to help boys avoid making the kind of choices that could lead to a prison stint.
Don Bosco started by taking his juggling skills to the streets (a talent he learned in his youth from traveling circus performers). After entertaining the boys and making them laugh, he would preach a homily. Slowly but surely, the boys began to come to him for help with different situations. These relationships eventually lead to the founding of an official school run by the priest himself.
Bosco not only fed and sheltered them, he matched more than 800 boys as apprentices with local tradesmen, assuring that all of them would be able to provide for themselves in an honest manner once they were of legal age. He also guided them spiritually, routinely meeting with each boy one-on-one, discussing weaknesses and strengths, and helping them grow in holiness.
If you look at some of the things he said without any context, you might not be all that impressed. But if you know that these things were said to young men who had been living on the streets, some of whom had never had a family to love them, and the only community they had were other hard-hearted “street rats”; AND theses things were said by a man who had taken them in, cared for them, and prepared for them to have a future (both in this life and the next)… these little bits of wisdom become a whole lot more moving…
- “The power of evil men lives on the cowardice of good.”
- “Whatever you do, think of the Glory of God as your main goal.”
- “The principle trap that the devil sets for young people is idleness.”
- “Act today in such a way that you need not blush tomorrow.”
- If one is to do good, he must have a little courage, be ready for sacrifice, deal affably with all and never slight anybody. By following this method I have always had significant success, in fact, marvelous success.”
- “Let us strive to fair well in this life and the next.”
- “Do you want your companions to respect you? Always think well of everyone and be ready to help others. Do this and you will be happy.”
- “Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.”
- “Fly from bad companions as from the bite of a poisonous snake.”
- “Do not try to excuse your faults; try to correct them.”
- “We do not go to Holy Communion because we are good; we go to become good.”
- “Be brave! Do not be led by what others think or say.”
- “Everything and everyone is won by the sweetness of our words and works.”
- “I do not fear at all what men can do to me for speaking the truth. I only fear what God would do if I were to lie.”
- “Willingly suffer a bit for God who suffered so much for you.”
Changing Lives, then the World
By his work, Don Bosco changed the very culture of his little part of Italy. He took boys off the streets and taught them to be men. These men became loving husbands and fathers, as well as responsible contributors to society. Many Bosco boys were so inspired by their pastor they ended up joining Don Bosco’s ministry. Eventually, Don Bosco and his followers became an official religious order, the Salesians (named for St. Francis de Sales). They exist across the globe, continuing to educate young men.
If you aren’t familiar with this saint, I highly recommend taking the time to get to know him (I’ll be diving in more too because he’s my saint for the year)… you won’t be unmoved…
And Happy Feast of St. John Bosco!