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St. John Bosco Teaches the True Meaning of Love

By Susan Ciancio

Today we celebrate the feast of a great saint who helped the poor and unwanted boys of Turin, Italy.

John Bosco was born in Italy in 1815. His father died when John was just two years old, so he was raised by his devout mother, who taught him about the Catholic faith. John was nine years old when he had a dream about unruly boys. In the dream, he heard a voice (a voice he attributed to God) that said he must teach these boys right from wrong and the ugliness of sin. When he told his mother, she said that maybe God wanted him to be a priest and to work with young men and boys.

John was a born leader, and that dream stuck with him. He always had a knack for getting boys to stay out of trouble. In fact, after young John arrived home one day—a bit scraped up—from being with these rough and tumble boys, his mother expressed concern. He said to her, “Mama, those boys aren’t really bad. They just don’t have a good mother like I have, and they don’t know their catechism, and their parents don’t take them to church. When I’m with them, they behave better.”

And St. John Bosco lived by that belief. When they were with him, they did behave better. He changed lives because of his love, his guidance, and his unwavering faith.

John became a priest, founded the Salesian order, and made it his life’s work to minister to young boys living in the streets. He led them to Christ by teaching them about Him and leading them away from a life of poverty and crime. He opened homes for young boys and helped bring them close to Christ.

John housed 40 boys in the first home. Within six years, that number grew to 150! He created workshops so the boys could train to be tailors and shoemakers instead of choosing to live lives of crime. He made sure they learned music, sports, and other subjects—anything to keep them off the streets. He was known as the “friend of boys” and was affectionately called Don Bosco—meaning father.

John died in 1888. At the time of his death, the Salesians had opened 250 houses and were helping 130,000 boys!

John Bosco used his leadership skills, his kindness, and his love of children to help build a culture of life and to get young boys off the streets. His work changed lives and saved souls.

Because we know the incredible impact St. John Bosco had on the world, we created a lesson for kids in middle school and older to teach them about his life and his good works.

To help you get as excited about Unconditional Love and Respect for Everyone: St. John Bosco as we are, we want to share six reasons you and your kids will love it. 

1. Kids will learn that their actions matter.

Through stories about Saint John Bosco’s life, students will learn to reflect on potential prejudices they have toward certain people based on their appearances, behaviors, or financial status. They will be challenged to think about how their own choices can have a lasting positive impact when they treat all people with respect. 

2. Kids will learn the importance of incorporating kind works into their daily lives.

Teaching kids the Corporal Works of Mercy is important, and teaching them to live those out is even more important. With examples from Saint John Bosco’s life, kids will be better able to model their actions after his. 

3. Kids will develop empathy for others.

Kids sometimes fail to think about how others feel or how negative things in life affect others. They tend to look at events and occurrences through their perspective only instead of trying to see through the eyes of someone else. This lesson challenges students to consider how others feel. 

4. Kids will understand the importance of seeing Jesus in all people.

St. John Bosco opened a home and a school for young boys who had no one to love them and nowhere to go. He did this out of love and because he understood that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. His example will help your students see the inherent dignity in all people. 

5. Kids will learn that all people have value.

St. John Bosco didn’t see dirty, unruly boys. He saw children of God. Because they all matter to God, they all mattered to St. John. This lesson will help kids understand that value is not earned; it is inherent in us all. And because we are all human beings with immense value, we should treat others as Christ would.

6. Kids will explore how they can use St. John Bosco’s example to touch the lives of others.

The lesson concludes with a fun game where students are challenged to think of ways they can use St. John Bosco’s example to make a difference in their homes or communities. 

Take time today to reflect on the amazing life of this incredible saint. He is one of the true heroes of our faith, and when we strive to emulate men like this, we make our world infinitely better.

St. John Bosco, pray for us!