Richard, from Workington, writes: Its pilgrimages like the one I made to Turin last month that only come around once in a life time, and you know when you get that opportunity and are able to take it that it really is God’s work. We were there merely 3 days but somehow we did so much it felt like a week or more. The second we got off the plane we were on a coach heading to Sassello - the home town of Blessed Chiara Badano - where we visited her tomb and met people who actually grew up with her. From there we visited the Shroud of Turin which was mind blowing. The next day we made a short journey to the home and work place of Saint John Bosco, and on the Sunday we had Mass celebrated by Pope Francis followed by an audience with him.
Despite everything we visited, saw, heard and experienced, the part of the pilgrimage which really struck me was the life and work of Saint John Bosco, he really is a saint for our times, and we have so much to learn from him.
We can read all about his life online and read books written about him, but to actually visit his home and see what he actually achieved takes it to a whole other level.
Saint John Bosco dedicated his whole life to working with the street children of Turin, at a time when there was great poverty in Turin, and no one was prepared to help. He spent months looking for the right building before eventually he was given a barn, he converted it into a chapel with the help of the children, giving them a sense of purpose. The first Mass there was celebrated on Easter Sunday, which is so fitting because with Christ’s resurrection so too did the mission of Saint John Bosco come alive.
He got jobs for the young men he was helping, but before long he realised they were being treated horribly on building sites so gave them jobs himself. They began to expand and build around the chapel, building a home for the priests and children. The priest’s homes were unique because if they wanted to move from room to room they had to use a balcony on the outside because John Bosco believed they should always see the children playing and the children should always be able to see them. His own room look directly over their courtyard as they played football and other games.
As his mission grew more and more young people joined many going on to become priests. He began working on a Basilica which he dedicated to Mary help of Christians. Despite having no money he convinced builders to begin work, borrowing money from them so he could pay… them.
With everything I learned from Saint John Bosco that day one thing I will always keep with me from his example is that as Christians, we do things because they are right, not because they are popular, and sometimes we have to go against the grain.
If we all learned from Saint John Bosco’s example, had his will to work, and his will to do the work of Jesus on earth, we would live in a very different world.