Saint John Bosco, Priest

Monday 31 January 2022

2 Samuel 15:13-14,30,16:5-13; Psalm 3:2-8; Mark 5:1-20

The Gospel today is 'The Gadarene Swine" one of the many times in which we see Jesus delivering an unfortunate soul from he grip of evil spirits. A Legion was 6000 solders - so we see the poor man was overwhelmed by the invasion of his soul. The deliverance takes place in gentile land and the man healed was a gentile (he uses a Gentile name for God - 'Most High Lord', differing from the 'Son of God' that is used elsewhere and is a name full of meaning to Jews.) An important diversion of Jesus in Marks' Gospel which in all other respects deals only with those of the Jewish faith. The healed man was, notice, not allowed to follow Jesus. The time has not yet come for the message of salvation to reach the gentiles.

The legion of spirits end up in a herd of pigs, who then drown themselves in the Sea. The likely location of this event is at least 7 miles from the sea and possibly 20 miles - both ridiculously long distances for a pig to run, so one can assume this aspect is a literary flourish: although no pigs were harmed in the making of this story, no one at that time would have worried anyhow, as a Pig was as low - possibly lower - than we might regard a sewer rat in our day. The point of the story being that Jesus's disposal of the spirits was complete, and total, and irreversible.

St John Bosco

He was born in Piedmont of a peasant family, and he was brought up by his widowed mother. He became a priest, and his particular concern was for the young. He settled in Turin, where, as in so many cities in the 19th century, the industrial revolution was bringing enormous movements of population and consequent social problems, especially for the young men who came there to work. John Bosco devoted himself to the care of the young, first of all by means of evening classes, to which hundreds came, and then by setting up a boarding-house for apprentices, and then workshops for their training and education. Despite many difficulties, caused both by the anti-clerical civil authorities and by the opposition of some senior people within the Church, his enterprise grew, and by 1868 over 800 boys and young men were under his care. To ensure the continuation of his work, he founded a congregation, which he named after St Francis de Sales (a saint for whom he had great admiration), and today the Salesians continue his work all over the world.

St Alban Roe

He was born in East Anglia of Church of England parents as Bartholomew Roe, July 20, 1583. He studied for a time at Cambridge where he first met a number of Catholics and began to have doubts about the faith in which he had been brought up. For some time he wrestled with his doubts until it became clear to him that he was in conscience bound to become a Catholic. He studied first of all at Douai but after a year he was sent back to England, on the grounds that he had disturbed the peace and order of the College (he was apparently an ebullient character, a characteristic which stayed with him all his life). Having left he was accepted into the Benedictine community at Dieulouard (from which the monastery at Ampleforth is descended), was professed as Bro Alban in 1614, and was ordained priest a year later. Very soon he was sent to England. After working for three years as a priest in London he was arrested and taken to the Fleet prison. He spent three years in the Fleet when the Spanish ambassador obtained his release, conditional on his leaving the country for good. However he soon returned, spent a further three years working in London, was again arrested and was this time first imprisoned in St Alban’s (a particularly harsh prison) and then transferred to the Fleet where he stayed for many years. In 1641 he was transferred to Newgate to face trial, when he was found guilty of treason. On 21 January 1642 he died on the scaffold, being allowed to hang until he was dead. According to a contemporary source, in his death he showed “joy, contentment, constancy, fortitude and valour”. The feast is on 31 January according to the modern Gregorian calendar, already in use on the Continent: this corresponds to 21 January in the previous Julian calendar, which England was still using at that time.

Posted in Daily Reflection.