II Samuel 24.2,9-17; Psalm 31; Mark 6.1-6
John Bosco (1815-88) was born near Turin in the Piedmont, during a period of drought and famine and in the era of reconstruction following the Napoleonic wars. As a young boy he saw a travelling circus troupe and began to teach himself magic tricks. He yearned to be a priest but lacked even the most basic of education. A sympathetic priest began to teach him and he was finally ordained in 1841. He devoted himself to alleviating the plight of poor boys who came to the city in quest of employment. Working at first in borrowed premises, John Bosco taught the boys; eventually through his efforts the establishment included a school, a technical college and a church. He gained a reputation as an eloquent preacher, often using the magic tricks he had learnt as a child to capture his listeners’ attention.
In 1859, along with 22 companions, he established the Society of St Francis de Sales (better known as the Salesians), named for the 17th Century Bishop of Geneva known for his gentle manner of teaching about the spiritual life and spiritual formation. The new order was dedicated to continuing St John Bosco’s work of spiritual direction and education of boys; it soon spread to England, France, Spain, and Argentina. With the help of St Mary Mazzarello St John Bosco also founded the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, devoted to undertaking the same kind of apostolate to young girls.