Vision Books, #1
Finished: Feb. 13, 2010
First Published: 1955
Genre: biographical fiction
"He can pick coins right out of your ears!" shouted an excited eleven-year-old boy.
Acquired: Bought and own a copy.
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 9yo as a combination of religious studies/history.
Comments: Written in a story format this book tells the life of 19th century John Bosco, one of, if not the first, person to take an active interest in the welfare of the delinquent street children. John's desire to help came to him as a child and as such he devoted himself to helping boys first by simply performing magic tricks, which he laboriously studied to perform, outside church for the payment that the boys watching must attend the Mass. As he grew older his commitment to helping stray boys who came from very poor homes or were homeless became stronger and stronger and Bosco knew as a child that he must become a priest to accomplish everything God had in mind for him.
Bosco himself was from a hard working family with only a mother to support him and two brothers, the eldest who had no compassion towards John's calling. Bosco had not even been to school and yet he wanted to become a priest which required much schooling! It was impossible to envision a means to his end, but through the grace of God he always just managed to move forward along the road until he eventually became a priest and throughout it all he never stopped recruiting boys, making a clubhouse for them, a place where they could play and pray together that kept them off the streets and out of trouble.
As an adult he built his first school and became parish priest to his boys. This was just the first of many schools and churches he built and organized that became the Salesian Society. He later on encouraged a godly woman to take up the vows and become the head of another branch of his society which would aim at helping girls from poverty stricken homes. During the book we are also told the short, inspiring, sad story of Dominic Savio, a young boy who was deeply spiritual and took after Don Bosco's heart and yet he was sent home to be with the Lord at only 14 years old.
This is a deeply moving, spiritual story, full of the wonder and mysteries of the Catholic Church. Written well in a narrative style that will keep children engaged, there is an equal focus on the adolescent as well as the adult Bosco. The book also shows Don Bosco's tremendous sense of humour and his easy going demeanor. A truly inspiring story that is relevant today. While we read the book we celebrated January 31, the Feast of Saint John Bosco and we've also since bought prayer cards for each of us of Saint John Bosco. The 9yo was very inspired by the story. Once John Bosco grew up and became a priest ds said that the book was getting much more exciting now "but" he said "I don't want to be a priest." That's ok, I told him, you can do God's work in many other ways without becoming a priest. Inside, I was thinking, I don't want you to be a priest either honey because I'm hoping for some grandbabies in my old age! And upon completion of the book, which ends with John Bosco's canonization ds's final words were "That was really good, Mum!". I concur.