Young John Bosco was born on 16 August 1815 in a small hamlet of Castelnuovo D'Asti, in Piedmont, popularly called "The Becchi".
While he was still a child, his father's death made him experience the pain of so many poor orphans for whom he would become a loving father. However, he founa an example of a Christian life in his mother Margaret that left a deep impression on his soul.
At nine years of age he had a prophetic dream: he seemed to be in the midst of a multitude of children intent on playing, some of whom, however, were swearing. Immediately, young John jumped amongst them using his words and fists to silence them; but then a dignified man appeared who said to him: "You will have to win these friends of yours not by blows but by gentleness and love ... I will give a teacher. Under ger guidance you can become wise. Without her all wisdom is foolishness. " This dignified man was Jesus and the teacher Mary, to whose guidance he gave himself throughout his life and whom he honoured with the title of "Help of Christians".
So it was that John sought to learn how to be an acrobat, a magician, a singer, a juggler in order to attract his companions to himself and keep them away from sin. "If they stay with me," he told his mother, "they don't speak badly."
Wanting to become a priest, to devote himself entirely to the salvation of children, while he worked during the day, he spent his nights with his books, until at the age of twenty he was able to enter the seminary in Chieri and be ordained a priest in Turin in 1841, at twenty-six.
In those times Turin was filled with poor orphaned or abandoned boys looking for work, exposed to many dangers to soul and body. Don Bosco began to gather them on Sundays, sometimes in a Church, sometimes in a meadow, or in a square to let them play and so he could instruct them in the Catechism until, after five years of enormous difficulties, he managed to settle on the outskirts of Turin at Valdocco and open his first Oratory.
There the boys found food and lodging, studied or learned a trade, but above all they learned to love the Lord: Sainyt Dominic Savio was one of them.
Don Bosco was very much loved by his "rascals" (as he called them). To those who asked him the secret of his ascendancy over them he replied: "With kindnessand love I try to win these friends of mine over to the Lord." For them he sacrificed all the little money he possessed, his time, his ingenuity, his health. With them he became a saint. For them he founded the Salesian Congregation made up of priests and lay people who want to continue his work and to whom he gave as their "main purpose to support and defend the Pope's authority".
Wanting to extend his apostolate to girls as well, with Saint Mary Domenica Mazzarello he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have spread throughout the world and are at the service of the young, the poor and the suffering, with schools at every level, technical and professional institutes, hospitals, dispensaries, oratories and parishes.
He dedicated all his free time, often stealing hours of sleep, to write and spread easy to read pamphlets for the Christian education of the people.
In addition to being a man of very active charity, he was one of the great mystics.
All his work originated from his intimate union with God. From his youth he jealously nurtured and developed a filial abandonment to God and was faithful to the plan that God had prepared for him, guided step by step by Mary, who was the Inspirer and Guide of all his work.
But his perfect union with God was, perhaps like few saints, combined with so much human goodness, intelligence and balance, to which we can add the merit of an exceptional knowledge of the soul, an understanding that had matured over long hours spent daily in the ministry of confession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in continuous contact with young people and people of all ages and conditions.
Don Bosco formed generations of saints because he called his young people to the love of God, the reality of death,God's judgement, the existence of Heaven and Hell, the need to pray, avoid sin and the occasions of sin, and to approach the Sacraments frequently.
"My dear boys, I love you with all my heart, and it is enough for you to be young for me to love you very much". He loved them in such a way that each one felt he was especially loved.
"You will find writers far more virtuous and more learned than I, but you can hardly find anyone who loves you more than I do in Jesus Christ, or who desires your true happiness more than I do."
Exhausted by his tireless work, early on he fell seriously ill. A moving detail: many of his young people offered their lives to the Lord on his behalf "... What I did, I did for the Lord ... More could have been done ... But my children will do this work."
Before his death many years later, one of his recommendations was this: "Tell the young people that I am waiting for them in Heaven ... ."
He died on 31 January 1888 in his poor room at Valdocco, at 72 years of age.
On 1 April 1934, Pius XI, who had had the good fortune to know him personally,proclaimed him a Saint.