Rector Major from 1888 to 1910.
Michael Rua was welcomed as a boy by Don Bosco, grew up in the oratory at Valdocco and, after having professed among the very first young people in the Salesian Society, he became the right arm of the Founder whose life and ideals he always shared.
He was Vicar of the Saint whom he succeeded in 1888. Showing fidelity to Don Bosco's spirit and action, he constantly developed the work he had inherited, leading it to a solid internal organisation and ensuring its expansion around the world.
In this framework of fidelity to Don Bosco, the most salient features of Fr Rua were – among other things – a great and loving pastoral and social openness, tireless industriousness marked by Don Bosco's "work and temperance", to which he added his personal refinement, warm gentleness, predilection for poor youth, and the oratorian spirit. It was he who said that "every house must be an oratory." He was a nman of courageous missionary zeal and concern for the laity. From Don Bosco, Fr Rua inherited a keen interest in young workers and the working class, and keen interest in any form of organisation designed to protect and defend human rights. He developed a warm relationship with the French social reformer Leone Harmel since 1875, and gave support and assistance to the numerous worker groups from beyond the Alps who repeatedly demonstrated their Christian choices as workers in Italy and also to Leo XIII, the Pope who wrote "Rerum Novarum". The foundation of the first Catholic Union of fashion workers dates back to Blessed Michael Rua's workin Turin, and he was known to intervene with initiatives during strikes to re-establish – without prejudice to the fundamental rights of individuals – the fairest relations between workers and employers.
The reputation for holiness that accompanied Fr Rua throughout his life grew after his death. Pope Paul VI beatified him on 29 October 1972.