20150601 Salesians celebrate

This year Salesians are celebrating the 200th birthday of their founder, St. John Bosco (1815-1888). With this article we are starting a new series of articles on this great saint, whom St. John Paul II honoured with the title, “Father and Teacher of Youth.”
His mother was Margaret Occhiena Bosco (1788-1856). The Salesians call her “Mamma Margaret.” On Oct. 23, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI declared her venerable.
St. John Bosco’s father was Francis Bosco (1784-1817). The first wife of Francis Bosco was Maria Bosco. The couple and their son Anthony lived with Francis’s mother.
The Bosco family lived on the main road to the market from the village where Margaret Occhiena lived. Margaret would rest there on her way to market, and young Anthony would rush out with a bucket of water for her beast of burden.
One February evening in 1811, when Margaret was going home from the market, she saw 8-year-old Anthony weeping. Both his grandmother and mother were very ill. The grandmother survived, but the young mother, Maria, died.
After the death of his mother, Anthony became bitter, unfriendly, and bad-tempered. It became clear to Francis that he needed to find another wife who would be a good mother to Anthony.
Since Maria had died, Margaret stopped by each week to bring Francis’s mother a token of affection. The two women would chat and pray together. Francis’s mother suggested her son ask Margaret to marry him.
Though Margaret had already turned down the richest and the best men of the countryside, she accepted the proposal of the poor peasant. On June 6, 1812, Margaret, 24, married Francis, 28.
On April 8, 1813, Margaret gave birth to Joseph Bosco, and in the evening of Aug. 16, 1815, she gave birth to St. John Bosco.
One evening in early May, 1817, Francis returned from work bathed in perspiration. He made the mistake of entering the cold cellar of the farmhouse to do some work. The sudden temperature change resulted in a violent fever which was soon followed by pneumonia.
Knowing himself close to death, Francis asked Margaret not to grieve unduly over his death and to resign herself entirely to the will of God. He said, “I entrust our children to you, but take special care of little John.” Francis died on May 11, 1817, at the age of 33.
St. John Bosco wrote, “I was not yet 2 years old when my father died. I can’t even recall his features. I remember only the words of my mother: `Here you are, Johnny, left without a father.’
“We were all leaving the room where he had died, but I insisted on staying behind. `Come, Johnny,’ said my mother, coaxing me gently, but I would not move.
“`If Daddy is not coming, I won’t come.’
“`My poor son,’ she said, `come with me, you no longer have a father.’ And with these words the saintly woman broke down and started crying as she took me by the hand and led me away. I began crying too because she was crying.
“What can a child understand at that age? But those words, `Here you are, without a father,’ remained always in my mind. This is the earliest memory of my life.”
After the death of her husband, Margaret received a very attractive proposal of remarriage. She turned it down because she did not want her three children to be entrusted to a guardian.
She said, “I would not desert them for all the gold in the world. My duty is to dedicate myself entirely to their Christian upbringing.”?

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