When I talk to my kids about the saints, I try to put them into historical perspective. St. John Bosco lived from 1815 to 1888 in Italy. He was alive during the American Civil war and in fact lived 21 years after the death of President Lincoln. My grandfather was born fourteen years after St. John Bosco's death. John Bosco was canonized in 1934, a mere 46 years after his death. My mother was only 5 years old at the time. We also have photographs of this saint so to my mind, as saints go, Saint John Bosco is practically contemporary!
What I love about Saint John Bosco is that he was able to find such balance in his life. He loved to learn and was a very good student, but he also made it a priority to have fun with his friends, go out of his way for other people, and to learn practical skills too! I love that he taught himself to walk a tight rope and to juggle! Those are two skills my boys tryied for themselves too (in fact Sam taught himself to juggle and I had the bruised fruit to prove it)! I also remember reading somewhere that John Bosco had the opportunity to learn how to make and mend shoes and he became quite good at it. It turned out to be a skill that was quite useful to him throughout his life of service to boys and young men, who undoubtedly were very hard on their footwear. Mr. Pete shares that philosophy and always takes the time to learn a new skill, which is why he now can do almost any household or auto repair he sets his mind to! One of the important lessons Saint John Bosco's life teaches us is that it never hurts to be open to learning something new or different - you never know when it could be useful.
There is lots of information about Saint John Bosco! My favorite resource, and the one that I read to my children today was once again from 57 saints.
On line resources include:
St. John Bosco - Catholic Online
CIN - The Secret of Saint John Bosco by Henri Gheon
St. John Bosco - Saint of the Day - American Catholic
Catholic Culture : Liturgical Year
St. Michael's Center
The4reallearning board also had some good info on St. John Bosco:
See how other Catholic families commemorate the day here
John Bosco and rebellious teens
Since I am a mom of four boys I was particularly interested in St. John's mother, Venerable Margaret Bosco. Since she was so successful in raising a saint (and in becoming one herself) I think it is important to see how she did it. I thought this piece was illuminating.
Catholic Culture : Library : Don Bosco, Seeker of Souls: "When he consulted his mother, always his wise adviser, she demurred and said, 'The only thing I want of you is the salvation of your soul. Follow God's will.' After praying over the matter John resolved to enter the Franciscans. At this point he was advised to consult Don Cafasso, a saintly young priest who had the gift of guiding souls. His adviser did not hesitate: John should enter the secular priesthood. 'Go on studying,' he said, 'then to the seminary, and there hold yourself in readiness to follow the guidance of God's grace.' John made his final decision in response to this advice of a holy man who was to have a great part in the career of the young seminarian. Donning his cassock, he at once took up his studies. His biographer says that he was the most popular boy in the college, first in his class, athlete, musician, everybody's friend, always ready to do a good turn to anyone, a potent influence for good.
In parting, Margaret Bosco put her hands upon the shoulders of her boy as she said to him, 'To see you with the cassock fills my heart with joy. But remember that the habit is not what gives honor to the state, but the practice of virtue. If at any time you should come to doubt of your vocation, I beseech you to lay it aside at once; I would rather have a poor peasant for my son than a negligent priest. When you came into the world I consecrated you to our Lady; when you began to study, I bade you honor her and have recourse to her in all your difficulties; now I beg you to take her for your Queen." The two clung together, deeply moved. "Mother," said John after a long silence, "before I leave you to take up this new life, let me thank you for all you have done for me. Your teaching will live always in my soul, a treasure that has made me rich forever."
Perhaps as a parent, the most important advice I can take from Saint John on his Feast Day is this:
In his rules he wrote: "Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass: these are the pillars which should sustain the whole edifice of education." Don Bosco was an indefatigable confessor, devoting days to the work among his children. He recognized that gentleness and persuasion alone were not enough to bring to the task of education. He thoroughly believed in play as a means of arousing childish curiosity -- more than this, he places it among his first recommendations, and for the rest he adopted St. Philip Neri's : "Do as you wish, I do not care so long as you do not sin."