It was the year 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte had just been defeated, but his iron grip on the Piedmontese area of northern Italy could still be felt. He had bled the country of all its natural resources. The people were left to their own devices to survive, or starve. Dead bodies were found strewn all over the countryside each morning, having starved to death the night before. It was hard times for the common people, who had nothing to do with the political upheavals of the day. But they were the victims. They looked for a place to begin again.
Masses of migrants descended on the big city of Turin, Italy. They had deserted their farms, fresh air, and the fragrances of the land, in exchange for the sweat and stench of close quarters in these newlyfound slums, all in the hopes of a new life. But some were still holding on to the lives, their families had lived for centuries in the little hamlets, the rolling hills of northern Italy. One of these villages, Becchi, was to be the birthplace of one of the most powerful men in our Church. On the day after the Feast of the Assumption in 1815, our Lady gave us a gift, in the birth of John Melchior Bosco, in this unknown place, which is still not on the map of Italy today.
He was born of strong peasant stock, Francis and Margaret. Theirs was a large household to feed. Francis’ invalid mother, as well as a son by his first wife, plus John and his brother Joseph, created a major financial burden on the young couple. The fruits of their land were not enough to take care of the family, so Francis worked at other jobs to bring extra income into the house. It was while he worked for a landowner that he contracted pneumonia and died. John was barely two years old. John always remembered his mother’s words, although he could not remember his father: “You have no father, Johnny.”
Saint John Bosco
Publication date: 03/04/2011
Life of Saint John Bosco the Pied Piper of Turin
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