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St. John Bosco – February 1

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

These are two excerpts from the book Some Pedagogical Ideas of Don Bosco.

A portrait of St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco, a patron of Catholic journalism

• It is undisputable that the personality of Don Bosco’s mother, Mamma Margherita, influenced his formation. This woman, a widow at age 29, profoundly marked the souls of her three sons. She had little formal education but remarkably good sense. Her uprightness of judgment, great piety and virile firmness made her an exemplary educator. Margherita required her sons to work either in the house or the fields. From the break of dawn, after morning prayer the children worked hard all day long. “Life is too short to lose the best part of the day,” she would say.

Laziness was not permitted. The meals were simple and at night they slept on the floor. She never allowed self-complacence and had always her mind turned toward heaven: “We are soldiers of Christ always with our weapons ready, facing the enemy, and we must win,” she used to say. This is the way she prepared her sons for life.

• In addition to the work of his religious congregation, the building of churches, the foundation of numerous orphanages and preparing missions in faraway countries, Don Bosco dedicated time by day and night to write. He knew how to serve the Church with the pen, at times combating errors, at times strengthening souls. As a man of his time, he was aware of the great influence of that new modern giant, the press. He used his pen for more than 45 years producing a variety of works according to the needs of his fight.

When Protestantism launched offensive attacks against the Catholic Church with popular periodic brochures, Don Bosco countered with his Catholic Lectures, a monthly publication with timely articles and questions that responded to the Protestant propaganda.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

Let me comment on these excerpts one at a time.

Regarding Mamma Margherita, she fits the description of that strong woman of the Scripture who fulfills her duties and whose value is "far and from the uttermost coasts." She lived her life uprightly, she formed her sons perfectly, and one of them became the great St. John Bosco.

Mamma Margherite

Mamma Margherita

Her life offers proof of just how erroneous the progressivist mentality inundating the Church today is. Indeed, for this flawed mentality, anyone who has to bear hunger, cold and suffering cannot have a spiritual life. According to it, the first step is to do away with poverty and hunger. Only then can one begin to talk about a spiritual life. Therefore, the beginning of all apostolates is this material action. Doing away with poverty becomes, then, one of the main if not the principal ends of the Catholic Church.

The life of Mamma Margherita demonstrates precisely the opposite. Her house was so poor that all the members of the family slept on the floor; the meals were frugal; the family members were subjected to much hard work. They led a typical poor life. Notwithstanding, she knew how to profit from this life and sanctified it by means of fortitude and the spirit of abnegation and sacrifice. Despite the poverty of the family, she saw to their material needs: her sons became strong men, capable of all kinds of work. At the same time, and this is what is important for us to note, she also took good care of their spiritual lives.

You see how Progressivism lies and fools Catholics when it implies that soft, comfortable conditions are indispensable for sanctity. This is completely wrong. Austerity, not softness, is what is needed.. This austerity must be observed in the formation of every family, even those of high levels with many resources.

In Europe this austerity was maintained in the formation of children and youth until some time ago. In the memoirs of the Duke of Nemours or the Duke of Alençon – I don’t remember which – it tells about the time when he was in London, exiled from France. He was young and lived with several other noble young men in the same house along the River Thames. The windows of their large bedroom were on the second floor opening straight out to the Thames. He wrote that when they would wake in the morning, it was their habit to jump out the window into the Thames. They would all do this every morning in the winter. This shows how they were accustomed to austerity. It is an example that comes to my mind on austerity in the formation of nobles. I wonder how many bad consequences would have been avoided if austerity were imposed in the formation of the youth of today’s wealthy families.

St. john Bosco hearing the confessions of his boys

St. John Bosco hearing confessions of his boys

Regarding the second excerpt, it is interesting to observe how St. John Bosco was always aware of the problems of his times. He was not a saint living in the clouds, as sentimental hagiographies depict many saints. St. John Bosco knew the problems of his time and combated the enemies of the Church as they actually were. When the Protestant propaganda became strong in north Italy, he developed an effective intellectual action against it.

Today most people have a revolutionary understanding of what is important. They think that the economic means is more important than intellectual skills, and that the material is greater than the spiritual. For this reason, when they speak about St. John Bosco, they tend to stress his works of social assistance, and underplay his intellectual work. I also praise and recognize the importance of the foundations he made to help poor boys and give them a good formation, but I don’t agree that he should be remembered primarily for those works.

When you examine his life, you see that he spent a large number of years writing; therefore, he was as much a writer as a man of outside activity. It is why he joins St. Francis de Sales as one of the two patron saints of the press. It is good for us to stress this point that sets things aright.

Let us ask St. John Bosco to give us the spirit of austerity he had and protect our intellectual work and our Catholic journalism.


Tradition in Action



Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.



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