St John Bosco (1815 – 1888)
He was born in Piedmont of a peasant family, and he was brought up by his widowed mother. He became a priest, and his particular concern was for the young. He settled in Turin, where, as in so many cities in the 19th century, the industrial revolution was bringing enormous movements of population and consequent social problems, especially for the young men who came there to work. John Bosco devoted himself to the care of the young, first of all by means of evening classes, to which hundreds came, and then by setting up a boarding-house for apprentices, and then workshops for their training and education. Despite many difficulties, caused both by the anti-clerical civil authorities and by the opposition of some senior people within the Church, his enterprise grew, and by 1868 over 800 boys and young men were under his care. To ensure the continuation of his work, he founded a congregation, which he named after St Francis de Sales (a saint for whom he had great admiration), and today the Salesians continue his work all over the world.
Other saints: Saint Alban Roe
He was born in East Anglia of Church of England parents as Bartholomew Roe, July 20, 1583. He studied for a time at Cambridge where he first met a number of Catholics and began to have doubts about the faith in which he had been brought up. For some time he wrestled with his doubts until it became clear to him that he was in conscience bound to become a Catholic. He studied first of all at Douai but after a year he was sent back to England, on the grounds that he had disturbed the peace and order of the College (he was apparently an ebullient character, a characteristic which stayed with him all his life). Having left he was accepted into the Benedictine community at Dieulouard (from which the monastery at Ampleforth is descended), was professed as Bro Alban in 1614, and was ordained priest a year later. Very soon he was sent to England. After working for three years as a priest in London he was arrested and taken to the Fleet prison. He spent three years in the Fleet when the Spanish ambassador obtained his release, conditional on his leaving the country for good. However he soon returned, spent a further three years working in London, was again arrested and was this time first imprisoned in St Alban’s (a particularly harsh prison) and then transferred to the Fleet where he stayed for many years. In 1641 he was transferred to Newgate to face trial, when he was found guilty of treason. On 21 January 1642 he died on the scaffold, being allowed to hang until he was dead. According to a contemporary source, in his death he showed “joy, contentment, constancy, fortitude and valour”. The feast is on 31 January according to the modern Gregorian calendar, already in use on the Continent: this corresponds to 21 January in the previous Julian calendar, which England was still using at that time.
Other saints: Saint Thomas Green (c.1560-1642)
Thomas Green (also known as Reynolds), was over eighty when he was executed. He was probably descended from the Greens of Great Milton in Oxfordshire, and the Reynolds of Old Stratford in Warwickshire. He was ordained deacon at Reims in 1590, and priest at Seville. He came to England early in the 1600s and spent nearly fifty years working on the English mission. He was arrested in 1628 and spent the next fourteen years in prison under sentence of death for having worked as a priest. He was executed without fresh trial. He was somewhat frail and was much encouraged by his companion Alban Roe, to whom he said, “glad I am to have for my comrade in death a man of your undoubted courage.” The two of them were drawn on the same hurdle, where they heard each other’s confessions, and were hanged simultaneously on the same gibbet on January 21 1642, amidst great demonstrations of popular sympathy.
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SAINT JOHN BOSCO
Born in the diocese of Turin in 1815, and brought up in poverty, John Bosco devoted his life to the education of working youth.
He founded religious congregations -the Salesian Order, and the Congregation of the Helpers of Mary -to carry on his ideals.
He fell asleep in the Lord on January 30, 1888 at the age of seventy-two.