Sunday, December 07, 2008

I’m 16… and I don’t know anything!

"I'm 16… and I don't know anything!" so said a ragged urchin.

The boy's name was Bartholomew Garelli. He entered the church to seek warmth from the biting cold, but was shabbily treated by the sacristan because he refused to serve Mass. Don (Don in Italian is a title accorded to priests) John Bosco, then a 25-year old priest who was preparing for the Mass, witnessed how the sacristan bullied the poor lad. Wasting no time, he intervened by telling the sacristan that 'his friend' did not merit such blows.

After some quick warm informal exchange, Don Bosco bid him goodbye and asked him to come back the following Sunday with his friends. This simple encounter took place on December 8, 1841 and Don Bosco considers this as the launch of his ministry in caring for the young people.

He would carry out this work up until his death at the dawn of January 31, 1888 at the age of 73 years old. That time, 250 houses of the Salesian Society, the congregation he founded to continue his work, have been established in various parts of the world caring for more than 130,000 young people.

Don Bosco's earthly sojourn ended for more than 120 years now. But we still hear the repeated cries of the young people all over the world "I am 16… and I don't know anything."

He responded to this plea by providing them education, not only by teaching them how to read or write, nor by merely teaching them some basic skills in order to live. More importantly, he taught them how to love by exactly showing them a clear example how. 

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An extract from a commisioned article I did on Don Bosco, the Educator. It took inspiration from the address delivered by Cardinal Franc Rode, C.M., Prefect of the Congreation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, during the 26th Salesian General Chapter held earlier this year.