Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Don Bosco was a rascal

January 31st is the feast day of St John (Don) Bosco. He was a remarkable man, full of life and optimism- and at times a little devious. He knew how to get where he wanted with people and that often involved a little 'sleight of hand.' As a youngster he smashed a pot of cooking oil he should not have touched when his mother was out. The young John cleaned up the mess and took the cane his mother threatened them with and met his mother on the road. He confessed what he had done and gave the cane to his mother so that she could beat him. Of course his mother refused and he escaped punishment.
In dealing with young people in bars as a young priest he would often beat them at their own gambling games and even run off with the money  in order to get them out of the bar and to a place where he could talk sense to them.
Later, when he was raising money for large building projects, he visited a contessa to beg for money. He was shown into a parlour to await the great lady. When the contessa arrived Don Bosco had rolled back the expensive carpet and was stood on the tiles of the floor. She asked what he was doing. Don Bosco replied that he was a poor and simple priest and could not afford to stand on such an expensive carpet all the time with a twinkle in his eye. He got the big donation he was looking for.
 Later on, when he had fallen out with Pope Leo he realised he needed to make a large gesture to keep the Pope supportive of the Salesians. So he took on the building of a new church for the pope as a gesture of gratitude to someone he found difficult. It was the building of this church that eventually sent Don Bosco to an early grave.

In the Gospel we are encouraged to be as simple as doves and as wise as serpents (Matthew 10.16) and Don Bosco was both of those in his service of the young. We too need to be able to use our personality as a way to extend the network of God's kingdom. If we are to become saints today we need to engage with our culture and be able to influence, energise and loosen up the inner lives of others to the possibility of God at work in their lives.

Perhaps your personality can become the mirror of God's own face reflected in your thinking , in your actions and in your relationships. Maybe God is close enough to whisper a joke in your ear! Maybe you will hear God laughing at you and if you have the courage of Don Bosco you will be able to join the laughter too.