Saint John Bosco (1815 – 1888), also known as Don Bosco, was born in Becchi, Italy, the youngest son of peasant farmers. At the age of nine he had the first of several divine revelations which would come to him in the form of dreams. He dreamed he was surrounded by a mob of fighting and swearing children whom he tried in vain to pacify, at first by arguments and then by hitting them. A man of majestic bearing appeared and said, "With meekness and charity you will conquer these your friends!" A beautiful lady standing by the man told him “Make yourself humble, strong and robust.” The children were then transformed first into wild beasts and then into gentle lambs.
In time, Saint John Bosco was to understand that this dream was a heavenly sign that his vocation was to become a priest and help poor boys. He left home at the age of twelve in pursuit of the formal education necessary to become a priest. At the age of fifteen he met Saint Joseph Cafasso, who recognised his vocation and supported him in his studies. Saint John Bosco was ordained in 1841 and devoted his life to helping impoverished children in Turin. As part of this work, he built a boarding school for homeless and poor boys and founded the Salesians, an order dedicated to the teaching and care of poor children.
For his ministry, Don Bosco was persecuted by members of the government and by the masons, who went so far as to undertake several attempts on his life. The streets of Turin, therefore, were a dangerous place for him. But this did not prevent him from going on his rounds. Our Lord, then, in His goodness, protected him for several years in a most unusual way: by providing him with a canine guardian. This dog, which Saint John Bosco named Grigio, was a very large grey dog, which would show up at moments of danger and accompany the saint until he reached safety. It asked for neither food nor shelter, was gentle as a lamb with the boys in the oratory but savage against the saints’ attackers. On one occasion, for example, Don Bosco was returning home late at night and was attacked by two men. Grigio came bounding into the scene, knocked down one of the men and ended the struggle by putting both to flight. He stayed with the saint until he reached the oratory, and then moved on.
Saint John Bosco was also a builder of churches. He had two large churches built in Turin: one he dedicated to Saint Mary the Helper, and the other to Saint John the Evangelist. He likewise raised funds for the building of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome. Worn out and ill from a life of tireless labour, Saint John Bosco was able to offer one Mass at the main altar of this last church before going to his eternal reward.
Saint John Bosco died in January 31, 1888. Forty thousand persons came to the church to do honour to Don Bosco, and almost the entire city turned out as his remains were borne to their resting place. He was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI and is the patron saint of apprentices, publishers, editors and schoolchildren.