Scott Warden
February 6, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades: Like St. John Bosco, Anchor Your Life to Mary, the Eucharist

Scott Warden

Scores of the faithful at St. John Bosco Church in Churubusco gathered on Wednesday, January 31, to close out the parish’s 40 Hours devotion. They came to sing and pray, to give thanks to God, and to enjoy fellowship with one another – all of which they enthusiastically did throughout the course of the hourlong Evening Prayer service.

What they didn’t know they would get, however, was a history lesson from Bishop Rhoades on the Church’s patron, St. John Bosco, whose feast day coincided with the conclusion of the parish’s 40 Hours.

Photos by Scott Warden
Bishop Rhoades blesses the faithful at St. John Bosco Church in Churubusco on Wednesday, January 31.

Bishop Rhoades served as homilist for the evening and offered the crowd insight into the life of St. John Bosco.

“I hope that these 40 Hours have been a time of grace for all of you and for your families and your parish family here at St. John Bosco,” Bishop Rhoades began. “It is an added joy that this closing of 40 Hours takes place on the feast of your holy patron, Don Bosco, renowned throughout the Church as ‘the Father and Teacher of Youth.’”

Bishop Rhoades then reflected on the reading from Vespers from 1 Peter in which St. Peter implores the leaders of the Church to tend to their flocks like good shepherds. “Watch over it willingly as God would have you do, not under constraint; and not for shameful profit, either, but generously. Be examples to the flock, not lording it over those assigned to you, so that when the chief Shepherd appears you will win for yourselves the unfading crown of glory” (5:2-4).

Bishop Rhoades reminded the community that St. John Bosco epitomized this tender care toward his own flock in Turin, Italy, in the 19th century – a time during the Industrial Revolution when many teenage boys were homeless and living reckless lives of crime.

“Don Bosco heard the Lord’s call to help these young men, to educate them in trades and in the Catholic faith,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Beginning with a small group of these troubled youth, Don Bosco’s work grew to such an extent that thousands of boys’ lives were reformed and changed, thanks to his ministry. Clearly he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to lead and educate these young men, gathering them for prayer, instruction, and recreation. He did not follow the normal method of stern discipline. Instead, his way to save these young souls was the way of love. Following the way of Jesus, Don Bosco treated sinners with kindness and showed them affection. He was able to conquer their hearts by his goodness and kindness toward them. And the troubled boys were transformed. They grew in faith and virtue. St. John Bosco revolutionized the way the Church evangelized young people.”

As St. John’s flock – and notoriety – grew, so did his mission, as he founded an order of religious men under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesians, which, Bishop Rhoades told the crowd, is the second largest religious order of men in the world today. With St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello, St. John Bosco then founded a companion order of religious women, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, called the Salesians sisters. This order of women cared for and educated needy girls, just as St. John Bosco cared for and educated young men in Turin. Today, Bishop Rhoades said, the Salesian sisters are the largest women’s order in the world.

Bishop Rhoades told the audience that, from an early age, it seemed God was guiding St. John Bosco through dreams. He shared one of the most well-known.

“Don Bosco saw a huge naval battle raging, as a fleet of boats, especially its flagship, was under attack by opposing forces in other boats that were trying to ram and sink the flagship. The captain of the flagship was the pope, and the other boats of the fleet were captained by bishops. … But then John Bosco saw two huge columns or pillars coming out of the sea. At the top of one pillar stood the Blessed Mother, with the words ‘Help of Christians’ underneath her.  On the other pillar was a very large [Eucharistic] host with the inscription underneath saying, ‘Salvation of believers.’ The Pope anchored the flagship to these two columns. As soon as he did so, the battle was won, and the enemy ships were sunk. John Bosco interpreted this dream as an indication of the attacks of the enemies who try to sink the Church. He saw the remedy: anchoring oneself to Jesus in the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother, the Help of Christians.  These were really the pillars of St. John Bosco’s spiritual life.”

Bishop Rhoades implored the faithful at St. John Bosco Parish to emulate their patron’s love of the Eucharist and love of Mary.

“Amid the storms of life, the storms of this world,” he said, “we find peace, joy, and eventually eternal life if we tie our ships to the two pillars that St. John Bosco saw in his dream: the Most Holy Eucharist, the salvation of believers, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Help of Christians.”

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