Before the beginning of the life of saint John Bosco a rapid calamitous events has swept over Europe at the end of 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century.
War against the papacy. Protestant princes grown rich by despoiling the church, by usurping the Pope’s spiritual supremacy and persisted in their arrogant rebellion against the vicar of Jesus Christ. they were constantly pressing the Pope to betray his obligations and submit to their bullying. The storm clouds of rebellion hovered menacingly over the Catholic Church.
People most especially the Christians were living in fear but there were the Christian mother’s who planted the seed of holiness in the hearts of their children, making them worthy of the mission for which God had created them.
Margaret Occhiena, John Bosco’s mother was certainly one these Christian souls on whom God looked with favour. She was born in April 1, 1788 in Capriglio in the diocese of Asti, to Melchior Occhiena and Domenica Bossone and baptized on the same day. The village had about 400 inhabitants and was located on a small plateau enclosed by Sharp-jutting hilltop in a thickly wooded area six miles from chieri. Margaret was the third child of five brothers and sisters.
Her family is a God fearing family. She got married to Francis Bosco from little hamlet of becchi about three miles from Castelnuovo, in a village of morialdo. Francis Bosco was born in February 4, 1784. He works as a jobber to support the family.
Francis was a man of excellent character. He died two years after the birth of John melchior Bosco. The family felt the great loss because the bread winner of the family is gone. Mama Margaret was left with all the family responsibilities to care and provide for the family.
A great raging famine and hunger had reduced Piedmont to a state of misery, people were found dead in the fields, their mouths stuffed with grass which they had tried to satisfy their raging hunger. Amid all this misery, Mama Margaret continued to feed the her family as long as she was able. When this moment of crisis was past and conditions had improved, Margaret received a very attractive proposal of marriage but she turned it down. She said her duty is to dedicate herself to her children.
Mama Margaret became the sole Christian educator to her children. She encouraged them in the diliigent practice of their faith and to live up to it’s precept. She teaches them catechism instructions, so she frequently repeated catechism questions and answers until the children had memorized them. She was a deeply religious person. Margaret constantly reminded them of God, their creator, by drawing their attention to the beauties of nature. She will always say to them that “God sees you in whatever you do”.
This words of Mama Margaret has always remain in the heart of John Bosco. Margaret kept her children children’s conduct under constant supervision, but there was nothing unpleasant about her vigilance. Her children noisy games never annoys her rather she took part in them herself and suggest new ones. Mama Margaret and her children lived happily and as a result of her caring and teaching her boys grew up to be well mannered, reserved and careful in their behaviors.
John as a little boy developed a keen interest in the marketers and fairs of neighbouring villages he would always watch strong men walking on tightrope. He also practice tightrope walking and as a result he had many bumps, bruises ,falls and tumbles but nothing dismayed him.such determination is beyond belief.
John felt he had to excel among his companions so as to be of greater benefit to their souls. At the age of nine he could perform all sorts of acrobatics and spectacular feats. John’s misunderstanding with him step brother Anthony forced him to leave home.he was filled with sadness, bitter cold. He could expect nothing from home, because his stubborn step brother would not let Margaret to send him anything. He went to Mr Moglia in Moncucco to look for work as a farm boy. In Dec.1829, John met his uncle Michael who advice him to go back home and John obeyed.
Later on through John’s encounter with Fr. Calosso he promised him to support his education but a great tragedy occurred when death snatched away Fr. Calossoaway from him, he wept disconsolately. In order to prevent more difficulties with Anthony the family properties was shared between Anthony and Margaret. In Dec.1831, John started school at Castelnuovo municipal school, he stayed with Mr Roberto as a part-time logging student because of the distance from home to school.
John loves his teacher Fr. Emmanuel virano who taught him Latin but later Fr.virano was transferred to Modonio as the parish priest and Fr. Nicolas moglia took his place. The embarrassement John received from Fr. Nicolas made him to left the school and he went to Sussambrino to work for Joseph Febraro who is a sharecopper.
John studied so much because he wants to be a priest, he went round the village begging people for their help to support him but a brave woman from becchi went to Fr. Dassano the parish priest of Castelnuovo asking him to help John because he is a good boy. John appeared before the parish priest of Castelnuovo for the certificate of admission. In 1835, John went to chieri to study to became a priest.
During his pastoral institute the dream he had at 9yrs remained deeply imprinted on his mind, when he saw himself in the midst of multitude of boys, some fighting, some laughing and some abusing themselves with foul languages but he tried to stop them but he couldn’t and at that moment he saw a majestic appearance and she said to him”look and so he turned and all the children had vanished and turned into animals,goat,cats, dogs,bear, lambs and a variety of others and finally she said to him, this is your fields of work.
Make yourself humble, steadfast and strong. After John Bosco’s ordination on June 5, 1841, under the guidance of Fr. Cafasso, Don Bosco discover the need of young people especially those at the risk of loosing the future dream.
Don Bosco words simply charmed the young, if they are bad, he made them good, if they are good he led them on the path of perfection and encouraged them to emulate St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whom he pointed out as their patron saint.
Mama Margaret’s greatest joy was to see the flowers of virtue which she had sowed as seedlings grow to their full perfection in the heart of her son and having fully followed his vocation.