We Are All Called by God
As Christians, each of us is asked to be faithful to our calling in life. Of course, we might not have a single calling or it might change over time. For example, St. Teresa of Calcutta, who is better known as Mother Teresa, was first called to be a Loretto sister before God called her to found the Missionaries of Charity.
From our baptism, we are called to be saints. We are called to be saints who grow in sanctity by living out our daily lives.
Over time, as you get older, you begin to understand that the most important way to answer God's calls is to be open and to be ready. We are open when we daily make Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane our own prayer, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Our wills should want to be conformed to God's will and not the other way around.
And we make ourselves ready by preparing our hearts to discern God's calling. That preparation comes from daily prayer, frequently receiving the sacraments, and loving our neighbors.
Then as God calls us each day to the tasks at hand or He calls us to something larger, we can discern His calling and answer it in obedience even if we can only see the next step we need to take.
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Preparing for God's Calling
John Bosco was born in 1815 in the Piedmont region of Italy. When his father died when he was only two years, his mother, Margaret Bosco, was left alone to raise John and his two older brothers Antonio, who was the son of his father's first wife who had died, and Giuseppe.
The boys learned from their mother how to work hard and to make the work easier by doing it with joy. She taught them the Faith including basic prayers such as honoring Our Lord three times a day with a short prayer. And she was faithful in taking them to mass and other special services such as vespers. John, in particular, picked up the lessons and absorbed what he learned.
Always up for fun, John particularly enjoyed attending the carnivals which came to the village near the family farm. The jugglers, clowns, tightrope artists, magicians, and acrobats were fascinating to young John. As a keen observer, he would watch the performances in order to understand how it was done. Then, after he had returned home, he would imitate what he had seen. After practicing the feats many times, he would put on a one-boy show to entertain the other boys in the surrounding area. After the show, when he had their attention, he would repeat the homily had heard that day.
Although the boys were a rough sort, John enjoyed being with them because when he was with them he believed that they behaved better. He knew that some of them did not have parents who passed along any kind of faith, and he wanted to share what he had learned.
Beside acrobatics and magic tricks, John would also entertain by acting out Bible stories. The boys loved to see the stories acted out, but when it came to John telling them about the commandments, they had less interest. Their attention soon turned to marbles or other games.
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The Call to the Priesthood
No one in John's family could read or write. Antonio was a course fellow who soon grew jealous of John and liked to order around both of his younger brothers when their mother was gone. Giuseppe was quiet, and, although he resented Antonio lording it over them, he would generally comply. John, on the other hand, always opposed injustice, and he chaffed under Antonio's unauthorized rule.
The family could not afford to send John to school so instead he took instruction from a holy priest who lived nearby. During the winters, he would walk each day to be taught by Don Delacqua how to read, write, and love God. To help pay for the instruction, John would work as a cowherd. As the cows did not need much herding, he would use the time to practice his lessons.
Other children found John with the cows and tried to pull him away from his work and studying in order to play. On most days, John was able to put off the boys. But, on one particular day, he could not get them to leave him alone. Finally, he shouted out in frustration, "Let me study. I want to become a priest." What had come from his mouth had started in his heart. It was a new realization even to himself.
Why do we need saints?
How does someone officially become a saint?
Now most of us have dreams when we sleep at night. However, we do not often place much stock in them. Many times we simply dismiss them as random thoughts and ideas which flitted across our minds as we slept and they have no more meaning than some random piece of information we receive. Nonetheless, we might do well to always ask the Lord if the dreams we remember have something for us to understand.
Certainly, in John's lifetime, he would have many dreams that he recorded. And these dreams played an important role in his life.
When John was about 12 years of age, he had a dream that set the course of his life.
In his dream, John found himself in a familiar setting. In was in a yard not far from his home. There were many others boys there who were playing, laughing, and some were cursing and swearing against God. John's sense of justice against the name of God caused him to rush in among the boys and to try to stop their behavior with his fists. He is unsuccessful although he is punching about wildly in his efforts to stop the blaspheming.
Suddenly, he sees a Man who is dressed as a noble and in the prime of his age. He is covered by a white mantle. The Man's face shines so brightly that John cannot look at it. The Man calls John by name and orders him to be in charge of the boys.
The Man shares this advice with young John, "It is not with blows, but with gentleness and charity that you will make them friends. Begin immediately to instruct them on the ugliness of sin and the reward of virtue."
Although the boys have gathered around the Man and have stop cursing and swearing, John is frustrated. He tells the Man that He is asking the impossible of him because he is only a poor farm boy.
The Man tells him, "What seems to you impossible you will make possible, if you choose, by obedience and study."
"Where and how shall I get the knowledge?" asks John.
The Man informs John that a lady will help him.
Then, John asks the Man to tell him His name.
"Ask My name of My Mother," he replies.
Then, a beautiful lady appears wearing a dazzling cloak.
She bids John come to him and then takes his hand. Then she gestures to the group of boys.
They are no longer boys but wild animals of all kinds.
She tells John, "This is your field, the field in which you must labor. Make yourself humble, strong, vigorous, and the miracle I shall work in transforming these wild animals before your eyes you shall work upon my children."
Then, John looked and saw that the wild animals had been changed into gentle lambs who were around the Man and the lady.
His eyes filled with tears, and John began to weep because he did not understand.
The lady put her hand on his head and told him, "You will understand all in due time."
Then, John woke up from his sleep.
The vivid dream could not be shaken from his mind, and John was unable to sleep any longer that night.
The next morning he shared his dream with his family. Quiet Giuseppe told him that it meant he would become a shepherd. Antonio suggested he would become the head of a group of bandits. His grandmother told him to pay no heed to dreams. Finally, his mother said that perhaps it meant John was to become a priest.
His mother's interpretation gave John the opening to later privately share his heart's desire to become a priest. When she asked him why he wanted to become a priest, John answered that he wanted to devote his life to children in order to help save their souls.
John had heard God's call and he had answered it by knowing it was from God and taking the first step although he did not understand much more than the distant goal and the next step in front of him.
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Feast Day (Memorial): January 31
Patron of School Children
Patron of Boys
Patron of the Salesians
More posts about St. John Bosco:
St. John Bosco and the One-Day Jail Break
Want to learn more about St. John Bosco and His Dreams?
Throughout his life, St, John Bosco had many dreams which he recorded. The dreams helped him in his ministry and also revealed the future to him. You can learn about 40 of his dreams and their spiritual significance in this book.
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