St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was the son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. His father died when he was just two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs, and carnivals, practise the tricks he saw the magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.
He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. He was ordained in 1841. He was a teacher, and he worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray. He taught catechism to orphans and apprentices, and was chaplain in a hospice for girls.
He wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. He was a friend of St. Joseph Cafasson, whose biography he wrote. He was confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, a community of priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.
– Patron Saint Index
2 Samuel 18:9-10.14.24-25.30-19:3
Absalom happened to run into some of David’s followers. Absalom was riding a mule and the mule passed under the thick branches of a great oak. Absalom’s head caught fast in the oak and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule he was riding went on. Someone saw this and told Joab. ‘I have just seen Absalom’ he said ‘hanging from an oak.’ Joab took three lances in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive there in the oak tree.
David was sitting between the two gates. The lookout had gone up to the roof of the gate, on the ramparts; he looked up and saw a man running all by himself. The watch called out to the king and told him. The king said, ‘If he is by himself, he has good news to tell.’ The king told the man, ‘Move aside and stand there.’ He moved aside and stood waiting.
Then the Cushite arrived. ‘Good news for my lord the king!’ cried the Cushite. ‘The Lord has vindicated your cause today by ridding you of all who rebelled against you.’ ‘Is all well with young Absalom?’ the king asked the Cushite. ‘May the enemies of my lord the king’ the Cushite answered ‘and all who rebelled against you to your hurt, share the lot of that young man.’
The king shuddered. He went up to the room over the gate and burst into tears, and weeping said, ‘My son Absalom! My son! My son Absalom! Would I had died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!’ Word was brought to Joab, The king is now weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ And the day’s victory was turned to mourning for all the troops, because they learned that the king was grieving for his son. And the troops returned stealthily that day to the town, as troops creep back ashamed when routed in battle.
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
Do not be afraid; only have faith
I once read in a book about being there for people. I don’t remember the exact words, but it went something along the line of: People remember you for being there for them at three occasions: births, weddings, and deaths. No wonder we remember our priests so well! It is a saying that I take to heart and make it a point to be present with my friends, even if I can only spare half an hour. I make it a point to be there for them when they have their child (especially their first child). I am there for them at their wedding. When a loved one dies (especially a spouse), I am there for them long after the funeral ends and everyone goes home.
Death is not a joyful occasion. Even though among ourselves, we might joke about wishing someone were dead so that we can rejoice, death is not a joyful occasion. If we rejoice at someone’s death it is because we never knew the person. Because when someone close to us dies, a part of us dies as well. We weep and we grieve, not for the person who has died, but for the part of us that has died. Grieving is for the living, not for the dead, and it is a very necessary part of being human. This is what David’s grief reminded his troops.
A friend of mine recently passed away after a long fought battle against cancer. I did not know his family before he died, but after his wife got in touch with me, I have made a point to stay in touch with her by texting her every week to see how she is doing. Recently we met up for the first time and we shared stories about the person we’ve both lost. Through that process, I have gotten to know him even better. If there is one thing that I always tell those who are left behind, it is to take time to grieve. The other thing I tell them is that one day the pain will go away and that they will be able to remember their loss without the pain.
Jesus’ words to the official ring true: Do not be afraid; only have faith. Have faith in God who will see us through, even though we fear life without the person beside us. We fear life with all the pain and hurt, but this is what grieving does for us. It allows us to process the pain. In yesterday’s reflection, I wrote about what happens when anger is not processed. Grief too is a powerful emotion that needs to be processed, otherwise bad things happen. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent grief. We can only accept it and have faith that one day, the pain will be gone. It might take months, most likely years, but Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid; only have faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We pray for those who have lost a loved one recently. May they take all the time they need to grieve and to heal.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for allowing us to grieve.