The relics of Don Bosco arrive in Britain today, fulfilling the saint’s wish to visit the country.
St John Bosco, who founded the Salesian order, felt a calling early in life to visit England, but was too busy helping children in his native Piedmont. Towards the end of his life the Archbishop of Glasgow invited him to visit but he was unable to.
But the relics of the patron saint of young people, who was canonised by Pius XI in 1934, are arriving in Scotland at the start of a two-week tour of Britain, part of a worldwide tour that began in 2009.
Fr Robert Gardiner of the Salesian Office of Social Media and Communications said Don Bosco was very interested in visiting a country that was in the full swing of industrial revolution. He said: “He believed that God was calling him to come to Britain. I think that one reason is that industrial Turin was not a million miles from industrial Britain, there were young people on the streets being abused by employers, and he was keen on evangelisation.”
Raised in poverty outside Turin, Don Bosco dedicated his life to helping young people, many of whom had been left homeless, impoverished and cut off from their faith by the rapid advance of industrialisation in northern Italy. He established the Oratory of St Francis de Sales, helping young people to find jobs and learn about their faith.
Fr Gardiner said: “They had no links with their parish, by and large, so the Oratory he set up was their parish. He believed in a down-to-earth spirituality. We would sum it up as doing the ordinary things and doing them extraordinarily well. For those looking for work Dom Bosco was doing the role of the trade union. He was drafting up the work contract with employers. He took care of young people, their education, spiritual life and employment. And he set up employment, tailoring, book pressing, work he had learned himself.”
His relics will visit eight towns and cities across Britain in 12 days, finishing their British part of the tour at Suffolk Cathedral on January 14 and 15.
The relics will also visit Carfin, the national Marian shrine in Scotland, and Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Westminster and Southwark.
The full story is published in this week’s edition of The Catholic Herald.