In one of his most famous dreams, St. Don Bosco saw a large ship being attacked by smaller ships. Eventually, the Holy Father steered the larger ship, which represented the Church, safely between two pillars: the Blessed Mother and the Holy Eucharist. Like the Holy Father, the parents of the saints helped guide their domestic children to the shores of eternity. In this month of May dedicated to Our Lady, many mothers want to know how they can raise saints. It should come as no surprise that the two pillars or foundations of the parents of the saints were in fact: devotion to the Blessed Mother and devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
Margaret Bosco, Mother of St. Don Bosco
Below is an excerpt from the book, Parents of the Saints, pertaining to Margaret Bosco, the mother of St. Don Bosco:
“After losing her husband at the young age of twenty-nine, Margaret Bosco experienced the trial of single-handedly raising three boys. Ironically, at twenty-four years of age, she had married the widower Francis Bosco, whose first wife had died young. Margaret initially refused Francis’s proposal, as he had a little son and cared for his elderly mother, but Margaret’s father and friends encouraged her to accept him. One of St. John Bosco’s earliest memories was of when, at the age of two, his mother said to him, “You have no father now,”6 which remained etched in his mind for the rest of his life. John Bosco was deprived of an earthly father to reflect the Heavenly
Father’s love, while his mother was deprived of a spouse to mirror Christ’s love.
Despite her tremendous loss and ensuing suffering, Margaret strove to carry out her husband’s dying wishes by resigning herself to God’s will, which meant being the spiritual head and heart of the family. Although she could never replace her husband, she showed the world how to raise a holy son, for Margaret was unafraid of instilling discipline in John and his siblings because she loved them and wanted them to become the men their father would have wanted them to be. Margaret trained her sons, specifically John, to become saints.
As John Bosco was leaving for the seminary in his cassock, Margaret laid her hands on his shoulders and said:
To see you dressed in this manner fills my heart with joy. But remember that it is not the dress that gives honor to the state, but the practice of virtue. If at any time, you come to doubt your vocation, I beseech you, lay it aside at once. I would rather have a poor peasant for my son than a negligent priest. When you came into the world I consecrated you to our Lady; when you began to study I bade you honor her and have recourse to her in all your afflictions; now I beg you to take her for your Queen.7”
Yes, Margaret Bosco pointed her son to his true Mother through authentic love, even tough love.
More Wisdom From Holy Mothers
Another saintly mother was St. Zélie Martin, the mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Zélie always had her Rosary beads in her hands.
Besides true devotion to Mary, the Holy Eucharist was everything to the parents of the saints. Take for instance, Marie Vianney, who attended daily Mass with her eldest daughter, Catherine, whenever possible. Eventually, her fourth of sixth child, John Vianney joined her. John was struck by his mother’s devotion. And then there was St. Gianna’s mother who also attended Daily Mass.
An anonymous source once wrote:
“Forgotten people are the mothers of saints, and yet, by their influence over their offspring, they had an immense influence over the history of the Church.”
Our goal as parents is to raise saints. Everything else is secondary. Even though the task is daunting at times and the recognition is slim, Our Lady seeks to help us. After all, our children were Our Mary’s first. Consecrate your children to Mary from the womb or from their birth like Margaret Bosco. Lead your children to Mary and the Holy Eucharist and you will be on the way to raising a saint.
Source: Parents of the Saints by Patrick O’Hearn, Published by TAN Books (pp. 166-167).
7 Hugo Hoever, Lives of the Saints Illustrated, Part 1 (Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing, 1999), 54–55.