Teenage Adventures

Super-Bowl-XXII MVP Doug Williams

Today we keep the 130th anniversary of the holy death of St. John Bosco. Among many other accomplishments, Don Bosco published an apologetics magazine. Catholic Readings defended Catholic faith and practice, using extensive Scripture citations. To protect and fortify the souls of teenage boys, Don Bosco became a famous media mogul. He is the first canonized saint ever to have been interviewed by a newspaper reporter.

Now, speaking of teenage boys… Today we also mark the 30th anniversary of the greatest of all the Super Bowls, number XXII, which took place under the open sky, in San Diego, California.

don bosco catholic readingsIn those simpler times, the late 1980’s, it could come to pass that a middle-class lawyer in Washington, D.C., might find himself in possession of two Super Bowl tickets, through a business connection. He might think of giving those two precious tickets to his enterprising 17- and 15-year-old sons.

Those sons might buy cheap airplane tickets with their part-time-job money. They might learn the San Diego public transit system. The boys might, with their own eyes, then behold Doug Williams the Great making mincemeat of the Denver Broncos defense, in a resounding 42-10 MVP performance. The boys might have seats right behind the very end-zone in which the Washington Redskins scored five touchdowns in the second quarter. Then, the young men might catch a bus to the airport, then a red-eye flight back east, and find themselves in school before the first bell rang on Monday morning—which was the one stipulation their mother made in order to grant her permission for the trip.

Such adventures could happen in 1988, and they did. In those days, we did not suffer from as much fear of the outdoors as we do now. I’m not sure the world was really any safer then. But dads like ours had faith in Providence, so they weren’t afraid to let their teenage sons travel clear across the country on their own, to go to the Super Bowl. Also, my brother and I were tall and big and maybe a little cleverer than most 17- and 15-year-olds.

Anyway, Don Bosco knew that publishing his magazine involved risking his life. Mid-19th-century Italy was no safe place for a well-known zealous Catholic priest. In those days, people got beat up in the streets for defending the papacy. But Don Bosco prized the souls of his young readership over his own mortal life.

Faith in Jesus’ Father can, and does, give you the kind of courage that can turn life into an adventure.

Mark White Redskins fan

Pope Francis on Always Being a Child

Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, by Ilya Repin

Jairus the synagogue official loved his little daughter. So did the Lord Jesus. St. Mark narrates well in his gospel how much fuss and bother the Lord had to endure, just to get to the little girl’s bedside. But we know how much Christ loved little ones.

St. John Bosco died 129 years ago today. He loved little ones, too. In our Collect to begin Holy Mass today, we call him “father and teacher of the young.”

Pope Francis wrote something that I find very captivating in his letter to us about love and family life. In explaining the fourth commandment, the pope wrote:

Even if one becomes an adult, or an elderly person, even if one becomes a parent, if one occupies a position of responsibility, underneath all of this is still the identity of a child. We are all sons and daughters. And this always brings us back to the fact that we did not give ourselves life but that we received it. The great gift of life is the first gift that we received. (Amoris Laetitia 188)

The eternal Word of God gave us all our lives in the first place. Jesus gave Jairus’ daughter her little life in the first place. Then, to remind us of this sublime truth, Jesus gave the little girl her life back again, after she had succumbed to her illness.

We forget sometimes that God has given us our lives, as a loving Father lavishing His goodness upon His children. So Lord Jesus worked a miracle to remind us.

We are children. No matter how old or “wise” or important or knowledgeable or “professional” we become. We are our parents’ children, and we are God’s children. We did not give our selves to ourselves. God gave us us; God gave me me, through my parents.

When we remember this, I think we can continue to count ourselves—indeed we must continue to count ourselves–among the young. We need fathers and teachers. And our heavenly Father and Teacher will make sure we have the fathers and teachers we need in this world, provided we always remember how much we need them.

Catholic-Schools-Week Homily

Why would we keep Catholic Schools Week at the end of January? After all, the school year certainly offers other, warmer weeks—when we might have a picnic, or a Catholic-Schools-Week cookout or pool party?

Well, there’s a reason…

Angela Merici holy cardWho’s the heavenly patron of all Catholic schools? St…. His feastday falls on January… (28th)

But: St. Thomas Aquinas is not the only heavenly patron of Catholic education with a feastday during the final week of January.

Whose feastday falls on January 31? Right! St. John Bosco, who went out into the streets to find boys who needed an education.

And whose feastday do we keep today, on the 475th anniversary of her holy death? St. Angela Merici. She went out into the streets to find girls who needed an education.

All three heavenly patrons of Catholic Schools Week believed that a good education starts with one thing, namely Jesus Christ.

In our gospel reading at Holy Mass, we hear the Lord Jesus insist that doing the will of God is the most important thing. And in the first reading, we hear St. Paul declare: The will of God is for us to be consecrated through Jesus’ offering of His Body for us.

So we can draw a straight line: Christ ———-> the saints of Catholic education ———-> us celebrating school Mass together.

When it’s cold and blustery outside during Catholic Schools Week, that reminds us that we belong in school. We belong inside, learning about Christ, and about the wonderful things that He has designed, and made, and made beautiful.

At Roanoke Catholic School, we count ourselves thoroughly blessed to have: 1. the constant help of God, 2. the grace of the sacraments, 3. the intercession of our patron saints, and 4. the love and help that we give each other.

We belong together in school. God Himself has united us in the truly worthwhile endeavor of seeking His Kingdom and growing into the people that He made us to be.

Father and Teacher

St. John Bosco St. PetersFather and teacher of the young.

Struck me as so beautiful, the picture of Don Bosco, father and teacher of the young, in the Collect of today’s Holy Mass.

To remember being young means remembering needing a father and a teacher. Craving a father and a teacher more than anything.

My own father and first teacher had his faults, to be sure. But one thing he had was faith, faith regularly practiced—the kind of faith that makes church a second home for you and your family.

Looking back, I can see with perfect clarity that my dad’s very churchiness is what gave him the kind of solidity as a person that a boy needs to lean on as he grows up. And I thank God for it, because it gave me the church as a home. And what greater gift could a person have than to feel at home in church?

I wish I knew more about St. John Bosco. I read a book about him when I was in the seminary. But that is getting to be a long time ago now, and I forget most of the facts in it. But one thing about Don Bosco shines crystal clear in my mind’s eye: His faith was huge and manly and strong. And that naturally made young people feel calm and at home in his presence.

Don Bosco rested his whole soul on the solid rock of the love of the eternal Father. That made him into a rock on which young people could rest their souls, like the birds resting on the branches of the mustard tree in the parable.

And the amazing thing about the souls of young people is: If they have a solid foundation to rest themselves on, they will grow. They will grow almost of their own accord. All they need is a solid father and teacher who they know they can trust. Don Bosco was such a teacher, and I hope we can be such teachers, too.

Another All-Star Week


Here in the mid-Atlantic, we are enjoying a winter wonderland. For a little perspective, let’s keep this in mind: Down in Melbourne it is 100 degrees on the court for the Australian Open. Novak Djokovic had to forfeit his semi-final match because of heat exhaustion.

Statue of St. Angela Merici in St. Peter's Basilica
Statue of St. Angela Merici in St. Peter's Basilica
Perhaps you remember: Back in early October, we highlighted an ecclesiastical “All-Star Week“. Well, we are in the middle of another one…

On Saturday, we kept the memorial of St. Francis de Sales, heroic bishop, consummate gentleman, and author of a very good book (a few very good books, in fact). Then on Sunday, we kept the feast of St. Paul’s conversion. Yesterday we kept the memorial of St. Paul’s most prominent disciples, Sts. Timothy and Titus.

These apostolic men alone could out-hustle any competitors. But there is more!

Today, we keep the memorial of St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursulines. St. Angela is the female equivalent of St. Ignatius Loyola, as Dr. Ann White pointed out in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of “Review for Religious.”

St. John Bosco blessing some young men
St. John Bosco blessing some young men
Tomorrow, we keep the memorial of the Common Doctor, the Angelic Doctor, the Master of the Schools, the Patron of learning, the greatest genius of all time–St. Thomas Aquinas!

Then, on Saturday, we keep the memorial of St. John Bosco, a.k.a. Don Bosco.

All the other All-Star teams–N.H.L., Pro Bowl, N.B.A., you name it…they all take a back seat to the Church’s all-star team this week.