Kelly Guest tells the story of the saint whose mother joined his ministry—and is also on the road to sainthood.
He just couldn’t do it anymore. He loved “his boys,” and he knew they needed him. But caring for them had taken its toll.
So, Don Bosco had to leave the city of Turin and return home to the countryside of Becchi in Italy. Worn-out and very ill, the priest needed time to recuperate, rest, and recover. Under the watchful eye of his mother, Margaret, and with some home-cooked meals, he began to regain his strength. In time, the priest was ready to return to the poor and orphaned boys he was taking care of in the city.
There was only one problem—if nothing changed, he would become sick and tired again. Father John knew exactly what needed to be done. The boys must have a mother to love and care for them. John still needed his mom.
“Madre Mia,” he cajoled, “I need a mother for my poor boys, someone to care for them, and love them, someone to manage my large household. Ah, if I could only bring the most precious treasure I have here in Becchi—my mother—to Turin!”
Margaret did what most any mother would do when so flattered by a child—she packed up and moved to the city. At an age when she should have been able to relax and enjoy being a doting grandmother to her other sons’ children, she found herself mothering hundreds of orphaned and troubled boys. For many of them, Mama Margaret was the only mother they knew.
While Don Bosco was out negotiating contracts for his boys as apprentices, teaching them skills, and educating them, his mother washed and mended clothes, cooked and kept the house, cultivated a vegetable garden, and raised chickens. Together, mother and son saved hundreds of boys from a tough life on the streets which would have led many of them to jail. Instead, the youngsters had a home where they received fatherly guidance and motherly care.
A time came when Mama Margaret felt that she had had enough. Life in the oratory was loud and exhausting, and the boys could be rough. She sat down with her son to have a heart-to-heart conversation with him, telling him she could do it no more. She wanted to return to the country. John listened but said nothing.
When she finished speaking, his eyes wandered to the wall; her eyes followed his. They gazed upon the crucifix hanging there. Tears welled up in her eyes. God, and John, was asking her to join her sufferings with Jesus’. So, she stayed.
Have you ever felt like Margaret Bosco? Like you’ve done all you can? You just can’t do anymore.
What motivates you to keep going? Like Venerable Margaret Bosco, it has to be love. Love enables us to continue giving, even when we feel exhausted and done. That’s when supernatural grace takes over. God is loving through us.
Jesus says to us what he once said to St. Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
So, when you have had enough and feel like you can’t do any more, look to the Cross to receive your strength.
With the courage to carry on, we complete the ordinary tasks of everyday life with the extraordinary grace of God’s love. Onward we go, guiding and teaching our children.
We are the primary role models for our children. Young ones watch and imitate us. Charity, perseverance, and diligence are learned from us. We instill virtues into our children.
When the boys at the oratory praised Don Bosco for his virtues, they often summed up their compliment by saying, “He got it from Mama Margaret.” The youngsters knew that the holy priest was good because his mother was good.
Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Remember—behind many a saint is a holy and persevering mom.
Copyright 2023 Kelly Guest
About the Author
Kelly Guest was blessed to be a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia for five years. There she received the many graces she draws upon today as a wife and mother of nine children. Wishing to share with other moms encouragement on our quest to become holy through motherhood, she blogs at Nun2Nine.com and CatholicMom.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram @nun2nine. Kelly's book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, is due out October 1, 2021.