Page 38                                               Winter 1988 - 89



A Patron Saint for Jugglers

You may or may not be aware of the fact, but the Catholic Church has a patron saint for practicalIy every cause and line of endeavor. For example: St. . Ambrose is the patron saint of candle makers. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of bakers, St. Andrew of fishermen and St. Cecili is the patroness of musicians.


It occurred to me that jugglers should have their own special patron saint. By definition a patron saint is one who shared a common interest or cause and now acts as spiritual benefactor, protector and advocate. I can think of no better candidate for jugglers than Saint John Bosco.


He was born near Turin, Italy, in 1815 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1841. He died at age 73 in 1888 and was canonized in 1934,


John Bosco learned to juggle in his youth. One day he saw some boys and girls fighting on the street, and was beaten himself when he tried to stop the fray. He wanted to show children there was a better way to have fun than fighting, and decided to emulate the acrobats and jugglers he saw in a marketplace show.

He learned to juggle balls and plates, do acrobatics, walk a tightrope and perform magic tricks. He began doing shows, and used his performances to gather crowds of young boys or neglected street urchins. Half-way through his performance, he would stop to preach. He was a skilled showman and all of the crowd would stay to listen to his uplifting message and wait for the conclusion of his show.


He continued his variety performances as he grew up, and integrated it with his devotion to the Catholic faith. Soon he gathered a group of young apprentices to teach them the catechism. By 1856 more than 150 boys lived at his hospice and learned trades like tailoring and shoemaking. Later, Don Bosco obtained a printing press and wrote and printed catechetical and pious pamphlets for youths.


To train helpers he founded the Salesian religious congregation, which received papal approval in 1868. The Salesians spread quickly throughout Italy , then the rest of the Catholic world. In 1872 a similar apostolate was founded for women.


Don Bosco was preeminently an educator, whose characteristic approach is known as the Salesian preventive system of education. It rejected corporal punishment and strove to place youths in surroundings that removed them from the likelihood of committing sin. It sought to unite the spiritual life of youth with their study, work and play. Don Bosco's insistence that boys be taught trades made him a pioneer in modem vocational training.


The movement he founded numbers today about 25,000 dedicated workers. There are over 600 oratories, as they are called, for boys. In addition, at the present time, there are over 70 agricultural schools, 900 trade schools, 400 elementary schools, about 200 high schools and 26 colleges.


St. John Bosco surely accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. As a juggler, he set an example we can all admire. He is truly a saint worthy of being adopted by jugglers everywhere as their patron.


Juggling is a difficult art to master. We can certainly appreciate someone in our comer. I am sure you agree there are times we can use all the help we can get!

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