St John SMĀĻ°ķ
St John SMĀĻ°ķ dedicated much of his life to education and the welfare of disadvantaged young people, with teachings centred around 'reason, religion, and loving kindness'.
The Life of St John SMĀĻ°ķ
Saint John SMĀĻ°ķ, popularly known as Don SMĀĻ°ķ, was born in Becchi, Italy, on 16th August 1815. Times were especially difficult; the Napoleonic Wars had ravaged the area, and severe drought brought famine. Johnâs father passed away when John was aged two, leaving him and his two older brothers to be raised by his mother, Margherita. Margherita would be later declared venerable by the Church in 2006.
Under his motherâs influence, John faithfully attended church. Johnâs family were poor, they worked hard to grow food and raise sheep, but his mother still found enough to share with the homeless when they came seeking food, shelter, or clothing.
At the age of 9, John had the first of several vivid dreams that would be influential to his life and faith. This dream saw John watching children who swore as they played together, a majestic man approached John and declared that with charity he would âConquer these your friends.â A majestic lady then approached john and declared âBe strong, humble, and robust. When the time comes, you will understand everythingâ, this dream continued to guide John and remained influential for the rest of his life.
One day, John was witness to a travelling circus, this experience gave him an idea, he realised that if he could also learn the magic tricks he saw at the circus, he too could maintain the attention of others. John would go about learning some of these tricks and perform these for others at times.
Journey to Priesthood
John would continue to perform shows for children he played with and was routinely applauded. He would finish his shows by inviting attendees to pray with him. Here, John found his calling to become a priest and would begin to pursue this calling.
To pursue a priesthood, John would first need to gain an education as due to poverty he did not have access to one. John would first seek work and would begin labouring on a farm for two years before he would then meet Jospeh Cafasso, a priest who was willing to provide John with the proper education needed to begin his pursuit of a priesthood. Jospeh Cafasso would later become canonised by the catholic church as a saint, recognised for his work for prisoners and the condemned in society.
After gaining the education needed, in 1835 John would begin his journey through priesthood and six years later in 1841 he would be ordained as a priest.
John, now Fr. SMĀĻ°ķ, would be sent on many priestly assignments by the catholic church, his first in Turin, Italy. While conducting his duties, in his spare time, he would dedicate himself to helping young boys seek work and perform magic tricks and spread his message to those who attended his performances and listened to his teachings.
Johnâs mother, known to those around her as “Mamma Margherita”, would help with lodging children and by 1860, would be responsible for lodging 800 boys.
St John SMĀĻ°ķ's Teachings
He is best known for his dedication to the education and welfare of disadvantaged youth, particularly those living in poverty in urban areas.
Don SMĀĻ°ķ’s primary teachings and beliefs centred around the idea of “reason, religion, and loving kindness,” which he called “the three R’s.” He believed that education was key to lifting young people out of poverty and helping them to lead successful and fulfilling lives.
He also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of faith and moral values, and sought to instil these values in the youth under his care through a combination of formal education and practical training. Additionally, he was known for his love, kindness and patience towards the young people he encountered, and his belief that treating them with respect and compassion was essential to their development.