Michael Rua was born on 9th June 1837, the last of nine children. He entered Don Bosco's Oratory in 1852. One day Don Bosco told him: "We two will go halves in everything".
He was among the first few with whom Don Bosco shared the idea of forming the 'Salesian Society'. For 36 years he was Don Bosco's closest collaborator in the development of the Congregation. He made his first profession in 1855, was the first Spiritual Director of the Society at the age of 22 years (1859), ordained priest in 1860, first Rector of the college at Mirabello at 26 years (1863-65), Vice Rector at Valdocco, manager of the "Letture Cattoliche" (Catholic Readings), involved in formation, director of the FMA (1875), companion of Don Bosco on his journeys, etc, etc. At the explicit request of Don Bosco, Pope Leo XIII designated him to succeed our Founder and confirmed him as Rector Major in 1888.
Nicknamed "The Living Rule" because of his austere fidelity, Don Rua was also known for his fatherliness and goodness. As the numbers of members and communities increased he sent Salesians all over the world, showing special care for the missionary expeditions.
In the long journeys which he undertook to visit the Salesian works in Europe and in the Middle East he was a constant source of comfort and encouragement, always referring to our Founder: "Don Bosco used to say... Don Bosco used to do it this way... Don Bosco wanted..."
When he died, on 6th April 1910 at the age of 73, the Society had grown from 773 to 4000 Salesians, from 57 to 345 communities, from 6 to 34 Provinces in 33 countries.
During the Beatification ceremony on 29th October 1972, Pope Paul VI declared "The Salesian Family had its origin in Don Bosco, its continuity in Don Rua… He made the example of Don Bosco into a school, his Rule into a spirit, his holiness into a model; he made a spring into a river."
His body is venerated in the crypt of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and his memory is celebrated on 29th October.