St. John Bosco’s unique method of running an oratory for boys caused many of his priest friends to keep a distance from him. Being left alone, Don Bosco singlehandedly carried the burden of caring for more than 400 boys.
One day, the owners of the meadow came to the oratory to examined the place. They sent Don Bosco a note: “Your boys are continually trampling down our meadow; even the grass roots will be killed. We are willing to waive the rent you already owe us, on condition that you evacuate the meadow within fifteen days, as we are unable to grant you further extension.”
The last day of the oratory in the meadow was Palm Sunday, April 5, 1846. That Sunday had been one of the unhappiest days of Don Bosco. Rumors had cast doubts on the sanity of Don Bosco and had stirred up public opinion against him to such an extent that every suitable place was denied of him.
After hearing confessions for the boys, Don Bosco announced that they would make a pilgrimage to ask Our Lady for a new place. In the afternoon, while the boys were playing, Don Bosco was alone in a corner, thoughtful and sad. Some boys came up to him to keep him company, but he said, “No, go and play, boys, I need to be alone.”
Don Bosco went to plead with the owners, but they would not change their mind. Don Bosco thought to myself: all his helpers had turned away, he was exhausted and he had only two hours to get out of the meadow. Would all his work come to nothing? Don Bosco could bear it no longer, he broke down and wept. He looked up to heaven prayed, “Oh my God, my God, why don’t you show me where I can gather these boys? Please let me know or tell me what to do.” Suddenly a gentleman named Pancrazio Soave came and asked: “Is it true you are trying to find a place for a workshop?” Don Bosco said, “Not for a workshop, but for an oratory.” Soave replied, “I can’t tell the difference, but I know a place that might do. Come and see it.” After seeing the place, Don Bosco announced to the boys that they had a new place for the following Sunday.
On Easter Sunday, April 12 the boys filled up the little new church, the strip of land around, and the surrounding meadows. They attended the blessing of the church and the Mass. After Mass they ate their breakfast with joy.
The work of the oratory was too much for Don Bosco. On July 5, after an exhausted day at the oratory, Don Bosco fainted. In a few days he was close to death and for eight days he was struggling between life and death. During those eight days, the boys prayed and did penance in order to obtain the grace of healing. Some boys fasted by not drinking water, some prayed in shifts at the shrine of Our Lady of Consolation day and night, some promised Our Lady to recite the whole rosary every day of their lives, and some others vowed to fast on bread and water for a whole year. On Saturday, Don Bosco was in critical condition. Father Borel begged Don Bosco to pray for himself by saying, “Lord, if it pleases you, let me be cured.” Shortly after the prayer, Don Bosco fell asleep and when he awoke he was out of danger, as if reborn to life.
At the end July, Don Bosco met the young people. They prayed, sang, and wept together. Don Bosco said, “I owe my life to you. But be sure of this: from now on, I will spend it entirely for you.”