Saint John Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1841 in the chapel of the archbishop’s residence in Turin. He wrote, “The priest does not go to heaven or hell alone. If he is worthy, he will go to heaven together with the souls saved by the good example he set; if he is unworthy, if he provokes a scandal, he will go to hell together with the souls lost by his bed example.”
On June 10, Don Bosco celebrated Mass and led Eucharistic procession at his native village. He wrote, “As I approached my home, the place where I had had my dream when I was nine years old, I couldn’t hold back my tears when I thought of how wonderful were the ways of divine Providence. God has picked a poor boy from the earth to place him with the princes of his people.”
When his mother, Margaret, was alone with Don Bosco she said, “You are a priest, you celebrate Mass and therefore you are closer to Jesus Christ. Remember, though, that celebrating Mass is the beginning of suffering. Although you may not realize it now, you will gradually come to understand that I was right. I am sure that you will pray for me daily, whether I am alive or dead, and this is all I want. From now on, think only of the salvation of souls, and do not worry about me.”
In the first five months of his priestly life, Don Bosco assisted the pastor of Castelnuovo. He preached every Sunday, visited the sick, conducted funeral services and baptized infants. Don Bosco’s favorite saint was Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron of purity. The baptismal records during those months show that almost all the male children were given the name “Aloysius” as their first or second name.
At twenty-six, the newly ordained Don Bosco had three offers of assignments. The first was that of tutor in a wealthy family with a salary of 1,000 lire a year. Relatives and friends wanted Don Bosco to accept this assignment, but Mamma Margaret said, “My son in the house of a rich gentleman? What would these 1,000 lire profit him, or me, or his brother Joseph, if John were to lose his soul?”
The second offer was a chaplaincy in his native Morialdo. In those days, there were chapels built by wealthy people, where Mass is celebrated daily. Very often the chaplain also act as school teacher. The villagers were willing to double the salary in order to have Don Bosco teaching their children.
The third offer was that of curate or assistant pastor at Castelnuovo, where Don Bosco was very much loved by the parish priest and the people.
Don Bosco went to Turin to seek advice from Saint Joseph Cafasso, who told him: “Do not accept any of these offers. Come here to the Convitto Ecclesiastico and finished your priestly formation.” The Convitto was an institute for newly ordained priests to take post-ordination courses in pastoral theology before assuming the duties of their sacred ministry. Don Bosco accepted the advice of Don Cafasso and spent three years at the Convitto in Turin.
The rules of the Convitto were characterized by moderation, so that priests could continue to observe them even outside the Convitto when they were on their own. The daily spiritual exercises at the Convitto included: Holy Mass, morning and evening prayers in common, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, five decades of the rosary, a half an hour meditation and fifteen minutes spiritual reading. Other practices included weekly confession, acts of mortification on Fridays, silence at certain specified times and the monthly Exercise for a Happy Death. When Don Bosco later founded the Salesians Order, he would included these practices for the community.