Monthly Archives: October 2015

20151102 Don Bosco works miracles

St. John Bosco experienced an extraordinary event on a solemn feast day (most likely the Nativity of Our Lady in 1848). About six hundred boys had gone to confession and wanted to receive Holy Communion. Don Bosco started the Mass, thinking that the ciborium inside the tabernacle was full of consecrated Hosts. In fact there was only a small number of Hosts in it. The sacristan, Joseph Buzzetti, had forgotten to put a full ciborium on the altar before the Consecration. He realized the mistake only after the Consecration, and could do nothing about it.

At Communion time, when Don Bosco uncovered the ciborium and saw a small number of Hosts, his expression betrayed his disappointment that many boys would be unable to receive Holy Communion. He raised his eyes to heaven and prayed and then went to distributing Holy Communion. Without breaking the Hosts, Don Bosco was able to give Communion to all the boys.

After Mass, Buzzetti told his companions of the miracle and proved it by showing them the ciborium he had forgotten in the sacristy.

Fifteen years later, on October 18, 1863 as Don Bosco was talking with a few of his clerics, he was asked about the Buzzetti’s story. A grave expression came over his face, and after a long pause he said, “Yes, there was very few Hosts in the ciborium. Yet I was able to give Communion to all who came, and they were by no means few. By this miracle Our Lord wished to show us how pleased He is with frequent and devout Communions.”

The clerics asked Don Bosco how he felt as the miracle happened. He said, “I was deeply moved, but undisturbed. I was thinking to myself that the miracle of Consecration is even greater than that of multiplication. May the Lord be praised for everything.” Thereupon he changed the subject.

Bishop John Cagliero, who entered the Oratory in 1851, wrote, “Yes, Don Bosco possessed the gift of miracles. For those of us who lived at his side for so many years, it is a fact. Many of the older pupils have assured me that he performed miracles even before I entered the Oratory, and hat once the sacred Hosts were multiplied in his hands.”

Sometimes, Don Bosco preached and taught catechism informally in public squares. One day, he was in a group of people and he began to tell them of the need of listening to the word of God. Some young men deliberately made a lot of noise. Don Bosco asked them to keep quiet, but one of them shouted, “We don’t want to hear any sermons.” Don Bosco answered, “If you were to be struck blind at this moment, would you then listen to God’s word?” The young man said, “Him, that’s easier said than done!” Then he turned to one of his companions and angrily shouted, “You scoundrel, why are you hiding? Are you afraid? Come out!” His companion replied, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see? I’m right next to you.” The young man said, “But I can’t see you…Oh, my! I can’t see any more….”

Fear seized the bystanders, and all of them begged Don Bosco to restored his sight. The young man implored, “Don Bosco, pray for me. Please forgive me!” Don Bosco said, “Say an act of contrition. We shall pray too, but meanwhile promise you’ll go to confession, and then the Lord will give you back your sight.” Don Bosco and the others prayed for him. Toward evening, someone took the young man to confession and his sight was then restored to him.

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20151026 St. Bosco faces severe ordeal

The oratory of St. John Bosco was growing. In 1847 around 800 boys attended the oratory. Don Bosco consulted Father Borel and Father Carpano and came to the conclusion that another oratory had to be opened in the southern part of the city.

Don Bosco told the boys: “My dear sons, when a beehive becomes overcrowded, some bees fly elsewhere to start a new one. As you can see, there are so many of us here that we can’t even turn around. Every time you play, someone gets pushed or knocked down or ends up with a bloody nose. In the chapel we’re packed like sardines. It wouldn’t do to try to make it bigger by pushing the walls out, because the roof would crash down on us. So what shall we do? Let imitate the bees. Let’s swarm and start a second oratory.”

The boys welcomed the announcement with great joy. The new oratory would be called St. Aloysius Oratory for two reasons: first, to provide a model of purity and virtue for boys; second, as a gesture of appreciation to the Archbishop who bore the name of this saint.

Father Borel blessed the new oratory on December 8 1847 and Father Carpano was appointed its director.

1848 was difficult for Don Bosco.  It was a time political unrest, and some priest helpers at the oratory instilled political notions in the mind of the boys. Don Bosco, however, pointed out that the only politics to be taught to the Oratory boys should be: avoiding sin, practicing the Faith, and being obedient to those in authority. Don Bosco firmly chose the path of loyalty to the pope and freedom from all political parties. Unfortunately, the co-workers of Don Bosco continued to champion political ideas and Don Bosco was forced to express his disapproval. The animosity of some of his co-workers against Don Bosco increased and they openly derided him. They influenced the boys and some of the boys skipped church services to attend public demonstration.

Two priests who were helping at St. Aloysius Oratory demanded Don Bosco to give permission to have the boys, with banner and cockades, to take part in public demonstrations and parades. Don Bosco denied permission and explicitly forbade any such participation. The two priests and a few young clerics announced their opposition to Don Bosco and declared that they would carry out their plan. The following Sunday, they had the boys of St. Aloysius Oratory join in the patriotic celebration.

Don Bosco took action immediately. He sternly told the director, Father Carpano, that since he disregarded his order, he can no longer serve as director of St. Aloysius Oratory. The action of Don Bosco annoyed his rebellious staff members, and on the following Sunday, a rebellious priest invited about a hundred boys to march away from the Valdocco oratory and declared that they would not attend the oratory any longer unless they were explicitly invited and formally received, with banners flying and their chests bedecked with medals and cockades. Don Bosco would not compromise. The following week, he wrote a note to the rebellious staff  thanking their services and informing them that their services were no longer needed and that they were not to set foot again on the premises. The dismissed staff decided to alienate the boys from Don Bosco, and nearly all the priests and clerics who used to help abandoned him. Don Bosco had to run the oratory single-handed. For a few Sundays the number of boys in the Valdocco oratory reduced from over five hundred to only thirty to forty.

Eventually many of the boys returned to Don Bosco one by one. He welcomed them with forgiveness. Rebellious staff members who repent received a warm welcome and were reinstated to their former positions.

20151019 Don Bosco opens a shelter

Don Bosco knew the needs of poor boys in Turin. He desired to start a shelter for them. He set up a makeshift dormitory in a hayloft with straw, sheets, blankets and sacks.

One day in April of 1847, Don Bosco was returning home late after a sick call when he saw a group of some twenty young men. They started to insult the priesthood when they saw Don Bosco. Pretending he had not heard their remarks, Don Bosco greeted them. The young men demanded that Don Bosco bought them a bottle of wine or they would not let him go. Don Bosco agreed and promised to buy them two bottles of wine. It was quite an unusual sight to see a priest with a retinue of young toughs in a tavern!

When the young men became more receptive, Don Bosco asked them to do him a favor by not blaspheming the name of God and of Our Lord. They promised to amend, and Don Bosco asked them to go home. Some young men said that they had no home and Don Bosco invited them to stay at his place. He brought them to the hayloft and handed out sheets and blankets. Don Bosco thought that these young men could be the beginning of the shelter he had wanted to start. But the next morning, when Don Bosco went to the  hayloft he found the young men had stolen away, taking the sheets and blankets with them to sell.

One rainy evening in May, a boy of about fifteen came to the door. He asked for food and lodging for the night. Mamma Margaret made him sit by the fire at the kitchen and served him bread and hot soup. The boy told Don Bosco, “My parents are dead and I came from Valsesia only a short while ago looking for work. I’m an apprentice bricklayer. I had three lire with me, but I spent it all before I could earn any money. Now I’ve nothing left and I don’t know anybody.” He told Don Bosco that he had neither received first Communion nor received Confirmation. When his mother was still living, he went to Confession from time to time. Don Bosco asked, “What are your plans now?” The boy answered, “I don’t know…. Can I stay here tonight? Any corner would do.” He then broke into tears. Both Mamma Margaret and Don Bosco were deeply moved. They decided to let the boy stay. After making his bed, Mamma Margaret gave a little talk on the necessity of work, honesty, and the practice of religion. Unwittingly, she started a custom which is still observed by the Salesians, namely that of addressing a few encouraging words to the boys before the night’s rest. The practice is known as “the Salesian Good Night”.

Shortly after, a second boy was given shelter. In early June, Don Bosco saw a boy weeping dejectedly. His father was deceased and his mother had just died the day before. Due to unpaid rent, the landlord took away the furniture at home and locked the room as soon as the body was taken away. The boy lamented: “What am I to do now? I’m all alone. I’m hungry and I need a place to sleep, and I don’t know what will happen to me.” Don Bosco brought the boy home and presented him to Mamma Margaret, saying, “God has sent us another boy. Please look after him and prepare him a bed.”

Several other boys came to the shelter after the first two. Each morning, while Don Bosco was celebrating Mass, the boys recited their prayers and five decades of the rosary. Don Bosco prepared food for the boys and attended to their spiritual and material needs.

20151012 Mamma Margaret makes sacrifices

St. John Bosco had a serious sickness in July 1846 which nearly brought him to the grave. He needed a good convalescence and in the second week of August he went to his family in Becchi. While he was away Father Borel took charge of the oratory. But soon, Father Borel needed help from other priests. To replace one Don Bosco, five to six priests were needed. And soon the priests realized that it was not easy to look after more than four hundred boys. The boys, however, deeply missed Don Bosco. They travelled to visit him and sent him affectionate letters, begging him to return.

After a few months of rest, Don Bosco really wanted to return to Turin, but his friends kept telling him that he needed to stay away from the oratory for at least a year or so to avoid a relapse. However, the separation from the boys was too painful for Don Bosco and eventually he was allowed to return with the condition that, for a time, he would limit himself only to be present among the boys to direct and advise them. Don Bosco promised, but soon he was at work as just before.

When talking about this one day, he said, “At first, I really intended to obey and keep my promise. But when I saw the Father Borel and his assistants could not possibly cope with everything, and that, occasionally, on Sunday and holy days, many of the boys were unable to go to confession or receive religious instruction, I felt I couldn’t stand by idly any longer. So I took up my accustomed activities, and now it is twenty-five years and more since I have not had any need of doctors or medicine. This makes me believe that well regulated work does not harm a person’s health.”

Don Bosco was no longer the chaplain of the hospital founded by Marchioness Barolo and he had to settle in the house near the oratory. In that neighbourhood were some disreputable tenants and in order to protect himself from suspicion, Don Bosco needed someone to stay with him. After some hesitations, Don Bosco asked his mother, “Mamma, why don’t you come and stay with me for some time? I have rented three rooms at Valdocco, and soon I may give shelter to some abandoned boys. You once told me that if ever I became rich you would never enter my house. Look at me now: I am a poor man and full of debts, and it is risky for a priest to live alone in that place.” Margaret spent a  few minutes in thought and said, “If you think that is God’s will, I will come.”

On Tuesday, November 3, 1846 Don Bosco and his mother came to Turin. At their new home, mother and son sang together. A boy heard their singing and the news of Don Bosco’s arrival spread like wild fire.

In order to keep up with the expenses of the oratory, Mamma Margaret and Don Bosco sold some pieces of land and vineyards which they still owned in their native village. Margaret also sent for her bridal trousseau. She sold part of it and used the rest to make vestments for the chapel. Margaret said, “When I looked at those things in my hands for the last time and was about to sell them or covert them to something else, I felt a little perturbed, but as soon as I became aware of it, I told myself: ‘Come now, what better use could they possibly have than providing food and clothing for poor boys, and honoring the heavenly Bridegroom in church?’ Afterwards, I felt so happy that if I had had a hundred other trousseaus, I would have given them all up without any regrets.”