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.

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