In 1853, St. John Bosco started his own workshops. He did it for two reasons: the boys had to face immorality and irreligion from adults in outside workshops, and the help that workshops of tailors, cobblers and printers could give to the Oratory. After a few attempts, Don Bosco found out that a good way to run the workshops was to form masters in charge of the professional formation of the boys. These masters would be Salesian Brothers dedicated to the professional schools.
To defend the Catholic Faith, Don Bosco wrote a series of booklets called Catholic Readings. The enemies of the Faith were very upset with the success of Don Bosco’s writings. One Sunday evening, two men came to see Don Bosco. They pointed out the topics of the Catholic Readings were stale news, and he should devote himself to the exposition of history, geography and science. Don Bosco replied, “Yes, it is true, these topics have been discussed in learned treatises. But no one has ever brought them down to the people.” The two men offered Don Bosco four 1,000 lire bills and stated that they were ready to sponsor his writings if he would write a work of history and that he should give up the useless work of the Catholic Readings. Don Bosco refused and said, “But if my work is useless, why are you offering me so much money to stop it? You see, by becoming a priest, I have dedicated myself to work for the good of the Church and of the poor, and I intend to continue writing and publishing the Catholic Readings. The two men got angry and their voices became threatening. As they left they said, “You’ll hear from us again.”
A few attempts had been made on the life of Don Bosco. One time people lied that there was a man dying who needed the Sacraments, and when Don Bosco arrived they tried to force him to drink poisonous wine. He was saved by the strong boys that he brought with him. Another time, a woman pretended to be dying, and people in the room attempted to kill Don Bosco with a rain of blows. Don Bosco grabbed a chair just in time to protect his head.
One evening, Don Bosco returned home by himself. A huge dog came up to him and accompanied him to the Oratory. This happened several times, and the boys of the Oratory called the dog “Grigio”.
One evening, two men captured Don Bosco and threw a mantle over his head. At that moment, Grigio appeared and attacked the men. The men ran away and Grigio accompanied Don Bosco home.
Another evening, Don Bosco planned to go out on business. Mamma Margaret urged him not to go out as it was already dark. But Don Bosco thought he should fulfil his duty and go. However, Grigio sprawled across the threshold. Don Bosco tried to walk over the dog, but Grigio would not budge and would push him back. Margaret said, “If you do not want to listen to me, at least listen to the dog: don’t go out!” Don Bosco then followed Margaret’s advise and stayed home. The following day, Don Bosco came to know that a man with a pistol had been waiting for him at a bend of the road.
In 1872, someone asked Don Bosco what he thought of Grigio, he said, “To say that it was an angel would make one laugh. But neither can we dismiss him as just an ordinary dog.”