Category Archives: St. John Bosco

20151109 Amazing miracles

An extraordinary event took place in 1849. Charles was a fifteen years old boy who attended the oratory. He was seriously ill and was close to death. Charles was anxious to have Don Bosco for confession, but he was out of town. The assistant pastor came to hear his confession. Thirty-six hours later, Charles died but before his death he repeatedly asked for Don Bosco.
As soon as Don Bosco returned, he was told that people had come several times looking for him because of Charles. Don Bosco hurried to Charles’ house. On reaching the house, Don Bosco found a black drape over the door with the boy’s name on it. Don Bosco went up to console the parents. They told Don Bosco that Charles passed away that very morning.
Don Bosco recounted, “On entering the room, somehow I got the thought that the boy was not dead. I approached the bed and called him by name: Charles! At that, he opened his eyes and greeted me with a smile full of surprise. ‘Oh, Don Bosco,’ he said loudly, ‘you have woken me up from a bed dream!'”
Charles went on: “I felt I was being pushed into a long dark cave, so narrow that I could hardly breathe. At the end, I could see a larger space with more light, where many souls were being judged. My anguish and terror were increasing because I saw that many were being condemned. Suddenly my turn came, and I was terrified because I had made my last confession badly. At that moment, you woke me up!”
The parents of Charles entered the room. Charles embraced them and asked to be left alone with Don Bosco. Charles had omitted a mortal sin in his last confession and now he made his confession to Don Bosco.
For about two hours Charles was able to talk, move and look around, but all the while his body remained cold. He repeatedly asked Don Bosco to warn the boys always to tell all their sins in confession. Finally, Don Bosco said to him, “Now you are in the state of grace. Heaven stands open for you. Do you want to go there or remain here with us?” Charles replied, “I want to go to heaven.” Don Bosco said, “Goodbye then, until we meet in heaven.” Thereupon Charles closed his eyes, lay back on the pillow and quietly fell asleep again in the Lord. The event of the temporary resurrection of Charles resulted in a notable number of conversions and sincere confessions.
One Sunday after All Saints’ Day in 1849, Don Bosco took the boys to pray at the cemetery. He promised them chestnuts on their return to Valdocco. Mamma Margaret had brought three bags, but she only cooked a small amount, thinking it would be enough. Joseph Buzzetti poured the cooked chestnuts into a basket and Don Bosco started to distribute them generously. Buzzetti let Don Bosco knew that he shouldn’t be giving too much to each boy for what in the basket was all that they had. Don Bosco did not want to give skimpy portions and calmly replied, “Let’s keep giving them out as long as they last.”
There were about six hundred boys. After about one third of the boys had been served, the basket was almost emptied, Don Bosco went upstairs for more chestnuts, but discovered that Margaret only cooked a small pot. Don Bosco said, “I promised the boys chestnuts and I have to keep my word!” He then resumed the distribution with what was in the basket, but to the amazement of all, the basket was never empty. After the last boy received his share, they all shouted, “Don Bosco is a saint!”

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.

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.”

20151005 Bosco experienced healing

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.”

20150928 Don Bosco suffered misunderstanding

Saint John Bosco faced numerous difficulties and oppositions in his work for the boys. The Marquis Michele di Cavour, vicar of the city and chief of police, demanded Don Bosco to close the oratory. He said, “Don’t you know that it is forbidden to hold meetings without proper authorization?” Don Bosco replied, “My meetings have no political significance but only a religious one. I am only teaching poor boys their catechism with the approval and permission of the archbishop.”

Don Bosco went to inform the archbishop of his interview with Marquis Cavour. The good prelate supported Don Bosco and would not stop his work. The marquis then tried to impose certain conditions which Don Bosco found unacceptable. He wanted to limit the number of boys, to eliminate the older boys, and to prohibit outings and walks in a compact group through the city. Since Don Bosco would not compromise, the marquis sent police to keep a watch on him. Don Bosco treated the police with courtesy and respect. When the boys got familiar with the police, they invited them to play with them. The police were good men. They even helped Don Bosco to look after the boys, listened to his sermons, and knelt with the boys to wait for confession. One after another, the police gave good reports regarding the oratory to the marquis. Eventually the marquis stopped opposing Don Bosco.

In order to keep up the morale of his wandering oratory, Don Bosco shared with the boys his prophetic dreams regarding the future. He spoke of a spacious oratory, of churches, houses, schools, workshops, thousands of boys, and priests. Don Bosco talked that way because he knew that future events would prove how true his words and aspirations were. He had told his dreams to St. Joseph Cafasso and sought his advice. Cafasso said, “Go ahead. You may quite safely give special significance to these dreams. I am convinced they are for God’s greater glory and the welfare of souls.” The boys talked about his dreams at home and at work, but other people began to believe that Don Bosco had gone mad.

One day Don Bosco’s close friend  and helper, Fahter Borel, suggested him to reduce the size of the oratory. Don Bosco refused and insisted he would gather them in an oratory. When Father Borel asked about the location of the oratory, Don Bosco said, “For me this is no problem! I see a church, a building, and a playground. It is real and I can see it.” Father Borel then asked, “Where are all these things?” Don Bosco replied, “I can’t tell you exactly now, but they certainly do exist. I can see them and they will be ours.” Father Borel sighed, “Poor Don Boco! Truly his mind is gone.”  Later on, Don Bosco dispelled Father Borel’s anxiety by confiding to him how more than once God and the Blessed Virgin had shown him in vision that the Valdocco area would be the birthplace of the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales and of the religious congregation which he intended to found.

The rumors were so bad, that two priest friends of Don Bosco decided to bring him to a mental hospital. They invited Don Bosco for a ride. They opened the door of a carriage and invited Don Bosco to get in. But Don Bosco knew their intention and insisted that they went in first. After they got in the carriage, Don Bosco banged the door shut and ordered the coachmen: “To the mental hospital, quick! They are waiting for them.”

The nurses at the mental hospital were expecting one priest. They found two priests and confined them. The chaplain of the hospital had to intervene before the two poor priests could be set free!