This site houses my creative summary on the second of the 19-volume Biographical Memoirs.

Biographical Memoirs is the biography of St. John Bosco.

Thanks for dropping by.

-Novice Donnie

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Festive Oratory at Convitto

To provide refuge for the poor and abandoned boys, he established an oratory within the premises of the Convitto. An oratory is a place that offers the youth a place where they can play and pray. Guided by some of his friend- priests, Don Bosco started his first undertaking to secure the future of the young, not only in this world, but more especially, in the life yet still to come.

Among the objectives of the oratory at the Convitto were the following:
  • To inculcate the practice of religion and virtues among the boys;
  • To educate the boys in the realm of morality; and
  • To save their souls.

Don Bosco would realize that without singing and reading of interesting and wholesome books. His encounter with the boys would have been lifeless. Hence, he taught them how to sing.
On the Feast of Purification, February 2, 1842, he had a choir of about 20 voices.

This number grew more as they celebrated the Feast of Annunciation on March 25 that same year. Both Fr. Guala and Fr. Cafasso were pleased about the progress of Don Bosco’s work. Every Sunday, there was a marked improvement in terms of number. They, too, contributed something to the development of the work at the oratory.

Fr. Joseph Cafasso

This was how Don Bosco described Fr. Cafasso (who taught them Moral Theology) as one of his professors in the Convitto:

"Remarkable was his ready, concise and lucid manner of answering. He had a talent for resolving even the most complicated doubts, difficulties and queries. The feeling was that his lectures were never long enough for them."

He spurred them to practice what they have learned. He did provide them the training on hearing confessions with such skill and piety and he never failed to talk about heaven as if one of his feet were already inside the gate.

When he taught them Homiletics, he emphasized that they should adapt their sermons to the level of intelligence of the congregation. He was keen to add that the sermon should be free from trivial and slang words, and it should be simple in diction and sentence structure.
He advised them to not end their sermons without allusion to the eternal truths.

December 8, 1841

In his memoirs, Don Bosco wrote these lines:

"No sooner did I enter the Convitto, than a crowd of boys began to follow me through the streets and squares, even into the sacristy of the Convitto church. But I could not give them much attention for I had no suitable place to assemble them."

One day, he was already in the sacristy of the Convitto, waiting for a server when a poorly dressed boy, he witnessed, was being harassed by the sacristan. The poor boy was about a fourteen or fifteen year old fellow.

Don Bosco: What is your name, my good friend?

Bartholomew: Bartholomew Garelli.

Don Bosco: Where do you come from?

Bartholomew: Asti.

Don Bosco: What is your job?

Bartholomew: Bricklayer.

Don Bosco: Is your father living?

Bartholomew: No, he's dead.

Don Bosco: And your mother

Bartholomew: She's dead too.

Don Bosco: How old are you?

Bartholomew: Sixteen.

Don Bosco: Can you read or write?

Bartholomew: No.

Don Bosco: Can you sing?

Bartholomew: The boy was rather surprised with this question of Don Bosco, he answered: "No."

Don Bosco: Can you whistle?

Here, the boy smiled. Don Bosco was pleased by the response of the boy because he seemed at ease with him. He exactly wanted that.

Don Bosco: Tell me, have you made your first Communion?

Bartholomew: Not yet.

Don Bosco: Did you ever go to confession?

Bartholomew: Yes, when I was little.

Don Bosco: Do you attend catechism class?

Bartholomew: No, I don't dare.

Don Bosco: Why not?

Bartholomew: Because the smaller voice already know it, while I'm bigger and don't know a word. So I'm ashamed to go to class with them.

Don Bosco: If I were to teach you catechism privately, would you come and learn?

Don Bosco: Even here?

Bartholomew: Yes, as long as they don't beat me up.

Don Bosco: Don't be afraid of that. No one will treat you unkindly again, as I've already told you. From now on you'll be my friend, and you will be dealing with me and no one else. When would you like to start our catechism lessons?

Bartholomew: Whenever you like.

Don Bosco: This evening perhaps.

Bartholomew: Yes.

Don Bosco: Even now?

Bartholomew: Yes. I'd like that very much.

The first lesson Don Bosco taught to the boy was on how to make the sign of the cross. Don Bosco also taught him about God and the reason why He created us, and saved us. Some minutes later, he bid good bye to the boy with much kindness. As a token of that first encounter, Don Bosco gave the boy a medal of the Blessed Mother as he made him promise to return the following Sunday.

That simple encounter, that first catechism is the start of the oratory. It commenced the mission of Don Bosco, to take care of the poor and abandoned youth.

Poor and Abandoned Youth

Don Bosco's desire to take care of the boys further developed when he came to the Convitto.

Among the young living in the capital of Piedmont, he saw misery and neglect.

He saw for himself how the young were abused and oppressed.

He witnessed how the parents themselves forced their young children to beg for alms. His

heart went out for those very young kids between 8 to 12 years old who were already working at construction sites. He had to stifle his cries when he saw how the young were reprimanded, how they were rapped on the head, how they received curses and rebukes.

He realized that the condition of the youth in large centers and populous cities is more pitiful than in smaller towns.

As soon as Don Bosco was settled at the Convitto, he became eager to acquaint himself with the moral condition of the boys in the city. He attempted to come near to them. He would wave at them if he happened to see them. He would dole out medals and a few pennies. He would ask them simple questions on faith.

Don Bosco prayed to the Lord to grant him the chance to dedicate himself to the task of saving the young people; he revealed this to Fr. Joseph Cafasso, his spiritual director, and he approved of it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pastoral Training

Below is a list of the typical schedule of activities observed by the priests in the Convitto. Don Bosco himself was oriented to these:

  • Community devotions included morning (lauds) and evening (vespers) prayers
  • Frequent visit to the Blessed Sacrament
  • Five decades of the Rosary each day
  • 30 minutes of daily meditation
  • 15 minutes of daily spiritual reading

Other requirements are as follow:

  • Weekly confession
  • Acts of mortification on Sundays
  • Silence at specified times
  • Monthly exercise for a happy death
  • No one is permitted to attend public shows

Scholastic works:

  • Two daily lectures
  • Study periods in common

Fr. Guala insisted that the rules be fully observed. Students were treated as men, not boys. No penalties were demanded from the rule violators but those who were stubborn were advised to leave.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don Bosco and a companion were travelling towards Ponzano. Don Bosco would want to visit a dear aged priest, Fr. Joseph Lacqua. It was unfortunate that they lost their way as they passed through a thick forest. It was already dark and the night was about to fall. Worse, a storm was on its way.

They saw a little hamlet and started to knock on the doors of the houses. The households were hesitant to let these strangers in because some criminals were being hunted by the police. It took them some time before they were able to convince them that they were good people.

Don Bosco and his companion were soaked because of the rain. And the people excused themselves to provide them with clean and dry clothes because of their miserable condition. They, however, pointed a castle in which they could find refuge.
Mr. Moioglio, the owner of the castle was an elderly gentleman. He immediately welcomed them. He provided dry clothing for his new guests. Hot and sumptuous supper was served. When the meal was over, he invited Don Bosco to celebrate Mass the next day in his little chapel. Don Bosco readily agreed.

When Don Bosco was about to leave, he asked for a souvenir of such cordial hospitality and chose a book entitled “Compendio di storia ecclesiastica” (Compendium of the Church History), with which Mr. Moioglio readily parted.
Don Bosco always kept the book with him. The kindly old gentleman accompanied Don Bosco and his companion a good part of the way to Ponzano.

The Convitto Ecclesiastico

The summer break was drawing to a close, and Don Bosco had to plan for his future. Don Bosco was offered three options:
  • Tutor a wealthy Genoese family with a salary of 1,000 lire yearly. Board, lodging and clothing were all free. The amount can be spent to improve the condition of his family.
  • Chaplaincy in his native Morialdo with an increase in the customary salary. In the people’s desire to win his favor, they were even willing to double the remuneration.
  • Curate at Castelnuovo.
Docile to the advice of Fr. Joseph Cafasso, he declined several offers made to him in autumn 1841 and accepted without hesitation to attend the Convitto Ecclesiastico in Turin where Don Cafasso was a professor.

The Convitto Ecclesiastico was founded by Fr. Louis Guala in 1817. When Don Bosco came in the Convitto, it was still under his able directorship.

The aim of its existence was to complete the ecclesiastical formation of young priests and orient them toward pastoral ministry. Don Bosco attested to this, he once said: “There one learnt to become a priest.”

He further added that it had done much good to the Church by “uprooting some roots of Jansenism which were still prevailing among us.”

Following the example of St. Alphonsus de Ligouri, the professors of the Convitto accomplished the following:

  • Defended the thesis of the preeminence of love over the law;
  • Encouraged a “sincere and tender” devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Mary most Holy, and to the Pope; and
  • Recommended the frequent reception of the sacraments.
The Convitto’s Impact on Don Bosco
  • The Convitto had a great beneficial influence on DB. It led him from the rigors of the Chieri Seminary to a more optimistic form of Christian life, which was more in conformity with his temperament and which would favor his work on behalf of youth.
  • The pastoral orientation of the Convitto allowed him also to give himself to preaching, hearing confessions and teaching religion in various institutes of the city.
  • Besides this, his instinct directed him towards something different: YOUTH.
  • On Sundays and when opportunity allows him, he would go around the city to have an idea of the moral condition of the youth, and he realized how truly poor (both materially and morally) and abandoned youth was.
What, however, affected him most were his visits to the prisons in the company of Fr. Cafasso. He realized that those young prisoners (between the ages of 12 and 18), were lacking a “friend” who took real interest in them. These first experiences oriented him towards “poor and abandoned youth.”

Priestly Zeal

On June 5, 1841, Don Bosco, then 26 years old, attained the long desire goal he has envisioned for himself: he was ordained priest. Archbishop Louis Fransoni of Turin laid his hands on Don Bosco’s head to transform him as an alter Christus, another Christ.

Don Bosco spent the first few months of his priesthood in his Becchi, his native town. He stayed at the rectory of Fr. Anthony Cinzano to help the latter in the parish work.

He was pleased welcoming infants to the flock through baptism. This is manifested through the names of the male infants over the months when he stood to officiate the sacrament. Aloysius (protection by the angelic doctor) is the predominant name of the kids.

He delivered the sermons Sunday after Sunday. He was gifted with the facility of the language and therefore, he was invited to nearby villages to deliver sermon.
In his preaching, it is common for people to hear him instilling in them the gratitude to God for bringing them to the Catholic Church. He would make them aware of God’s presence. And he would always speak of the eternal truth with spontaneity even if only in entertaining people or even discussing material things.

Don Bosco was not only a spiritual healer, but he also offered relief to the physical body. During the first years of Don Bosco’s priesthood, many people called upon Don Bosco to cure them of their disease.

This healing power, he started to manifest when he was a young seminarian. He comforted the sick by invoking the intercession of our Lady Help of Christians.

He would dole out small pills made up of bread crumbs or a dose of sugar and corn flour on condition that the recipients would receive the sacraments and recite Hail Mary’s.
Miracurously, those who have taken them, even those who were seriously ill recovered.

This practice, he carried out until somebody discovered the constituents of the “medicine.” Hence, he dropped the method of healing and relied only on the efficiency of his blessing invoking Mary, Help of Christians.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Freemansory at Piedmont

For 18 years (1831-1849) Charles Albert enjoyed the distinction of being a father to his people rather than a ruler.

He wanted to free Italy. He dreamt of a country in which religion and justice would prevail. He believed that once victory was achieved he could either convert or destroy liberalism. Which he now favored as a means.

Meanwhile, the Grand Masters of the Freemasons had drawn up a Permanent Instruction. It revealed the secret aims of the organization; it was the handbook that directed and guided the higher-placed members who had been chosen to lead the whole Masonic movement and that of the other secret societies, especially in Italy.