Stories from Don Bosco
Stories from Don Bosco
Feast of St. John Bosco, January 31
The ways of Don Bosco, who worked among the poorest boys of Turin in the 1800s, were recognized by many as those of a saint; as inscrutable as those of his Divine Master, they served to care for both the bodies and souls of his charges, effecting two different goods at the same time. The founder of the Salesian orders, he attributed any good he did to the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians. He was astute in understanding human nature, reading souls and teaching them with humor, as these two anecdotes (from F. A. Forbes) will illustrate. In the first, the young cleric opens his colleague’s eyes to the suffering of a soul; in the second, he inspires a new Oratorian to yield himself to the privations of the Oratory.
Training for Confession
The prisons were always for Don Bosco a fruitful field of apostleship. He had the gift of touching the most hardened hearts, and when the last moments approached he was unwearying in his care. Once in his student days, when [Saint] Don Cafasso, to prepare them for hearing confessions, made his young clerics act to each other the part of penitents, Don Bosco was told to present himself as a little street urchin. He did it perfectly, but the young companion who was acting the part of confessor, seemed a little shocked at his avowals and became rather stern. Don Bosco refused to say another word, hanging his head in silence.
“You’ve gone the wrong way to work altogether,” said Don Cafasso, “ you have frightened the poor little fellow: He turned to the pretended penitent. “Come, my son,” he said, “have you nothing more to tell me? Don’t be afraid. Perhaps it was this—or that.”
“Yes, Father,” said Don Bosco, looking up again. “I am not afraid to tell you all about it, but that priest made me so ashamed that I would never have dared to go on.”
Even in those days he was a judge of human nature.
Don Bosco’s Miracle of the Loaves
A new boy at the Oratory, Francis Dalmazzo, whose parents were better off than most of the others, found things rather harder than he had been accustomed to, and hated the regular life. After a month of it, he wrote to his mother asking her to come and take him home, a he could stand it no longer. On the day she arrived, her son, who wanted to go to confession once more to Don Bosco before he left, joined the crowd who were waiting their turn before Mass. Presently an older boy, who helped in the refectory, came up to Don Bosco.
“There is no bread for breakfast,” he said.
“Impossible,” said Don Bosco, “go to Father X..., he will see about it.”
A few minutes later the boy came back again, breathless—“We have searched everywhere, there are only a few rolls.”
“Go to the baker, then, and get some more.”
“He won’t give us any more till his bill is paid—we owe him so much already.”
“Very well, put what you can find in the basket, and God will see to it. “I’ll come presently and give it out.”
Young Dalmazzo, who had overheard the whole conversation, was greatly interested. He had heard something of the wonders worked by Don Bosco, and, following him to the refectory, took a good look at the basket. There were fifteen rolls in it, and three hundred hungry boys were waiting for their breakfast. They came up, one by one, each got a roll.
Dalmazzo’s eyes were starting out of his head. Don Bosco, with a smile and a kind word for each, went on with the distribution till the last of the three hundred had passed. Dalmazzo flew to the basket and counted again. Just fifteen! He went straight to his mother. “I’m not going,” he said, “I am never going.” And he kept his word; he became a Salesian Priest