Writings and testimonies of don bosco on spiritual life


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Don Bosco prete dei giovani nel secolo delle libertà. Third edition corrected and revised. Roma, LAS 2009, vol. I, p. 232.

9 P. Braido, Don Bosco prete dei giovani…, I, p. 233.

10 The Imitation of Christ, the Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales and the Preparation for Death by St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori were commonly known in Don Bosco's day and are even still published today (especially the first two); Jesus at the heart of the young was a small book by Canon Giuseppe Zama Mellini (1788-1838), written in terms of an affectionate conversation between Jesus and the reader.

11 This is followed by the mysteries of the Rosary and the Litany of Our Lady, which we leave out here.

12 Giovanni Bosco, Memorie dell’Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales dal 1815 al 1855. Introductory essay and historical notes by Aldo Giraudo. Roma, LAS 2011, p. 170.

13 Giovanni Bosco, Vita del giovanetto Savio Domenico allievo dell’Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales, in Id., Vite di giovani. Le biografie di Domenico Savio, Michele Magone e Francesco Besucco. Introductory essay and historical notes by Aldo Giraudo. Roma, LAS 2012, pp. 78-81.

14 P. Braido, Don Bosco prete dei giovani…, I, p. 330.

15 Ibid., p. 322.

16 These regulations, with certain variants, were published by Don Bosco in his Life of Dominic Savio, cf. Giovanni Bosco, Vita del giovanetto Savio Domenico allievo dell’Oratorio di san Francesco di Sales. Torino, Tip. J. B. Paravia e Comp. 1859, pp. 76-83 (OE XI, 226-233).

17 This document was drawn up by Don Bosco when he wrote the Life of Michael Magone and was reproduced in a note to Chap. XIII of this life cf. Giovanni Bosco, Cenno biografico sul giovanetto Magone Michele allievo dell’Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales. Torino, Tip. J. B. Paravia e Comp. 1861, pp. 69-70 (OE XIII, 223-224).

18 P. Braido, Don Bosco prete dei giovani…, I, p. 374.

19 Cf. P. Stella, Don Bosco nella storia delle religiosità cattolica…, II, p. 505.

20 This was an afternoon instruction given in church after Vespers and before Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

21 Francesco Provera (1836-1874), native of Mirabello Monferrato, entered the Oratory at Valdocco when he was 22 years of age, in 1858; he was one of the founding members of the Salesian Society (18 December 1859). In 1863, still a cleric, he was sent with Fr Michael Rua to open the first Salesian Institute outside of Turin in Mirabello (his home town), and was given the job as prefect and bursar; the following year he went on to Lanzo Torinese with the same role and was ordained priest that year. He died of an ulcerated foot, which turned into cancer, at 38 years of age.

22 Francesco Ghigliotto (1859-1900) was a novice that year and had received from Fr Barberis, the novice master, the job of writing down Don Bosco's talks to the boys and the novices.

23 Giulio Barberis (1847-1927), intimate confidant of Don Bosco's, had been appointed by him as first master of novices for the Congregation (1874), a role he kept for 25 years. His work in formation was decisive for the spiritual consolidation of the Congregation. He was a member of the Superior Council and, from 1910, Spiritual Director General of the Congregation. His Vade mecum for young Salesians (1901, 2 vols.; 2 ed. 1905, 3 vols.) is considered the first systematic text on Salesian spirituality.

24 Fr Barberis introduces the text with this note: “Conference given by Don Bosco on the evening of St Joseph, 19 March 1876, after prayers in the small chapel to all the professed, novices, aspirants and those who wanted to be aspirants at the Oratory of St Francis de Sales. Publicly invited to the Conference were all those who belonged or wanted to belong to the Congregation, and including adults, there were 203 present. It had a great effect.” (A0000408 Conferenze e prediche di D. Bosco…, p. 63).

25 Borla, the word Don Bosco uses, is Piedmontese and means a bundle of sheaves (cf. C. Zalli, Disionari piemontèis, italian, latin e fransèis, Carmagnola, Barbiè, vol. 1, p. 151).

26 Burattare is Don Bosco’s word here; an archaic word for sifting.

27 Giacomo Gresino (1859-1946) was a novice that year and had received the job of writing down Don Bosco's talks from Fr Barberis, the novice master,

28 Emanuele Dompè (1860-1926) was a novice that year and had received the job of writing down Don Bosco's talks from Fr Barberis, the novice master.

29 This is a much-valued dream in the Salesian tradition. The saint writes in simple, no stilted language. The version in the Biographical Memoirs (MB XII, 586-595) is a more elaborate one, made after the oral account at a goodnight on December 22, 1876.

30 Francesco Motto, Don Bosco mediatore tra Cavour e Antonelli nel 1858, in RSS 5 (1986) 6.

31 On the process of foundation and its stages, until the gaining of the “benefices” (1884), see the first part of this volume, section two: Don Bosco the founder, nos. 30-39.

32 P. Scotti, La dottrina spirituale di don Bosco…, p. 74.

33 P. Braido, Don Bosco prete dei giovani…, II, p. 277.

34 Pietro Braido, Tratti di vita religiosa salesiana nello scritto “Ai Soci Salesiani” di don Bosco del 1875, in RSS 13 (1994) 393-394.

35 This chapter and the one that follows express the sentiments of St Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, Doctor of the Church (note in the original text).

36 This chapter is drawn from Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, Opuscoli relativi allo stato religioso, in Opere ascetiche di S. Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori. Vol. 4. Torino, Giacinto Marietti 1847, pp. 400-404 (opuscolo I, § 2).

37 On the various stages for the drafting process of the Constitutions cf. Giovanni Bosco, Costituzioni della Società di S. Francesco di Sales [1858]-1875. Critical texts by Francesco Motto. Roma, LAS 1982.

38 Cf. Pietro Stella, Le Costituzioni salesiane fino al 1888, in Fedeltà e rinnovamento. Studi sulle costituzioni salesiane. by Joseph Aubry and Mario Midali. Roma, LAS 1974, pp. 30-31.

39 Ibid., p. 32.

40 Constitutiones, cap. VII, art. 8: “At si forte contingat, quod Deus avertat, ut rector maior gravissime ufficia sua negligat, praefectus vel quisque de superiore capitulo [...] poterit rectorem efficaciter admonere. Quod si non sufficiat [...] deponi potest” (G. Bosco, Costituzioni della Società di S. Francesco di Sales…, p. 125).

41 Cf. Giovanni Bosco, Costituzioni per l’Istituto delle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice (1872-1885). Critical texts by Sr. Cecilia Romero fma. Roma, LAS 1983, p. 161.

42 This is the text translated from the Latin text approved by the Holy See 1874, published in 1875: [Giovanni Bosco], Regole o Costituzioni della Società di S. Francesco di Sales secondo il decreto di approvazione del 3 aprile 1874. Torino, [Tipografia dell’Oratorio di San Francesco di Sales] 1875 (OE XXVII, 53-99).

43 The General Chapter is made up of members of the Superior Chapter and Directors of individual Houses. Every director will gather his particular chapter and in it deal with matters that are judged to be most necessary to propose to a future General Chapter (note in the original text).

44 The Superior General can by his authority receive the aspirants and present them or not as he judges best in the Lord, so that a pupil may be admitted to the trial of the novitiate or to vows (note in the original text).

45 The Salesian Society owns nothing as a moral entity, so except in the case where it is legally approved by some government, it would not be bound by this article. For the same reason each Salesian may exercise the civil rights of purchase, sale, etc., without recourse to the Holy See. This was the answer from the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, April 6, 1874 (note in original text).

46 This article, found in the Latin edition approved by the Holy See, Don Bosco left out of the Italian edition of 1875.

47 In electing the Rector Major and absolute majority will be sought, that is, more than half of the votes in his favour. For the other members of the Chapter a relative majority is sufficient, namely in comparison to all those who obtain votes (note in the original text).

48 In the Italian edition printed in 1875 Don Bosco left out articles presented here in italics.

49 Pius Papa IX benigne annuit tyrones, tempore secundae probationis, experimentum facere posse de iis, quae in prima probatione sunt adnotata, quoties ad maiorem Dei gloriam id conferre iudicabitur. Vivae vocis oraculo die 8 aprilis 1874 (Pope Pius IX granted that novices could be tried out in those offices which are noted for the first probationary period, whenever it deemed to be for the greater glory of God. Granted viva voce, on April 8, 1874); note included in the printed edition of the Latin text reviewed by Latinists Vincenzo Lanfranchi, Tommaso Vallauri and Barnabite Innocenzo Gobio, cf. Regulae seu Constitutiones Societatis S. Francisci Salesii. Juxta approbationis descretum die 3 aprilis 1874. Augustae Taurinorum, ex Officina Asceterii Salesiani, 1874, p. 45 (OE XXV, 455).

50 Cronistoria. by Giselda Capetti, Vol. V. Ultimi anni sotto lo sguardo del Fondatore (1885-1888). Roma, Istituto FMA 1978, pp. 93-94.

51 This is Don Bosco's first letter to the Salesians.

52 Volva, the word Don Bosco uses here means chaff, husks, the outside covering of wheat in old Piedmontese, cf. V. di Sant’Albino, Gran dizionario piemontese-italiano, Torino, Unione Tipografico Editrice 1859, p. 146.

53 The same letter, with appropriate adjustments as needed, was sent to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, cf. Cronistoria. by Giselda Capetti. Vol. IV. L’eredità di madre Mazzarello passa nelle mani di madre Daghero (1881-1884). Roma, Istituto FMA 1978, pp. 281-284.

54 Gavasso: dialect term used to indicate a loaf of bread.

55 Don Bosco suggests to Fr Belmonte a way of answering relatives who are pressuring him to return to the family.

56 Egidio Viganò, The profile of the Salesian in the dream of the Ten Diamonds, in “Acts of the Superior Council” 62 (1981) no. 300, 27-28.

57 This is a conference given to a restricted group of clerics at the Oratory to whom – the following year – he proposed that they become members of the Salesian Society.

58 Fr Bonetti introduces Don Bosco's talk with these words: “A good number of us then took our vows, in accordance with the Rule. Since there were many of us we said the formula together, repeating it after Fr Rua. After that, Don Bosco addressed some words to us for our peace of mind, and to infuse in us greater courage for the future. Amongst other things he told us …” (A0040604 Annali III 1862, p. 1).

59 Fr Bonetti concludes by noting: “We saw that this evening Don Bosco was happy beyond expression, did not want to leave us, assuring us he could have spent the whole night in conversation. He told us so many wonderful things especially about the beginnings of the Oratory. He told us of the tragic end of certain individuals who wanted to stop him from gathering boys etc.” (A0040604 Annali III 1862, p. 6).

60 This is a reflection Don Bosco gave after the profession of vows, at the end of the first of a sereis of retreats, in September 1876. Fr Barberis introduces Don Bosco's address with these words: “On September 17 it was the day for taking vows for those who had not yet done so and wished to do so. After some recreation after breakfast, at 9:30, we went into the church. Because it was Sunday a second Mass was said, and at the same time we sang the Office, then finished by reading the Rule. Meanwhile the Veni Creator was intoned and all those admitted to vows went into the sacristy; there were 20 for perpetuals and 15 for triennials …. When we had finished pronouncing the vows, Don Bosco, already seated on the chair, began a beautiful sermon, part of which I recall I reproduce here” (A0000409 Prediche di don Bosco…, p. 14).

61 The concluding sermon (the “reminders”) given at the end of the second lot of retreats at Lanzo Torinese, 20-28 September 1876).

62 Also called “the dream of San Benigno Canavese”; one of the most important texts for Salesian spirituality.

63 Carry the shield of faith, in order to fight against the wiles of the devil (cf Eph 6:16).

64 Faith without works is dead (Ja 2:20).

65 It is not listening to the Law of God but keeping it that will make people holy in the sight of God (cf. Rm 2:13).

66 Hope in the Lord, not in men.

67 May your hearts be constantly aimed at where true joy is. This is taken from the collect of the Missale Romanum (Dom. IV after Easter).

68 You should carry each other's troubles and fulfil the law of Christ (cf. Gal 6:2).

69 Love and you will be loved. But love your souls and those of your neighbour.

70 Devoutly say the Liturgy of the Hours; celebrate Mass attentively; visit the Holy of Holies with much love.

71 The remedy for concupiscence; powerful weapon against all the devils' snares.

72 If you remove the wood the fire dies.

73 Make a pact with your eyes, throat, sleep, so these enemies do not destroy your souls (cf. Jb 31:1).

74 Lack of temperance and chastity do not go together.

75 Foundations of the building and compendium of holiness.

76 Theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3).

77 Riches are the thorns.

78 Poverty is not lived by words but with the heart and deeds.

79 It will open the gates of heaven and let you in.

80 All virtues come with it (cf. Sap 7:11).

81 Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God (cf. Mt 5:8).

82 If you are drawn by the magnificence of the reward,have no fear of effort.

83 Whoever suffers with me will rejoice.

84 The troubles which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of glory which is out of all proportion to them. (cf. 2 Cor 4:17).

85 Powerful weapon against the snares of the devil.

86 Guardian of all virtues.

87 All kinds of temptations can be got rid of with this (cf. Mt 17:20).

88 Topic for preaching morning, noon and evening.

89 See to the details of virtues and you will build a grand edifice of holiness.

90 He who despises trifles will sink down little by little (cf. Ecc. 19:1).

91 The pious Salesian Society as it risks being in 1900.

92 Look and learn.

93 Sleep and sloth.

94 Laughter and scurrilous words.

95 Negligence in sacred celebrations.

96 All the rest seem more interested in themselves than in Jesus Christ (Phil 2:21).

97 Greed; they make foods into their god (Phil 3:19).

98 Sleep, theft, idleness.

99 Concupiscence of the eyes and pride of life (1 Jn 2:16).

100 Rest, clothing, drink and money.

101 Our earnings are earthly goods.

102 Oh how the old gold has tarnished (Lam 4:1).

103 Servants and instrument of almighty God, listen and understand. Have courage and be strong. What you have seen and heard is a warning from heaven, sent to you and your brothers now. Pay attention and understand well what it is saying to you Blows that are foreseen do less damage and can be prevented. The words indicated are topics for preaching. Preach tirelessly, in season and out of season. But practise what you preach, so that your works are like light which, radiating in the form of safe tradition, shines on your brothers and sons from generation to generation. Listen well and understand: Be careful in accepting novices, strong in cultivating them, prudent in admitting them [to profession]. test them all but keep only the best. Send the light and fickle ones away. Listen well and understand: Meditation morning and evening should constantly be on observance of the Constitutions. If you do this the help of the Almighty will never be lacking. You will be a spectacle for the world and the angels and then your glory will be the glory of God. Those who see the end of this century and the beginning of the next will tell you: this is the work of the Lord and it is admirable in our eyes. then all your brothers and sons will sing: “Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to your name be glory.”

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