Writings and testimonies of don bosco on spiritual life

Devotion to Mary Most Holy


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Devotion to Mary Most Holy

It is a great support for you, my children, to have devotion to Mary Most Holy. Listen to her inviting you: “Si quis est parvulus veniat ad me. If you are a child, come to me.” She will assure you that if you are devoted to here as well as filling you with blessings in this world, you will gain heaven in the next. Qui elucidant me vitam aeternam habebunt [Sir 24:31]. So be fully convinced that all the graces you ask of this good Mother will be granted you, so long as you do not ask for things that could harm you.

In a particular way you should immediately ask for three graces which everyone absolutely needs, but you especially at a young age. The first is that of never committing a mortal sin in your life. I want you to implore this grace through Mary's intercession at any cost, because without this one any other grace would be of little avail.

Do you know what it means to fall into mortal sin? It means refusing to be children of God and becoming children of Satan. It means losing the beauty that makes us as beautiful as the angels in God's eyes, and taking on the deformities of the devils in his sight. It means losing all the merits you have already gained for eternal life; it means dangling above the jaws of hell, being held there only by a slender thread; and it means reviling his infinite goodness, which is the greatest evil imaginable. Ah! If Mary obtained many graces for you but not that of ever falling into mortal sin, she would have obtained very little. You must implore this grace morning and evening and in all your exercise of piety.

The second grace that you should ask for is to preserve the holy and precious virtue of purity. If you keep guard over such a beautiful virtue you will be very like the angels in Heaven, and your guardian angel will regard you as his brother since he will enjoy your company so much.

And since I have it very much at heart that you preserve this virtue, I would like to indicate some ways for preserving it from the poison that could infect it. First of all avoid the company of persons of the opposite sex. Understand this well: I am trying to say that boys should not become very familiar with girls; this virtue would be at great risk.

Something that helps very much to preserve it is custody of the sense and especially the eyes. You should therefore avoid all excess in eating and drinking, theatre, balls and similar pastimes which are the ruin of morals. The eyes are the windows through which sin makes its way into our hearts and by which the devil comes to take possession of our soul. So never stop to look at even the least little things contrary to modesty. Saint Aloysius Gonzaga did not even want to look at his feet when he went to bed or got up. He did not allow himself to stare at his own mother. He spent seven years with the Queen of Spain as a page of honour but he never looked her in the face.

Another young man when asked why he was so careful in his looks gave this answer: “I have resolved never to look at a woman to preserve my eyes to look for the first time (if I am worthy to) at the beautiful face of the mother of purity, Mary Most Holy.”

Secondly, flee the company of boys who engage in bad talk, that is topics which you would not raise in the presence of your parents or some other good person. Keep far away from them even if they are your relatives. I can assure you that the company of a devil would sometimes not be as bad as the harm that company of this kind can cause you.

And from this comes the need for the third grace that will also be of very great help to you in preserving the virtue of purity. It is the grace of running away from bad companions. How happy you will be, my dear boys, if you flee the company of the wicked! By doing this you will be sure of taking the road to paradise; otherwise you run the grave risk of being lost for eternity. Therefore, when you hear your friends swearing, blaspheming, or putting down religion, or trying to draw you away from the Church, or worse still speaking in language that is contrary to the virtue of modesty, keep away from them like the plague, and be sure that the purer is your gaze, your speech, the more pleased Mary will be with you and the more graces she will obtain for you from her Son and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

These are the three graces that are needed more than any other, at your age, and they are enough to keep you on the right path from your youth. They will ensure that you will be men of honour in old age, and are a sure pledge of the eternal glory that Mary undoubtedly procures for those who are devoted to her. What should you do for Mary to obtain the graces indicated above? Very little is needed. If you can, say the Rosary, but at least never forget to say three Hail Marys and three Glory be to the Father s adding: “Dear Mother Mary, ever Virgin, help me to save my soul.”

The Six Sundays and the Novena to St Aloysius Gonzaga
Saint Aloyius Gonzaga is proposed as an example of innocence and virtue to all, but especially to the young for whom he has at all times obtained very many favours from Our Lord.

In order to increase devotion to this great saint, the Roman Pontiffs have granted a plenary indulgence on each of six Sundays to all those who perform some special practice of devotion in his honour on any six consecutive Sundays of the year. The indulgence may be gained on any one of these Sundays. In order that you may know the required works and prayers I have here arranged some exercises of piety that may be used for the six Sundays and the novena of St Aloysius. Thus you will be able to share in the wonderful graces and favours which the great model of youth every day obtains for his devotees.

First Sunday - First day of the novena: Saint Aloysius weeps for his sins

Although it can be said that St Aloysius never committed a deliberate sin, he wept bitterly for what he considered an offence against God. On one occasion when he was four or five years old, he took a small quantity of gunpowder from his father's soldiers in order to fire a small canon of his and besides, uttered some unbecoming words he had heard from the soldiers, but which he did not understand. He wept all his life for these two lapses and when he confessed them for the first time he fainted at the feet of his confessor. He could not go on with his confession that day nor could he ever recall them in the years to come without shedding tears. What shame ought we not feel who have committed so many and grievous sins, yet we laugh about them and show no sign of repentance. Ah! If only we could stop to consider that a single sin outrages God, who is infinitely good; that it makes us lose heaven which contains everything that is good, makes us deserving of hell with all its evil within. Who could hold back tears at such thoughts? This is what made St Aloysius weep.

Brief prayer: My amiable protector, you who had so little to weep for and yet continually shed so many bitter tears, obtain for me the grace to weep for my sins and detest them, in order to obtain God's pardon.

Practice: If you find that your conscience reproaches you on account of some sin, heartily beg Our Lord's forgiveness and promise him to go to confession as soon as possible.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, adorned with angelic virtue, I you most unworthy suppliant, kneeling humbly before you, adore the Infinite Majesty which raised you to such glory; I bless the Holy Trinity a thousand times over for granting you such innocence and adorning you with so many heroic virtues. Grant For so many superhuman gifts, for your innocence and penitence, for the love your bore God on earth, I humbly beg you today to accept me amongst your devotees and obtain for me true contrition for my sins, a purity of heart far from every fault or offence to my God. I beg you to be my protector in every action in life and especially at the moment of death, when I will have greater need of your patronage. And you, Mary, great Queen of heaven, who so loved and encouraged Aloysius while he was alive on earth, make these prayers of mine effective, listen to them, not for any merit of my own but for the merit of Aloysius and because of your maternal love. Dear Mother, may I imitate Aloysius in life and after a holy death be part of that happiness enjoyed forever and ever by the blessed in heaven. Amen.

Six Our Fathers, six Hail Marys, and six Glory etc.

Second Sunday - Second day of the novena: Penance of St Aloyius

The life of St Aloysius is a summary of the virtues which he preserved and perfected by very severe penance. Even when a boy he used punish his body by very long fasts. By degrees he cut down his food to very small quantities. He used scourge himself till the blood began to flow: he placed pieces of wood in his bed that he might suffer even while he slept and wore spurs under his clothes because he had no hair-shirt. Whether standing, sitting or walking he chose the most uncomfortable position. Aloysius' desire for penance went so far that when he was dying, he begged his superior in tears to be scourged without mercy from head to foot. When this was denied him he asked at least to be laid upon the bare ground and thus to die as a true penitent out of love for the one who died for him upon the hard wood of the Cross. If Aloysius, a prince, and a pure and innocent youth of delicate health, performed such penance, what must be the confusion of those young people who find a thousand excuses to fly from every occasion of doing acts of penance or abstinence for the love of God who suffered so much for us!

Brief prayer: O glorious St Aloysius, obtain for me an ardent desire to do penance for my many sins, so that I may not have to weep uselessly for them in the next life with the torments of hell.

Practice: Do not put off penance till your old age, when your health will no longer be able to stand it. If anyone tells you that it is of no use to chastise your body, tell him that he who does not suffer with Jesus Christ upon earth will not rejoice with Jesus Christ in heaven.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.

Third Sunday - Day three of novena: St Aloysius, model of holy Purity

Every virtue was practised by St Aloysius to an heroic degree, but the radiance of his purity outshone all the others. He was commonly called a little angel, an angel in human flesh, an angelic youth. Whenever conversations in the least improper were being held, on the approach of Aloysius no one dared to continue the subject, for fear of offending his modesty and innocence. It must be noticed however that in order to preserve this beautiful virtue, St Aloysius kept a strict watch over his external senses and especially his eyes. For years he was at his post every day as page of honour with the Empress of Austria, yet he never gazed at her face. Indeed even in the presence of his mother he kept his eyes lowered, so that he did not know what she looked like. Once when invited to a ball he fled away and hid himself in a room where he scourged himself until he bled . he was only ten years old when he came to know the great worth of this virtue, and he offered it by vow to the Queen of virgins, Mary Most Holy. To show him how much she appreciated this vow she obtained for St Aloysius the grace of being forever free of temptations against this virtue. Thus he had the grace of bearing his baptismal robe unspotted to heaven. My dear children, if you too wish to preserve this virtue which renders you so pleasing to God, to the Blessed Virgin, to all the angels, place yourselves as he did under the special protection of Mary and she will be the faithful guardian of your purity. Oh how much she loves souls that are pure and chaste, more than any others! How much she obtains for them! However this virtue can never be preserved without fleeing from bad talk and bad companions and if we do not keep a guard over our senses, especially the eyes.

Brief prayer: Obtain for me the grace, St Aloysius, to flee from those companions who by their improper conversations seek the ruin of my soul.

Practice: Resolve never more to look at dangerous objects or to speak of things contrary to the virtue we have just spoken about.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Fourth Sunday - Fourth day of the novena: St Aloysius detached from earthly goods

St Aloysius regarded all the goods of this earth as nothing. He looked with compassion on the rich and the great in this world, who seek goods so vile and frail and often times for a little money or a piece of land run the risk of losing their eternal salvation. He despised all human respect and although he was often scorned and derided, he never ceased to appear humbly dressed even in important places. He let everyone say what he would but he was modest at home, on the streets and especially in church where the only thing that mattered was to frequent the sacraments and everything concerning God's honour. But since he was in the midst of wealth and luxury, and because his heart was in danger of being attached to earthly goods, he abandoned his princely life, his family and friends and after being so much attacked by those who loved the world he became a religious with the Jesuits, where he achieved a high degree of Christian perfection. If we also wish to detach our hearts from the vanities of this world and attach ourselves to God, let us begin to look despise worldly goods which are a hindrance to our salvation saying with St Aloysius: “That which is not eternal is nothing: Quod aeternum non est nihil est.” We shall easily do this if, despising human respect, we attend to those things which regard the love of God and especially to frequenting the sacraments of confession and communion which are the two most effective means of overcoming human respect and withdrawing our hearts from earthly things and inspiring them with the love of the things of heaven.

Brief prayer: Dear St Aloysius, through the merits of the intimate union you had with God, obtain for me the grace for the future to think of nothing but the things of heaven and ever to despise the things of earth.

Practice: Let us resolve today to go to confession and communion as often as possible.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Fifth Sunday - Fifth day of the novena: St Aloysius' charity towards his neighbour

The love we have for our neighbour is the measure of our love for God. Not only did St Aloysius have a great love for his neighbour, but he knew marvellously well how to bear with the defects of everyone. Even from his earliest years he bore insults, outrages, and ill-treatment from his companions that far from taking offence he rejoiced and loved most of all the one who had made him suffer most. As soon as he found out that there was a poor man at the door he would immediately go to see him and he would run joyfully to the Marchioness, his mother, to have something to give him. Having obtained it he would go himself to give it to the poor beggar. More ardent still was his charity for the spiritual needs of his neighbour. When he was still in the world he used teach catechism to the ignorant. He always tried to correct their defects and find ways to settle their discords and quarrels. As a Religious he went through the streets of Rome instructing the beggars and bringing them himself to the priests that they might be freed from their sins and receive God's grace. Wanting to do the best he could for his neighbour by giving his own life, he did this too. A plague was raging in Rome and he obtained permissions to serve the victims of the disease. Aloysius gladly lent his services where they were in the worst condition. Hanging some bags around his neck he went through the city begging alms from door to door, then he returned to the hospital to help the poor wretches, performing the very lowest services for them. It was not long before the Lord satisfied Aloysius' vow and allowed him to contract the terrible disease, which slowly consumed him and eventually took his life. We also, my dear boys, can imitate this great Saint in his work of charity, if we bear patiently with the defects of our companions and forgive those who have offended us. But our charity will be much greater if we instruct them as to what is needed for eternal salvation, or at least take them to places where they can be instructed. How many souls we will then save from perdition and bring back to the path that leads to salvation; and then how many graces we shall receive from God through the intercession of St Aloysius!

Brief prayer: O most loving St Aloysius, inflame my heart with true love of my neighbour that the love of God may ever increase in me.

Practice: Endeavour to lead one of your companions to listen to the Word of God or receive the sacrament of confession.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Sixth Sunday - Sixth day of the novena: St Aloysius' love of God

In his love of God St Aloysius was truly seraphic. So burning was his love that even when he thought he heard of someone speak of God he would almost fall into a swoon. He had a very particular love for Jesus crucified. Every time he was despised by others or suffered a headache or some other pain, he was very happy and desired only to suffer more for the love of God. How great was his love towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! He spent many hours before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. He spent three days preparing for holy communion, then three days making his thanksgiving. When receiving the Sacred Host he often burst into such a flood of tears that his strength gave way and he was unable to rise from the ground. Why is it that we feel such little taste for spiritual things? The reason lies in the fact that our hearts are so little inflamed with the love of Jesus crucified and that we receive holy communion to seldom or perhaps unworthily. It is impossible to approach these two inexhaustible fires of God's love and not be inflamed nor feel comfort and contentment. Let us therefore draw near to Jesus in the future with hearts kindled with burning love and fervent acts of faith, hope and sorrow. and we shall also experience the delights and joys of St Aloysius.

Brief prayer: O great Seraph of love, inflame my heart with true Divine love, so that I may desire nothing but to love God and serve him alone.

Practice: Endeavour to say your morning and evening prayers before an image of Jesus crucified and kiss it often. The Supreme Pontiffs have granted many indulgences to those who kiss the crucifix. Try to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament often, especially when exposed for the Forty Hours devotion.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Three considerations which serve to complete the novena to St Aloysius
Seventh day: St Aloysius gave himself to God at an early age

Usually it is not until we have lost it that we realise the value of divine grace, and many have to remedy the past by weeping for the sins they have committed. It was not so with St Aloysius. As soon as he was able to come to know God he immediately began to love him. His first words were the sweet names of Jesus and Mary. His first inclinations were towards piety. His first delights were exercises of sincere devotion. And thus he lived until his death. “My son,” his mother said, “was always a little angel.” From his seventh year until the moment of his death he always led a holy life, the life of an angel and the true ideal of perfect holiness. God is pleased with us in a very special way when we serve him in the time of our youth. St Aloysius knew this and the Lord filled him with many graces and he became a great saint. If St Aloysius had waited until old age to give himself to God undoubtedly he would not have become such a great saint, since he died very young and it could even have happened that he would not have been saved. Why then not consecrate the springtime of our life to God, as he so much wants you to? Why delay from day to day to renounce sin and begin to live as a true Christian? All those now in hell had the intention of turning to God 'later on', but death prevented them and now they are lost forever; they are crying out amidst the flames: “We fools were mistaken: nos insensati erravimus.”

Brief prayer: Obtain for me, St Aloysius the grace to lament the time that I have lost and to employ all that God may yet grant me in serving him.

Practice: Flee from bad companions who are the sad reason for so much lost time and every day begin a new life that is pleasing to God.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Eighth day: St Aloysius, a model of prayer

The gifts and sublime virtues that adorned St Aloysius must also be said to be the fruit of his prayers. Enlightened by God he knew that whatever we ask for our souls is granted us: petite et accipietis [Lk 11:9]. As soon as he was able to say the words of a prayer suggested to him by his mother, he loved them greatly. At the age of four he would withdraw from the company of the others and would be found by his mother kneeling on the ground in some corner with his hands joined fervently in prayer. So absorbed was he in the delight he found in talking to God that he could hardly hear those who called him. This manner of life became so perfect as Aloysius grew older that he obtained from heaven the rare privilege of of being free from distractions in his prayers. It was a great penance for him to interrupt his prayer. By this means he reached a sublime degree of holiness that is almost without parallel. Let us also strive to acquire this spirit of prayer. In all our needs, sufferings, troubles, and difficult undertakings let us never fail to have recourse to God. But above all let us call trustingly on him for the needs of our soul and we can be sure we will be heard. Let us also beg God to let us know the state of life he wants us to serve him with, that we may spend the time which has been given to us well and on which depends our eternal salvation.

Brief prayer: O glorious St Aloysius, obtain for me a spark of your devotion and an increase in the spirit of prayer and devotion.

Practice: Examine how you have been with prayer in the past and try to be more fervent, mostly by saying some brief prayer to God during the day and to your advocate, St Aloysius.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.

Ninth day: St Aloysius' happy death

What causes us most trouble at the point of death is our past sins and the fear of God's punishment in the next life. St Aloysius had nothing of this to fear. His life was a continual thinking about death which he considered as the only means of ending his exile on earth and going to possess the heavenly goods he so much desired. after so many fasts, such severe penances, such long meditations and prayers, in a word, after a truly angelic life, what had he to fear? Hence when he was advised he was dying he sang the Te Deum, and filled with happiness kept on saying: “Let us go rejoicing: Laetantes imus.” God revealed to him the moment of his death and he enjoyed the glory of paradise in an ecstasy which though it lasted the whole night, seemed to him to last only a moment. Then after promising all those present to intercede for them with God, Mary, the other saints, he kissed Jesus crucified and peacefully breathed his last. What a beautiful way to die! Without doubt we admire the wonderful death of St Aloysius. If only we wish it ours can be the same. But be aware that at the point of death we gather what we have sown during our life. If we have done good works, then happy are we, death will find us content, heaven will be opened for us. But woe to us if we have done otherwise. Remorse of conscience and hell await us: quae seminaverit homo haec et metet [Gal 6:8].

Brief prayer: O glorious St Aloysius, obtain for me the grace to lead a good life so I can die a holy death.

Practice: Every evening think of what would be your lot if you were to die that night.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.
Feast of St Aloysius: The glory of St Aloysius in heaven

The glory which a soul enjoys in heaven is in proportion to the innocence of its life: its penance and its charity. These virtues shone brilliantly in St Aloysius. In his whole life we cannot find one fault that was committed deliberately. No sooner had he reached the use of reason than he turned to God to love him. To innocence he added very rigorous penance. Now, if in heaven even a glass of water given for God is taken into account, what of so much blood shed by St Aloysius who drenched his clothes with blood from his scourging? What of his praying at night when he knelt on the bare ground shivering with cold? What of his austere fasts? What of the many sufferings he devised to punish his innocent flesh? What glory all these must have merited for St Aloysius in heaven! His love for God and his neighbour was so intense that his whole life from the time of the use of reason until death was naught but an act of love for God. No great wonder than that St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, rapt in a vision and contemplating the happiness of the blessed, upon seeing St Aloysius cried out that she had never believed such glory existed in heaven as that which adorned him.

Behold my dear friends, the fruits of a good and virtuous life, a blessed eternity of delight, incomparable glory in seeing God face to face, where we will praise him, bless him together with Mary, the angels and all the blessed forever. Have courage then and let us begin to work early for Our Lord. We shall have to endure some pains in this world, but our reward in the next life will be forever.

Brief prayer: O most merciful St Aloysius, obtain for me the grace to be a saint so that I may join with your glory in heaven.

Practice: Offer the saint all your exercises of devotion today to obtain the grace of final perseverance.

Prayer: O Saint Aloysius, etc.

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