Writings and testimonies of don bosco on spiritual life

St Aloysius Gonzaga Sodality (12 April 1847)


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206. St Aloysius Gonzaga Sodality (12 April 1847)

ASC A2300201 Compagnia di S. Aloysius did. Regolamento, ms by another hand, with authentic corrections by Don Bosco (cf MB III, 216-220).

The aim of this sodality is to engage young people in practising the main virtues that stood out most in this Saint. Therefore before joining, each one will have a month's trial to carefully think about the requirements and will not go ahead unless he feels he can fulfil them.


1. St Aloysius was a model of exemplary conduct; therefore, all who want to become members of his Sodality must follow his example. They must behave in such a manner as not only to avoid giving any kind of scandal, but also to strive constantly to set a good example everywhere but especially in church. When St Aloysius went to church, people flocked to see his modest demeanour and his recollection.

2. Endeavour to go to confession and communion every two weeks or even more frequently, especially on solemn feast days. These Sacraments are the weapons by which we triumph over the devil. As a young boy, St Aloysius received them every week, and as he grew older, more often. Any member unable to fulfil this obligation may substitute some other act of devotion, with his superior’s advice.

3. Flee from bad companions as from a plague, and be very careful to avoid improper conversation. St Aloysius not only shunned such talk, but showed such modesty that no one even dared to utter an unseemly word in his presence.

4. Practice the greatest charity toward your companions, readily forgiving any offence. St Aloysius repaid insults with friendship.

5. Be very committed to keeping good order at the Oratory. Urge others to practise virtue and join this sodality. St Aloysius, out of love for others, volunteered to nurse the victims of a plague, and thereby sacrificed his own life.

6. When a member falls sick, all the others should pray for him and also give him material assistance according to their means .

7. Be very diligent in your work and in the fulfilment of your other duties. Promptly obey your parents and superiors.

207. Immaculate Conception Sodality

ASC E452 Compagnia dell’Immacolata, ms by Giuseppe Bongioanni with Don Bosco's own notes (cf MB V, 479-483)16.

We, Joseph Rocchietti, Louis Marcellino, John Bonetti, Francis Vaschetti, Celestine Durando, Joseph Momo, Dominic Savio, Joseph Bongioanni, Michael Rua, John Cagliero, after receiving the sacraments of Confession and Communion, this day, June 8th, give ourselves completely to Mary Immaculate and promise to work unceasingly for her and with her: to help ourselves to do this and to maintain our love for her we, here before her altar, solemnly promise, in agreement with our spiritual director, to follow in Louis Comollo's footsteps to the best of our ability. Here we bind ourselves as follows:

1. To carry out with the greatest exactness the rules of the house;

2. To help and encourage our companions: helping them by pointing out in a friendly way whatever needs correcting; encouraging them to do good through our words but especially through our good example;

3. To always be busy, making strict use of our time.

To make it possible to be faithful to these obligations and to help us to persevere in them, we submit the following rules to our spiritual director for his approval.

Charity makes us perfect, but only by obedience and chastity can we acquire this state that brings us close to God.

1. Our first rule therefore is to be perfectly obedient to our superiors and submit ourselves to them with boundless confidence.

2. The carrying out of our duties will be our first and special concern, and this will be preferred to those religious practices which we are not obliged to observe.

3. A true spirit of charity will unite the members of the group in genuine friendship among us and also with our fellow members. We will not hesitate to correct anyone when so doing in a friendly way would help.

4. We will meet each week for half an hour and after a prayer to the Holy Spirit and a short spiritual reading we will consider how the Sodality is getting on in its work of devotion and virtue. We will help each other with doubts and to get rid of any faults or wrong habits which we have. This we will do privately except when someone has displayed quite blameworthy indifference and diminished his zeal for obedience and fervour.

5. Separately, however, we will admonish each other even while acknowledging that there are faults which we must correct in ourselves.

6. We will try hard to be even-tempered and good-humoured, being patient with each other, and trying to help each other.

7. There are no special prayers to be said; whatever time is left over after having carried out our own duties should be devoted to whatever will be most useful for our souls and this out of fear that there being too many of these, we not prevent fulfilment of those that each one has taken on himself for want of time. especially since true devotion does not consist in long vocal prayers, but rather in purity of heart and the total sacrifice of our will. However, we do take upon ourselves these few practices: We will go as often as possible to the Sacraments when we have been granted permission to. We trust that the greater use we make of such a means of salvation, so much the more will we feel encouraged to persevere in our enterprise and so much greater will be the strength we will have to overcome obstacles.

8. We will receive Holy Communion every Sunday, holy days of obligation, days dedicated to the Oratory's patron saints and all Solemnities of Our Lady.

9. We will also receive Holy Communion on Thursdays, unless we are prevented by some necessary obligation.

10. We will add the Rosary to frequenting the Sacraments. We keenly recommend it be said, but without saying that it is a daily obligation.

11. We will recommend our society to Mary each day, asking her to obtain for us the grace of perseverance, and the virtues necessary for an exact observance of these rules and to win her patronage.

12. Every Saturday we will try to practise some mortification or prayer or other practice in Mary's honour.

13. We will try our best to edify our neighbour. We will be very well behaved during prayer, reading, services in church, study and at school. We will jealously treasure the Word of God and will go over the truths we have meditated on. We will carefully avoid any wasting of time to safeguard ourselves from the temptations which come so easily and so strongly at times of idleness.

14. Therefore whatever time remains after the discharge of our own duties will be spent in useful and good reading or in prayer.

15. Recreation is tolerated and indeed is desirable after meals, and when the mind is tired from studying it cannot help but be a relief, except when the company of superiors or just good manners might hold us back in order not to be rude.

16. We will make known to our superiors whatever will help our spiritual progress, guaranteeing that our actions will be submitted to their judgement.

17. We will not abuse the goodness of those over us by constantly asking for those permissions which in their goodness they are willing to give. The exact observance of the school rules to which we have pledged ourselves should help us to avoid this abuse of too many exceptions.

18. We will observe strict silence while studying, putting aside any pretext for speaking, making noise, or going outside. We recommend the greatest caution and patience in this rule.

19. We will accept from our superiors whatever is spent on food, and not try to be any different from our companions nor accept (anything special) that might be offered us, unless that is a cause of harm to someone.

20. We will not complain about our food and we will try to dissuade others from doing so, whatever it tastes like.

21. Whoever wants to be part of this society should first of all purge his conscience at the tribunal of Confession and then eat from the Eucharistic table; he should then do a week of novitiate; he should read these rules carefully and promise God, Mary Immaculate and his spiritual director that he will observe them in detail.

22. On the day he is admitted, his fellow members will go to Communion (approach the table of the angels), and ask the divine Majesty to give the neophyte the virtue of perseverance and obedience, love of God and Mary our mother.

23. The society is placed under the aegis of the Immaculate Conception, from whence it draws its name and whose medal we will devoutly carry. A sincere, filial and limitless confidence in Mary, a constant devotion and loving affection for her, will make us overcome all obstacles, clinging tenaciously to our resolutions, be firm with ourselves, gentle and kindly towards others, exact in everything. The members are urged to write the holy names of Jesus and Mary first of all in their hearts and minds and then on their books and other objects that might come to mind …

And you, O Mary, bless our efforts, since the idea of the Sodality is all yours. Smile on our hopes, accept our promises, and thus under your mantle and made strong by your loving care, we will come safely through the storm-tossed sea of this world and be victorious over the temptations of the devil. So too will we be able to help our companions by what we do, give joy to those over us, and in all things be your loving sons.

And if God gives us the grace of becoming priests, we promise you to give all our energies and powers to this work, distrusting ourselves, trusting completely in God; and so after our exile on this earth we trust that, consoled by Mary at our side, we shall safely receive the eternal reward that God reserves for those who serve him in spirit and truth.

Seen. Approved with the following conditions:
1. That the above-mentioned promises do not have binding force as vows.

2. They do not oblige under pain of sin.

3. When you meet, set up some kind of external work of charity: like neatness in the church, taking the wilder boys in the house in hand, or the more ignorant ones, etc.

4. Share out the days of the week so each day will have some going to communion.

5. Do not add any religious practices without the permission of the superiors.

6. Make it your fundamental purpose to promote devotion to the Mary Immaculate and the Blessed Sacrament.

7. Before accepting anyone get him to read the life of Louis Comollo.

The first two and the fifth conditions are obligatory, the others advisory.

Turin, June 9, 1856

Fr John Bosco

208. Blessed Sacrament Sodality (1857)

ASC A2300202 Compagnia del SS. Sacramento, ms by Don Bosco himself (cf. MB V, 759-761)17.

Here are the main articles in the regulations for this sodality:

1. The principal aim of this sodality is to foster adoration of the Blessed Eucharist and make reparation to Jesus Christ for the insults he receives in this most august Sacrament from infidels, heretics and bad Christians.

2. For this purpose members will try to share their times for going to Communion so that someone receives Communion every day. Each member, with the permission of his confessor, will go to Communion on Sundays and once during the week.

3. A member will be especially ready to attend all functions directly concerned with the worship of the Blessed Eucharist like serving at Mass, assisting at Benediction, accompanying Viaticum when it is brought to the sick, visiting the Blessed Sacrament during the 40 Hours exposition.

4. Each member will try to learn how to serve Mass well carrying out all the ceremonies properly and devoutly and distinctly repeating the words that belong to this sublime ministry.

5. There will be one spiritual conference a week, which everyone will be keen to attend, and invite others to come and to be punctual.

6. The conferences will deal with matters directly concerning the worship of the Blessed Sacrament, such as encouraging going to Communion with much recollection, instructing and helping those making their First Communion, helping those who need it to make their preparation and thanksgiving, disseminating books, holy pictures, information sheets dealing this matter.

7. After the conference each one will choose some small sacrifice to put into practice during the week

6. During the conferences, deal with matters directly regarding worship of the Blessed Sacrament, like encouraging going to communion with the most recollection, instructing and assisting those making their first communion, helping those who need it to do their preparation and thanksgiving, distributing books, holy pictures, pamphlets about this sort of thing.

7. After the conference make a practical spiritual resolution to be put into practice during the week.



In Don Bosco's educational system preaching has special importance, both that which is bound up with the liturgical or catechetical context, and that of the informal, familiar kind. The saint often addressed the community of young people with brief and fervent talks aimed at stirring up their emotions, nurturing their minds, encouraging good resolutions and devout sentiments, and looking ahead to stimulating horizons.

In his familiar community chats before they went to bed at night ( “goodnights”) he mixed in the oratory genre of spiritual exhortation, imaginary and allegorical stories, communication, and educational reminders.

The material in the archives is huge: we have chosen a few talks offering a panorama of Don Bosco's preferred themes and his expressive style. The texts here are written up from notes taken by some of his listeners during or immediately after the saint spoke. Not every word is literal but they certainly contain the substance. The Biographical Memoirs make extensive use of this material, correct the language, integrate text and various testimonies. We have preferred to go with the sources.

In the “goodnights” to the boys, Don Bosco made broad use of his dream accounts. He was a very able narrator, and this enabled him to imprint on the minds of his listeners the messages that he had most at heart. When recounting his dreams to the educative community at Valdocco “the pedagogical motive is often interlaced with the supernatural or openly providential.”18 We see this in the four examples here (nos. 210, 213, 217, 223) which, “in their allegorical construction”, are an excellent example of his communicative style and pastoral concerns19.

The goodnights and Sunday preaching generally deal with the recurring themes of sin and grace, purification of the heart through the sacrament of confession, frequent communion, spiritual fervour, exact fulfilment of duty and doing good, a peaceful conscience (nos. 211, 214, 216, 218, 219, 220). The instruction on the “beautiful virtue” (no. 209)—one of his preferred topics—is a particularly interesting Sunday talk for its argument, all made up of examples drawn from the Scriptures following a typical approach of Don Bosco's, and with a particular spiritual and eschatological outlook where he presents virginity: the “beautiful” virtue introducing one to a taste for spiritual life. It allows a more intense and intimate relationship with God. It makes it possible to follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It introduces one into the band of blessed spirits who are the “crown of the divine Lamb and follow him wherever he goes”.

The insistence on vocational discernment and choice of state of life emerges in particular (nos. 212, 215, 221, 222). The conference on March 19, 1876 (no. 212)—reserved for Salesians but open for any boys who were interested—effectively represents the way Don Bosco was able to present an apostolic vocation, opening up horizons of meaning as wide as the world itself, enthusing and motivating. Everyone, he says, is called to work in the Lord's vineyard for the salvation of souls; it is a vast harvest that needs many kinds of workers, some dedicated to preaching and teaching, others to a variety of essential services; all aimed at conquering the hearts of the young to lead them to God through prayer, good example, word, works of charity, meekness, fraternal correction. The only condition is right intention, meaning the sincere desire to cooperate in the salvations of one's brothers and sisters and generous availability for any service and sacrifice as good disciples of the crucified Christ.

209. Instructions on the beautiful virtue

ASC A0040601 Memoria di alcuni fatti 1858-1861, ms by Giovanni Bonetti, pp. 1-720

(cf. MB VI, 62-66).
Sunday 17 October 1858
The Church largely dedicates October to Our Blessed Lady. The first Sunday of this month is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in memory of the many graces obtained, the wondrous miracles wrought through her intercession, to keep the keen memory alive in the hearts of the faithful of the many favours that Mary, invoked under that title, has shared with those who are devoted to her. On the second Sunday we celebrate the Virgin Mary's motherhood reminding Christians that Mary is our mother, and that we are all her dear children. Today, the third Sunday, we celebrate her purity, the virtue that makes her so great in God's eyes, and the virtue that made her the most beautiful creature that ever came from the Lord's hands.

Given that you have heard me speak for the last two Sundays about the glories of the Virgin Mary, this evening instead of speaking to you about Mary Most Holy, I would like to speak of this beautiful virtue, showing you the esteem not just that the Gentiles had for it, since they greatly venerated those who preserved this virtue, but I would like to show you the esteem that God himself had for it. Oh how happy I would be if this evening I could fill your tender hearts with love for this angelic virtue! So pay attention and I will begin.

What is the virtue of purity? Theologians tell us that by purity we mean a hatred, an abhorrence of everything against the sixth commandment. Any person, each in his own state, can preserve the virtue of purity. This purity is so pleasing to God that in every age he severely punished the vice that is contrary to it, and rewarded those who preserved it with wondrous deeds. From the earliest times in the world, when human beings, though not so numerous, had already descended into disorder, corruption, as the Scripture tells us: “omnis caro corruperat viam suam,” God had rewarded purity. Enoch who was the only one to have kept his soul pure for God, was believed by God to be unworthy of remaining amongst such a sinful people, so God sent two of his angels who took Enoch away from the company of men, carried him to another place where he was then brought to Heaven by Jesus Christ after his death.

Let's move on. Once mankind had multiplied on earth, they forgot about their Creator and gave themselves to carnal pleasures, the worst vices, the vice of dishonesty, impurity. God was so outraged by such iniquity that he promised to wipe out the human race with a flood all across the land. Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives were saved from this universal extermination. Why this preference for them? Because they had kept this beautiful and inestimable virtue of purity.

Let's move further ahead. After the flood the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to all sorts of foul deeds. God decided to eliminate them not with a flood of water this time, but with a flood of fire. But what did he do first? He cast his gaze on that unhappy city and saw that Lot and his wife had preserved their purity. He then immediately sent an angel to tell them to flee, because God wanted to incinerate all the people. As soon as they had left the city a sea of fire, with terrible thunder and lightning rained down on that poor city and on all its inhabitants. Lot and his wife were saved from the fire, but his wife, out of curiosity, did not escape God's wrath. The angel had forbidden them to look back when God's punishment rained down on the inhabitants, but Lot's wife, hearing so much noise that it seemed that all of hell had been provoked, could not resist turning around; and at that very moment she was turned into a pillar of salt. So though God had saved her from the common slaughter for her purity, he nevertheless wanted to punish her for the immodesty of her eyes, to show us that we need to be modest with our eyes, not satisfy every curiosity, otherwise we will be its victim, not only in our body as was Sarah, but also in our soul since our eyes are the portals through which the devil enters.

Let's move on yet again. Go back in your thoughts to Egypt, and there you will see a young man who, because he did not want to consent to an infamous and immodest action his mistress wanted to force him into, suffered a thousand punishments and even prison. Who was he? Would God even allow Joseph to perish? No, wait and you will see him come out of prison and in an instant ascend the throne of Egypt; you will see that he alone with his advice saves not only Egypt from death, but Judah, Syria, Mesopotamia and a thousand other nations. But where does such glory come from you will ask me. From God, who wanted to reward Joseph's heroic deed in not heeding blandishments. He wanted to reward his love for the beautiful virtue of purity, wanted to reward his constancy in preserving his heart chaste and pure at the cost of persecution and prison itself.

I would never finish if I wanted to recall all the deeds of this kind, and of Judith, because of whose purity God saved Judith from an entire army, or the chaste Susannah lifted up to Heaven, and of Esther who saved the Hebrew nation. But why did God work so many wonders for them? For their purity. Yes, the virtue of purity is so beautiful, so pleasing to God who at all times and in all circumstances never left those who preserved it without protection.

But let's keep going, since this is not enough. The much awaited time had come, the one whom the people had waited so long for, the Saviour of the world. But who was she of whom the Son of God, Creator of the Universe wished to be born? God turned his gaze on all the daughters of Zion and found one with whom he fell in love. Who was she? Mary most holy. The Saviour of the world was born of her, not through the work of man but through the work of the Holy Spirit, since God wanted to accomplish a wonder never done before and that would never happen again. Why so many privileges? To reward Mary's purity. She was the purest, the most chaste of all creatures.

What do you believe would be the reason why our Divine Saviour loved to be with children so much, wanted to embrace them, if not because they had not yet lost the beautiful virtue of purity? The Apostles wanted to chase them away because of all their noisy chatter, but the Divine Saviour, calling them back, commanded them to let them come to him, sinite pueros venire ad me; telling them they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they became simple pure and chaste like those children. Our Divine Saviour raised up a young boy and girl, but why? Because, so the Fathers interpret it for us, they had not lost their purity.

Why did Jesus Christ show so much predilection for St John? Did he want to go up Mt Tabor for his transfiguration? He wanted St John with him. Did he want to go fishing with his apostles? Well then, he preferred to get into St John's boat. He went to Gethsemane, to the garden, but he wanted John with him. Hung upon the cross, he turned to John and said: “Son behold your mother; woman behold your son.” But why did Jesus entrust John to his mother, the greatest creature that had ever left God's hands, and no greater would there ever be? Why such preference? Because, my dear boys, John more than all the other apostles had preserved the beautiful virtue of virginity, of purity. He allowed John to rest his head on his divine breast, why? Because John had preserved and possessed the beautiful virtue of purity. If Jesus loved all of his apostles with a particular love, he loved John more than all; the others believed that John would not have to die because Jesus had told Peter: and if I want him to live until I come, what is that to you? In fact St John was the apostle who lived the longest. It was he whom Jesus Christ had see in spirit the glory enjoyed by those in Heaven who had preserved the beautiful virtue of purity in this life. He left it written in the Apocalypse that, entering the highest Heaven, he saw a crowd of souls dressed in white, with a girdle of gold and carrying a palm in their hands. These souls made a crown for the Lamb and followed him wherever he went. They sang such a beautiful hymn, so sweet that he could not comprehend such beautiful harmony and was outside of himself, and turning to the angel accompanying him, said: “Who are those surrounding the Lamb singing such a beautiful song that all the other blessed do not know how to sing?” Then the angel told him: “They are the ones who have kept the beautiful virtue of purity, isti sunt qui cum mulieribus non sunt coniugati.

O what fortunate souls are they who have not yet lost the beautiful virtue of purity! Redouble your efforts to preserve it. You have such a beautiful treasure, one so great that even the angels envy you. You are, as our Redeemer Jesus Christ says, like the angels.

And for those of you who have unfortunately lost it, do not lose courage, do everything possible to recover it. It is true, you will no longer be virgins, you will no longer have the good fortune of being in that group which has a place apart from all the others in Heaven; you will no longer be able to sing that hymn that only the virgins can sing, but that does not matter - there is still a beautiful place for you in Heaven, so majestic that the thrones of the richest emperors, the richest kings that have ever been or could be on this earth, pale by comparison. You will still be surrounded by so much glory that neither human nor angelic tongue could explain. You will still be able to enjoy the beautiful company of Jesus, Mary, that good mother of ours who anxiously awaits us; the company of all the saints and angels who are always ready to help us so long as we want with all our heart to preserve the beautiful virtue of purity.

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