Reading: From the Letter from Rome – Part IV
Critical Edition: P. Braido – Translation: P. Laws
by St. John Bosco
I wish I did not have these dreams, they tire me so much. The following day I was dead tired, and I could hardly wait for the hour to come to go to bed that evening. But I was hardly in bed when the dream began again. Before me once again was the playground, with the boys at present at the Oratory and the same past pupil as before. I began to question him.
I’ll let my Salesians know what you have told me, but what should I say to the boys of the Oratory?”
“Tell them,” he said, “to realise how much the superiors, the teachers, the assistants, plan and wear themselves out for love of them, since they would not sacrifice themselves so much if they didn’t love them. Let them never forget that humility is the source of all peace of mind; let them be able to put up with each other’s shortcomings, because there is no perfection in this world, only in heaven. Tell them not to grumble because it freezes the heart. But especially, tell them to live in the holy grace of God. If you are not at peace with God, you cannot be at peace with yourself, nor with others.”
“Are you telling me then that among my boys there are some who are not at peace with God?”
“Among other reasons you already know, this is the principal cause of bad spirit. There is no need for me to tell you that you must do something about it. The one without trust is the one with secrets to guard, the one who is afraid the secrets will become known and bring him shame and trouble. At the same time, if his heart is not at peace with God he will be a prey to restless anxiety, intolerant of obedience, and get upset over nothing. Everything seems to go wrong for him, and because he has no love himself, he thinks the superiors do not love him.”
“It is true that many go to confession, but what is radically lacking in the confessions of so many youngsters is a firm resolution. They tell their sins but they are always the same, always the same occasions, the same bad habits, the same acts of disobedience, the same neglect of duty. This goes on, month in, month out, even for years and some even continue in this way till they leave school. These confessions are worth little or nothing, and so they do not restore peace, and if a youngster in that state were to be called before God’s judgement seat, it would be a serious matter indeed. But in comparison with the whole group in the house they are only a few. Look.” And he pointed them out to me.
I looked, and I saw those boys one by one. There were not many, but in them I saw things that brought profound bitterness to my soul. I do not want to put such things in writing, but when I come back I want to have a word with each one about what I saw. For the moment I limit myself to saying that it is time to pray and make firm resolutions, with facts and not just words, so as to show that the Comollos, the Dominic Savios, the Besuccos and the Saccardis are still among us.
I put a final question to my friend: “Have you anything else to tell me?”
“Preach to all, young and old alike, that they must remember they are children of Mary Help of Christians. Tell them she has gathered them here to take them away from the dangers of the world, so that they may love one another as brothers and give glory to God and to her by their good behaviour. Tell them that it is Our Lady who provides them with bread and the means to study, by endless graces and wonders. Remind them that they are at the vigil of the feast of their holy Mother, so that with her help that barrier of mistrust will fall which has been raised between boys and superiors by the devil, who knows how to use it to ruin certain souls.”
“And will we be successful in breaking down this barrier?”
“Certainly you will, as long as young and old are ready to put up with some small mortifications for love of Mary and do what I have told you.”
Meanwhile I continued to watch my youngsters, but at the sight of those I had seen heading for eternal damnation I experienced such heartache that I awoke. I still have to tell you many important things that I saw, but I have neither time nor opportunity at present.
And now I must finish. Do you know what this poor old man who has spent his whole life for his dear boys wants from you? Nothing else than, due allowances being made, we should go back to the happy days of the Oratory of old: the days of affection and Christian confidence between boys and superiors; the days when we accepted and put up with difficulties for the love of Jesus Christ; the days when hearts were open with a simple candour; days of love and real joy for everyone. I want the consolation and hope that you will promise to do everything I desire for the good of your souls.
You do not realise how lucky you are in having come to the Oratory. I declare before God: it is enough for a young person to enter a Salesian house for Our Lady to take him under her special care. Let us all agree on this then: may the charity of those who command and the charity of those who must obey cause the spirit of St Francis de Sales to reign among us. My dear children, the time is coming when I will have to tear myself away from you and leave for eternity.” (Secretary’s note: at this point Don Bosco broke off the dictation; his eyes filled with tears, not of sorrow but because of the inexpressible tenderness that was evident from his face and voice; after a few moments he went on.) “And so I want to leave you, my dear priests and brothers and my dearest boys, on the road the Lord himself wants you to follow. For this purpose the Holy Father, whom I saw on Friday 9 May, sends you his blessing from the bottom of his heart.
I will be with you on the feast of Mary Help of Christians, before the statue of our loving Mother. I want this feast to be celebrated with full solemnity, and that Fr Lazzero and Fr Marchisio see to it that you have a good time in the dining-room as well. The feast of Mary Help of Christians should be a prelude to the eternal feast that we will all celebrate one day together in heaven.
With much love, your friend in Christ Jesus.
MEDITATION – Dr. Andrew Seeley
St. John Bosco’s words in this month’s reading call to mind the words Our Lord spoke to the Church at Ephesus in Revelations:
I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. -Revelations 2:3-4
Abraham Lincoln said something similar about his generation, which did not know those who had sacrificed everything in the cause of liberty:
The scenes of the Revolution, like everything else, must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more.
Hopefully you belong to a school that is, or has, or soon will be enjoying the fervor proper to the heroic adventure of beginning to live Catholic education in its completeness. I hope you are savoring with your colleagues, your students, and their families the joy of freedom in the Truth.
We should not be surprised or dismayed, however, when the very success of the pioneering enterprise brings with it tendencies to take for granted the real blessings, and even to focus on lesser, more individualistic goods.
Leaders in such circumstances must beg for the grace not to judge harshly those in front of them, but to love fervently those they have been given to serve; to keep alive in their own hearts reverence for the blessings they have received so that they might inspire those who do not see them so well; to challenge and direct those whose attitudes are harming themselves and the community; to turn personally and publicly to Mary for her intercession and example.
Have I been afraid to be a witness in my school to the chief blessings of Catholic education? Have I let myself succumb to discouragement over the lack of fervor in myself and others? Have I turned to prayer for the enlightenment and courage needed to correct and inspire others lovingly?
St. John Bosco composed this prayer: Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help. If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children, how can you, the most loving of all mothers, forget me? Grant then to me, I implore you, your perpetual help in all my necessities, in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations. I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering. Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners. Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life. Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary sometime this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.