Newsletter of the District
- Dec 2001
and Harry Potter or
Memoirs, Vol. VII, page 212ff)
are publishing here a dream of Don Bosco in the context of today’s
craze about Harry Potter.
and witches can be very fun at the beginning, but soon or late
they will turn very nasty.
very beginning of the Oratory, Don Bosco had started the custom
of giving a spiritual strenna or gift to his boys and co-workers
on the last day of the year. It took the form of a motto or slogan
to be practiced in the year then about to dawn. This custom is still
kept by Don Bosco's successors upright is the Lord," says the
psalmist: "He shows sinners the way, He guides the humble to
justice, He teaches the humble His way." (Ps. 24:8-9).
had not been able to give the annual strenna to his pupils on the
last day of the year 1862, Don Bosco promised to do so on the evening
of the Feast of the Epiphany. Therefore, on Tuesday, January 6,
1863, after the night prayers, as all artisans and students eagerly
awaited him, Don Bosco mounted the platform and addressed them:
Tonight I should
give you the strenna. Every year around Christmas I regularly beg
God to suggest a strenna that may benefit you all. In view of your
increased number, I doubled my prayers this year. The last day of
the year (Wednesday) came and went, and so did Thursday and Friday,
but nothing came to me. On Friday night, January 2, I went to bed
exhausted, but could not fall asleep. The next morning I arose from
bed worn out and almost half dead, but I did not feel upset over
it. Rather, I was elated, knowing from past experience that a very
bad night is usually a forewarning that Our Lord is about to reveal
something to me. That day I went on with my work at Borgo Cornalese;
the next day, by early evening, I arrived back here. After hearing
Confessions, I went to bed. Tired from my work at Borgo and from
not sleeping the night before, I soon dozed off. Now began the dream
which will give you your strenna.
My dear boys,
I dreamed that it was a feast day afternoon and that you were all
busy playing, while I was in my room with professor Thomas Vallauri
(a contemporary lexicographer, prominent literary man and dear friend
of Don Bosco) discussing literature and religion. Suddenly, there
was a knock at my door. I rose quickly and opened it. My mother - dead
now for six years - was standing there. Breathlessly, she gasped,
"Come and see! Come and see!"
happened?" I asked.
Come!" she replied.
I dashed to
the balcony. Down in the playground, surrounded by a crowd of boys,
stood an enormous elephant.
this happen?" I exclaimed. "Let's go down!"
and I looked at each other in surprise and alarm and then raced
downstairs. As was only natural, many of you had run to the elephant.
It seemed meek and tame. Playfully it lumbered about, nuzzling the
boys with its trunk and cleverly obeying their orders, as though
it had been born and raised at the Oratory. Very many of you kept
following it about and petting it, but not all. In fact, most of
you were scared and fled from it to safety. Finally, you hid in
the church. I too tried to get in through the side door which opens
into the playground, but as I passed Our Lady's statue beside the
drinking fountain and touched the hem of her mantle for protection,
she raised her right arm. Vallauri did likewise on the other side
of the statue, and the Virgin raised her left arm. I was amazed,
not knowing what to think of such an extraordinary thing.
Enemy of the Holy Eucharist
When the bell
rang for church service, you all trooped in. I followed and saw
the elephant standing at the rear by the main entrance. After Vespers
and the sermon, I went to the altar, assisted by Fr. Alasonatti
and Fr. Savio, to give Benediction. At the solemn moment when you
all deeply bowed to adore the Blessed Sacrament, the elephant - still
standing at the end of the middle aisle - knelt down too, but
with its back to the altar.
were over, I tried to dash out to the playground and see what would
happen, but I was detained by someone. A while later, I went out
through the side door which opens into the porticoes and saw you
at your usual games. The elephant too had come out of the church
and had idled over to the second playground where the new wing is
under construction. Mark this well, because this is precisely the
place where the grisly scene I am going to describe occurred.
At that moment,
at the far end of the playground, I saw a banner followed processionally
by boys. It bore in huge letters the inscription “Sancta Maria,
succurre miseris! Holy Mary, help your forlorn children!” To
everybody's surprise, that monstrous beast, once so tame, suddenly
ran amuck. Trumpeting furiously, it lunged forward, seized the nearest
boys with its trunk, hurled them into the air or flung them to the
ground and then trampled them underfoot. Though horribly mauled,
the victims were still alive. Everybody ran for dear life. Screams
and shouts and pleas for help rose from the wounded. Worse - would
you believe it? - some boys who were spared by the elephant,
rather than aid their wounded companions, joined the monstrous brute
to find new victims.
As all this
was happening (I was standing by the second arch of the porticle,
near the drinking fountain), the little statue that you see there
(the statue of the Blessed Virgin) became alive and grew to life-size.
Then, as Our Lady raised her arms, her mantle spread open to display
magnificently embroidered inscriptions. Unbelievably, it stretched
far and wide to shelter all those who gathered beneath it. The best
boys were the first to run to it for safety. Seeing that many were
in no hurry to run to her, Our Lady called aloud, “Venite ad
me omnes! Come all to me!” Her call was heeded, and as the crowd
of boys under the mantle increased, so did the mantle spread wider.
However, a few youngsters kept running about and were wounded before
they could reach safety. Flushed and breathless, the Blessed Virgin
continued to plead, but fewer and fewer were the boys who ran to
her. The elephant, meanwhile, continued its slaughter, aided by
several lads who dashed about, wielding one sword or two and preventing
their companions from running to Mary. The elephant never even touched
prompted by the Blessed Virgin, some boys left the safety of her
mantle in quick sorties to rescue some victims. No sooner did the
wounded get beneath Our Lady's mantle than they were instantly cured.
Again and again several of those brave boys, armed with cudgels;
went out and, risking their lives, shielded the victims from the
elephant and its accomplices until nearly ,all were rescued.
was now deserted, except for a few youngsters lying about almost
dead. At one end by the portico, a crowd of boys stood safe under
the Virgin's mantle. At the other stood the elephant with some ten
or twelve lads who had helped it wreak such havoc and who still
insolently brandished swords.
up on its hind legs, the elephant changed into a horrible, long-horned
specter and cast a black net over its wretched accomplices. Then,
as the beast roared, a thick cloud of smoke enveloped them, and
the earth suddenly gaped beneath them and swallowed them up.
I looked for
my mother and professor Vallauri to speak to them, but I could not
spot them anywhere. Then I turned to look at the inscriptions on
Mary's mantle and noticed that several were actual quotations or
adaptations of Scriptural texts. I read a few of them:
me vitam aeternam habebunt - They that explain me, shall have
life everlasting. (Eccles. 24:31).
Qui me invenerit,
inveniet vitam - He who finds me, will find life. (Prov. 8:35).
est parvulus, veniat ad me - Whoever is a little one, let him
come to me. (Prow 9:4).
peccatorum - Refuge of sinners.
Salus credentium - Salvation
pietatis, mansuetudinis et misericordiae - Full of piety, meekness
custodiunt vias meas - Blessed are they that keep my ways. (Prow
All was quiet
now. After a brief silence, the Virgin, seemingly exhausted by so
much pleading, soothingly comforted and heartened the boys and,
quoting the inscription I had inscribed at the base of the niche,
“Qui elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt”, she went on:
my call and were spared the slaughter wrought by the devil on your
companions. Do you want to know what caused their ruin? Sunt colloquia
prava: Foul talk and foul deeds. You also saw your companions
wielding swords. They are those who seek your eternal damnation
by enticing you from me, just as they did with some schoolmates
But “quos Deus
diutius exspectat durius damnat - those for whom God keeps waiting
longer, He punishes more severely.” The infernal demon enmeshed
and dragged them to eternal perdition. Now, go in peace, but remember
my words: Flee from companions who befriend Satan, avoid foul conversation,
have boundless trust in me. My mantle will always be your safe refuge.”
Our Lady then
vanished; only her beloved statuette remained. My deceased mother
reappeared. Again the banner with the inscription, Sancta Maria,
succurre miseris, was unfurled. Marching processionally behind,
the boys sang “Laudate Maria, O lingue fideli - Praise Mary,
O ye faithful tongues.” Shortly afterwards, the singing
waned and the whole scene faded away. I awoke in a sweat. Such was
My sons, now
it is up to you to draw your own strenna. Examine your conscience.
You will know if you were safe under Mary's mantle, or if the elephant
flung you into the air, or if you were wielding a sword. I can only
repeat what the Virgin said: “Venite ad me omnes - "Come
all to me”. Turn to her; call on her in any danger. I can assure
you that your prayers will be heard. Those who were so badly mauled
by the elephant are to learn to avoid foul talk and bad companions;
those who strive to entice their companions from Mary must either
change their ways or leave the house immediately. If anyone wants
to know the role he played, let him come to my room and I will tell
him. But I repeat: Satan's accomplices must either mend their ways
or go! Good night!
had spoken with such fervor and emotion that for a whole week afterward
the boys kept discussing that dream and would not leave him in peace.
Every morning they crowded his confessional; every afternoon they
pestered him to find out what part they had played in the mysterious
was no dream, but a vision, Don Bosco had himself indirectly admitted
when he said: “I regularly beg God to suggest . . . A very bad night
is usually a forewarning that Our Lord is about to reveal something
to me.” Furthermore, he forbade anyone to make light of what he
is more. On this occasion he made a list of the wounded and of those
who wielded one or two swords. He gave it to Celestine Durando,
instructing him to watch them. The cleric handed the list over to
us, and it is still in our possession. The wounded were thirteen - probably
those who had not been rescued and sheltered beneath Our Lady's
mantle. Seventeen lads wielded one sword; only three had two. Scattered
marginal notes next to a boy's name indicate an amendment of life.
Also, we must bear in mind that the dream referred also to the future.
mirrored the true state of things was admitted by the boys themselves
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