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Salesian Sources





Collected works

LAS - Rome

Presentation by the Rector Major

As we approach the Bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth and the conclusion of my service as Rector Major, I am particularly happy to see the publication of this work which is so necessary and so much desired. It is the first volume of Salesian Sources, with the title “Don Bosco and his work. Collected works”.

In the task requested of the entire Congregation to “start afresh from Don Bosco”, the 26th General Chapter asked the Rector Major to see to “translation and publication of a collection of principle Salesian sources.” Now, with this publication, we have a further tool allowing us to explore our Salesian charismatic identity at greater depth. Indeed we cannot reinterpret Don Bosco for today, update his insights and pastoral and educational choices, or live his spiritual experience unless we are familiar with the sources where he speaks directly.

Two years ago I entrusted the task of carrying out this request of the General Chapter to the Istituto Storico Salesiano (the Salesian Historical Institute), whose statutes list the publishing of our sources in critical editions as being amongst its tasks. I am very grateful to the members of the Historical Institute, who have worked carefully and constantly under the coordination of its director, Fr José Manuel Prellezo, to bring this work to conclusion within the established time period.

This volume of historical sources is divided into a number of parts: writings and documents on the history of Don Bosco and his work; writings and testimonies of Don Bosco concerning education and schooling; writings and testimonies of Don Bosco on spiritual life. As we have learned over the three years of preparation for the Bicentenary, this is the threefold way of approaching Don Bosco and his work, his pedagogy and his spirituality both directly and in historical terms. The fourth part of this volume instead brings together writings of a biographical and autobiographical nature, where the aforesaid historical, pedagogical and spiritual dimensions often overlay and enrich one another to the point where it is difficult to make distinctions between them.

In the planning process of the Historical Institute this is the first volume of “Salesian Sources”, precisely in reference to Don Bosco and his Work. So we will have to wait for further publication of other volumes of sources which could possibly follow on chronologically through the lives of Don Bosco's Successors. We will be especially faithful to this ongoing work.

This first volume, in Italian and the languages it will be translated into, is entrusted to every Salesian. Each of us, beginning from our initial formation, should have a personal copy of it. It should be like a “vademecum” or handbook essential for knowledge of Don Bosco and thus for loving, imitating, and calling upon our dear Father. Without love there is no desire to get to know him, but without this knowledge we will not grow in love. It is my special wish that there be a serious and systematic study of these Salesian sources during our initial formation.

I should note and with no little satisfaction, that our historical sense has grown in the Congregation over recent years; a culture of history and the desire to improve our historical understanding. Contributing to this have been the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation, the centenary of Fr Rua's death, and the three year preparation for the Bicentenary. Also providing impetus to this process have been the dissemination of historical studies translated into various languages, the renewal of Salesian studies in initial formation, various initiatives at regional level, the work of the Salesian Historical Institute itself and qualifications in Salesian studies pursued by the Spirituality Institute at the Faculty of Theology, UPS. It is my fond hope that the Provinces become more involved in preparing researchers in Salesianity.

This volume of Salesian sources based on Don Bosco and his work is also entrusted to the Salesian Family, friends of Don Bosco, those who admire Salesian work, young people, lay people involved in Don Bosco's spirit and mission, families; everyone can draw from these fresh springs of the Salesian charism, a gift of the Spirit for us and for the entire Church. Everyone can be inspired by Don Bosco's pedagogy and spirituality. With a collection like this it will certainly be much easier, too, for scholars to cite and refer to a single source text.

May God reward all those who have put their hand to this enterprise; the best results of such work will be growth in gratitude and admiration for Don Bosco, inspiration drawn from his evangelising commitment to young people, a desire for holiness, apostolic vocations to the Salesian Family. It is my wish, therefore, that this volume and its translations into various languages can have widespread dissemination around the world.

May Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco bless this work. Let us entrust to their intercession all those abundant fruits we so much desire and hope for.
Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva

Rector Major

Rome, August 16, 2013

Don Bosco's Birthday


Francesco Motto - José Manuel Prellezo - Aldo Giraudo

Saint John Bosco (1815-1888) continues to interest so many people around the world 125 years after his death. His stature as a Christian educator, holy priest, founder and shrewd organiser is considered to be significant at an international level, both within and beyond the Salesian Family, thanks to the presence and apostolic activity of his disciples and those who have continued his work.

This publication responds to an explicit request of the 26th General Chapter of the Salesian Society (2008) to the then Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva, to place the principle sources for getting to know the Saint at the disposal of all members of the Salesian Family.

The editors of this volume felt constrained to make a broad selection in three relevant areas—history, pedagogy and spirituality—of works which Don Bosco printed (collected in 37 volumes1) and critical editions, given the huge amount of material preserved in the archives.

It should be recalled that Don Bosco's writings are not the only tool for understanding him and his work. Because of the way they were written and the intentions their author had in mind on each occasion, the historical circumstances and mental frameworks they reflect, they are insufficient on their own for offering a profound understanding of who he was and what he did. These limitations can be overcome by accompanying the documents with a study of Don Bosco as an individual, along with his educational and pastoral experience at the Oratory in Valdocco. Fortunately we can also benefit from a rich legacy of testimonies from outside for all this. His writings reveal the Saint's thinking and throw light on his life as it was, but will this alone allow us to correctly interpret the beginnings?

Not only this. A life like Don Bosco's, made up of so many different factors, common events, charismatic and even exceptional features, a life of faith lived under the banner of conservatism and modernity, tradition and renewal, historically based but also prophetic, can only be adequately grasped if considered in all its complexity and its many historical facets. If we extrapolate just one or even a handful of aspects and think this is enough to give us a complete profile, we falsify or at least limit the understanding of such a rich and profound figure, and a teaching and praxis that has seen so many historical results. Hence, scholars have leaned towards providing the broadest possible collection of sources and have insisted on studying their reliability and contextual significance.

To understand Don Bosco's being, his thinking and activity, the very first effort must be to locate him within classic coordinates of space and time; the historical, pedagogical and religious context (but also geographical, political, cultural, economic, ecclesial …) within which he lived. In this broad spectrum his person acquires its correct distinctiveness, reveals its characteristic features, allows us to glimpse the many implications, lights and shades which it manifests or which distinguish him from other individuals his time.

It is from his time that he inherited ideas, habits, historical legacies and aspirations of various kinds, but in turn he left his own mark on it, his own achievements and dreams. Turin, Piedmont, Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would have been different without the active presence of the Salesian work which arose in Valdocco; but this too would have certainly presented a different face to the world had it arisen in another geographical and historical context.

Let us briefly present the three main contexts in which we can best locate and understand Don Bosco's writings that follow.

1. Don Bosco in the historical context of his time2
Firstly we consider it useful to offer a brief profile of the Piedmontese educator in the historical scenario of the 19th century.2 Born the year of the Congress of Vienna (1815), an event that signalled the beginning of the Restoration and an attempt to re-establish the social and political system that prevailed prior to the French Revolution, Don Bosco died towards the end of the century (1888) in an Italy that had been unified for some thirty years at that point, even though many of its problems had yet to find resolution.

a. His formative years (1815-1844)

John Bosco's formation begins with his early upbringing at home, in the municipality of Castelnuovo d’Asti (1815-1830), covered the decade of his secondary studies (1831-1835) and his time at the seminary (1835-1841) spent in Chieri, and concluded in Turin with his three years of further studies in theology and ministry at the Pastoral Institute (Convitto Ecclesiastico 1841-1844). These were the years of the Restoration. Following a first rigid attempt in Piedmont to regain the old order, which failed with the revolutionary movements in 1821, there was a focus on gradual reform in structural, administrative, commercial, military and legal areas under the government of King Charles Felix (1821-1831). Thus a cultural climate matured and under King Charles Albert in 1848 it would lead to a turning point with the introduction of a constitutionally-based parliament. The key players in this transformation were young aristocrats formed in a European spirit, like brothers Massimo and Roberto d’Azeglio, Camillo Cavour, along with a middle class élite of entrepreneurs with liberal ideas fundamentally hostile to the regime of privilege enjoyed by religious institutions and favourable to the movement for national unification.

The economic recovery, thanks to the reforms of Charles Felix and hopes aroused by patriotic and liberal groups since Charles Albert came to the throne, saved Piedmont from a second wave of uprisings which involved other Italian states between 1830 and 1831 (The Kingdom of Sicily, the Duchy of Modena, the Papal States). They were strongly repressed. Secret Societies flourished in this climate. In 1831 Giovane Italia founded by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1873) came into being. He was a political activist with Republican leanings, and from exile had proposed the abolition of the monarchy and national unity with Rome as the capital. Nurtured by such principles any number of patriots organised other revolutionary movements (Savona and Genoa, 1834), all of which failed. Many were forced into exile, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi. There were new attempts at uprisings in the following years in Calabria, Sardinia and the Roman areas but they were immediately and forcibly squashed3.

The young Don Bosco, it seems, had not picked up the scent of these events, occupied as he was with his studies. In autumn 1835 he entered the fervent and demanding environment of the seminary in Chieri. This institution, founded seven years previously by Archbishop Colombano Chiaveroti (1754-1831), was governed by a model inspired by the post-tridentine formation tradition4.

Don Bosco discovered these ideals when he entered the Pastoral Institute in Turin after his ordination (1841) for his three year specialisation course. Here, in addition to his studies, he was introduced to pastoral ministry in parishes and schools in poor suburbs, and to the prisons and charitable institutions. Thanks to this ministry he became aware of the problems of a city in rapid demographic growth. He was especially touched by how young people were abandoning school and decided to dedicate himself to them. Sunday catechetical instruction, which he started up in the first months with a group of young workers, gained momentum.

In 1844, when Don Bosco accepted the role of chaplain at the Barolo works in the outlying suburb of Valdocco, his activities increased and so did the number of young people. With the help of college chaplains, other clergy and lay people he added a range of educational and pastoral initiatives to the catechetics that gave more solid shape to his work. The Oratory of St Francis de Sales came into being and took a firmer shape once it had a stable location at the Pinardi house (1846), and Don Bosco decided to abandon any other commitment so he could dedicate himself to it exclusively. The work established itself for its preventive and re-educational effectiveness and its original approach in a setting marked by social and juvenile problems which the authorities were struggling to control. Don Bosco gathered and helped “poor and abandoned” children, formed them and equipped them to fit into society in a dignified and orderly way. To do this he wrote appropriate instructional, educational and devotional texts, organised a home to take in those who were bereft of most things they needed and opened a second Oratory named after St Aloysius Gonzaga in Porta Nuova (1847). He found the support of public opinion which, little by little, was taking notice of his work, and gained the trust of administrators, government and the Royal family.

b. Two years of upheaval (1848-1849)

Just prior to 1848, while the industrial revolution in England was going ahead at great human cost, the economy in France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was more prosperous, while in Italy the patriotic and national ideal and a longing for the political unification of the various states was growing amongst the populace. Priest and philosopher Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-1852) proposed a formula for confederation, under the honorary presidency of the (neoguelphian) Pope. While Catholics and moderates looked favourably on the idea, others inspired by republican ideals or a more compact national view rejected it. The reformist and liberal openings of Pius IX, elected in 1846, attracted a lot of sympathy. Under pressure from revolutionary movements which had broken out all over Europe, King Charles Albert, who had suppressed censorship in 1847, promulgated the Statutes (March 4, 1848), the basic law of a state inspired by French and Belgian models. Pius IX too, granted a Constitution (March 14, 1848) and set up two legislative chambers, opening up a political and administrative career for lay people. The Pope's choices fed liberal expectations5. Other Italian sovereigns put reforms in place, while in France, where the monarchy had collapsed, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was elected President of the Republic (December 1848). The Austrian Empire, in 1848, was also shaken by revolts put down forcibly by the army. Chancellor Metternich resigned and Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favour of the younger Franz Josef (1830-1916).

Given the wave of movements which broke out on March 17 and 18 in Venice and Milan, his councillors convinced Charles Albert to declare war on Austria (March 23, 1848). After initial successes the Piedmontese army was obliged to sign an armistice (August 5) abandoning Milan to the imperial army. Pius IX, who did not consider it appropriate to join in the fighting (his address on April 29), was accused by patriots of being a traitor to the national cause. The idea of a confederation collapsed ad public opinion of the Pontiff split into two opposing views: a radical liberal hostile one and a conservative Catholic one. The war against Austria resumed at Novara (March 23, 1849) but Piedmont suffered a heavy defeat. Charles Albert abdicated in favour of his son Victor Emmanuel II who signed a humiliating peace agreement with the Austrians. Meanwhile, due to serious uprisings Pius IX was forced to flee to Gaeta (Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) while a Republic was proclaimed in Rome (February 9, 1849), but it was short-lived; it came to an end on July 3 following French military intervention and the Papal States were restored.

In these difficult two years Don Bosco in Turin was involved in consolidating the oratories at Valdocco and Porta Nuova, adding the Guardian Angel oratory on the outskirts of Vanchiglia whose founder, Giovanni Cocchi was forced to abandon it. He also started a Mutual Aid Society amongst the oratory boys, underwrote “work contracts” for young workers and founded a newspaper called L’Amico della gioventù (The Friend of Youth), which only lasted a few months (1848-1849). Despite financial difficulties due to the war, he found funds to buy the Pinardi house and surrounding land, and decided to set up oratory activities which would tackle the growing moral and economic poverty.

The social situation in Turin over these years demanded urgent intervention at every level. In 1838-1848 the population saw a 16.89% increase: from 117,072 to 136,849. In the following decade the increase would rise to 31.28% thanks to a constant migratory influx6. Citizens on the outskirts saw extensive and disorderly settlements spring up of entire families or individuals, mostly young, due to development in the manufacturing and building industries. Very poor work security, malnutrition, lack of hygiene along with ignorance, low salaries and absence of social security had an impact on the general living conditions of the people. The number of poor people in the city grew, along with outbursts of moral depravity and increasing social risk7.

Political events in these two years made an important impact on Don Bosco's choices and on the future of his work. The patriotic euphoria of some of his collaborators, including some priests, and the anticlerical turn induced by these events convinced him to distance himself from any political group (he did not want to make enemies of any factors outside his mission) and especially to commit himself to forming more trustworthy helpers chosen from amongst the boys at the Oratory, shaping them according to his spirit and ideals. From here on his work and stature gained prestige, through positive appreciation of his social efforts, and charitable help increased.

c. The decision to set up the Salesian Work in the decade of preparation for Italian unity (1850-1860)

After the fall of the Roman republic, Pius IX returned to Rome and abolished the republican constitution. He emphasised the religious side of his pontificate, leaving the Secretary of State, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, to manage political affairs, entrusting him to the military protection of Napoleon III who initiated the second French Empire in 1852.

While the failure of the first war of independence provoked a hardening of anti-liberal tendencies in the rest of Italy, Piedmont did not go back on its constitutional choices. A moderate parliament at the end of 1849 collaborated with the government. From 1850 Camillo Cavour (1810-1861) was involved in government, becoming Prime Minister in November 1852. He remained in that post uninterruptedly until 1861, thanks to an understanding with Urbano Rattazzi's Centre Left. This was an important decade for the Piedmontese State which also involved a neat distinction between Church and State. Secular politics had a strong anticlerical flavour, made evident in 1850 with the Siccardi legislation abolishing ecclesiastical privileges and forcing Archbishop Luigi Fransoni into exile. It was also the process of state centralisation that culminated in 1855 by abolishing the juridical person status of religious orders and expropriating their goods (Cavour-Rattazzi legislation) and introducing the Casati legislation reforming schools in 1859. Strong controversy exasperated things for people and resulted in a serious crisis of conscience for Catholics who were caught between patriotism and fidelity to the Church.

Cavour successfully established Piedmontese foreign policy. Through diplomatic activity and military involvement in the Crimean War (1855) he succeeded in transforming the problem of Italian unification into a European problem (Congress of Paris 1856) and created an alliance with Napoleon III (Plombières, July 1858) against the Austrians. The decisive support of the French army determined the success of the second war of independence, which culminated on June 24, 1859 at the battle of Solferino and San Martino with a French-Piedmontese victory. This was followed by the armistice at Villafranca (July 1) and the Zurich Peace accord (November 10). In exchange for French military support, France gained Nice and Savoy. Piedmont annexed Lombardy and following a popular plebiscite (March 11-12, 1860), Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna as well. The Papal States, following the battle of Castelfidardo (September 18, 1860), lost Marche, Umbria and Sabina and were only left with Lazio. Cavour, ably supporting the success of Giuseppe Garibaldi's campaign against the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, also included the territories of southern Italy and made the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy possible (March 17, 1861)8.

The political events had painful consequences for Catholics who were faithful to the Holy See. Bishops and priests in disagreement with liberal politics, which were damaging to the Church's rights, faced legal consequences and were removed. Some were also imprisoned.

Don Bosco was shocked at the turn of events but not discouraged. While remaining faithful to the Pope he confirmed his decision to avoid taking any political position and asked himself about the choices he needed to make in this new scenario. Attentive to the needs of the young and ordinary people, he seized the right opportunity for developing the work at Valdocco. He built the church of St Francis de Sales between 1851 and 1852, supported by government and public charity. Appointed by Archbishop Fransoni as head of the three oratories (March 31, 1852), he gained the autonomy he needed to carry out his plans. He chose his collaborators from amongst his boys, getting them to start their ecclesiastical studies and forming them according to his own spirit. He extended the home attached to the Oratory, transforming it into an educational institution for students and trade boys. In 1853 he put up the first part of a new building which he completed in 1856 and would open workshops and secondary classrooms in it. The number of pupils grew enormously, especially after acquiring the nearby Filippi house (1860) which enabled him to do further building extensions. Meanwhile the plan to have a Congregation to serve his work, suggested by Minister Rattazzi and supported by Pius IX, was focused on founding the Pious Society of St Francis de Sales (December 18, 1859) This would determine future development of Salesian work.

Meanwhile his reputation was consolidated, thanks to his many educational and social initiatives, his contribution at the time of the cholera epidemic (1854), his popular publications, the success of the Catholic Readings (begun in 1853) and his tireless mobilisation of charity through lotteries or raffles, and circular letters. It was precisely this shrewd sensitisation of public opinion, which he tried out in the decade 1850-1860 and later perfected, that allowed the Salesian work to find the necessary resources to take off at local and worldwide level.

His unmistakeable model of formation, his spiritual pedagogy found an ideal narrative formulation in the life of his pupil, Dominic Savio (1859), and was widely disseminated. It contributed enormously to propagating knowledge and respect for Don Bosco's work.

1860-1860 was a decisive decade for the life of the Saint. He consolidated his charismatic personality and his views and put down solid foundations for future developments in terms of organisation, pedagogy and spirituality.

d. The growth of Salesian work beyond Turin in the decade which saw Italian unity reach its completion (1861-1870)

The new Kingdom of Italy, following the premature death of Camillo Cavour (June 6, 1861), faced enormous problems of a political, diplomatic, socio-economic, cultural, administrative kind. But there was a religious problem too, given the dispute with the Church and, from 1870, the 'Roman question' which would continue until the Lateran Treaty (1929).

Cavour's successor, Bettino Ricasoli, tried without luck to induce the Pope to renounce the Papal States. After Garibaldi’s military expedition to conquer Rome was blocked (October 1862), the diplomatic avenue was chosen. By a convention drawn up in September (1864), Prime Minister Marco Minghetti assured Emperor Napoleon III of the integrity of the Papal States in exchange for his withdrawing French armed forces from Rome and transferring the capital to Florence, which took place in 1865.

The following year Italy sided with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian war (June 1866). This was the third war of independence. Despite Italian defeats, thanks to the Prussian successes and French diplomacy, the Kingdom of Italy was able to annex Venice, but without Trent and Trieste. Four years later, taking advantage of the victory of the Prussians over the French at Sedan (September 1, 1870), and the fall of the second Empire, the Italian army marched on Rome and conquered it on September 20 (the Porta Pia breech), putting an end to the Papal States. Pius IX withdrew to the Vatican. On February 3, 1871 Rome was proclaimed as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy: a centralised, socially conservative, bourgeois and anticlerical State.

The decade 1861-1870 was marked by strong tensions, heavy fiscal measures that weighed upon the poorer people, the struggle again brigands in the south, worsening relations with the Holy See which was more and more intransigent in its defence of its principles, condemning liberalism and secularism, and in proclaiming the need for temporal power to guarantee its freedom. The publication of the Syllabus “containing the principle errors of our time” (December 8, 1864), confirmed the definitive break of the Church with liberalism and the end of any attempt at reconciliation between Catholics and contemporary society. The state pursued its secular progress with drastic measures, extending the law of suppression of Congregations and liquidating ecclesiastical assets (1866-1867), abolishing exemption from military service for clerics (1869). Vatican I sanctioned papal primacy and infallibility in the realm of faith and customs.

Despite all of this, Don Bosco pursued the same direction he had undertaken in earlier years and succeeded not only in consolidating the Oratory at Valdocco but in opening new horizons, intelligently seizing opportunities that were opening up and showing that he was able to intuit future tendencies. The development of his work after 1860 is in some ways the product of the situation created in Italy halfway through the 19th century in its patriotic and liberal climate. Between 1860 and 1870 the city of Turin had profoundly altered. Immigration was no longer seasonal but ongoing. Young workers who once thronged the streets and inns on Sundays had changed their patterns of behaviour: workers groups, gymnastic, musical and cultural societies and recreational centres had sprung up everywhere. Those attending the weekend oratories were decreasing in number. The saint, who was in touch with the needs of his times, grasped other opportunities such as the growing demand for education. The development of his printing press (opened in 1862) for example, was helped by the general interest of the people in improving themselves culturally (coming from the typically liberal sense of human dignity). Out of this came the flourishing of text books for ordinary young people and for their Christian education. The same reasons facilitated the growth of boarding schools [collegi] in Italy and in Europe. While the State was struggling to resolve the problems of organising public education, liberal legislation, despite centralised control and the non-denominational and anticlerical tendencies of the sector, allowed free or private schools to exist and supported municipal administrations who wanted to organise boarding schools or hostels. This is one of the areas on which the Catholic world focused and around which it organised itself, since it was excluded from the political arena. It also focused on and organised religious groups, peoples banks, insurance, social welfare. Don Bosco jumped at these opportunities to broaden his mission.

The Valdocco work was boosted with the "highest occupation of available space after 1868 with eight hundred or more occupants. There was also an increase in the number joining the Salesian Society. This called for new establishments outside Valdocco to take up the surplus population, de-congest things at Valdocco, relieve the financial burden, and usefully occupy those who had bound themselves to Don Bosco through religious vows.”9 Beginning from 1862, the year the junior seminary at Mirabello was founded, the saint increased the number of colleges, hostels, trade schools (Lanzo 1864, Cherasco 1869, Borgo San Martino 1870, Alassio, Varazze, Marassi and Sampierdarena 1870-1871). It was often municipal administrations that were asking for them. This was a choice that allowed the Salesian institution to consolidate: boarding sections guaranteed a more stable and organisable youth population (at a time in history when this kind of work was required), helped the Salesian charism to expand geographically, contributed to the development of Catholic organisations by forming young talent, and ensured a regular flow of vocations for the Congregation to develop. The increase in boarding schools at this time is a factor we need to take into account to understand how Don Bosco was thinking along with certain elements characterising preventive pedagogy and Salesian spirituality. From this point onwards the Saint was always thinking of Salesians more as educators in this boarding setting.

While Vatican I was in progress (1869-1870) Don Bosco was in touch with some bishops from America, Asia and Africa who visited his work and proposed foundations in their dioceses. Thus began his more direct interest in the missions, which would become more focused in the years to follow.

There were also political and religious circumstances that were leading Don Bosco towards the Help of Christians. At a time when the papal territories were being annexed, the bishops of Umbria invited the faithful to call on Mary as Auxilium Christianorum or Help of Christians. In 1862 news spread of Mary's appearances and of healings near Spoleto. The bishop of the city sent a report to the Turin newspaper L’Armonia (May 17 and 27). Don Bosco spoke of this in a Goodnight on May 24, 1862 and on the 30th told of a dream in which the Barque of Peter, under attack, found refuge between the columns of the Eucharist and Our Lady Help of Christians. The following December he was planning to build a larger church which would be dedicated to the Help of Christians: "Our times are so sad that we really need the Blessed Virgin to help us preserve and defend the Christian faith".10 In 1864 the foundations were dug and on April 27, 1865, the foundation stone of the new church was solemnly laid in the presence of Prince Amadeo of Savoy, the King's son. The general serious financial crisis encouraged Don Bosco to broaden his circle of acquaintances to gather the required funds. Trips to Florence, Rome and other Italian cities. He wrote letters, organises lotteries or raflles. The flow of offerings, large and small, began again and works reached their conclusion. On June 9, the archbishop of Turin consecrated the shrine. In order to request charitable offerings, Don Bosco emphasised the needs of the times, took advantage of popular enthusiasm, expectation of miracles, heavenly favours for individuals, families and the church through Mary's intercession. He wrote a booklet on The Marvels of the Mother of God invoked under the title of Mary Help of Christians (1868) and other pamphlets with wide distribution. He also founds the Pious Association of Devotees of Mary Help of Christians (1869). Thus, while Spoleto remained a local shrine, the church in Turin and its painting by Lorenzone acquired national and international fame, riding on the wave of development of Salesian works. Valdocco began to be a centre of popular and Marian devotion marked by a strong Salesian spirituality.

In 1869 Don Bosco gained papal approval for the Salesian Congregation. From here on he put all his efforts into infusing a clearer Salesian identity into his disciples. Vocations increase, works multiply, especially the schools. His production for bookshops increases and he begins new publishing initiatives like the Biblioteca della gioventù italiana (Library of Italian Youth 1869).

As a Catholic obedient to the Holy See, Don Bosco followed the invitation: "Neither voted for nor voters", but he continued to communicate with the Pope and the Secretary of State Antonelli regarding what he knew about the whispered intentions of various national governments with regard to policies affecting the Church. He got involved particularly in resolving the problem of vacant Episcopal sees; as someone acceptable to the Holy See and appreciated by various Ministers, in the years 1865-1867 he offered or was invited to mediate between the parties, absolutely in a private role, regarding new Episcopal appointments. He succeeded especially in the case of Piedmont where not a few prelates owed their appointment to him.

e. Italian, European and South American development of Salesian Work in the 1870s and 80s

Because of the taking of Rome (1870), relations between Church and State worsen. The Holy See did not recognise the law of Guarantees (13 May 1871) by which the Italian Government sought to legitimise its occupation of the capital, control relations with the Holy See, guarantee the Pope's freedom to govern the Church and the clergy's independence in carrying out its mission. The Pope rejected the law as a unilateral act and in 1874 asked Italian Catholics to play no part in politics (“non expedit”, it is not appropriate) in a State that was considered to be a usurper. The rupture between State and Church was beyond healing, especially after 1873 in Rome when the State went ahead to extend the laws of suppression of religious incorporations and the confiscation of their goods (churches, convents, educational and charitable institutions, hospitals…)11.

In 1876 a parliamentary revolution took place in Italy that took the government further Left, where it became more secular, anticlerical and Masonic than the Right which had governed up until then12. It had an ambitious programme, but found it difficult to bring it to completion especially given the various short-lived governments that followed (11 in 12 years, of which 8 were presided over by Agostino Depretis). Amongst the various reforms we note the Coppino legislation on obligatory schooling for the first three years of primary school (1877) and the law on protection of child labour (1886).

On January 9, 1878 Victor Emmanuel II died and was succeeded by his son Umberto 1. A month later Pius IX also died (February 7). The new Pope, Leo XIII (1810-1903), had already indicated his intentions by his choice of name to change the way things were set up, while keeping the “non expedit” regarding political involvement by Italian Catholics. He was the first modern Pope to reflect on the relationship between science and religion (Aeterni Patris, 1879), on the role of Catholics in society (Immortale Dei, 1885), on the Church's social teaching (Rerum Novarum, 1891) and promoted the renewal of theological and philosophical studies as well as the foundation of Catholic universities.

Like all Catholics, Don Bosco had hoped for the preservation of the Papal States but he prudently noted the existing circumstances without particular comment. He continued dealing with Rome to get definitive approval of the Rule; he accepted involvement in mediation between the Italian Government and the Holy See for the government's exequatur for bishops in Piedmont and Lombardy. His very prudent relationships with individual Ministers on the Left were always in view of the needs of his mission and his works: legal titles for teaching or support for Salesian works in South America, a place for Italian emigration. For example, on April 16, 1876, during preparations for the second missionary expedition, He presented the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luigi Melegari, with a special plan for Italian colonial settlement in Patagonia, a somewhat unreal plan and rather poetic, as he himself wrote, but it was an opportunity for him to express his “good will to help poor humankind.”13
But over these years Don Bosco went ahead decisively with his work as an enterprising founder, a wise formator of educators, forger of religious communities dedicated to the education of youth, and as a teacher in spiritual life for young people and the people in general. He shared government of the Congregation with members of the Superior Chapter and the rectors of individual works, whom he knew how to value and involve through regular Council meetings, annual Conferences of St Francis de Sales and General Chapters. Don Bosco founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in 1872, beginning with the group of Daughters of the Immaculate at Mornese, led by Fr Pestarino. He formed them according to his spirit and successfully introduced them into the Salesian work which was rapidly expanding. In 1874 he gained definitive approval of the Constitutions, an important step for consolidation of the Salesian Society, though restricted by certain legal conditions which he overcame in 1884 with the granting of the "privileges". Fully in tune with the Catholic missionary movement, he organised the first Salesian missionary expedition to Latin America in 1875, followed by other expeditions annually. In 1876, he set up the Cooperators Association, a clever project of Catholic solidarity to support the Salesian mission. In 1877 he founded the Salesian Bulletin, a monthly journal of strategic information for broadening consensus and for support for Salesian work. In the same year he presided at the first of the General Chapters of the Congregation.

It was a time of frenetic and intelligent activity where Don Bosco's extraordinary gifts and expansive vision emerged, despite a gradual physical decline. He kept up contacts with religious and civil authorities, benefactors and friends through correspondence and personal meetings. He undertook frequent trips throughout Italy (especially to Rome) and to France (from 1875). Along with the fame his work had, veneration for his charismatic personality was spreading. He was given a triumphal reception in Paris (1883) and Barcelona (1886). Don Bosco had become a symbol for sensitising the European Catholic world. Under fierce anticlerical attacks, it paid attention to supernatural events, strengthened its faith, came together around the figure of the Roman Pontiff and got involved in social, educational and pastoral activity.

Over these years the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Italy widened their presence opening works in Liguria, Lazio, Sicily, Tuscany, Trent and Venice14. Works also developed beyond Italy: in France (Marseilles, Navarra, Saint-Cyr, Paris, Lille), in Spain (Utrera, Barcelona), in Great Britain (London); especially in South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador) there was prodigious expansion, thanks to good missionaries like John Cagliero, Joseph Fagnano, Louis Lasagna, James Costamagna.

There was no lack of problems. Don Bosco's relationships with Roman authorities went through critical moments, aggravated by his struggles with the new Archbishop of Turin, Lorenzo Gastaldi, which went on till 1872 and 1883, the year the archbishop died, despite an agreement established by the Holy See (1882). Financial needs encouraged Don Bosco to multiply his visits, organise a network of cooperation, set up a meticulous awareness campaign to feed the influx of funds he needed to support so many foundations and the expensive construction of sacred buildings: the church of St John the Evangelist in Turin, consecrated in October 1881, and the Sacred Heart Basilica in Rome, opened in 1887 by Don Bosco himself, already at the end of his life. The saint's physical decline had already begun some years before. He gradually offloaded the practical government of the Congregation to the Superior Chapter presided over by the Prefect General, Fr Michael Rua, who was appointed Vicar General with plenipotentiary powers by a papal decree in 1884.

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