Saint John Bosco, great educator and founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) was born in Piedmont, Italy, on August 16, 1815 and died in Turin on January 31, 1888. The two beacons and great devotions of his life were the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of his pupils, Dominic Savio, who died at the age of 14, was canonised a saint on 12 June 1954, by Pope Pius XII. Another adolescent, Carlo Acutis, beatified in 2020, was also devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mother, whom he called the “only woman in his life”. Young Blessed Carlo described the Eucharist as the “highway to Heaven”.
These two pillars, the Blessed Virgin and the Eucharist, will save the Church.
On May 14, 1862, the first 22 Salesian men professed their public vows. In the same month of Mary, Don Bosco had a dream which he told his students the next day.
“Imagine yourself to be with me on the seashore, or better, on an isolated rock and not able to see any patch of land other than that under your feet. On the whole of that vast sheet of water you see an innumerable fleet of ships in a battle array. The prows of the ships are formed into sharp, spear-like points so that wherever they are thrust they can pierce and destroy. The ships are armed with cannons and many rifles, incendiary materials, other firearms of all kinds and also with books. The fleet advances against a ship very much bigger and higher than themselves and attempts to dash against it with the prows or burn it or in some way do it every possible harm.
“As escorts to that majestic fully equipped ship there are many smaller ships which receive commands by signal from it and carry out movements to defend themselves from the opposing fleet. In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance from each other. On the top of one there is a statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum—“Help of Christians”. On the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a Host of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: Salus Credentium—Salvation of the Faithful.
“The supreme commander of the big ship is the Sovereign Pontiff. He, seeing the fury of the enemies and the evils among which his faithful find themselves, determines to summon the captains of the smaller ships to hold a council and decide what is to be done.
“All the captains come aboard and gather around the Pope. They hold a meeting, but a storm increases and the wind and waves send the captains back to gain control of their ships. There is a short lull. The Pope gathers the captains around him again while the flag-ship goes on its course but the frightful storm returns. The Pope stands at the helm with all his energy directed at steering the ship toward those two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
“All the enemy ships move to attack it, and they try in every way to stop and sink it: some with books and writings or inflammable materials; others with firearms, rifles and rams. The battle rages ever more relentlessly. The enemy prows thrust violently, but their efforts and impact prove useless. They make attempts in vain and waste all their labor and ammunition. The big ship goes safely and smoothly on its way. Sometimes it happens that, struck by formidable blows, the Pontiff’s ship gets large, deep gouges in its sides; but no sooner is the harm done than a gentle breeze blows from the two columns and the cracks close up and the gouges are stopped immediately.
“Meanwhile, the guns of the assailants are blown up, the rifles and other arms and prows are broken; many ships are shattered and sink into the sea. Then, the frenzied enemies strive to fight hand to hand, with fists, with blows, with blasphemy and with curses.
“Suddenly the Pope falls gravely wounded. Immediately, those who are with him run to help and lift him up. A second time the Pope is struck, falls again and dies. A shout of victory and joy rings out amongst the enemies; from their ships arises an unspeakable mockery.
“But hardly is the Pontiff dead than another takes his place. The captains, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor. The adversaries begin to lose courage.
“The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship to the two columns and comes to rest between them. He makes it fast with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor of the column on which stands the Host. With another light chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands the Immaculate Virgin.
“At this point, a great convulsion takes place. All the ships that until then had fought against the Pope’s ship are scattered; they flee, collide and break to pieces one against another. Some sink and try to sink others. Several small ships that had fought gallantly for the Pope race to be the first to bind themselves to those two columns. Many other ships, having retreated through fear of the battle, cautiously watch from far away. The wrecks of the broken ships are scattered in the whirlpools of the sea. They in turn sail in good earnest to those two columns, and having reached them, make themselves fast to the hooks hanging down and there they remain safe, together with the principal ship, on which is the Pope. Over the sea a great calm reigns.”
In conclusion to this dream, St. John Bosco added:
“Very grave trials await the Church. What we have suffered so far is almost nothing compared to what is going to happen. The enemies of the Church are symbolized by the ships which strive their utmost to sink the flagship. Only two things can save us in such a grave hour: devotion to Mary and frequent Communion. Let us do our very best to use these two means and have others use them everywhere.”