Presentation by Don Emilio Zeni. . . . pag. 3
Introduction ............................................ » 5
Don Bosco Dominic Savio confesses
The confessor, the true spiritual guide of the adolescent »7
Don Bosco confesses Michele Magone
A true treaty on confession .............» 11
Don Bosco confesses Francesco Besucco
The importance of the general confession
and the need to have a stable confessor » 24
Don Bosco confesses Francesco Piccollo
Confidence with the confessor facilitates the sincerity of the young penitent» 30
Don Bosco confesses Luigi Orione
Laformation of the conscience of the adolescent and vocational accompaniment in confession » 34
Don Bosco confesses Evasio Garrone
The goodness of the confessor opens the heart of the young
penitent to confession and vocation» 39
Don Bosco confesses Paolo Falla
The patience of the confessor ... ............ pag. 42
Don Bosco confesses John
The art of conquering the heart of the penitent » 46
Don Bosco confesses a seventeen year old
The benefits of frequent confession ......» 51
Don Bosco confesses two young people
Fidelity to confession in adulthood: the fruit of a good habit taken in adolescence » 56
Don Bosco confesses his children in a dream
The necessary conditions for making good confessions » 60
Don Bosco confesses a boy after calling him back from the dead
Confession opens the Heaven and saves from eternal perdition» 65
Don Bosco confesses a dying young man
The echo of the scandals in the minds of adolescents. » 70
Don Bosco confesses his boys
A beautiful photograph of Don Bosco confessor and a precious suggestion for educators. . . » 74
With meticulous care, as is his style, Don Gianni, month after month, offered readers of our magazine edifying stories about Don Bosco who, despite all kinds of concerns, knew how to dedicate time and effort to the ministry of Confession which he recognized very effective means for the human and Christian growth of a young person.
Now, these pages of history collected in a single volume offer, together with a more continuous reading, an extraordinary picture of humanity, of grace, of pastoral wisdom with which Don Bosco knew how to give his young people the peace of the soul and the visible joy of living that shone on their faces.
The author, who knows the soul of adolescents for his experience gained in the daily ministry of Confession and spiritual guide, in the brief and sometimes moving and singular stories he tells, drawn from the texts of the Biographical Memoirs and from the testimonies of the protagonists themselves he took the essence of Don Bosco's pastoral heart, the motive that led him to spend hours and hours at the confessional: to ensure the priceless gift of God's grace, to destroy the devastating action of sin that consumes the exuberant splendor of the a youthful spirit, driven by that uncontainable love for his young people that he wanted to be happy here and in eternity.
A collection of facts whose reading will be good for priests called by vocation to the pastoral ministry encouraging them to give time and heart, like Don Bosco, to the sacrament of Reconciliation. But it will certainly also be useful to young people themselves who, distracted by too many illusions, will be able to find here the secrets of that joy and joy that they seek and that, thanks to the peace of the soul and the strength of the sacrament of Confession, reigned supreme among the boys of the Oratory of Don Bosco.
DON EMILIO ZENI
Among the fourteen thousand children who spend each summer at Colle Don Bosco to spend a special day, organized by the various summer centers of "Summer Children", I remember a little child of elementary school, who at the time of confessions, rushing towards one of the confessors who were available , he began in a nice way saying: "I am here to confess to Don Bosco".
How many boys, adolescents, young people, adults and visitors come to the Hill as pilgrims and take the opportunity to approach the sacrament of confession.
For them it is a bit like meeting Don Bosco, who was the apostle of confession, compared in this only to the holy Curé of Ars.
The great esteem that Don Bosco had of the sacrament of confession manifested it by using it as a column of his educational system. In the life of Saint Dominic Savio writes: «It is proved by experience that the most valid supports of youth are the sacrament of confession and communion. Give me a young man who attends these sacraments, you will see him grow up in his youth, reach adulthood and arrive, if it pleases God, until late old age, with conduct, which is the example of everyone who knows him " .
Don Bosco not only exercised the ministry of confessions, but he also carried out a tireless work of practical and pastoral instruction to guide the faithful and especially the young to an increasingly fruitful practice of this sacrament.
We propose to continue this work by presenting what he told his boys about confession, and how he helped them to live this extraordinary experience of God's mercy well.
Above all he wanted to make them meet with that Jesus Good Shepherd who had appeared to him in the dream of the 9 years; therefore in the ministry of confessions he showed all kindness and spiritual paternity drawn from his constant union with God.
In particular, in the three biographies of Domenico Savio, Michele Magone and Francesco Besucco, Don Bosco has some almost identical pages on confession.
This means that the suggestions contained in those pages are important, and take into account the difficulties proper to adolescents in approaching and enjoying this sacrament. For this reason Don Bosco, writing for his boys, also addresses priests by inviting them to accept with benevolence this particular category of penitents, to whom the best care must be reserved.
Some of the confessed boys have become famous, others are perhaps unknown.
In every meeting, and for every boy, Don Bosco has something to teach us too.
The confessor, true spiritual guide of the adolescent
He is the most famous boy. In the Life of the Young Dominic Savio, published in the series of the "Catholic Readings", Don Bosco tells us of his attendance at the sacraments of confession and communion:«Before Savio came to stay at the Oratory he attended these two sacraments once a month, according to the use of the schools. Then he attended them with much greater diligence. One day he heard this maxim from the pulpit: Young, if you want to persevere in the way of heaven, they recommend three things to you: go to the sacrament of confession often, attend holy communion, choose a confessor to whom you dare to open your heart, but do not change it without necessity . Domenico understood the importance of these councils ».
Don Bosco insists on attending the sacrament of confession because he knows that adolescents are often inconstant. They are also enthusiastic about spiritual experiences, but then they are easily discouraged or weak in their will. So they need those who remind them of their commitments and help them not to surrender to failures.
He emphasizes the importance of choosing a confessor, who becomes their spiritual guide, the doctor and the friend of the soul, who helps them to discern the gifts that God gives to each one and the project he has for each one.
For this it is necessary that the confessor knows of every adolescent the spiritual journey made and the difficulties encountered, together with the signs that the Lord gives to each one for the future vocation.
Here then is the suggestion of the general confession. He writes of Domenico: "He began to choose a confessor, who regularly kept all the time he lived among us. So that he could then form a just judgment of his conscience, he wanted, as he said, to make the general confession. Then he began by confessing himself every fifteen days, then every eight days, communicating with the same frequency ».
The general confession supposes a priest to whom the boy dares open his heart, and this is the most difficult thing to get from a teenager, who is jealous of his secrets, who does not know how to express his sins, or is afraid of losing the esteem of that friendly priest if he comes to know his weaknesses, of which he feels ashamed and at the same time is a slave and does not know how to get rid of them.
This is the confidence that this holy educator will insist on, because he knows that it is so difficult to get by adolescents. Always in the life of Dominic Savio, this is what Don Bosco wrote: "He had an unlimited confidence with him. Indeed, he spoke to him with all simplicity about things of conscience even outside of confession ».
Remembering Dominic's confidence in him, perhaps Don Bosco relives what he, fourteen, had had in Don Calosso. Of this his first spiritual guide he will say writing in the Memoirs of the Oratory: "I immediately put myself in the hands of Don Calosso ... I made him know all about myself. Every word, every thought, every action was readily manifested to him. I knew then what it means to have a stable guide, a faithful friend of the soul, of which I had been deprived until that time ».
Don Bosco remembers Dominic's fidelity to his teachings: "Someone had advised him to change his confessor sometimes, but he never wanted to give up:" The confessor - he said - is the doctor of the soul, nor is he ever changing doctors except for lack of trust in him, or because evil it is almost desperate. I do not find myself in these cases. I have full confidence in the confessor who with paternal goodness and solicitude works for the good of my soul, nor do I see any harm in him that he cannot heal. " However the ordinary director advised him to change confessor sometimes, especially during spiritual exercises; and he readily obeyed without difficulty. The Savio enjoyed himself. "If I feel sorry," he said, "I go to the confessor, who advises me according to the will of God; since Jesus Christ said that the confessor's voice for us is like the voice of God ... With these thoughts Dominic lived his truly happy days. Hence that hilarity was born, that heavenly joy that shone in all his actions "" (Vita di Domenico Savio,written by Don Bosco).
The joy and peace that Dominic feels is the same that adolescents feel when they find in the priest a spiritual guide who introduces them into friendship with God.
The safest way to live happily
We accept the conclusion that Don Bosco puts at the end of Dominic's life, as a suggestion also for us, about fidelity to the sacrament of confession:"But we do not fail to imitate Savio in the frequency of the sacrament of confession, which was his support in the constant practice of virtue, and he was the sure guide who led him to such a glorious term of life. Let us approach this health bath frequently in the course of life with the necessary provisions; but every time we approach we do not fail to turn a thought to past confessions, to make sure they have been well done and, if we see the need, we remedy the defects that happened by chance. It seems to me that this is the surest way to live happy days amid the afflictions of life, at the end of which we will also calmly approach the moment of death. And then with hilarity on our faces, with peace in our hearts, we will meet our Lord Jesus Christ, that he will welcome us, to judge us according to his great mercy and lead us, as I hope for me and for you, reader, from the tribulations of life to the blessed eternity, to praise him and bless him for all the centuries. So be it".
That look at past confessions, to which Don Bosco mentions, introduces us to the reflections that we will continue together, re-reading the pages he wrote about confession in the life of Michael Magone.
How to overcome shame in confessing sins and repairing insincere confessions
A true treatise on confession Don Bosco writes about it telling the life of Michele Magone, and in particular his first confession at Valdocco. This poor boy, thirteen year old, fatherless, lives on the street, and is destined for delinquency and the sad experience of prison. Don Bosco meets him, on a foggy autumn evening, at the Carmagnola station. Under the provocative bark of a small ringleader, he senses Michele's good heart and invites him to Turin, to the Valdocco Oratory.
Don Bosco's educational art will lead Michael to the experience of God and his love; starting from his passion for the game, he will guide him to the joy of the heart, the fruit of grace, and Michael will live his duties of study and service to his companions as preparation for that great ideal of the priestly vocation which he, despite being a rascal, has felt in the heart.
Don Bosco recounts writing about his life: «Our Michele had been at the Oratory for a month, and he used every occupation as a means to pass the time. He was happy as long as he could make jumps and be cheerful, without reflecting that true happiness must start from the peace of the heart, from the tranquility of conscience. When, all of a sudden, the yearning to play around began to fail, showing itself rather thoughtful, not taking part in the games, if not invited ».
for a guardian angel
In this context, Don Bosco underlines the role he entrusts to his best young people, making them his collaborators in earning the souls of his companions to God.
Also in the case of Michael, the "guardian angel" who prepares him for confession and the subsequent intervention of Don Bosco is a young man. In fact, the young man realizes that Michele is seized by melancholy, because he sees his companions praying willingly, approaching the sacraments of confession and communion, while he cannot, and feels the remorse and the shame of the sins committed in past years in idleness and in bravado, with his band of friends. At the right moment the friend gives him the decisive suggestion:
«" Do not worry: go to the confessor, tell him the state of your conscience; he will give you all the advice you will need. When we have trouble we always do so; therefore we are always happy ".
"This is fine" - replied Michele, but ... but ... and he began to cry ".
Don Bosco's attentive eye captures Michele's crisis, and is paternally close to him, ready to conquer the adolescent's confidence. How many priests and educators are so attentive to their young people, to be aware of their crises and sufferings and to arrive, at the right moment, at their heart?
«I followed what was happening in him, so one day I sent him to call and I spoke to him like this:
" Dear Magone, I would need you to do me a favor; but I would not want a refusal ".
"Say well," he replied boldly, "tell me, I am willing to do whatever you command me."
"I need you to leave me a moment in control of your heart, and show me the reason for that melancholy that has been tormenting you for some days."
"Yes, it's true, how much you tell me, but ... but I'm desperate and I don't know how to do it".
Saying these words, he gave a weeping tear. I let him vent somewhat; so, as a joke, I said to him:
"How! You are that general Michele Magone, head of the whole band of Carmagnola? What a general you are! You are no longer able to express with words how much he makes you suffer in the soul".
"I would like to do it, but I don't know how to start; I can't express myself."
"Tell me one word, I'll tell you the rest."
"My conscience is cheated ...".
"This is enough for me; I have understood everything. I needed you to say this word, so that I could tell you the rest ... Listen therefore: if the things of your conscience are adjusted in the past, prepared only to make a good confession, exposing how much it has happened to you from the last time you confessed to yourself, that if for fear or for another reason, you failed to confess something, ... in this case resume the confession from that time in which you are sure to have done well , and confess whatever it may give you pain on your conscience "".
in confessing some sins
We note the paternal delicacy with which Don Bosco invites Michael to confess the sins of the past life, untold or never confessed. While turning to Michele, think of those teenagers who will read that page, and they will feel themselves in the same situation as Michele: stuck in shame in confessing certain sins, for fear of losing the confessor's esteem or because they do not know the words with which to call their sin and confess it.
One day, Don Bosco will trust that there are teenagers who are always silent about their sins, going on for months and years, and even among the same adults. How important it is therefore to provide young people with a way to open their hearts to the confessor:
"" Here is my difficulty. How can I remember what happened to me in several years addíetro? "Asks Michele.
"You can fix everything with the greatest ease", Don Bosco reassures him.
"Just tell the confessor that you have something to review in your past life, then he will take the thread of your things, so that you will only have to say a yes or a no, and how many times this or that thing happened "".
to postpone the confession
Magone spent that day preparing to do the examination of conscience; but he had so much at heart to fix the things of the soul, that in the evening he did not want to go to bed without first confessing.
"The Lord," he said, "waited for me a great deal, this is certain; that I still want to wait until tomorrow is uncertain ". Don Bosco reports on the reflection that Michele makes, because he
knows that the adolescent is led to postpone confession, especially when it weighs on him to confess some sin.
«" So, if I can confess this evening, I no longer have to postpone it, and then it is time to break it with the devil. "
He therefore made his confession with great emotion, and interrupted her several times to give way to tears. As he finished it, before leaving the confessor he asked him:
"Do you think my sins are all forgiven me? If I died on this night would I be safe?"
"Go well," he was answered. "The Lord, who in his great mercy has been waiting for you so far to give you time to make a good confession, has certainly forgiven you all your sins; and if in his adorable decrees he wanted to call you into this night to eternity, you will be saved ".
All moved: "Oh, how happy I am!" he added.
Then, breaking into tears again, he went to rest ».
and spiritual paternity The joy of forgiveness
After that memorable confession, Michele describes the feelings of his heart, so similar to those who, like him, experienced the mercy of God and his love, and at the same time feel now free from the slavery of the past and the shame that had imprisoned him. Don Bosco recalls:
"This was a night of excitement and emotion for him. He later expressed to some of his friends the ideas that in that space of time ran through his mind.
future I never want to offend you any more, rather I want to love you, with all the strength of my soul; and if, for my misfortune, I fell even in a small sin, I will immediately go to confession "".
Don Bosco is keen to stress the liberating joy that so many adolescents like Michele felt after a beautiful confession, in which, overcoming shame, they sincerely confessed their sins.
"Thus our Magone expressed his regret at having offended God, and promised to remain constant in the holy divine service. In fact he began to attend the holy sacraments of confession and communion; and those practices of piety, which first caused him repugnance, later he frequented them with great transport of joy. Indeed he felt so much pleasure in going to confession, and he went there so often, that the confessor had to moderate it to prevent it from being dominated by scruples ».
For teenagers who have experienced the same joy as Michele, frequent confession, even fortnightly, becomes easier. The meeting with that confessor who has gained their confidence is a desired moment. They are more willingly turning to him especially when, due to the fragility of their age and the violence of their passions, they commit sins that they consider more serious, while it is more difficult to approach another priest whom they do not know, running the risk of falling back into insincerity.
In these cases the availability of the confessor in receiving them, and in making them taste the mercy of God's forgiveness, is a duty, but the confessor will have to help them to confess well with any priest, when it is not possible to meet the usual confessor.
A spiritual illness
Don Bosco also mentions here the scruples, of which he had already spoken in the life of Domenico Savio. This is a serious spiritual disease that affects not only some more sensitive adolescents, but also adults. The remedy will certainly not be frequent confession, but its regularity combined with obedience ready to the confessor:«This disease, with great ease, makes its way into the minds of young people when they really want to serve the Lord. The damage is serious, because by this means the devil disturbs the mind, shakes the heart, makes the practice of religion burdensome; and often those who had already taken many steps in virtue return to a bad life. The easiest way to free ourselves from this disaster is to abandon ourselves to the unlimited obedience of the confessor. When it says that something is bad, we do what we can to stop committing it. Does it say that there is no evil in this or that action? Follow his advice, and go forward with peace and joy of heart. In short, obedience to the confessor is the most effective way to free ourselves from scruples and persevere in the grace of the Lord ».
is a father and a friend
Michele's reflections offer Don Bosco the opportunity to present the confessor as a father and a friend of the young man.
A teenager confided to his confessor: "You are my father on a spiritual level; only to her can I trust the most secret things of my life, which I cannot even communicate to my parents ».
The joy of living this spiritual paternity transpires in the expressions that Don Bosco reserves for his young readers: "The anxieties and anxieties of the young Magone on the one hand, and on the other the frank and resolute manner in which he adjusted the things of his soul, he gives me an opportunity to suggest to you, beloved young people, some memories that I think are very useful for your souls. Take them as a token of affection from a friend who ardently desires your eternal salvation. First of all, I recommend that you do what you can to avoid falling into sin; but if by misfortune it happened to you to commit, never let yourself be led by the devil to silence him in confession. Think that the confessor has from Dío the power to forgive all qualities, every number of sins. The more the sins will be confessed, the more he will enjoy in his heart because he knows that the divine mercy which through him offers forgiveness is much greater. and apply the infinite merits of the precious blood of Jesus Christ, with which he can wash all the stains of your soul. My young people, remember that the confessor is a father, who ardently desires to do you all the good possible, and tries to remove from you all sorts of evil ».
Don Bosco returns to the difficulty for adolescents to be sincere in confession, and takes the opportunity to remind them of the secret to which confessors are bound.
that is worth the sacrifice of a lifetime
"Do not be afraid of losing esteem with him by confessing serious things, or that he may come to reveal them to others. Because the confessor cannot use any news he has in confession for any gain or loss of the world. Should he also lose his life, he neither says nor can tell anyone the slightest thing about what he heard in confession. Indeed, I can assure you that the more sincere you are and you will be confident with him, he will also increase his confidence in you and will be increasingly able to give you those advice and warnings that will seem most necessary and appropriate for your souls. I wanted to tell you these things so that you never let yourself be deceived by the devil by keeping some shameful sins out of shame. I assure you, dear young people,
What the confessor and the young must know
The joy of Michael Magone for that confession that changed his whole life pushes Don Bosco to suggest to his boys the way to make up for the confessions made badly. It does so with the discretion that says all its spiritual paternity and expresses the anxiety that lives for the salvation and eternal happiness of its young people.
A word to the youth
«If ever some of you going back to the past life came to discover some sin voluntarily omitted, or had only a doubt about the validity of some confession, I would like to say to him: 'Friend, for love of Jesus Christ, and for the precious blood that he scattered to save your soul, I ask you to fix the things of your conscience the first time you go to confession, sincerely exposing how much it would give you pain if you were at the point of death. If you don't know how to express yourself, just tell the confessor that you have something that gives you pain in your past life. The confessor has had enough. He only favors what he tells you, and then he is sure that everything will be fixed "".
If a teenager finds a priest so attentive to his confidences and feels helped in sincerely confessing his sins, he will more easily struggle against temptations, so violent at his age, and will serenely reach his youth, ready to assume the required responsibilities from the Christian vocation.
The insistence with which Don Bosco invites his young people to frequent confession is linked to the divine pedagogical value that he attributes to this sacrament, and to the knowledge of inconstancy, laziness and vulnerability of adolescence. We should also be able to repeat his words with conviction:«Go frequently to find your confessor, pray for him, follow his advice. When you have made the choice of a confessor you know is suitable for the needs of your soul, do not change it without necessity. Until you have a stable confessor, in whom you have all your confidence, you will always miss the soul-friend. Also confide in the prayers of the confessor, who in Holy Mass prays every day for his penitents, so that God grants them to make good confessions and may persevere in good; pray also for him ».
We are astonished that these weaknesses of our youth are easily forgotten in our days, offering them only two or three annual appointments for the sacrament of reconciliation, and so little is insisted on the choice of a stable confessor and a spiritual guide.
It is true that so many priests available for this ministry and the time to devote to this precious service have failed, yet this is the secret to accompany the vocational journey of the young, in formation for family life or that of special consecration.
While Don Bosco recommends the choice of a stable confessor, he wishes that in this field, so delicate of the youth conscience, maximum freedom be given about approaching the sacrament and the choice of the confessor: "You can without confusion change your confessor when you confessor changed habitation and it was difficult for him to go to his place, or he was sick, or on the occasion of a solemnity there was a lot of competition with the same priest. In the same way, if you had something on the conscience that you did not dare to manifest to the ordinary confessor, rather than making a sacrilege you changed the confessor not a thousand times ".
We note how already in the first confession, when several confessors are present, it is appropriate to leave the boys free to go to the priest who inspires them more confidence and sympathy, rather than obliging them to go to the confessor who is free at that time. The most sensitive boy already has his preferences about the priest to whom to open his heart.
The spiritual good of his young people pushes Don Bosco to direct some advice even to confessors, while he knows that the boys, who will read these indications of his, will be reassured about the figure and goodness of the priest who will welcome them and will not be surprised by the questions that the confessor will be able to address them.
For the Confessors
"If ever this writing were read by those who are from divine Providence destined to hear the confessions of youth, I would like to humbly suggest to them, omitting many other things:
l. Accept with kindness all sorts of penitents, but especially the youngsters. Help them to expose the things of their conscience; insist that they come to confession frequently. This is the surest way to keep them away from sin. Use all your industry to put into practice the warnings you suggest to prevent relapses. Correct them with kindness, but never scold them; if you scold them, they no longer come to see you, or they are silent about what you have harshly reproached them for.
2. When you have entered into confidence, make your way prudently to investigate whether the confessions of the past life are well made. Because famous authors in morality, asceticism and long experience, and especially an authoritative person who has all the guarantees of the truth, all agree together in saying that mostly the first confessions of the youngsters, if they are not null, at least they are defective for lack of education or for voluntary omission of things to confess.
The young man is invited to ponder well the state of his conscience particularly from the seven up to ten, to the twelve years. At this age one already has knowledge of certain things that are bad, but of which little is taken into account, or the way of confessing them is ignored.
The confessor makes use of great prudence and great refusal, but do not omit to ask a few questions about the things concerning the holy virtue of purity. I would like to say many things about the same subject; but if I am silent it is because I do not want to be a teacher in things of which I am nothing but a poor and humble disciple.
Here I have said these few words that in the Lord seem useful to the souls of youth, to whose good I intend to consecrate all that time that the Lord God will let me live in this world ».
As a profound connoisseur of the hearts of adolescents, Don Bosco wants adolescents in confession to be welcomed, treated kindly, helped in the accusation of their sins, contenting themselves with confessions that are still incomplete.
It does not minimize, as some priests do, especially in our times, about the moral responsibility of certain shortcomings, which even a boy of seven, eight, nine years perceives as serious. The difficulties in the sector of chastity should not be underestimated, but adolescents must be helped to open up to confidence also for this delicate aspect of their formation to love. We have met some boys who have not confessed to each other for years because the priest had scolded them or had been indiscreet in asking them embarrassing questions. Unfortunately, even adults have had this sad experience.
We will resume this little treatise on confession, presenting the confession of a third boy, Francesco Besucco.
We take leave of Michele Magone with the moving scene of his death in his eyes. Don Bosco is next to him and tells him:
"What do you leave me to say to your companions?"
"Let them always make good confessions ...". He clasped the crucifix with his hands, kissed it three times, and then said his last words:
"Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, I put my soul in your hands".
Then, bending his lips as if he wanted to make a smile, he placidly died ".
Michele was still fourteen years old. It will become a model that many kids will be inspired by.
The importance of the general confession and the need to have a stable confessor
Francesco was called "the little shepherd of the Alps". He is thirteen when he leaves his beautiful town of Argentera, at 1,600 meters high, in the Cuneesi Valleys, and arrives in Turin, accompanied by his father.
The life of Michele Magone, which Francesco read with emotion, led him to want to get to know Don Bosco and to get help from him to continue his studies, started with so much goodwill in his country.
He will spend only five months at Valdocco, and then he will be ready for Heaven.
Francesco is a normal boy, he has no great talent, but a tenacious will. His good nature is oriented towards a profound experience of God thanks to the religious education received from the family and from the parish priest, who is also his godfather.
of the general confession
Francis knows Don Bosco and immediately manifests the desire to put himself in his hands asking to make a general confession. It will not be like that of Michele, tormented by shame for the faults of the past, but is leaning towards the growth of friendship with Jesus. Thus Don Bosco intended confession for his boys.
Speaking of Francis, Don Bosco takes the opportunity to recall the important attitudes in the spiritual life of a teenager. We will emphasize some that seem useful, especially in our day. Don Bosco writes in the life of Francis: «Besucco was cultivated and started in time at the frequency of confession and communion. Arriving here at the Oratory, he grew up with good will and fervor in practicing them.
On the beginning of the novena of the Nativity of Mary. he presented himself to his director, saying: "I would like to pass this novena well and among other things I would like to make my general confession."
The director, as he understood the reasons that determined it, replied that he saw no need to make such a confession, and added: "You can live peacefully, especially since you have already done it other times by your archpriest".
"Yes - he resumed - I have already done it on the occasion of my first communion, and also when there were spiritual exercises in my country, but since I want to put my soul in his hands, so I wish to express all my conscience, so that he knows me better and can more safely give me those advices that can better serve to save my soul ".
The director agreed: he praised him for the choice he wanted to make of a stable confessor; he exhorted him to love his confessor, to pray for him, and to always show him whatever worried his conscience. Then he helped him make the desired general confession.
He performed that act with the most moving signs of sorrow on the past and purpose for the future, although, as everyone can judge, he was aware from his life that he had never committed an action that could be called a mortal sin ".
The insistence of Francis to make the general confession causes us to emphasize the value of this type of confession for those, especially adolescents, who want a sure guide for their conscience and want to make a serious spiritual journey.
Speaking to the Directors of his Houses, in 1876, Don Bosco said these words: "Now we come to a point that I believe of the utmost importance to make young people walk well on the path to health. Unfortunately a long experience has persuaded me to need to make the general confession to the young people who come to our colleges: or at least this confession is very advantageous to them. The young man can be arranged in this way:
"Have you already made the general confession?"
"Wouldn't you be glad to fix you a time to do it? Think for a moment, tell me in all honesty: if you had to die tonight, do you think you wouldn't have anything to fix with the Lord? Do you think you'd be quiet?" .
"Well when would you like to do it?"
"When you tell me".
"Oh, look I tell you that you do it at that time when you're going to tell me everything, everything ...".
Then also when that young man came to confess to go over his whole life, tell him:
"Did you come with an open heart? With the intention of telling me everything, big and small? Or do you have something you don't dare tell me?"
And from the answers he will give, take the rules to continue. Believe me, I seem exaggerated, but I am of the opinion that perhaps fifty percent, young people when they come to our colleges need to make the general confession " (MB VII, 91).
For Don Bosco the general confession was a necessary premise for the development of an effective educational work, especially in the field of grace and holiness; indispensable for the beginning of a fruitful spiritual direction. Speaking to the boys, after mentioning to Pythagoras who demanded from the disciples a minute account of their life, he went on: "The same I advise you my dear young people. Some believe that it is enough to open the heart completely to the spiritual director, to start a new life, and that it is a general confession when they say everything ... It is a great thing, but here it is not everything ... It is not only a matter of remedying the past , but also to provide for the future with firm intentions ... Inas for the future, to walk confidently you must reveal your usual sins, the occasions in which you used to fall, the dominating passions; stay with the advice and notices that will be given to you, faithfully putting them into practice; and then continue to keep the heart open, with full confidence, exposing his needs, temptations and dangers by hand, so that those who direct you can guide you safely "(MB VII, 720).
Therefore the general confession is advisable to those young people who intend to make a serious spiritual journey with the chosen confessor, and it is recommendable in some particular stages of the vocational journey, for example for those who are about to receive the sacrament of Marriage, or the Diaconal ordination or Priest, or on the eve of religious consecration, or at other important moments in life, especially at its conclusion, as Francis will ask again a few days before he died.
to have a stable confessor
Don Bosco continues: "Having made the choice of the confessor, he no longer changed it for as long as the Lord kept it among us. He had full confidence with him, he also consulted him outside of confession, he prayed for him and he greatly enjoyed every time he could get some good advice from him for his rule of life.
He once wrote a letter to a friend of his who had expressed his desire to come to this Oratory too. In it he recommended him to pray to the Lord for this grace, and then suggested to him some practices of piety, such as the Via Crucis; but above all he urged him to go to confession every eight days and to communicate several times a week.
While I greatly praise the Besucco around this fact, I recommend with the most affectionate affections of the heart all of us, but in a special way to the youth, to want to make the choice of a stable confessor in time, or never to change it, except in case of necessity .
Avoid the defect of some who change their confessor almost every time they go to confession; or, having to confess things of greater importance, they go to another, returning then to the primitive confessor.
By doing so, they do not commit any sin, but they will never have a sure guide who knows the state of their conscience properly. What would happen to them would happen to a sick person who wanted a new doctor on every visit. This doctor could hardly know the illness of the patient, so it would be uncertain to prescribe the appropriate remedies ».
Don Bosco highlights the attitude of some adolescents and perhaps also of several adults, who often go around churches and sanctuaries, looking for a confessor who does not know them.
When this attitude becomes habitual, it can be a sign of attachment to sin and weak will to overcome it with the help of a spiritual guide who knows our evil well and can suggest the effective remedy.
We note how Don Bosco, while recommending the fixed confessor, nevertheless gave the maximum freedom of choice.
He procured that his students would approach them regularly, indeed very frequently, but without any pressure whatsoever. He exhorted them and wanted them to be exhorted, but he did not oblige them, while he wanted other confessors to be found outside, especially on parties and in their watches.
We will return to the frequency of confession by speaking of other young people who confessed to Don Bosco.
We take leave of Francis and accept the precious suggestion that comes to us from this teenager at the end of his life: «On the fifth day of the illness he asked to receive the sacraments. He wanted to make the general confession; which he was denied, having no need for it, especially since he had done it a few months before. However he prepared himself for that last confession with a singular fervor and showed himself moved. After the confession he appeared very cheerful ... On the evening of that day he wondered if he had anything to recommend to anyone.
"Oh, yes - he told me - tell everyone to pray for me so my purgatory will be brief".
"What do you want me to tell your companions for you?" "Tell them that they flee the scandal, that they always try to make good confessions" ".
Don Bosco will watch over Francis and will be beside him at the moment of death, impressed by the serenity with which he will end his earthly existence.
Confidence with the confessor facilitates the sincerity of the young penitent.
At the beginning of August 1872, from Picetto Torinese, Francesco Piccollo arrived at the Oratory of Valdocco, aged eleven.
We know his story of an orphan and poor boy. The charity that Don Bosco used when he came to see him was known to be urged by the housekeeper to pay the fee, otherwise his son would have been discharged. Poor mother was in tears when Francesco saw her. The boy sincerely regretted leaving Valdocco. Don Bosco, having learned of his economic difficulties, pardoned his mother for the whole year.
The boy, won over by the kindness and generosity of Don Bosco, a few years later confided to him the desire to give him a big gift: to become a Salesian. Don Bosco gladly accepted that gift.
Francis became a Salesian and, sent to Sicily, he so imitated Don Bosco that he was called the "Father of the orphans of Sicily".
Francis usually confessed to Don Bosco. There is a somewhat special confession that he himself will tell. It was handed down to us by Don Seriè and reported by Don Teresio Bosco in his beautiful biography of Don Bosco.
Don Bosco's wealth is the confidence of his children
«It was snack time, and the boys received a loaf of bread which they sometimes consumed by bathing it in the fountain water. Francesco thought, however, that a single loaf was little compared to the appetite that had awakened in him, after the abundant soup of lunch soon digested. He would have liked to at least double the ration. But the oratory was poor, and even the bread was not at will in that 1872.
While he was thinking this way, he saw that some of his companions, after having pocketed a first loaf, quietly put themselves back in line and took a second and a third without anyone noticing.
Anchio - then Francesco recounted - then let myself be overcome by appetite, stole two loaves and fled behind the porch, eating them greedily. But then I felt remorse.
I stole - I thought -. And how will I do Communion tomorrow? I must confess! But my confessor was Don Bosco, and I knew how he would be sorry for the knowledge I had stolen. How to do? Not so much for shame, as for not displeasing Don Bosco, I ran away from the door of the church, and I ran straight to the sanctuary of the Consolata, not far away. I entered the dim church, chose the most hidden confessional, and began my confession:
"I have come to confess here because I am ashamed to confess to Don Bosco!" (It was something I could not say, but I was so used to the sincerity that seemed important to me). A voice answers me:
"Say well. Don Bosco will never know anything."
It was the voice of Don Bosco!
Mercy! I was sweating cold. But if Don Bosco was at the oratory, how could he be there too? A miracle? No, no miracle. Don Bosco had been invited, as usual, to confess to the Consolata, and I had come across precisely the one I wanted to escape.
"Speak, dear child. What happened to you?" I was trembling like a leaf.
"I stole two loaves!"
"And did they hurt you?"
"Then don't torment yourself. Were you hungry?"
"Hungry for bread and thirst for water, good hunger and good thirst. Look: when you need something, ask Don Bosco. He will give you all the bread you want. But remember well: Don Bosco prefers your confidence to believe you innocent "With your confidence, he will be able to help you, but with your innocence you could slip and fall, and no one would give you a hand. Don Bosco's wealth is the confidence of his children. Never forget that, Francis" ".
Don Bosco knew that the way of thinking of Francis is common to that of many other boys: having great admiration for their spiritual guidance, they are afraid to give him sorrows in confessing the weaknesses that they consider most serious and therefore seek an unknown priest to confess these types of sins. In this way they do not lose their friend's esteem on a spiritual level.
and absolute sincerity in confession
For this reason, Don Bosco speaking to young people will say: «Do not be afraid to show your faults to your confessor, your shortcomings. Being good does not consist in not committing lack: oh no! Unfortunately we are all subject to committing it. The good being consists in this: in having the will to correct oneself ... The confessor looks at the will and does not wonder: on the contrary he feels the greatest consolation he can have in this world, seeing that that young man has confidence with him, that he wants to overcome the devil and put himself in the grace of God, who wants to grow in virtue.
Nothing, my dear children, take away this confidence from you. Not shame: human miseries, we know, are human miseries. Do not go to confession to tell miracles ... not the fear that the confessor may reveal such a terrible secret for him ... Not the fear that he will then remember what you confessed: out of confession it is his duty not to think about it ...
Courage therefore, my children; let's not make the devil laugh. Confess yourself well by saying everything. Someone will ask: And who had kept silent about some sin in confession how should he remedy it? ... He reiterates all confessions to the one in which his sin was silent ... The Catechism also says: From the last confession well done up to the one you want to do ... In a word, it's about dodging hell and gaining paradise. It is something of a moment: the confessor will help you and you know that we are friends and I desire only one thing: the salvation of your soul "(BERTETTO D., S. Giovanni Bosco teacher and guide of the priest, LDC, Colle Don Bosco 1954 , pag.176ss.).
Don Bosco's educational strength was in having the confidence of his young people. He said: "Confidence is the key to everything. I need real friendship and trust between me and you ».
In the accusation of our sins we are often conditioned by thought: what must I say to the confessor? And what will he say? The dominant thought must instead be: Who am I going to meet? What am I going to receive? I go to meet the risen Christ, who helps me to rise from my sins, from my weaknesses; I go to receive his peace.
The formation of the conscience of the adolescent and the vocational accompaniment in the confession
On 16 May 2004 one of Don Bosco's boys, who became a priest, was proclaimed a saint: he is Don Luigi Orione.
Luigi arrives at Valdocco in October 1886; she is 14. And the son of a poor road paver from Pontecurone (AL).
He himself, for some time, shared with the father the fatigue of that profession. He feels the fascination of following St. Francis and enters the convent of the Franciscan friars of Voghera, but a serious illness leads him to the point of death. He is discharged from the convent and returns to his family. He will consider that sickness a great grace, which caused her to shed so many tears, because it will be the cause that will lead him to Valdocco. It is accepted by Don Bosco who, from their first meeting, seems to nurture a special fondness and interest for Luigino.
Don Bosco's simple gaze, during a recreation, will arouse in Orion, a spark that develops a fire of affection towards the saint of young people.
The confession of a boy who will become a saint
For a privilege, which he has of the extraordinary, Luigino gets to confess to Don Bosco that, now at the end of his strength, he confesses only some Salesians and pupils of the fourth and fifth gymnasium.
That confession will remain memorable in the heart of Orion, followed by others, compatibly with the presence of Don Bosco at Valdocco and his health.
We hear the story of Don Orione, who remembers that first face-to-face meeting with Don Bosco. This was reported by Don Carletti, a Salesian: "We come to the episode of confession. Luigi was going through a period of particular religious fervor. On 8 December he made his perpetual consecration to Mary, and now the opportunity presented itself to him to confess to Don Bosco. Not knowing if such an opportunity could be repeated a second time, given the state of health of the Saint, and attending only the first year, he prepared himself with the utmost care, as an unrepeatable act.
He took more books where the general examination of conscience was, he transcribed all the sins therein listed, and filled at least two books of eight or nine sheets each. "I accused myself of everything ... he told Don Carletti - To a single question I answered negatively: Did you kill? This no! I wrote next.
Yes he presented with a certain trepidation for the accusation, because "Don Bosco read in the eyes of his children and many did not want to go and confess to him, because they were afraid" " (This testimony is reported in Messages of Don Orione, Quaderno 69, Study of Don Antonio Lanza, Little Work of Divine Providence, Tortona - Rome 1988).
Don Bosco looked at the hearts
Don Bosco himself will confide: "Many times confessing, I see the consciences of young people open before me like a book in which I can read". And some boys go so far as to say, "Do you want to say it or do you want me to say your sins?" We will return to this special gift that Don Bosco received from the Lord, a gift that made Padre Pio so famous in our day.
Let's go back to the young Luigi Orione, who recounts: «When I was in front of him, I had as a fear to pull out my notebooks. Finally I pulled one out and, as I presented it to him, I was seeing Don Bosco's gaze and the impression he was giving him. Then, for fear of making him waste time, I began to read quickly; then I turned the page and Don Bosco still looked; I turned the page again and Don Bosco was still looking; I turned the page again and Don Bosco said to me:
"Well, well, do you still have one?"
"Yes, they replied."
"Well, leave it here, give it to me."
He took it and, having done so and so Don Orione repeats the gesture], he made four pieces of it and also the second made the same end.
Having judged the caliber of the sinner who stood before him, Don Bosco continued asking questions and immediately hinted at a lack that had certainly been written in the notebooks, but had not been read. The young man was shocked by the Saint's intuition, so much to repeat - still 50 years later! - the admired exclamation: "He scrutinized hearts! He scrutinized hearts!"
And he continues:
"Then he told me three things that I still remember as now (...), three things that only God could tell him".
Don Bosco then warned him:
"Think of this and do not turn back. You no longer have to think about those things, small and large, that may have been". Adding: "Be happy!"
And Don Orione concludes: "And he smiled at me as he alone could smile".
Convinced that he had been in contact with something that surpassed pure human knowledge, Orion arose from that confession "with a soul so full of joy, which I do not know if I have experienced an equal in my life" " (This testimony is reported in Messages of Don Orione, op. cit.).
The formation of consciences: an urgent moral duty
Thinking of Luigino and the hunt for conscientious examinations, it is appropriate to reflect on the importance of the formation of consciences, especially of young people, especially in these times of great moral disorientation.
How precious are the first simple tests of conscience that parents propose to their children, the parish priest to the boys of the first confession, the trainers to the adolescents.
Luigi Orione mentions the forms that were once found in the Churches, near the confessionals. They are perhaps to be rediscovered and updated with the sensitivity of our time. Let us think, for example, of the commandment: Do not kill as it can easily be violated with reckless, reckless driving ... how many violence some do when they are driving their vehicle and very few confess this sin. Penitential celebrations are very useful as they include a common examination of conscience.
A special care for vocations
Since Providence will allow Luigi Orione to again approach Don Bosco in these sacramental "face to face", the concern will no longer be to fill notebooks to free oneself from the small weight of the past, but to strengthen the wings to throw oneself towards the boundless horizons that the Spirit Director indicated to him.
Don Carletti continues: "There weren't many confessions Luigino could make with Don Bosco, but they were enough to provide him with a sure and courageous trace throughout his life. Those spiritual meetings were not cold and detached meetings between judge and penitent, but warm and participated interviews between father and son. Don Orione remembers them with an expression that vaguely recalls the idea of the forge and the forging of raw metals ».
It is significant that Don Bosco, now at the end of his life, still takes care of vocations, through fidelity to the weekly confession, reserved in particular for those who demonstrated attitudes to a vocation of special consecration or were already Salesians. This is the privileged way to go today if we are to support young people on their vocational journey.
In the case of Luigi Orione those meetings with Don Bosco traced his path to holiness, today recognized by the Church with its canonization.
The goodness of the confessor
opens the heart of the young penitent to confession and vocation
We are helped to prolong the reflection between confession and vocation through the figure of another young eighteen year old, who sees his confession with Don Bosco linked to his vocation. We also like to remember him because, with another of his companions, Franchini, he will be a witness to the ecstasies of Don Bosco at the altar preserved in the Camerette at Valdocco. The supernatural gifts of this holy confessor are evident in this episode, reported by the Biographical Memoirs .
"Evasio Garrone entered as a student in the Oratory on 4 August 18 7 8. He was eighteen and at his house he was a shopkeeper. It was seven in the evening. Arriving at the door of the sacristy, he saw a procession of young people starting in that place. Curious, he followed the current and there was a priest who confessed, surrounded by many boys who were preparing. He knelt with them, but thinking more of his home than his sins.
When his turn came, unprepared as he was, he remained silent and could not remember a single sin. Then the priest said to him, "I'll talk." And one by one, in order of time and with the indications of the places, he rattled off all his sins, indicating the number and the circumstances. This done, he gave him some warnings with so much anointing and with so much affection that at his every word he felt more and more comforted, and the contentment of the heart grew to sign that he seemed to be in heaven. Finally the confessor said to the penitent: "Garrone, thanks the Madonna; after six years that you sighed, she heard you. You are always devoted, and she will still save you from so many dangers" ".
revealed his thoughts to us.
We notice how the Lord makes his call heard very soon, as in the case of Garrone, and as the first confidant is the priest, often the confessor who has gained the confidence of the young man.
«From the age of twelve the young man had the secret desire to become a priest; but, knowing that it was impossible for his family to keep him at school, he had not shown his inclination to a living soul. At eighteen, having heard of Don Bosco and re-awakened hope in his heart, he presented himself to the parish priest and for the first he revealed his thoughts; the parish priest, having listened to him with goodness, obtained for him to be accepted in the Oratory. Each one therefore imagined his astonishment when he heard the precise time elapsed since the idea of becoming a priest had appeared in his mind, and then he heard himself called by name so immediately at the moment of his entrance, with all the rest that we have narrated .
When the confession was over, he retreated into a corner of the shrine, got down on his knees and with his hands behind his back stood there as a forgetful, contemplating that mysterious confessor, who had discovered all his secrets for him. He said to himself: "That this priest, who knows me so well, is from my country? But I never saw Grana ío! How can he know me like that?"
He thought of confession, he thought of the fine words he heard, nor of wonder and emotion he knew how to rise from that position.
The following day, while he was in the courtyard, he saw all the young people running towards a priest who was then advancing. He ran too. It was just that of confession. As soon as he came near, he heard what he was saying to a young man: "I want you to cook". Then, addressing him, he added: "Even here Garrone I want him to cook". "But in short," Garrone said to himself, "who is this priest who calls me by name, who knows all my business, who wants to cook me?" And he certainly questioned him:
"Say, but are you from my country?"
"Not me," answered the priest. "Do you know me?"
"I've never seen him."
That said, he asked a neighbor who that priest was. "Don Bosco, the Director of the Oratory ...".
"Yes, I am Don Bosco," the priest replied, smiling.
"But it is not you who sent me the letter of acceptance! ...".
So I spoke, explained Garrone to Don Lemoyne, because I was a young man of rough manners and I didn't know what you said to me. From that point, however, I felt a profound veneration for Don Bosco " (MB XIII, 8 9 5-8 9 6).
Let the readers curiosity to know the sequel of this young man's life and his Salesian vocation, while remembering to choose for our spiritual life that priest who, for sanctity of life and experience in the ministry of confessions, can be the safest guide in realizing God's will for us.
We note how the reputation of sanctity and sympathy that surrounded the person of Don Bosco was the best presentation for the adolescents who approached him and how his own young people contributed to making it grow among their peers.
The confessor's patience
A gracious episode, reported by the Biographical Memoirs, describes the kindness that Don Bosco used with his boys, especially during the ministry of confessions. Here is how it was handed down to us: «One Saturday evening, Don Bosco confessed near the little balcony to which he was climbing a luxuriant vine of muscatel. A young man from the fourth school year, Paolo Falla, waiting for his turn, kneeling before those leafy vine leaves, eyed a cluster that was beginning to blacken between the leaves, took it from the branch and quietly set himself to eat those grapes.
Distracted by this occupation, he no longer thought of anything else, nor did he realize that the penitent, who separated him from the confessor, had already retired.
Don Bosco, having absolved what was on the opposite side, turned to him to confess it. The boy with the bunch in his hand blushed, stammered an excuse, but Don Bosco softly told him: "Don't worry, finish your grapes well and then you'll confess", saying this, turned to the other side, continuing to confess " (MB) XVIL 1. 6 7).
With that gesture of patience and loving kindness Don Bosco gained the boy's confidence, while if he was angry at the lack, he would have prevented Paul from making a good confession and perhaps would not have assured the Church of a beautiful vocation, in fact Paul entered that one same year in the Salesian novitiate of San Benigno Canavese. He became a priest and was parish priest in Cavallermaggiore (Cuneo).
One of the virtues that the confessor must often exercise with regard to young penitents is patience, since some come to confess themselves unprepared, sometimes distracted or dissipated. It is not convenient to scold them, but rather to show them the Crucifix by remembering the sufferings borne by Jesus because of our sins. We will see them become serious and more reflective, ready to recognize their shortcomings and to mature a purpose as a sign of a renewed friendship with the Lord.
At the beginning of his ministry of confessions among the children gathered from the streets, Don Bosco heroically exercised the virtue of patience. This is how some pages of the Biographical Memoirs describe it : «Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the Oratory, Don Bosco had around a hundred of the youngest who wanted to go to confession. But nothing accustomed to ideas of order and being the first times they approached this sacrament, with their crudeimpatience would have persuaded any other priest not to be able to conveniently accomplish that sacred ministry. Since no catechist was present to assist them, some shouted that they wanted to be the first, others scolded to come forward, and others rejected those who tried to supplant them. It was hard work not to put a little calm in that tangle; but finally, if nothing else, everyone was silent and kneeling. Don Bosco, then turning to the one who was closest to him, raised his hand to make the sign of the holy cross over him; but here all the neighbors were marked as if for each of them the signal was given to begin the accusation. And Don Bosco, always unperturbed and smiling,
In that instant, however, what was remarkable was the transformation that took place in the penitents as they approached Don Bosco. They became calm as if they were far from any disturbance, intent only on what they had to say: in the very short admonition made to them by Don Bosco, they could see from their faces how much they understood, and, having received absolution, they retreated silently into a corner lonely to do penance. The grace of the Lord could almost be seen spreading his merciful wings over Don Bosco and his young men. But it was not long before the young men began to keep a better demeanor; although there were other difficulties that Don Bosco had to overcome. We will report one of the others.
Don Bosco all graciously welcomed, even though they were rough,ignorant, careless, unwilling, and found a way to win them over to God. He himself said of certain classes of youth: "They come to confession and then they say nothing, and even when they are questioned they do not answer. These, when they confess in the parishes, it is good call them in front and don't leave them in the grates, because in this way they will be able to make people talk more easily. It is worth much in this regard to put a hand on their heads, to prevent them from looking here and there as they do. to say everything, but it is necessary from the beginning to use so much patience, and to continue to ask them various questions and repeat them with charity, so that they may begin to say something. I happened to meet some of those that it seemed impossible to myself to take from them a single word, and then I succeeded in confessing them with this very strange expedient.Seeing them always silent with my every question, he asked them:
Have you already had breakfast this morning?
`Yes! ' they said to me smiling.
Did you do it with good appetite?
How many brothers do you have at home? ' and other similar things.
Then they began to answer the questions I asked to find out about the state of their conscience and then easilyfollowed up their cases "" (MB III, 154-156).
The patience shown by Don Bosco to his little penitents is truly admirable. The confessors have experience of this when they approach the boys, who for the first time approach the sacrament of confession and do not know what to smile at the confessor, who with patience must help them say their sins at least for the first time.
The exercise of patience becomes heroic when the confessor is engaged for so many hours in the confessional. Even for penitents the exercise of this virtue becomes meritorious, especially on the occasion of Christmas or Easter confessions. This was also the case for the boys of Don Bosco: "He was in the confessional 10 or 12 consecutive hours many times on Saturday. And those young men, previously so intolerant of restraint and full of liveliness, patiently waited their turn to make their conscience beautiful " (MB III, 156).
These reflections conveniently introduce us to Don Bosco's meeting with a 16-year-old rebel already assigned by his father to a correctional institution.
The art of conquering the heart of the penitent
In every young person there is a point accessible to good, and Don Bosco has often shown it. This is confirmed by the meeting we are about to narrate.
In 18 52 Don Bosco accepted at the Oratory a young man named Giovanni, who had previously been in a civic boarding school, where he had taken bad habits, becoming familiar with bad companions and giving himself to perverse readings; naturally he had lost the year of studies.
However, the Christian education received from her mother, who had only recently died, remained impressed in the young man's mind. Giovanni had abandoned all religious practice, but in the evening before going to bed he prayed for her.
The father, now determined to have him locked up in a correctional house given his son's rebellious attitude, made one last attempt to avoid this extreme solution. He reminded him of his mother's last moments of life and his desire to direct him to studies by Don Bosco. Known the desire of the mother, Giovanni, moved, said to be willing to make any sacrifice to execute it.
From Biographical Memoirs we resume his meeting with Don Bosco at Valdocco: «Don Bosco was not a little surprised at the first appearance of that young man ... New and elegantly made clothes, a Calabrian hat, a stick in his hand, a shiny chain on the chest, a smooth parting of the dapper hair were the clues that revealed the spirit of vanity that reigned in the heart of the young man.
The father easily agreed on the conditions of acceptance; and then with the pretext of having other things to do he left his son alone to talk with Don Bosco. At the sight of a young man so attuned, Don Bosco did not consider it appropriate to talk to him about religion; but he only talked about walks, races, gymnastics, fencing, singing, sound. Which things boiled the blood in the veins of the vanerello pupil only to hear about it.
When his father returned, as soon as he could talk freely with Giovanni, "What do you think of it," he said to him, "do you like this place, how about the director?"
"I really like the place, the director seems to be all my genius, but he has something that is not at all repugnant to me."
"What? Tell me, we are still in time to provide otherwise".
"I like everything in him, but he is a priest, and this makes me look at him with disgust".
"We must not pay attention to the quality of a priest: rather pay attention to the merit and virtues that adorn it".
"But coming with a priest means praying, going to confession, going to communicate. From some words he told me, it seemed to me that he already knew my business ... enough ... I promised, I will keep my word, the we'll see "".
An educational environment that directs the heart of the young to God
Starting from the interests of the young to lead them to the interests of God was the educational art of Don Bosco. However, it is necessary to create an environment that matures interest in spiritual things in the young. John found this atmosphere at Valdocco which favored his conversion.
«A few days later Giovanni entered the Oratory. The father judged that he informed Don Bosco of what had happened to his son, and how he still had a great affection for the deceased parent. Separated from his companions, distracted from bad readings, the frequency of good fellow disciples, emulation in the classroom, music, declamation, some dramatic performances in a theater, soon made us forget the dissipated life that had been leading for about a year.
The memory then of the mother, "flee idleness and the bad companions", often returned to his memory. Indeed, the ancient habit of pious practices easily resumed. The difficulty was in being able to resolve it to make his confession. Two months had already passed in college. There had already been novenas, celebrated solemnities, in which the other pupils all tried to approach the holy sacraments; but Giovanni could never resolve to confess.
An important anniversary
One evening Don Bosco called him to his room, and mindful of the great impression his mother made on his heart, he began to say so:
"My good John, what does tomorrow's day remind you of?" .
"Yes I know. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother's death. O beloved mother, I could only see you once, or at least once again hear your voice!"
"Would you do something tomorrow that is to your liking and a great advantage to yourself?"
"Oh if I would! It cost anything!"
"Make your holy communion tomorrow for the soul of her, and you will be greatly relieved if she is still in the painful flames of purgatory".
"I would gladly do it, but to make communion one must go to confession ... If my mother likes this, I will do it, and if she judges it by the way, I immediately confess to her at this moment."
Don Bosco, who expected nothing else, praised his decision, let the emotion calm down, then he prepared it and with mutual consolation confessed it; and the next day John approached the Holy Table making many prayers for the soul of the late parent. From that day his life was of real satisfaction to Don Bosco ".
Making use of particular recurrences, such as those of suffrage for the dead, to celebrate the sacrament of penance, is a beautiful tradition to preserve in the Church and to propose to young people who are sensitive to these values.
From that day on, John's journey of conversion became more decisive.
to destroy the flammable material
We know that the confessors ask the penitents not to keep material that was an occasion for sin. Don Bosco certainly advised the young man to destroy any reference to the sins of the past by eliminating the material that could have been for him the occasion of falls.
"Giovanni still kept some books partly forbidden, partly harmful to the youngsters, and he took them all to the director to deliver them to the flames, saying:
" I hope that by burning they will no longer be the cause that my soul burns in hell. "
He also kept some letters from the ancient companions, with whom they gave him several bad advice; and he reduced them to very minute pieces.
He then resumed his studies, and wrote the memories of his mother on the cover of the books: "escape from idleness and bad companions".
He then sent a good year letter to his father, who felt great consolation at seeing his son return to the thoughts he had fed for so many years. Thus passed the time of the gymnasium.
Recalling that there were several bad books and newspapers in the paternal house, Giovanni wrote many letters to his father, he knew how to caress him especially in time of vacation, he made many promises, which convinced him to get rid of everything " (MB IV, 499 -503).
Escape the opportunities for sin: this is a recommendation to be made especially for adolescents, who due to their natural fragility, are easily conditioned by the pagan environment that surrounds them and by bad companies, which they often cannot give up for fear of being alone and marginalized.
The benefits of frequent confession
In the early days of the Oratory, Don Bosco was followed by a crowd of young men who on Saturdays and Sundays came to besiege his confessional, to pray and attend Mass with exemplary devotion. With a thousand tricks Don Bosco took their hearts, so that they could be spiritually directed.
Sometimes it happened that some of the most negligent ones did not surrender so easily to his priestly zeal, and then he found other more effective expedients.
"From that day
I had a great pleasure in confessing"
In this regard we recall a fact narrated by the same protagonist in these terms: "I was 17 years old, I had been attending the Oratory for some months, participating in recreation, games and even functions religious; indeed, when psalms, hymns, or sacred songs were sung, I took part with all my taste, and sang with what I had in my voice ... I had not yet approached the sacrament of confession. I had no reason not to go there, but having allowed some time to pass, I no longer knew how to resolve to return.
Sometimes Don Bosco had lovingly invited me to do my Easter, and I immediately replied yes; and meanwhile now for one pretext, now for another, I was trying to evade those paternal invitations. I was content to promise, and I never kept my word. However he knew how to grasp me in a really gracious way. One Sunday, after the sacred duties, I was all intent on a game, on the broken bar, and because of the already warm season, I was in shirt sleeves. Because of the anxiety, the taste and the prolongation of the game, I was red in the face and all soft with sweat.
While I almost didn't know if I was in heaven or on earth, Don Bosco hastily called me, saying:
"Would you help me to do something of some concern?" "With all the pleasure! Which one?"
"Maybe it will cost you a little effort."
"It doesn't matter; I do anything, I am very strong". "Come to church with me, then!"
I, gladly serving Don Bosco, left the game promptly, and I wanted to follow him as I was, in shirt sleeves.
"So no - Don Bosco told me - put your jacket on." And I promptly put it on. Don Bosco preceded and I followed him to the sacristy, thinking there was some object to move there.
"Come with me to the choir," Don Bosco continued.
"Here I am," I replied.
And he took me to a kneeler.
I, who had not yet understood, was preparing to take that piece of furniture to carry it.
"Leave him, leave him," Don Bosco repeated, smiling.
"So what does he want me to do?"
"I want you to confess".
"Oh this, yes, but when?"
"I'm not prepared now."
"I know you are not prepared, but I give you all the time: I will recite a good part of the breviary, and you will later make your confession, as you have promised me several times."
"Since she likes it this way, I will prepare myself willingly, and I will have no more trouble to look for the confessor. I really need to confess myself. You did well to take me this way, otherwise for fear of some comrades I would not have come yet" .
While Don Bosco was reciting his breviary, I made my preparation and then I confessed to it with much more ease than I expected, because my charitable and so well-experienced confessor helped me admirably with his wise questions. In a short time he hurried me, and I, having done my penance, set up a devoted thanksgiving, and proceeded to resume my very lively recreation.
From that day on I had no more repugnance at going to confess; indeed, I felt great pleasure whenever I could approach this Divine Sacrament, so that I began to go there frequently.
So far the story of the young man. And we add that from then on he was one of the most assiduous to carry out his religious duties, and with the example and the words he also attracted the others " (MB II, 43 7).
How many adolescents out of laziness, neglect, human respect and fear of their companions, always postpone confession, while it is precisely in adolescence that bad habits take root or are more fragile, for example in the field of purity, and confession is an excellent haemostatic that blocks bleeding in love and a formidable spiritual tonic.
Against the blowing of passions, an adolescent has limited resistance and it is therefore important to approximate the confessions. We hear about Don Bosco's thoughts on confession.
But how often?
In the "good night" of January 20, 1876, he gave the young people these directives: "This is the first rule to be taken. No one confesses before eight days. There are some, especially among the little ones, who would come every day. This rule is generally held for all, and then there will be comfort for all: but no one ever lets the month pass without going to confession: ordinary rule is every ten, twelve and even fifteen days.
Many say: "We wish to go there every eight days". And they go every eight days and they do well! But, someone says: "I would like to go to Holy Communion frequently, but after a couple of days that I have confessed, I am again as before and if I do not confess I no longer dare to go to Communion". I would say to him: "If you are not able to persevere in such a state of conscience that allows you to go to communion for eight days, I do not recommend communion so frequently".
"But I want to correct myself; going to confess to myself so frequently I would correct myself more easily."
"No, sir, I answer, the time it would take you to go to confess the second and third time in a week, take it to make the resolution a little more firm and you will see that this will be more effective than going to confess more frequently how do you want to do it, but always with little pain, with little purpose. Precisely the confessor has forced you to go more rarely so that you prepare yourself better and have the necessary dispositions ".
There is only one case in which I believe that one must go to confession frequently and it is when the confessor himself, after having considered the conscience of his penitent well, says to him: "Come and confess whenever you fall in this or that sin is necessary to overcome that habit, to eradicate that bad passion ". When there is this express advice of the confessor, given this for a special purpose, it is certain that the penitent will bring back good. Out of this case, get into the habit of going every eight days or even twelve days, and with this you can, according to the advice of the confessor, also make your holy communion very frequently "" (MB XII, 31).
Don Bosco not only waited for his boys in the confessional, but he went to look for them, as we have seen them do in such a nice way on this occasion.
We know the laziness that often blocks adolescents, and not only them, to approach confession frequently. The stratagem used by Don Bosco tells us his pastoral zeal and encourages priests, especially those who live among young people, to be attentive to individual adolescents to help them confess frequently, especially when their crises are stronger adolescent.
Fidelity to confession in adulthood: the fruit of a good habit taken in adolescence
A statement that embitters families and Christian communities is to see how many children, after conferring the sacrament of Confirmation, distance themselves from the Church, desert the common prayer, Sunday Mass, Communion and confession. Not a few of them come to the confessor on the eve of their marriage, after having made the last confession on the occasion of their confirmation, in second or third grade.
This phenomenon was already occurring in Don Bosco's time.
confesses a former pupil
«A young ex-pupil of the Oratory had not confessed for ten years, and found great repugnance to the sacrament. A relative of his, also a craftsman and an old pupil, invited him to pay a visit to Don Bosco with him, and when they came to Valdocco they found him in the sacristy confessing his last penitents.
The young man waited for Don Bosco to get up from his chair, when his companion gave him a shove and threw him stunned into his arms.
Don Bosco said to him then:
"Are you afraid of me? Are we not always the friends of the past? If you want to confess, it is the easiest thing. I will say everything".
The tender young man immediately began his confession and returned to being a good Christian; and still today he laughs at his friend's joke and tells what Don Bosco told him at that moment touched " (MB V, 6 3 9).
How providential it is for a teenager or a young man to find a true friend who knows how to lead him, with his example and with an explicit invitation, to frequent confession. We know that a good example of a friend is often more effective than the insistence of parents and educators.
Certainly the role of the priest who follows his children is essential and he is close to them in the storms of adolescence, when passions upset their hearts.
It is comforting to know young people who in their adolescence have been faithful to the fortnightly or monthly confession. They manifest more than others delicacy of conscience and true growth in the human and Christian virtues. Accompanied on their vocational journey, they present themselves well prepared for marriage or consecrated or priestly life and guarantee their fidelity.
Fundamental in this approach to confession frequently in youth, is frankness and sincerity in accusing sins, calling them by their name, overcoming all shame or human respect.
It was the attitude of a young worker confessed by Don Bosco.
"The sacristy was crammed full of kneeling children, and a young worker of about eighteen or twenty, tall and stocky, with a serious serious face confessed.
It was the first time he approached Don Bosco. With a rather strong voice, so that everyone could understand, he began to narrate his miseries, which were neither few nor read. In vain Don Bosco warned him to speak more modestly, and with his white handkerchief he tried to write off his voice. The closest companions touched him saying,
But he paid no attention to anyone and continued as before; and without giving up when he kicked those who bothered him. The young people had to keep their ears closed with their fingers so as not to hear.
Having received absolution, he kissed Don Bosco's hand with such a burst of lips that he smiled more than one. Then he got up to retreat, and when he turned around, his face had an expression of peace, humility and surprising joy.
In the meantime he was trying to make his way through the crowd that was crammed, repeating to him from one side and the other:
"Why speak so loudly? Have you made all your sins known to all".
The young man stopped, spread his arms and with a singular candor said:
"And with this? What does it matter to me that you have heard everything? I have committed these sins, it is true, but the Lord has forgiven me. From here on out I will good. That's all! "
And retiring to the sidelines he knelt down and for a good half an hour continued his thanks " (MB III, 160).
The behavior of this young worker gives us the opportunity to remember that the secret of things heard in confession is valid not only for the confessor, but also for those who had heard both the accusation of sins and the words of the priest among those present.
Memories of Don Bosco
Don Bosco, later on in life, remembered with great pleasure the facts narrated above, and said to those who listened to him with keen interest: "You cannot imagine how great the regret that I now feel about not being able to entertain with the young outsiders and especially with the masons, among whom I could do and, with God's help, I did so much good. Even now, when I can converse with them for some time, I feel the greatest consolation. They loved me so much, that whatever I told them they would do. I said to someone,
"When will you come to confess?"
"Whenever he wants: I also come every Sunday".
"No, I just want you to come every two or three Sundays." "Well I'll do it."
And I went on: "Why do you want to come and confess?"
"To put me in the grace of God".
"Is that what matters above all, but only for this?"
"To make me merit".
"And why else?"
"Because the Lord wants it".
"And for anything else?"
The young man no longer knew what to say. Then I said to him: "It is because it pleases Don Bosco, who is your friend and seeks your good".
At these words they remained moved, took my hand, kissed it and rebelled, sometimes shedding tears of consolation. I said this to inspire them with ever greater confidence " (MB III, 161-162).
We hope that many young people will be able to find zealous priests like Don Bosco, able to win their confidence and accompany them in adolescence and youth, to the realization of their vocation, and if possible for the journey of their entire life.
The conditions necessary
to make good confessions
We all know the love that Don Bosco had for his young people. One of his main occupations was to confess them so that from the frequency of this sacrament they would receive the best fruit. This is why we are not surprised that his dreams have often been populated by those whose soul was so dear to him.
Here is therefore a famous dream that sees Don Bosco engaged in confessions and together involved in a truly singular struggle. It is he himself who tells it on the evening of 4 April 18 69, leaving a profound impression on his listeners.
leading to perdition
"I dreamed - he said - of being in church, in the midst of a multitude of young people preparing for confession. An overwhelming number crowded my confessional under the pulpit. I began to confess, but soon seeing so many young people, I got up and walked towards the sacristy in search of some priest to help me. As I passed by, I saw, to my great surprise, young men who had a rope around their neck, which held their throats.
"Why do you hold that rope around your neck?" I asked. "Take it off!"
And they didn't answer me, but they stared at me. "Come on," I said to someone close to me, "take away that rope!" "I can't take it away; there's one behind that holds it."
I looked more carefully then and it seemed to me that two very long horns appeared behind the backs of many boys. I approached to see better and, behind the shoulders of the nearest boy, I saw an ugly beast with a horrible slap, resembling a big cat, with long horns, clutching that lace.
I wanted to ask that monster who he was and what he did, but he lowered his nose trying to hide it between his paws, curling up so as not to be seen. I therefore ask a young man to run to the sacristy to get the bucket of holy water. Meanwhile, I realize that every young man has such a pretty little animal behind him. I take the sprinkler and ask one of those cats:
"Who are you?"
The animal looks at me threateningly, opens its mouth, grinds its teeth and makes the act of venturing against it.
"Tell me immediately what you do here, you ugly beast. You don't scare me. See? With this water I wash you well, if you don't answer".
The monster looked at me shivering. He twisted in a frightening way and I discovered he was holding three laces.
"What do they mean?"
"Don't you know? I, standing here, with these three laces, hold the young people because they confess badly".
"And how? In what way?"
"I don't want to tell you; you reveal it to young people".
"I want to know what these three laces are. Speak otherwise I'll throw blessed water on you."
"For pity's sake, send me to hell, but don't throw that water at me".
"In the name of Jesus Christ, speak therefore!"
The monster, frighteningly twisting, replied:
"The first knot with which I clasp this lace is to silence the young people in their confessional sins".
"And the second one?"
"The second is to make them confess without pain".
"The third don't want to tell you."
"How? Don't you want to tell me? Now I'll throw this blessed water on you."
"No, no! I will not speak, he began to scream, I have already said too much."
"And I want you to tell me". And repeating the threat, I raised my arm. Then flames came out of his eyes, and then again drops of blood. Finally he said:
"The third is not to make resolutions and not to follow the confessor's notices. Observe the profit that young people make from confessions; if you want to know if I keep the young people connected, see if they correct themselves."
"Why do you hide behind the shoulders of young people in stretching the laces?".
"Why don't they see me and be able to drag them more easily into my kingdom".
While I wanted to ask him other things and instruct him to reveal to me how his arts could be rendered vain, all the other horrible cats began a dull murmur, then broke into lamentation and began to cry out against the one who had spoken; and made a general uprising. I, seeing that disarray and thinking that I would get nothing more advantageous from those beasts, raised the sprinkler and threw the holy water on all sides. Then, with great uproar, all those monsters gave themselves to precipitous flight, some on one side and some on the other. At that noise I woke up " (MB IX, 5 9 3).
An ancient proverb says: "Good advice is received even from the devil". And here the devil gave Don Bosco one that can also be useful for us: "Observe the
profit that young people make from confessions: if you want to know if I keep them connected, see if they correct themselves". The experience of Don Bosco leads us to examine ourselves if our confessions really change lives.
of pain and intentions in confession
Regarding the three strings, we know how much Don Bosco insisted in particular on the first, the sincerity in confession, and how it is necessary that the confessors remember him and win the confidence of the young people to arrive gradually to confess the sins of which they feel most ashamed.
The second conditioning is the most common one, namely the lack of pain. We are not in the habit of seeing our sin in the light of the passion and death of Jesus; to remember, contemplating the Crucifix, how much and how much he loved us; too often we forget about the gifts that he continually pours over us, fruits of his love.
Above all do not make proposals or do them but do not remember them and do not keep them, it means that we do not want to be converted, that there is still an affection for sin, that we are not docile to the suggestions of the confessor, who has the duty to suggest and help us verify the intentions taken. It is true that the advice we receive is to be applied to our lives and sometimes it cannot be immediately practiced. In this case it is good to tell the confessor the difficulties we encounter so that he can help us adequately.
To confirm the above we read what Don Bosco picks up from the lips of his dying friend Luigi Comollo, his seminary companion: "The frequency of the sacraments of confession and communion are the two instruments, namely the two weapons, with which we overcome the assaults of the common enemy, and all the rocks of this stormy sea of the world. He procures to have a steadfast confessor: to him open your heart, to obey him and in him you will have a sure guide for the road that leads to heaven. But, alas, those who go to confess without any fruit: confession and sins, but no amendments. Remember therefore that the sacrament of Penance is supported above pain and above purpose, and where one of these essential conditions is lacking, all our confessions become void and sacrilegious »(Bosco GIOVANNI, Biographical outline of the young Luigi Comollo, SEI, Turin 1928, p. 59).
Confession opens up Paradise and saves from eternal perdition
Don Bosco loved his youth so much that he said he was willing to crawl the language from Valdocco to Superga in order to avoid a single grave sin in his homes.
This love of his youth, a sign of that of Jesus the Good Shepherd, shines through in a special way from an episode in his life which, although known, was not disclosed due to a feeling of honor and respect for the young person concerned and his family.
This is the resuscitation of a 15-year-old who is already dead. Don Bosco obtained from the Lord that he could go and look for him almost at the gates of hell and, with a well-made confession, introduce him to Heaven.
Although we have a very reliable report by the Marchioness Maria Fassati De Maistre, who declared:
"I heard this story from the very mouth of Don Bosco, and I tried to write it with the utmost fidelity", we wish to repeat it as well as the Biographical Memoirs of Don Bosco, present it.
On this episode there are the numerous testimonies of Don Rua, of Msgr. Cagliero, Giuseppe Buzzetti, Pietro Enria, Don Bonetti, Don Garino and many other Salesians and young people. Here's how it was handed down to us.
I called him by name: Carlo!
«A young man of about fifteen, called Carlo, who used to go to the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, fell seriously ill in 1849, and soon found himself dying. He lived in a restaurant and was the hotelkeeper's son.
Wistfulness in danger, the doctor advised the parents to invite him to confess, and these sorrowful children asked the son which priest he wanted him to be called. He showed great desire to go and call his ordinary confessor, who was Don Bosco. He immediately sent for him, but with great regret he had the answer that he was out of Turin. The young man expressed a great sorrow and asked himself about the deputy priest who came immediately.
A day and a half later he died asking often to talk to Don Bosco. As soon as Don Bosco returned, he was immediately told that they had repeatedly been looking for him for that young Carlo, whom he knew well, who was in danger of death and had insistently asked for him.
He hastened to make that visit, in case, he said, he was still in time. Arriving there, he first met a waiter to whom he immediately asked for news of the sick man: "He came too late," he answered, "he has been dead for half a day!" Then Don Bosco exclaimed, smiling, "Oh, you believe he is dead, but he only sleeps!" The servant looked at him amazed and ironically ...
At that moment the others of the house, who had arrived at these words of his, burst into tears, asserting that unfortunately Carlo was no longer. Don Bosco then: "Must I believe it? Allow me to go and see it".
And he was immediately taken to the mortuary where his mother and aunt were praying near the extinct. The corpse, dressed for burial, was wrapped and sewn, as it was customary to do, inside a worn sheet, and covered with a veil; a lit lamp near the bed.
Don Bosco approached him and thought: "Who knows if he made his last confession well! Who knows what his soul will have met with!" And turning to those who had introduced him, he said to him: "Retire; leave me alone!"
Then made a brief but fervent prayer, he blessed and called the young man twice in an imperative tone: "Carlo, Carlo, get up!" At that voice the dead man began to move. Don Bosco immediately hid the funeral candle and with a strong tear of both hands he untied the sheet so that the young man could remain free, and discovered his face.
He, almost wakes up from a deep sleep, opens his eyes, turns around, stands up a little and says, "Oh! How come I am like this?" Then he turned, fixed his gaze on Don Bosco, and as soon as he recognized him, he exclaimed: "Oh! Don Bosco! Oh! If he knew! I sighed him so much! I was looking for you ... I need you very much. God who sent him ... He did so well come wake me up! ". And Don Bosco replied: "Say all you want, I am here for you". And the young man went on: "Oh! Don Bosco; I had to be in the place of perdition. The last time I confessed, I didn't dare to confess a sin committed in a few weeks. He was a bad companion with his speeches ... ".
I dreamed I was on the verge of an immense furnace
"I had a dream that greatly frightened me. I dreamed of being on the edge of an immense furnace and running away from many demons that persecuted me and wanted to take me: and they were already going to go for it and fall into that fire, when a lady stood between me and those ugly beasts, saying: Wait, it is not yet judged! '
After some time of anguish I heard his voice calling me and I woke up; and now I want to confess ".
Meanwhile, the mother, frightened by that spectacle and beside herself, at a sign from Don Bosco, had left her room with her aunt and went to call her family.
The poor son, encouraged to no longer fear those monsters, immediately began his confession with signs of true repentance, and while Don Bosco absolved him, his mother returned with the people of the house, who could thus be a witness to the fact. The son then turned to his mother and said to her: "Don Bosco saves me from hell".
So he stayed about two hours, fully master of his mind. In all this time, no matter how he moved, he looked, he talked, his body was always cold as before waking up. Among other things, he repeated to Don Bosco to recommend sincerity in confession to the young and to the young.
Don Bosco finally said to him: "Now you are in the grace of God: the sky is open for you. Do you want to go up there or stay here with us?" "I want to go to heaven," replied the young man. "So goodbye to heaven!" And the boy dropped his head on the pillow, closed his eyes, remained still and fell asleep again in the Lord " (MB III, 495; VIII, 93; XV, 572).
From this experience of Don Bosco it is easy to draw the teaching that a well-made confession opens up Paradise to us and saves us from eternal perdition. It is therefore a sacrament to live well.
Don Bosco knows that he proposed a monthly retreat to his young people called "the exercise of the good death", during which he invited them to take particular care of confession as if it were the last of their lives. This exercise was not for them a cause for fear or sadness, but a stimulus to fully experience their adolescence.
Among the Salesian florets told, a boy is remembered who, during the bombings in the last war, took refuge with his companions under the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and approached a priest to go to confession. The priest, recognizing him, said to him: "But you have already confessed this morning." "It's true, but I didn't know I had to die!" We should also remember it at each of our confessions: to do it well as if it were the last of our lives.
The hint that Carlo makes about a bad companion leads us to make some reflections on such a delicate subject. We will do it by narrating the confession of a young man gathered by Don Bosco a few moments before he died.
The echo of scandals
in the minds of adolescents
Carlo's confession recalls the importance of always confessing well, as if it were the last time in our lives. If we have a good memory we recall the recommendation of Francesco Besucco dying to Don Bosco for his companions: "Tell them to flee the scandal, to make sure they always make good confessions".
Telling the following episode, in which Don Bosco confesses a dying young man, we wish to reflect precisely on the gravity of the scandals that we can receive or give to others, on the need to confess them and to repair as much as possible the evil done. For those who have suffered scandal it is often heroic to forgive. Only Jesus can ask us because he first gave us the example, when from the top of the cross he forgave his crucifiers.
Here is the episode as it was reported to us in the Biographical Memoirs (VII, 2 3 1-2 3 3): "Don Bosco had been called in haste to confess a young man of about sixteen, who had attended the festive Oratory, which he was dying from tuberculosis. He lived in a house near San Rocco. Don Bosco went. That poor fellow welcomed him with many parties, he confessed and then his father and mother entered the room, standing on either side of the bed.
Don Bosco remained near the bedside. An expression of profound sadness had appeared on the face of the dying man and suddenly he turned to his mother and said to her:
"Please invite that young man, who was my friend, who lives on the lower floor of this house, to come and see me right away a visit".
"But why do you want to see it?" his mother told him.
"I know why! I have to say a word to him."
Seeming to Don Bosco that this visit was repugnant to the parents, "Do not be so agitated," he added, "what is the need to call him?"
"I want to say goodbye for the last time."
"You are the one
who murdered me ..." He
was not long in coming; cast a look of almost terror on the sick, he approached the foot of the bed. The dying man tried to sit up and his relatives helped him by putting another pillow under his shoulders.
Then he fixed his companion with a look of inexpressible anguish, stretched out his right hand towards him, pointing his index finger and with a stunted voice:
"You! - he said, and he took a little breath after a violent cough assault - you - he went on - you are the one who murdered me ... Cursed is the moment in which I met you for the first time ... It is your fault if I die now so young! ... You have me taught what I did not know ... You betrayed me ... You made me lose the grace of God ... They are your speeches, they are your bad examples, which led me to evil and which now fill with my soul's bitterness. Oh! I had followed the advice, the command of those who had urged me to flee ... ".
The fatigue of forgiveness
Everyone cried at these words. The trembling companion, paler than the dying man, feeling himself faint, supported himself on the iron of the edge of the bed.
"Enough, enough, calm down!" Don Bosco said to the sick man. "And now why do you want to anguish yourself like this? What has been has been, now it is no longer ... Do not think about it ... You have done your confession well and you have nothing more to fear ... Everything is canceled and forgotten. God is so good! ".
"Yes, it's true! But meanwhile, if it weren't for him, I'd still be innocent, I'd be happy, I wouldn't be reduced to this point."
"There ... forgive them! - Don Bosco added -; the Lord has already forgiven you! Your forgiveness will also obtain mercy for him".
"Yes, yes I forgive him!" Said the poor man. And covering his face with his hands, he broke into tears and fell back on his pillow.
No one could stand this harrowing scene anymore. Don Bosco signaled his relatives to take away that companion, who sobbed without being able to utter a word. Not being able to stand on his legs, it was necessary to support him.
Meanwhile Don Bosco with some of those words that he knew how to say, brought complete calm back to the poor heart of that betrayed man and assisted him to the last moment ».
We know how much the scandals have in the hearts of boys, adolescents and young people and the troubles that Jesus threatens to those who give scandal to children resonate in our minds.
It is right to help to forgive even those who have been victims of scandals, without however pretending to arrive immediately at an immediate and total pardon. Often, not brooding over offenses, trying to forget them and praying for those who have done wrong, is already a path of forgiveness.
Experience also says that the teen victim of scandals finds much shame in confiding what he has suffered, carrying within him, sometimes for years, his secret without having the courage to get rid of it.
Preventing scandals and calling for denouncing the scandalous, it seems increasingly urgent in our society that sees the phenomena of pornography and pedophilia spread in an impressive way.
A beautiful photograph of Don Bosco confessor and a precious suggestion for educators
A familiar scene is the one that represents Don Bosco while confessing his boys. We know that he let himself be photographed on condition that he had his boys next to him. We can imagine how many wanted to pose next to him. This explains the fact that they are so crushed and close to Paolino Albera, that he kneels seems to make his confession.
But that photograph recalls Don Bosco's joy in confessing his boys and also the sacrifice of waiting for long hours in this ministry.
Giuseppe Buzzetti, one of his first young people, recounts: «In these years I saw Don Bosco spend the whole nights listening to the young people in confession, finding themselves the next morning still sitting in the same confessional where he had set himself at sunset! It happened one evening, the eve of a great solemnity, that ten o'clock there was still a good number of penitents to confess.
"Go and sleep, children," said Don Bosco to them, "it is very late!"
"No, continue to confess, be patient", the young people exclaimed
. He continued, but soon, one after another, everyone fell asleep.
Don Bosco himself abandoned himself on Gariboldi's arm in the act of confessing it and was taken by sleep. The boy's hands were joined, his forearm resting and protruding on the bench. Around five in the morning, Don Bosco woke up and saw all the young people who lay down on the floor and slept, turned to Gariboldi who had been awake until then, and said to him:
"Now is the time for us to go to rest", but in saying this the others woke up and asked Don Bosco to continue the confessions ...
Towards two o'clock in the afternoon he went to the courtyard and saw that Gariboldi had his right arm tied around his neck and bandaged.
"What did you do, dear Gariboldi, to that arm?"
"Oh, nothing," replied the young man, and he didn't want to say anything to Don Bosco.
Don Bosco, who knew him for a lively and bold young man, did not calm down and absolutely wanted to know what he had on his arm. "Because he really wants to know I'll tell him".
And he told him the fact. That arm was black and livid enough to pity him, for during the night he had been motionless between the kneeler and Don Bosco's head, and the young man, full of reverence for his Director, had not dared to wake him, though for that soreness he suffered not a little " (MB III, 158).
From here we can understand what affection and confidence the young people had placed in him. Many of them, having become adults, said of Don Bosco: "He spiritually directed me for five, eight, twelve years, and if at present I am what I am, and out of respect for the soul and out of regard for my honorable social position, I owe everything to him "(MB III, 160).
Going to the conclusion of our reflections, it seems useful to us to take up an appeal that Don Bosco addressed to educators, and that we find in the biography of Francesco Besucco. It seems like a nice compendium of his thoughts on the confession of adolescents.
A suggestion to educators
"If by chance this booklet was read by those of divine Providence destined for the education of youth, I would warmly recommend three things to them in the Lord. First of all, to zealously inculcate the frequent confession, as a support for youthful instability, procuring all the means that can facilitate the assiduity of this sacrament.
Secondly, they insist on the great usefulness of choosing a stable confessor not to change without necessity; but there are more confessors, so that everyone can choose the one who seems most suited to the good of his own soul.
Always note, however, that those who change their confessor do no harm, and that it is better to change it a thousand times than to keep silent about a sin in confession.
Nor do they ever fail to remember the great secret of confession. They explicitly state that the confessor is bound by a natural, ecclesiastical, divine and civil secret for which he can not for any reason, at the cost of any evil, even death, manifest to anyone heard things in confession or use it for himself; on the contrary, he cannot even think of the things heard in this sacrament; that the confessor does not wonder at all, nor diminishes the affection for things that are nevertheless serious when heard in confession; on the contrary, he acquires credit to the penitent.
Since the doctor, when he discovers all the seriousness of the illness of the patient, enjoys it in his heart because he can apply the appropriate remedy, so does the confessor who is a doctor of our soul, and in the name of God with absolution heals all the wounds of 'soul.
I am convinced that if these things are properly recommended and explained, great moral results will be obtained among the youngsters, and the facts will know which marvelous element of morality the Catholic religion has in the sacrament of Penance ".
Of all the teachings of Don Bosco those that seem to us most suited to children and young people are: attendance at least on a monthly confession and the choice of a stable confessor who is safe driving in his youth, and accompanies them in the realization of their vocational, family or special consecration vocation. The boys must have the utmost confidence in him to be deeply sincere in confession.
To the confessors we hope to be able to imitate the zeal of Don Bosco in encouraging young people to confess frequently; seek their confidence, knowing the difficulties to be sincere, and reserve the most suitable times for them. With the boys it is good to personalize the meeting, avoiding hasty or too long confessions.
The boys want to be heard; it is therefore convenient not to interrupt them in the accusation of their sins, and then to suggest a concrete purpose asking them to formulate it.
Penance must be easy to remember, therefore it is often a prayer to be said connected to the desire for true conversion shown by the boys.
The heart of the confession consists in helping them to reflect on the love of Jesus, inviting them to contemplate the Crucifix and to think about his passion and death, caused by our sins. Don Bosco insisted a lot on the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. This is an excellent exercise to stir up the pain of sins in them.
Let us remember that the young will have the esteem of the confession that we have, that we are their educators and confessors.
To the young we leave as a reminder this precious advice of Don Bosco: "You hold, my young people, that the two strongest supports to support you and to walk on the road to Heaven are the sacraments of confession and communion".
GB LEMOYNE - A. AMADEI - E. CERTA, Biographical Memoirs of San Giovanni Bosco, 19 volumes, San Benigno Canavese, Turin 1898-1937;
TERESIO Bosco, Don Bosco, a new biography, Elledici, Leumann (TO) 1992;
GIOVANNI Bosco (San), Life of Domenico Savio, SEI, Turin 1963;
GIOVANNI Bosco (San), Víta of Magone Michele, student of the Oratory of San Francesco di Sales, SEI, Turin 1964;
GIOVANNI Bosco (San), The little shepherd of the Alps or Life of the young Besucco Francesco d'Argentera, SEI, Turin 1963;
ANTONIO LANZA, Messages of Don Orione, Quaderno 69, Study of Don Antonio Lanza,Small Work of Divine Providence, Tortona - Rome 1988;
PIETRO ZERBINO, The dreams of Don Bosco, Elledici, Leumann (TO) 1995;
BERTETTO DOMENICO, San Giovanni Bosco teacher and guide of the priest, Elledici, Colle Don Bosco (AT) 1954.