Friday, February 5, 2010

St. John Bosco and His Gray Dog

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was a priest born near Castelnuovo in the archdiocese of Turin, Italy. He was ordained a priest in 1846, beatified in 1929, and canonized in 1934. His feast day is January 31.

The saint founded an oratory named after St. Francis de Sales, and eventually a men's order called The Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians). With the help of Sr. Mary Dominic Mazzarello, he also founded a women's order called the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix (Mary, Help of Christians).

His principal work was the development of an educational system based on "reason, religion, and kindness". He conducted workshops for tradesmen and manual laborers, schools for young workers, and for men preparing for the priesthood. He was opposed by anti-clerical forces and subjected to violent attacks by them.

A remarkable aspect of St. John Bosco's life is the protection he received from a mysterious dog. Here is an account from the Fish Eaters website:
"When returning home one night through a bad and dangerous part of the town, he saw a magnificent dog of huge size following him. At first he was frightened but quickly came to see that the dog was friendly. The animal walked by his side and accompanied him to the door of his house and then went away. This happened five, six or eight times. He called the dog Grigio [Gray]
. . . .

"Hastening home by himself, some time after the first appearance of the dog, two shots were fired at him by an assassin from behind a tree. Both shots missed their mark, but his assailant then rushed at and grappled with him. At that moment, Grigio appeared and sank his teeth into the flesh of the would-be murderer, who fled away shrieking with pain.

"On a second occasion, two men lay in wait for him and threw a sack over his head. This time it seemed all was over with him, but Grigio unexpectedly came to his rescue and jumped at one of the ruffians, seizing him by the throat. The other fled in terror. Don Bosco had then to liberate the first from the fangs of Grigio, who still held him by the throat.

"A third time, no less than twelve hired assassins, armed with clubs, lay in ambush, into which Don Bosco walked unawares. Again, escape seemed impossible, but once more Grigio bounded into the midst of the group, and his fierce look and savage growl proved enough. The men made off as quickly as they could."

You can read the rest of the story at Fish Eaters
Source for biographical material:
Aumann, Jordan, O.P. and Lodi, Enzo; Saints of the Roman Calendar (Alba House, New York, 1992); pp. 35-36.

St. John Bosco from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.


Leilani Lee said...

So, do you think the dog was perhaps an angel in disguise? One wonders what he had done to provoke such hatred other than what Jesus said about Christians being hated by the world. I think sometimes we stumble through life not aware of how much God is involved in watching over us.

Marie-Jacqueline said...

Thank you, Leilani. Yes, the saint has such a beautiful kind face and he did so much good that it is difficult to imagine he was the target of such hatred but he was. Apparently, it was a era of virulent anti-clericalism.


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