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Saint John Bosco and....

Header-A Dog named Grigio

Many are the stories and even books that have been written about special dogs.

There were dogs who saved their owners lives, dogs who helped bring criminals to justice, dogs who fought in wars, and dogs so loyal to their masters and who served them so well that their stories became part of history.

Such was a dog called “Grigio.”

Grigio was much like other dogs we have heard or read about, with this difference: no one ever knew where he came from, and no one will ever know for sure where he went.

 

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Let me tell you his story....

Saint John Bosco, the beloved founder of the Salesians and boys’ schools, was returning home late one day. Because he did much good, and was a true and great saint, there were many evil people who hated him and wanted to see him dead. He had already been attacked more than once, and on this particular night, as he walked through the deserted streets of Turin, in northern Italy, he was prudently anxious, even though he was an extraordinarily strong man.

St John Bosco and GrigioSuddenly, he saw a great big dog approaching him. In size and appearance he looked like a wolf, with a long snout, pointed ears and gray fur. At first, Don Bosco feared the dog would attack, but drawing near, he showed every sign of friendliness. Wagging his tail, he snuggled his nose into Don Bosco’s hand, and gently pawed at his cassock. For the rest of the Saint’s homeward journey the burly hound walked behind him up to the gate of the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales.

And then he vanished!

From then on, every time Don Bosco was out late, the hound appeared out of nowhere and followed him to and fro. Don Bosco named him Grigio, which means gray, because that was the color of his fur. One of the boys at the Oratory, Don Bosco’s school, described him: “I saw a large, strong-looking beast that made me think of a wolf. He had gray fur and a big head; his ears were straight and pointed, and he stood a little over three feet high.”

One night, Don Bosco was making his way back to the Oratory in the company of a good friend. They walked together for most of the journey, but at a certain point they had to go their separate ways. Before the two men parted company, Don Bosco prayed to Our Lady for her protection and recommended the rest of the trip to his guardian angel. No sooner had he said this prayer than Grigio trotted up to them. At the sight of the dog, Don Bosco’s friend was terrified.

“Don’t worry,” said Don Bosco, “Grigio is my friend.”

Unconvinced, his companion tried to chase the dog away and even hurled a few stones at him. Grigio was struck several times but showed not the slightest reaction. Don Bosco’s friend was amazed.

“Don Bosco, it can’t be a real dog! It’s a ghost!”

The man was so intrigued that he accompanied Don Bosco to the entrance of the Oratory. There, suddenly, Grigio was gone.

“What is this?” the man wanted to know. “Where did he go? Was he a real dog?!”

By this time he was so upset and frightened that he was trembling. Don Bosco had to ask two of his bigger boys to accompany his friend home!

 

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Grigio in Action

Now we shall see Grigio in action. Don Bosco himself tells us about it.

“Around the end of November of 1854, one dark, rainy night, I was returning home from the city. Avoiding the desolate and lonely places, I took the road that leads from the Consolata to the Cottolengo.

At a certain point I realized that two men were walking a short distance in front of me. When I quickened my steps, they quickened theirs; when I slowed down, they slowed down. When I tried to pass them, they deftly barred my way. I then tried to retrace my steps but it was too late; suddenly, taking two leaps towards me, they quietly threw a dark cloak over my face. I struggled to free myself, but it was useless. One was trying to gag me. I tried to shout, but in vain.

Grigio in actionAt that moment, Grigio appeared, growling like a bear.

He sprang with his paws towards the face of one and with his fangs towards the other in such a way that they were entangling the hound instead of me.

“‘Call off your dog! Call off your dog!’ they shouted in terror.

“‘Yes, I will, but you must leave travelers alone.’

“‘All right, all right,’ said the bandits, ‘but call him off, call him off now!’

“Grigio continued howling like a furious wolf or bear. I called him and he immediately left them.

They went their way and Grigio, walking beside me, kept me company until we reached the Cottolengo.”

Every time Don Bosco went out he saw Grigio coming to meet him just as soon as he passed all the houses and buildings and began to tread isolated areas. Many times he was seen by the boys at the Oratory, and they even played with him and stroked his gray coat. He was known among them as Don Bosco’s dog and, therefore, much liked. And he liked them. With Don Bosco’s friends he was the gentlest of creatures, but with the saint’s enemies he was like a lion.

Not only did Grigio escort Don Bosco on dangerous trips, he sometimes kept him from setting out on them. One evening Don Bosco had to go into the city for something important. His saintly mother, Mamma Margarita, who lived with him until her death, insisted that it was too late and thus too dangerous for such a trip. Bound by his sense of duty, Don Bosco insisted on going. Calling a couple of his boys, he set out, but at the gate of the Oratory lay Grigio.

“He has been there quite a while,” explained some of the boys. “We tried to make him go away and even took a stick to him, but he kept coming back.”

“You don’t have to worry about Grigio,” said Don Bosco. “I can leave without fear now. Let’s go, Grigio!”

Instead of following Don Bosco as he usually did, Grigio stiffened, his lips curled into a menacing snarl, and he let out a deep growl. Surprised, Don Bosco nudged the dog lightly with the tip of his shoe. Grigio growled a second time. Don Bosco tried to climb over him, but the dog retreated and kept on growling. When Don Bosco tried to go around him, the dog rose up and blocked his path. The boys shouted at the mastiff but dared not say anything further against an angry Grigio.

Hearing the noise, Mamma Margarita came out to see what was happening. “The dog has more sense than you, John!” she scolded. “I wouldn’t go out if I were you!”

Don Bosco was finally persuaded to stay home. A little later he heard a commotion outside. Someone was saying, “Don’t let Don Bosco out tonight! Some men are hiding in the old house at the end of the road and they have sworn to kill him as soon as he leaves the Oratory!”

How did Grigio know? Grigio was certainly a very unusual dog.

 

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A Dog That Didn’t Eat, Age or Die…

Another oddity about Grigio is that he would never take any food that was offered to him. 

One evening, Don Bosco had arrived at the Oratory much earlier than expected because a friend, the Marquis Fassati, had lent him his coach. Don Bosco was having supper when he overheard someone outside say, “Leave him alone! That’s Don Bosco’s dog!”

A little later some of the boys led the mastiff into the dining room. He immediately dashed to Don Bosco, bounding around his chair in delight. The saint offered him something to eat but the dog paid no attention to it. “You are a very proud dog,” Don Bosco chided. “If you won’t eat this, what will you eat?”

Placing his front paws on the table, Grigio looked mutely at Don Bosco for a moment. That done, he trotted to the back of the room and ran out the door. It seems he had expected to find Don Bosco on the road that day. Since our saint had come by coach, Grigio had only wanted to make sure that he was safely home.

Grigio accompanied Don Bosco for many years, so many that a lady once told him that it was impossible for a dog to live that long. Don Bosco only smiled and said, “Maybe he is the son or the grandson of the first one.”

But, as Grigio had come, so Grigio left. One day, Don Bosco went to visit an old friend, Luis Moglia. He had been invited to dinner, but having been detained he started out later than he had wished. As he walked, the sun began to set and he suddenly found himself wishing that Grigio were by his side. At that moment, he spied the dog joyfully running towards him!

Grigio laying downUpon reaching his friend’s house, Don Bosco and his host visited and talked, and then the whole family went into the dining room for dinner. Grigio came in with them and lay down in one corner of the room.

After a while someone remembered the dog and said, “We should give Grigio something to eat.” The person turned toward the corner where the dog had been lying, but it was vacant. They looked for him around the room and then throughout the house, but he was nowhere to be found.

Everyone was amazed, for neither the door nor any window had been opened and the other dogs outside had never barked. 

Grigio was never seen again!

 


 By Pauline Sanders
Illustrations by Andrea F Phillips

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 20, 2019

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it...

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November 20

 

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because
it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation,
because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.

Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Edmund the Martyr

The barbarian leader, Ingvar, offered to let the King live o...

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St. Edmund the Martyr

Though only about fifteen years old when crowned in 855, Edmund showed himself a model ruler from the first, anxious to treat all with equal justice, and closing his ears to flatterers and untrustworthy informers. In his eagerness for prayer he retired for a year to his royal tower at Hunstanton and learned the whole Psalter by heart, in order that he might afterwards recite it regularly.

In 870 Edmund bravely repulsed the two Danish chiefs, Hinguar and Hubba, who had invaded his dominions. However, they soon returned with overwhelming numbers, and pressed terms upon him which as a Christian he felt bound to refuse. In his desire to avert a fruitless massacre, he disbanded his troops and himself retired towards Framlingham; on the way he fell into the hands of the invaders. Having loaded the king with chains, his captors conducted him to Hinguar, whose impious demands he again rejected, declaring his religion dearer to him than his very life.

His martyrdom took place in 870 at Hoxne in Suffolk. After beating him with cudgels, the Danes tied him to a tree, and cruelly tore his flesh with whips. Throughout these tortures Edmund continued to call upon the name of Jesus, until at last, exasperated by his constancy, his enemies began to discharge arrows at him. This cruel sport was continued until his body had the appearance of a porcupine, when Hinguar commanded his head to be struck off.

From his first burial-place at Hoxne his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, since called Bury St. Edmunds, where arose the famous abbey of that name. His feast is observed November 20, and he is represented in Christian art with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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