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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 April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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