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When Leo XIII entrusts Don Bosco with the construction of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Rome

One day in the spring of 1880, Pope Leo XIII lowered his eagle gaze on the humble Don Bosco, piously kneeling before him.
"I am happy to see you again, my dear Don Bosco. Your visit is always a consolation for the poor prisoner of the Vatican. I am like my birds in cages. On such a beautiful spring day, they would like to fly freely, but it is useless, they must remain behind their golden bars like their master, who would have so much pleasure to see his little homeland, the rocky nest of Carpineto in the land of the Volsques.
"I think your little birds would like a little piece of sugar even better," don Bosco suggests, smiling. By chance, I have one on me. If I may, Holy Father...
"But certainly!
Don Bosco ends up pulling a small treat out of his pocket, and slides it between the bars.
"See, Most Holy Father, how happy they are!
"And for the pope you have nothing?"
"Tell me what you might like.
"You could indeed do me a favor," said the pope, pondering. You are the only man on earth who can right now pull me out of great embarrassment.
"Speak, Holy Father.
"You know that my venerable predecessor conceived the project of dedicating a church to the Sacred Heart near the Castro Pretorio, the ancient Roman camp. I consider it a duty of gratitude and piety to make this wish come true. But we stopped in the middle of the clearing work, for lack of money. The pope is poor and cannot build; but Don Bosco is rich, he can build! You have given us proof of that. Don't you have something in the works yet?
"But yes, Most Holy Father. I am building the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Turin, the Church of Mary Help of Christians in Bordighera, another church in Lima, the capital of Peru. Some new oratories are also under construction.
— Where do you find resources for work of great importance?
— In the inexhaustible pockets of Divine Providence, Holy Father.
"See, then, if you would not also find there the money necessary for the construction of the Church of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Alimonda suggested that I entrust you with this project; the idea came back to me when I saw you so kindly feasting my poor birds.
"A very expensive piece of sugar, Your Holiness!
"Are you going to help me anyway?"
"Certainly, Holy Father. A desire on your part is an order for me. I agree.
— But I have no resources at your disposal.
"I am not asking you for money either, Holy Father; I only implore your blessing for this work.
"I will gladly give it to you. Look! Here's the plan!
Leo XIII unfolds the sketches on his table, decorated only with a crucifix:
—What do you think?
— Nothing, but far too small. Don Bosco thinks bigger. A church in honor of the Sacred Heart in the capital of Christendom cannot be so modest. In addition, I would like to add an oratory and a large asylum for young people, in order to allow the poor boys of this populous district to come and train and learn all kinds of professions.
— I will allow you to do all this. I bless you and all those who will participate in your holy enterprise.
Leaving the Vatican, Don Bosco feels his old shoulders terribly overloaded. His project requires millions and barely has, as always, a few pennies in his pocket; on the other hand, debts are overabundant. "It doesn't matter," he tells himself. I will still find some saints to rob. »
"We have a lot of letters to write," he announces to the seminarians who serve as his secretaries. I will have to beg throughout the universe to overcome the mission that the Holy Father has entrusted to me. »
Don Bosco does not implore heaven and earth in vain. Once again his appeals are heard; help arrives and the construction of the church in Rome can begin. It will take some miracles to bring the company to a successful conclusion. (...)

At the beginning of 1881, Don Bosco sent another group of missionaries and nuns of Mary Help of Christians to Argentina and Uruguay. At the same time, he opened his premiere in Rome to see the status of the new Church of the Sacred Heart. The pope took the opportunity to give him five hundred lire.
"Take it! he said to her. I have just received this money as a denarius from St. Peter. What I have received with my right hand, I give you with my left hand for the work of your sanctuary. I am very happy that everything is going so well. But how do you arrive at all this, my dear Don Bosco?
"Ah, Holy Father," replies the humble priest, "I am only a blind instrument in the hand of God, who simply wants to show by my example how he can achieve the greatest things with the most miserable means. Work on the new church progressed rapidly. Towards the end of the year, the two side naves reach the height of the capitals and the large nave is quite advanced. God only knows how hard it is for Don Bosco to find the necessary funds!

(Don Bosco, the Apostle of Youth, G. Hünermann)

Quand Léon XIII confie à Don Bosco la construction de l'église du Sacré-Cœur à Rome