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Don Bosco's dreams of missionary life, the death of Pius IX, Meeting with Cardinal Pecci

The following years pass in an incessant activity. In the summer of 1872, Don Bosco founded the Society of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, later called Salesians, intended to do for young girls the same work as the Salesians for boys. Marie-Dominique Mazzarello is their first Superior General.
Don Bosco again in Rome devoted all his influence to creating a suitable relationship between the Holy See and the Italian government. Many are unwilling to him. The liberal leaves daunt on him. Bismarck was surprised to see the Italian government talking to a priest. As for the emperor, he fulminates his most formal disapproval, supplemented by threats in the event that these attempts at understanding continue.
"What are we going to do? wonders Minister Vigliani, with whom Don Bosco has frequent talks. Our destiny is in the hands of Prussia. »
Although the expected reconciliation does not take place, some essential points can be agreed. How much criticism and humiliation did Don Bosco face in order to achieve this result, God only knows!
Don Bosco achieved great things during his thirty-four years of apostolate, but he aspires to much more. Its horizon is not limited to Turin and small Piedmont; it embraces the whole world.
Often in the silence of the evening, Don Bosco remains leaning over a large world map, like a general who dreams of new conquests. He remembers with sweet melancholy his first years of priesthood, his dreams of missionary life. God having given him another position, he would like to send his sons to perform the task that was denied to him. The thought of a mission in pagan land haunts his mind; she chases him into his sleep.
"Last night," he tells relatives one evening, "I had a funny dream. I was in a foreign country. I saw myself in the middle of a gigantic steppe, limited to the West by tragic mountains. Men with a tanned complexion, with a long messy hair, an animal skin thrown on the shoulders and, in the hands, as weapons, a spear and a lasso, crisscrossed this immensity. Suddenly the earth trembled with a fierce melee. I saw a terrible massacre; the earth was soaked in blood; the air vibrated with bellicose cries and deadly cries. Then, suddenly, a troop of men appeared, whom in their costume I immediately recognized as missionaries. They approached these unfortunate men with a smiling air and set themselves the duty to preach the gospel to them, but they were soon attacked by the savages and horribly put to death.
— Which country was it? don Cagliero asks.
—I don't know; but listen to the rest, my dream is not over. I saw a new group advancing on the steppe and I recognized, to my horror, some faces that were dear and familiar to me, yes, some of you, my sons. I trembled as I saw them moving towards certain death. I wanted to order them to turn around, but they didn't seem to notice me. Now, the cannibals are laying down their arms, and it is with the signs of the deepest sympathy that they welcome the new missionaries. These apostles erect the Cross among them and begin to teach them. Finally one of the Salesians sang a hymn to the Blessed Virgin and the savages united with such a heart and breath that I woke up, soaked in sweat.
"A funny dream!" said Dominique Tomatis... and that must surely have a meaning.
"I have no doubt about it," replies Don Bosco.
Which country did he see in a dream? Don Bosco never ceases to ask himself this. He thinks of Ethiopia, then China, Australia, and finally India. On his table are a lot of books borrowed from the city library, but the more he studies from foreign countries, the more he feels that he is going astray.
Then, in the last days of 1874, he received a letter from the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, asking him to send some of his sons to Argentina. This call is for him a revelation. Very late at night, immersed in the study of this region, he finally recognizes what he has seen: the pampas of Patagonia, in the extreme south of America.
From then on, Don Bosco never ceased to obtain permission from Pius IX to send his sons to Patagonia. On 12 May, he announced to the entire oratory that the Mission had been decided: "The definitive answer has come to me today," he said. Let the volunteers prepare! »
On All Saints' Day 1875, the first ten Salesian missionaries knelt at the feet of Pius IX to receive his blessing before their departure. The leader of the expedition was Jean Cagliero; his companions were the priests Joseph Fagnanon, Valentin Cassini, Dominique Tomatis, Jean Baccino, Jacques Allavena, and the lay brothers Barthélemy Scavini, carpenter of his trade, Barthélemy Molinari, master of music, Vincent Gioia, cook and shoemaker, and the young Étienne Belmonte.
Don Bosco accompanied his missionaries on the boat in the port of Genoa; he leaves them only when the departure rings. He knows he won't see some of them again.
For several months, he eagerly waited for news from the distant country. Finally, here is the desired letter, in which Don Cagliero gives him consoling details about his apostolate among the "slums" of Buenos Aires.
"My God," sighs Don Bosco as he lays down the leaf, "protect my sons, who are so far from me. May they reap in joy what they sow in tears! »
In Europe, his work is booming. The oratory now has eight hundred children. Don Bosco opened nine new houses in Italy. The one in Nice is the first in France. In 1876, he founded the Work of Our Lady Help of Christians for Late Vocations and the Union of Salesian Cooperators, a kind of third order that provided the company with the moral and financial support of several thousand lay people.
In November, he sent a second contingent of missionaries to Argentina. Pius IX sent him five thousand lire for the expenses of the trip. At the beginning of the new year, a third squad of missionaries, including the first six Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, departed according to the most ardent desire of Don Cagliero.
On the first day of the year 1878, Don Bosco uttered these prophetic words: "Soon serious events will occur that will strike the attention of the universe." On January 8, it is already the death of King Victor Emmanuel. On February 7, the great Pope Pius IX died.
During the funeral convoy to Campo Verano, hatred of his enemies is once again unleashed against the unfortunate pontiff. "Down with the Pope! In the Tiber the carrion! Stones fly against the hearse; it is just if we do not rush the coffin into the river.
Pius IX asked for a burial without pomp, but he was erected, with the offerings that flow from all Christendom, a magnificent mausoleum, a masterpiece of Christian art, the most beautiful of the century.
The cardinals ask Don Bosco to contact the Italian government about the upcoming conclave. The simple Turin priest immediately went to the Home Minister, Crispi, to explain to him the desires of the Sacred College.
"Well," replies the powerful statesman, "you can assure the cardinals that the government will respect and uphold the freedom of the conclave and that nothing will disturb public order.
" Thank you, Your Excellency.
"Please, no! Rather, it is up to me to thank you. The cardinals could not have sent me a better messenger than you. Do you remember our first meeting in Turin?
"Haven't you forgotten it, Excellency?
"How can I not remember it! You were my savior. I was still young. I was strolling in absolute destitution through the streets of Turin, when I saw you arrive, surrounded by a large troop of poor boys. You came to me and asked me if I was missing something, if you could do something for me.
"I could see that you were hungry, Your Excellency.
"You were not mistaken. I confessed to you that I had not eaten anything for several days. You have welcomed me to your oratory. For six weeks I was your host, I, the homeless revolutionary; I took part in your meals with you, with Mom Bosco and your children. Finally, you helped me find an attic near the church of La Consolata, and you have not forgotten me there. You sent me money there several times and even a pair of new shoes. I have gone several times to confess to you; do you remember that?
"What happens in the confessional, I immediately forget. But if you want the same service, I am always at your disposal.
"We are not always prepared for such a thing," said the minister, smiling. He then asked Don Bosco for information on his oratory and on all his works. "You are on the right track, and you can always count on my support."
Returning to the Vatican, Don Bosco met Cardinal Joachim Pecci, Camerlengo of the Holy Church. He presents himself to him with a respectful childlike simplicity:
"May your Eminence allow me to kiss his hand!
"Who are you?"
A poor priest who today kisses the hand of Your Eminence; a few days from here, he hopes to kiss her feet.
"I forbid you to pray for this.
"You cannot forbid me to ask God for the fulfillment of His will.
"But what is your name?"
"I am Don Bosco.
"Please, don't do what you think of!
Nevertheless, Don Bosco's desire came true a few days later. Cardinal Pecci, Archbishop of Perugia, was elected pope and took the name of Leo XIII.
On March 16, he received Don Bosco in a private audience, and gave him his blessing, for himself and for all his sons in Italy and elsewhere. "Your work is the work of God," he said to her, closing. So don't be afraid. Good luck! »
Don Bosco leaves the Vatican happily and returns to Turin. His children are waiting for him.

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

Les rêves de vie missionnaire de don Bosco, la mort de Pie IX, Rencontre avec le cardinal Pecci