Pius IX and Don Bosco, Pontifical Audiences for the Foundation of the Salesian Society

The work of Don Bosco is still developing. The large establishment, both boarding and day school, accommodates two hundred children. In addition to the college, which was founded a few years ago, there is also a primary school. There are courses for young craftsmen and traders, workshops of all kinds, an asylum for the unemployed.
All this leads to a lot of hassle and worries, all this is expensive, very expensive. But Providence does not abandon her servant, certainly assisted from heaven by her blessed mother and her angelic disciple. From time to time a big raffle is organized for which the merchants of Turin provide important prizes. King Victor Emmanuel himself subscribed for five hundred notes. The tsarina, passing through Turin, devoted a considerable sum to it. This is how we deal with growing needs.
The future of his work worries Don Bosco much more than the present difficulties. What will happen when he is gone? His foundations, who will maintain them, who will complete them after his death?
Don Bosco often discussed this subject with his sons, especially his many clerics, the future priests.
He decides with them to create a company that will bear the name of Salesians.
Bishop Fransoni, in exile, approves of it. Don Cafasso encouraged him, and Minister Rattazzi himself, the promoter of the "law of convents", admitted the desirable possibility of a new religious society.
One day he brought Don Bosco.
"My dear Don Bosco," he said, "I have not always been your friend. I admit that I have long defied you, but I have found that you do a lot of good and that you deserve to be helped. I wish you a long, long life for the education and upbringing of so many poor children. But you are not immortal. What will become of your work after you? Have you thought about it?
— Certainly, Excellency. I think about it every day.
"In my opinion, you should choose a few lay people, a few ecclesiastics, from your entourage, group them into a well-defined society, and finally inculcate in them your spirit and your methods of education, so as to make them not mere auxiliaries, but the continuators of your work.
"I am surprised that it was you, Your Excellency, who encouraged me to found a religious society.
"I know, I know! You think of the suppression of many religious houses in the kingdom, you think of the law that bears my name, but rest assured, the society that I advocate would in no way contradict the current legislation.
— How so?
— Found a society not of the dead hand, but of the living. Each member would retain his civil rights. In a word, your society should be in the eyes of the law a mere association of free citizens working together to achieve an ideal of charity.
"And your Excellency would guarantee me the authorization of the government!
— No regular and serious government will ever stand in the way of the foundation and development of such a society. Any association of free citizens is permitted, as long as its purpose and activities do not conflict with the laws of the State. So found this society and be sure of the king's approval and absolute support.
On this side, the way is clear. Don Bosco writes a rule to submit it to the Holy Father. On February 18, 1858, he left for Rome with Michel Rua. On March 9, Pius IX granted them an audience.
The Pope very kindly receives Don Bosco. He presses him with questions about his work and his work:
"What are you doing now in the oratory?"
"A little bit of everything, Holy Father. I celebrate Mass, I preach, I confess, I do class, sometimes cook, or I sweep the church.
— Very varied occupations! the Pope notes.
Then addressing Michel Rua:
"Are you a priest?"
"No, Most Holy Father. I have only received minor orders yet.
"Well, my son, it will not be difficult for you with such a teacher to prepare for the priesthood.
The pope thought for a moment, then he added:
"I remember your children, Don Bosco, the thirty-three lire they sent me when I was in exile. I was very touched by this generosity.
"Oh, nothing! But we were still few in number, and so poor!
—I was all the more sensitive to this testimony of filial attachment. But, tell me, my son, what will become of your community when you are no more?
Don Bosco explains to the Holy Father his plan for a foundation and presents him with a letter of recommendation from Bishop Fransoni.
"I see that the three of us are of the same opinion," the pope left. Your design responds exactly to the needs of our sad times. This society would naturally include vows, an indispensable condition for maintaining the unity of the spirit and works. Then, appropriate and precise rules, neither too austere nor too easy. With a discreet suit. The confreres of your society must be religious in the eyes of the Church, but ordinary citizens in the eyes of civil society and the State. Write a Rule that complies with these guidelines and bring it to us.
Don Bosco then gave the Holy Father a volume of the Catholic Readings, bound in white leather and adorned with the pontifical coat of arms engraved in gold.
"It's a gift from my young men, made by them in our workshop.
The Pope, extremely touched by this delicate attention, presented Don Bosco with a medal of the Immaculate for each of the fifteen bookbinders.
He received it two more times. He approves the articles of association of his Company and grants it important privileges. But, as soon as he tells her about raising her to the dignity of a secret camerier, Don Bosco shouts to himself:
"Oh, Holy Father, please, keep this honor for more worthy. The beautiful figure I would make in the middle of my kids with purple on my cassock! These poor little ones would no longer recognize me; I would lose all their confidence. And then the benefactors of my work would believe me to have become rich; I would no longer have the courage to reach out to them for my children. No, Holy Father, really, give up your idea. Let me remain poor Don Bosco!
"There are many reasons for that," replies the pope. So be it! we admit them. But perhaps you would have another desire to express to us? Wouldn't a little surprise for your children when you return be pleasant for you?
"Oh, yes! Most Holy Father!
"So, wait.
The pope draws from his office a scroll of coins:
— Here's to give your kids a good snack.
What happiness this is going to be! Just thinking about it, Don Bosco has tears in his eyes.
Don Bosco takes advantage of his trip to Rome to visit its sanctuaries and monuments that bear witness to the glorious past of the Eternal City. Every day he is on his way. He goes from St. Peter to St. Paul Outside the Walls, from the Colosseum to the Catacombs, an intrepid pilgrim that poor Michael strives to follow.
Naturally, Don Bosco also visited the Roman oratories of the time of St. Philip of Neri. He studied with great interest the institutions, in particular the methods of education. Besides, without approving everything.
On the second Sunday after Easter, he is back in Turin:
"How glad we are to see you back," his children told him. We prayed for you every day. Don't go away right away!
"I will stay with you as long as possible. I promise!

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

Pie IX et Don Bosco, Audiences pontificales pour la fondation de la Société Salésienne