One day in March, 1854, after Vespers, Don Bosco gathered all his boarders in a room behind the sacristy and told them that he wanted to tell them a dream. All of them believed that Don Bosco’s dreams were truly of supernatural origin. Don Bosco spoke as follows:
I was with you in the playground, delighted to see all of you so lively and happy, jumping, shouting, and running about. Suddenly, however, one of you came out of the building wearing some sort of top hat and began strolling around in the playground. The transparent headgear was lit from the inside and revealed the picture of a moon with the number `22′ in its center.
Amazed, I was about to walk up to the boy and tell him to cut off that nonsense when suddenly all of you stopped playing as if the bell had rung and lined up as usual on the porch by classes. It was now semi dark.
While all of you looked frightened, nearly a dozen of you were deathly pale. I passed in front of these pale ones for a closer look, and among them I saw the boy with the top hat. He was even paler than the rest, and a black drape—like those used at funerals —was hanging from his shoulders.
I was about to ask him what his strange garb meant when a grave and dignified-looking stranger stopped me and said: “Wait! Know that this boy has only twenty-two moons to live. Before these are over, he will die. Take care of him and prepare him!”
I wanted some explanation of this message and his sudden appearance, but the stranger had already vanished. My dear boys, I know who that lad is. He is right here among you.
Terror gripped all of the boys. This was the very first time that Don Bosco had ever predicted the death of anyone in the house publicly and so solemnly. He could not help noticing their fear, and so he continued:
“Don’t be afraid! True, I know that boy, and he is here now, but this is a dream, as I have said, and you know that dreams are only dreams. One thing is certain, though—we must always be prepared, just as Our Divine Savior has warned us in the Gospel, and never commit sin.
“If we follow this rule, death will not frighten us. Put your conscience in order, therefore, and resolve not to offend God anymore. On my part, I shall look after the boy of the twenty-two moons. These moons signify twenty-two months. I hope that he will die a good death.”
Understandably, this announcement frightened the boys, but in the long run it did them good because their attention was focused on death as they kept themselves in God’s grace and counted the months.
The boy of the twenty-two moons eventually turned out to be Secundus Gurgo, a handsome, healthy, seventeen-year-old from Pettinengo who seemed, otherwise, destined to lead a long life. The youth was an excellent pianist and organist, and earned good money by giving lessons in town. He was one among the boys under the charge of the cleric John Cagliero in the old Pinardi house. Three adjoining rooms served as a dormitory for several boys.
From time to time during the course of the year 1854, Don Bosco would ask Cagliero about the conduct of his charges with more than routine interest. In the October of 1855, which was the 20th month of the prophesy, Don Bosco insisted that Cagliari move his bed to the middle room where Gurgo and another boy had theirs. Cagliari, anxious of falling sick himself, reluctantly complied as this room was rather damp.
Don Bosco wanted Gurgo to be well looked after by Cagliari which naturally aroused his curiosity whether this was the boy of the twenty two moons. But Don Bosco wouldn’t disclose anything other than, “You’ll know in due time.”
One evening, at the beginning of December, after night prayers, Don Bosco mounted the podium as usual to give the Good Night and announced that one of the boys would die before Christmas. Naturally this announcement, coupled with the fact that the twenty-two moons would soon be over, made everyone jittery.
About the middle of December Gurgo had a sudden attack of abdominal pains so violent that the doctor, who had been summoned at once, recommended that the boy receive the Last Sacraments. Although the boy recovered after about eight days, , Don Bosco seemed to doubt the good news of the boy’s recovery.
The Christmas novena had begun and Gurgo—now almost completely recovered—was planning to go home for Christmas. His father arrived and, finding his son in good condition, asked permission to take him home for some further convalescence.
It was Sunday, December 23,1855. That evening Gurgo felt a craving for meat, although the doctor had forbidden it. Thinking that it would help to build his strength, his father went out to buy some and cooked it in a little pot. The boy drank the broth and ate the half-cooked meat, perhaps to excess. At bedtime his father retired for the night while Cagliero and the infirmarian remained with the boy. Sometime during the night Gurgo suffered another very severe attack of colic and passed away soon after.
The whole Oratory was stunned. The twenty-second moon was not yet over. By dying shortly before dawn on December 24, Gurgo had also fulfilled Don Bosco’s second prediction—namely that one of the boys would die before Christmas.