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.
From THE BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS OF SAINT JOHN BOSCO vol.V
St. John Bosco writes a story (perhaps a fictitious story or a dream) in the July 1856 issue of his Almanac, the Il Galantuomo in which he narrates how he, as Galantuomo*, went to the Crimea where his country had joined England and France in fighting the war against the Russians. In this he had hoped in earning some money to support himself and his boys. He managed to secure a kitchen job with a man who was going to set up shop for the Italian forces in the Crimea. As the story unfolds, his master falls ill and before dying instructs Galantuomo to return back to Italy after performing his last rites in Crimea. What follows below is the continuation of the story as narrated by Galantuomo.
The Future Destiny of Our Country
After carrying out my poor master’s last wishes I secured passage on a ship that was to leave on July 2. Late on the eve of my sailing, a stranger came to see me. His courteous manner and bearing inspired confidence.
“Galantuomo,” he said to me in Piedmontese, “tomorrow you will be going home. Before you leave, I want to show you something that you will certainly never see in any other part of the world. Come with me.”
“Where?” I asked. “And what is it that you want me to see?”
He replied: “I want to take you to a Mosul who will reveal to us the outcome of this war and the future of our country.” Curiosity and his Piedmontese tongue got the better of me, and so I followed him. He led me down several streets to a huge building. I entered a room and then walked down a string of corridors for some two hours in semidarkness until I found myself in a handsomely decorated, well-lit cave.
At first glance it seemed unoccupied. I was beginning to think that I would have to spend the night there when my guide pointed out to me a venerable old man sitting at a small table. His hair was as white as snow and his face was rather lined but healthy-looking and majestic_ He was reading a book very intently. Straining my eyes, I managed to make out its title, Experience: The Best Teacher.
Becoming aware of our presence, he slowly looked up and asked: “What has brought you to this secluded spot?”
My guide replied: “We have come to pay our respects and to ask you about the outcome of the war and the future of our country.”
The old man replied: “Only God and those to whom He has deigned to reveal it can disclose that. Nevertheless, I’ll tell you whatever I can. This war will be long, bloody, and ruthless. The Allies will win, but both sides will suffer heavy losses. The world will know no peace until it has been plagued with hunger, war, and pestilence.
“You, Galantuomo, will return to your country and see it ravaged by a horrible plague. Since people will attribute it to chance, other evils will follow: hailstorms, droughts, earthquakes, famine, and other economic hardships. Men will react to these Divine punishments with sacrilegious thefts, suicides, murders, blasphemies, and other impious acts that will call for even greater punishments.
“Tell your friends that evil people in your country are determined to destroy both throne and altar. The former will collapse, but not the latter.
“ If people will not mend their ways and avert God’s anger, frightful things that have never been seen before will take place. The Faith will have its heroes; priests and faithful will shed their blood. Many will yield, but many others will remain steadfast unto death. Human authority will finally collapse and God’s law will triumph.
“ Then the evil ones will wish that they had never been born, but in vain. For the sake of God’s glory, it is necessary for the bad to be punished and the faithful to be comforted. Only after all this will there be world peace.”
I wanted to say something but the old man stopped me. “Hush!” he said. “No one must interrupt me when I speak. You wanted to know when all these evils will come to pass. I now tell you that some have already begun this year; others will come about later. If men continue to ignore Divine Law, even greater punishments than those already predicted will occur. The only way to ward them off and prepare a better future is to abandon evil.”
I wondered whether I was dreaming as I listened to his words, and I did not know whether or not I should believe them. I was so flabbergasted that I dared not ask any questions. I thanked him, bowed deeply, and left. My guide again led the way. I asked him repeatedly to tell me the name of the man and the name of that place, but to no avail.
My friends, I do not know if you will believe what I have told you. Do as you wish. As for myself, I’ll believe those things as they gradually come true. I would only point out that, as a general rule, old people are more experienced than the young and they rarely are wrong.
From THE BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS OF SAINT JOHN BOSCO Vol. V
This dream came to Don Bosco at a time when a vast campaign of hate was unleashed by the anti-clericals against the Catholic Church .After contesting the Church’s legislative, executive, and judiciary rights they now plotted to deny to her the right of ownership and all territorial jurisdiction.
It was towards the end of November 1854 that Don Bosco had this ominous dream concerning the royal house of Savoy. A red-coated court valet suddenly appeared to him, and said aloud,
“What news?” Don Bosco asked.
“Make this announcement: A state funeral at court!”
Don Bosco was shocked by the sudden apparition and his cry.
The valet repeated: “A state funeral at court!”
Don Bosco wanted to ask for details, but the valet vanished. He awoke in distress. Grasping the significance of his dream, he promptly drafted a letter to King Victor Emmanuel II , revealing this dream.
Five days later, Don Bosco had another dream. He seemed to be writing at his desk when he heard a horse’s hoof beats in the playground. Suddenly the door of his room flew open and again the red-coated valet appeared. He strode into the middle of the room and exclaimed:
“Make this announcement: Not one state funeral at court, but state funerals at court!”
He repeated these words twice before withdrawing. Anxious to know more, Don Bosco rushed out to the balcony. The valet was already in the playground, mounting his horse.
Don Bosco called out to him, but the valet, once again shouting “State funerals at court!” vanished into the night.
At dawn, Don Bosco personally wrote to the king. He informed him of his second dream and begged him to oppose the Rattazzi bill ( Bill of suppression of Religious orders) at all costs and save himself from the threatened punishments.
Don Bosco revealed to the cleric John Cagliero and to a few others that these predictions were genuine threats of punishments which God would inflict on those who were conspiring to cause great harm to the Church. He was indeed profoundly grieved and kept remarking: “This law will wreak havoc upon the royal household.”
Meanwhile the king had handed the letters to Marquis Fassati who was a warm admirer and supporter of Don Bosco. After reading them, Marquis Fassati returned to Don Bosco to remonstrate. “Do you think this was the proper thing to do? You deeply hurt the king and made him furious.”
Don Bosco replied: “What if those predictions come true? I regret having upset the king. But, after all, his own good and that of the Church are at stake.”
Don Bosco’s warnings, however, went unheeded. On November 28, 1854, Urban Rattazzi, Minister of Justice, submitted the bill for the suppression of religious orders to the Chamber of Deputies. He had the support of Count Camillo Cavour, Minister of Finance, who was determined to push it through at all costs.
In their philosophy, it was an incontestable principle that there existed no society superior to or independent of civil society.The State was all; therefore, no moral persons—not even the Catholic Church—could claim juridical existence without the consent and recognizance of the State. Now—the two gentlemen argued—the State did not recognize the universal Church as having dominion over the properties of each religious congregation. These congregations could claim juridical existence only insofar as they were recognized by the State. The State could therefore modify or even cancel their juridical existence. In such a case, the properties, without heirs, would fall under the sole, absolute ownership of the State.
The bill came up for debate in the Chamber of Deputies on January 9, 1855. Liberals voiced such opinions as: “The State has the right to take over church property when it no longer serves its original purpose. The Church has no qualification to ownership. The possessions of the Church belong to the poor. When a nation is poor, it is only right that it should draw upon the wealth of the Church.
Such was the state of affairs when a sorrowful event caused a postponement of the debate. On January 5 1855, the Queen Mother, Maria Teresa suddenly fell ill and became bedridden, and died at the age of fifty-four during the early afternoon of January 12. Her solemn funeral took place on the morning of January 16.
Hardly had the court returned from paying its last respects to the king’s mother when it was again hastily summoned to the bedside of the king’s wife. Four days prior to the queen mother’s death, Queen Maria Adelaide had happily given birth to a son, but soon complications set in endangering her life. On the morning of January 20 the queen received the Anointing of the Sick, toward noon she was in the throes of death, and at 6 in the evening she breathed her last at the age of thirty-three.
But tragedies were not yet over for the house of Savoy. That same evening, Holy Viaticum was also brought to the king’s only brother, Duke Ferdinand of Genoa, whose health had recently been failing.
Earlier on January 8, the late Queen Maria Adelaide had given birth to a baby boy. The child, Victor Emmanuel Leopold Mary Eugene, who until then had been in excellent health, suddenly became critically ill and died.
Within four months, the king had lost his mother, wife, brother, and son. Don Bosco’s dream had indeed turned out to be truly prophetic.
Despite all these developments, the Senate approved the bill by 53 votes to 42. The bill suppressed specified monastic orders and authorized immediate confiscation of their property.
The clerics kept telling Don Bosco: “Yes, your dream was more than a dream. The court valet was right about state funerals at court.” “Quite true,” Don Bosco replied. “The ways of God are really inscrutable. What’s worse, we do not even know whether these two funerals will suffice to appease Divine justice.”
In the July 1856 issue of his almanac “Il Galantuomo“, Don Bosco wrote:
“Our dear queen mother, Maria Teresa, fell ill and shortly afterward passed away. Only a few days later, the reigning queen, Maria Adelaide, followed her mother-in-law to the grave.
“Poor queens! They were so good and so generous to the poor! I deeply mourned their deaths and so did many others. Throughout the days of their burial I prayed for the repose of their souls.
“True, many people consoled themselves by saying: “We’ve lost two benefactresses on earth but have gained two protectors in heaven.” Yet the common feeling was that these two mothers of the poor had passed away because the world was becoming ever more evil and did not deserve such good queens. Many believed that God took them so that they would not have to witness the thousand infamies about to be committed.”