Don Bosco: The Ghost, The Blessed Sacrament and The Devil

The supernatural is more real, and yet more complex, than today’s materialist culture would have us believe. To such purely secular thinking the following tale reveals that there are more things in heaven and earth… Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Admittedly, the advice that follows on from it may sound strange to modern ears and that prevailing ideology, however, for that I make no apology as it is both a warning and also, mercifully, a remedy, nay a protection, against that which wishes us harm. We would do well to heed it.

Our tale begins in Italy, in 1839, with the tolling of a bell as a young seminarian was laid to rest. And as the earth was heaped upon the casket below, those assembled slowly dispersed.

One of those present, as well as being a friend of the deceased was also a seminarian. And it was to that place of formation that he started to walk back to just as the first hints of night began to draw in. As he did so, his thoughts returned to a curious conversation some months previously, one with the seminarian just buried, and thereafter to an even stranger pact entered into …

The two had been firm friends. Both devoutly religious, at the end of that curious conversation, they had agreed, that whichever of them died first then he would return from the grave and tell the other of what happened next. Perhaps it was born from piety, more likely from a boyish prank, as neither expected to die for quite some time. Then, shortly afterwards, one of them did die.

His name was Louis Comollo; he was the frailer of the two, but still his death was unexpected. His friend was as shocked as the whole seminary proved to be. He mourned this loss with a difference, however, for he did so with a sense of expectancy.

As he sat through the subsequent Requiem Mass, he waited, he listened, he watched for a sign – any sign – but none came. Nothing. And so, on that mournful day, and as the mortal remains of his friend had finally been laid to rest, all seemed forever shrouded in an opaque silence.

Finally that night, the mourner arrived back at the seminary in the Italian town of Cheri, not far from Turin. It was late, but his thoughts were far from sleep. His bedchamber was a dormitory, one he shared with other seminarians; by then, all were sound asleep. He was unable to join them, though. Instead, he was to sit on the edge of his bed, with a mind unusually tense and that still pondered what had taken place that day; it was then just as the clocks struck the midnight hour that it began…

It sounded like a dull roll, one that emanated from the end of the passageway that ran adjacent to the dormitory. As yet nothing was visible; there was only an eerie sound that grew louder, and as it did so it became more distinct. The young man, now keenly alert to everything around him, sat listening intently.

The sound continued. It grew in intensity, now like a clanging of a chain, as seemingly it drew closer. Closer still, it approached, the vibrations of which ricocheted off the walls and ceilings all around: strange echoes like the sound of many horses, like the push of a railway engine. Unable to move, unsure what was coming hence, the young man sat frozen in fear. He proved not to be alone in this. The whole dormitory had by then been roused. In the twilight darkness of that long chamber, all 20 or so youths were now wide awake, not able, or willing, to utter a single word, but instead were lying in the darkness awaiting something, the very sound of which cast terror into their hearts. The final sound remembered that night was reported to be one similar to the discharge of a cannon, and with that the doors of the dormitory flew open.

What had entered the room was not a person, or even a shape that could be identified, but, rather, a light. On its appearance, the sounds that accompanied it stilled, as if controlled by this spectral glow, before beginning to change colour in front of the bewildered eyes of those now watching. Then, the apparition spoke. Calling out the name of the young man who had earlier returned from the graveside, it roared: ‘I am saved’.

And with that the sounds began again, louder, more terrific than before. The light too grew brighter still, before illuminating the whole chamber. The noise reverberated against the walls so intensely that those present feared the very building itself was about to collapse. Then, as quickly, and as unexpectedly, as it had all started, it stopped.

It proved too much for many of those present. Some leapt from their beds and fled the dormitory, but not the young man still sat on his bed. Whereas the others had looks of terror on their faces, his countenance was now one of thoughtfulness as he began to comprehend what had taken place. This ghostly presence was none other than his friend, Comollo. He had kept their pact. And, in so doing, had announced where he had entered upon death. The young man looked at those around him and tried to calm them, telling his fellows what they had witnessed was nothing to fear, but instead something to rejoice in.

The account of that night suggests that the young man’s words fell upon barren soil, however, such was the panic induced by their earlier visitation, and, as a consequence, most of his fellows remained huddled together until the dawn came at last. That same account goes on to conclude that at the seminary for a long time afterwards there was no other topic of conversation to be had but that pertaining to the events of this unarguably remarkable night.

As to the veracity of what took place: I have no reason to doubt any aspect of the story given that its teller and subject, the then living participant of the pact in question, was none other than the man who would later become known to the world as Don Bosco.

On an equally real, if more dangerous, supernatural entity the same saint had some practical advice:

“Listen: there are two things the devil is deathly afraid of: fervent Communions and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

“Do you want many graces? Visit Him often.

Do you want Him to grant you only a few? Visit Him but seldom.

Do you want the devil to attack you? Rarely visit the Blessed Sacrament.

Do you want the devil to flee from you? Visit Jesus often.

Do you want to overcome the devil? Take refuge at the feet of Jesus.

Do you want to be overcome by the devil? Give up visiting Jesus.

Visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is essential… if you want to overcome the devil.

Therefore make frequent visits to Jesus.

If you do that, the devil will never prevail against you.”

In light of Don Bosco’s advice, perhaps today a special effort is made to visit He who waits for us in the Blessed Sacrament, and, by so doing, frustrate that which for all of us continually lies in wait.

 

 

K. V. Turley

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KV Turley writes from London

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  • Don

    Don Bosco is one of my favorite saints, so close and human and yet so mystic. This account exemplifies the “communion of saints.” Those who leave this world for God’s Kingdom pray for us and may, as in this case, encourage our faith. God Bless.

  • HowardRichards

    Hmmm…. That doesn’t sound like piety to me. It’s too close to sinful curiosity, to a weak faith that demands signs, and frankly to a kind of necromancy. We should pray for the dead, not expect signs from them; I would feel slightly more reassured by an apparition that asked for prayers than by one that claimed there was no need for them, since the Devil himself might appear to discourage prayers.

    Don’t get me wrong: Saint Don Bosco is a great saint whom I love and admire. I’m not sure this story is a good example to imitate, though.

  • Mike

    I need to visit Jesus much more frequently.

  • Josh

    Interestingly enough, the soul drawn to God shudders in (holy) fear at the Awesomeness of His Light (as in the story) and yet the soul recoils in (human) fear at the horror of the Evil One and his manifestations.

  • Roberto

    I will go to visit the holy sacrament but I would prefer God in my mind, in my soul and on my actions , and with me all the time than in aclosed on a small box. I also will visit the Holy sacrament because I want to visit not because being afraid of something .

  • HowardRichards

    That is not in the story; that is your interpolation. And it is just not true that the soul recoils in horror of the Evil one and his manifestations, because he can appear as an angel of light. Discernment of spirits is not that trivial.

  • Roger C. Thibault

    Amen! If only we all lived like saints, myself included. RogerCThibault@gmail.com

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    Truly amazing story, how merciful God is to allow promises like they had to be kept! I loved reading that, thank you!

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    We can all start right now! God is good!

  • pnyikos

    By the same token, the story says nothing about claiming there is no need for prayers. And while the pact was a sign that the faith of the two seminarians was not as great as it could be, I wouldn’t say it betokened weak faith. One might as well say that Mother Teresa had weak faith during the many years when she felt no heavenly sign like she did when she made the momentous decision to devote her life to the poor.

    I doubt that John Bosco and his friend thought that they were flirting with necromancy. For one thing, John did not try to summon his friend’s ghost. If the apparition was indeed due to that ghost, it came because of a promise he had made during his earthly life.

  • pnyikos

    Whether you prefer it that way or not, the Catholic Church teaches that the blessed sacrament is part of the very body and blood of Jesus, and so Jesus would be there in a different way than with you all the time.

  • Howard

    OK, I was interpreting “I am saved” to mean “I am in Heaven.” A soul in Heaven does not need prayers. What the apparition actually meant, if there is after all a word of truth to this story, who can say?

    Change the “… was none other than the man who would later become known to the world as Don Bosco” to “… was none other than the man who would later become known to the world as Aleister Crowley” and it doesn’t sound quite so innocent. It is wrong, though, to think that because a man dies as a saint decades later everything he did must have been right.

    Oh, and most kids who play with Ouija boards don’t think they’re flirting with necromancy, either.

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