Saturday, January 31, 2009

Don Bosco, Snakes and the Rosary

Today is the feast of St John Bosco. One of the Church's beloved saints for boys. Don Bosco as he was better known, had great devotion to Our Lady and attributes her intercession to all his success with his boys and apostolic work in general.

Don Bosco was a dreamer, like Joseph in the Old Testament. His dreams were a special charism. Charism's are given to holy people only in order to be of spiritual service to another. He dreamt mainly of his boys that he raised. Like the Cure of Ars and Padre Pio, he was a reader of hearts in the confessional and through his dreams. With this charism he saved many souls of the boys he loved.

There is a great TAN publication that contains many of these dreams that inspire and encourage us today. 40 Dreams of St John Bosco is a book I highly recommend for read-alouds with your children, particularly the boys. This is a book I would have relished as a child, I know!

I want to share with you one of his stories with some great pictures from Australia, taken in the Northern Territory a couple of years ago. They are just perfect for this story, I'm sure the children will 'ooh and aah' over them!

The Snake and the Rosary

I want to tell you a dream I had some nights ago, most probably on the eve of the Assumption. I dreamed that I was at my brother's home at Castelnuovo d' Asti with all my boys. While they were at play, a total stranger came up to me and asked me to go with him. He took me to a meadow alongside the playground and pointed to a huge, ugly snake, over twenty feet long, coiled in the grass.

Frightened, I wanted to run off, but the stranger held me back. "Get closer and take a good look," he said.

"What?" I gasped. "Don't you realize that the monster could spring on me and gobble me up in no time?"

"Don't be afraid! Nothing of the sort will happen; just come with me."

"Nothing doing! I'm not crazy!"

"Then stay where you are," the stranger replied. And he went to fetch a rope.

"Take this end," he said on his return, "and grip it tightly with both hands. I'll hold the other end, and we'll let it dangle over the snake."

"And then?"

"Then we'll snap it across its back."

"You must be crazy; the snake will leap up and tear us to pieces."

Go on! Click it up to full size and give yourself a fright!

"No, it won't. Leave that to me."

"Count me out! I have no intention to risk my life for a thrill of this kind!"

Again I tried to run away, but the stranger once more assured me that I had nothing to fear, because the snake would do me no harm. He talked so persuasively that I stayed on and agreed to his plan.

He went around to the other side of the monster. We stretched the rope and then snapped it across the snake's back. The monster immediately sparang up and struck at the rope, but as it did so, it ensnared itself as in a noose.

"Hold on!" the stranger shouted. "Don't let go!" He ran to a nearby pear tree and tied his end of the rope to it. Then he came to me and tied his end of the rope to it. Then he came to me and tied my end to the iron grating of a window in the house.

The snake kept furiously struggling to free itself, writhing, thrashing and flailing about. In its fury, it tore itself to pieces, scattering its flesh over the area, till it was slashed to a mere skeleton.

The stranger then untied the rope and coiled it up, "Now watch very carefully!" he said as he put it into a box and closed it. By this time the boys had swarmed about me. Within a few moments he opened the box. We looked in and were astounded to see the rope shaped into the words Ave Maria - "Hail Mary."

"How did that happen?" I asked.

"The snake," the man replied, "is a symbol of the devil, whereas the rope stands for Ave Maria, or rather, the Rosary, a succession of Hail Marys with which we can strike, conquer and destroy all of Hell's demons."

What followed is even stranger and more amazing....

Now, while taking with that stranger about the rope, the snake and what they symbolized, I turned around and saw boys picking up scraps of snake meat and eating them. "What are you doing?" I shouted. "Are you mad? That meat is poisonous."

"It's delicious!" They replied.

And yet no sooner had they swallowed it than they would crumple to the ground, and their bodies would swell and harden like stone. I was helpless, because, despite this, more and more boys kept eating that meat. I shouted and yelled at them, and even slapped and punched them, to keep them from eating, but in vain. For every one who crumpled to the ground, another took his place.

Then I called the clerics and told them to go amoung the boys and do all they could to make them stop eating that meat. My order was ineffective; worse yet, some clerics themselves began to eat it and they too fell to the ground.

Nearly out of my mind at seeing so many boys lying about me in such a pitiful state, I turned to the stranger.

"What does this mean?" I asked. "These boys know that this meat will kill them, yet they eat it. Why?"

"Because 'the sensual man does not perceive the things that are of God!' That's why!" He answered.

"But isn't there some way of saving these boys?"

"Yes, there is."


"Anvil and hammer."

"Anvil and hammer? What for?"

"To put the boys back in shape."

"You mean I am to put them on an avil and strike them with the hammer?"
"Look," the stranger said, "this whole thing is a symbol. The hammer symbolizes Confession, and the anvil symbolizes Holy Communion. These are the remedies you must use."

I went to work and found the treatment very effective, but not for all. While most boys were restored to life and recovered, a few did not, because their Confessions were bad.

{The poisonous meat of that monstrous snake might well symbolize scandal which destroys one's faith, or immoral, irreligious readings. Likewise, what else might disobedience, collapsing, swelling up and hardening signify but pride, obstinacy and love of sin?

The prayers and sacrifices of the just must first ask that God's grace warm hardened hearts and soften them, so that the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist may exercise their divine efficacy...Thus the hammer's blows and the anvil's support will both bring about the cure of an elcer-ridden but now docile heart. As the sparks fly, the heart is reconditioned.}

Happy Feast Day!

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Thanks for this post Anne. We have had to cut back on our Don Bosco plans. My boys are going to be thrilled at the snake picture!!! They have been begging me to find it for them - remember it from a past year.