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GC 27: Ringside Views & News - 2: PILGRIMAGE TO COLLE DON BOSCO

By Fr. Jose Parappully
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Kolkata, Feb. 27. On the second day of our Pilgrimage to Turin, 23 February, we visited Colle Don Bosco -- the hillock in the hamlet of Becchi near Chieri d'Asti,  associated with Don Bosco's birth and childhood.
A magnificent church in honour of Don Bosco (completed in the 1970's, and called Temple of Don Bosco) tops the little hill. It is actually built (by mistake!) right over the little house in which Don Bosco was born.

Don Bosco, as a priest used to visit his home village with his boys and used to point to a little house and say ''That is my house.'' Every one thought he meant the house where he was born. That was a mistake. He moved into that house only when he was 2 years old, after his father died.

And so the real house where Don Bosco was not recognized as such and was torn down to build the Church. May be a happy mistake. The main altar in the Church now stands right over the place where Don Bosco was born.

The Temple is actually two churches built one over the other. The foundation stone was laid on 11th June 1961 and the lower Church was opened to workshop in 1965. It can hold 700 people.

The house in which Don Bosco lived since two years has been preserved much as it was, with some renovation needed to preserve it.  Don Bosco's father  Francesco  had bought it just three months before he died.

That house contains the room in which John (that was Don Bosco's Christian name) had his famous dream at 9 and is aptly titled the ''Room of Dream.''

Don Bosco had a step brother Anthony from his father Francesco's first marriage and a biological older brother Joseph.

Anthony's house was torn down to make place for a church (dedicated to Mary Help of Christians) between 1915- 1918, time of World War 1.  It was built to honour the centenary of Don Bosco's birth (1815). There is continuous adoration to Jesus in the Eucharist in this chapel.

Joseph's house where Don Bosco used to stay on his visits to Becchi (that is the name of village where Don Bosco was born and spent his boyhood) as a priest has been preserved and renovated. It is quite a large house - much larger than the one I had expected. Looks like later in his life Joseph made quite a bit of money as a winegrower and maker.

Joseph had even built a little chapel in his house (in 1948) where his brother John could say Mass when he stayed with him. Don Bosco used to come with his boys here and they used to say their rosary in the chapel. The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.

The vestments and Missal Don Bosco used for Mass, as well as the kneeler he used for prayer are all preserved there in the little chapel.

Don Bosco's successor Michael Rua received his clerical habit in that little chapel. It was also here that Don Bosco met Dominic Savio, who later went to Don Bosco's school in Turin, died young at age 14 and is today a declared and much loved Saint in the Catholic Church.

I spent considerable time in that little chapel, saying the Rosary and praying for a whole lot of intentions --  for everything and everyone I could think of.  Those moments remain for me the highlight of my visit to Colle.

The house today serves as a museum which preserves Joseph's tools, furniture and his wine-making equipment. And other reminders of the Bosco family.

There is a larger than life statue of Mamma Margaret right in front of Joseph's house.

At midday we had the Mass in the upper church of the Temple of Don Bosco, presided over by the Cardinal of Turin. The Cardinal gave a very beautiful homily summing up the whole of Don Bosco's (and Salesian) spirituality.

What struck me was his statement ''One who does not show 'amorevolezza' (loving kindness) cannot be a Salesian.'' I could not but to say to myself, ''So many of us stand disqualified!) The cardinal also emphasized the importance of fraternal community life and to be open to the real world of youth.

After the Mass we had a sumptuous lunch in the Mamma Margaret restaurant which can seat 700 patrons under the roof.

Soon after lunch we made our way again to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin. We had about two hours of personal time there for prayer and visiting before we prayed the Vespers (evening prayer) together.

After another wonderful supper at the Mother House we made our way to our hotel after a very satisfying and memorable day which helped us to know Don Bosco and his surroundings more and grow in our love of and devotion to him.

Colle Don Bosco has become a veritable pilgrim (and tourist) centre. Hundreds of people, young and old visit the place every  day.

View album here:

- by Fr. Jose Parappully (INN)
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