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 THE CHURCH OF ST FRANCIS DE SALES

After six years of honourable service, the Pinardi chapel increasingly became too small for the many young people coming to the Oratory.

The first stone of a new church, dedicated to St Francis of Sales, was laid 20th July, 1851.

It was consecrated 20th June, 1852, and for 16 years (until 1868) it remained the heart of the newly born Salesian Congregation.

From 1852 to 1856 the old and tired Mamma Margherita came to pray saying the rosary in its last rows of pews.  

In 1854 Torino was struck by a terrible outbreak of cholera that killed more than three thousand people.

A boy, who had nothing more with which to cover his sick, asked Don Bosco's mother for something and Mamma Margherita brought him into this church and gave him the altar cloth saying,

"Take it to your sick one. I don't think the Lord will mind".

8th December, 1854, Dominic Savio entered this church, knelt in front of the altar of the Immaculate and consacreted himself to the Virgin Mary with this short prayer (that for a long time, the Salesian boys learnt by memory and made their own):

"Mary, I give you my heart, make it always yours. Jesus and Mary, You are always my friends, but for pity's sake, make me die rather than let me suffer the disgrace of committing a single sin".

The altar of Our Lady where Dominic Savio consacreted himself to her is the work that recalls the foundation of the Society of the Immaculate, the 8th December, 1854. Two years later, Dominic Savio returned to kneel before this altar, no longer alone, but accompanied by the best boys from the oratory. He had founded the "Society of the Immaculate". He had asked himself: "Why must we try to do good to others alone? Why don't we - all the most kind-hearted young people - unite and become a "secret society" of little apostles among the others?". Don Bosco approved of his proposal.

Dominic did not know that he had only 9 more months to live but he created a masterpiece.

Those "first founders" would become Salesians, except for Dominic who would go to heaven.

The Society would be transferred to every Salesian house for more than 100 years, becoming, everywhere, a group of committed young people certain of their vocation.

In this same church, behind the main altar, Dominic Savio had a state of ecstasy in front of the tabernacle that lasted more than six hours.

Father Michael Rua, one of the very earliest Salesians (January 26, 1854), celebrated his first Mass in this church in 1860, assisted by Don Bosco himself. Michael was born quite close to Torino-Valdocco, only a few hundred meters distant.

When he was eight, Divine Providence arranged for him to meet Don Bosco, about whom he had heard, and who would guide his life for ever. When the lad saw Don Bosco, he asked for a holy card. The Saint, having understood that this boy's future would be linked to his own, pretended to slice his own hand in two. As he did so, he said,

"Take this, Michael, take this. We two will always divide things equally".

At that moment, young Michael didn't understand. He would do so later, after years were spent with the Saint of Youth, working for them along with him. Don Bosco had forseen correctly. From that moment Michael Rua wuold always remain with him and be his most faithful and intelligent collaborator, as well as his first successor - chosen by his very self - as leader of the Salesians.

Michael Rua was an outstanding and reliable imitator of Don Bosco in all things, holiness by no means excluded. He was declared Blessed by Pope Paul VI on the 29th of October, 1972.





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