The question of the circumstances in which Don Bosco became the champion of the Virgin Mary under the specific titles of Immaculate Conception and Help of Christians is no longer a matter of debate. These titles, in so far as their revival in the second half of the nineteenth century is concerned, are tied to specific and well-known political events.
It is the purpose of this paper, after initial general comments on Don Bosco’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, to describe the events that provided the new impetus for these forms of devotion to Mary, and to note the impact that these forms had on Salesian life, work, and spirituality.
Literature of Salesian origin on the subject is not lacking, and the present article will make full use of it. An attempt will also be made to submit material that is not accessible to all our readers.
- I. Don Bosco’s Marian Devotion and its Expression
- 1. Theological Structure of Don Bosco’s Marian Devotion
- 2. Don Bosco’s Marian Devotion
- II. Don Bosco’s Devotion to Mary the Immaculate Conception in Historical Context
- 1. Mary Immaculate and Don Bosco: Precedents
- 2. Definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
- 3. Mary Immaculate, an Educational Symbol for Don Bosco’s Work
- III. Don Bosco’s Month of May (1858)
- 1. History and Contents of the Practice of the Month of May Devotion
- 2. The Christian Life Formula in Don Bosco’s Month of May Exercise
- 3. Teaching of Don Bosco’s Month of May
- IV. Don Bosco and the [Immaculate] Help of Christians
- 1. Forerunner Indications Prior to 1862
- 2. The Spoleto Events of 1862 in Historical Context
- V. A Church Dedicated to Mary (Immaculate) Help of Christians and its Significance
- 1. Decision to Build a Large Church under a Politically Sensitive Title in the Capital of the Liberal State
- 2. Site of the Church: the “Field of Dreams”
- 3. Designing .and Building the Church
- 4. A “Prophetic Date” Intended for Gabriel’s Banner?
- 5. Features of the Church upon Completion
- 6. Consecration
- 7. Salesian Significance of the Church of Mary Help of Christians
- VI. Don Bosco the Apostle of Mary (Immaculate) Help of Christians: Expressions of His Devotion
- 1. As Founder
- 2. As a Man of Prayer
- 3. As Author of Devotional Pamphlets
- Conclusion: Transcending Historical Particularity
- Appendix I – Don Bosco’s Month of May
- Appendix II – The Dream of 1844
- Appendix III – The Sub Tuum Praesidium
- Appendix IV – Blessing of Mary Help of Christians
- Appendix V – Marvels of the Mother of God
- Appendix VI – Novena in Preparation for the Feast of Mary Help of Christians
Reference time period: 1842 – 1872
A. Lenti, Madonnas for times of trouble, in «Journal of Salesian Sudies» 11 (2000) 1, 1-62.
Institute of Salesian Studies