Rik Biesmans – “Don Bosco & Saint Francis De Sales (1842-1880). Concerning the question whether Don Bosco was influenced by Francis de Sales in both his personal faith and his pastoral-pedagogical practice” in “Journal of Salesian Studies”

While preparing pilgrimages and spiritual exercises in Annecy and the neighborhood, I discovered reliable sources among the German and Dutch Oblates of St Francis de Sales. As a consequence of keeping contact with various participants, they invited the undersigned to take part in the annual meetings of their Arbeitsgemeinschaft (“study group”) in Eichstätt, Germany.

More than once they asked me what Don Bosco exactly meant by choosing St. Francis de Sales and his spirituality, as a model for the members of his Congregation.

Nobody in our province (Belgium and Netherlands – BEN) will be amazed that I could give practically no answer on this matter.

I stood exactly in the same shoes as Don Bosco when in July 1886 they had read him a letter from the rector of the seminary in Montpellier. During the days of reflection for priests, they were discussing the methods of accompaniment of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales applied with those souls on the way to perfection. They had come to the conclusion that the method of St. Vincent was suitable for generous, dedicated people, but that one could use St. Francis de Sales’ approach more easily for people in general and guide a greater number of individuals to perfection.



  • Foreword
  • Notes taken by Don Bosco during the retreat in 1842 when he lived in the Convitto as a newly ordained priest
  • Descriptions of Don Bosco’s moving from the Convitto to the Rifugio established by the Marchioness di Barolo in 1844.
  • Characterizing Francis de Sales in the publication of the “Storia ecclesiastica” by Don Bosco in 1845
  • An allegorical story from 1847 that Don Bosco told in 1864
  • Il Cristiano guidato alla virtù ed alla civiltà secondo lo spirito di san Vincenzo de’ Paoli, a surprising publication of Don Bosco’s in 1848
    • The charity of Vincent de Paul
    • Charity did not stand apart from the virtue of kindness for St. Vincent.
    • A less known passage in Il Cristiano guidato alla virtù ed alla civiltà
  • Characterization of Don Bosco by Casimiro Danna in the July 1849 issue of the Giornale della Società d’Istruzione e d’Educazione, a pedagogical periodical.
  • Don Bosco’s Letter to Antonio Rosmini
  • Don Bosco’s action against the Waldensians around 1850
  • Don Bosco’s attempts to compile domestic Regulations for the Oratory (around 1850)
  • Don Rua looking back on a meeting of Don Bosco with some aspiring coworkers in January 1854
  • Dominic Savio meets Don Bosco in 1854
  • First years after the approval of the Constitutions of the Society (Congregation) of Saint Francis de Sales (1876-1880)
    • Need and desirability to justify the choice of Francis de Sales as patron saint and inspirational model.
    • A “good night” for the boys by Don Bosco in January 1876
    • A remarkable passage in a sermon on 14th march 187
    • An allegorical story told by Don Bosco during a retreat at Lanzo in 1877.
    • An autographical story of Don Bosco in May 1879, told to the members of the Salesian Congregation.
    • What should one bear in mind when admitting novices?
    • The present and future of the congregation
    • The question taken up again as to whether he will die soon
    • Don Bosco’s first speech at the second General Chapter (1880)
  • By way of conclusion
  • APPENDIX 1 – Regarding Don Bosco’s resolutions during the preparation for his ordination (especially the fourth resolution)
  • APPENDIX 2 – The “dream-tale” of the “pergola”
  • APPENDIX 3 – The document about the “provisional pious Union” in MB IV.
    • The added third reason for the name of the Oratory in the Memorie dell’ Oratorio.
  • APPENDIX 4 – Ideas of St. Francis de Sales about “douceur” in relationships with one’s fellow human beings according to the Introduction to the devout life.

Reference time period: 1842 – 1880

R. Biesmans, Don Bosco & Saint Francis De Sales (1842-1880). Concerning the question whether Don Bosco was influenced by Francis de Sales in both his personal faith and his pastoral-pedagogical practice, Trad. di G. De Neve, in «Journal of Salesian Studies» 17 (2016) 2, 141-203.

Reference institution:
Institute of Salesian Studies
Institute of Salesian Studies

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