Don Bosco and His Animal Guardian Angel
Today, January 31, we celebrate the feast of saint don Bosco.
The lives of the Saints are full of stories of the extraordinary influence of the Saints over many different kinds of animals. God, it seems, allows the Saints to have this remarkable rapport with the animals to draw their fellow man closer to Him. He does that by marveling at the wonders that He works between the Saints and the animals. In the case of Don Bosco, he had a familiar spirit that acted as a guardian angel to him. According to records of the time and tradition, those alleging to have had contact with familiar spirits reported that they could manifest in numerous forms, usually as animals. Contrary to superstition, they are not necessarily evil, they are not demons, but rather animals that also love and accompany us during our many lifetimes.
Don Bosco and his guardian angel, the wolf Grigio
Sometimes – to visibly protect the person entrusted to him – the guardian angel can take the form of animals.
An example: the half dog and half wolf Grigio, who was the familiar of Saint D. Bosco, appeared at crucial moments, defending the Saint from bandits, assassins, and dangers of all kinds. Grigio, was described by many as a German shepherd-looking dog, would appear out of nowhere to protect Father Bosco from the anti-clerical factions in Italy during the 19th century.
He was “a large wolf-like dog, three feet tall, with gray fur, elongated snout, and pricked ears.”
One dark evening in 1852 as Father Bosco walked through the deserted streets of Turin, in northern Italy, a big grey dog approached him. At first the priest was scared but quickly realized the dog was friendly as he gently greeted him with a wagging tail. The dog walked alongside Father Bosco and when they arrived at the gate to his home the dog trotted away.
That was the first of many encounters the two had when the priest would walk at night. The dog, who Father Bosco named Grigio (the Italian word for grey), would appear out of nowhere then disappear when the priest safely reached his destination. On two occasions Grigio fought off attackers by knocking them to the ground, and on another occasion the dog’s fierce look and savage growls were enough to scare a mob of assailants away.
A ferocious attacks during the night
End of November 1854. On a dark and foggy night, Don Bosco was returning from the city’s center, more precisely from the Ecclesial College. To avoid very deserted streets, he went down the road from the Sanctuary of Consolata to the Little House of Divine Providence.
At a certain point on the road, he noticed two men following him a short distance away. When he tried to go to the opposite sidewalk to avoid them, they soon tried to get in front of him.
There was no question: they weren’t well-intentioned.
The Saint tried to get back to safety at some nearby house. Still, he didn’t have time, for the two of them, turning around suddenly and without saying a word, attacked him, covering his face.
Don Bosco did his best not to let himself be dominated. Bending down quickly, he managed to release his head for a moment and began to defend himself vigorously.
The attackers then tried to hold him tighter and, to prevent him from screaming for help, they gagged his mouth with a handkerchief.
Luckily, while his heart was calling on the Lord during that mortal struggle, Grigio suddenly appeared. He began to bark so hard that his bark didn’t sound like a dog, not even a wolf, but a bark of an enraged bear.
Besides, he throws himself at one of the malefactors and forces him to drop the cloak with which he was wrapped around the poor priest’s head, then throws himself on the other and, biting him, knocks him down.
Seeing this, the first one immediately tries to run away, but Grigio doesn’t allow him to do so and, jumping on his back, throws him into the mud. That done, he stops and, still snarling, starts to look menacingly at the two rogues.
Then, all of a sudden, the scene changes, and they start screaming:
– Don Bosco, for charity… tell him not to bite us! Mercy, mercy! Call him!
– I will call him – replied to the Saint – but you will leave me alone.
– Of course, without a doubt! But please call him soon!
“Grigio,” said Don Bosco, “come here!
And Grigio, obediently, went to his side, leaving the evildoers free, who fled in fear.
Despite this unexpected defense, Don Bosco did not want to continue his way home. Instead, he entered the nearby Institute of Cottolengo (a religious institute). After recovering from his fright after half an hour, he took his way home accompanied by a good escort.. When Father Bosco was asked to give an opinion on the nature of the grey dog “…he admitted that the dog was a creature worthy of note in his life. Although saying that the dog was an angel would have certainly made people laugh, nevertheless he had to admit that he was not a common dog. Don Bosco often thought about the origin of that dog and he admitted that he had been a true gift from Providence.”
Grigio: The Dog and an Angel
The last time Don Bosco saw him was one night in Castelnuovo. He was going from Murialdo to Moncucco and it was growing dark. He had to pass some farms and vineyards that were guarded by savage dogs. “I wish I had Grigio here,” he said to himself. As if the wish had suddenly produced him, Grigio appeared with every sign of delight at meeting his friend, wagging his tail, and he walked the whole way with him.
It was lucky he was there, for two dogs at a farm they passed rushed out upon them, but Grigio in a vicious offensive soon sent both of them flying with their tails between their legs. When Don Bosco reached the friend’s house to which he was bound, they were astonished to see the magnificent dog and wondered where Don Bosco had picked him up. When they sat down to supper, he was lying beside them, but when Don Bosco rose to give him some food, he was not to be seen.
In fact, that was the last of Grigio.
The enemies of the Saint had grown tired of plotting against him, and the mysterious protector was never to be seen again. So how can the incredible timing and actions of “Grigio” the stray dog be explained?
How is it that he mysteriously showed up at just the right moment on not one, but numerous occasions to literally save the life of Father John Bosco? Was Grigio an Angel in the form of a dog? Or was he simply a dog that was mysteriously guided by God to protect Don Bosco?
Don Bosco’s dream
When Don Bosco was 9 years old, he had a very mysterious dream. In this dream, Don Bosco was in a spacious yard. In that place, he had a crowd of children.
Some of them were joking and running, but others were cursing God.
Don Bosco wanted them to stop cursing at God, so he started hitting the boys. Suddenly, a man wearing a robe appeared. He said that one should not beat to educate, not you should punish them.
At that moment, a woman in a blue robe appeared, she asked to look at the children. When Don Bosco looked at the children, he saw that they had turned into wild animals like bears and wolves. The woman said that Don Bosco’s mission was to take care of young people and educate them. She then showed him the children again. Again, looking at the animals, Don Bosco was surprised, as the animals had suddenly turned into lambs.