Skip to comments.The Sniper and the Novissima [St. John Bosco]
Posted on 01/31/2004 9:46:03 AM PST by Salvation
I know who that lad is. He is right here among you, the priest announced.
Terror gripped the boys. This was the first time that Don Bosco had predicted the death of anyone in his school publicly and so solemnly. He noticed the fear and continued, Dont be afraid! True, I know that boy, and he is here now, but this is a dream, and you know that dreams are only dreams. One thing is certain, though we must always be prepared, just as Our Divine Savior has warned us in the Gospel, and never commit sins. If we follow this rule, death will not frighten us. Put your conscience in order, therefore, and resolve not to offend God anymore. And on my part, I shall look after the boy of the 22 moons. These moons signify 22 months. I hope he will die a good death.
The announcement caused an understandable fear among the boys. And, it did them good because each one began to consider the state of his soul should he be called to stand before God. The fear of God is the beginning of the wisdom. The focus on death kept the boys in Gods grace as they counted the months. At the end of the 22 months, one young man had a sudden attack of abdominal pains and died unexpectedly. He had made a general confession only a week before.
This was the first of a series of the dreams of St. John Bosco in which he saw the impending death of one of his boys. Each time, he announced to the auditorium that he had seen the boy, he knew him, but would tell no one, since it was only a dream. But he warned each one to look after and correct himself, for while he wonders who it is, he himself may be just the one. Each time, one of the boys would die within the prescribed time. Each time, the fervor of the whole group would increase, as the boys made more frequent and fervent Confessions and Communions, preparing themselves for the Novissima.
What are the Novissima? A first guess from the Latin novum might be that it is something new. In fact, it is the opposite. The superlative of novum, novissimus, means the latest, the last thing. And what are the novissima - the last things - that every man must face, regardless of position, wealth, or power? They are Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Death: every man will die; it is a consequence of original sin. Judgment: everyone, even the atheist will stand before God to be judged. Heaven: eternal happiness for those who were friends of God and died in his grace. Hell: eternal punishment for those who were enemies of God or indifferent to him and die in the state of sin.
Why do I bring all this up?
When I first read the stories of Dom Bosco, I thought how fortunate those boys were. The Saint entered the room and announced: One of you will die. That is that. You can believe it or not. It was only a dream. But the boys believed the dreams, and those dreams forced them into seriousness about life. Death was no longer something distant, for the old, the weak, the sick. No, it could be I, a healthy young man, or anyone else in the room, and it could be soon. I better be prepared. And the confession lines would lengthen, and acts of piety and contrition would increase, as each one began to think about and prepare for death.
I remembered these stories of Dom Bosco as I read about the sniper in the Washington DC metropolis, who has stalked eleven victims and killed nine in the last month. Those are the figures as I write this column. Tomorrow, they could be larger. Therein lies the horror. One doesnt know if he will be the next victim. The sniper chooses his victims randomly, with no discernible motive, except to kill. The last was a 47-year-old woman outside a crowded suburban shopping mall. Before that, a 53-year-old businessman pumping gas was felled by a single bullet. A teenage boy was hit on a middle school campus.
In a strange way, the whole Washington metropolis has become the auditorium of Dom Bosco, sans the Saint, most unfortunately. Suddenly, everyone is very aware that at any moment a shot could ring out, and another person could die.
How should a Catholic act in response to the possibility of unexpected death? He should follow the advice of Dom Bosco to his boys and be prepared. The bishops and priests should be at the pulpit reminding the flocks: you could go to Hell. It is enough to have committed one mortal sin, and at the moment the terrorist bullet hits, you may not have a chance to repent, to confess, to return to a state of grace. The last opportunity for that can be now.
I have heard people without Faith asking, How can God permit such an atrocity? One can still find the mercy God has for man in such a seemingly incomprehensible scenario. At times God permits a sudden death with the intention, among others, that many others might become frightened and turn to the path of virtue. Suddenly, a man begins to think on the novissima: I need to put my life in order, to consider not just the things of this life my family, my house, my business, etc. I better have my soul in order because an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of suffering and Hell, depends on what I do now.
Who can think that catching this sniper will spell the end to this kind of terrorist or crazy acts? The signs of the times are around us: Just last week an explosion at a Finnish Mall killed seven and injured 80. Close to 200 tourists were killed in a blast outside a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia.
Yes, it is terrible. But it also a sign of the mercy of God that He allows us to glimpse the Damocles sword handing over the heads of us all - to invite us to think about death, and understand that things in this life are not worth anything except to the degree they help us to die well. Because if we die well, we will have eternal happiness sharing the happiness of God. If we die badly, we also will have eternity, but the eternal suffering of Hell. What a difference!
As Don Bosco with proverbial wisdom warned his sons: Make hay while the sun shines. Let us not allow the devil to delude us into thinking we may put our consciences in order only at the moment of death.
And he added: For the Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect.
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BTTT on 01-31-05, Memorial of St. John Bosco.
In English what are you saying? It's been a long time since my three years of Latin.
Time flies ... remember death.
BTTT on the Memorial of St. John Bosco, January 31, 2006!
January 31, 2007
St. John Bosco
John Boscos theory of education could well be used in todays schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with ones work, study and play.
Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.
After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.
By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.
Johns preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.
With Pope Pius IXs encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.
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