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Don Bosco and the Insane Asylum

4 min • Digitized on February 2, 2022

From Don Bosco, a Sketch of His Life and Miracles, page 145
By Dr. Charles D'Espiney


Don Bosco was at one time supposed to be deranged. He planned the building of an Oratory, capable of accommodating an immense number of children, with workshops of all kinds, study-rooms, large courts, a chapel, etc.

Such an undertaking would require large sums of money, and it was known that he had no resources. Evidently such a project could only come from the illusions of a disordered brain.

Some of his friends deserted him; others were of opinion that he ought to be placed under a doctor’s care, and it seemed to them most advisable that he should be placed for a short time in an insane retreat. He might compromise the clergy, or at least expose himself to ridicule; then hesitation was no longer possible.

The director of the Retreat was forewarned, and was told to be very gentle, but if necessary, very firm with the poor invalid.

It only remained to bring him to the Retreat, and this is the way it was accomplished:

Two ecclesiastics procured a closed carriage and sought Don Bosco in his little room, where they found him.

They talked with him for a while, and did not find it difficult to draw him out on the subject in which he was most particularly interested.

“Monsieur l’Abbe, you would like to build an Oratory?”

Don Bosco had no objection to speak to them of his projects, and of the good which he hoped would be realized.

In a few minutes the two ecclesiastics exchanged significant glances, which plainly said, “There is no longer any doubt of it: he is really crazy.”

“Monsieur l’Abbe, we have below a nice carriage; will you take a drive with us?”

Don Bosco appeared not to have the least suspicion of their intention, and when they repeated their invitation he finally accepted. The carriage was at the door.

“Enter, Monsieur l’Abbe.”

“Not at all; after you, gentlemen.”

“We beg you will enter first?”

“I will do nothing of the kind. I know too well the respect I owe you; after you.”

Tired of this formality, the two ecclesiastics entered the carriage, but, instead of following them, Don Bosco quickly slammed the door, and called out to the driver in a stentorian voice, “To the Retreat.”

The coachman had had his instructions, and with a vigorous crack of his whipstarted his horses and never drew rein till he was within the court of the Retreat, the gate of which stood wide open but closed immediately after them, and the director appeared, followed by two nurses.

The two ecclesiastics stepped out, choking with anger, and furiously berated the driver for his stupidity.

“There, there, calm yourself,” said the director; “I was told there was only one coming, but we have room for two. You will be very comfortable here.”

“Insolent fellow. For whom do you take us? You do not know to whom you are speaking. We are persons of position, and we will have you punished for this.”

“Bless me! they are violent,” replied the director. “Here, take them to their cells, and, if they do not behave, give them the shower-bath and the strait-jacket.”

The unfortunate ecclesiastics were appalled, but fortunately thought of appealing to the chaplain, who identified them, and they were set at liberty. But they had a narrow escape and went off in great haste, declaring they would not be caught in that way again.

The laugh was not on their side, and it was well established that if Don Bosco is tainted with the folly of the Cross, he nevertheless possesses a certain amount of innocent mischief, which served on more than one occasion to protect him from the snares of his enemies.

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