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Don Bosco’s dream of what leads to hell — and how to escape it

Wizja piekła księdza Jana Bosko

Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Wizja drogi do piekła, którą otrzymał w jednym ze snów św. ks. Jan Bosko (fragment obrazu z Sanktuarium Maryi Wspomożycielki Wiernych w Turynie)

Thérèse Puppinck - published on 02/28/24

The Bible and the stories of many converts attest to how God can speak in dreams. St. John Bosco had many mystical dreams, some of them prophetic.

Dreams were very useful to Don Bosco in explaining the truths of faith to the boys in his care, whom he was trying to guide along the path of goodness. Such is the famous dream about hell he recounted to the boys of the Oratory on May 3, 1868.

One night, as soon as Don Bosco had fallen asleep, an angel appeared and led him down a wide, comfortable road, surrounded by magnificent green hedges covered with roses. In front of him, Don Bosco saw the young men of the Oratory, all recognizable and identifiable. 

Rushing towards the holy priest, some of them suddenly seemed to stumble and fall. They were drawn by some mysterious force down a slope to the mouth of a terrible furnace.

Terrible traps

Frightened by this spectacle, Don Bosco discovered lassos on the ground, dangerous traps that firmly captured their prey. At the angel’s command, he followed one of the ropes down to the opening of the abyss. Pulling on it with all his might, he pulled out of the furnace a disgusting monster, a demon. The creature from hell gripped all the lassos with his fingernails, and pulled frantically as soon as a boy was trapped, in order to drag him to hell.

Looking closely at the lassos, Don Bosco discovered that each one had a name: the lasso of pride, the lasso of disobedience, the lasso of envy, of impurity, theft, gluttony, anger, and laziness.

He noted that the most dangerous lassos, the ones that led children most quickly to hell, were the lassos of dishonesty, disobedience, and above all, pride. There was also a particularly formidable lasso, a terrible trap into which almost all young people fall at one time or another. Its name: human respect, that is, the unwillingness to do what is right for fear of what others will think of you, in other words, wanting the respect of others before all else.

The means of escape

Fortunately, lying on the ground next to these lassos were knives and swords. Some children seized them and firmly severed the bonds of sin. These instruments of salvation had names: “frequent Communion,” “meditation,” “devotion to Our Lady,” and above all the marvelously effective “confession.” Thanks to these aids, several boys succeeded in freeing themselves once and for all from their bonds. Unfortunately, many others remained trapped. 

It was a shocking sight for the holy priest, who recognized each of the boys disappearing with howls of fright. Each time, he wanted to rush in and try to pull the unfortunate boys back, but the demon held him back, explaining that these boys had had all the necessary warnings.

DON-BOSCO-IT456362B.jpg
St. John Bosco hearing confessions

A warning

This dream may seem harsh, even violent. But on the contrary, it was a sign of God’s great goodness. He was explaining and warning while there was still time. None of the children Don Bosco saw falling into hell were actually there, since they were all still very much alive. By revealing which boys were at risk of a serious fall, God enabled the holy priest to help them.

This vision helped Don Bosco to explain the “last things” to his protégés. It helped them grasp the importance of confession, sincere repentance, and devotion to the Virgin Mary, who is always present to support the sincere efforts of those seeking to free themselves from the shackles of sin.

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