St. John Bosco Shares An Encounter He Had With The Ghost Of His Dead Friend.

St. John Bosco Shares An Encounter He Had With The Ghost Of His Dead Friend.

Bosco’s dear friend died and returned from the grave to fulfill a promise.

The supernatural is more real, and yet more complex, than today’s materialist culture would have us believe. To such purely secular thinking the following tale reveals that there are more things in heaven and earth… Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Admittedly, the advice that follows on from it may sound strange to modern ears and that prevailing ideology, however, for that I make no apology as it is both a warning and also, mercifully, a remedy, nay a protection, against that which wishes us harm. We would do well to heed it.

Often we will hear “ghost stories” around the campfire, and for the most part these are fictional tales told to entertain children. However, sometimes they are real, as is the case of St. John Bosco and his friend Louis Comollo.

Our tale begins in Italy, in 1839, with the tolling of a bell as a young seminarian was laid to rest. And as the earth was heaped upon the casket below, those assembled slowly dispersed.

One of those present, as well as being a friend of the deceased was also a seminarian (John Bosco). And it was to that place of formation that he started to walk back to just as the first hints of night began to draw in. As he did so, his thoughts returned to a curious conversation some months previously, one with the seminarian just buried, and thereafter to an even stranger pact entered into …

The two had been firm friends. Both devoutly religious, at the end of that curious conversation, they had agreed, that whichever of them died first then he would return from the grave and tell the other of what happened next. 

Perhaps it was born from piety, more likely from a boyish prank, as neither expected to die for quite some time. Then, shortly afterwards, one of them did die. 

His name was Louis Comollo; he was the frailer of the two, but still his death was unexpected. His friend (St John Bosco) was as shocked as the whole seminary proved to be. He mourned this loss with a difference, however, for he did so with a sense of expectancy.

As he sat through the subsequent Requiem Mass, he waited, he listened, he watched for a sign – any sign – but none came. Nothing. And so, on that mournful day, and as the mortal remains of his friend had finally been laid to rest, all seemed forever shrouded in an opaque silence. 

Finally that night, the mourner arrived back at the seminary in the Italian town of Cheri, not far from Turin. It was late, but his thoughts were far from sleep. His bedchamber was a dormitory, one he shared with other seminarians; by then, all were sound asleep. He was unable to join them, though. Instead, he was to sit on the edge of his bed, with a mind unusually tense and that still pondered what had taken place that day; it was then just as the clocks struck the midnight hour that it began…

Bosco writes about this encounter he had with his deceased friend, Comollo in his Memoirs, an experience he never expected would happen.

“Given our friendship and the unlimited trust between Comollo and me, we often spoke about the separation that death could possibly bring upon us at any time.

One day, after we had read a long passage from the lives of the saints, we talked, half in jest and half in earnest, of what a consolation it would be if the one of us who died first were to return with news about his condition.

We talked of this so often that we drew up this contract:

“Whichever of us is the first to die will, if God permits it, bring back word of his salvation to his surviving companion.”

I did not realise the gravity of such an undertaking; and frankly, I treated it lightly enough. I would never advise others to do the like. We did it, however, and ratified it repeatedly, especially during Comollo’s last illness. In fact, his last words and his last look at me sealed his promise. Many of our companions knew what had been arranged between us.

Comollo died on April 2, 1839. Next evening he was solemnly buried in Saint Philip’s Church. Those who knew about our bargain waited anxiously to see what would happen. I was even more anxious because I hoped for a great comfort to lighten my desolation. That night, after I went to bed in the big dormitory which I shared with some twenty other seminarians, I was restless. I was convinced that this was to be the night when our promise would be fulfilled.

About 11:30 a deep rumble was heard in the corridor. It sounded as if a heavy wagon drawn by many horses were coming up to the dormitory door. It got louder and louder, like thunder, and the whole dormitory shook. The clerics tumbled out of bed in terror and huddled together for comfort. Then, above the violent and thundering noise, the voice of Comollo was heard clearly. Three times he repeated very distinctly: “Bosco, I am saved.”

All heard the noise; some recognized the voice without understanding the meaning; others understood it as well as I did, as is proved by the length of time the event was talked about in the seminary. It was the first time in my life I remember being afraid. The fear and terror were so bad that I fell ill and was at death’s door.

I would never recommend anyone to enter into such a contract. God is omnipotent; God is merciful. As a rule he does not take heed of such pacts. Sometimes, however, in his infinite mercy he does allow things to come to fulfillment as he did in the case I have just described.

God allowed such an encounter for a purpose, likely to remind Bosco of the reality of the afterlife and to urge him on in the practice of the faith. While we may never see a ghost in our lifetime, let us never doubt the existence of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and live our lives as though they do exist.

As to the veracity of what took place: I have no reason to doubt any aspect of the story given that its teller and subject, the then living participant of the pact in question, was none other than the man who would later become known to the world as Don Bosco.

St John Bosco, Pray For Us! 

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