St. John Bosco (1815–1888) was born in Italy to a poor farming family. His father died when he was two, leaving his religious instruction to his pious mother. At the age of nine he had his first of many powerful visions which would come throughout his life. In it Jesus and the Virgin Mary showed him that he was to instruct poor, wayward boys and bring them back to God. John eventually joined the priesthood, paying his way through school with odd jobs. As a priest he began ministering to the poor and neglected boys of Turin, Italy, who were driven to desperate conditions in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Don Bosco became a mentor and spiritual director to them, inspiring them to a life of virtue and saving many from a future of crime and poverty. He met with them as a group – called the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales – and catechised them as a kindly spiritual father. He also established the Salesians of Don Bosco, priests who minister to and educate boys under the patronage of the great spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales. These words below were written for his pupils in his book: ‘The Companion of Youth’.
“Every virtue in your soul is a precious ornament which makes you dear to God and to man. But holy purity, the queen of virtues, the angelic virtue, is a jewel so precious that those who possess it become like the angels of God in Heaven, even though clothed in mortal flesh. Our Saviour Himself says: They shall be as the angels of God. This virtue is the mainstay of all that is holy, and if, unfortunately, it is lost, all other virtues are lost. Now all good things come to me together with her, says the Holy Spirit.
But this virtue, which is so dear to Our Divine Saviour and His Blessed Mother, is the object of all the attacks of the enemy on your soul. He will try by violent temptations to weaken it, and even destroy it altogether. For this reason, I here suggest certain rules for you to follow. If you do follow them, you will be so safeguarded that you will be able to preserve purity, and overcome all the temptations of the devil.
The principal safeguard is a prudent reserve, and the not allowing liberties to be taken with you. Purity is a precious jewel, and the owner of a precious stone would never dream of making a display of his riches in the presence of thieves for fear of losing it. St. Gregory the Great declares that only he who wishes to be robbed carries his treasure openly through the streets.
To this should be added sincere and frequent confession, fervent reception of Holy Communion, and keeping away from those who, by word or deed, show that they do not value this virtue.
Take to heart the warning of Our Blessed Lord: But this kind (the tempter against purity) is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. Both in time of temptation and in order to prevent it, it is necessary to be ready to do without something you want, not to eat all that you want to, nor to let your eyes wander around looking at anything and everything: above all, keep yourself busy.
Another great weapon in this fight with the devil is what is called ejaculatory prayer, that is, short fervent prayers from the heart. The following are ejaculations of great help in time of temptation: The saying of the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; My Jesus, mercy! Sweet Jesus, help me! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you! Mary Help of Christians, pray for me! Keep on repeating one or more of these little prayers until the temptation ceases.
It is a help also to kiss reverently the crucifix, a medal, or the scapular of the Blessed Virgin.
But if all this should prove insufficient to drive away the temptation, try the best means of all, namely, the remembrance of God’s presence. We are in the hands of God who sees all, who is the absolute Master of our life, and who can take it away from us in a moment. Would we dare to offend Him if He were visibly present? The patriarch Joseph, when a slave in Egypt, and tempted to commit a great sin, answered with indignation: How then can I do this wicked thing and sin against my God? Still further can you say: How can I let myself commit this sin in the presence of God, my Creator and Redeemer, Who could take away my life on the spot, as He did with the first one who committed this kind of sin? How can I do this in the presence of God, who at the very moment of my sin could cast me into the eternal punishment of Hell?
It has always been my firm conviction that in temptation and danger you will not fall into sin if you have always before your mind, God sees me.” – (St. John Bosco, whose feast day it is today, 31st January)