The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #13
April 13, 2018
“As for Léonie, I won’t ask you for any toys because she doesn’t play with them anymore, she works on her studies. You could give her a rosary for her First Communion, which she’ll make on the Feast of the Holy Trinity.” Saint Zelie, CF 125, to her sister-in-law, December 13, 1874
Dear friends of the “Family of Louis and Zelie,”
The Martin Family prayed daily as a family before the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They had a very special devotion to the prayer of the Rosary. This simple prayer to which our Lord has given such a great power may superficially seem old-fashioned and difficult. However, the saints show us its power, especially when one is faithful to it every day. Saint John Bosco taught this to the youth:
On September of 1848, the marquis Roberto d’Azeglio, a senator and friend of Don Bosco, honored the Oratory in Turin with his visit. The holy priest made him tour the entire house. The marquis expressed his enthusiasm, while at the same time emitting a reservation: “Why pray the Rosary; it’s a waste of time! Abandon this obsolete repetition of 50 Hail Marys.” Don Bosco responded in turn: “Well for me, this practice is very important! I must even admit that it is on that prayer that my institution is founded! I would be willing to leave many other things, and even important things, but not this one.” And with his usual courage, he added: “If it were necessary, I would even be ready to give up your precious friendship, but I will never give up the prayer of the rosary!”
Don Bosco encouraged his youth to recite it faithfully, and was made to do so also in his dreams, in fact in visions. Here is the account of one of them that he made in 1862, the night before the Feast of the Assumption:
“I dreamt that I was with all the youth in my village, in my brother’s house. The guide who usually accompanied me in my dreams came to me and invited me to follow him into the field adjoining the court. He showed me an enormous snake, measuring seven to eight meters long. Frightened, I wanted to escape, but the guide encouraged me not to be afraid and to stay. He went to take a rope and said to me while returning: “Take the rope by this end and hold it firmly; I’ll take the other end and we’ll stretch the rope over the snake.
-Then we will hit the snake with the rope.
-Oh no! Please! Woe to us if we do that! The furious snake will turn against us and tear us to pieces,” I said defending myself.
But the Guide insisted and assured me that the snake would not hurt me, so much so, that I consented to do what he wanted. He was already holding the rope in the air and was throwing a lashing blow on the back of the reptile. Immediately, the snake stood up and with a back headbutt tried to bite what struck him so. But in doing so, he caught himself in the rope like in a slipknot.
“Hold on to the rope tightly, and do not let go!” shouted the guide. And he ran to tie the end of the rope he had in his hand to a nearby pear tree, and the one I was holding at the wrought-iron gate of a window in the house.
Meanwhile, the snake struggled furiously and hit the ground with his head and whole body with such force that his flesh was torn apart and shattered in whole shreds. He continued like this until there was nothing left of him but his bare skeleton. When the snake was dead, the Guide untied the rope from the tree and window grate, picked it up and locked it in a crate. After a few moments he opened the box again. To my surprise and that of the young people who came running, we saw that the rope had rolled itself up and formed the words: Ave Maria! (Hail Mary).
The Guide explained to me: “The serpent represents the devil and the cord ‘the Ave Maria!’ or rather, the Rosary, which is a chain of ‘Hail Marys!’ with which one can strike, conquer, and destroy all of the demons of hell!”
At that moment a very painful scene appeared to Don Bosco’s eyes: young people were collecting snake flesh, eating it, and in that way poisoning themselves… “I was quite agitated, because despite my warnings, they continued to eat. I warned each other, gave a slap here, a punch there to prevent them from eating, but in vain! I was beside myself when I saw all these young people lying on the ground in a pitiful state. Thus I spoke to the Guide:
-“So there is no cure for so much harm?
-Of course there is one!
-And which one?
-There are none other than the anvil and the hammer.
-How? Maybe I should lay them on the anvil and hit them with the hammer?
– That’s it – the guide answers me-: the hammer represents confession, and the anvil Holy Communion: we have to use these two means!
Indeed, it is so! As iron is worked and reworked with the hammer on the anvil so that it takes shape, the same is for our spiritual life: renewed confession and communion form us and strengthen us continually. With the rosary, they are our most effective ways to advance on the path of sanctification.
Let us have recourse to the prayer of the Rosary and let us place ourselves entirely under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I assure you of our prayers for your intentions. May the Lord bless you!
Father Jean-Marie Simar,
Rector of the Shrine of Alençon