The following letter is from our son's pastor, a priest our family feels honored to know (especially Gabey who shares a name-patron, and any of our our boys who've enjoyed his company at Boys' Camp):
Dear Friends in Christ,
Praised be Jesus and Mary!
Could I ask your help in praying for a special intention? The prayers for this novena, which will start today, are at the end of this email. The reason for it is as follows.
In 1847 St. John Bosco wrote a book of prayers and spiritual advice for youth called The Companion of Youth. It was his best-seller so to say. During his lifetime it went through 122 printings and three editions (The first had 352 pages and the 3rd had grown to 520 pages). Each printing was about 50,000 copies.
In his Memoirs of the Oratory St. John Bosco speaks of this book as follows: “Another need showed up: a prayer book suitable for the times. There is no shortage of prayer books which have been put together by excellent people and are available to everyone. But, on the whole, these books were written for educated people, for adults, and most of them could be used by Catholics, Jews, or Protestants. Seeing how insidious heresy was spreading quietly every day, I undertook to compile a book suitable for the young, adapted to their religious ideas, based on the Bible, and setting out the foundations of the Catholic religion clearly and concisely. This was The Companion of Youth.”
In 1851 St. John Bosco added another section called “Fundamentals of the Catholic Religion”. It had been published earlier as a separate pamphlet. Speaking of this pamphlet he said: “Its aim was to put Catholics on the alert lest they let themselves be caught in the nets of the heretics. Its distribution was extraordinary; in two years it sold more than two hundred thousand copies. This pleased the good, but it enraged the Protestants, who had begun to think that they had the field of evangelization all to themselves.” He also wrote to a friend: “If you get involved in these booklets you're sacrificing any support you might have from La Gazzetta del Popolo [a violently anti-Catholic newspaper], and maybe from others. This booklet, tiny as it is, is a nuisance to them, and they would just love to burn any copies they can get hold of.”
The book was translated into English for the first time in 1938, then again in 1955. Later revised or incomplete translations were published by the Salesians after they had become very liberal. These included changes in the Mass. Neither the old and complete translations, nor the new are in print, except for some small excerpts in another work. They are almost impossible to obtain (the Salesian publishers in NY did not even have a copy of the 1938 edition in their archives).
I obtained a copy of the 1938 edition to scan and have compared it with the 101st Italian printing (3rd edition, the most complete one published by St. John Bosco). It is a complete and accurate translation. The only omission is the Vespers of Our Lady, Vespers for the whole year, and the Office of the Dead. These were left out in order to keep the size small and because they can be obtained from many other prayer books.
There are so many of our youth today who could benefit from this book, if we could only get it in their hands. Unfortunately, due to a change in copyright law in 1996, the book is still in copyright (owned probably by the Salesians). Could you join me and a couple hundred others to whom this email is being sent in praying this novena from today, October 27th to November 4th to get permission to republish this work?
The prayers below are selected from several novena prayers to St. John Bosco which were added to the 1938 edition of The Companion of Youth. Could you pray at least one of them each day of the novena? Thank you in advance, and may God reward you abundantly for this act of zeal for the souls of the young!
In Jesus and Mary,
Novena prayers for permission to reprint St. John Bosco’s book, The Companion of Youth: prayers and spiritual advice for the youth.
O glorious St John Bosco, by that great love which thou didst bear towards Youth, of which thou didst make thyself Father and Teacher, and by the heroic sacrifices thou didst bear for its salvation, obtain for us, that we also may love with a holy and generous love this chosen portion of the Heart of Jesus and that in every child we may see the adorable person of our Divine Savior.
O glorious St John Bosco, who didst love the virtue of purity with a love of predilection, and who didst inculcate it by word, writing, and example, obtain that we too, enamored of so indispensable a virtue, may practice it constantly and diffuse it by every means in our power.
Glory be to the Father, etc.
O glorious St John Bosco, who wert ever so compassionate towards human miseries, look down upon us, so greatly in need of thine aid; pray that the maternal blessings of Mary, Help of Christians may descend upon us and upon our families ; obtain for us all the spiritual and temporal favors of which we stand in need ; intercede for us in life and in death, so that we, too, eternally may sing the Divine mercies in Paradise.
Glory be to the Father, etc.
Prayer to Mary, Help of Christians
Grant also, O Mary, Help of Christians, that through thy powerful intercession we may be victorious over the enemies of our souls in life and in death, so that with Saint John Bosco we may be gathered round Thee in thy home in heaven. Amen.
Ejaculation: Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us. (300 days indulgence.)
PS: Also our family is adding the intention to this novena of the spiritual well-being of all our young people, but especially our sons, that prayer being the mission of St. John Bosco's life. (We like to "Pile On" in our novenas... :)