Like every great church the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians has a spacious sacristy. It runs alongside the gallery which is behind the high altar. Not only is it big and well lit, but it is also very functional, especially on big occasions when there are many concelebrants. It provides two access points to the church, which facilitate religious services.
As well as the great vesting table, where the sacred vestments are kept, there is a line of choir stalls against the wall facing the sanctuary. They are elegant in their simplicity and usefulness and provide priests with the opportunity of quietly preparing for their celebration of mass. Sometimes they are also used as confessionals by the faithful who come into the sacristy for information or counselling. The floor is made of marble. There’s also a simple, but artistic, wash hand basin, of special marble. The sacristy is enriched by six interesting paintings by the artist Crida, which depict certain moments in Don Bosco’s life and give the pleasant feeling of still seeing the saint wandering about his beloved Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Let us give you a brief description and explanation of them.
1 – In the first painting:
the artist goes back to little Johnnie Bosco as a youthful catechist amidst the poverty of his birthplace.
He is sitting on a basket and is surrounded by a group of companions, who after being led by him in their games are now listening to his words very attentively. Don Bosco said later that the Salesian Congregation was founded on catechesis.
2 – The second painting:
shows the scene of the meeting between Don Bosco and the orphan Bartholomew Garelli in the sacristy of St. Francis of Assisi church in Torino.
This historic meeting took place on the 8th December 1841 and it marked the beginning of his apostolate for the young, first in Torino and then throughout all the Salesian Family in the world.
3 – In the third painting:
we find the mysterious dog ‘Grigio’ depicted. (In English ‘grigio’ means ‘grey’.) He ‘appeared’ several times when Don Bosco’s life was threatened by the enemies of his work and the mysterious ‘Grigio’ would get him out of danger.
We have no doubt about the existence of ‘Grigio’, because he was seen by very many witnesses (also Mamma Margaret); but it is still debatable who or what this dog represented.
4 – In the fourth picture:
we see Don Bosco hearing his boys’ confessions. He gave great importance to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He used to consider it one of the pillars of the Christian formation he gave to the boys (along with Holy Communion and Devotion to Mary Help of Christians). The boy making his confession is Paul Albera, who later became, after Fr. Michael Rua, Don Bosco’s second successor in leading the Salesians.
5 – The fifth picture:
shows Don Bosco in the middle of his boys, who hold him in great affection and listen to his every word.
In the background of the painting is the first building he ever built in Torino-Valdocco.
On 31st January 1988, the first centenary of his death, Pope John Paul II declared Don Bosco to be the
‘Father and Teacher of Youth’.
“For you I study, for you I work, for you I live and for you I am willing to give my life.” (Don Bosco).
6 – The last painting:
shows Don Bosco returning to Torino with Mamma Margaret on 3rd November 1846.
For ten years she helped Don Bosco in very practical ways in his ministry to young people, keeping him company, advising him and encouraging him.
She acted as mother also to the first boys gathered in the poverty-stricken Pinardi House. Many of these were orphans, too.
Her cause for beatification and canonisation has been introduced.