Volume 7, the last in this series, surveys Don Bosco’s life and activity in the late seventies and eighties, roughly his last dozen years. These are his mature, reflective years; they are also the years of his quasi-retirement, gradually giving way to his sunset years. With regard to content, the nine chapters of this survey may be grouped under four headings.
(1) Chapters 1-3 deal with the Society’s internal organization and the regulations developed for that purpose. They cover such topics as the Society’s division into “inspectorates” (provinces), Don Bosco’s report of 1879 to the Holy See, general conferences and General Chapters.
(2) Chapters 4-6 speak of a founder’s concerns over the qualities of candidates seeking admission into the Society, and over the salesian religious spirit of the confreres. They express Don Bosco’s severe judgments of discipline in the Oratory communities. Also Don Bosco’s reflective and educational writings of the period.
(3) Chapters 7 and 8 tell the story, on the basis of archival sources and eyewitness testimonies, of Don Bosco’s progressive physical decline over the years 1884-1887—years plagued by worsening illness and yet marked with indomitable resolve to undertake fatiguing journeys to visit and encourage confreres, cooperators and benefactors.
(4) Chapter 9 describes the difficult and protracted itinerary of the processes of Don Bosco’s beatification and canonization.
The series Don Bosco, History and Spirit consists of seven volumes. The first three volumes survey the life and times of John Melchior Bosco (“Don Bosco,” 1815-1888) up to 1864, with particular attention to nineteenth-century political, social and religious history. This survey looks at Don Bosco’s own education, at his spiritual and theological formation. It examines the growth of the work, and the founding and initial development of the Society of St. Francis de Sales.
The next four volumes describes Don Bosco’s life and work in the period following the unification of Italy. In this setting Don Bosco, History and Spirit discusses the institutional developments and organization of the Salesian Society. It examines the development of permanent structures to guarantee the continuance of the Salesian work, and discusses some of the founder’s insights and ideas.