The first-hand source for Don Bosco's biography is the Saint himself. He told and re-told many episodes of his life to his boys, his Salesian children and his friends. To this divulgation by word of mouth he added the written Memoirs, first out of a suggestion, later order, of Pope Pius. Fr Bosco's biography, therefore, is a compilation from Don Bosco's own written texts, including books other than the Memoirs; from the writings of the early Salesians who endeavoured to leave a written record of their founder’s thoughts and deeds; from stories by alumni and other friends of the Oratory; and from witnesses at the process of canonization.
As same story varies slightly from source to source, there is no way of telling which source reports the bare facts. Don Bosco himself is not always consistent with dates and episodes, written down almost half a century after they happened.
Hence the reader should not be surprised if the text differs somewhat from that of the early Memoirs, covering the first 40 years of Don Bosco's life. The text is not a scholarly critical one, but one with the same aims as Don Bosco's handwritten Memoirs: instructing (first the Salesians and later everyone); entertaining; teaching and doing good, as was his custom from childhood.
The following section lists the essential events of Don Bosco's life as extracted from the sources. They are meant as an introduction to the main story, providing a useful framework to make it easier to assimilate and retain in the memory whatever instruction, piece of entertainment, of teaching and of moral exhortation the reader sees fit to make his or her own.
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