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|The Scalabrinian Congregations|
The Missionary Fathers and Brothers of St. Charles
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles
Scalabrini A living voice
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c) THE PROMOTION OF VOCATIONS
"Multiplying priests is like giving life to all kinds of good works"
Multiplying priests is like giving life to all the good works one can think of.
That incomparable hero of charity, St. Vincent de Paul, would say to his missionaries: "My brothers, we can think as hard as we want, but we will find that we cannot contribute to a greater cause than that of helping to form a good priest."
Do you want to know the superabundant merit that will accrue to the one who welcomes the young ones of the Lord into the Seminary? Listen to Jesus himself: "Whoever receives you receives me," he says to his apostles; "and whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is my disciple ‑- amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." And what will this reward be? Jesus Christ tells us: "Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward." In other words, as St. John Chrysostom explains, whoever helps form a minister of the gospel and comes to his assistance will share in all the good the minister performs and have from God the same reward as that of the minister, namely, an incomparable reward.29
"Make an effort to prepare others like yourselves"
My beloved brothers, dearest pastors and priests, make an effort, as of this moment, to prepare others like yourselves to take your place in the diocese when it will mourn your passing. So, look around and see if in your parish you have any youngster with a fine mind, who is outgoing, lively and, at the same time, docile, studious, modest, clean-cut, and loves to serve in church. When you find one, I beg you to take it upon yourself to nurture him with special care. With his parents' approval make sure you enroll him in the seminary (...).
Blessed is the pastor who helps give the Church at least one priest!
Even if he may not always have worked with all the vigor and alacrity, with all the intensity that the needs of the times called for, still he can present himself before the divine Judge full of confidence. For he knows that he is leaving behind someone who will continue his heavenly mission here on earth and that, through his successor, he will continue in some way to evangelize, to instruct, and to offer still more sheaves to the Master of the harvest.30
"Blessed is he who gives the Church a priest"
Do not fear that your expectations might be dashed. Should you be deprived in this life of seeing with your own eyes the longed-for fruits ripening on the tree of charity, still those fruits will ripen in the gardens of heaven to your credit. That is to say: in the sight of the Lord a virtuous deed is never lost. Even if most of the aspirants in the seminary will leave and only a few reach their goal, these few will be worth a fortune and be the joy of heaven and earth.
Among the one hundred drops of rain that fall to the ground, ninety-eight become mud. Of the other two, one falls on the forehead of the infant in baptism, giving the Church a son or daughter, while the other falls into the priest's chalice, becoming one with the Blood of Christ and giving God to the world. Blessed, I repeat, a thousand times blessed is the person who gives the Church a priest!31
"How many vocations are lost through the fault of parents"
You know very well how many vocations are sadly lost through the fault of parents. So, do not hesitate to portray to fathers and mothers the terrible consequences they will be guilty of in the sight of God if they directly and openly obstruct the vocation of their children, if with invincible obstinacy they close the doors of the seminary to them, if with blandishments or threats they force those born to spread God's kingdom on earth to drag around the heavy and ignominious chains of the world.
Warn them about that intemperate and worldly love that makes some of them think that those who don the cassock are almost lost both to the family and to the family name. Oh, how many parents have thwarted the vocation of their sons for earthly motives, only to
discover too late that they had prepared for themselves and their sons a life of unhappiness and misfortune!
So remind them, venerable brothers, that if they must be careful not to push their children onto a path that is not theirs, they must be equally careful not to pull them off the path to which God calls them. Teach them that, far from obstructing and bemoaning their child's vocation, they should nurture, develop, and protect it through a Christian upbringing and consider themselves highly honored by it, just as, in times of greater faith, our forefathers and mothers felt honored to have a vocation in the family. Tell them also that the vocation to the sacred ministry is like a very delicate seed, planted by the very hand of God in the soul that comes as a pilgrim to this earth. If parents surround that seed with the most favorable conditions, they will see the seed quickly grow, flower, and bear fruit. If they surround it with unfavorable conditions, without a miracle of God's omnipotence the seed will surely die.32
"The seminaries: I love them as the apple of my eye"
The Diocese of Piacenza has its seminaries, too, and nothing surely is closer to my heart than these beloved religious institutions. Indeed, I love them. I love them as the apple of my eye because in the increasing number of priestly vocations I see a sign of the future well-being of my flock. For this reason, I gladly shouldered enormous sacrifices in the past, and I will continue to do all I can even today. But my efforts alone, dearly beloved, are not enough. I need your help. I need it desperately (...).
Our seminaries are poor, as well as are most of the youngsters who apply for admission. Almost all of these youngsters, as we know, come from families with little or nothing and are therefore, to a greater or lesser degree, in need of help even though the tuition is very low.
How painful it is for a bishop to very often have to turn away bright and promising lads from the seminary, just for lack of funds! How sad it is to hear that, for the same reason, others who are even more promising will have to be sent back home to their families! How painful to be unable to help them out!
Brothers and sons of mine, only you in your charity can relieve me of this anguish and distress. It is precisely on your charity that I am relying. I hope that even this time I have not appealed to your charity in
I would like to see every parish, or at least every vicariate of the Diocese, set up, in the seminary, a scholarship for needy clerics.33
"My seminaries are full"
My seminaries are not only full but bulging with clerics. Even if I wanted to, I could not accept young men from other dioceses. Priests, as you know, are like medicine. You mustn't take more than necessary; otherwise, watch out! In a few years, at this rate, I won't know where to put all my own seminarians. This is God's answer to those who want to impoverish the clergy so as to thin out their ranks.34
"How lucky I would be if many of my priests were to volunteer for the foreign missions"
How lucky I would be if many, or at least some, of my priests were to volunteer for the sublime work of the foreign missions. Even though we are beginning to feel the scarcity of priests even here, not only would I not object to their leaving, but I would have only words of praise and encouragement for them, convinced as I am that one of the most efficacious means for keeping the faith among our people is that of bringing it to people who do not have it yet.
Having once been enrolled in your Institute for the Missions and not allowed to personally belong to it by the will of the late Bishop of Como, I have nonetheless always belonged to it in spirit. I sincerely hope that God will bless your institute and make it flourish so that, in numbers and quality, it may live up to its most noble purpose.35