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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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b) THE RESPONSE TO GOD'S GIFT
"Faith is the source of all holiness"
You know that faith is the source, the foundation, the root of all justification, hence the source of all holiness: "the just man lives by faith." Hence, all the saints became saints only because they lived by faith and according to its teachings. In a word, only because they lived by faith and the dictates of faith did the saints, in the eternal scheme of God's manifold grace, become people who spent themselves in apostolic labors and produced marvelous works; people who prayed, did penance and performed sacrifices; people who in all conditions of life were angels in the flesh, glorious mirrors of the most beautiful virtues; men and women who were dead to the world, alive only to the Lord's grace; human beings who cared little about the present life but were always solicitous for the future life: "The saints conquered kingdoms by faith, lived lives of holiness, and attained the promises."7
"The just man lives by faith"
Illuminated by this divine light, Christians are able to understand the real purpose of the present life and their future destiny infinitely better than do the most renowned sages. They judge human affairs, their duties to God, to their fellows and to themselves in a way that runs altogether counter to the perceptions of their senses, yet in a light that is infinitely superior to the light of human reason. Just as with their senses they can see, touch, and feel material and sensible things, in the same way, with infused faith, they see, touch and feel future and heavenly things: "The just man lives by faith."
They believe: and their intellect begins to understand and contemplate the truths they believe in better than if they were to see them
with bodily eyes. They hope: and their hopes become concrete, real, and substantial so that their spirits cling to these hopes with all the power at their command. They love: and their hearts are a flame destroying every uncertainty, a blaze rising up to heaven. They hardly notice the things of earth. They sense only their God, and in God they find their life. They think, talk and work with their God. They suffer, struggle and die for their God: "The just man lives by faith."8
"Faith inspires many humble yet great virtues"
Like a radiant star, faith rises above the earth and illuminates it from one end to the other with a stupendous brilliance (...).
It is faith that impels the missionary to abandon homeland, family, friends, honors and riches, to cross stormy seas and torrid deserts, to penetrate into the most forsaken places, into the most uncivilized and wild areas, in search of natives to first civilize and then to Christianize. The missionary does this with only one hope: to crown a life of apostolic work and toil, of privation and crosses, with a martyr's death.
It is faith that inspires countless virgins to sacrifice their youth and their comforts, to dedicate themselves to educating the daughters of the poor, and to assist people in prisons and hospitals and those on the battlefield with their charity and words of comfort.
It is faith that stimulates many humble yet great virtues, unknown to the world but known to God. These virtues beautify the sanctuary of the family and preserve the family's holiness, as well as its unity, harmony and peace. Finally, faith encourages countless men and women of all ages and social classes to stand firm against the most appalling scandals and not to fear the scorn of the worldly, the sarcasm of unbelievers, the persecution of the wicked or danger to one's life, when it comes to safeguarding purity, preserving the faith or proclaiming Jesus Christ before the world.9
"If only I could sanctify myself and sanctify others"
Although I am making my Spiritual Exercises, I feel I should sit down at once to express my heartfelt thanks to you for your kind remembrance. You touched me deeply with the gracious sentiments you expressed to me for the 27th anniversary of my consecration
as Bishop of Piacenza. This has been a long period laden with crosses and afflictions: gifts from the hand of God, who rules his shepherds with a Providence that is utterly mysterious. Oh, if I could only sanctify myself and sanctify others!10
"I get scared at my most wretched unworthiness"
Today is the anniversary of my consecration. My God, have pity on this poor bishop! Poor me, how many years I have lost! This is the 18th. I get scared at my most wretched unworthiness. I must begin from scratch. I must make myself less unworthy of my divine episcopal dignity. I must rise to new heights. I must make myself worthy. I must divinize myself. "After God, the bishop is an earthly God." My God, "now I begin" with your divine help. I renew the resolutions of my Spiritual Exercises. 0 my Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.11
"I offer myself to him by a holy life"
"To present him to the Lord." Together with Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary brings Jesus to the temple to offer him to the eternal Father in the name of the whole human race. What thoughts and sentiments did Mary have as she made this solemn offering? And St. Joseph? Jesus offers himself for humanity and for me, so that I might offer myself to him with a holy life.
Today is the day of the great offering: offer up the most holy humanity of Jesus Christ to the Father and offer yourself up with it. "Through him, in him and with him."
0 my Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a poor sinner.12
"Nothing is more natural than the supernatural"
Nothing is more natural than the supernatural.13
"In all his actions a bishop must be moved by the Holy Spirit"
In all his actions a bishop must be moved by the Holy Spirit, the secret driving force of the most holy humanity of Jesus Christ.
A bishop must do violence to himself in order to become holy.
A bishop must be a virgin, a martyr and a confessor.
I must be a virgin for my purity of life. Woe to the man "who performs iniquity in the land of the saints, for he shall not see the glory of the Lord!" Let me die a thousand deaths rather than sully the lofty dignity of my priestly character with a sin of the flesh!
I must be a confessor for my constant zeal, for my relentless labors in the sacred ministry.
I must be a martyr, one who patiently bears the crosses, the tribulations, the slander, the tediousness of meetings, etc.
I must always be serious, above reproach, modest, gentle yet strong, generous and noble in all things.
I must elevate, ennoble, purify, and divinize myself.
"You will make progress to the degree to which you do violence to yourself".14
1. A half hour meditation every day: at least 20 minutes. On days of visitation, trips or major feasts, at least 10 minutes. I oblige myself to this under pain of mortal sin. Without binding myself by vow, I promise to perform the following acts of piety:
2. Daily spiritual reading.
3. Visit to the Blessed Sacrament: at least one.
4. The recitation of the rosary.
5. The Angelus, morning, noon and night.
6. Morning prayers and the examination of conscience in the evening, as well as after the midday Angelus.
7. Before the main activities, such as meetings, etc., to renew my intention to do all things for God's glory.
Confession, but, for goodness sake, well done, well done!... I need another confessor. The one I have is a holy priest, I'm sure, but he doesn't correct me. I'll choose another one.
I must pray and decide on this.
Maybe God wants this sacrifice so as to give me the grace I have sought for so long.
A day of recollection on the second Sunday of every month. Two meditations on the last things and two spiritual readings. If possible, I must spend the rest of the day in prayer, as if I were to die that very night.
I must make the day of recollection. I must make it well, diligently.
It is my salvation!
If I want to, I can. My God, help me.
Particular resolutions I must observe "under pain of damnation":
1. Quickness in banning all impure thoughts.... Otherwise I'll perish.... I'll perish.
2. Rigorous custody of the eyes: what is nothing for others would be fatal to me.
3. I must recite the Divine Office as well as I can, applying it every day for some special need. Every night I must examine myself on how I recited it.
Every month a meditation on "digne, attente, devote"!...
How much time I have wasted...
4. Preparation before Mass and thanksgiving after Holy Mass.
Oh, if I could first make my meditation ! What preparation! Come on! Get up early. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, help me!
"Do this and you shall live."
5. I must be at home with the practice of ejaculatory prayers. I must say them often.... often....
6. "Let me be intoxicated by the cross!..." God trains us with tribulations, humiliations, sufferings, and with the monotony of the ministry and of audiences. All this preserves us, enlightens us, and makes us grow up. So I must love crosses. I must clasp my pectoral cross to my heart and repeat often: Let me be intoxicated by the cross!...
7. I must have a deep and true devotion to my dear, my most gentle Mother Mary.15
1. to make an hour, more or less, of meditation, including preparation for Mass.
2. to perform every day the practices of piety promised during my Spiritual Exercises and to make frequent use of ejaculatory prayers.
My God, my love, my all, help me! Most Holy Mary assumed into heaven, my holy patrons, I recommend myself to you.
3. to recite my Divine Office as well as I can: "digne, attente, devote".
to recite Tierce, Sext and None, Vespers and Compline in thanksgiving for Holy Mass: Matins and Lauds as a preparation for Holy Mass.
I must always have some particular intention....
5. I will be at home with ejaculatory prayers.
6. I will repeat often, "Let me be intoxicated by the cross," as I clasp my pectoral cross to my heart.
Humiliations, disappointments, offenses, and bitter disillusionments are part of God's plans.... I will never be without them, nor am I without them at this moment.... Blessed are you, my God!
I must have courage in the Cross of Jesus Christ!
7. Constant and tender devotion to Our Lady. She is my mother and will obtain everything for me if I am really and sincerely devoted to her!
8. On days when I am a little more free, I shall make a study of the more common psalms. I shall jot down on special slips of paper, to be kept in my breviary, their meaning, inspiration and prophetic purpose, etc.
I shall begin with the Little Hours. Every day one psalm! How many blessings I will draw down upon myself and my diocese if I recite the Divine Office like a saint!
9. Meditate often on the fact that the sin of a bishop is that "mystery of iniquity," for which "there is no redemption."
It's enough to make my blood freeze!
My God, have mercy on me!
10. At least on my days of recollection, I shall reread these notes and reflect on them....16
"May the Holy Spirit dwell in me, rule me and guide me"
1. The Holy Spirit was the secret moving force of the most sacred humanity of Jesus Christ: "he was led by the Spirit."
The Holy Spirit filled the soul of Jesus Christ with those transports of purest, ineffable, and divine joy of which the Gospel speaks.
The Holy Spirit must dwell in me, rule me and guide me: "without your power there is nothing." He must be the secret moving force of my every action, especially during these Spiritual Exercises. "Come, come, come Holy Spirit!"
2. Since God created me, I must serve him. God's creation continues in his conservation; hence my servitude is indestructible. The angels and the saints are servants of God. The apostles take pride in being servants of Jesus Christ: "I am your servant." So I must give myself to the service of God ex toto corde.
How foolish is the bishop who does not give himself ex toto corde to the service of God purely, simply, without secondary motives: "Save me, 0 Lord!"
How happy is the person who gives himself wholly to the service of God. He experiences intense joys! My God, help me! "Come, 0 come, Holy Spirit!"
3. I must have internal holiness. Jesus Christ is the only Priest: the priesthood is one and eternal. Every priest and, even more so, every bishop is the principal agent of Christ's priesthood. Hence, "be ye perfect." It is a command.
What must I do? I must at all times and in everything imitate Jesus Christ.
I must think like him, talk like him, work like him, live like him. 0 Jesus, help me.
I must settle my accounts well in confession every eight days.
I put all this under the special protection of Our Lady of Grace.17
"The interior life is necessary"
The administration of a diocese is a holy thing, of course. It comes from the supernatural and leads back to it. But we are so distracted! Every day I realize ever more vividly that, to carry the episcopal burden of the exterior life without falling, the interior life is necessary because in it alone does one find consolation, strength, inner joy, light, sustaining peace, the "hidden manna." O yes, I feel these things, I talk about them. But when it comes down to concrete deeds and fidelity to God, I am as far away as earth is from heaven. You don't talk about these things; but you, of course, do them. Blessed are you.18
"This is my one ambition"
The things I aspire to are to do good, and to do all the good I can. This is my one ambition.19