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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) FATHERHOOD AND SERVICE
"I will embrace all and become the servant of all"
Having been fortified with the gift of the divine consecration, I am utterly confident that the Supreme Shepherd of the flock, Our Lord Jesus Christ, will graciously look down on the purity of faith, on the love for religion, and on the fervent piety of this marvelous clergy and people of the Church of Piacenza and will unceasingly and efficaciously make up for the utter frailty of her unworthy Shepherd.
As for myself, debtor to you all, I shall embrace you all in my ministry, to the best of my ability, becoming everybody's slave for the sake of the gospel (I Cor 9). Sent first of all to the poor and the unfortunate, who live out their lives in misery and wretchedness, I shall suffer with them. I shall, above all, serve and evangelize the poor, who, rich in faith, were chosen by the Redeemer as the first ones in the kingdom, heirs of the kingdom promised by God to those who love him (Jas 2).
Since I have been called to the martyrdom of the episcopate, that is to say, to toil, hardship, and anxiety, I will eagerly bear the day's burden and the heat and will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes (2 Cor. 11).
And lest I become disheartened, I will, like the Apostle Paul, model myself on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who became man and was made obedient unto death on the cross for the glory of his Father and the salvation of souls. Now that I am renewed in the spirit of my vocation, I will stubbornly resist the sacrilegious machinations of the wicked who are trying to tear down the house built by Christ himself on solid rock.
Clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, holding faith as a shield to quench all the flaming arrows of God's enemies, and taking the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, "I will fight the good fight," confident that he who began in me this sacred work will confirm and strengthen it and bring it to a successful conclusion and that he who placed this responsibility on me will himself help me fulfill it (St. Leo the Great, Sermo 2).
Whatever wisdom, whatever virtue, whatever knowledge of human or divine things, whatever prudence I have I will dedicate completely to you so that God's kingdom may spread and peace reign among you and that all of you will live holy and peaceful lives to the best of your abilities. I will shirk no toil to become a father to the unfortunate, teacher of the ignorant, guide of priests, and shepherd to all. In so doing, I will become all things to all and save all for Christ.
By offering the example of good pastoral qualities, by giving wise counsel, making sound recommendations, admonishing, imploring and, if necessary, strongly reprimanding the adults, who should be models, and the young, who should be learners, I will make every effort to prepare a perfect people for the Lord, constantly, humbly, and tearfully imploring God himself to make my works flourish.13
"In the bishop there has to be the fullness of love"
To make every sacrifice to extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the hearts of people, to risk his life if necessary for the welfare of his beloved flock, to get down on his knees before the world, as it were, and beg from it, as a favor, the permission to do it some good ‑- this is the spirit, the identity, the only ambition of the bishop. He uses his authority, his talents, his health, his energies, everything for this noble purpose....
What truly good and beneficent work fails to get the bishop's support and blessing? Will he be repaid with ingratitude? It does not matter. His love will never fail: numquam excidit (...).
God is love. Now, the more people are united with God, the more they are full of love. That is why a bishop loves not only God or just his brothers and sisters but also loves everything else that is worthy of love. Everything, I say, everything without exception. He loves everything true, everything beautiful, everything great, everything good, everything holy: matter and spirit, reason and faith, nature and grace, culture and religion, Church and State, family and country. He loves the harmonies of human nature. He loves them because he could not do otherwise. He loves them because the fullness of love resides in a heart that is united through the fullness of the Holy Spirit to God, who by nature is truth, beauty, goodness, and life.14
"Whether friends or enemies, you are all my children"
I have spoken to you openly and frankly as my duty requires. Did someone find my rebukes harsh? If so, I would feel deeply hurt because, believe me, while I detest evil, I bear no grudge against anyone. I love you; and because I love you, I get angry with those who become your stumbling blocks and try to deceive you. I embrace you all in Jesus Christ. I would like all of you to have a place in my heart. I would give my life and gladly become an anathema for each one of you if this would help you.
No, whether friends or enemies, you are all children of my family, all marked on the forehead with the sign of redemption, all destined to be my joy and my crown. I will tell you what a holy bishop used to tell his people: Even if some day God were to permit your ingratitude
and disdain to be added to the tribulations and adversities of my ministry, I am convinced that, with the Lord's grace, I would repay you with blessings and with even greater love.15
"A father's heart"
Today your faith and goodness find cause for celebration in my many years as bishop, while for me these years are a source of fear and trepidation. Today, more than ever, I feel the formidable burden weighing down on my shoulders. I think of all the special, remarkable, extraordinary graces I have received, graces of predilection which, with constant cooperation on my part, would have brought me to a high degree of perfection; and I tremble. I think of the great account I will have to render the divine Judge for the twenty-five years I have been bishop. I think of the dangers the pastoral ministry entails, especially in our day. I think I will have to render an account for so many souls that preceded me on the journey to eternity, of every single one of you. While the future terrifies me, the past shames and disturbs me greatly. I can say with St. Augustine, "I tremble at the thought that I am your bishop."
I am mortified and dismayed by the thought of all the good I could have done for you with a more dynamic will, a more enlightened zeal, and a more generous life.
I am consoled by a promise I made to you on the day of my solemn entrance, the first time I had the joy of speaking to you. After warning you that you would not find in me the things you had admired in my predecessors, I candidly added: "But I assure you that you will find the heart of a father in me." Did I keep my promise? I am afraid to answer.
I can assure you of one thing: that I have always loved you, that your joys were my joys, your sorrows my sorrows. My love for you, 0 people of Piacenza, had no ups and downs nor has it ever cooled off because of difficulties or hurts. If I hated sin, I always tried to embrace the sinner.
I came with one ambition: to promote your well-being. Like St. Paul coming to the Corinthians, I came to you not confiding in words taught by human wisdom but in a display of spirit and power. I came
announcing peace. In fact, I spared no sacrifice to foster the growth of the humble olive tree among you, seeing to it that in its shade would flourish charity, love for Jesus Christ, the Church, and her august Head, as well as a concrete desire for the welfare of this most beloved city and diocese.
I have loved you all without distinction. If someone occasionally saw my face darkened by unaccustomed sternness, while a cloud of sadness passed over me and my words became condemnatory, he should know that this sadness, this sternness, this condemnation were coming from deep love, were emanating from a heart that was weeping because it was rebuffed in its desire to do good.
I have loved you out of a sense of justice because you are my people. Oh, how I wish I could show you my love with something more than words! Every passing year forges another link in the chain that binds me to you, a chain forged in mutual love, a chain which, far from eroding with time, grows ever stronger and becomes unbreakable.16