An hour with Pope Benedict XV
Exhortation of the Pope to pray for peace.
Satisfied with this need of my heart that claimed to have you all, or most beloved, with me united in sacrifice and prayer, I pass to give you some news that I hope will return to our common encouragement and comfort.
Our Venerable Founder always considered the Vicar of Jesus Christ as the luminous beacon that was to guide his steps, and taught us by word and example to love him, to defend his authority and to accept his teachings with the utmost respect and with the most scrupulous obedience. Now if we, faithful to this teaching, love the Pope, like tender children love their father, we must rejoice with holy joy in knowing that the most wise new Pope Benedict XV also greatly loves our humble Society and all its members.
And I do not hesitate to declare to you, O dearest ones, that the current Holy Father loves us with a strong love and predilection. I had manifest proof of this in the very affectionate private audience granted to me by Benedict XV on the morning of October 14 u. s. In that unforgettable hour that kept me at his side, I not only tasted the ineffable satisfaction that a believer's heart feels in being before the Supreme Shepherd, the infallible Master, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, but I also enjoyed that a profound joy that the son experiences in the presence of his most desirable father, the heart of a humble beneficiary who can pay his first benefactor., I believe, dearest ones, that Don Bosco himself, who loved the Pope so much, would not have enjoyed greater sweetness in seeing such a perfect consonance of his ideals with those of the Vicar of Jesus Christ and in seeing so appreciated by Luí his work!
As soon as he was admitted to his august presence, I humbly prostrated myself to kiss his foot, but the Holy Father said to me with great goodness: I allow him only for this time, and immediately made me sit next to him.
First of all he reminded me with great affability like a few moments after his election, by means of the Most Holy Emperor Cardinal Maffi had sent one of his first blessings to the Successor of Don Bosco and to the entire Pious Salesian Society. He manifested the complacency he felt in accepting in the first Consistory he held, the first ritual postulation for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of our Ven. Founder. He congratulated the good that the Work of Don Bosco does, thanks to grace of God, in every part. And with intimate satisfaction he added: more Bishops who have Salesian houses in their Dioceses have spoken to me very well!
He said he had read in the Osservatore Romano the function celebrated for peace and according to the intention of the Holy Father on September 24, in the dear Shrine of Our Help of Christians. And having added that it was intended to repeat it on the 24th of each month throughout the centenary year:
- Yes, yes, he interrupted me, continue! They are functions that do good; they stimulate the frequency of the Sacraments. I commission you to impart the Apostolic Blessing every month to all those who will take part in my name.
We talked about many other things about the Congregation and the Missions for a long time, gave me special favors for the good governance of our Society and a very special blessing for all Salesians. Finally, he allowed Augusta, the Secretary of the Chapter and the Procurator General, who accompanied me, to be introduced to his presence, and with them also he remained somewhat in friendly conversation. Playing the noon, he had the kindness to recite the Angelus with us, after which he warmly blessed us again and effusively blessed us.
There is known as the Holy Father on 25 May u. s. wrote to the Era. Cardinal Dean of the Holy College: "We exhort all the children of the Catholic Church to practice a close ecclesiastical fast with us for three consecutive or separate days, according to the choice of each one, and we grant that this pious practice of Christian mortification is worth to make the plenary indulgence profitable, with the usual conditions, also applicable to the souls of Purgatory ».
If we still arrive in time, for a certain conformity, I suggest that starting Friday 11 June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by the Brothers and possibly also by the young, let us practice such a strict fast for three consecutive Fridays. In the morning then or in the evening of such days, the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament is given, after the singing of the Miserere and the recitation of the prayer for peace, composed by the Holy Father.
Wherever the public can be asked to intervene and the faithful all be encouraged to receive the Sacraments of Confession and Communion to make a plenary indulgence. From the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, especially honored this month, we implore the longed for peace and meanwhile the protection over our brothers on the battlefields.
Of these apostolic zeal to which we must inspire ourselves, we have had in these days another shining example in that great Son of Don Bosco, who is our Em. Cardinal Cagliero.
With the death of Cardinal Boschi, the Suburbicarian Headquarters of Frascati had become vacant, one of the six offices set aside for the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops. HH Benedict XV, who highly esteems the beautiful gifts of our Most Eminent Cardinal, knowing that he is always animated by an ardent zeal for souls, deigned to propose him, despite his advanced age, to succeed Cardinal Emmanuel Boschi in Seat of Frascati, and so our Em. Cardinal Cagliero, opting for that See, became the number of Cardinal Bishops.
The high honor which derives from our Most Holy Cardinal from this act of the Roman Pontiff, and the very great esteem shown to him by Pope Benedict XV in this solemn circumstance, and which he publicly expressed with flattering words after the Secret Consistory of 16 c. m. while they are a 'new proof of the untiring zeal for the health of the souls of this great Son of Don Bosco, they must all be strongly encouraged to follow these noble traces, which are those of our Father the Venerable.
If I have to express to you all that passes in my heart at this moment, I will tell you that, among the duties that come to me from the office assigned to me by Divine Providence, one of those from which I receive greater comfort is undoubtedly this of prostrating myself at the foot of the Pope, to tell him that all the Salesians and all the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians nourished for him those same sentiments of profound and unlimited devotion that nourished our Ven. Father. And if the paternal affection I feel for each of you in parts, it does not make me veil, it seems to me to be able to affirm with all truth that really in the two branches of the great family of Don Bosco the Pope always occupies the venerated place of Supreme Superior , which is assigned to him by our Constitutions (art. 33), indeed, rather than as a Superior, a beloved Father.
This is an imprint that Don Bosco wanted to give to our humble Society, transfusing in it those feelings that overflowed from his heart; and we can be proud of having kept it intact, and of having contributed to spreading, wherever our work could reach, devotion and attachment to the Holy Apostolic See.
The Holy Father knows this our prerogative very well, and perhaps it is to be attributed to this the singular and paternal benevolence with which he has always deigned to welcome the Superior of the Salesians. The last time I was given to prostrate myself in his presence, I felt myself bound to him by a bond of such strong and profound gratitude that it seemed to me that I was not in front of the most sublime dignity that exists on earth, that is, of Vicar of Jesus Christ, but close to a Father, to a Benefactor, who with equal seriousness and kindness took care of the multiple interests concerning our family.
He was fully informed of everything, and while visibly manifesting his paternal complacency for the tireless activity that the Sons and Daughters of Don Bosco are carrying out for the benefit of so much youth, with a singular stroke of goodness he wanted to know the difficulties of various kinds which, today above all, oppose the development and the efficacy of the providential work of our Ven. Father.
I felt greatly comforted by such an affectionate and joyful welcome, and thought, "Oh! if those who form the Salesian family were present here, what incitement they would not receive to work ever more for the benefit of so many young souls, following the example of Don Bosco! »
Knowing that our work, despite our shortcomings, with the protection of the Virgin Help of Christians prpduce a little good for souls, and always responds to those ends of sublime charity that Don Bosco had in starting it; the knowledge that it is appreciated by the good, and imposes respect also on those who unfortunately do not know the beauty and goodness of the teachings of Jesus Christ, without doubt a great comfort for us, and at the same time an effective incitement to be constant and assiduous in this mission of good.
But when the approval, the appreciation, the certificates of esteem come to us directly from the One who, for the power of the sum of which is covered, is the only one that can make us sure that we walk in the footsteps of our Ven. Father, and that the Our work is blessed by that God of whom he is the representative on earth; then heart and spirit feel encouraged not only to continue the laborious work of the Salesian apostolate, but also to put all their enthusiasm and fervor into it.
I felt this enthusiasm in those sweet moments when from the sovereign condescension of the Holy Father I was allowed to be in his presence; and that is why I would have liked all of you to have found yourselves at his feet together with me: you too would have felt this holy enthusiasm in equal measure, which would have been a welcome reward and relief for your labors.
But if you were not allowed to draw this new force directly from the Apostolic Chair, I beg the Virgin Help of Christians to infuse you with it when you hear me reading these poor words of mine, which certainly cannot fully reproduce my feelings.
And, to better prepare your mind for this, it will be helpful to remind you of the healthy influence that Don Bosco brought back from each of his visits to the Supreme Pontiff. We all know the numberless difficulties that the enemy of good raised around our Ven. Father, to prevent his work from rising and flourishing. Despite the special help of Heaven and the constant assistance of the Virgin Help of Christians, he had to struggle incessantly; and often, when this struggle became more bitter, insidious and overwhelming, he felt the need to run to Rome, to throw himself at the feet of the Pope, to have from him the authoritative word of comfort, and the assurance that his work it was really wanted by God.
Thus rejuvenated, he used to write a letter immediately from Rome to his beloved children, to transfuse his feelings into them, the new energy was overflowing his mind, and to invite them all to raise fervent prayers for the Pope, in sign of deep gratitude for the benefit received.
For Don Bosco, the Pope was an inexhaustible source of activity and good: from the Pope he drew the indomitable courage in his holy undertakings, the unshakable constancy in doing good, even when obstacles over obstacles crossed his path. Don Bosco suffered greatly for the Pope, and he was even more ready to suffer. From the Pope he sought above all one thing: the certainty that all his work, his good initiatives, the multiple works of the apostolate, the informing spirit of his nascent Institute, fully responded to the directives and wishes of the Vicar of Jesus Christ; because, he said, when we have the approval of the Pope, we have the approval of God; when the Pope is happy with us, so is God.
So we too, who are proud to call ourselves sons of Don Bosco, owe it to him to constantly nourish these sentiments of unlimited and unfailing filial submission and devotion to the Supreme Pontiff in our spirit, and to rejoice knowing that
the Pope is fully satisfied with our work, however humble and lacking.
This he repeated to me several times during the hearing that he deserved to grant me; and this I repeat to you, flattering me that my voice, as an echo of the paternal and benevolent one of the Holy Father, echo in your soul and in your heart, and arouse in you those feelings of ever deeper affection and ever more gratitude felt, that I myself had to try.
I will tell you yet another thing that will make you very happy. The main reason why he declared himself satisfied with the Salesian Works, and showed himself sure that they always had to maintain themselves, as in the past, worthy of his esteem, was this, which he always saw enlivened by the spirit of their great Founder the two Institutes that form the Salesian family.
It seemed to me then to hear in his words like the echo of those of the great Pius IX, which our good Father referred to in his Preface to the Constitutions: "If the Salesians, without pretending to improve their Constitutions, will study to observe them precisely, their Congregation will be ever more flourishing ». In fact, in the Constitutions you can be sure that the genuine spirit of Don Bosco is contained better than anywhere else.
This assurance of the Holy Father, which, with great comfort, has come to give an authoritative confirmation to the warm recommendations that I often ask you to be all jealous guardians of the spirit of our Ven. Father, be to all of effective incitement to observe in an ever more perfect way our Constitutions, to always deserve the esteem and approval of the Holy Father.
Our Cardinal Emperor Cagliero was another object to which the Pope dedicated special attention in his exquisite goodness. He had words of great pleasure for the zeal the Cardinal always shows animated, despite his advanced age and the serious labors already sustained for the sake of the souls and in service of the Church. Truly it seems that Don Bosco wanted to print a wider trace of his spirit in this worthy son, who was one of the first to give himself completely to him, and to let himself be molded by him entirely. When it comes to working for the good of souls, he still shows a youthful ardor; and I myself witnessed this indefatigable activity on the occasion of his solemn entry into the Diocese of Frascati, which took place last January 16 (1). Oh! let us not limit ourselves to a sterile admiration: we know how to imitate the good examples of zeal and of Salesian activity that our Ven.
The Holy Father also deigned to remember with flattering words of praise the beneficial and healthy work that he tirelessly carries out for the benefit of the girls of the people, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. He acknowledged with paternal satisfaction that even this praiseworthy Institute is firmly founded on the spirit of charity, zeal and healthy industriousness of our Ven. Father; and rejoicing in its ever-increasing development, expressed the lively hope that with this spirit he would continue to indulge in forming truly Christian teachers, and to impart a solid religious education to so many poor girls. He added that he promises immense benefits for the good of the Institute itself. This is mainly due to the appointment of the Superior of the Salesians as Apostolic Delegate for the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
(1) It is brought to the attention of the Confratelli that Card. Cagliero continues to reside in Rome (21), Via Marsala, 42: therefore correspondence must be addressed to him.
I cannot then tell you how much my heart rejoiced at the benign welcome given by the Holy Father to a copy of the "Life of Don Bosco", humbly offered by me as a gift; so much as to browse it with interest in my own presence. With this act of high condescension it seemed to me that he participated more intimately in what is dearest to us in our life as Salesians, and almost wanted to tell me: "Ohl repeat to all the Salesians that the Pope loves Don Bosco so much: as much as Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X wanted! ».
He again told me that numerous petitions are presented to him directly, so that with his authority he wants to induce the Superior of the Salesians to accept new foundations; and added that if on the one hand these insistences please him, as a testimony of esteem to the sons of Don Bosco, on the other he knows that they are not spared, and they already do what is in their power to cultivate the vast field entrusted to their labors; and that they would do more if they could have more arms.
My dear confreres: in the face of such remarkable proofs of goodness and kindness with which the Holy Father deigned to honor us, we would not show ourselves to be good children of Don Bo'sco, if we limited ourselves to a simple sentiment of complacency, and let us not try to correspond to it with a greater commitment to conform to the end for which we have embraced Salesian life.
Let us therefore accept these signs of esteem and benevolence in a spirit of humble gratitude, with the conviction that they, by the highest goodness of the Holy Father, are far superior to our merits. And with fervent thanks to God who in such sad times wanted to comfort us with such flattering encouragement, let us study to always preserve in us, in our communities, throughout our Institute the spirit of work and zeal for the good of youth, the spirit of discipline and piety that is the bastion of our vocation, the spirit of charity and sweetness that must cement each time the cordial union between us, and attract other souls to generously join our ranks under the banner of Don Bosco. If we operate in this way, Don Bosco will smile at us from Heaven, and we will always be able to merit these special blessings of the Lord.
Before closing this my writing, I announce with real pleasure that the prayer to Maria SS. Help of Christians, as we are used to recite every day after meditation, new and numerous indulgences, partial and plenary, were enriched by the Holy See. You will find the authentic text, which was indulgent, in another part of the Acts; and henceforth in the common recitation you will use the new text, different from the old one only for a very slight modification, which you will find noted in italics, and which was introduced to participate in our prayers also our dear former students, who they made us public and warm prayer. I note that if one wants to profit from the aforementioned indulgences, one must use the new text, and not the old one. This precious spiritual treasure, which the Holy See has kindly opened in our favor, spurs us to resort more frequently and fervently to our dear Mother Mary. Help of Christians, and to spread their worship more and more.
One last recommendation is for me to make you. Last July, the Holy Father Benedict XV issued the Motu Proprio "Bonum Sane", with which he prescribed to all the Catholic Bishops that within the year, beginning on December 8, 1920, he indicated solemn jubilee feasts in honor of the great Patriarch St. Joseph, in the 50th year since the angelic Pius IX declared him solemnly Patron of the universal Church.
To all of us, who have a tender devotion to this great saint, whom Don Bosco wanted as one of the heavenly protectors of our Pious Society, this solemn occasion must return as much as possible, in order to attest to our Holy Patriarch our perennial gratitude for the heavenly protection granted to our Congregation, to renew us in the fervent devotion to Him, and to correspond as best as possible to the desires of the Holy Father.
It is therefore our commitment to celebrate with great fervor the month consecrated to him, above all honoring him with a constant imitation of his characteristic virtues, of his living and unshaken faith, of his love of God pushed to the sacrifice, of his profound humility, of his total detachment from the things of the earth and from their own comforts. And with our example we also drag our dear young people to this imitation.
Special care must be taken for the artisans, reactivating among them, in the best possible way, the Compagnia di S. Giuseppe, so that it can also become a seedbed of good vocations, which we urgently need. The Holy Father, indicating these solemn jubilee honors to St. Joseph, intended particularly to incite the working class to put himself under the protection of Him, who was at the same time humble laborer and putative father of the Divine Redeemer, and to follow in his footsteps; so that the danger of the fatal upheavals that from time to time threaten to break down every established order must be averted.
We who are workers' educators, following the examples of Don Bosco and conforming to the wishes of the Holy Father, we do our best to instill in them the spirit of this perfect model of saint and worker together: we will do what meritorious work in front of the Church and civil society.
So that our competition for these solemn honors will be more alive and effective, it is my desire that the feast of the patronage of St. Joseph be celebrated this year in all our holiday homes and oratorios with the greatest possible splendor, making you-. precede, if possible, a solemn triduum with preaching.
From the Holy Patriarch we fervently invoke constant and effective protection on the whole Church, on the Supreme Pontiff, on all the Works of Don Bosco, and in particular on our Pious Society, on the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, on the Pious Union of the Cooperators; and finally a very special help for the good outcome of the Causes of Beatification of our Servants of God.
Communicating to you now with great affection the blessing of the Holy Father, I commend myself to your prayers, and I am always there