My. dear and beloved children,
Great comfort, I feel, every time it is given to me to hear words of respect and affection from you, my dear children. But the affectionate expressions, which you have manifested to me in letters of good wishes or good year for the good old holidays, reasonably require from me a special thanks, which is an answer to the affected children whom you have expressed to me.
I tell you, therefore, that I am very pleased with you, with the solicitude with which you deal with any kind of work, also taking on serious labors, in order to promote the greater glory of God in our Houses and among those young people whom Divine Providence goes to us every day. entrusting, because we lead them on the path of virtue, of honor, by the way of Heaven. But in so many ways and with various expressions you thanked me for what I did for you; you have offered to work with me courageously and with me to share the labors, the honor and the glory on earth, to achieve the great prize that God has prepared for us all in Heaven; you have told me that nothing else desired, except to know what I judge good for you, and that you would have unalterably listened to it and practiced it.
I therefore like these precious words, to which, as a father, I simply reply that I thank you with all my heart, and that you will do the dearest thing in the world, if you help me to save your soul. You know well, beloved children, that I have accepted you in the Congregation, and I have constantly used all the possible solicitudes for your good to ensure eternal salvation; therefore, if you help me in this great undertaking, you do what my paternal heart can expect from you. Then the things that you have to practice, in order to succeed in this great project, you can of a slight guess. Observe our Rules, those Rules that Holy Mother Church deigned to approve for our guidance and for the good of our soul and for the benefit, spiritual and temporal, of our beloved students. We have read these Rules, studied them, and now they form the object of our promises, and of the vows with which we are consecrated to the Lord. Therefore I commend you with all my heart, that no one let slip words of regret, worse still, of repentance for having consecrated in such a manner to the Lord. This would be an act of black ingratitude. Everything we have, whether in the spiritual order or in the temporal order, belongs to God; therefore when in the religious profession we consecrate ourselves to Him, we do nothing but offer God what He Himself has told us, so to speak, but that He is His absolute property.
Therefore, by withdrawing from the observance of our vows, we steal from the Lord, while before his eyes we take back, we trample, we profane what we offered him, it is that we have placed in his holy hands.
Some of you might say: the observance of the Rules is hard for those who look at them unwillingly, in those who are neglected. But in the diligent, in those who love the good of the soul, this observance becomes, as the Divine Savior says, a gentle yoke, a light burden: Jugum meum suave est, et onus meum leve.
And then, dear ones, do we want to go to Paradise by carriage? We have made ourselves religious, not to enjoy, but to suffer and obtain merit for the other life; we consecrated ourselves to God not to command, but to obey; not to attach ourselves to creatures, but to practice charity towards our neighbor, moved by God's love alone; not to make a comfortable life, but to be poor with Jesus Christ, to suffer with Jesus Christ above the earth, to make us worthy of his glory in Heaven.
I animate therefore, or dear and beloved children; we have put our hand to the plow, we are still; none of us turned back to aim at the fallacious and treacherous world. Go on. It will cost us effort, it will cost us hardship, hunger, thirst and perhaps even death; we will always reply: if he delights the greatness of the prizes, they must not at all dismay the efforts we have to make to merit them: Si delectat magnitudo praemiorum, non deterreat certamen laborum.
One thing I still think well to demonstrate. On all sides, our brothers write to me, and I would be happy to give everyone the answer. But this not being possible, I will try to send letters more frequently; letters that as they give me the opportunity to open my heart to you, may also serve as a response, or rather as a guide to those who live in distant countries for holy reasons, and therefore cannot of presence listen to the voice of that father who so loves them in Jesus Christ.
May the Lord's grace and the protection of the Holy Virgin Mary always be with us, and help us to persevere in divine service until the last moments of life. So be it.
Turin, 6 January 1884.
Aff.mo in G. C.
Sac .. Giovanni Bosco