Salesian Holiness

Exercises to the Salesians 1955 - Obedience

Sixth sermon - OBEDIENCE
27 July 1955 afternoon




This evening we want to propose ourselves with our Don Bosco and hear his word, in relation to a point that is certainly fundamental to our religious life: obedience.
Even before our Don Bosco had had the approval of his congregation, we can say at the beginning of his practices to be able to succeed, he tried to have a novitiate sui generis done for those young people around him, in which he saw that there could be the good stuff to become his good helpers, the first Salesians. In 1862, he made a small speech with them in which he spoke precisely of obedience, in one of those first Chapter sessions that those first ones did when they had to admit among themselves some of their companions. And in an evening he speaks of obedience and says: 
"Oboedientia est voluntas prompta se tradendi ad ea quae vertunt ad Dei famulatum. This definition coincides with that of devotion. We need everyone to be willing to make great sacrifices of will; not of health, not of maceration and penance, not of extraordinary abstinence of body, food, but of will. Therefore, one must now be ready, now to climb the pulpit, now to go to the kitchen, now to do school and now to fuck; now to do catechism or to pray in church, and now to assist in recreations, now to study quietly in his room, and now to accompany the young people to the walk; now to command, and now to obey. With this disposition of working spirit, we will have the blessing of God because we will be his true disciples and servants. Perhaps the Lord asks, - Said Samuel to Saul - of holocausts or victims, and not rather obey his voice? We must therefore listen and generously follow the voice of the superior who represents God and the voice of duty. Following this we will reach the end of our vocation, we will make ourselves great merits and save our souls and those of others. "  
This is how Don Bosco began to instill the concept of obedience in his first helpers. Get back completely into the hands of the superior who represents the Lord, who represents the voice of the Lord. It is - we will say - a practical form, and it is precisely that which we must also use. Trying precisely to revive our faith - there is no other good confreres of mine - and to exercise a strong exercise of will and judgment.
With the grace of the Lord, if we do it this way, and if we understand, I would say, more than theoretically, the excellence of obedience, the need, etc., if we understand practically why we need the exercise of this vow and to perfect ourselves in the virtue, we need, I say, at all times of the day, to all our actions, because precisely our judgment, our will, our sensitivity, continuously, if we are not on guard, are in collision precisely with the will of the superior . You remember the circular of which we spoke in which our Don Bosco speaks of unity both in the exercise of morality and in the exercise of administration. And he still said that there had to be unity in obedience and explain it in the circular one, in this way. 
"In every body there must be a mind that holds its movements. And the body will be the more active and necessary, the more the limbs will be ready for every sign. Thus in our society, it will be necessary for someone to command and others to obey. Sometimes it will happen, - eh see how sometimes we quickly judge even our superiors, and it is also reality, there is no mica to be impressed, - it will sometimes happen that whoever controls is the least worthy; - we can also add, be the least able in our view. - This will happen too. Should he therefore be denied obedience? No, because in this way the body remains disorganized, and therefore inept for every operation. Always bear in mind that the superior is the representative of God and whoever obeys him, obeys God. What does it matter that in many things it is inferior to me? There is more merit, my submission is more meritorious. And on the other hand, one thinks that commanding is an enormous burden, and that poor superior would willingly relieve him, if he did not oblige him to keep his own good. For this reason, try to lighten it by showing oneself ready for obedience, above all by willingly accepting all his command and admonition, because he makes an effort to command, and when you see that his words disdain and give back, perhaps he would not dare to warn you other times and then the evil would be yours and his. 
If we consider ourselves members of this body which is our society, we will notice any function that we have to do; if this body is animated by the spirit of charity and guided by obedience, it will have in itself the principle of its existence and the energy to work great things to the Glory of God, to the good of others and to the health of the subjects. It is not intended, however, that one is obliged to wear weights that he cannot wear. Everyone, when he does not feel like doing that office that has been entrusted to him, talk about it, and it will be taken away from him. The only thing that is required is that everyone is willing to do what he can when it is imposed on him; so that even if a priest were in need of washing dishes, let him do it. " 
You see, they are thoughts that seem very simple, very reasonable. But you see the fund on which our dear father insists; it takes a little spirit of faith, which we understand precisely that authority comes from the Lord, and that the one who commands us and those who cooperate with him in the good running of the house and guide us, are representatives of the Lord from whom the authorities.
And on another occasion in 1876 it clarifies even more strongly the position of the superior, so that we can really get this unity of action among all the confreres of the house, among all the confreres, we can say, of the province, among all the members of the congregation.
"Between us the superior is everything. What happens to the Rector Major for all of society, it must happen for the director in each house. He must do only one thing with the Rector Major, and all the members of his house must do one thing with him. The rule must still be embodied in him. Don't be the one who figures, it will be the rule. 
We also try to preserve the dependence between the superior and the inferior and this, spontaneously, not coacte, by force. The subordinates commit themselves very much to surrounding, helping, supporting, defending their director, and staying close to him; do almost one thing with him. Nothing they do without depending on him, because doing so does not depend on him, but on the rule. I do not mean here that no action is taken, from time to time, without the director's consent; but I mean that everyone should regulate according to the notices and regulations that the director has given. And in things that are generally or unexpectedly to be done, do not proceed on a whim, but always look at the center of unity. " 
You see my good brothers, I repeat this thought, because it seems to me that it is so useful, I would say so, more understandable under this formula to us, so that we realize precisely this unity of body, this unity of spirit, without which the forces disperse; and I repeat, if in our dear province, as in the individual houses, we are unable to do all that good that is done, it is precisely from this. We are not united in one body, in one mind, in one word, in one action. Signs for one's own and the purity of souls are not in these terms.
And so Don Bosco still insists on another point, what he calls "the discipline". 
"Exact observance of all the rules, both of the constitutions, as of the details for the various offices that are assigned." It is a magnificent circular of November 15, 1873, precisely in the year of the approval of the Congregation. 
"I want to talk about the foundation of morality and study, which is the discipline among the students. I want to explain to you the means that the experience of 45 years found fruitful with good results. By discipline, I do not mean correction, punishment, lash, things that should not be given by us. Not even the artifice or mastery of anything. Here, by discipline I mean a way of life, in conformity with the rules and customs of an institute. ... To get good effects from the discipline, first of all it is worthwhile that the rules are all, and by all observed. This observance must be considered in the members of the Congregation and also in the students of Divine Providence entrusted to our care. Therefore the discipline will remain without effect if the rules of the society or of the congregation are not observed; believe me dear,
At this point you will wonder: what are these practical rules that can help us to buy such precious treasure. Two things: one general and the other particular.
In general, observe the rules of the congregation and the discipline will triumph. In particular, nobody ignores the rules of his office. They observe them, make them observe by their employees. If the one who presides over others is not observant, he cannot expect his employees to do what he neglects, otherwise he would say: Medice cura te ipsum. ” And he continues in the letter to distinguish precisely the duties of the director, the duties of the prefect, the duties of the catechist, teachers and assistants. 
Here is a practical advice that our superiors always gave us. During the spiritual exercises, while we are invited to read the rule, - while making even in public what little we can, - in any case, one reads all the rules of the regulations, but in a special way during the spiritual exercises, and it would be more than commendable on the occasion of the Exercise of Good Death, everyone will take the booklet, and the inspector has his duties, the director has his duties; the duties of the prefect, of the catechist, of the councilor and also of the particular works and duties for the masters of art, of the assistants, etc. are listed there. Everyone has to take them, - this is the most practical form, - and then in this practical form we come to see if we have observed our duties, if we have done them well; and we are able to assess precisely what would have to be redone. It's not a difficult thing. I think this is more than reasonable on this point.
Our houses can be compared to a garden. The director is the gardener, the seedlings are the students; all the personnel are the farmers who depend on the owner, that is the director who is responsible for the actions of everyone. "Then it is strongly recommended to all to communicate to the director all the things that can normally serve to promote the good and prevent the offenses of the Lord." The statement; as many times as we need. Especially those with special responsibilities must be in constant contact with the director. Then you will see that things can proceed well. 

The recommendation that our superiors continually make: that the chapters of the houses work, that the provincial chapter work, that the superior chapter works. Whether those conferences are performed, those meetings are held, or weekly or monthly conferences that are prescribed in our regulations. Sometimes they do not remember, ... we cannot ... and meanwhile we remain deprived precisely of this unification of all the forces of the house, of all the forces of the province in order to be able to do our duties. 
But on my dear confreres, let us all put a lot of effort into it. I feel able to say practically: if we observe our rules, - you remember there, that little chapter of the 5 defects to be avoided, - if everyone does his part better than he knows and can, and as far as possible, in difficulty, in doubts, we fraternally agree, both with his confreres and with the director, well, you see, things can not but go well, if we do obedience very well in this practical form. Our superior also spoke of obedience on his visit. 
"Obedience makes us look up to God in our superiors. Together with obedience, familiarity is a Salesian characteristic that costs. This familiarity, however, does not spoil obedience, it does not make the brother judge of his superior, as if he were a classmate. " Even if you have been companions, when one is superior you must respect and reverence him; but what do we do? ... He saw well, he touched well; and it may be precisely that in relation to this point the undersigned must have his say: Mea maxima culpa! and if there was an even bigger superlative, better. Because perhaps it depended, I would say, on this poor man, perhaps this excessive familiarity. 
Therefore whoever is not superior, must avoid criticism, must avoid the misplaced intervention in the attributions of the superior, because this spoils obedience and charity. Pay attention to what I say to you: Whoever has no direct responsibility, think about it ten times before judging; before talking about it with others and criticizing, you think a hundred times. And beware that - this is certain - we need not fear before the Lord to say our sins, which we secretly say when we confess; but let's say, let's do this report as well. Mind you that it is one of the many weak points in our province. 
Just this thought. I remember that in the last few years, it seems to me - I become old and my memory ... and I don't have the habit, I don't think about it anymore. Don't come and ask me about things from past events, dates, and things like that, I don't remember. - But I remember this, which, it seems to me, was the last set of exercises I preached to my dear confreres before going to Italy. And I know that I made a warm recommendation to my dear confreres, saying: "Let us all stand together firmly, to remove from ourselves in the name of charity, in the name of justice, to remove this defect from us. What the results were, I don't know. I do not know what the commitment of individuals was to be able to succeed in this endeavor. I know this, and I find it written here and I heard it with my ears from the words of our dear Rector Major. 
Here are my dear confreres, we want to be truly obedient, everyone does their part. The inspector has his responsibilities as the major superiors have; the manager of each house has his responsibility as all the house managers have; each of us, prefect, counselor, and go and say, you have your responsibilities which you must give an account to the Lord. We have heard the beautiful meditation of judgment; and this, you see, is the most terrible thing for a superior. Especially for a superior who not only has responsibility for his soul, but has the responsibility of the soul of all his employees. 
And then, but let's think about our responsibilities. What should we go to get involved in the responsibilities of others. We do our duty. I find no other solution, my dear confreres to succeed precisely in that, our province is more strongly healed in relation precisely to this point, there is nothing else but this. Let us try to see it better and let each of us do our own thing - we hope we all did it in last night's meditation - to truly be masters of our mouth, our language and our thinking. And then my dear confreres, it seems to me, that there is no other solution than this, that all of us take courage in two hands, and we should have it, because it is the Glory of the Lord, it is about charity, it is about good. of souls. This is the true good of souls; because that is, when we find ourselves in conversation and we fall, because we don't think about it, ah we don't even think of yet another, - I wouldn't know how to say, - intention. But not that straight, you just don't think of it, it's a habit so embodied that you don't think about it. We talk about everything, everyone, and especially, obviously, superiors. 
There is, I repeat, nothing but this solution. That we also have the courage to say: but, in this situation, let's plant it there. And if you don't plant yourself there, everyone has - I would say so - apologies; and - if you are afraid, - apologies for saying: I have contrary ideas, and if you can't find excuses, let's plant the conversation. And on some other occasion, if there were serious conversations in relation to this, in relation to guy, caio, sempronio, superiors, inferiors, major superiors, but let's say: enough! In front of me these speeches cannot be made, I don't want to hear them. It is defined. We must come to these points, otherwise, my dear confreres, in this we will not correct ourselves; and therefore we will not satisfy the Lord. 
You remember Saint Augustine, Saint Augustine there in the Bishop's room, he lived with his priests. And he had all the guests and there it was written: "Those who intend to come to this table and intend to talk about their neighbors, think that they do not find a place here and go away." Because, therefore, we cannot do it also we. Ah, this, my good brothers, would be a very good purpose. Together, however, you often talk about even more important things for the individual soul. I don't know this, it's everybody's business. - But I think that to succeed in this aim, for me I find no other solution. I pray the Lord to really help us understand this and correct it as soon as possible. 

"Your province is formed and vital; will be able to live and develop. He has a beautiful future; we thank the Lord. If you are holy and if you are united, well organized and employed by those who should direct you, you will perform miracles. And yet, you see, among you others, there are many who are pessimistic in relation to this. It seems that nothing can be done. "
No, no, no, this is a bad thought; because you see, pessimism stiffens us, does not make us worthy of strength. It is pride, we will say so, that distrust of the Grace of the Lord. "Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat." This is how we must think, this is how we must think about the good of our soul; this is how we must think of the missionary apostolate among our students, among our Christians, among all the Japanese people. At least indirectly, with the word, with the press, in short, the forms that are possible.
No, no, don't be pessimistic. Remember that in the apostolate we are zero; the one who saves is the Lord. And when you see the good that is done, you must say: "To Domino factum est istud." We are simple instruments. If we correspond, God will work miracles. But difficulties, we must not talk about it too much; you have to be optimistic. But that there are difficulties, who denies it? We begin to take the first difficulty, the climate, the customs, the language. If we could say, the character of the people and go saying, and many other difficulties that you especially know, that you live in the life of the mission, that you live in the life of the house in contact with the Japanese personal teacher, in contact with so many and many people.
Okay, maybe we at Chofu are here to teach here, quae, quod, - you see - history, philosophy. I don't know, but you have to do this too. But I say, my good brothers, if in the face of difficulties, you cannot succeed here and there, of up and down. But I remember in the early days. The missionaries, of whom I have already spoken: "But because you other Salesians waste so much time with the boys; you won't be able to do anything. "Now see our schools; and if we had not done anything, surely, we would have been able precisely to not do, as the others have done. I don't want to criticize, after what we said. But our dear confreres in China, for 25 years have done nothing, why? Because they lived the missionary system of the foreign missions of Paris. Not a vocation, nothing!
Here, my good brothers; so let us not let ourselves be disheartened. Come on, let's do our duty well. And especially I say, there is precisely this union. I will perhaps return to the subject also in the point of charity, because that is the maximum effort that we must do to love the Lord intensely, to love ourselves, because if we do not love each other as brothers, but how we can work together. It's impossible. Eat each other, with the head and the words; and instead of helping us and spreading our hands generously, especially true, when we are in need, here we are unable to do so, we cannot. Here, my good brothers. Let us listen to the word of our Don Bosco: "The superior, whoever he is, is the representative of the Lord." 
In other times, I did - perhaps you remember - the example that to me is the easiest comparison. We need water. Where do you get this water? But there are so many points; there are tanks here and there. Go there in the high mountains; see how they manage to collect water, this good people there, of the murà (countries)  scattered in the hollows; a bamboo tube, from takè, is fine, which, ahead takes the small fillet of the water and leads it there, and this water collects afterwards. Then there will be a tube, perhaps, of terracotta; then later there will be a dam; and from there iron pipes will depart. We saw them there, true, in the great mountains; and they come to the city, and the water accumulates, masses, masses and distributes itself to all the houses. Lead pipes, do you want them richer? But put the gold, silver tubes. What is it that matters? Is it the tube? It is the water my dear brothers. Yes, yes; the superior represents him as the tube; sometimes it can be a poor takè (bamboo), 
  another time it may be a poor earthenware crock; sure. Because you see, because one is superior, does not mean that it is the fifth essence of goodness, of ingenuity, of prudence. He is the representative of the Lord. The important thing for me is this: to hear the voice of the Lord, wherever I come from. And I am sure that when I come from the superior, it is the will of God, and it is this that I must do; that's what I promised to do. I promised it with a vote; and besides - I have said it - I want to push my obedience even higher. Since there is no other material, there being no act of will, perhaps in the head grumbling and moaning and no one knows why, after having promised, I do, I do, I do, and then when it comes to the work of having to do, forward, forward, forward . 
Oh, this doesn't go hither and thither, and up and down ... Judgment is the most difficult thing. And the Lord gave me this head: I must judge. And we are, you see, in this alternative, you understand it too. I must judge by duty. I must judge myself first of all; I must judge my students. You have your weekly meetings, your monthly meetings; on the occasion of the exams you must evaluate your students. They are judgments; the judgments not only on ability, but on diligence, on conduct, and go saying. This is the duty. The duty of each of us who has a responsibility is to report in the report precisely what he does more or less exactly than his duty. Isn't this my dear confreres? And on the other hand, I don't have to judge. I must not judge what is not directly under my responsibility. I must not judge the command of the superior.
You see, however, the goodness of our rule, the reasonableness of our rule. Don Bosco says it clearly, we read it: “Don't you feel, do you have difficulties? But expose them. ” Here is this familiarity; this is what is seen in the superior - and this is why Don Bosco says precisely that "Obedience resembles devotion, piety." It is this filial love, piety, - true - towards the Lord. And this filial love, we show it to our superior, whoever he is. 
Here are my good brothers, what is the judgment. I can not judge, - I say. - I imagine judgment like the eye, I imagine judgment as my ear, I imagine judgment as my senses. My senses have their office: there is light, I read. But when I don't want to see, I close my eyes. I have ears: and I hear sounds. Oh, the beauty of harmony, of sounds! But when I don't want to hear it because it disturbs me, because it can stir passions in me, I close my eyes. We should continually close, when the idea of ​​judging comes to us, our mouth with a padlock that strongly saved this instrument so great that the Lord gave us to be able to carry out our apostolate of good, in a few words, and at the same time, this instrument so terrifying when we use it in evil.
And so it is in judgment. Sure, I can't not judge, because I can't not see. But I can close my eyes. I can close the judgment - it is not a philosophical expression, it doesn't matter - you understand the thought. I must close the judgment. - No! And it is done, contrary to our thinking and there is no need to discuss. If our thinking is contrary to that of the superior, on the contrary it closes, and we continue and do our duty. 
This is how my dear confreres need to get used to it if we want to become truly obedient and acquire the merit of obedience. - What credit is there? - The Lord gives us, also makes us this charity to give us the credit even when it costs us no effort. But it is certain that when it is a renunciation of our self, of our way of thinking, certainly the merit we have in obedience is infinitely superior. 
Therefore, my dear brethren! Holy joy, because the joy for Don Bosco represents peace, the tranquility of the soul, at peace with God. Holy joy in peace with our brothers. But let us really love each other as brothers. Peace with our superiors, who also have their difficulties to fight. Let us help them - as Don Bosco says; - let's huddle around our superiors, - we can say so, - one thing with them. And then, did our Don Bosco not repeat it so many times, that for us Salesians our holiness consists in doing our ordinary daily work for the love of the Lord? Is it a difficult thing? Come on, then! 
May Mary Most Holy, the Mother of humility, help us: “Ecce ancilla Domini. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. "And when we are faced with obedience, we like it or not like it, - and on the other hand our obediences are then all written there in the rules, which we have already promised, I tell you still, - like it or not, we can do nothing but a beautiful act of humility. And we ask the Lord and our good Madonna, the strength to perform this obedience. "Vir obediens loquetur victoriam."