Salesian Holiness

Exercises to the Salesians 1955 - Chastity

Eighth sermon - THE CHAST
'28 July 1955 afternoon



Before beginning our conversation tonight, let me tell you a thought that came to me these days in relation to our little speeches. Sometimes, that is, there is a little bit of casuistry in relation to the subjects being treated. It is painful to see that this happens, which I observed during many years of experience in spiritual exercises. And that is, when you do this case study, eh, you think: here now the preacher really wants to talk about that individual, now the preacher really wants to talk about that house, that work, that institution. 

My dear brothers, just this morning, as this thought also came to me, I said in relation to poverty. Take care that, all, all, no one except the current living in our province can be said to be immune to any of those defects in relation to the poverty we have been talking about. All, all, starting from the undersigned who, again, we will say, first, when he was in charge of power, eh, of course, he also made his faults, and it is also probable that so many of these things of which we must grieve and whose our venerable Rector Major felt us the pulse and of many of these things I can say the mea culpa. 
Conclusion, my dear confreres: but in short, we are men. And we understand very well that what we say in our spiritual holy exercises we must apply it to us; don't go and see if, I would say the preacher, I can assure you, he didn't even have the idea, I wouldn't know how to say, to think in saying those words, to think about people, institutions or things like that. No, when we hear something, and everything we hear in the exercises, we must apply it to us personally. Deus iudicat me. And during the spiritual holy exercises I have to take my soul and try to scrutinize it more strongly than it is possible to see precisely if there were any weak sides, imperfection sides. Everyone must think so for himself; it is not we who must go to judge the superiors, the people, the works. 
Here, my good confreres, forgive me, I say if, I mentioned this thought that always came to my mind when I had to speak to my dear confreres during the spiritual exercises; and it is also for this reason that, for me personally, I do not approve of casuistry in relation to what is said in spiritual exercises, because it gives so much prejudice ... It is natural, there is nothing ... But it means this , that we do not have an exact and perfect criterion of the purpose for which we do the exercises. That it is not going to see evil in others, evil in our institutions; but to see evil in our soul and try to correct it. And it is in this way that we will also correct it in our institutions.

This evening, our Don Bosco in '74, - you remember, at least historically at least the most important things, - I said that the whole period of activity, I would say of formation by letter of the Salesians is in this historical period: the rules are approved . And later Don Bosco already sees that certain elements and certain concepts had not been well understood, and up until 1984 he wrote the perhaps most important letter - in my opinion - of our Don Bosco, is the so-called "dream letter of Rome ”of 1884, in which Don Bosco, precisely, makes the picture of his Congregation which seems to be to dissolve. - From the educational-pedagogical side it is certainly the most important letter in my view of our Don Bosco; even more than the "Treaty of his educational system". We'll talk about it somewhere.  
In '74, then you see that one can say, as soon as the rules are approved, he feels the need to write a circular which is among the most important and I would say so, the most nourished, in relation to the way to promote and preserve morality among the youths that Divine Providence has the goodness to entrust us with. It would seem that the letter is written for young people. Don Bosco says: "In order not to treat this subject too briefly," he writes from Rome, "I think it is good to divide it into two parts: the need for morality among Salesian members; - it is here where our Don Bosco beats hard, - means to spread it and support it. ”And the means to spread it and support it has placed them in the preliminary rules in the chapter in relation to the chastity of the rules themselves. 

"It can therefore be established as an invariable principle, that the morality of the pupils depends on who teaches them and assists them and directs them. - Who does not have, cannot give, - says the proverb. An empty sack cannot give wheat, nor can a flask full of scum put good wine. Then, before offering ourselves teachers to others, it is essential that we possess what we want to teach others. The words of the Divine Master are clear "You, he says, are the light of the world. This light - that is the good example - must shine in the face of all men so that seeing all your good works, they are - in a certain way - also treated to follow you and thus glorify the common Father who is in heaven. "Therefore, if we want to promote morality in our young students, we must own it, 
Indeed, how could we expect the students to be exemplary and religious if they see negligence in church affairs, in rising, in meditation, in approaching confession, in communion, in celebrating Holy Mass? How can that director, that master, that assistant, demand obedience, while they are first excused from their obligations and mostly leave without permission and deal with things that have no relation to their duties? How to get from others charity, respect, if the boss goes into fury with everyone, strikes, censors the disposition of the superiors, criticizes the schedules and the same table treatments and who takes care of them? We are certainly all in agreement in saying to him: Medice cura te ipsum. 
It is not much time: that a young man scolded because he read a bad book, with all simplicity replied: "I didn't think I would hurt reading a book that I saw several times from my teacher." - He could also answer, but to every so, let's take the fact.
"Another time someone was asked why he had written a letter censoring the progress of the house. He replied that he had written if not the words repeatedly heard by his assistant. Proposing to others a good thing while we do the opposite is like someone who wanted to light up a lamp in the darkness of the night, or wanted to draw wine from an empty vase. Indeed, it seems to me that it can be compared to those who tried to season food with poisonous substances. Because, you see, not only does not promote good morals, but gives occasion to hurt and to give scandal. So? We become miserable infatuated salt, dead salt, which is no more useful than to be thrown in the garbage.
The voice often duplicates immoral events that have followed the ruin of costumes and horrific scandals. It is a great evil, a disaster. And I pray the Lord to make sure that our houses are all closed before similar misfortunes take place in them. "
Today we cannot hide that we live in calamitous times. The present world is as the Savior describes it to us. "Mundus in malign positus est totus." 
And we also think of the current world; let us also think of the struggles that suffered in the early war, all our works in the post-war period; especially in Germany below these sides. Let's think about what our dear confreres are suffering at present: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and go on to say. And on so many points, precisely on this. And the authorities are trying shrewdly to want to draw with words, with facts the brothers in deception so that they can also accuse them in minimis, and sometimes there are the same young people who accuse their educators, even accusing their parents. 
"Mundus in malign positus est totus." It wants to see everything, to judge everything. In addition to the perverse judgments that he makes of the things of God, he often magnifies things, very often he invents the things of others. But if by misfortune he succeeds in supporting her above reality, what noise, what trumpeting!
However, if we look for the reason of so many evils with an impartial mind, most of the time we find that the salt became infatuated, that the lamp was extinguished; that is, that the cessation of sanctity in those who command, gave reason to the disasters that occurred in the employees. " And then his hymn to the beautiful virtue is true: 
"O chastity, chastity. You are a great virtue. Until you will shine among us, that is to say until the sons of St. Francis de Sales will pray to you, practicing their withdrawnness, modesty, temperance, and how much we have with a vowed promise to God, morality will always take place among us , and the sanctity of the costumes as a burning torch will shine in all the houses that depend on us. "
And as a teacher then spiritual Don Bosco thought to make three distinct conferences, or rather, three practical exams in which they are read and explained the things to be practiced and the things to be said in relation to the three vows. 
"And each seriously sets out to correct what he finds defective in his words, in his deeds, in poverty, chastity and obedience. And also read and start the chapter dealing with pious practices. And then knees at the feet of the Crucifix we resolve to want everything to accomplish exemplary at the cost of any sacrifice. "This is how Don Bosco ordered his Salesians in 1874. After, I would say, this manifestation in relation to virtue, he called it" chastity, purity , beautiful virtue, the angelic virtue, the virtue of Mary, the virtue most dear to the Lord. " In the audience that Don Bosco in 1877, some years later he had from Pius IX that he was already ill; Pius IX asked him - I would say so - as a great prophecy, as was later done by the Holy Father Leo XIII: 

  "I say to you in the name of God that if you respond to the divine help with your good example, if you promote the spirit of piety; if you promote the spirit of morality and especially chastity; if this spirit remains in you, you will have assistants, cooperators, zealous ministers, you will see religious vocations multiply by one for you, for your Congregation and for other religious orders. And even for the dioceses, there will be good ministers who will do very well. Your Congregation was established so that there was a way to give to God what is of God and to Caesar what is Caesar's. And I preach to you, and write this to your children, that your Congregation will flourish, it will miraculously expand. 
"The glory of our Congregation, - continues Don Bosco, - the glory of our Congregation consists in morality. It would be a misfortune if this glory would be blurred if the Salesians declined. The Lord would disperse, dispel the Congregation if we failed in chastity. This is a balm to be spread among all peoples, to be promoted in all individuals; it is the center of every virtue ". 
Certainly we, my dear confreres, love our Congregation and we hope that the prediction of the Holy Father, as has happened so far, is still multiplying more, that the words are clear. The condition is that we keep ourselves as the Lord wants us, and according to the promises we have made. And here too my dear confreres, to you dear priests, to you dear clerics, to you dear brothers; because in general it is thought that our dear coadjutors do not find themselves in the conditions in which priests can find themselves in their apostolate. They are more than us. We want to be sure of maintaining ourselves, I repeat, as the Lord wants us, as we have promised our Congregation as the only condition. 
And let's see. For me, to all the souls that I had to approach in the many years of the Congregation, I have no other suggestion than this: let us read what Don Bosco suggests to us in the preliminaries of the constitution in relation to positive and negative means to preserve the beautiful virtue. We stand still, rigidly fixed to our constitutions, even to those that seem made more indifferent; in relation to rising, in relation to going to rest, in relation to silence. It seems to be nothing; yet, my dear brethren, it is precisely these little things that you perform with faith, and performed because it is our duty, because we have promised it to the Lord, they are those, believe us, that keep us in this holy virtue.

Our Don Bosco then wrote again in 1984 a letter to all the houses in relation to it as well, to morality. But in this characteristic point of reading books. Including together, - I would say, - his thought in relation to the activity that every Salesian according to the first chapter of the constitutions must have for press propaganda. I don't read this whole letter, just hint. Nowadays there is a desire, - I summarize - to read forbidden books, to waste time and ruin the soul by reading the novels. Books that must be taken from the hands of our youngsters, and I add, from the hands of our brothers. 
And especially the directors in the houses, pay attention to what our dear confreres read and especially now that the number of our dear Japanese confreres is multiplying; careful, attentive to what they read. Mind you, reading is a characteristic of the Japanese people. We verify precisely this; I would say, a keen desire by the Japanese for reading.
And even here in Chofu it was precisely necessary to have a great care in relation to this, especially then for two reasons. Both because our dear clerics have to do even their higher studies, both I say for this habit that the Japanese have. This intense desire, I would say almost innate for reading, of any kind, makes no distinction. And the need, - I say, the other question, - that, by the way, not all of us others are able to assess what they read. Because we cannot read, thanking the Lord. There are many and many of our dear confreres who can possess well and really know. Attention my dear confreres; not just book readings, like funny books, books that waste time, like novels; careful! 
I all think in the small experience, true, that we have of our houses, I think that everyone will emphasize and approve these statements; but note that it is necessary to open the eye precisely. For them, for us. 
The first impressions that virgin minds receive, for me this, I have said many, many times. In what I know of foreign pedagogical literature, true, even of these moments, I have not yet found a letter in relation to the reading that can be compared to this one. Do not believe that it is an exaggeration. The first impressions received by virgin minds in the tender hearts of young people last all the time of their lives. And books nowadays are one of the main phases of this. Reading is a brand new attraction for them, arousing their eager curiosity and many times the final choice they make of good or evil depends on it. 
The enemies of the souls know the power of this weapon and the experience teaches me how badly they know how to use it to the detriment of innocence. Weirdness of titles, beauty of paper, sharpness of characters, finesse of engravings, modicity of price, popularity of style, variety of weaves, fires of description and everything, everything is used with diabolical art and prudence. So it's up to us to oppose, weapon to weapon; to tear from the souls of our youth the poison that impiety and immorality present to them and to oppose bad books with good books. Woe to us if we sleep while the enemy man constantly keeps watch to sow the tares. 
And then he gives a list of means, I think we know them, even regulations for our homes for what refers to this. Don Bosco insists that books not suitable for the place, age, studies, inclinations, nascent passions, vocation be eliminated, these too must be eliminated, though good and indifferent. And as for honest and pleasant books, oh, if they could be excluded. In public reading both the director who regulates. Never the novels.
It gives a small list of books to read for the refectory. Absolutely boring or boring reading is recommended for dormitories. Books that with their impression of the soul of the young man who is about to fall asleep are apt to make it better, lighter. But what is the sacred and ascetic argument.
Let us also commend ourselves to these thoughts of our good father, my dear confreres, both for us and for our young people, and also in the last words I read from the letter, to our duty to inculcate precisely in the article of the first chapter of the our constitutions, the cooperation of all of us. It will be who more than others, but also with the council; even if you read something, you find a vignette, you find a little star, you find something that can be used, I would say, to help those who work for press propaganda. Let's do it, let's do it; here, a trifle, it doesn't matter. See, we also make our small contribution to this.
In July 1984, precisely, and under the anointing of these letters he had written in relation to morality, in relation to the readings, in July 1884 he had a dream. A very strange dream for those who think of Don Bosco's mind. The dream of those two maidens who boldly singing in a very pleasant place sang the praises of chastity. And Don Bosco spoke of it to Don Lemoyne, leaving him the freedom to then mold this dream with the elements he had given him; and it has made it a very long dream that can be read, precisely, even in the Biographical Memoirs, but which Don Bosco did not control. Here is a beautiful thing for those who need to be engaged in relation to preaching or other; in relation to the beautiful virtue he can find immense material. 
Here are my good brethren, I feel it may be enough. Our call to this very important duty of ours, to this very important virtue that must be our privilege, our characteristic, the means we have it. Let us observe the vow of chastity well and let us unite ourselves more closely than is possible with devotion to Our Lady and more with the Holy Eucharist to the immaculate soul of blessed Jesus. You still allow a thought very briefly. 

Those who study Don Bosco, and this I would not say so perhaps among the extra scholars of Don Bosco, but at times one can also feel this thought among confreres: Don Bosco in relation to this subject has been too one-sided. Even reading the biographies he wrote about his young people, he insists, he insists too much; there seems to be nothing else. 
Oh no, see Don Bosco. First, think of Don Bosco's Oremus. No, because some think, Don Bosco wrote books. Remember well, that the Oremus that makes us say the Church, and this is how the Church interpreted Don Bosco. Here, "Adolescentium Pater et Magister." The other day, we were celebrating the feast of Saint Ieronimo Emiliani, an excellent educator, "Puerorum Pater." Don Bosco: Adolescentium Pater. Think of the age of adolescence. It is the age of the passions of the young, who begin precisely in the formation of his physio-psychological being, they begin to ferment the young. Adolescentium Pater et Magister.  
And there is, there are those who think that Don Bosco has simply thought of this and that he always beats only on this point. You see, even superficially examine the regulation of houses for young people and you will find what Don Bosco does, - mind you, - matter of conscience and confession in all those articles. I summarize the most important things: Don Bosco is a matter of conscience and matter of confession: observance of the duty of regulation, lack of obedience, lack of discipline, lack of respect, insincerity, external behavior even of the person , charity, insubordination, malice, immodesty; a point about all, idleness.
 Oh, Don Bosco, yes, he has not written books on psychology or physiology, he has not peppered his writings with the names that we modernists must study. But how he knows the young man's soul and how he knows it deeply. I think it's not arrogance. I would feel like writing a physio-psychological treatise that can stand on equal terms, with the exception of names, to any modern physio-psychological treatise, inferring the elements simply from our Don Bosco. 
Here it is. No, no, Don Bosco knows young people. We are not afraid; and the suggestions he gives us precisely to warn our soul in this matter, and you also understand it; our young people at the age in which they find themselves in our colleges, especially in their higher studies, precisely at that age when the urge to instinct appears more abruptly and more strongly neglected by education, by the coarseness of manners from which the vice, and then Don Bosco, see there, vigilance, assistance, the fear of God, the elevation of the soul supernaturally. Here are the means we must use for ourselves first of all, because, he says, Don Bosco must be beautiful first of all and then for others.
Don Bosco is more than aware of the young man's soul; and mind you, this is a characteristic. Also read the psychology treatises; in general the previous ones, true, to Don Bosco are all made for the middle-class youth, and for the youth a little high. Don Bosco talks about our workers, talks about our farmers; sure, he carried the problem of chastity among this poor abandoned youth. Here is one of the great means of which very little is spoken of our Don Bosco.
So my dear brothers, do not forget, let us not forget. Don Bosco tells us. 
"Idleness and modesty cannot be together. Temperance, custody of the senses, we eliminate provocative readings, not only from the hands of our young people but also from us. We eliminate the provocative figures from our homes. For young people escape from unhealthy companions. Security of winning with Our Lady, security of winning with blessed Eucharistic Jesus, practice of the sacraments. "
Here is the spiritual life that we and our young people must lead and we will preserve, I repeat for the third time, as the Lord wants, as we have promised with our holy vows.
And we conclude. I have always concluded with the words of our Rector Major:
"I do not spend words on chastity in this regard. You are in the middle of the house. We need to be a mirror, we must be very careful, especially here in Japan, where the other sex for its kindness and its culture and education has more attractions than in other missions.
I want to make you a recommendation: to the female class, where there are nuns, the nuns think. And also with the sisters, with the mothers of the boys, let us all behave well with everyone, with reserve. In Ecclesiasticus it is said that "with women one must have no familiarity." Words of the wisdom of God, "no familiarity!" The same is affirmed with the boys, we live in our place; careful and very careful. You still don't have the precise idea of ​​the enclosure, so much in relation to the sisters, so much in relation also to us. Slowly we will have to introduce it. " 
You see, it is certain cautions that seem silly; they have no reason to be, but they have reason to be. We are men and nothing that is human is impossible between us. It seems to me that there is no need to make other recommendations and other comments. Let us put our soul under the holy protection of our good mother Our Lady. Every day we are lucky if we wish ... (missing the conclusion.)