Salesian Holiness

Exercises to the Salesians 1955 - Poverty

28 July 1955 morning


This morning's meditation brought us to the consideration of the detachment that the Lord established as a penalty of sin. The means to succeed: the vow of poverty. The goal to reach: the holy virtue of poverty. The example: God, blessed Jesus. It is a subject that touches us closely, also for this reason, because, my dear confreres, we must tell ourselves clearly, here in our province we are not yet perfect in relation to this. Reasons: it would be too long to look for them, scrutinize them; in any case it is certain that, in the concrete reality of fact, we still do not perform well, nor the holy vow, and I think we are still far from the perfection of the virtue of poverty. 
Let us therefore recall the thoughts of our dear father, more, we remember the promises we made when we bonded with the Lord. The reading today of the chapter in relation to poverty, of what our Don Bosco writes in the preliminary rules, what is also prescribed by our regulations, can be a useful examination. Freely, we have consciously detached ourselves according to the teachings of Jesus blessed by how much he could keep us tied to things, to the people of this world. Let us recall it, and since we have made this solemn promise, I repeat, consciously, freely, because we must not try to ensure that this promise is really kept, as perfectly as possible, especially since we owe it to duty, to obligation we must strive for perfection. 

You remember that our dear father, when we read his circular in relation to the unity of spirit, also says: "We need the unity of administration", and he writes this way: "Unity of spirit must be joined by unity of administration. "
"A religious intends to put into practice the saying of the Savior, that is, to renounce what he has or may have in the world, for the hope of a better reward in heaven: father, mother, brothers, sisters, houses, substances of any kind, and offer everything to the work of God. But since he still has the soul united to the body, he still needs material means to feed himself, cover himself and work; and therefore, while he renounces all he had, he tries to join in a society in which he can provide for the necessity of life, without having the weight of temporal administration. How then must he be in society as regards temporal things? 
The rules of the Company provide everything. Therefore, practicing the rules, every need remains satisfied. For themselves a garment, a piece of bread must suffice for a relegious one; when more is needed, give a nod to the superior and it will be provided. " Do not forget the article of the rules that says precisely:" That there is no anxiety nor to ask and to refuse, but whatever is necessary, please contact your superior that maximum care must be taken to provide. " But here the effort of each must be concentrated, here: unity in poverty, unity in administration. 

"Whoever can give an advantage to the Company does so, but never center on its own. Make an effort to ensure that there is only one bag, as there must be only one will. Whoever tried to sell, to buy, to change or to keep money for his own benefit, whoever did this would be like a peasant who, while the threshers pile the wheat, he scatters it and throws it into the sand. In this regard, I must recommend that no money be kept under the specious pretext of earning a profit for the Company. " 
Ah, Don Bosco in the problem of administration, in the field of poverty is really rigid, very close. And remember that even with Saint Don Rua at his side, he once scolded him, "But it is possible that he cannot find a prefect to follow me in the directive, administrative criteria of our Society!"
"The most useful thing, therefore, I must recommend that you not even save money under the specious pretext of making a profit for the Company. The most useful thing, - let's put it in my head my dear confreres, and rather than put it in our heads let's practice it, - the most useful thing for society is the observance of the rules, not the credit; observance of the rules, sine glossa, sine glossa. If we do so we will be really poor as the Lord wants us, not in the material sense of the word. Ours must be an inner poverty. "
You know that. We must put ourselves from this point of view: I am poor, I made my promises, I made them, my companion did not make them, my director did not do them, the major superior did not do them , I made them myself; and I did it because I understood and because I wanted it to be like this. The rule is clear. Here is our inner, personal poverty, of which we are responsible before the Lord in the judgment we are to receive.
Here are my good brothers. There is that poverty - we will say - in our home, because as a family, as a small society, which then expands into the society of our province, evidently in observance of the rule as it is, as it is written.
Let me say a word because we begin to introduce, we will say so, in our religious life that concept that can be introduced into philosophical ideas, if you want also theological ideas, updates and similar things. The rule is like this. And we have professed it this way and if it changes, - I think - in front of the Lord and in front of the Church, we will be free to also leave our society; but we have promised as it is. Why so many interpretations? Why so many subterfuges and similar things? This seems to me to be the exact thought of our dear Don Bosco and so we must try to make it practical in our daily life. Then we will have the blessing of the Lord, who will not let us fail, - we read it, - nothing that is necessary for our life. 
The most useful thing for the Company is compliance with the rules. The religious must be prepared at every moment - behold, you see this morning's meditation - the religious must be prepared for every moment starting from his cell and appearing to his Creator without anything afflicting him in abandoning it, and without finding it reason the judge to reproach him. Here are my good confreres the clear thought of our Don Bosco in this regard. And he wrote another circular, June 4, 73 "On the economy in everything". But don't overdo it. Doing all the savings you can make. All those present and more yours, our superiors, and also having had the good fortune to have our Rector Major (Don Ziggiotti) among us 

 , they have ascertained and know the needs in which the individual houses are and in which our province is located. We are zero in what refers to the means. Here it is. 
And then more than in other considerations, I wanted to choose precisely from Don Bosco what he tells us about practice, to be able to slowly reconstruct what is necessary for the increase of our works. And Don Bosco finds no other solution, look, - it seems - he finds no other solution than this. "Not from other vehicles, - and continues - Because if we have a spirit of faith, my dear brothers, we must think of this, that if we work for the Lord, but sure, the Lord does not let us miss but not even the slightest thing: not only bread but also the bread. He will not let it fail, because we work with Him: Quaerite primum regnum Dei et iustitiam eius. Justice, holiness. And all the rest comes by itself. " 
We have faith my dear confreres, and we try to understand the value of our promises and especially the value of our promises in this field. And we will say: he is a little weak, we have many other defects here among us brothers in Japan; but look at this, that, - ah no, - the spirit of poverty is not yet solidly based. But not even on those reinforced concrete pillars where our reinforced concrete constructions are provided. I think so. On June 4, therefore, in 1873, - he wrote this after his visit to the houses, - he wrote that: 
"The constructions made, - but it seems that we are in our case, - that the constructions made and the increase in the cost of edibles and goods demanded to think seriously about some economy and study together those practical things from which we can get some savings. . " And he gives the norms for the constructions, norms that, we will also read later, that we were also given by our Rector Major: " Savings in the trips, in the clothes, in the linens, in the books, in the shoes, in the furnishings, in the objects of use; make timely appropriate repairs, preservation of all kinds of foodstuffs, wholesale purchases, understood between the houses, attentive to the light, wood, coal. " 
You had in your hands, my dear brothers, the records of these expenses in each of these things. And how much you can save, if there is really this love! Not avarice, - bad word because it is not a word of faith. - The miser does not believe in the Lord, he simply believes in those things there. That if he had no spirit of faith, he has no land under his feet. The spirit of poverty must inform everything of ours. And invite Don Bosco to read the chapter on poverty. “With these memories, however, I do not intend to introduce an exaggerated economy of its own; but only recommend savings where they can be done. It is my intention that nothing be omitted from what can contribute to corporeal health and to the maintenance of morality among the beloved children of the Congregation, as well as among the students. " 
And in a conference he brings out this characteristic thought. "Then I need each of you to start making money."   And I think our inspector should often tell everyone, I think every director should say the same to each of his employees. "We need each of you to make money. The costs are large. ” How? - someone will say - does Don Bosco always tell us to be detached from the earthly wealth, not to hold or handle money and then exhort us to make money? Yes, yes, he replies. 

"We must make money and we have a very effective means. And this is: to save all that one can, all that is beyond need. We must try to save as much as we can on travel, in clothes; it's not that these small savings are enough for the big expenses we have, but if we do this, Providence sends us everything else, and we can be sure whatever the need may be. After all, we must not give ourselves thought, because the end is rectified, and Providence sends them to us. 
I recommend it so much, so that you take care of it leaves nothing to economize in everything. I do not say with this that one has to stay for months and months without eating or not enough. No, no. What I want is that everyone eats what they feel and no more, and that nothing is broken. And what I say about food, I mean anything else.
And therefore I pray so much, so much everyone, that you watch over the houses, that nothing is broken; in clothes, nothing is wasted on travel; in short, that economics is done as much as possible, I recommend. "
Clear. Of course, my dear students can also do business and they cannot forget the many times of specific recommendations in individual cases. And so to every other confrere we must come to the aid of our Congregation. And here we restrict much better: we must come to the aid of our province, in order to be able to really ensure that all the works can be sustained. And you see that Don Bosco does not advise us any more: that we observe the vow of poverty well and aim at the perfection of the virtue of poverty. 
"In our homes we have nothing to do but small things. The rest comes by itself. - it is always Don Bosco who speaks, - Ordinary life is not a fabric that of small things which are drawn behind everything else. We have unlimited confidence in Providence, and this never failed us. When is Divine Providence missing? When we made ourselves unworthy, when money was wasted, when the spirit of poverty was weakened. If that were the case, things would begin to proceed badly, not following us the obligations imposed on us by our vocation. "-   
And it continues in the same tone. 
"However, while we rely blindly on Providence, I recommend in every way, in the acts, in the virtues, in the paper, in the edibles, in the clothes, not a penny is wasted, neither a penny, nor a stamp, nor a sheet of paper. Let everyone make and make the subjects make every convenient saving and prevent any failure of which they realize. At the same time, try to find ways to excite the charity of others towards us. The Lord says: Help yourself that I help you. We must make every effort possible; one should not expect the help of Divine Providence by speaking; it will move when it has seen our generous efforts for its love. " 
And it is always the same refrain. And we turn to our duties, my dear brothers. We are in a society where the master is not the capitalist who at the end of the week, or of the content, gives his workers wages. Our master is the Lord. We heard in the first circular of our Don Bosco. "The true superior of the Congregation is blessed Jesus." We do our duty in whatever position we find ourselves; and the Lord - it is evident - is right and will give us the reward; and I repeat, he will give us the reward, mind you, in proportion to the faith that we will commit to doing our duty. And then not only bread, but also the bread, but safe, even the glass of beer or wine that so many want. 
But see, however, that if in these things, which at times are not necessary, instead of thinking of more important obligations that we have to come to the aid of our works, we waste money on useless walks, in useless feasts, or we will say, picking , ah, this is not poverty, this is not economy, my dear confreres. We are religious. What is needed is necessary, but you see, you understand very well that the necessary must be evaluated according to need.
And then our Don Bosco concludes, in what we usually call, his spiritual testament. You remember, that in the anguished illness that he had there, in Varazze, thinking he was near death, he wanted in a notebook, without order, I would say chronological or otherwise, to write what he thought was appropriate for the good of the Congregation if, the Lord called him eternity. He gave orders to the capitulars, made recommendations to individuals who do charity in society, to individual confreres, to put all the things of the Congregation in order, and in relation to this point he writes - mind you, we can consider it as the will, we usually call it a paternal testament - 
"Love poverty if you want to preserve the good state and finances of the Congregation. Make sure that no one has to say: this furniture does not show signs of poverty; this table, this dress, this room is not poor. Whoever offers reasonable reasons to make such speeches, he causes a disaster to our Congregation, which must always boast of the vow of poverty. Woe to us if those from whom we await charity will be able to say that we have a more comfortable life than theirs. This is meant to be rigorously practiced when we are in the normal state of health. Therefore, in the case of illness, all the considerations that our rules allow must be used. " 
Here, I would say, the thought of our father in relation to this. Here it is, you others understand it too, I would have so many things to say. We are all conscious and responsible for what we have promised to the Lord. We are all aware of what we have not kept in relation precisely to our promises with the Lord in relation to this. And mind you, everyone, mission, center and Tokyo, everyone, we all have weak bases in relation to this point. Let us strengthen ourselves, my dear confreres, if we really want the blessings of the Lord to rain upon our houses, above our works, above our province; and more, that we really do sanctify ourselves on this point. 
And I conclude. You have read it, you will have meditated but it is not bad that precisely in relation, true, to this topic, we also hear the thought of our Rector Major on his visit. "Money is a disruptive tool, a danger for those who let themselves be taken. Dear my directors and confreres, here we must have a clear idea that the poor must also make a contribution to the province. Don't throw in so many excuses and excuses in the field. We need to start from this point; must give. Make it a duty of conscience. See, for all that's been there in the past, you have to forgive. But when we see repentance and good purpose. If not, no! Come on then, put yourself right. Poverty consists of this; which is in economizing for the needs of the province. " 
Recall what we have read from Don Bosco. "In the budget of each house there must be a percentage for the province, not so much the same for all, but in proportion to income and age. And this can be 10, 20 or even 50% if the possibilities of the house so involve. Put a full stop on this point. Think. 40 aspirants to Miyazaki. It seems a little bit little. Be well looked after. Naturally all this costs. You don't have to do the accounts of the other houses, though. - This will be a point that we will then touch by talking about obedience. - You don't have to do the accounts of the other houses. The only one who can do it is the inspector, and the economy must be guided by just one. " 
But here is the administrative unit, here is the unity of thought. But if we all want to command, if we all want to be heads; and if instead the Lord has put arms, legs ... "We have to make economy in the houses to help the inspector. If you all agree and let it handle only one you will have excellent results, if not, no! But it's clear, that's clear! " The trouble is always this. That in the minds of many: "But I don't have any money." Always, always like that. "But I have nothing." It is your duty. We do what we can to be able to do, and have faith in Providence. 

"Regarding construction, - remember, - there is a unique and rational plan. Don't make the joke of accomplished facts. This is a beautiful and good infringement of poverty. Remember, that we must accuse ourselves of this in confession. And return; and you know that giving back is difficult for us. If even half approvals have come in the past, received in so many ways, I don't want that to happen anymore. What is done is done. That's enough! From now on, dear friends, written approval. And it is required in due course; not urgently, by air, when everything is already combined and work is about to begin. From now on it does not go on a brick if all the regular work is not done: chapter of the house, provincial council, superior chapter. "
It's natural. But it's old stuff; since they have written it precisely above the regulations, that this procedure must be followed. The conditions of the war, other things, all right, could have put a disorganization into that; but, it seems to me that it is natural, what we need to put into that. But in short, it is not clear. "If one goes to look for money he does it for the inspector." If they send you around in one country or another, it does not matter. To help you also with this means, if they send you to beg, they evidently send you to beg for the needs of our province. "The case of the house, of the houses, is in the inspector's hand."  But if it is not so, but how can we say that we observe the rules. 

"It won't be much, but all together it does something. The inspector having this capital in his hands can freely dispose for the good of the province. Do not conceal from your superiors what you can dispose of. " 
And there have been cases. Not right here, almost in the whole Congregation. A director, when he died, was found in a trunk of a thousand packets of tickets; no one is shocked; I have already said it on other occasions, we are men, we can all fail. But I have the memory of a very dear confrere, who died having raised the mattress to clean up; there was money underneath, banknotes. Can you say, "Who judges from a sack of a bed?" But I say. Externally speaking, it can be said that these confreres, it is all right, do not have to say that they had permits, because evidently money is not kept under a mattress. You also understand the rest of you that can come even if you simply sweat. Anyway ... what a responsibility! It is a serious breach of the rule, and it is also a grave scandal because everyone knows it sooner or later, and especially here in our province. These are things you all know. 
Dear altar boys, you know, my sentence is that you do not heave a sigh at Chofu or in another house, true, from Tokyo, that Miyazaki does not know immediately. No one knows how; it will be a specialist cage that also captures the sighs of men.
"For the buildings that you have to do later, you need to have a master plan, you have to organize yourself. I propose to you the example of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Wherever I went, in India, in Syria, even here in Japan, I saw that they did and make beautiful constructions. Things we haven't been able to do yet. I asked myself how they do it and I asked them. Do you know how they do it? When they have decided to build a building, the whole province competes. From the parent company they receive what is needed enough; but then they must return to the last penny when the house returns. The first thing they have to think about is this; that all compete with a wise economy to pay off this debt to their superiors. " 
My dear confreres, it seems to me - I believe - that is clearer than that, isn't it? These are the concepts of our Don Bosco, underlined by what you could understand from our Rector Major on the subject. 
Thus, it seems to me that this is the simplest conclusion, my dear brothers. First, let us try to revive ourselves a little more strongly in the spirit of faith. A little more strongly in the exact execution of our rules in relation to poverty. Get away from us those interpretations, a yardstick that I don't know, - I may be wrong but - the theological yardstick we use for those who need it, for the souls who need it. But for us we are fixed to our rule. Ah, our Don Piscetta. You study its precepts also in this point in your theology. But you had seen that very close person in relation to poverty. We who saw him day by day ... Yet, evidently he could not fail to say in his theology what was convenient to say also in relation to this matter. 
A simple rule allows, a simple rule, especially for us who must give permits. You see this was the norm that Don Bosco gave: "Do not allow yourself what you ought not to allow others". Eh because first of all we who have to be at the head must set a good example of everything; and if we grant to us what we would deny to others, why is it distorted by religious perfection, for example in the field of poverty, why should we have it for ourselves? Here are my good brothers. 
And I conclude. In the beautiful dream of the future of the Congregation, on the shining diamond that shone on the chest of that mysterious man - one thinks of St. Francis de Sales - on the diamond of poverty came these very clear rays on which it was written: "Ipsorum est regnum coelorum . ”We all understand. "Paupertas non verbis sed corde et opere conficitur." Not with words, but with the heart and actions manifested. "Ipsa coeli ianuam aperiet et introibit." The prize is this: the reward. We give to God what is his and he, regally, as only he knows and can do, will reward us forever.
Praised be Jesus Christ.