My God and Father! May these lines continue to show my feelings for you even after I am gone! May they speak for me when I am in the silence of the tomb, revealing what I hold in my heart and somehow express the sincerity of my repentance. – 30 March 1895
My dear sons and confreres in Christ Jesus and in Saint Joseph: my final hour is drawing ever nearer. Before dying, I want to leave you a souvenir, a remembrance of the great mercy that the good Lord has deigned to bestow on me, a most ungrateful sinner. It is my hope that this might help to further God’s plans for our small Congregation (just as his plans for the universal Church were furthered by the conversion of Saint Paul). In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle wrote: “On that very account I was dealt with mercifully, so that in me, as an extreme case, Jesus Christ might display all his patience, and that I might become an example to those who would later have faith in him and gain everlasting life.” (1 Tim 1:16)
I too was dealt with mercifully, but in my case I cannot add with Saint Paul “because I did not know what I was doing in my unbelief” (1 Tim 1 :13) . I don’t have such an excuse. The story of God’s mercy to me should therefore be much more effective in bringing about great confidence in such a good, patient and generous God.
I beg of you, dear sons and confreres, I beg of you not to be scandalized by the account of my miseries, but rather to draw unshakeable trust from the recital of the mercies of God that were bestowed upon your poor spiritual father and to learn from it not to be discouraged, no matter how deep the abyss of sin into which you may have fallen may be. And above all, do not forget me in your prayers.
“You have graced me with divine blessings” (Ps 20,24)
God overwhelmed me with his blessings from my very birth. My family was held in respect and enjoyed a certain measure of wealth. My father was an honest exchange banker and a practicing Catholic. My mother was a virtuous person, very loving with her children and especially with me when I decided that I wanted to become a priest. I was by nature inclined to virtue and to piety; my intelligence was not above average, but good enough to attain success if I had not been such a slave to a certain degree of laziness and sloth throughout my life.
My health was poor in childhood and that was probably the reason why my mother reluctantly decided to send me to the boarding school (“Scuole Pie”) at Savona. In those days Savona was considered far from Turin it took at least two days to get there.
In Savona I regained the health of my body, but alas, what a sudden and terrible shipwreck for my soul! Into what a deep abyss I fell and in such a short time too!
Ever since then what do I see in my life? On the one hand an unbroken chain of the most special graces and gifts from God, and on the other hand a no less unbroken chain of sins, acts of ingratitude and negligence on my part. What a story, my God, a story of your mercies and of my ingratitude! I don’t know of any other history or biography in which the incomprehensible generosity of God could shine forth better! My God, you endowed me with so many natural and supernatural gifts at the beginning of my life’s journey, but I abandoned you so soon. I was not yet 14 years old, and I was already abandoning you and turning against you.
“Unlike countless others who remain faithful, I have offended you since my boyhood while you have filled me with so many graces unlike countless others. “By the age of 14 or 15 I was already a sinner, a big sinner. I can truly say, along with Augustine, “such a little man, yet such a big sinner” (“tantillus homo et tantus peccator”). At 15 I was an awful, impious boy!
Should I go ahead and reveal my wickedness and scandalize my confreres and spiritual sons? Yes, my God, to your honor and glory! Where could one find a better example of your mercies? It is true that you have not won yet. [and that]* I am still not the slave to your love that you want me to be, but that is what really brings out the greatness and the depths of your mercy!
I will tell my sin, “I will confess my sin against you” (Ps. 32:5) .
I began to abandon the good Lord, to offend the good Father because of cowardice. Regard for what others thought was what knocked me down! In the beginning I was not a bad boy in school, in fact I was pointed out as a good example for some time.
This was a gift of your kindness, O God, because you gave me a naturally Christian soul. But because of this, some bad classmates started to avoid me and to look on me as a “teacher’s pet,” and maybe even as a sort of “spy” for the superiors. I resisted at first.
Once when I went to confession I accused myself of listening to bad conversations. The confessor, Father “S.” (Note: probably Father Solari) told me to tell the names of those boys to the superiors. I promised, but did not have the courage to do it. When I went to confession again, the confessor felt that he could not exonerate me from that obligation, but I still lacked the courage to commit myself. The confessor was saddened by this, but he stood firm in the requirement. He finally asked me to tell him the names and to allow him to reveal them to the superiors. I did so.
Later on those bad classmates began to persecute me. That was when I had the weakness and cowardice to abandon God completely. And what an abandonment, dear Lord!
It was an evening in 1842 or 1843, I was saying my prayers at the foot of my bed. Fearing persecution, I decided to do what others were doing. My Guardian Angel inspired me with the thought: “What if you were to die during the time away from God?” “Well,” was the thought from the Devil, “If I am to die during my stay at boarding school, it’s too bad, I guess I’ll just go to hell. If I live and get out of here, I can always repent.” Thus it was that I formally accepted hell. Was that possible…?
But God accepted the condition that I set and did not condemn me. He kept me alive even though my life in the boarding school was marked by all kinds of sins. God gave me the chance to leave the school but by that time he found me in such a state that I did not want to have anything more to do with him. I was running away from him, yes, I was actually running away from God! But he ran after me, saying: “Why should you die, o house of Israel” (Ez 18:31) . He stopped me at the brink of the abyss and forced me to return to him.
I can say with greater reason than Saint Augustine: “I went to the very gates of hell and you prevented me from going in.” When I was disobeying your commandments the devil was ready to yank me into hell, but “you stopped him from doing it. I was offending you and you were defending me.”
Since then, how many times have I had occasion to repeat: “You saved me from hell many times over, even though I did not know it!”
Yes, how many times! From then on, for a year and a half, my life was just a chain of sins, sins of every kind. There is no commandment (except perhaps the seventh and the last two) that I did not seriously break. The same goes for the capital sins, except for Greed. I may not have seriously sinned against some of them, but I was certainly in the frame of mind of doing so.
And even before that wretched period of my life, how many serious sins did I commit? I remember once, while I was playing a game, I lost the ball and blurted out the blasphemy: “May God be damned!” And the good Lord did not strike me down on the spot. When I mentioned it in confession, I was shocked to find out from the confessor that if instead of saying “damned” I had referred to God as “false”, he would not have been able to absolve me (like from a reserved sin); that is, if instead of uttering a curse I had said an heretical blasphemy.
It was such a wretched life that I led during that miserable 1843. I used to go to mass with the others every day, but during the celebration I would read a book that was written with the good intention of keeping people from the sin of impurity and making them aware of the evil consequences but I was reading it to learn all I could about impurity and know all about it just like the others.
Thus how many profanations in church? How many Holy Days I must have profaned!
It was natural that in abandoning the good Lord I should throw myself into the hands of the devil of impurity! How many bad conversations and bad actions! I even tried to get one of my classmates to believe that I had done something bad that I had not actually done. If I did not succeed in convincing him, I certainly had the will to do so.
What a wretched time that was when I gave myself to sin and even boasted of my shame as if proud of my misery. And you always put up with me, waited for me, called me to you! Even now you look upon me with compassion, forgive me with mercy, help me with love.
O prodigal Father of such a prodigal son, heal this poor leper, “if you will., you can do so… raise me up from death, if you will, you can do so.”
It was certainly your protection, my good and sweet Mother of Good Counsel, that saved me. My mother entrusted my brother and me to your protection before we left for the school at Savona. I am grateful now for your protection because I never committed bad things with others. I have never scandalized younger ones with my talk.
May you be blessed a thousand times over, O my dear Mother, and may I come to heaven some day to thank you: “I will sing forever the mercies of Mary”.
How many times did I profane the Sacrament of Penance!
During that wretched time I went to confession every month with the others. What did I do? I did not want to lie formally in confession because I still had a little bit of conscience left, but I did offend my Saviour by purposely avoiding the examination of conscience, thus I would confess only those sins that came to mind at the moment. And the good Lord did not punish me! He was always there, waiting, calling, but to no avail. My decision had been made: “I will not repent as long as I am here in this school!” Did I reach the depths of wickedness? Did I make a sacrilegious communion? I hope not, even though I have some doubts on the matter.
I recall that for my Easter Communion I tried to fulfill at least the necessary conditions to avoid a sacrilege. However, judging from the fruits of the two sacraments, I still have doubts and fear that I did reach the depths of my spiritual misery with that most horrible of sacrileges, a sacrilegious communion!
Here I am, then, an apostate! a blasphemer! a desecrator of liturgies, sacraments, and the Body and Blood of God! And my fellows? There was one boy among those who were persecuting me (not too much, really) who used to tempt me even in church, but I did not pay attention to him. I even hated him. I remember one day that we all went to the beach. I climbed a very high rock with a sheer drop to the sea. When I saw him up there too, I felt the desire of seeing him fall into the ocean and drowning. I do believe that in willing such a thing I became guilty of murder by desire.
And how many sins of pride, gluttony, scandal, disobedience, and sloth!
I even think I was guilty of slander. It is well known how hated those are who report on their classmates in boarding school. Well, in talking with some of my classmates, I spread the rumour that those boys whom I hated were playing the spy for the superiors even though I was not really sure about it.
Still, the sin that I committed most often was against the sixth commandment. Repeated sins become a habit and soon they cause a blindness of spirit and a hardness of heart. And how soon one reaches that state when one sins with malice! How soon I lost all remorse and the spirit of piety!
I said that I had abandoned the good Lord because of regard for public opinion, and that I had planned to return to him after leaving school. But how mistaken I was!
Repeated sinning killed the love of God within me. The Devil took over me and made me into an impious person. I never thought I would get so low, even reaching the point of trying to forget the Psalms that I knew by heart, trying to erase them from my memory, doing everything I could to run away from God. When I left the school I took with me no religious book, only some novels and dramas by Romani, thus did I totally abandon the good Lord who never, never abandoned me.
And so we have here yet another formal and explicit abandonment of God. Sin in itself always contains an implicit abandonment of God, “a turning of ones back to God.” This, however is not usually a formal, declared, and well reasoned abandonment. There are not too many sinners who absolutely abandon God in this way. I was one of them. I apostatized from God twice; I abandoned him and did not want to have anything to do with him. And the good Lord used the means of mercy so well described in “preparation for death” (chapter about the mercy of God) by Saint Alphonsus of Liguori and in “Ame elevee a Dieu” by Abbot Baudrand.
I had declared to the Lord that I would not return to him until I had left the school; but in reality I not only forgot about the things of God, but I was even trying to forget him entirely.
Nevertheless God, who from all eternity had planned to save me and to sanctify me in spite of my rejection, did not abandon or punish me. What am I saying! He even came looking for me, to draw me to him, to force me to return to him. This is how it was: for over a year now I had sunk deep in the mire of sin and was sinking even further. What would have happened to me if I had stayed yet another year in that sad state, multiplying my sins?
Yet in order to complete my studies I had to take the second year of “rhetoric” (note: like the senior year of high school). I had a special reason for not missing it because I was hoping for and almost sure of being declared one of the Princes of the Academy (maybe not the first, but surely the second). It was a custom in the school to have an oil painting made in natural size of the princes and to exhibit it in the school gallery for all guests to admire. This reward created great competition among the students, especially among those from Genoa and Turin who vied with one another to excel.
But it was God who won.
On the one hand I was growing tired of boarding school life, especially since I was not on good terms with the most influential classmates (who were also the worst). On the other hand I thought that I still had a little bit of remorse left for the wicked life. So I begged my mother to come and take me home. It was a sacrifice of my personal pride and the Lord made it work for my good.
My brother and I left the school and returned home. Two months later we started the philosophy course, having found a way to skip the second year of “rhetoric.” I always regretted this because the second year of “rhetoric” would have provided an opportunity of going deep into literature and Italian composition. I have always felt the lack of these studies.
The god Lord had kept that angel, my mother, alive for me. She directed me to Abbot Pullini, a holy priest, who had been my confessor before I went to Savona. I made a confession of my entire life to him. As he used to in the past, he was hearing confessions in the third confessional on the right in the Church of Saint Dalmazzo. There “mercy and truth met, justice and peace kissed”. (Ps. 85:11) What a miracle of mercy! Who could ever entertain any doubts about the kindness and mercy of God? I believe that there are not many sinners in the world who not only loaded their conscience with numberless sins, but also formally accepted hell and tried to forget what they knew about God: the psalms and hymns of praise.
But this is how the good Lord willed to make his kindness and generosity shine in a very special and unique way. Not only did he accept me back into his friendship, but he also called me to a privileged vocation: he called me to the priesthood. And he did so within just a few months of my return to him. I have explained elsewhere the providential way that led me to my priestly vocation.
On 6 November 1845, on the feast day of Saint Leonard, I had the joy and honor of being vested with the cassock by Abbot Pullini in the church of Saint Claire which is part of the convent of the religious Sisters of the Visitation where Abbot Pullini was the spiritual director.
Soon after I had received the cassock, I went to the seminary where the school year was starting and where I had the good fortune of taking advantage of new courses begun that year in the major seminary: Theological Institutions headed by Father Savio (later Bishop of Asti) and Biblical Institutions with professor Banaudi. I chose as my advisers the theologian Father Berta, later Canon of Saint Lawrence and the theologian Father Baricco. I took the courses of Theology at the University of Turin and received my degree on May 12, 1850.
The following September, 1850 1 was ordained Subdeacon; on Easter 1851 , deacon (I did not wish to hurry), and on September 21, 1851, feast of Saint Matthew, I had the joy and honor of celebrating my First Mass in the church of Saint Dalmazzo. I was assisted by Abbot Pullini, and I believe, Canon Renaldi. Ah! How happy I was! Unfortunately my mother was not among the relatives around me. She had gone to heaven on July 9, 1849.
Since that time I have always had a special devotion to Saint Matthew. I liked to think that he too had been a sinner and was converted by Christ himself, who called me to follow him. But what a difference! As soon as our Lord said to the publican: “come, follow me,” he got up and followed him. (Mt. 9:9) Afterward he lived only for Christ and died for Christ.
On the contrary what a shame for me! How much resistance to the grace of God! What a deafness to the voice calling me shouting within me: “You called me, you shouted” (St. Augustine). What a contempt for inspirations, enlightenments, remorses that he continued to send to my heart. And when finally I decided to repent and turn away from hell, what has been my life? Have I showed my gratitude with love and fervor? Alas! Selfishness has always been my problem, and God has never stopped calling me and still does so today in a loud, clear voice: “You called, you shouted.” When will the time come, O Lord, that I can say: “you have broken down my deafness.”
Confession before ordination to the priesthood
I made a general confession with Father Durando, a Lazarist Father.
When I accused myself of abandoning God when I was in school, he asked me how long I had been such a perverse person. This impressed me very much.
And who is this wretched (or rather I should say “fortunate”) son, if not I?
This son abandoned his loving and good father while he was still young “the younger one” (Lk. 15:13).
I too abandoned you, O my good Father, when I was only fourteen! He went far away from you; and how far did I go? As far as to forget you? Much farther than that: as far as impiety, as far as trying to forget your praises and psalms that I knew by heart and refusing all books of prayer and devotion.
He gave himself to shameful pleasures. Alas! so did I, even though my good mother Mary preserved me from any scandal of actions (but not conversations) with others.
He returned to his father because of need: “I am starving here” (Lk. 15:17) and I took my first steps toward the Father’s house because of my fear of hell!
But above all I resemble the prodigal son because of the most fatherly welcome that I received from God. How many gifts, how many caresses! What a banquet! What a feast!
I don’t mean the consolation and spiritual delights that God gave me for a while upon my return in order to bind me to him, I mean the special graces and benefits, the extraordinary privileges that he bestowed on the most ungrateful of his sons, calling me and choosing me from among thousands of others “chosen from thousands” (Sg. 5:10) to the priestly and religious life. What a multitude of gifts! “What shall I give back to the Lord?” (Ps. 116:12)
As to the banquet of joy, what a banquet! And how many times has this banquet been repeated since my return to him? More than 16,000 times!
The good Lord has loved me with an eternal love.
The task of my salvation has been an ongoing one and the Lord has been at it for 63 years now.
I must say, with Saint Augustine “your mercy flitted about me,” and with David, “your mercy followed me.” (Ps. 22,6).
The Lord could justly complain: “for sixty years I was close to this ingrate and he always eluded me.
I only pray that he will not add: “therefore in my anger I swore, he will not enter into my place of rest.” (cf. Ps. 95,10-11).
“What should I give back to the Lord?” (Ps. 116:12).
The good Lord has practically forced me to follow the two most sublime vocations that can exist: the priestly vocation and the religious vocation, not to speak of the most necessary one, the Christian vocation.
The Priestly Vocation
As far as the priesthood goes, I had never even thought of it.
As a little boy I would dream of being a military officer. In school I thought of some day studying law, becoming a big politician. Later I thought of studying mathematics and being an engineer.
In my family it looked like my brother Ernest would be the one to become a priest. He would certainly have been a better one than I, for he was wiser and more pious than I. He would have served the Lord so much better!
He was a man of zeal, piety, charity and self denial.
Yet God decided to choose Jacob over Esau. He chose me. He called me, he practically dragged me into the honor, the glory and the ineffable joy of being his minister, of being “another Christ,” of being “after God something like an earthly God.”And where was I when you were seeking me, O Lord? I was at the bottom of an abyss! I was there and God came looking for me; there he made me hear his voice, the voice that shakes the trees of Lebanon (Ps. 28:5). And providentially he brought me to himself.
The Religious Vocation
As to the vocation to the religious life, that too was gratuitous and practically forced on me. I would never even have dreamed of one day becoming a religious! In my fondness for personal freedom I felt a certain dislike for the religious life. And yet, the good Lord did it!
With the fear of damnation he pushed me into the priesthood! Later he called me to head the Artigianelli Orphanage. Father Berizzi planted the seed and Father Reffo brought it to fruition. He advised me to start a religious Congregation, but I was not for it. Still, I consulted my confessor, Father Blengio. At first he wasn’t any more enthusiastic about it than I. Father Reffo continued to insist, my confessor, to my joy, telling me to wait some more. Since it was only a matter of yearly vows, he finally agreed.
I decided to consult my old confessor at the Saint Sulpice Seminary, Father Icard. I went to Paris, but he was away on vacation, so I went to where he was to see him. He advised me to follow the dictates of Divine Providence. In the seminary I had asked him about becoming a Sulpician and he had advised against it.
The approval given by Bishop Riccardi, Bishop Gastaldi and Bishop Galletti moved me to go ahead with plans for a religious Congregation. And here I am, thanks to God, a religious, bound to him by the three vows.
I remember that when I told Father Icard “…but God always chooses saints to found Congregations!” he responded, “…so there you have a good reason for becoming one!” But is it really true that all founders of religious Orders have been saints? It seems that they have, but while some of them were not always saintly at first, Saint Ignatius, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome Emiliani, Saint Camillus de Lellis, even Saint Francis of Assisi, they all died as saints.
J. B. de Saint Jure, in his book Le livre des Elus, ou Jesus Crucifie writes that Jesus was covered with confusion and infamy because of the sins of humanity when he saw himself overwhelmed by all the ugly impurities, by the profanations, sacrileges, blasphemies… “Confusion covered my face.” (Ps. 68,8).
Are these not the sins that I committed? Was I not therefore guilty of this internal martyrdom of Christ which was even greater than his external martyrdom?
A LOVE MYSTERY – A LOVE MIRACLE
“You called. You shouted. You overcame my deafness.”
My Father and my God! “Like a lost sheep I had gone astray” (Ps. 119:176) and you came to seek “what was lost” (Mt. 18:11) . But how? When you sought the father of sinners in Eden he was hiding from your eyes. Yet like an afflicted parent you sought him and called him: “Adam, Adam, where are you?” (The voice of a father seeking his lost son.)
You called me by name also: “Leonard, Leonard, where are you?” And I was fleeing from your presence as from the enemy and avenger (Ps. 43:17), because I did not want to have anything to do with you. Yes, Great God, I did not want to have anything to do with you! I did not want to have anything to do with you! And you?
Like a scorned lover you went after me, searching for me, still raising your voice more and more with your invitations, your inspirations, your numerous graces. And I? I turned a deaf ear.
Ah! Yes, you could have said, “I am weary with calling, my throat is parched: (Ps. 69:4). New inspirations, new graces, new remorses! But I was deaf: what can I say? I was turning a deaf ear to your calls. You could have said, “Your destruction, O Israel, comes from you” (Hos. 13:9).
“You overcame my deafness.”
But no, you made the final efforts to save me without violating my freedom. You appealed to fear. You opened hell to my eyes and you terrified me. I stopped at the edge of hell because of fear, not because of love for you. You finally overcame my deafness with the crackling of the infernal flames.
“I ran down to the gates of hell and you held me back from going in”.
What shall I do now?
“Thus will I bless you while I live.” (Ps. 63,5).
“I will sing forever the Lord’s mercies. (Ps. 89,2).
“I will remember my years in the sadness of my soul” (Is. 38,15).
“You have loosed my bonds. To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 116: 16_17).
“I will never forget all you did for me” (Ps. 119: 93) .
“In you, O Lord, I take refuge, let me never be put to shame” (Ps. 31:2).
GOD SPEAKS TO ME
“Now judge between me and my vineyard: what more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done” (Is. 5:3-4).
“With an age-old love I have loved you, so I have kept my mercy toward you” (Jer. 31:3).
From all eternity I thought of you, I called you by name and decided to save you, to sanctify you, to eternally glorify you “because of the infinite love I bore you from all eternity.”
And when you were going to be born I looked at the face of the earth. It had 1.2 billion people; 5/6 of them were pagans or heretics; 1/6 of them, that is 250 million, were Catholics. (Note: a miscalculation, 1/6 would be 200 million). Very well, I wanted you to be born among this fortunate 1/6 Catholic population. I wanted you to receive a Catholic education and for this reason I gave you a very pious mother and a good Catholic father.
When you were 8 years old I chose a Catholic school for your education, a school directed by the Piarist Fathers (Scolopi), where you found very pious spiritual directors: Father Canata, Father Solari, etc. You went astray after a few years and formally forsook me, deliberately turning your back to me.
And I? I kept you alive in order to give you time to return to me. I kept your mother alive to call you back to the right path. I helped you choose school and classmates. With the fear of hell and using your weakness of regard for public opinion I dragged you to me and took you almost immediately into my sanctuary. And you, in my sanctuary, “in the holy place, in my house” gave yourself up to sloth, comforts, your own pleasures. But your lukewarmness did not sicken me and I chose you, “elegi te,” to be my priest.
On the day of your first Mass I made you taste the peace of a soul consecrated to me; you completely gave yourself to me. But very soon you fell back to your laxity and persevered in it for years in spite of my repeated calls, especially at annual retreats.
I called you to the seminary in Paris to shake you up. In the seminary (in Paris) you found examples, rules and a spiritual director. But the fruits were not tangible: the same languor and love for personal comforts and pleasure were there.
Then I called you to religious life and forced you, still reluctant, to enter the Arc of Salvation. Nonetheless you always showed cold-heartedness. You were living in a Catholic boarding school, you were the superior of the Congregation: all in vain. What was I to do?
I sent you serious illnesses, some very serious; these also had little effect. And thus you reached the maximum age of most people: 70 years (80 for the strong). You are now 68 years old. Only one person in your family reached a greater age, now you are the only one left from your family.
Your parents, brother, and sisters all of them went to their eternal reward: you are now on the edge of eternity and you are still the master of that eternity. What are you doing about it? Will you still continue to postpone your resolution and force me to finally pronounce:
“We have tried to heal Babylon, but she cannot be healed …leave her?” (Dt. 51:9).
Ah! No! “come on, beloved, do now what you can because you do not know when you will die, nor what will happen to you after death.” But “it will happen to you very soon,” therefore, “get up and start at once and tell yourself: now is the time to act; now is the time to repent; now is the time to fight.”
“Here I stand knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself won the victory and took my seat beside my Father on his throne (Rev. 3:20ff).
Therefore: “Return to me and… I will receive you” (Jer. 3,1). “Why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ez. 18:30 “Return to me and live” (Ez. 18:32).
“Return to me with your whole heart” (Jl 2:12).
“What answer shall I give you, my God and my all?”
“I said: now I start; this repentance is God’s work and Mary’s” (Ps. 77:11).
Confession during the illness of 1885
During my first attack of bronchitis, seeing myself in danger of death, I asked for Father Blengio. I made my confession as if it were my last one. I was moved when the confessor told me, “Yes, let us pray the good Lord saying “Have pity on me Lord, according to your great mercy. ” (Ps. 51,3)
The incomprehensible liberality of God’s gifts!
I know well that I should be the object of God’s condemnation, but I find instead that I am the object of his love and graces.
“…I will show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.” (Ex. 33:19)
“I will show mercy to whomever I choose; I will have pity on whomever I wish.” (Rom 9:15)
“So it is not a question of man’s willing or doing but of God’s mercy. Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘This is why I raised you up; that through you I might show my power, and my name might be proclaimed throughout all the earth.’ In other words, God has mercy on whom he wishes, and whom he wishes he makes obdurate.” (Rom 9:16-18).
See all of chapter nine of the letter to the Romans. Where sin has increased, “grace has far surpassed it.” (Rom 5:20)
Reflections – 1899
What is it that holds me back, what hinders my progress? Little things like a bit of laziness, love of comforts, gluttony, the will to have my way. And for these things I would risk going to hell? Eternal hell?
Why not make a decision, a resolution? My soul, what does it take to decide? Courage, my soul! “…neither will the wickedness that a man has done bring about his downfall on the day that he turns from his wickedness.” (Ez. 33:12)
[Note: in applying this to himself, Murialdo changed the word “wickedness” to “lukewarmness,” and underlined twice the words “on the day.”]
MY TWO WISHES
I would like to see the Congregation of Saint Joseph spread the knowledge (everywhere, but especially among its members) of the infinite, the real and personal love that God has for everyone and especially for his chosen ones: the priests and religious.
How many, even priests, know so very little about the love of God for us humans! We read books of piety, preach from the pulpit on the great love of God for humanity, but we do not reflect enough on the fact that it is right now, at this very moment, that God loves us so truly and dearly.
We have but a confused and obscure idea of the love that God has for people in general, and that comes from the faith that we have in our hearts. This feeling is not sufficient to inspire us in our love for him. But if we had a clear knowledge of this great truth, how much more would we love God! How true the prayer of Saint Augustine: “How I wish that I could know you, that I could love you…” How I wish that I could know you in all your perfections, know you in the love you have for me! Isn’t it true that we cannot help but love those who love us? We love even a dog that loves us.
We should study this a little better; we should convince ourselves that it is a matter of faith: “and we believed and realized the love that God has for us. ..God is love. God who loves everyone.” (1 Jn 4:16).
Holy Scripture, the Church, the saints, and even our intellects aided by theological teachings, impart this comforting truth to us. We should learn it well; the greatness, the infinity of the love of God and Jesus Christ, in order to “know the length, the breadth and the height of the love of Jesus” (Eph. 3:18_19).
We should study carefully the love that God has for sinners as long as they exist on this earth. As Saint Augustine said, “If God did not love sinners, he would not have come down from heaven.” And Jesus: “I did not come for the righteous but for the sinner.” (Lk 5:32)
God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son. God’s love is shown especially to us, for even though we are sinners, we have been reconciled to him through the death of his Son.
“There is no greater love than that of him who gives his life for a friend” and Jesus gave his life for sinners”. (Jn. 15:13).
“Father forgive them…” (Lk 23:34)
Jesus has the same love for everyone, the love that he showed on the cross. “God is love. As God is everywhere and has always been, so is his mercy. Christ yesterday, and today, and always.” (Heb. 13:8)
It would be helpful to study answers to the following objections:
1. “Equally odious to God are the evildoer and his evil deed.” (Wis. 14:9)
The literal meaning is that God detests idols and idol makers: these he hates because they work against him, because they want to be idolaters, sinners, just as elsewhere it is written that God detests and hates sinners, but only because they want to remain sinners. But he really always loves them:
a. as the work of his hands;
b. as being made in his own image;
c. as being ransomed by the blood of Christ.
2. “God does not listen to the sinner.” (Jn. 9:31)
This was the mistake made by the man who was born blind. God does not heed the requests of one who wants to persist in sin, but “the one who comes to me I will not reject …Come to me you who labor… Here am I at your door, knocking…” (Jn. 6:37; Mt. 11:28; Rev. 3:20)
3. Abandonment by God.
It is only a relative abandonment, a diminishing of grace. Total and complete abandonment exists only on our part. As long as we are on this earth, we must have hope as well as faith and charity. Now, if God totally abandoned us, the sinner could not be held responsible for virtues that he cannot possess. God still loves humanity as the work of his hands, created in his own image and ever capable of eternal life.
We should study, and this is even more difficult, how God loves each one according to his merits, as Father Thomas of Jesus tells us, in the “Spiritual Advice” he gave as a preface to the book The Sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Father Huby, in his book Considerations upon Divine Love, writes on page four: “God loves me. This is true. God loves me! How fortunate I am! What a consolation!”
And he loves me with a love that is so great, so perfect that it is as infinite and eternal as he is; for there is nothing equal to God; there is nothing uneven in him; there is no more or less; all that is in God is God: as great, immense, eternal, infinite as God himself is. How great is God’s love for me! And I, what kind of love should I have for him? I should love him with an infinite love. But I cannot have a love that is so great; my heart is incapable of it.
But I will love you, O God, with my whole being. You love me with your whole being, and I will love you with mine. You are infinite, and I am so small and so limited, but you are pleased with one who gives all that he can: and so I give you my all, O God!
Devotion to Mary.
The second great teaching that I would like for the Congregation of Saint Joseph to spread is that of Alphonsus M. Liguori on devotion to Mary.
As to whether this “proper,” let us consider. The words “He wanted us to have everything through Mary” come from Saint Bernard; they are not a matter of faith. In his book The Glories of Mary, Saint Liguori sustains and defends this truth very ably, and even Bossuet, who is certainly not a “fanatic,” follows it. At the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, M. Thibaud (the younger) said, in a talk about devotion to the Blessed Mother, that Monsignor Bossuet, on the authority of the gospel, declares anathema him who would deny that all graces come through Mary.
The prayer on the feast of our Lady of Good Counsel says: “Lord Jesus Christ, in your admirable Providence, you willed that all graces come to us through Mary. Through her intercession…”
Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical on the Rosary in 1894, stresses the same thing. See also the authors and other reasons cited by Saint Liguori in his book The Glories of Mary.If it were truly a part of our belief, what a sense of thanksgiving this doctrine would arouse in us toward Mary for all the material and spiritual graces we have received from God! And what confidence in her for our future! If we could preach about her, what confidence we would have in her! And especially how thankful we would be knowing that we are still on this earth and not in hell because Mary, our Mother, has obtained this grace for us!
Special Graces Received From God
1828: born in a Catholic country; wise father, pious mother, good city (Turin), good family.
1836: education in a good Catholic school.
1843: choosing to take a course of history in order to keep busy and avoid bad companions.
1845: called by God to the priesthood. “Ego elegi te.”
1851: ordained a priest. “Alter Christus, terrenus Deus.” Spiritual retreat. Pilgrimages.
1856: youth ministry in youth centers.
1866: postgraduate work in the Seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris.
1867: began work at the Artigianelli orphanage.
1873: religious in the Congregation of Saint Joseph; superior of the Congregation and of the school.
1885: first attack of bronchitis, January 1 to February 17.
1887: second bout of bronchitis, March 17 to March 23.
1888: third bronchitis, January 28 to March 10; fourth, November 17 to December 4.
1899: fifth bronchitis attack, March 11 to April 20.
1891: sixth bronchitis, March 7 to March 27.
1891: spiritual retreat.
1892: final (?) illness, January 2 to February 7.
1893: eighth illness, April 17 to …
Many, many good and pious books
So many good inspirations
So many good examples from saintly priests.
To detach me from the world: poor health, death of parents, shortage of money, loss of reputation with the bankruptcy of the printing shop.
From the book Délices des ames Pieuses:
1. Penance is necessary after one has sinned. Sin cannot be atoned except by penance. Penance is painful but useful because of its effects: it takes us to God, to his Heart, to his mercies.
2. Penance should be proportional to the seriousness of the sin. The more the sins were grave and numerous, the more severe the penance should be. If one committed grave sins, if the heart reveled in disordered desires, if one abused of precious graces, if one was negligent of the sacraments and perhaps even profaned them …what an offense to you, my God! What penance one must make! One mortal sin alone can deserve hell, how can one make adequate penance? What would become of us without your merits and atonement, O adorable Savior?
Saint Dalmazzo Church in Turin
When I enter your temple, O God, I experience a great feeling of peace and of love. Everything here speaks of love, of that love that you had and still have for me, and of that love that I owe to you.
There is the font where I became your son through baptism…
I go in a few steps and there I see the confessional where as a boy I was absolved by Father Pullini. It was there in 1843 when I came back from the school in Savona like a prodigal son loaded with sins that I came to say: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” (Lk. 15:18) You opened your paternal heart to my prayer and took possession of a soul destined to be your temple but which had for so long been the dwelling place of demons. How
I felt your infinite mercy then! What shall I give back to the Lord? (Ps. 115:12)
From there, Lord, you took me step by step until I became a religious.
Ahead and to the left is the chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto. She is your mother that you have given to us, “the Mother of Hope and of Love”.
She freed me from a heavy cross, and did so as soon as I had recourse to her. The grace that she obtained for me was this: I would have gone crazy in my sinfulness if she had not helped me! “I will sing forever the mercies of Mary.”
Church of Saint Claire or of the Visitation in Turin
How I love the little church of the Visitation.
It was there that in 1845 I was invested with the cassock by Father Pullini. My whole family was there, especially my mother. No one, except Father Pullini, knew of my sinful past. But to the angels in heaven and to Jesus it was a grand spectacle of the infinite mercy of God. Just two years back this 15 year old boy was a great sinner, but now…
If only after my conversion I had been fervent, penitent, generous with God like Mary Magdalene, like Saint Augustine, like countless converted sinners, then God’s mercy to me would not have been so surprising.
But you know, O Lord, what my life was like after what I like to call my “conversion”: a life of ease and comfort, without penance and without fervor, to the extent that I really don’t know whether it is less loathsome to live such a life of ingratitude than a life spent in sensuality and impiety.