99. To Seminarian Stephen Delaude

Silence – – with everyone – –

Scripta manent95 – – words fade away, but what is put in writing remains. I have a thousand things to tell you, but since God alone has the prerogative of exhausting a subject at one time, I shall have to resign myself, like everyone else, to filtering my thoughts through time and space successively and by degrees. Now to jot down the points.

The trip to Rome96 has brought to the surface many chemical affinities previously unknown. Here’s what I mean: in our personalities there are many points of contact, a fact that will be clearly experienced once we have reduced our individual selves to a common denominator. Human potential is without limit. I’ll spare you the proof of this, which is easily found in the S.S.97 themselves. It all depends on the value of the coefficient, and for human beings every occasion, every event, however accidental it may appear, can constitute a good and beautiful coefficient. Happy the person who can reach under the shell of things. Arithmetic is a shell, it is the mysterious language of a science of which we have as yet penetrated only the material elements. Two factors that are multiplied, fused, and then transformed into a great Product: this indeed is a mortal phenomenon that can lay the foundation of a vast system — the system of combined powers. Here on earth everything is the work of combination; and were it not for fear of falling into heresy, I would say that God himself is a combination — the first and ultimate combination of all perfection that blend together, complete, multiply, and elevate each other exponentially, thus attending to an infinite value.  But getting back down to earth: music is a combination of arid notes; and seven sounds combine by Rossini,98 that is, seven factors of Rossini, result in a product that has the power to stir an entire people and to make this people burst forth into cries of enthusiasm that cannot find expression in any tongue. A little minium, carmine, sepia, etc. correctly mixed, that is, four or five factors handled by Sanzio99 and you have a Madonna straight from Heaven. Some chemical agents when properly combined can produce the ferment of the entire earthly mass; and a few figures combined and recombined by a great person like Newton100 can unfold the laws of universal gravitation. Hurrah for combination! Notice, God himself confirmed this great truth when He taught us to combine ourselves (as far as it is possible) with His very self by bonding us with His flesh. And Gregory VII,101 the son of a poor barrel-maker, was able to shake up the world and found a new civilization over the ruins of barbarism, it was because he felt the power of this daily combination with his God, which gave him, human though he was, a mettle that you would call divine. Oh Paul, you before all others and better than all others have been able to express the needs of poor human power. You said that the universal combination of powers is necessary, and you added these words that I wish were written in letters of gold: ut simus consummati in unum.102 Delaude,103 did you understand? Instead of sticking to my points, I see I’m straying away from them. At any rate, did you understand? It is a question of fighting war to the finish against the spirit of compromise, which tends to infiltrate everywhere and it is the fatal solvent of the fondest projects and the greatest resolutions.  To will — always — and at all costs. Each person pitted against himself. The good ego locked in struggle with the bad ego;  the ego of a moment, a sublime moment, rising in combat against the ego of every hour, the ego of the past, the ego of the old system; the ego that makes an act of the will once and for all, and yet multiplies itself at every moment by that powerful act of volition; the ego which, like the Phoenix, destroys itself only to be born again out of its own ashes. Will power: that is our motto; but it must be the kind of will power that is entire, unfailing, effective. In Dante’s words, it was this will power that

“…kept Lawrence on the gridiron
And rendered Mucius cruel to his hand”,104

the kind of will power that caused the poetic vein to gush forth from that shiftless, eccentric aristocrat.105

I have described to you the ideal that has been whirling through my mind for the past six years or more. This ideal has already undergone many changes, but I am aware that in its present form it can at any moment undergo a metamorphosis bringing it out of the chrysalis state and into the stage of realization. The ideal I had in 1861, when my dream of a future in society prompted me to cross the Rubicon.106 The ideal taking shape in ‘62-63, amid the excitement of the meetings of Masonic Lodges (ss),107 political friendship, work of preparation, etc.108 The ideal during the two years of recollection and indecision, ‘64-65. The ideal finally emerging into reality in ‘66, when the fervor accompanying the rebirth of my religious feeling was followed by the calm state of conviction and the restoration of conscience as my competent court of judgment…109 Now consider what a wealth of experience in so many vicissitudes! How many pages, how many notes, how many memoirs!110 All material for a great, solemn inventory of the human heart. Poor youth! How easy it is to shipwreck! Happy the one who was tossed about on the angry billows and returned to shore. And so it is true, Delaude, that we have certain points of contact and that we can be reduced to a common denominator. Hard work and good will, and the past can serve as a tool of the future. We must coordinate all our thoughts, all our affections, all our potential in a set plan. We must live that plan, elevate, sublimate, multiply ourselves in that plan. We must will always and at all costs. We must will with courage, with firmness, with constancy. We must make war on compromise; the one who compromises is lost. But first of all, if we want to have the power and the strength necessary for our resolution, we must profit by that couplet of the poet Prati:111

“Hold yourself together in Him, proud dust,
Strength comes from the Almighty, not from
mortal flesh.”

We must draw our fortitude from above…Without faith there is no charity, without charity there remains nothing, absolutely nothing. So then: renovamini spiritu,112 etc., let us be renewed in the spirit, every day, every hour. A human being can elevate himself like the fluids, because our power is in proportion to our will, and our will is in proportion to our knowledge. At the age of twenty Mazzini113 toiled day and night at nailing into his heart and brain an idea that perhaps even then was strange and resisted on sophism. So?… let us take a good look at history and say like those who were once in our shoes: si ille, cur non ego?114 I close this letter, which to tell you the truth, is a little disconnected and betrays a little too much the haste in which it was written. At any rate, this is only the beginning, and we shall have occasion to exchange ideas in every shade and tone. For the time being, it’s a confessional secret. Everything I said must be kept buried. I’ve cast the die, and you will pick up in reply. Meanwhile, accept the wish of your comrade in arms: Win or die.

Yours through thick and thin,

Marello


  1. What is written remains. 

  2.  Marello and other classmates were hoping to make a pilgrimage to Rome right after their priestlyordination. The plan did not materialize (cf. Lett. 15). 

  3. Sacred Scriptures. 

  4. Gioachino A. Rossini (1792 — 1868), Italian composer of comic operas most famous for his The Barber of Seville (1816). He was the most successful operatic composer of his times. 

  5. Raffaello Sanzio (1483 — 1520), better known as Raphael, Italian Renaissance painter, considered one of the greatest and most popular artists of all time. Besides his many other paintings, Raphael decoratedseveral rooms in the Vatican which go under his name. 

  6. Sir Isaac Newton (1643 — 1727), English mathematician and physicist. 

  7. Gregory VII (1020 — 1085). pope (1073 — 1085) and saint, one of the greatest reformers of the medieval church. He asserted the primacy of the Church over secular powers and led the papacy into open conflict with the Holy Roman Empire over the question of the investitures. 

  8. “that we may be joined together as one.” Actually the quotation is from John 17:23. 

  9. The seminarian Stephen Delaude, born at Rocchetta Tanaro on September 17, 1844, ordained a priest with Marello on September 19, 1868, was Parochial Vicar at Castell’Alfero and at Pievano of Villa S.Secondo (1878 — 1898); he died on March 5, 1898, at the age of 53. His personality was a little rough, but he was kindhearted and very intelligent. He especially devoted himself to historical research (cfr. Letters 22, 23). 

  10. Dante, Paradiso, Cantico IV, Verse 83. 

  11. Vittorio Alfieri, renowned tragedian, born in Asti, died in Florence in 1803 and was buried at Holy Cross Church, the resting place of many other famous Italians. 

  12. At the end of the 1861 — 62 scholastic year, Joseph Marello had left the seminary in Asti to enroll in Economic Studies in Turin. 

  13. The (ss) is probably meant to urge Delaude to absolute silence about this. Belonging to or participating in meetings of the Masons had been forbidden by the Catholic Church since 1738 because of their anti-Catholic bias and for the revolutionary philosophy they were advocating during this period throughout Italy and Europe. 

  14. Cfr. Letters 5, 10, 23, 61 

  15. Cfr. Letter 3 

  16. Cfr. Letter 4 

  17. Giovanni Prati, Italian poet, contemporary of Marello. 

  18. “Let us acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking.” (Eph. 4:23). 

  19. Joseph Mazzini (1805 — 1872), Italian patriot and revolutionary leader in the wars of independence (Cfr. Letter 5). 

  20. If he could do it, why can’t I?