Chapter 13

The Congregation’s growth after Bishop Marello’s death. The father’s spiritual testament to his children. Conclusion.


Bishop Marello’s sacrifice of his life had been accepted by the Lord, and it soon gained the choicest blessings for the congregation, while preparing for its ultimate triumph. The facts which follow are evident proof of this.

After the death of our esteemed founder, Bishop Ronco, who already so loved our institute anyway, now took our interests so to heart as to make them his own. He became our most authoritative defender before the Holy See. Enthused about the growth of our congregation, he asserted that “digitus Dei est hic.” He felt fatherly affection for all our brothers, so much so that one day he was able to take satisfaction in asking our Father John of blessed memory: “And do you at Saint Clare’s love me?”

Bishop Giacinto Arcangeli, whose memory is also always so dear to us, was Bishop Ronco’s successor, not only in the episcopate, but also in his esteem and love for our dear congregation. In fact, soon after a year’s time from his arrival in Asti, on March 18, 1901 he issued a decree giving our institute canonical status, establishing it as a diocesan congregation, and allowing its members to consecrate themselves to the Lord through profession of the first religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

After this the congregation began to enlarge its sphere of action, and several dioceses experienced the good fruits it produced. Headed by Bishop Giacinto Arcangeli, several other most reverend bishops therefore made persuasive interventions for the Holy See to approve such a worthy institute having such a productive apostolate. The Sacred Congregation of Religious gave a favorable response to these interventions, and on April 11, 1909, it issued our institute not only a decree of recognition, but simultaneously also granted it final approbation. Our joy was tremendous on hearing such happy news, and solemn thanksgiving was immediately offered the Lord and Mary Mother of Sorrows to whose special intercession the positive outcome of those petitions had been entrusted.

Finally His Holiness Benedict XV granted us a house of our own in Rome where our procurator general could reside.

And now, full of life with an ever growing number of aspirants, our congregation has crossed the seas to open two important missions, one in the Philippine Islands, and one in Brazil. To those esteemed confreres who, inspired by the love of Jesus Christ, have generously left behind the comforts of their fatherland in order to sail the ocean, goes through these pages a heartfelt greeting from their brothers in Italy. A great distance separates us from them, but a single love impels us, a single affection unites us, and a single concern inspires us: the desire to proclaim everywhere the kingdom of Jesus Christ and to make known to everyone our heavenly patron St. Joseph.

This will always be our holy and sublime ideal. Every evening, remembering them before the Lord, we will join our prayers to theirs so that God may console them, bless their labors, and increase the number of workers in His mystical vineyard.

* * *

At this point an important consideration captures our attention: our apostolate will be ever more productive and the fruitfulness for souls ever more abundant to the extent that we imitate St. Joseph more closely and follow in the footsteps of our beloved founder. Besides the numerous examples and teachings that we have already had the opportunity of reading in these brief memories, Bishop Marello has left us precious written documents, which are like a father’s will to his children and an expression of his spirit filled with holy love for God and neighbor. These writings are not many, but they are such as to make us feel all the fragrance and supernatural beauty of his soul. This is seen spread throughout more than fifty letters of his on various themes. The letters are written in clear, simple, and somewhat concise style. Though in first draft form, they are remarkably correct and smooth. They reveal his uncommon learning. Here we will glean from these writings the principal passages on the spiritual life and Christian wisdom, presenting them in their original simplicity.

 

* * *

To begin with religious perfection, to which we are called in a special way, look how our founder exhorts a brother to pursue it, when the latter explains his difficulties in continuing the studies he has begun:

“St. Paul, whom you desire to imitate, wrote these words: numquid omnes apostoli, numquid omnes virtutes, etc., etc… Aemulamini autem charismata meliora. If God should want to make you a Saint like Felix of Cantalice, you would be indeed fortunate and you would rank with him in heaven above so many great Doctors. The Divine Goodness did not leave you without those gifts that go into the making of a good religious and an active member in the congregation of St. Joseph. If, in the likeness of the great patriarch St. Joseph, you were to serve Jesus in humble tasks inferior in dignity to those of St. Peter, remember that the humble guardian of Jesus holds a higher place in heaven than the great apostle. Be satisfied with the role Our Lord assigns to you here below, and trust firmly with God’s help, that you will be able to discharge it in such a manner as to deserve a great reward in heaven. To whom was it said: Ego ero merces tua magna nimis? To the obedient and faithful Abraham.”

 

* * *

He also wished that external activities not interfere with the spiritual which should always take priority:

“Keep making all needed improvements on the farmhouse and employ the help of the brothers in such a way that, without harm to their spiritual life, you can also achieve some material advantage. In a word, let intellectual and manual work counterbalance each other as two means leading to only one end: the service of God in imitation of St. Joseph.”

 

* * *

Some brothers had asked permission to spend a year of voluntary military service in Florence, in order to more easily learn the Italian language well. Fearing danger to their spiritual welfare in that far off city, he tells them:

“The two enlisted brothers who wish to go to Tuscany to bake themselves with academic grammar remind me of St. Jerome’s dream where he saw himself being flogged for being more of a Ciceronian than a Christian. A son of St. Joseph is more in need of learning the language of the saints than of learning the pure idiom of Tuscany. In that charming land called the garden of Italy, it is unfortunate that while learning purity of diction one can lose the purity of one’s morals. More than in any other region, one gathers there, along with nature’s flowers, the flowers of classical literature, while passing up the flowers of piety and virtue. And so the taste for profane beauty easily prevails over the taste for the sacred. Besides, an army barracks is no place where one can expect to learn propriety of speech and treasure up the best phrases and the most polished idioms. I thus consider a product of idle fancy and inexperience this desire to spend one’s term of service in Tuscany amid strangers, rather than in Alexandria or Turin, near friends and benevolent acquaintances, close to St. Clare’s, in a favorable atmosphere that has helped so many others preserve their vocation.”

It is not to be concluded from this that he did not appreciate and value true learning, for the tenor of his letter shows that the only reason he is led to dissuade them is for their spiritual welfare and their perseverance in their religious vocation.

 

* * *

Being joyful and witty by nature in a holy way, he wanted his sons to leave behind all sadness, the enemy of sanctity, to serve the Lord with a holy freedom of spirit:

“I rejoice that spiritual joy is still flourishing among St. Joseph’s priests… Away with scruples. They are the blight, I say the blight of the spiritual life. Stifle every fancy from the start. Do not turn back to retrace your steps. Do not run too far ahead, nor stop too long to see whether the step was well taken. Have confidence in God, who is near to correct our mistakes, unavoidable as they are in spite of the best intentions in the world.”

 

* * *

God is the boss, and we are His servants. His role is to reveal His will, and ours is to follow it fully. The more closely we are united to Him with this attitude of conformity and resignation, the more perfect our love will be, for God’s will is infinitely holy and perfect, our source of peace and happiness even amidst life’s greatest trials. Here is how Bishop Marello describes the resignation we should have in everything:

“The illness [of the brother about whom you write me] would make me very sad indeed, if I did not realize that St. Joseph is the infirmarian and that, while suffering by God’s will in one of its members, the congregation will enjoy better health in its whole body. Let us always repeat that omnia cooperantur in bonum… even in the smallest things.”

And elsewhere:

“My heart aches at the news of the condition of health [of the two dear brothers]. If our blessed God decides to call them to Himself, it would only be to enable them to help us and the congregation more effectively from above. This assurance comes from our faith; but the voice of nature pleads strongly to the throne of divine mercy to leave them with us a little while longer so that they may first visibly edify their brothers here below and render their work more fruitful. O Lord, inspire us with the prayer that pleases You most, and then give us the grace always to adore the decrees of Your will.”

And in another place he writes thus:

“The news I have received is painful indeed! Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit. The Lord gave us good Bro. Theodore; the Lord has taken him away. But we are comforted by the hope that he will give him back to us in heaven together with the brothers who, we can believe, are already shining with eternal light. Let us also find comfort in the thought that if God asks us the sacrifice of some beautiful flower from our garden, He will repay us a hundredfold by causing many others to sprout under the heavenly dew and by always lovingly defending them against the frost and ice until He is ready to transplant them above.”

He wanted us instead to rejoice in adversities:

Deo gratias that the two government inspections did not go totally well for St. Clare’s. If everything had gone smoothly, we might have had reason to be disturbed and to fear that, under the appearance of safety, the enemy was lying in ambush. Let us be glad, then, that our trials have not come to an end and that there is no lack of adversaries to make us grow in confidence in God. We know from experience that at the right time our difficulties disappear, there is a change of heart in those who caused them, and God’s work moves on, surrounded with new favor.”

 

* * *

He would kindly abandon himself to the embrace of divine providence, as a baby does in the arms of his poor mother. “Live by providence” was one of his favorite phrases. He is inspired with wonderful expressions of this on the occasions of Msgr. Torchio’s death and of St. Clare’s precarious situation at the beginning of the scholastic year:

“In this life joy and pain are forever alternating. The funeral of a servant of God leaves us with a sense of peace in the hope that he is now in possession of his eternal reward. On the other hand, the opening of the school year at St. Clare’s, instead of bringing the expected joy to our hearts, causes us to fear an uncertain future and fills us with a thousand forebodings. And yet, was not the life of St. Joseph also a succession of consolations and fears? Let St. Clare’s, then, be like the house of St. Joseph. In the midst of doubts and anxieties, let all hearts rest trustful and secure. Let everyone repeat with St. Paul: Placeo mihi in angustiis pro Christo. Even last year the future looked dark, and yet providence brought back the sunlight.”

And in another letter:

“During this month so dear to him, [St. Joseph] wants all the notes to flow just right so as to lift our hearts heavenward where there is nothing but harmony. Our holy patriarch wants us to realize that in Bethlehem the hours of desolation and of silent waiting were followed by comforting visits of angels to the accompaniment of heavenly songs. I leave it up to Fr. Cortona to point out the various analogies found in these two settings: Bethlehem and St. Clare’s.”

 

* * *

He did not intend, however, to have an exaggerated trust to the point of tempting providence and incurring debts without the moral certainty of being able to totally repay them:

“As long as our total debt was counterbalanced by the value of the house, it was possible to easily accept mortgaged capital in the hopes of being able to somehow act as agent for it out of our own personal resources, if worse should come to worse. However, now that we are carrying an annual debt of almost seven thousand liras, corresponding to a capital of 140,000 liras, it seems to me that we should definitely stop and no longer reach for those apparently generous offerings which could really become a liability to the house… Rather than commit myself to more debts, I feel obliged to put myself in better order with respect to the old ones … so that we may not slip from the path of trust to the path of imprudence.”

And in another writing:

“The congregation, debts, providence!!! Three most significant words which call to mind three important ideas that are not always in perfect harmony with each other. With the help of faith, the first and the last idea can be brought together in a nice melody; but sometimes that one in the middle simply cannot be forced to stay in tune.”

 

* * *

His characteristic virtue is a charity that is meek, patient, loving, kind, and takes to heart the spiritual and temporal needs of his dear ones with more than a mother’s concern. The virtue of charity, God’s firstborn daughter, the noblest affection we can offer God and the most acceptable to our neighbor, shines most beautifully in many passages of his letters:

“The letter I received … shows me that during the month dedicated to their patron, more than at any other time of the year, the brothers of St. Joseph in true imitation of him miscent gaudia fletibus: joys of the spirit because they have been counted worthy to suffer dishonor; tears of the heart pierced by so many thorns. I too share deeply in their common sorrows as well as their joys. I join in the prayers for the souls of Fr. Baratta’s father and of Bro. Alexander’s mother. On those departed ones who have ended their earthly days in the Lord’s love luceat perpetua lux in regno coelorum. We shall pray to St. Joseph to obtain health for the sick, and for all of us the grace to know and to follow the divine will.”

Read this letter of holiday greeting which teems with tenderness and kindness:

“Joseph
Bishop of Acqui
to the dear Sons of St. Clare’s House
Peace and spiritual joy in Jesus our Savior
“With all my heart I thank you for your greetings and I wish I could return each one of them individually with this letter as I do at the crib of the Infant Jesus. One of you reminded me that in former years on this joyful occasion I used to bring you a Christmas gift. Oh, how I would like to bring it to you this year too if you were not so far away. Still, you do expect something from me and I’ll have to find a way to send you at least something sweet. Along with the candy that can leave only a momentary sweetness in your palate, I should give you as usual a more lasting gift to satisfy your sight and your devotion. Yet what can I do about it? Ah, the Holy Infant comes to my aid. He takes it upon Himself to come to you in my name. He wants to show you His beautiful face, to bestow on you a heavenly smile. He wants to present to you His snow-white lily, to raise His little hand to bless each one of you, to invite you to remain always with Him as little lambs to enjoy His loving caresses. Welcome, then, this Divine Messenger of mine as He brings you a far more precious gift than you could have expected from me. Do not be afraid to ask for too much from Him; on the contrary, ask for a very big gift. The more you ask of Him, the more He will give you. His joy in bestowing His favors on you will be greater in proportion to your desire to ask for them. Oh good Jesus, grant to these dear sons all that they desire and even more than they desire. From the first day of the new year resume with them Your divine chats so as to draw them to Your heart. Caress them as Your little friends who have already learned to experience the sweetness of Your love. Grant that they may become Your great friends in this life and may later possess a throne of glory in Your kingdom of eternal life. Filioli mei omnes dicite: Amen
Deo gratias.”

We still have the image of the Infant Jesus sent with this letter. It is a precious memento.

No less affectionate is this other letter:

“The visits, letters, and greeting cards that I’m receiving these days remind me of my duty to direct special prayers to God for the beloved family at St. Clare’s. Yet my head is befuddled with so many other thoughts contending and vying for first place. During their recent visits Fr. Cortona and Fr. John added many new ones to the old ones and now they are all in my mind, which desires to put a little order to them and send them with a word of recommendation to the Crib of the Infant Jesus. But hoc opus hic labor. Lucky for me that the little Divine Child tells me that He will come to my aid, sounding the call and summoning all those thoughts to line up according to the order preordained by His ineffable providence. Deo gratias. Although our minds might be able to determine which things are good, they are always an infinite distance away from that Mind which alone can make that determination in an absolute manner. Humans may discern what is good, but God discerns the greater good, the true good. Thus while desiring the good, the saints always subordinated their judgement to that of the One who, although granting us some of our good desires, wants us to exchange them for other relatively better ones. Therefore let us make our many wishes for the Feasts of Christmas and New Year, but let us allow the good Jesus to hear them in that way and to that extent that He knows better how to turn to His glory and to our spiritual profit. However, we do want Him to hear that wish around which all the others revolve: Salvator noster salva nos. I close with this votive prayer and I remain

Most affectionately yours,

+Joseph Ep.”

 

* * *

He was concerned about everyone and stated that he carried them all in his heart:

“We are in God’s hands and we would be wise to resign ourselves to His just judgement. If I cannot go to Asti personally, I will not fail to be present in spirit and to unite myself in prayer to my most beloved at St. Clare’s … and to the others in the sad list presented me. I commend them to the Lord with my whole being. I will not name them here, but I keep them all present in my memory and in my heart.”

Let us listen to how he takes pleasure in the good performed by his sons:

“He writes me so many good and beautiful things … that I can’t help repeating a thousand times in my heart: Deo gratias. Poor Oblates of the House for the Aged, you are among the minor priests. You are nothing and you enjoy none of those positions that hold promise for the future. And yet Our Lord makes use of you also for the good of souls. Yes, keep on saying: Servi inutiles sumus; but keep on going forward to do the portion of work which the divine will assigns to you day by day through its representatives. And may others videant opera vestra bona et glorificent Patrem vestrum qui in coelis est.”

 

* * *

He wants discretion to be exercised even in devotional practices, when these could be detrimental to bodily health. Here are his actual words about the perpetual adoration that they wished to institute at St. Clare’s:

“The institution of the laus perennis would be quite timely in our day. The main problem would be to arrange it in such a way as not to harm the health of the participants and consequently bring harm to others. Our Lord is so generous that He often prefers to stay in the background and give a hand to others by giving priority to works of charity over exercises of devotion; or rather, He bestows on the former the merits and value of the latter.”

He wishes the brothers to take advantage of the papal indult regarding the Lenten fast, so as to maintain their strength:

“The papal indult is an act of kindness on the part of Holy Mother the Church. Why not take nadvantage of it? Most of the brothers have no health to spare… God knows this and has inspired the Holy Father to mitigate the law of fasting for the faithful, St. Clare’s included. If there were no indult, the help of God would be at hand to render obedience less burdensome. But now that it is becoming too heavy and is lawfully being removed by the same authority that lawfully imposed it, why should we be so stubborn in our own judgement as to act differently than the other faithful who feel in Domino that they can avail themselves of the kindness of the Church?… At any rate, follow the judgement of the bishop, as he must have already set down both general and particular norms for the seminary and other communities who may have approached him on the matter.”

When St. Clare’s treasurer wanted to decrease the already sparse amount of food, our father bishop wrote this:

“I do not consider it wise to cut down on food. It would be like expecting a bountiful harvest after having been sparing with the seed.”

And in another letter, along with his tender concern for the brothers, he also shows his love for poverty:

“Economize, economize, but not to the point of depriving the table of the food needed to keep a bag of bones going. One can practice thrift in regard to so many superfluous things: turning off the lights when not needed, buying only what is strictly necessary, imitating a little of the spirit of St. Francis by foregoing costly paraphernalia for the Church; and in so many other ways that don’t come to mind, but which the keen and observant mind of our industrious treasurer … is so quick to discover. With all these cuts you will already be saving a good thousand francs a year.”

 

* * *

Dear to him is obedience, the holocaust most pleasing to God and the virtue that draws the Lord’s blessings down upon us. In one of his letters on the occasion of a Brother having abandoned his vocation, he describes the evils of self-will and the advantages of obedience:
“Poor fellow! He didn’t learn to humble his own judgement, and he felt it sweet to have his own way; but now he realizes that, far from being the master of his own way, he has become its slave… One does not take such a decisive step, with such openly deliberate and energetic choice, unless one has already rashly begun to slide downhill.

“Ah obedience! Not the kind that sometimes wants to open its eyes to take a peek at its own selfish interests, but the kind of obedience that is called blind. How many graces does not obedience draw down from heaven to keep us from taking a false step and to guide us directly to our goal! Let us mourn the fact that not a few brothers allowed the tender shoots of this virtue to wither, while St. Joseph wanted it deeply rooted in their hearts. Let us lament their fate and make it the subject of meditation for ourselves.”

Even as early as 1885, it was discussed whether or not it would be a good idea to accept parishes. Our father had decidedly thought it inappropriate to accept them, since while charged with a parish the Oblates would tend to be more concerned with its particular needs, than with those of the whole congregation, and later because that could lead to friction with the diocesan clergy. It was his desire, however, that according to the spirit of the institute and the wishes of the bishop, we accept temporary administration of them:

“By all means, you must accept the administration of the Castelvero parish. First of all, we must be consistent with our principles and always arrange our accounts with divine providence alone. Secondly, we must obey, even at the cost of great sacrifice, the will of the bishop, who is in the hands of God and can be the instrument for achieving certain advantages that far outweigh the harm that one might want to avoid. For our part, let us always tip the scales in favor of authority, and we can then be confident that God, the supreme authority, will arrange those same scales in a thousand different ways and on a higher level so that, without the knowledge of others and sometimes even in spite of them, things will turn in our favor.”

 

* * *

His spirit felt and tasted the sweetness of the Lord in holy recollection, and he frequently lifted his heart to Him in prayer, which was like the tender sapling springing from his faith, being nourished by his hope, and receiving its fragrance from his charity.

Witnesses to this are the exhortations to pray that he gives the brothers and the consolation he expects from their prayers in return:

“May my dearest ones at St. Clare’s always beseech this divine aid for me, and I will not fail to invoke upon the beloved brothers of St. Joseph omne datum optimum quod de sursum est.”
And in another letter:

“St. Clare’s spiritual assistance has benefitted me before, so that I rely on them more than ever for the success of my journey of pastoral visitations which I will begin within a few hours in nomine Domini.”

And in yet another:

“On the occasion of my saint’s day, I received many promises of prayers and spiritual help. I wish to share all these kind offerings with the dear Oblates, since they too are entitled to this treasure. And just as I share omnia mea, the Sons of St. Joseph will also share with me omnia sua. And so each will be able to say: Omnia mea vestra sunt et vestra mea, according to Jesus’ prayer that his disciples sint consummati in unum.”

 

* * *

His devotion to the great patriarch St. Joseph and his trust in the intercession of this heavenly patron are evident in almost all of his letters, and if not in the body, at least in the closing. He wants the brothers to be inspired with this same devotion. Here is an example:

“I unite myself in spirit to the dear brothers in the novena and Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph-and I invoke upon all a most generous blessing from that great dad of ours.”

And in another place:

“I am also awaiting news about the celebration, which I imagine was exceptionally beautiful and inspiring. Filius accrescens Joseph, and the sons of St. Joseph must also grow, at least in devotion to their holy patron.”

And elsewhere:

“Let us wait for St. Joseph to give us the nod. This is his beautiful month. Fr. Cortona is preaching his glories; the brothers and the entire community are united in invoking his protection… So we shall say to our great patriarch: We belong entirely to you, and may you be all ours. Show us the way; support us at every step; guide us where providence wants us to go. No matter how long or short our journey, no matter how smooth or rough, whether by human sight we glimpse our goal or not, whether our pace is slow or fast, with you we are sure of always going along the right path.”

In one of his letters, he writes:

Eamus simul ad Joseph et oremus pro invicem; and may our holy patriarch obtain for us from God every grace we need.”

And again:

“God grant that we may always remain worthy of belonging to this blessed family and of receiving from its Head our daily nourishment.”
“Be all of good heart under the fatherly mantle of St. Joseph, a place of safest refuge in tribulationibus et angustiis, also for your most affectionate
+ Joseph Ep.”

And in another writing of his:

“Protector noster adiuvet eos semper. May the aid of this great protector be extended also to all the students and may they do well in their examinations and receive an abundance of divine graces in exchange for the consolation I received from their affectionate letter.”

And finally: “May St. Joseph shelter his devoted sons under his fatherly mantle.”

 

* * *

Great was his devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Here is how he expresses the joy he experienced on learning that St. Clare’s held a solemn and ornate procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

“A word of congratulations to all of St. Clare’s families who zealously vied with one another in manifesting their faith in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, an exceptionally splendid manifestation of faith engendering more intense acts of love. The splendor of lights, songs, incense, and a hundred other beautiful things that for one hour surrounded the King of Glory, is a symbol of the triumphal feast which the souls of the elect offer the glorified Jesus.”

When he learned that, due to remodelling in the Casabianca parish, the Blessed Sacrament had been solemnly transferred to the little chapel of our farmhouse, this is how he expressed his delight:

“The solemn enthronement of the Blessed Sacrament in the farmhouse chapel was so vividly described that, while reading it, I thought I was witnessing an enlarged scene of good Zaccheus. Bro. Philip represented the fortunate guest of the Savior. And he was not the only one: there were many other Zaccheuses, more or less small of stature, to share with him his joy, each one applying to himself the sweet words of Our Lord: in domo tua oportet me manere. Deo gratias.”

 

* * *

He shows admirable sensitivity in so selflessly turning down the offer of having a coadjutor brother as his personal attendant. Although he was the founder and could freely assign the brothers, he sacrifices his personal advantage for the good of the whole congregation:

“I spontaneously and wholeheartedly thank you for your good will in so generously offering a replacement for Leo who departed. It is an offer whose value is increased by the great sacrifice of the one offering and of the one who would allow himself to be offered. The congregation’s willingness to give up or rather to lend me one of its dearest brothers, and the individual’s giving up even for a time the delights of the house of St. Joseph for my benefit are very valuable to me. Yet how could I be so selfish as to quickly and lightheartedly accept such a precious gift, without first making certain that this gift could not cease to belong to St. Joseph? I have to be fair and divest myself of my self-interests as bishop in order to examine the greater good for each side. When asked to give an impartial judgement on this, I would be inclined in favor of St. Clare’s. I will say more. As I am writing, so many things to consider are coming to mind that, were I able to communicate them to Fr. Cortona face to face, I might hear him withdraw his proposal. If out of generosity he should fail to do so, it would then be up to me to do it in his name in order to be fair. To come to a conclusion then, I’ll say that Bro. ______’s leaving St. Clare’s is of temporary benefit for the congregation and of possible future harm, while his arrival here at the bishop’s residence in Acqui, though beneficial to me in certain ways, also presents difficulties for me in other ways… This is what I would have to explain personally in order to hear Fr. Cortona himself tell me: ‘You’re right; I agree.'”

 

* * *

And now as these few pages are about to draw to a close, let us remember that we have the very great honor of being called by the tremendous goodness of the Lord’s will to imitate St. Joseph as religious in this congregation to which our father bishop consecrated his thoughts, affections, possessions, and his entire life.

Let us recall our total unworthiness and the blessings with which the Lord has willed to enrich us at this stage of our life. When we do this our lips will spontaneously pronounce these words of gratitude: “You, Lord, know very well how undeserving I am of this grace. You know every fiber of my heart and You mark its every beat. Receive this hymn of thanksgiving not only from my lips, but also from those of my confreres. Formed in the salvific shade of this congregation and shrine, we have received Your special love.”

From our secure port, let us also keep our eyes fixed on what surrounds us. Clouds have been brewing over God’s Church and a storm is trying to wrench the faith from Christians’ hearts. Such war is being waged against the Pope and the Church. Such evil and ruin is aimed at weak souls. Many are slothful, as the wolf with his insidious claws wreaks havoc among souls, and the masses are seduced by the masters of irreverence and deceit to pursue the dream of possessions and pleasure.

Let us especially watch those tender infants who gaze at us with innocent eyes and stretch out their hands for us to save them; and those who like flowers freshly blossomed await the care of an able gardener to preserve them; and the youth who are desirous of religious instruction for strength in life’s battles. Let us add new victories to the congregation’s former ones. Let us save others by living holy lives as our founder desired, by praying, sacrificing, and working diligently.

Like St. Joseph, let us bring Jesus to the hearts of all and particularly to these tender young plants, since this is the task to which our founder wished us to be dedicated. It will be a difficult, taxing, and tiring work, which months and years later may leave us little consolation. Let us not be discouraged. God will repay our efforts with rich interest. The good seed sown will bear fruit at the proper time. Children of our tears will be there to console us in our last days, to repair the ingratitude of a thankless world, and to prepare us for the victory of eternal glory for which our souls so yearn. Qui custos est Domini sui glorificabitur.

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