Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples" Jn 13,:35

Christmas Gift 1935

May the grace of the Lord and His peace, sung by the Angels over the Bethlehem grotto, be always with us!
My dearest brother Priests and you who are my sons in Christ, and also you, the Sisters, good daughters of God, here I am before you all in the Lord, for the sweet and holy solemnities of Christmas.  I am writing to give you encouragement, which will inflame you ever more with love for God and with mutual charity, and will comfort you in the service of God and of souls: I am writing to give you my very best wishes for every serene and holy joy, and to bring you the Christmas blessing which, this year, is the blessing of a far-off brother and father, who wants to make sure you know that he thinks of you, and keeps you in his heart, that he prays for you all and that he has never felt as close to you spiritually as he does at this holy season.
This is Christmas!  My brothers and sons, and you, good Sisters, let us purify our souls and prepare ourselves for the Holy Feast of Christmas with a special fervour and spirit of prayer, as Cottolengo did.  Let us prepare the ways of the Lord who is coming: let us render humble the mountains of our pride, let us fill the valleys of our selfishness, let us straighten the crooked paths of our religious life, insofar as it may have lacked directness, meticulousness or edification.
God, calling us to perfection, has given us a great grace, but wants many things from us, exacts a great co-operation.  The religious must keep watch over his heart, he must break all earthly affections and not let himself be bewitched by that sense of family which is blinding: he must seek only the honour and glory of God and consecrate himself entirely to the Lord, without any limitation or exception.  Only thus will we avoid being totally unworthy to see salvation and to receive the great God and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.
"Establish all things in Christ!" is our motto and programme: with divine help and at the orders of the Church we must use ourselves to renew everything in the charity of God.  But, before everything else, we must renew ourselves in Christ in the deepest part of our spirit.  Now there is no greater necessity than that, my dear people.  Jesus, on His birthday, invites us to live as humble religious, and to fulfil in ourselves the will of the Heavenly Father, in an obedience founded on love.
God, who was born in poverty to live in suffering, teaches us to love poverty and the cross: since "the life of a good religious is the cross...", as the Imitation of Christ says: the life of a good religious is the cross...
Jesus was born as a poor person in a bare cave, open to the winds and, even before His birth, He was already put outside of civil society; He was pushed out, into the open countryside: to Him even the ox and the ass had greater piety!  But His love triumphs!  Christmas makes us feel something of the infinite love of Jesus, who has sought to make Himself loved with a supreme goodness and an infinite delicacy, ever since His birth.  How many lessons of humility, of faith, of simplicity, of poverty, of obedience, of abandonment to Divine Providence, has Jesus given us right from the manger!
Above all, Jesus cries out to us from the crib: "Charity! Charity! Charity!"  A life of charity: the whole Gospel is here, the whole life and Heart of Jesus are here: the whole of God is here: God is love!  God has based the foundation of our holy Religion on love: it is the most noble and excellent of all virtues: it is the beginning and the source of all our merits.  Charity, infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is a virtue by which we love God for Himself and our neighbour for the love of God.
It is the distinctive sign of the disciples of Jesus Christ, it is the greatest commandment and it is truly of Christ.  And Christmas shows us "God's great love towards us, who sent His only-begotten Son into the world, so that we may live through Him." (I. John 4.6).
Now, my dear people, let us hold on to charity, and we will hold on to Jesus; let us live by His commandments, let us follow Him closely in the practice of His Evangelical Counsels, and let us walk in the love of God and of our neighbour, ardently, imitating Christ, who loved us first of all, and loved us to the extent of dying in order to give us life.  Charity!  Charity!  Charity!  This alone must be dear to our hearts, my sons, as only in charity will we attain holiness, which is the will of the Lord: "this is the will of God, your sanctification."
Yes, we shall love you, oh Lord, God of love, our stronghold and our refuge, heart of our hearts, the only heartbeat of our life!  Guard us, oh Lord, so that the many disenchantments and bitternesses, the many floods of water, do not put out the fire of Your charity in us.  Jesus, You are our God, our Saviour, our mercy, You are Charity.
"What will separate us," my sons, "from the love of Christ?  Will it be tribulation?  anguish?  hunger?  persecution?  the sword?"  No, through the virtue of Christ, who loved us so much, and only through His divine grace, no: neither death with its anguish, nor life with its distractions, nor great honours, nor depth of pain, bitterness, darkness, will ever be able to separate us from the love of Christ and His Church, the sweetest Mother of our souls, the infallible Teacher of our Faith.
Sons and brothers, it is the holy Child who comes; there is the Baby Jesus on the straw, for our love!  What is He saying to us?  Charity!  Charity!  Charity!  Let us open our hearts wider to the most tender of affections, and throw ourselves in adoration at the feet of Jesus; may our lives burn with the flames of His love, since His love is gentle and divine, and it is life; it is life, and the fruit of His charity is peace, and in fact is the beauty of peace itself: in the beauty of peace!
Lord, at this time of Your birth, we want to renew ourselves in the very depths of our spirit.  The shepherds laid the lambs down at Your feet; we lay down all our moral miseries and all our poverty at Your feet!  Lord, have mercy on us and on the Little Work of Yours which we, unfortunately, have distorted so much.  We want to change ourselves, we want to become good Religious, true Religious, holy Religious, according to the wish of Your heart.  We want to become humble, simple like the shepherds, docile to You and to Your church, like their little lambs, we want to love You, love You so much, consume ourselves with love for You and for souls, oh Jesus!  My Jesus, give us Charity, remove everything else! Oh Jesus, come!  Be mystically reborn in us and in our little Congregation with Your holy love; we just want to live through Your charity and in Your charity!

Charity!  Charity!  Charity!  Jesus, with Your Divine Love, give us a great spirit of charity towards souls, especially towards the sons of the poor and towards the unhappy and abandoned poor.  You know, Lord: we are Your poor and we were born for the poor.
After God, Our Blessed Lady, the Church, what is there, my sons, that we must love more, more than the poor?  Did not St. Laurence, the great deacon of the Roman Church, say that the poor are the treasure of the Church of Christ? 
Give us, oh Lord, that sweet and kind charity which is the strength and the backbone of all the virtues, that charity which refreshes the tired, strengthens the weak and lightens the burden of truth.  Make the Little Work of Divine Providence into an altar, on which the inextinguishable fire of charity burns, almost like a furnace, and cause the flame to rise up to You, oh Lord, to enlighten and give warmth to all of us: remove all that is lukewarm from us, all that is cold, increase in us the divine strength of grace, revive our spirit, give new life and prosperity to all the Houses of the Congregation: make us all of one heart and one soul, so that the Little Work may be filled with a great sweetness and that it may enjoy ever greater peace and harmony.  May everything be done in charity!*
Charity!  Charity!  Charity!  There is nothing dearer to Jesus Christ, nothing more precious than brotherly love; we must therefore, my dear people, take extreme care to preserve it and to cause it to grow in ourselves and in the Congregation so as to be, in Christ, one for all and all for one, since it is this spirit of charity alone that edifies, bonds and unites in Christ.  To the extent that we should abandon any subject, even those entered into through love for the truth and zeal for the glory of God, if it should ever, in however small a degree, embitter our hearts and weaken the spirit of charity.
Charity, says St. Paul, is patient and kind, it is sweet and gentle, strong and constant, it is enlightened and wise, it is humble, fervent, untiring and self-denying.  It does everything for everyone: it does not seek what is its own, it is serene, it is not ambitious, it is not envious, it rejoices in the well-being of others, whether of persons it loves or of those who are hostile.  It puts up with the faults of others and, if it is at all possible, it covers them with a cloak of love. It interprets words and actions in the most favourable way: it rejects all kinds of selfishness and finds its happiness in doing whatever good it can.  Christ's charity is universal and embraces heaven and earth.  It is courageous to the point of boldness, but most delicate, it is all-powerful and triumphant in everything.
Charity is simple and honest, it never becomes troubled; it is not puffed up, it does not seek its own advantage, it never becomes bitter, it is there under the feet of everyone and rises right up to the heart, entering into the heart of everyone.  Charity does not have a disapproving eye, it does not love argument, it recognises neither buts or ifs; it does not have a spirit of contradiction, of disapproval, of criticism, of complaining; charity does not know what all that stuff is.  Charity's look is always serene, just as its spirit is serene; it is calm and, when it speaks, it never raises its voice.
Charity is never idle, but industrious and active, working in silence.  It has one prerogative which is wholly its own: it is always happy and content with everything, even with beatings and the most humiliating insults; in the knobbly stick that St. Francis spoke about, in scorn and in the lowest of humiliations, charity finds its perfect joy.
Charity is undaunted by difficulties, as it trusts in God: God is its portion and the cup of its inheritance: with confidence in the Lord, with patience and with time it knows how to hope and to wait for the minutes and the hours of God and the favourable outcome of every holy enterprise.
Charity prefers the simplicity of the dove to the suspicion of the serpent, and it does not wish to know anything about the serpent.  Charity is open to all goodness, from wherever it comes; it knows and wishes to learn from everyone, always confident in the Lord and in the goodness, whether great or little, that it is always able to find in the hearts of even those that are most distant from it.  Its zeal does not burn, nor does it cause to break, it is discreet and takes account of knowledge, since it knows human limitations and weaknesses and is able to understand them; it knows that it is too difficult to find a person without faults.
Charity never does anything unseemly: nor does it ever get excited or take account of wrongs that are done to it; it conquers evil with good.  It takes no pleasure in injustice, but is happy whenever it has cause to rejoice in the truth.  It forgives everything, hopes everything, puts up with everything.  It prays, suffers, keeps silent and adores: it is never lacking there!
There is nothing arbitrary about charity, nothing hard; it finds its happiness in spreading and irradiating goodness, meekness and kindness around itself: it desires one thing alone: to sacrifice itself in order to obtain the happiness and salvation of others, for the glory of God.
All human knowledge is fatuous, if charity does not instil it with the taste of the love of God and one's neighbour: without it, knowledge puffs up. Charity first, then knowledge, my Sons, as the latter fades, whereas the former never passes away, and lasts for all eternity.  It is charity, my dear people, and only charity that will save the world.  Blessed are they who have the grace of being victims to charity!
My brothers and sons, let us love God to the point of becoming victims, holocausts of charity, and let us love each other very much in the Lord: nothing pleases the Lord more, as He said: "I have loved each other." (John XV.9-10).
The great secret of holiness is to love the Lord and the Lord's brothers very much.  The Saints are the chalices of the love of God and of their brothers.  Love Jesus, love each other in Jesus: work in order to make Jesus loved, and also His Holy Vicar, the Pope; pray, work, suffer, be silent, love, live and die with love for Jesus, for the Pope, for souls!

My dear people, the Little Work of Divine Providence must be like a Family in Jesus Christ.  Bound by charity, united as one indivisible heart in this moral body of our Congregation, oh, what great help we will have from the hand of God, and how joyful, happy and strong we will feel!  The Congregation will prosper and will be blessed through the merits of all those who contribute towards maintaining unity and peace - because our strength, my dearest people, is in unity, whose bond is Christ.  Oh! with what joy and heartfelt happiness will we then sing the: "Oh how good and joyful it is to live as brothers in unity!"
Charity is completely directed towards the good of the Church and of souls, and is the uniform of the disciples of Christ and of the Church.  St. Paul wrote: "Faith, hope and charity: the greatest of these three is charity."  Let us therefore ardently seek to have charity.  This is the way which must be followed, my sons, a way that is overwhelmingly better than any other.  The spirit of the Little Work is the spirit of charity: may the most humble charity guide our steps, my brothers: charity in everything!
I must finish here, otherwise this letter of mine will not get to you for Christmas: and I will have to be brief.  I humbly pray that the Baby Jesus will be pleased to fill me and you all with His most gentle charity; and I embrace you in the charity of Christ, my dear Priests, with a holy kiss, and I wish you a Happy Christmas!  God knows how much I think of you and how much I love you: remember me at the Altar, especially on that Holy Night.  And to you, my Seminarians and my good Hermits, my joy, my hope and my crown, Happy Christmas!
Happy Christmas to the Sisters of the different Religious Families!  I commend myself and the Congregation to each and everyone: to each and everyone, from the eldest down to the smallest, I send greetings with a holy Christmas blessing and every good wish for the New Year.
Goodbye, my dear brothers and sons, and you, good Sisters, pray for me: remember your distant father.  I will pray so much for you!  Let us meet again at the feet of Jesus: there we shall find ourselves united for ever in the intimate union of charity: and, united and close to Jesus, "how good and joyful it will be to live as brothers in unity."
May our joy and unity be complete in the Heart of Jesus on earth, in the Heart of Jesus in Heaven!  Our Brothers here and the Sisters commend themselves fervently to your prayers: they greet you and send you their most holy wishes.  They show great charity, endless regard and compassion to me; help me to ask God to reward them generously!  May the Lord of charity and peace give Himself to us continuously, and may He give us His charity and His peace.  May the Lord and Our Blessed Lady be with you always!
Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to men of good will.  I bless you again: let us live in Christ, humbly and faithfully at the feet of the Pope and of the Holy Church, and Happy Christmas!  Again I bless you in Baby Jesus and Mary Immaculate.  Let us never tire of doing good and of consuming ourselves in the charity of the Lord: Happy Christmas!  Happy Christmas!  Happy Christmas!”

                                                                                     Luigi Orione of Divine Providence

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