Sessions 9-13

UNDERTAKING WORKS OF CHARITY
Constitutions 549-655
(Rule of Life 132-152)

 

Summary

The person who truly has love in his heart, wills every good, because he wills only good; and so he wills both the good which is in God, who is good without qualifications, and the good which, qualified and participated, can be in a human being. From this it is clear that charity is of its nature universal since it extends itself to every good.

The realisation of the greatest possible good in the Institute will depend upon the judgement of the Superiors who will arrange the duties of every individual so that the harmonious work of many may result in the maximum amount of good.

Although the Lord has given us the command of mutual love He has not obliged us to search for the needs of our neighbour. We must do whatever we can when such needs are disclosed to us by themselves. Our Lord Himself did not go out looking for people to heal, but they came to Him; the good Samaritan did not search for people to help but he found one on the road to Jericho and helped him in every way.

The first rule for accepting works of charity is to wait for Divine Providence; when an occasion of exercising charity offers itself we must take it as put before us by Providence.

The second rule is to let ourselves be guided by a sincere sense of humility that persuades us that by ourselves we are incapable of doing any good; when JESUS demands it then we are assured of his mighty help and strength.

The third rule is to wait to be asked by our neighbour, either expressly or tacitly. If many requests come our way we must attend first to the ones that were made first.

Three conditions must be kept in mind before accepting a new work of charity:

  1. No new work should undermine the perfect execution of work which we already have, although minor inconveniences may be accepted in certain cases;
  2. No new work combined with works already undertaken should form a burden exceeding and shattering the strength of the members;
  3. Nothing should be started which cannot be executed with a certain perfection, with availability of well prepared Superiors and brethren.

 

The preferences to be observed in relation to those who ask are the following:

  1. Requests from the Holy Father are to be given first and immediate priority;
  2. Requests from Bishops equally should be given careful consideration; however, since the Society is not bound to Bishops by vow, Superiors are free to evaluate requests in the light of their overall responsibilities and commitments;
  3. Generally speaking, Superiors should reflect that “the more universal the good, the more divine it is”, hence the help afforded great nations or well attended universities may be preferred to works of charity which are less universal;
  4. The charity of the Holy Spirit will teach those accepting work to rule the Society of love with love alone”.

 

There are three types of charity considered in relation to the good of our neighbour:

  1. Temporal Charity, that consists in helping people in their temporal needs;
  2. Intellectual Charity, that deals with cultivating the mind and developing the intellectual faculties of our neighbour;
  3. Spiritual Charity, that consists in the salvation of souls and the eternal life.

 

All three types are closely connected since both temporal and intellectual charity must be undertaken for the sake of spiritual charity; and spiritual charity also deals with intellectual and temporal charity – in the work of a parish, for example.

The pastoral care of souls must be the preferred work of charity because “it exhibits the full and perfect notion of spiritual charity. The care of souls is the greatest of all offices of charity, it encompasses and actualises universal charity. It must be considered as the complete perfection and fullness of this Society” (C605).

Superiors should be more insistent upon the sanctification of members than on increasing works of charity, and on perfecting works we already have rather than spreading ourselves too widely.

We should never abandon works of charity because of the imprudence of Superiors when they first undertook them, therefore Superiors must always go forward with the utmost diligence and spiritual wisdom.

Works which are “perpetual or require several persons working together” should be abandoned only for “some grave and obvious reason”. With regard to subjects, all should be ready to leave any ministry whatsoever, and undertake a new one, without excuse or delay, when obedience prescribes (C654).

 


Session Ten
PREPARING FOR WORKS OF CHARITY
Constitutions 656-820
(Rule of Life 142-152)

 

Summary

Offices in the Society can be of two types, primary and secondary, according to the extent of the charity. Presbyters exercise general charity, coadjutors exercise particular works of charity.

Superiors must make every effort to acquire a perfect knowledge of the brethren so that they may be selected prudently and efficaciously to different works of charity. They should not rely on conjectures but on true assessment, and should always be led by pure charity.

Disclosure of conscience is the best means for acquiring true knowledge of the brethren and therefore there should be a real openness and sincerity of heart on the part of the brethren. Superiors can also discern the hearts and minds of the brethren informally, through conversations and discussions.

Frequent and extensive reports should also help Superiors to know the brethren; such reports should be sent from superior to a higher superior and to Fr. General. The purpose will be simply to identify oneself with the brother, having an intimate knowledge so that he may be given an obedience which will be the best for him before the Lord.

The members of the Institute consecrate themselves to perfect indifference and therefore they are ready for all kinds of obedience in the pursuit of universal charity. Superiors, however, are under obligation to see the natural inclinations and gifts of the brethren as signs of Divine Providence and decide obedience accordingly if possible.

If Superiors cannot take into account the natural inclinations of the individual because of particular circumstances they should appoint the person to a work of charity temporarily.

Although the authority of Superiors is so extensive, it is not simply an authority to command. Rather, in view of the disposition which the members determine upon and will, it is a ministry enuntiating what members themselves must will, and what they do in fact will (C693).

Superiors’ commands are not left to their caprice. When Superiors give orders they will consider the voluntariness of the obedience of their subjects and will genuinely perceive in that voluntariness the ruling principle and nature of the government they have accepted. Their authority is totally directed towards the salvation of the souls of the members.

Every lover of Christ will choose, in all his actions, including his exercise of works of charity, that which will enable him to please God more abundantly. Hence a Superior, as it were transforming himself through charity into each of the subjects individually, will have the same zeal for each one as a true disciple would have for himself” (C702).

The brethren engaged in spiritual, intellectual, temporal works of charity must be helped in every way by Superiors so that they may discharge their duties towards our neighbour with great efficiency and every consolation in the Lord.

The pastoral office is the greatest form of spiritual charity; the education of youth of intellective charity; the happy conclusion of discord and strife is to be considered the highest form of temporal charity.


Session Eleven
THE HEAD OF THE SOCIETY
Constitutions 821-951
(Rule of Life 153-228)

 

Summary

A well structured Society like ours needs a Fr. General, appointed for life, who will take charge of the universal good.

Fr. General will have the following seven qualities:

  1. Greatest union and familiarity with God in prayer and in action;
  2. Will be of example in every virtue, especially charity, humility, kindness, meekness, greatness of soul, and fortitude;
  3. An outstanding gift of understanding and judgement, combined with learning and holy prudence and discernment of spirits;
  4. Vigilance, management, effort in directing affairs to a successful conclusion;
  5. Bodily gifts, like health, right age, authoritative appearance;
  6. He must enjoy general esteem and a good name;
  7. He must be resplendent with every kind of virtues, goodness, justice, love for all, sound judgment, sufficient learning.

The same qualities should be found in all other major Superiors.

Generally speaking, Fr. General has full power to:

  1. Admit persons to the Society or to dismiss them, and to employ all persons subject to obedience for various duties;
  2. Apply and dispose goods for different works of charity
  3. Undertake, direct and relinquish the works of charity themselves.

In the election of major Superiors (e.g. Provincials), he should have various names proposed to him by other Superiors and he should normally follow their advice.

Fr. General is responsible for the universal observance of the Constitutions; which also state the particular cases in which his authority is limited, the care which the Society must have in regard to Fr. General, the special cases  (temporary illness, or permanent severe illness) when the Vicar of Spiritual Charity will take over the government of the Society.

Fr. General will have three immediate vicars to assist him in spiritual, intellectual, temporal charity. He will also have a secretary, personal assistants, and an admonitor.

The Vicar General, appointed by Fr. General during his own lifetime, will take over the immediate government of the Society after the death of Fr. General; he will also arrange for the election of the new Fr. General.


Session Twelve
AIDS TO UNION
Constitutions 952-1051
(Rule of Life 229-235)

 

Summary

Union in spirit among members will be helped by having fewer coadjutors and fewer presbyters, but truly worthy of their grade.

Superiors should not be moved from office needlessly, “they should grow old therein”. The higher the position the more difficult it should be to move them (959).

When a superior is chosen he must be able to work well with his assistants, who, therefore, must also be chosen very carefully so that “the superior and his aides may be knit together harmoniously” (960)

Members belonging to different regions and languages are to be intermingled, and no house composed of one nation only is permitted. All should learn the language of the region in which they live unless their own is more useful (961).

Frequent correspondence between inferiors and superiors will be of great assistance, together with a constant interchange of information.

The election of Fr. General is the responsibility of the full Roman Congregation.  Numbers 967-1051 deal with the persons entitled to a passive or active vote, the procedures of the election, the election of the four assistants and of the admonitor. There is also the very minor distinction between “the full Roman Congregation” (not all who are entitled to vote need to be present but can send their vote by letter) and the “General Congregation” (they must be present in person - see1043E).

General Congregations should be summoned only in very urgent cases – like the threat of a schism or profound division in the Institute. “Generally speaking, Fr. General himself will act on his own authority, aided by the communication he has with the Society as a whole and by the work of those living with him. In this way he will free the Society as a whole from work and distractions, as far as he can. The full Roman Congregation will be sufficient for the election of Fr. General, and for other, even very important, business” (1044).


Session Thirteen
THE WELL-BEING OF THE SOCIETY
Constitutions 1052-1068
(Rule of Life 246-255)

 

Summary

The Institute has been established not by human will and means but by the grace of God and our Lord JESUS Christ. The work, therefore, must be entrusted entirely to Him, by frequent prayers and sacrifices.

Essential means for well being and growth are the solid and perfect virtues of members, like uprightness, justice, charity, humility, pure intention, familiarity with God, and sincere zeal for souls.

The Institute must be “armed” with the following virtues:

  1. Profound reading of the Gospels, “the spring from which these Constitutions have flowed like a brook” (1054), and the consequent imitation of Christ;
  2. Doing the Father’s Will, like JESUS. We must be at rest in the Lord, always attentive and ready to follow the directives of Divine Providence;
  3. Love for the Bride of Christ, the Church, above all else;
  4. Imitation of Christ in His humility and obedience. Members must get on with their duties, resolved to give up their life in the course of duty, fighting manfully without expecting help from anyone, not even the Institute, but from God.
  5. Imitation of Christ’s justice and charity towards other human beings. Deal with perfect justice towards all, avoiding rash judgements, fleeing every deceit, and not seeking any advantage of this world;
  6. Sound and wide learning must be sought for the benefit of others;
  7. Great care must be taken in the administration of temporal goods, it should be carried out honourably and openly. “The Society should be able at any time to undergo judgement by the whole world” in relation to temporal goods.
  8. The suppression of ambition, the mother of all evils in every community, will be of the highest importance.

 

Good and evil in the attitude of the Head influences the whole body. It is necessary that members pray constantly for Fr. General and Superiors. “The quality of subjects will almost certainly be that of their superiors” (1062)

Strong community life will help all members; the bond of obedience will strengthen the harmony of their wills. There should be moderation in corporal and spiritual labour.

The Institute must be grateful to all benefactors, remembering them in prayer.

Finally, all must learn and know the Constitutions and put them into practice, so that they may achieve true human greatness: “Rooted and grounded in love, may they have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the LOVE OF CHRIST which surpasses all knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we may ask or think, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ JESUS, unto all generations, world without end. Amen”. (Eph. 3, 17-21).

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