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Translation from Latin by

Dom Gerard Dubois O.C.S.O.

Translation for French by

John Flynn SMA.

Bishop Ambrose Mathalaimathu

Bishop of Coimbatore (India)

With permission of Superior

Patrick J. Harrington SMA

Superior General

Rome, 1st February 1988

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Table of Contents

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Monseigneur Melchior Marie Joseph Marion de Bresillac came to India in 1842 at the age of 29 as a missionary of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris. After some months of learning Tamil in Pondicherry he was first appointed Curate of Salem. But soon afterwards he was put in-charge of the seminary at Pondicherry. In 1845, he was elected Bishop of Prusa and Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore. Out of humility he declined to accept his elevation to the episcopate and wrote to that effect to the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide. Rome, however, re­jected the request of Monseigneur de Bresillac; He bowed to the wishes of the Holy See and was consecrated at Karumatthampatty, a small village near Coimbatore on 4th October 1846. Monseigneur Bonnand, the then Vicar Apostolic of Pondicherry has this comment to make on this historic occasion: "It is the first time that a Bishop was consecrated by three Bishops in the West Coast of India; the consecration took place in a small village which nobody thought worthy of such honour and such magnificence. "

When he took charge of Coimbatore Vicariate as its Pro-Vicar, there were 10,500 Catholics and 4 missionaries. He himself reviews the situation as follows: "Out of the 50 churches or chapels, three or four are built in bricks and mortar with tiled roof; they are very small; the rest are nothing but huts built with mud and covered with thatched roof. There is a seminary with ten students accommodated in a single small room. Everything is to be created. Conversions are very few, the number of missionaries (4 and no Indian priests) being insufficient even for the care of Christians."

Monseigneur de Bresillac was made Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore in 1850 and in the same year he transferred the headquarters from (p 4)

Karumatthampatty to Coimbatore, where he laid the foundations of the present Cathedral, which according to his plan was to be in pure Roman style and, in a small scale, a replica of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.

In November 1853, Monseigneur de Bresillac left for Rome with a view to clear his doubts regarding the Malabar rites and the caste system which caused him anxiety and unforeseen difficulties resulting in a re­volution among the faithful and dissension among the clergy. He, how­ever, never returned to India. He resigned his see in 1855 and sub­sequently founded the Society of African Missions of Lyons.

Monseigneur de Bresillac was a progressive Bishop with broad vis­ions. He was, so to say, many years ahead of his times. His views about the caste-system proved right now after a hundred or more years. Un­touchability because of caste has been abolished and is now punishable, if practised. Caste names have been abolished in the church registers and official documents. Intercaste marriages are encouraged. Priestly and religious vocations are promoted in all communities. Churches and tem­ples are open to all, irrespective of their castes - Even in hindu temples, "archakas" (priests) who were formerly considered the prerogative of Brahmins, can now be appointed from other castes.

As regards the formation of an Indian Clergy, his first efforts were directed towards this goal. Even here, his vision was far ahead of his times, and in 1886, when the hierarchy was established in India, Pope Leo XIII would seal it with his clarion call "Fili tui, India, administri tui salutis. "

Monseigneur de Bresillac took personal interest in the spiritual and intellectual training of the seminarians; he enacted definite and wise rules for their formation. He gave the tonsure to the first batch of 5 students in 1849 and then the minor orders in 1853, just before he left for Rome. They all persevered and became the first pillars of the Indian Clergy in the Vicariate of Coimbatore.

The retreat he gave in Latin to the seminarians of Karumatthampatty just before he left for Rome, bears ample testimony the great love (p 5) he had in his heart for the seminarians. This retreat was based on the three theological virtues of "Faith, hope and charity", which, to say the truth, form the very foundations of the spiritual life. While going through the text, one cannot but notice the deep love and knowledge Mgr. de Bresillac had for the Holy Scriptures. His meditations are all based on Scripture and the very many scripture quotations we find in every page prove the facility with which he could handle the various books of the revealed Word.

That he did not only preach on Faith, Hope and Charity but also did live them himself, could easily be seen from the fact that these were the last three words he pronounced before his death.

I deem it a privilege to have been invited to write the preface of this work. Although this work was originally meant for the Indian seminarians of Karumatthampatty, it will no doubt be of benefit to anyone who reads it, as it deals with, as Mgr. de Bresillac himself says, means to follow to arrive at eternal life.

24th August 1985


Bishop of Coimbatore

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Editor's Foreword

On the 31st. October 1853, Mgr. de Marion Bresillac wrote in his diary: HI have just arrived from Karumatthampatty where I had gone to say farewell to the seminarians by giving them the annual retreat preceding the conferring of Minor Orders(1), Let the good God deign to bless these young men for the consolations which they have given me over these four years. They have certainly confirmed that it is possible to train, here and everywhere, good priests, as long as one is willing to take the means. If there is an area in the world which is barren as far as this fundamental work is concerned, it is certainly here. I have been helped in educating these young clerics by only one missionary(2). Two others have helped rather than hin­dered the project. All the others have hampered the work. 0 my God! When will you permit those who have eyes, to see and those who have ears, to hear? It will be when the time of your mercy as Saviour for these peoples will have come. Up to then, priests who are otherwise good, but who will not be capable of meriting the name of Apostles, will have their eyes closed to the evidence".

This text is situated at a crucial moment where Mgr. de Bresillac, after having obtained permission to go to Rome, will have to give an explanation for his request to the Holy See to be relieved, urgently, of his duty as Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore. He implies some reasons here but not the most important, namely the difficulty of supporting any longer in conscience the confusion due to tolerance of the Malabar Rites. There was as yet no mention of inculturation.

Before leaving he gave the retreat in Latin to the seminarians of Karumatthampatty -- the Seminary for the Vicariate Apostolic. We present the exercises of this retreat here. The content of the text will be understood (p 8)

if one realizes that Mgr de Bresillac intended to make of this house a real seminary and not just a simple college for ecclesiastical students or a hostel for seminarians passing through(3). He didn't have a purely functional con­cept of the priestly ministry. He wanted secular priests "after the manner of Apostles", who would also be witnesses to the Kingdom which they announce and celebrate. Whence comes the call for the evangelical coun­sels which are at once the fruit of charity and a means of making it grow; at the same time they promote liberty in the service of the Lord. It was his belief that it was possible to promote among the Indians this kind of priest.

Spiritual theology has certainly progressed since then. Vatican Coun­cil II in Chapter V of Lumen Gentium, affirms that the counsels are many, and not just three. In addition they are proposed to all Christians. Further­more, if the Council considered the vocation to the ministerial priesthood as an "invaluable gift", it recognized as well "the admirable vocation of the common priesthood "of every baptized person" (Lumen Gentium 34).

With our Author the situation of non-Christians and heretics is rather briefly dealt with. It is admited and taught today that non-Christians "are ordered to the People of God and that God does not refuse the help necessary for salvation to those who, through no fault of their own, as yet do not know him expressly, provided that they seek him with a sincere heart" (L. G. 15).

Traces of a morality of intention, independent of the intrinsic good­ness of the action, will be found in the text. Thus, of two seminarians, who would accomplish the same good actions externally, one would be saved and the other damned if he did not act from the motive of faith! But what is meant exactly by that and when can one consider that a man does not have such a motive? And yet, Saint Louis de Gonzaga is praised for the fact that he was a "man disincarnate or an angel incarnate". But the Council reminds us that "it is forbidden for man to disdain bodily life" and that "he must esteem and respect his body which has been created by God and which will rise at the last day" (Gaudium et Spes 14).

Whatever be the case, a breath of optimism, not very usual at that time, flows through these pages. Marion Bresillac calls with insistence to (p 9)

love more than to fear. He believes that these seminarians are capable of Christian perfection in line with the evangelical statements of Jesus. This opinion was far from being unanimous among the missionaries of that time. He was capable of distinguishing the sins of weakness from those of malice. He does not believe that a man with a living faith can easily commit mortal sin. Besides, he rests the whole ediface of the spiritual life on the foundation of the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. When one remembers that these were the last three words he uttered before dying, one can see in these virtues the rock on which this eventful life has found its most solid foundations. That largely corrects considerations which elsewhere could appear to us as rigorous, narrow and somewhat moralizing. Finally, one will be struck by the vast biblical knowledge of the author, even if he has very likely used a concordance for the final drafting of the text. To draw from the source of the Word of God can only rejuvenate and strengthen Faith and it is in this spirit that we approach the reading of these pages.

Have these exercises been given only to Indian seminarians? There is in the archives of the African Missions a draft - in French - of the text given at Karumatthampatty in Latin, but the material is set out differently. Now, during the year 1855, Mgr. de Bresillac preached a retreat to the seminarians of Soissons on the invitation of the Bishop. Has he made use of the same text as at Karumatthampatty? No one knows.

The translation of the work printed in Rome in 1854 through the good offices of the Sacred Congregation f or "the Propagation of the Faith" and which we publish here has been done by Dom Gerard Dubois, Abbot of the Trappist Monastery of Soligny. We are grateful to him for the care he has taken with the translation. The texts of Scripture are cited from the ecumenical Translation of the Bible save when the author was giving a commentary which followed strictly the Vulgate. The patristic citations have been checked where-ever possible by having recourse to the original text. It appears that, for the most part, they have been cited from the readings in the breviary which was then in use.

It remains for us in our time to put into practice the content of these (p10) exercises, for the Christian and missionary life has no foundation other than that of Faith, Hope and Charity.

Jean Bonfils s.m.a.

1 A copy of the "Spiritual Exercises", placed in the archives of the SMA Generalate, and dedicated by Mgr de Bresillac to "his dear son Xaverimouttou (or Xaveriappen)", gives the names of the ordinands:

Anthonimuttu, son of Sinnapan and Annamal, from Buklipaleam, ordained Porter. Xaveriappen (or Xaverimouttou), newly baptized, from Krishnaburam, ordained Porter (1).

Rayappan, son of Arulappan and Saveriammal from Sommanellam, ordained Exorcist. Ganapragassam, son of Arockiassamy and Annamal, from Palghat, ordained Exorcist. Arulappan, son of Anthonimuttu and Saveriammal, from Karumatthampatty, ordained Exorcist.

Mariamman, son of Xaverishetty and Mariammal, from Kasly, ordained Exorcist and


(1) Son of Karuppuchevan and Andakal.

2 Fr. Pierre Métral, was born in Ugine, Savoie, in 1802. He was already working at Coim­batore when the Vicariate was erected. He was Superior of the Seminary at Karumatthampatty in 1846. He was Pro Vicar of Coimbatore in 1850. He died in 1857. Rome, unaware of his death, appointed him two months later, to succeed Mgr. de Bresillac as head of the Vicariate.

3 Cf. Jean Bonfils, The Work of Mgr. de Bresillac in favour of a Local Clergy in the Indian Mission in 19th. Century, Lyons 1959, pp. 35-48.

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Three days Spiritual Exercises

given to the seminarists of Karumatthampatty from 26th. October to the 30th. October 1853 by Bishop M.M.J. de Marion Bresillac

Bishop of Pruse and Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore


Printed by the Sacred Congregation for the Propogation of the Faith


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Author's Preface

To the European Reader

The spiritual exercises which we publish here have been given to young clerical students from India in a manner adapted to their particular conditions.

Should they arrive in the hands of a European, let him realize that they have been given in their time with profit and let him not reject them at first sight under the pretext that they are not suited to the character of the European cleric: let him just remember that they have been intended originally for a different situation.

Frankly speaking, when it is a question of the means to be used for eternal life, human nature, scarcely differs, if at all, from one country to another. Also, we think, clerics, other than Indian, can draw profit from our work. If such is the case, we can only thank the Author of all good.

The Latin language which we have used will appear a little heavy and less elegant; we concede this willingly. But we have opted to choose a simple and even sometimes common form because of the youth of the audience who have less experience of the works of Tullius and Virgil than of the writings of Augustine, Gregory, Bernard and other Doctors of the Church -- writings which are excellent and well composed.

We pray God finally that he will pour his abundant blessings on all those who will read this pamphlet.


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To the Students of the Seminary of Karumatthampatty

in the Apostolic Vicariate of Coimbatore

Dear Sons,

Before leaving for Rome to present my respects to the Sovereign Pontiff and to give him an account of the state of the mission of Coimba­tore, I have myself given you the spiritual exercises, with the desire of talking to you about supernatural things.

I admit it with joy: from the day when the very good Jesus called you to the ecclesiastical state and confided you to me in order that I be your spiritual father, you have given me many consolations; in the first place there is the joy which I have felt, during these three days of prayer and pious exercises, admiring your attention, piety and compunction with which you have heard the teachings of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, you have given the unquestionable sign of your desire to keep these teachings in your minds and hearts, when one of you, with the consent of his companions, I expect, asked me to leave you my written notes of the talks which you wished to copy.

You know, dear sons, that I always listen to your requests when they are reasonable, especially when it is a question of providing you with a spiritual good. I would have agreed immediately to your request if I had not considered it advisable to review the talks which I had composed in a hurry. Furthermore, and especially, the citations from Holy Scripture were from memory and therefore, it was to be feared, were not literal. I also considered it necessary to add the meditations which had not been written out. I remember them sufficienty well to re-compose them as you find them here.

Today I respond to your wishes and send you the exercises which (p 14)

are now complete; I trust that in re-reading them you will feel again the excellent sentiments you felt during the retreat.

If the good God, who conducts everything for his greater glory and for our spiritual use, grants me the grace of returning to the beloved mission of Coimbatore, I will speak to you again and frequently of his mercy, as well as of Faith, of Charity, of Piety and of the other Christian and ecclesiastical virtues. If, on the contrary, the good God wishes that I do not see you again in this world, but only in Heaven, you will have this pamphlet as a memorial so that you will not forget me before God and that you always pray for me.

Keep well. And let God's grace, the token of which is the blessing that I send you, remain in you always, dear sons, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

+ M.M.J. de Marion Bresillac

Bishop of Pruse, Vic. Ap. of Coimbatore

Rome, 28 June 1854

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- 6.00pm: Veni Creator will be sung in the Church.

After Veni Creator all will go the Bishop's House for the Spiritual Talk.

After the talk there will be meditation.

- 7.00pm: Visit to the Blessed Sacrament: Pangua Lingua, a Marian Antiphon and Laudate Dominum omnes gentes will be sung.

- 7.15pm: Rosary.

After Rosary there will be dinner.

After dinner there will be recreation during which talking in moderation will be permitted.

- 8.30pm: Vocal Prayer. The theme for tomorrow's meditation will be given.

All retire to sleep.


- 5.30am: Rising: A half-hour will be allowed for washing and dressing. During this time there is silence and reflection on the theme of the meditation.

- 5.30am: Vocal Prayer and meditation in the Bishop's House.

- 6.30am: Free time.

- 7.00am: Mass, during which Ps. 50, Miserere Mei Deus, 0 Salutaris and some verses from Ps. 118, Beati Immaculati in via, will be chanted.

- 7.30am: Breakfast: During Breakfast there will be reading.

Free time.

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- 8.00am: Reading of the Hour from the Little Office of B.V.M.

Free time.

- 10.00am: Spiritual Talk followed by meditation until 11.00am.

Free time.

- 1l.45am: Reading from the Gospel and Particular Examen.

- 12.00 Noon: Lunch

After dinner there will be recreation during which talking in moderation will be permitted.

- 1. 15pm: Rest in Dormitory.

- 2.00pm: Rosary and Vespers of B.V. Mary.

Free time.

- 4.00pm: Talk and meditation as above for 10.00am.

- 5.00pm: Matins and Lauds of B.V. Mary.

Free time.

- 6.30pm: Spiritual Reading from the life of Saint Louis de Gonzaga (Tamil version).

- 7.00pm: Visit to Blessed Sacrament with the same chants as yesterday.

- 7.30pm: As yesterday.

Friday and Saturday

All as on Thursday.


All as on other days up to 6.45am.

- 6.45am: All will accompany the Bishop in procession to the Church singing Veni Creator.

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7.00am: Ordination Mass: After the ordination Ps. 15, Conserva Me, will be chanted instead of Ps. Miserere.

After Mass, Breakfast in silence with reading.

- 8.45: Talk. After the talk everybody will go to the Church for the singing of Te Deum which will mark the end of the Retreat.

* * *


During free time, each one, according to devotion or according to what is useful for him, will read spiritual books, pray, examine his conscience, go to confession, or seek spiritual direction in order to maintain his interior spiritual progress. It is advisable to go to confession at least twice; once at the beginning and again at the end of the Retreat.

* * *

Reading from the New Testament and the Old Testament as well as from the Imitation of Jesus Christ to be done during free time.

Thursday: James Ch. 4.

Gen. Ch. 22

Imitation of Jesus Christ L. III, Ch. 3 and L. II, Ch. 8.

Friday: Hebrews, Ch. 11.

Judges, Ch. 7.

Imitation of Jesus Christ L. I, Ch. 15 and L. III, Ch. 57.

Saturday: 1 John, Ch. 5.

Gen. Ch. 18

Imitation of Jesus Christ L. III, Ch. 54 and L. IV, Ch. 1.

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Points regarding the English Translation

Faith, Hope and Charity were the last words on the lips of Marion de Bresillac. These words serve as a fitting title for the spiritual exercises he gave to the seminarians of Karumatthampatty just before he left India for Rome in 1853.

The retreat to the seminarists was given in Latin. This was translated into French by Dam Gerard Dubois, the Abbot of the Trappist Monastery of Soligny. This English edition is a translation from the French text of Dam Gerard Dubois.

In translating from French into English I have made use of various editions of the Bible. For the greater part I have used the New Jerusalem Bible. The Good News Bible as well as the New American Bible have occasionally been used. Whenever the French text indicated the Vulgate edition I have used that.

As for quotations from the Fathers of the Church I have had recourse to the Divine Office when that was possible. Otherwise the translation is my own.

John Flynn SMA.

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Wednesday at 6 h 1/4

I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master's business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father" (Jn 15,15)

Such are the words of Christ, very dear sons, which our excellent Master addressed to his disciples shortly before he left them. He added: "In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again" (Jn16,16). Taking the place, though unworthy, of Christ with you, and before making my way to the Sovereign Pontiff, our Father and the Head of the whole Church militant and imploring his blessing on you and on the Church of India, it is my wish to propose to you these same words so as to complete the monitions or instructions that I have often given to you; so that in my absence you may progress from virtue to virtue, like the Apostles who "who were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2,4) after the ascension of Jesus into heaven; and that like them you may bear the fruit of holiness in yourselves and of edifica­tion for the people.

Christ has, indeed, added: "You did not chose me; no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last" (Jn15,16). In the same way you, very dear sons, you have not chosen Jesus; it is Jesus who has first chosen you; Jesus has called you, he has set you apart from others in order that you may be his friends and that you may hear the voice of his preference. It is by his mercy and his particular providence on your account that he has chosen you among so many other young people of your age, of similar position, of equal merit, who were perhaps better than you, endowed with superior gifts of nature, who would perhaps be more holy than you today if Jesus had called them and if he had given them the graces which he has showered on you for the last six or seven years.

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Why has God called you, and not the others? Let us seek no other reason than his mercy in your respect, his love, his grace. The grace is called such because it is given graciously. It is unwarranted that God has loved you more than the others; he has wanted you not as servants but as friends. To the others he has spoken in parables, but to you he has spoken openly, as Jesus said to his disciples: "The mysteries of the king­dom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that they may see but not perceive, listen but not understand" (Lk 8,10).

If therefore God has so loved you, love him in return, very dear sons, and open the ears of your heart to hear the words by which he will reveal to you the mysteries of his kingdom. "My son hearken to my words: and incline thy ear to my sayings ... keep them in the midst of thy heart" (Pr. 4,20-21). And Jesus: "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (Jn6,64). Open your hearts that they may be irrigated and made fertile by the word of the Lord as the grass by the morning dew, and increase, and "bear fruit and let your fruit remain" (Cf above). "May my teaching fall like the rain, may my word drop down like the dew, like showers on fresh grass" (Deut. 32,2). These are the words of Moses.

Very dear sons, during the course of these exercises, I wish to as­sume that you are the true friends of Christ and "I will not call you servants any more" but "friends". I will not call you servants any more and still less sinners, servants of the devil. O Lord Jesus, our Love and our All, these youths are not sons of the devil whom you have selected, whom you have loved, whom you have favoured with blessings, who have been nourished and satisfied with your sustenance in the very holy communion of your Body. You are not the sons of the devil, you who have very often manifested openly your hatred towards this capital enemy of Jesus Christ, who have desired to knock down his temples, to abolish his cult, to destroy his empire so that the reign of Christ may come and may be strengthened in this region still darkened by idolatry. You are not the sons of the devil, you whose hands have so often with joy decorated the Temple of the living God, which is the figure of the heavenly Jerusalem, our future dwelling, "the true abode of God with men" (Ap. 21,3); you whose tongue chants each day the praise of Christ and proclaims him King, he, the "only mighty, the King of Kings and (p 21) Lord of Lords" (1 Tim 6,15); you whose eyes have contemplated fre­quently the Body of Christ hidden under the admirable species of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, adoring Jesus in the sacrament, with faith, with love, with the desire of contemplating him face to face in heaven, when the day of our deliverance will come; you whose heart has beaten with love and reverence each time that Jesus has deigned to come down to it, though in an invisible manner, at the moment of the very holy communion. 0 Lord my God! They are not the sons of the devil, these young men whose whole life is in Christ and for Christ, since the day of their vocation.

Therefore, I will not call you servants, I will not call you sinners, but friends. This is why I will not address you with words of fear, but with words of love; I will not propose the way of conversion, but the way of progress and perfection; I will not lead you to the brink of the precipice for you to contemplate with terror the torments of the damned and realize from it this salutary fear which is the "beginning of Wisdom" (Ps 110); but I will lead you to the company of the saints, in order that admiring their Faith, their Hope and their Charity, you may arrive, you also, at the Charity which, in the words of Saint Paul, is the "perfect bond" (Col. 3,14).

Certainly the contemplation of hell is always useful, just as the con­sideration of the malice of sins, and still more the meditation of death and eternity, whether that of glory or of punishment. It is often good during this life to descend in spirit to that land of misery, "of darkness and the shadow of death", as Job says, "where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horrow dwelleth" (Job 10,22); it is good, I say, to descend there in spirit so as not to have to descend there body and soul after the terrible judgement. "In everything you do, remember your end, and you will never sin" (Si 7,36), says the wise man. It is good in time of retreat, to stimulate ourselves, with horror of sin, to contrition for past sins, a subject on which no one must "be sure" (Si 5:5); it is good to make provision for that which will help our weakness to avoid sinning in the future, as we are exposed to it, considering our tendency to "evil" (Ex. 32, 22). Ordinarily, the greatest part of a retreat is spent (p 22) usefully in meditating these points. It is often that you have done that in the past and will do so again in the course of your life, with the greatest spiritual profit. But today I do not wish to lead you to God in this way. I want to lead you, as I have said it, on the route not of fear but of love. That is why I do not wish to consider you for one single moment as sinners, that is to say as remaining in the state of actual mortal sin. I will not call you sinners or "servants" but "friends"; friends of Christ, walking in his grace, in order that you understand what the servants do not understand, the words of perfection.

Meanwhile, this powerful enemy, who "is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat" (1 Pet. 4,5), who has seduced our first parents in paradise, "it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world" (Wis 2,24), has perhaps sometimes seduced your heart. If such is the case, let us weep, certainly; but as I hope that you have ousted him, I do not wish to believe that one of you may be now, in this present moment, so miserable that the sweet words of Christ cannot benefit: "I call you friends" (Jn. 15,15). However, since God alone knows the secrets of hearts, let us put our heart under his attention and in sorrow for our faults of ignorance and for our past sins, let us implore his mercy in order that our iniquities may be once again radically wiped out.

Wash me clean of my guilt, purify me from my sin ... God create a clean heart in me, put into me a new spirit" (Ps 50). If anyone has reason to fear that he may really be in the state of mortal sin, let him, im­mediately, on his knees in spirit at the feet of the Lord, melt in tears under his gaze, let him humble himself with the woman sinner who "waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment" (Lk. 7,38). 0 what true contrition, that which has merited to hear the words of Christ to Simon: "For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love" (ibid 47) and to herself: "Your sins are forgiven" (ibid 48). Let him with all his heart (p 23) cry out with David: "I have sinned" (2 Kings 12,13), and with the prodi­gal son returning to his Father: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son (Lk. 15,21). And even today, before going to sleep, let him show his sorrow to the priest, who will judge "a case of murder, legal rights or assault" (Deut. 17,8); and if he is truly contrite, let the priest absolve him in the name of the Lord and "the Redemption of sins" (Ps. 129). I say today and not tomorrow; today, if you think prudently that you are gravely guilty, come to confession before sleep; for tomorrow Jesus wishes to speak to your heart. How could his kind words penetrate your heart, if that were wrapped in darkness? "A light that shines in the darkness", says the Apostle John, "a light that darkness could not overpower" (Jn. 1,5). The Apostle Paul demanded the illumination of hearts, in order that the spirits may be illumined and understand the revelation of Christ: "May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full know­ledge of him" (Eph. 1,17-18).

"Put on the new self that has been created in God's way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth" (Eph. 4,24). "Let those who do good go on doing good, and those who are holy continue to be holy" (Ap. 22,11). For "Very soon now, I shall be with you again" (ibid. 12), says the Lord, for to make you know "everything I have heard from my Father" (above); I will speak to you words not of fear, but of love and perfection; not as to servants, but as to friends; "because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I will set you apart from all these peoples so that you may be mine" (Lev. 20,26).

In the admirable law of Christ, one should distinguish two kinds of teaching. One, common and addressed to everybody; without its obser­vance heaven remains closed. The other aspires to perfection and are Counsels; they do not oblige everyone at all times, but the group of those Whom Jesus calls friends, whom he choses as disciples, whom he sends as "labourers into his vineyard" (Mt. 20,1), whom he makes "priests to serve his God and Father" (Ap. 1,6) and "swift messengers to a people (p 24) tall and bronzed ... , a people mighty and masterful" (Is 18,2), as is our unhappy India; not to destroy it, but to snatch it from its "enemies" (Ps 58), by the apostolic ministry.

To all it is said: "Unless a man is born of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Jn. 3,5). And elsewhere: "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you" (Jn. 6,53). And somewhere else: "If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5,28). And elsewhere: "You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not bring false wit­ness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt. 19,18-19). And much more. Thus to all it is prescribed. to receive baptism, to take the Eucharist, to preserve chastity, even in thought, to honour parents, to love the neighbour and to observe and to avoid many other things. On the other hand, it is not to all, but to the special friends of Christ that it is said: "There are eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can" (Mt. 19,12). And again: "If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Mt. 19:21). And elsewhere: "So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions" (Lk. 14,33). And much else besides.

Thus, to certain people perfect chastity, perfect poverty, perfect obedience are counselled: this perfect chastity which Paul would suggest when he wrote: "She would be happier, in my opinion, if she stayed as she is that is to say unmarried - and I too have the Spirit of God, I think" (1 Cor. 7,40). This perfect chastity, which has made those of whom John, himself a virgin, speaks, worthy of being companions of the Immaculate Lamb. "These are the ones who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women" (Ap. 14,4). This perfect poverty which the Apostles have practised, as they say it: "Behold, we have left all things and have (p 25) followed you" (Mt. 19,27). The perfect obedience, the perfect example for all time which was the entire life of Christ who cried out: "My aim is not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (Jn. 5:30). "Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine" (Lk. 22,42). "Neverthe­less, let it be done as you, not I, would have it" (Mt. 26, 39). "He was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross" (Ph. 2,8). You will say perhaps, or rather the Tempter will introduce into your hearts this objection: the evangelical counsels do not oblige either always or everyone, therefore they do not oblige me. Moreover, why be concerned with counsels and perfection? Is the observance of the commandments not sufficient? Is the observance of the law not already sufficiently dif­ficult?

One can reply in many ways to that, very dear sons. But two is sufficient. One is addressed to your piety, and the other to your reason.

The commandments suffice! I agree that they suffice sometimes for lay people, but do they suffice for men of the Church? "The profession of Clerics", says Cassidore, "is the heavenly life". What have we said in the presence of the angels when we were made clerics? When the Bishop cut our hair to signify that we must disregard the superfluities of the world just as we neglect our hair which is the superfluous and vain adorn­ment of the body. What have we said? "Lord, my portion and my cup: my destiny depends on you" (Ps. 15). The Council of Trent stipulates: "It is absolutely fitting that clerics who are the portion of the Lord have a life and a behaviour so well ordered that they manifest nothing which is not serious, reserved and full of religion, in their dress, their gestures, their gait, their conversation, and everything else" (Sess. 22 ch. 1 of reform). "Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering", says the Apostle, "in times of hardship and dis­tress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God's servants by our purity, know­ledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness" (2 Cor. 6,4ff). And Isaias: "Get out of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh" (Is. 52,11). Who would not see that all these words prove (p 26) clearly that at least a certain perfection is necessary for men of the Church, and that those who call themselves ministers of Christ and the Church would become unworthy of their vocation if they were to be content with ordinary virtue?

The evangelical counsels are not, it is said again, addressed to all! Whatever may be the case they are addressed to certain people. Would Christ have spoken in the air? If there was no one to observe them, the Gospel would be empty; there would not be a perfect Church, and some­thing would be lacking in the work of Christ. Something God would not do. "Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless" (Eph. 5,25-27).


Perfection must therefore always exist in the Church; saints are always necessary who put into practice the evangelical counsels. It follows that the Church cannot exist in its integrity nor be completely founded where the evangelical counsels of perfection are completely unknown.

What to say then of the Churches of these regions? Where are the perfect? Where are those who appreciate perfection, or who do not con­tradict it? Where are those for whom at least half of the Gospel is not suppressed? Has Jesus not proclaimed his Gospel in its entirety also for the Indians? It is for you, as for us that Christ has been born, has lived, has preached, has died. Our good Saviour who has died has not excluded India when he announced: "For I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn. 12,32). He therefore draws you. He extends his hands to embrace all peoples. But, alas! The Indians have not wished to receive him. The greatest part, blind in the darkness of idolatry, have cried out: "We will not have this man reign over us" (Lk. 19,14). Some however, have become Christians, but no one has wanted to hear the words of the Master. They have received the Gospel conditionally, with the clause that the peaks of evangelical perfection are not (p 27) preached to them. Do not be surprised if right up to now, the Church in this region wavers because of the lack of a solid foundation.

It seems however, that days of mercy spring up, "the acceptable time ... the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6,2). It seems that some ones at least now are part of those who belong to the Good Shepherd and "whom he calls each one by his name and whom he leads outside and they follow him because they know his voice" (Jn10,3-4). I have already known elsewhere some Indians, at least among the clerics, who undoubtedly belong to this flock. But you, very dear sons, will increase that chosen flock. Jesus has called you, he has chosen you, he has called you friends and you have not turned him down. You have accepted the Gospel such as it is, in its integrity, in its perfection; you know, as a matter of fact that "one jot or one title shall not pas of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore, that shall break one of these least commandments and shall so teach men shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 5,18-20). One would therefore hope that in this region also of Coimbatore the perfection of the Church may be achieved, providing that you yourselves be faithful. Be faithful therefore, very dear sons, for Jesus wishes to make known to you what he has heard from the Father, that is to say perfection of life, evangelical perfection.

Do not imagine however, that each one of you is obliged to observe all the evangelical perfections. "The wind blows where it will" says Jesus (Jn. 3,8). And the Sage: "A man's heart plans out his way but it is Yahweh who makes his steps secure" (Pr. 16,9). As for the Apostle: "Everybody has his own particular gifts from God, one with a gift for one thing and another with a gift for the opposite" (1 Cor. 7,7). It is therefore impossible that one accomplishes everything. "Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers?" (I Cor. 12,29) says Paul. But you must not despise any of the evangelical perfections, nor object to anyone, if God inspires you to it. You must first observe the ordinary virtues to a degree of perfection, and especially the ecclesiastical virtues.

(p 28)

Such therefore, will be the aim of the spiritual exercises: to examine ourselves with reference to these virtues that perhaps we have practised right up to now in a feeble kind of way, and to stimulate ourselves to better observe them, so as to make ourselves worthy, or at least not too unworthy of our vocation.

Before beginning, let us ask God for a docile heart and a faithful spirit. Let us pray to him to illuminate our spirit, to direct our intellect, to purify our heart, and to inflame our will. Everything derives, indeed, from the Father of Light. "If there is anyone of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him" says the Apostle James (James 1,5). "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful" (Lit). "Come, Father of the poor, come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine!. .. Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill, guide the steps that go astray" (Sequence for Pentecost). "Lord, when you give your Holy Spirit to man, you illumine his heart and you instruct him; make us docile to your Spirit so that we may appreciate what is right and grant that we may always feel the consolation of your presence" (Prayer from the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit).

In order to obtain that, very dear sons, we must desire and ap­preciate the wisdom we ask. Let us desire therefore, as the Sage invites us: "And so I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. (Wis 7,7). And Jesus Christ: "Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; they shall be satisfied" (Mt 5,6). Let us go therefore to Jesus as thirsty people to the source of water. "As a doe longs for running streams, so longs my soul for you, my God" (Ps 42,1). He is the source of life, never dried up, who refreshes the soul. "But anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again" says Jesus, on the contrary, "the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life" (Jn. 4,14). "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me" (Jn. 7,37).

Let us appreciate wisdom; what is not appreciated cannot be loved, (p 29) cannot be wanted; what is not wanted, cannot be obtained. "I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver ranks as mud" (Wis. 7,8-9).

Truly, what are all these things which "moths and woodworms de­stroy and thieves break through and steal"? (Mt. 6,19).

A few days and what will remain of wealth? What will be left of Kings? or the powerful? What will be left of certain delights of this world? or of certain acts or desires, unless they are acts and desires of virtue? Only these will remain in Eternity and will constitute for you a treasure "in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal" (Mt. 6,20). With the exception of acts of virtue, everything you do will be a loss of time, wasted effort, illusions, disappointments and perhaps remorse of conscience. How happy we would be if the past days had all been days of justice, and all our actions holy works!

o Lord Jesus, it hasn't been like that. We have erred indiscrimi­nately, we have done evil, "fools that we were" (Wis. 5,4) and if we have done anything good it was in a half-hearted way, we have been lazy in our march on the road of virtue. That is why today we are weak. For "man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mt. 4,4); and right to this very time, Lord, your word has not penetrated fully into our souls. Also "my heart is shrivelling like scorched grass and my appetite has gone" (Ps 102,4). But now, Lord, speak "for you have the words of eternal life" (Jn6,68) and what­ever you tell us to do we will do it.

Let us come, beloved sons, to place this disposition in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has been docile in a supreme degree, to the teaching of her Son, for "she kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2,51). Let us go to the Church and there, on our knees under the gaze of Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament, we will adore him while (p 30) singing the hymn Pange Lingua and we will implore him that, during the coming three days, he condescends to speak to our hearts. Then, turned towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will sing in her honour the anthem Sancta Maria, "come to the help of the needy, aid the weak, console the afflicted, pray for the people, intervene for the clergy" (liturgy). AMEN.

(p 31)


Thursday morning after vocal prayer

Let us place ourselves in the presence of God ...

Let us adore the Lord with "all the angels who were standing in a circle around the throne" (Ap. 7,11) ... "The Lord, the God Almighty" (Apoc. 21,22). He sees everything, He knows everything, He is "the assessor of mind and heart" (Ps. 7,10). "Return to him with all your heart and soul" (Tob. 13,6). Adore "the Lord Yahweh seated on a high throne" (Is. 6,1), with the Seraphim who cover their faces with their wings and "cry out one to another in this way, Holy, Holy is Yahweh Sabaoth. His glory fills the whole earth" (Is. 6,3).

Behold now it is that "I am bold indeed to speak like this to my Lord, I who am dust and ashes" (Gen. 18,27) ... "Ah, Lord Yahweh; look, I do not know how to speak; I am a child" (Jer. 1,6). "I am a slow speaker and not able to speak well" (Ex. 4,10). "Help me Yahweh, my God" (Ps. 109,26). "Come quickly and help me" (Ps. 70,2). You Lord "teach us to pray" (Lk. 11,1). "You give breath, fresh life begins, you keep renewing the world" (Ps. 103,30). "Come, 0 Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in them the fire of your love" (Liturgy).

Let us imagine Jesus walking in Judea with his disciples, teaching them everything concerning the kingdom of God, as a friend talks with his friends, above all as he has deigned to call them "friends" and not "servants". "I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master's business; I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father" (n. 15,15). o how gentle are these words! "His words are sweeter than honey from the comb" (Ps 19,10). How great would have been my joy if I had heard (p 32) these words from the mouth of Jesus himself! What happiness if I had also been introduced into the most holy company of Jesus and the Disci­ples and if I had been able to enjoy their divine conversation.

But, Lord Jesus, "The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (Apoc. 21,6) everything is under your gaze, the time as well as the place; and you are not unmindful of your servants. You were not speaking to your disciples alone who lived at the time of your mortal existence, but to all those who were to become your disciples right to the end of the world. For "you have the message of eternal life" (Jn. 6,68), which "will not pass away" (Mt. 24,35). Well, Lord, we ourselves, though unworthy of being called disciples, we are your disciples, at 'this time. You have called us since the beginning so that we may serve you in the ecclesiastical state, of which you are the Head, "Priest for ever" (Ps. 109,4), "acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5,10).

I am a Levite of the new Law, though a sinner, "wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too" (Apoc. 3,17). It was therefore to me also that you were speaking, very gentle Jesus, when you said to your disciples: "I do not call you servants any more ... I call you friends" (Jn. . 15,15). What a very sure sign of your love for me! Grant Lord, that I respond to this great love by adding, at least my own love, such as it is, and that I listen attentively to all that you are willing to make known to me. God generally speaks to our souls in silence and solitude: "I will lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart" (Hos. 2, 16), says the Lord. For God is not "in the earthquake" (1 Kings 19,11). He appeared to Moses and spoke to him from deep in the desert, at the mountain of God, Horeb (cf. Ex. 3,1) and when Moses remained "in the tent of the meeting" (Ex. 33,9) and "on the mountain of Sinai ... at the top of the mountain" (Ex. 34,]2). As for Samuel it was in the night, "the lamp of Gods had not yet gone out ... in the sanctuary of Yahweh where the ark of God was" (1 Sam. 3,3). For the prophets it was in withdrawal: "I got up and went out into the valley; the glory of Yahweh was resting there, like the glory I had seen by the river Chebar, and I prostrated (p 33) myself. The spirit of Yahweh then entered me, and made me stand up, and spoke to me" (Ez. 3,23-24).

You yourself, Lord Jesus used to do like this: you were accustomed to lead your disciples aside to teach them the most sublime doctrines: "The Apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them: 'You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while! ... So they went off in a boat to a lonely place" (Mk. 6, 30 & ff). Behold us, Lord, we come for three days with you in solitude of heart; far from all distractions, we rest a little from our usual occupations and even our studies, in order to remain alone with you and to listen to you. Receive us, good Jesus, into your holy company and deign to speak to us words of perfection. Illumine our minds so that they can understand and our hearts so that they may be willing to learn what you teach and to accomplish what you command. "Speak Lord, your servant is listening" (1 Sam. 3,10).

It is true, Lord, that you have already spoken to us. But we have been weak "like straw before the wind, or swept off like chaff before a gale"! (Jb. 21,18). The "word of God" (Lk. 8,11) has been smothered by our evil affections; or has withered away for lack of moisture (Lk. 8,6), that of charity, humility, piety and other virtues which make fertile the ground of the Father of the household. Perhaps sometimes it has been "trampled upon" and "the birds of the air", that is to say the demons, "have eaten everything" (Lk. 8,5). "The enemy came and sowed darnel", that is sin, "right" in our hearts (Mt. 13,25). How unhappy I am if in place of the fruit of salvation, "the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ" (Ph. 1,11), my heart has right up to the present produced works of death, which are the fruit of sin, "too unripe to eat, fit for nothing" (Ws. 4,5).

Have pity on us, Lord, for we are children. Each day meanwhile, we must grow and progress "in wisdom ... and in favour with God and man" (Lk. 2,52). Already you have called us "friends" (Jn. 15,15), you Want us as your special friends, since you have called us to the very (p 34) perfect clerical state. Already we have heard your voice which calls to us "come follow me" (Mk. 1,17). "The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon. Let us give up all things we prefer to do under cover of the dark, let us arm ourselves and appear in the light" (Rom. 13, 11-12). Overlook our iniquities, Lord, because of your infinite mercy. "Do not remember the sins of my youth" (Ps. 25,7); help our good will for you can "raise children for Abraham from these stones" (Mt. 3,9).

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