Writings and testimonies of don bosco on spiritual life



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Critical ed. in G. Bosco, Costituzioni della Società di S. Francesco di Sales [1858]-1875…,

pp. 73-9042.
1. Purpose of the Society of St Francis de Sales

1. The purpose of the Salesian Society is the Christian perfection of its members; every kind of work of charity, spiritual and corporal, toward young people, especially poor [young people]; and also the education of young seminarians. It is composed of priests, clerical students and laymen.

2. Jesus Christ began to do and to teach; likewise shall the Salesian members also begin by perfecting themselves through the practice of every interior and exterior virtue, and through the acquisition of knowledge; and then shall they go to work for the benefit of their neighbour.

3. The first exercise of charity shall be that of gathering together poor and abandoned young people in order to instruct them in the holy Catholic religion, especially on Sundays and holy days.

4 Since it often happens that some young people are found that are so abandoned that, unless they are given shelter, every care in their case would be without effect—for this reason, as far as possible, houses shall be opened in which, with the means that Divine Providence will provide, shelter, food and clothing are supplied to them. And while they are instructed in the truths of the Catholic faith, they shall also be started on some trade or work.

5. Moreover, since the dangers that young people who aspire to the ecclesiastical state have to face are many and grave, this society shall take the greatest care to cultivate the piety of those who show a special aptitude for study, and are commendable for [their] good conduct. In admitting young people for the purpose of studies, those who are the poorest [or, poorer] shall be accepted by preference, for the very reason that they could not pursue their studies elsewhere—provided they give some hope of a vocation to the ecclesiastical state.

6. The need to uphold the Catholic Religion also among the Christian people at large is keenly felt, especially in villages— hence the Salesian members shall zealously endeavour to give spiritual retreats [designed] to strengthen and direct in piety those who come to hear them out of a desire to change their lives.

7. Likewise they shall endeavour to spread good books among the people, making use of all the means that Christian charity inspires. Lastly, through the spoken and written word, they shall try to erect a barrier against irreligion and heresy, which in so many ways attempt to make inroads among simple and uneducated people. To this end should be directed the sermons occasionally preached to the people, as well as the triduums, the novenas and the spreading of good books.

2. Form of this Society

1. All the members lead the common life bound only by the bond of fraternal charity and of simple vows, which binds them [together] so that they form one heart and one soul, in order to love and serve God by the virtue of obedience, poverty and holiness of life, and by a committed Christian way of living.

2. Clerics and Priests, even after making their vows, shall retain possession of their patrimonies or simple benefices; but they shall neither administer them nor enjoy the fruits thereof, except in accordance with the Rector’s will.

3. The administration of patrimonies, benefices and of anything whatever that is brought into the Society pertains to the Superior General. He shall administer them either personally or through others; and for as long as the individual remains in the Congregation the same Superior shall receive their annual revenues.

4 Every priest is also bound to hand over the Mass stipends to the same general or local superior. Everyone then, priests, clerics or laymen will hand over all money and any gifts they may receive in any way.

5. Everyone is bound by his vows, whether triennial or perpetual. Nor can anyone be released from vows except through dispensation from the Supreme Pontiff or through dismissal from the Society by the Superior General.

6. Let each one persevere in his vocation until the end of his life. Let him call to mind daily those most weighty words of Our Lord and Saviour: “Nemo mittens manum ad aratrum et respiciens retro aptus est regno Dei. No one who has put his hand to the plough and looks back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

7. Nevertheless, should anyone leave the Society he shall not be entitled to claim anything for himself for the time he has spent therein. He shall, however, recover his full right over the immovable, as also the movable, goods the ownership of which he had reserved to himself upon entering into the Congregation. But he shall not be entitled to claim any fruit, nor demand any account of their administration for the time he has remained in the Society.

8. One who brings money, furniture or any other thing into the Congregation with the intention of retaining ownership of it must hand a list of all these things to the superior, who once he has seen it, will give him a receipt. Should the member then want to take back items that have become worn through use, he will receive them in the state in which they are then found and will not be entitled to any recompense of any kind.

3. The vow of obedience

1. The prophet David would earnestly beseech God that He would teach him to do His holy will. The Lord, our Saviour has assured us that He came down to earth not to do His own will, but that of His Father in heaven. This is the purpose of the vow of obedience, namely, that we may be all the more certain of doing the holy will of God.

2. Let each one be submissive to his superior and look to him in all things as to a loving father. Let him obey him unreservedly, promptly, cheerfully, and humbly, as the person who expresses the will of God himself in that command.

3. Let no one be anxious to ask for any particular thing or to refuse it. But when one knows that a particular thing is harmful or necessary, let him respectfully mention the fact to his Superior who will take care to see to [the member’s] needs.

4. Hence it is good that the members frequently give an account of their external life to their higher superiors of the Congregation. Let each one with simplicity spontaneously manifest to his Superiors external faults against the constitutions as well as his progress in virtue, so that he may receive from them counsels and comfort, and, if needs be, appropriate admonitions.

5. Let everyone obey without any sort of resistance, either in deed, or in word, or in heart, lest he lose the merit of the virtue of obedience. The more repugnant the thing commanded is to him who does it, the greater will be his merit before God for having faithfully obeyed.

4. The vow of poverty 

1. The vow of poverty of which we speak here has to do only with the administration of something, whatever it may be, and not with its possession; Those, therefore, who have made the vows in this Society can retain the radical ownership of their goods, but the administration and the disposal and use of their revenues is absolutely forbidden to them. Moreover, before taking the vows, they must cede, even if only in a private form, the administration, and the usufruct [revenues] and use thereof to anyone they wish, also to the Congregation, if they think they would like to do so. To this cession they may also attach the condition that it may be at any time revocable: but still the professed cannot in conscience use the right of revocation, without the consent of the Holy See. All the foregoing must likewise be observed with respect to those goods which the member may acquire by inheritance, after making his profession.

2. Nevertheless the members can freely dispose of the ownership, either by will-and-testament, or with the Rector Major’s permission by some public act. In this latter case, the concession which they have made of the administration, usufruct and use, shall cease, unless it is their desire that the concession should, notwithstanding the cession of ownership, still continue in force for a further such length of time as they may be pleased to specify.

3. The professed, moreover, shall not be forbidden to perform, with the Rector Major’s permission, all those acts in respect of property that the laws prescribe.

4 The professed are not allowed to appropriate or reserve to themselves anything that they have acquired either by their own industry or by the means that the Congregation offers; but everything must be contributed to the common benefit of the Congregation.

5. It is part of this vow [that the members should strive] to keep the[ir] rooms in the simplest possible style, seeking with all their might to adorn the heart with virtue, and not the[ir] person or the walls of their room.

6. Let no one, either in the house or out of it, keep any money in his possession or deposited with others, for any reason whatsoever.

7. Finally, let each one keep his heart detached from every earthly thing. Let him be content with what the Society provides, as regards food and clothing; and let him not keep in his possession anything whatsoever, without the superior’s special permission.

5. The vow of chastity 

1. Whoever deals with abandoned youth must certainly make every effort to enrich himself with every virtue. But the virtue that must be cultivated most, which must always be kept before our eyes, the angelic virtue, the virtue dearest of all to the Son of God, is the virtue of chastity.

2. Whoever does not have the well-founded hope, with divine help, of preserving this virtue in words, works, thoughts, should not join this Congregation, because he would be exposed at every step to great danger.

3. Words, looks, including the most innocuous, are sometimes badly interpreted by the young who have already been victims of human passions. Therefore one must use the greatest caution in speaking and dealing with anything with young people of any age and circumstance.

4. Keep away from worldly gatherings where this virtue could be endangered, especially conversations with people of the other sex.

5. Let no one visit homes of friends or acquaintances without the consent of the superior, who, if he can, will always provide him with a companion.

6. Ways of diligently safeguarding this virtue are frequent Confession and Communion, exactly carrying out the advice of the confessor, fleeing idleness, mortification of the senses, frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, frequent brief prayers to Mary most holy, St Joseph, St Francis de Sales, St Aloysius Gonzaga, who are the principal protectors of our Congregation.

6. Religious government of the Society 

1. The members shall recognise in the supreme Pontiff their Arbiter and absolute Superior, to whom they shall be in everything, in every place and at every time, humbly and respectfully submissive. Nay more, every member shall apply himself with the greatest solicitude to uphold his authority and to promote the observance of the laws of the Catholic Church and its supreme Head, who is the Legislator and Vicar of Jesus Christ upon earth.

2. Every three years the Rector Major will give the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars a report on the Society, and this Report will deal with the number of Houses and members, observance of the Rule and whatever regards financial administration.

3. To deal with things of greater moment and to provide for the needs of the Society that times and places require, the General Chapter will ordinarily gather every three years (43).

4. When the General Chapter is thus gathered it may also propose additions to the Constitutions and changes it believes are opportune but in a way that conforms to the end and the reasons for which the rules were approved. Nonetheless these additions and changes, although approved by a majority of votes, will not oblige anyone until consent has first been obtained from the Holy See.

5. All the Acts of the General Chapter will be sent to the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, so they may be approved.

6. The members will be subject to the bishop of the diocese where the house they belong to is, according to the prescriptions of the sacred canons, always subject to the Constitutions of the Society approved by the Holy See.

7. Every member will do everything he can to help the bishop of the diocese; and inasmuch as it is possible, he will defend ecclesiastical rights, promote the good of his Church, especially where it is a case of poor youth.

7. Internal government of the Society

1. In its internal government the entire Congregation depends on the Superior Chapter which is made up of a Rector, a Prefect, A Bursar, a Catechist or Spiritual Director and three Councillors.

2. The Rector Major is the Superior of the whole Congregation; he can establish his abode in any House of the Congregation. Offices, individuals, moveable and immovable goods, spiritual and temporal things depend totally on him. Therefore it is up to the Rector to accept or not accept new members into the Congregation (44), assign each one his duties, whether spiritual or temporal. He will do these things either himself or through others whom he delegates. But he cannot make any contract to buy or sell real estate without the consent of the Superior Chapter.

3. In selling goods of the Society, or contracting debts, all things will be observed that must be observed by law in accordance with the sacred canons and apostolic constitutions (45).

4. No one, except the Superior Chapter and the Directors of Houses, can write or receive letters without the permission of the Superior or another member delegated by the Superior. But all members may send letters or other writings to the Holy See and to the Superior General without asking permission of the Superiors of the House to which they belong, and the Superiors may not read them.

5. The Rector Major will remain in office for twelve years and can be re-elected; but in this latter case he cannot govern the Society until he is reconfirmed in office by the Holy See.

6. At the death of the Rector, the Prefect shall take his place until a successor has been appointed. But for the time he is guiding the Society, he cannot make alterations regarding discipline or administration.

7. As soon as the Rector has died, the Prefect shall announce his death immediately to the Directors of all the Houses who shall immediately see that suffrages prescribed in the Constitutions are offered for the deceased. Then he shall invite the Directors to come together to elect the new Rector.

8. If by chance it were to happen quod Deus avertat [God forbid] that the Rector is gravely negligent in his duties, the Prefect, or another from the Superior Chapter in agreement with the others, shall clearly admonish the Rector. If this is unavailing, let the Chapter inform the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars who may strip him of office46.
8. Election of the Rector Major

1. In order that anyone may be elected Rector Major, it is requisite for him to have lived at least ten years in the Congregation, to have completed his thirty fifth year of age, and be distinguished by his exemplary life, prudence and ability in the management of the affairs of the Congregation, and finally, that he be perpetually professed.

2. There are two reasons why the Rector needs to be elected: either because he has completed twelve years in office, or because of the death of his predecessor.

3. If the election takes place because twelve years have passed, it will be done in this way: three months before his term of office finishes, the Rector will call the Superior Chapter together and will advise them that the end of his term is imminent: he will also advise the Directors of each House and the members, who in accordance with the Constitutions, are allowed to vote. While indicating the time his term in office comes to an end he will also establish the day for the election of his successor. At the same time he will ask for prayers to be said to obtain heavenly light, and he will inform everyone clearly and distinctly of the serious obligation of voting for the one they judge to be most suitable for promoting the glory of God and the good of souls in the Congregation. The election of the successor ought to be completed within fifteen days from the expiry of the Rector's term of office.

4. From the end of his term of office until the completion of the election of his successor, the Rector Major will continue to guide and administer the Society with the authority that the Prefect has upon the death of the Rector, until the Rector has been definitively constituted in office.

5. Those voting for the Rector Major will be the Superior Chapter and the Directors of individual Houses, accompanied by one perpetually professed member, elected by the perpetually professed members of that House they belong to. If for any reason someone is unable to vote, the election will still be lawfully and validly carried out by the others.

6. The election will take place in this way. Kneeling before the crucifix, they will invoke Divine help by reciting the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus etc. after which the Prefect will explain to the confreres the reason for which they have been called together. Then all the professed present will write the name of the one they judge to be worthy on a ballot paper and will place it an an urn prepared for this purpose. Then three scrutineers for the voting and two secretaries will be elected by secret ballot. Whoever obtains an absolute majority of votes will be the new Rector or Superior General.

7. If the election is to be held because of the death of the Rector, then the following order will be followed. On the death of the Rector Major, the Prefect will give this news by letter to the Directors of individual Houses, so that as soon as possible they offer up all the suffrages prescribed by the Constitutions for the soul of the deceased. The election should take place no earlier than three months and no later than six months after the death of the Rector. For this purpose the Prefect will call together the Superior Chapter and with its consent will establish the appropriate day for gathering all those who should take part in the election. He will then advise them of what is said in article 3.

8. Votes will then be cast by those who enjoy the right of electing the Rector as in art. 5 of this Chapter.

9. The one who obtains an absolute majority of votes will be the Superior General to whom all confreres must show obedience.

10. When the election is complete, the Prefect will advise all the individual Houses, doing so in a way that new of the new Rector is quickly known by all members of the Society. This act signals that the Prefect ceases to exercise any authority as Superior General.
IX. The other Superiors 

1. The Prefect, Spiritual Director, the Bursar [Economo] and three Councillors spoken of above will be elected by the Rector and other members who because they have made perpetual vows can take part in the election of the Rector Major. To be elected it is requisite that they have lived at least five years in the Congregation, completed their thirty fifth year of age and have perpetual vows. In order that their office may not suffer disadvantage, they should ordinarily live in the same house as the Rector Major.

2. The Prefect, Spiritual Director, Bursar and three Councillors will remain in office for six years.

3. Their election will take place on the Feast of St Francis de Sales, at which time all Directors of individual Houses are usually called together. Three months before the Feast the Rector will indicate to all the Houses the day on which the election will be held.

4. Therefore all the Directors will gather the perpetually professed in their House and then with a member elected by them, will proceed to the future election.

5. On the established day the Superior Chapter with the Directors and members gathered with them, they will vote and publicly hold a scrutiny. Three scrutineers and two secretaries will be elected for this purpose. Whoever obtains the majority of votes will be the new member of the Superior Chapter. If the Director or member of some House, because of distance or other just cause has not been able to come for the election, the election will nevertheless be valid and complete (47).

6. The offices proper to each member of the Superior Chapter will be assigned by the Rector according to need.

7. Nevertheless, the Spiritual Director will take special care of the novices. He, along with the master of novices, will take the greatest care to see that they learn and practise the spirit of charity and zeal which should animate one who wishes to dedicate his entire life to the good of souls.

8. It is also the duty of the Spiritual Director to respectfully admonish the Rector whenever he may notice in him any grave negligence in carrying out the Rules of the Congregation or in promoting their observance by others.

9. It is a special task of the Spiritual Director to point out to the Rector anything that may be of advantage to the spiritual good; and the Rector will endeavour to provide for it as he sees best in the Lord.

10. In the absence of the Rector the Prefect will take his place both in ordinary government of the Society and for all things he has been expressly put in charge of.

11. He will take account of income and expenditure, and will note any bequests and donations of any importance given to a House and destined for something in particular. The fruits of movable and immovable goods will be under the protection and responsibility of the Prefect.

12. The Prefect is the centre from which the administration of the entire Congregation must begin and to which it must refer. The Prefect is subject to the Rector, to whom he must render account of his management at least once a year.

13. The Bursar governs all the material needs of the Society. Entrusted to him therefore is buying, selling, building and similar. It is also the task of the Bursar to see that each house is given the things it needs.

14. The Councillors intervene in all deliberations regarding admission to the novitiate, admission to vows or sending some member of the Society away; if it is a case of opening a new House or choosing a Director of some House; contracts for real estate; buying and selling. In short, all things of major importance to do with the overall smooth running of the Society. Decisions will be taken by secret ballot. If when noting the result of the secret ballot, which has the force of a decision, the majority is not in favour, the rector will prolong discussion.

15. One of the Councillors by delegation of the Rector will look after scholastic matters for the whole Society. The other two, according to need, will take the place of those in the Superior Chapter, who for illness or other reason cannot attend to their office.

16. Each of the superiors with the exception of the Rector, will be in office for six years and can be re-elected. If someone from the Superior Chapter ceases to hold office either because of death or for whatever other reason before the six years are up, the Rector Major will entrust his office to the one he judges best in the Lord; this one will remain in office only until the end of the six year period commenced by the member who left that office.

17. Should it be necessary, the Rector Major, with the consent of the Superior Chapter, will establish some Visitors who will be given the task of visiting a given number of Houses whenever this is required because of their number or distance. These Visitors will take the place of the Rector Major in the Houses and for the affairs entrusted to them.

10: Each House in particular

1. Whenever by particular favour of Divine Providence, a House is to be opened, first of all the Superior General will endeavour to obtain the consent of the bishop of the diocese in which the new House is to be opened.

2. He should proceed cautiously with this, so that in opening Houses or taking up administration of any kind, nothing is established or done contrary to law.

3. If the new House is a junior seminary or seminary for adult clerics, then besides dependence in matters of sacred ministry, there will also be complete dependence on the ecclesiastical superior in teaching. In the choice of teaching materials, books to be used, discipline and temporal administration, what the Rector Major has established with the ordinary of the place must be followed.

4. The Society may not take on the direction of seminaries without the express permission of the Holy See. This permission will be sought in each individual case.

5. For new Houses to be opened,the number of members should not be fewer than six. The superior for each one is chosen by the Superior Chapter and will take the name of Director. Every House can administer goods donated or brought into the Congregation, so they may serve that House in particular, but always within limits established by the Superior General.

6. The Rector Major will visit each House at least once a year, either in person or by means of a Visitor, to diligently examine if it is carrying out the duties imposed by the Rules of the Congregation and observe whether the administration of spiritual and temporal things is really according to their purpose, which is to promote the glory of God and the good of souls.

7. The Director for his part must in all things must do things in such a way as to be able at any point to give an account of his administration to God and to the Rector Major.

8. The first concern of the Rector will be to establish in any new House a Chapter corresponding to the number of members dwelling there.

9. The Superior Chapter and the Director of the new House will intervene in setting up this Chapter.

10. The first to be chosen will be the Catechist, then the Prefect, and if necessary also the Bursar; finally the Councillors according to the number of members dwelling in the House and the things that need to be done.

11. Whenever distance, times, places advise some exceptions in forming this Chapter or assigning its tasks the Rector has full authority to do so, however with the consent of the Superior Chapter.

12. The Director cannot buy, sell real estate, nor build new buildings, nor demolish those already built, nor carry out serious renovation without the consent of the Rector Major. In his administration he must take care of the spiritual, scholastic and material running; but in matters of greater moment it would be prudent to call his Chapter together and not decide without having their consent.

13. The Catechist will look after spiritual matters of the House, both with regard to the members and others who do not belong to the Congregation and when needed will advise the Director of these matters.

14. The Prefect will take the place of the Director and his principle office will be to administer temporal things, take care of the coadjutors, carefully watch over the discipline of the pupils in accordance with the rules of each House and the consent of the Director. He must be prepared to render account of his management to the Director whenever he may ask him to.

15. The Bursar, whenever need requires it, will help the Prefect in his duties and especially in temporal affairs.

16. The Councillors will intervene in all deliberations of any importance, and will help the Director in scholastic matters and everything he assigns them to do.

17. Every year each Director must render account of his spiritual and material administration of the House to the Rector Major.

XI. Admissions

1. Whenever someone makes a request to enter the Congregation they need testimonial letters or certificates in accordance with the decree of 25 January 1848, which begins Romani Pontifices etc. given by the Sacred Congregation for Regulars. As for the health of the postulant, it should be such that he can observe all the rules of the Society without exception. For laymen to be received into the Congregation, other than these other items, they need to know at least the basics of the Catholic Faith. The Rector major will accept the postulant if he has obtained a majority of votes from the Superior Chapter.

2. To admit postulants or novices who wish to embrace the ecclesiastical state, should there be some irregularity, dispensation should first be sought from the Holy See.

3. After the second trial year the candidate will depend on the House Chapter in which he was placed by the Superiors. When the third trial year is complete, the member can be admitted to renewal of vows by the Superiors of the House, but with the consent of the Rector Major. If he has obtained the majority of votes, this news will be given to the Rector, who with the Superior Chapter will confirm the admission or otherwise, as he judges best in the Lord.

4. If the Chapter is not present, the Rector Major, whenever there is just reason, can accept into the Congregation and admit to vows or also dismiss from the Society in any House, those whom he judges best: but this can be done with the consent and presence of the House Chapter. In this case the Director of the House where admission or dismissal is taking place, will give the news to the Superior Chapter with appropriate indications, so that the member can be inscribed or cancelled from the Society's list.

5. With regard to admission of members and profession of simple vows all things will be observed that were prescribed by the decree of January 23, 1848. Regulari disciplinae of the Sacred Congregation for Regulars.

6. To be admitted for vows it is requisite that the first and second trial years have been completed. But no one may be admitted to vows unless he has completed his 16th year.

7. These vows will be made for three years. After the three years, and with the consent of the Chapter, each one will be given the faculty of renewing his vows for a further three years or making perpetual vows if he wishes to bind himself for life. Nevertheless no one may be admitted to holy orders, titulo congregationis, unless he has taken perpetual vows.

8. The Society, supported by Divine Providence, which has never been lacking for someone who believes in it, will see that each one has what he needs in health or in sickness. Nevertheless it is only bound to provide for those who have made temporary or perpetual vows.

XII. Study

1. Clerics and all members who aspire to the ecclesiastical state, must spend two years attending seriously to the study of philosophy, and then for at least another four years to ecclesiastical subjects.

2. Their main study will be directed with every effort to the Bible, Church history, dogmatic, speculative and moral theology and also the books and treatises taht speak of instruction youth in religious matters.

3. Our teacher will be St Thomas and all other well-respected authors of catechetical instruction and explanation of Catholic doctrine.

4. For the teaching of the philosophical and ecclesiastical sciences, teachers or members or outsiders will be chosen by preference who are best known for their probity of life, intelligence and learning.

5. Each member, to complete his studies, as well as the daily moral lectures, should work to put together a course of sermons and meditations, firstly for youth and then to fit the understanding of all the Christian faithful.

6. While members are attending to the studies prescribed by the Constitutions, they should not apply themselves too much to the works of charity proposed by the Salesian Society, unless out of necessity, since this would usually be of serious detriment to their studies.
XIII. Practices of piety 

1. The active life to which our society is mostly committed deprives its members of the opportunity of engaging in many practices in common. They shall accordingly endeavour to make up [for this lack] by mutual good example and by the perfect fulfilment of the general duties of a Christian.

2. Each member shall approach the sacrament of penance every week [administered] by confessors who are approved by the ordinary and who exercise that ministry toward the members with the Rector’s permission. The priests shall celebrate holy Mass every day: Seminarians [chierici] and Coadjutors shall take care to assist at the Sacrifice daily, receive holy Communion on Sundays and holy days and every Thursday. Personal composure, a clear, devout, distinct pronunciation of the words contained in the divine offices, modesty in speech, looks and gait both inside and outside the house, ought to be so outstanding in our members that particularly by these traits they are to be distinguished from others.

3. Every day each one, besides vocal prayers, shall devote no less than half-an-hour to mental prayer, unless one is prevented [from doing so] by the calls of the sacred ministry. In that case he shall make up for it by frequent ejaculatory prayers and by offering to God with greater fervour and love those labours that keep him from the prescribed exercises of piety.

4 Every day the third part of the Rosary of the Immaculate Mother of God shall be recited, and some time shall be devoted to spiritual reading.

5. Friday in every week shall be kept as a fast in honour of the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. On the last day of every month each one, leaving all temporal cares aside, shall recollect himself and shall make the exercise which is customarily made [to prepare] for a good death. He shall dispose all his affairs both spiritual and temporal as though he had to leave the world and set out on the way to eternity.

7. Every year, each one shall make a retreat for about ten, or at least six, days which will conclude with his annual confession. Before being received into the Society, and before taking vows, each one shall devote ten days to a retreat directed by spiritual masters [and shall make] a general confession.

8. When Divine Providence calls a member, whether he be a layman, cleric or priest, to eternal life, the Rector of the house in which the member lived will immediately see that ten Masses are celebrated in suffrage for his soul. Other then, who are not priests, will approach holy Communion at least once to this end.

9. Whenever the parents of a member die, priests in the house where that member lives will likewise celebrate ten Masses in suffrage for their souls. Those who are not priests will approach holy Communion.

10. On the death of the Rector Major all the priests of the Congregation shall celebrate Mass for him and all non-priest members will offer up the usual suffrages for two reasons: (1) out of gratitude for the pains and labours sustained in the government of the Society; (2) for his release from the pains of Purgatory of which we may have been the cause.

11. Every year after the Feast of St Francis de Sales all priests will celebrate Mass for deceased members. All the others will approach holy Communion and recite a third part of the Rosary of Our Lady with other prayers.

12. Each one will take special care: 1. not to adopt an special habits even in unimportant things; 2. to keep their clothing, bed and cell clean and decent; and everyone will avoid any kind of silly affectation or ambition. Nothing adorns the religious better than holiness of life, making him an example to others in everything.

13. Each one will be prepared, when the need arises, to suffer heat, cold, thirst, hunger, fatigue, scorn whenever these redound to the greater glory of God, are spiritually useful to others and for the salvation of his own soul.

XIV. The enrolled [ascritti] or novices48 

1. Everyone before being received into the Congregation must pass through three probationary trials. The first is that which has to precede the novitiate and is called the probation of the aspirants. The second is the novitiate itself, and the third is the period of the triennial vows.

2. It is considered sufficient for the first probation when the postulant has passed some length of time in one of our Houses, or has frequented our schools,and has distinguished himself in that time by his good conduct and ability.

3. When an adult moreover is desirous of being enrolled in our Society and has been admitted to the first probationary trial, he shall devote himself to some days of spiritual Retreat, and then he shall be employed for at least a few months in the various duties of the Congregation, so that in this way in some manner he may learn and practise the mode of life he is desirous of embracing.

4. At the time of the first probationary period the master of novices and the other superiors must diligently observe the conduct of the aspirants, and refer to the Superior Chapter everything they think best in the Lord.

5. Since the principle purpose of our Society is to teach the young, especially if they are poor, knowledge and religion and direct them amidst the dangers of the world on the way to salvation, everyone at the time of his first probationary period should be tried out in study and in everything belonging to the day and night classes, teaching youngsters catechism and lending a hand also in difficult cases.

6. Once he has satisfactorily completed his first probationary period and he has been accepted as a member in the Congregation, the master of novices will immediately begin work with the new novice and admit nothing that could contribute to observance of the Constitutions.

7. The Rector Major with the consent of the other superiors will determine in which Houses the probationary periods for aspirants and novices should be held; but these probationary Houses should never be established [without] the permission of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars.

8. The place for the novitiate should be separate from that part of the House where the professed live, and have as many separate cells as there are novices; that is, a dormitory large enough to accommodate each one's bed. There should also be a cell or other suitable place for the master of novices.

9. The master of novices is chosen by the General Chapter from amongst those who have made perpetual vows. He must have completed his thirtieth year and have lived ten years in the Society. He will remain in office for six years and if he dies before the six years are up, the Rector major, with the consent of the Superior Chapter will substitute him with another until the next General Chapter.

10. The master of novices will endeavour to show himself amiable, gentle and of kindly disposition so that the novices may open their hearts to him in every case that could see their progress in virtue. He will direct and instruct them on the general fulfilment of the Constitutions and especially in those that regard the vow of chastity, poverty and obedience. In the same way let him see that they fulfil and carry out, in the most exemplary manner, the practices of piety prescribed by our Constitutions. Each week he will hold a religious instruction or conference on matters referring to our Institute. At least once a month let him call the novices one by one, and lovingly exhort them to have confidence in him so that his salutary [advice] may be received to good effect.

11. In accepting novices everything will be observed that was said in the previous Chapter from article 1 to article 5.

12. When the second probationary period is over, that is, the novitiate year, the novices should not take up any of the duties proper to our Society, so they can apply themselves solely to profiting in virtue and perfecting themselves in the vocation to which they have been called by God. Nevertheless in their own House they can teach catechism on Sundays to boys in accord with the master's opinion and under his watchful eye (49).

13. After a year of novitiate, if the novice shows that in everything he is solicitous for the greater glory of God and the good of the Congregation, and is exemplary in the practice of piety, the time of probation is considered finished. Alternatively he may defer for some months or even a year.

4. Once the member has completed the novitiate and been accepted in the Congregation, with the opinion of the novice master the Superior Chapter can admit him to triennial vows. The practice of the triennial vows is the third probationary period.

5. Over the space of three years while being bound by triennial vows, the member can be sent to any House of the Congregation, so long as studies can be pursued there. Over this time the Director of that House will take care of the new member, like the master of novices.

6. Over all this period of probation the master of novices or the Director of the House will endeavour to recommend and kindly inspire the new members to mortification of their outward senses and especially in sobriety. But prudence is needed in all this, to see that members are not weakened or that they are not overburdened and are thus unable to carry out the duties of our Congregation.

7. When these three probationary periods have been completed in a praiseworthy manner, if the member really wishes to remain in the Congregation with perpetual vows, he can be admitted to making them by the Superior Chapter. 

XV. The habit

1. The habit which the members wear shall vary according to the custom of the country in which they fix their abode.

2. Priests shall wear the long cassock,unless necessity when travelling or any other just cause shall counsel otherwise.

3. The lay-brothers shall, as far as possible, be dressed in black. But everyone alike shall strive to avoid the new fashions of people in the world.

Rite of profession for members of the Society of St Francis de Sales

Before pronouncing the vows, each confrere will make ten days of retreat, directed especially to reflection on vocation and instruction on the vows he intends to profess, so that he may clearly know what should be according to the Lord. At the end of the retreat the Chapter will gather and if possible all the members of the House. The Rector, or another delegated by him, in cotta and stole will invite everyone to kneel. Then everyone will call on the light of the Holy Spirit, and alternatively sing the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, etc.

V. Emitte Spiritum etc. / R. Et renovabis etc.

Oremus. Deus, qui corda fadelium ecc.

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin follows, then:

Ora pro nobis etc., and the Oremus. Concede nos etc.

Then in honour of St Francis de Sales, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

5. Ora pro nobis, beate Francisce / R. Ut digni efficiamur etc.

Oremus Deus, qui ad animarum salutem etc.

The novice will kneel between two professed and before the Rector or whoever takes his place, who will then ask the following questions in the singular, if there is one novice, or plural if there are more.

Rector. My son, what are you asking?

Novice. My Reverend Superior, I ask to profess the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales.

R. Do you know these Constitutions well and have you already put them into practice?

N. I think I know them sufficiently well and in accordance with the explanations which my Superiors have given me of them. I have done what I could to practise them in the time of my novitiate. Although I am aware of my weakness I hope, however, with God's help, to be able to practise them in the future with greater exactitude, and also with greater advantages to my soul.

R. Have you perfectly understood what is involved in professing the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales?

N. I think I have understood it. By professing the Salesian Constitutions I intend to promise God that I will aim at the sanctification of my soul., by renouncing the pleasures and vanities of the world, by fleeing from all deliberate sin, and by living in exemplary poverty, perfect chastity and humble obedience. I also know that by professing these Constitutions I must renounce all the conveniences and comforts of life and this only and solely for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ to whom, I intend to consecrate my every word, my every work and my every thought for the rest of my life.

R. Are you then disposed to renounce the world and all it can promise and to profess by vow the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales?

N. Yes, Reverend Superior, I am ready and I do desire it with all my heart and I hope with the help of God' grace to be faithful to my promises.

R. Are they the triennial or perpetual vows you now propose to make?

N. If making triennial vows he will respond: Although I have a firm desire to pass the rest of my life in this Congregation, yet in conformity with what our Constitutions prescribe I now make the triennial vows only, full of confidence however, that after these, I shall be able to make them in perpetuity.

If he is making perpetual vows, he will say: As it is my firm desire to consecrate myself forever to God in the Congregation of St Francis de Sales, I intend now to make the perpetual vows, that is to say, to bind myself by vow to observe the Salesian Constitutions for the rest of my life.

R. May God bless this you good desire and grant you the grace to be able to persevere in it faithfully even to the end of life, even unto that time when Jesus Christ will give you an ample reward for all you have left or done for him.

Place yourself now in the presence of God and pronounce the prescribed form of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in accordance with our Constitutions, which are to be for the future, the constant rule for your life.

Formula of the vows

“In the name of the most Holy [and undivided] Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I N. N. place myself in the presence of the Almighty and Everlasting God, and unworthy though I am to appear in his sight, nevertheless relying on his great goodness and infinite mercy, and in the presence also of the most Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, and of St Francis de Sales and all the Saints of heaven, I make the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience to God and into your hands N.N. Superior of our Society, (or to you who take the place of the Superior of our Society) for three years (orin perpetuity in accordance with the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales.” All answer: Amen.

R. May God assist you with his holy grace to be faithful to this solemn promise even unto the end of life. Call frequently to mind the great reward which our Saviour promises to him who forsakes the world in order to follow him. He shall receive a hundredfold in the present life and an eternal recompense in the life to come. And if the observance of our Rules causes you at some time to suffer some pain, then call to mind the words of St Paul where he says that the sufferings of this present life are but for a moment whilst the joys of the life to come are eternal; and he that suffers together with Jesus Christ upon earth shall, together with Jesus Christ, be one day crowned with glory in heaven.

Then the new member will write his name in the Register by completing the following.

“I the undersigned, have read and understood the rules of the Society of St Francis de Sales and I promise to observe them constantly in accordance with the formula of vows I have just pronounced.”

Turin, etc., year etc. N.N.

Afterwards there will be the Te Deum, then if the Rector so judges, he will give a brief moral exhortation and will conclude with the Psalm Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes etc.


For the tranquillity of souls, the Society declares that these Rules do not, of themselves, oblige under the pain of either mortal or venial sin. Wherefore if anyone, by transgressing them, is guilty before God, this proceeds not directly from the Rules themselves but either from the Commandments of God or of the Church, or from the vows, or finally, from the circumstances that may accompany the violation of the Rules, such as the bad example given, the contempt shown and the like.

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