Vivit in me Christus.1
Conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto.2
Si quis diligit me, ad eum veniemus.3
[DFin 137-143. 164. 165. 194-198] The Exercises and the Novitiate4
The norms and principles that are given for the Spiritual Exercises are by and large convenient for the Novitiate as well.
The Spiritual Exercises and the Novitiate are Exercises
of virtues, of pious practices, of divine thoughts,5
in order to let the old man6
die and make Jesus Christ7
live in us.
Thus the mind, the will, the heart purified; we need to exercise the mind in those divine thoughts, in that piety and in those virtues with which we intend to continue our life and enter into eternity.
Necessary, in order to align life8
directly with eternity, is some space of time; for freeing oneself from created
things,9 and to familiarize oneself with heaven, an intermission between Life and Eternity.
[DFin 151] In union with the withdrawn life of Jesus Christ; in the Cenacle of the Holy Spirit with Mary Most Holy; with the life of St. Paul in the desert; doing two things: 1. purification of the past; 2. provisions for the future.
For the past: purification from sin, from affection, from bad root, from punishment, from relics, from the principal defects, from habits.
For the future: to conclude: with the conscious and effective renewal of the baptismal vows; or with the choice of the state in life; or with the special mode of our salvation and sanctification.10
Before starting: a Mass of penance, a Way of the Cross, a day of mortification; preparation of everything: spiritual guide, schedule, environment, internal and external mortification, definition of the goal: Rosary before the Holy Tabernacle.
Before the novitiate a true and genuine Exercises of eight days is made, Exercises that are like the introduction, or the summary to be developed and achieved in the Novitiate itself.
[DFin 41.193] The sanctifying action of the soul lies in our transformation into God ut homo fieret Deus11 through the food Jesus Christ: by nourishing ourselves each day with Jesus Christ way, truth, life. This food from God given to Man: the eating and assimilation of this food is necessary. God has set the table: compelle intrare.12
On one hand then, grace: Eucharist, the Gospel (Mass, Communion, Visit); on another: cooperation, meditation, examination of conscience, confession, spiritual direction. Non ego autem, sed gratia Dei mecum,13 Cooperatores enim Dei sumus.14
Needed: The examination of conscience done methodically three times a day.
The Communion and visit inspired after the three ends, Induat te Dominus novum hominem.15
Meditation with the exercises of memory, intelligence, will.
The exercise of mortification thereby training the will to become indifferent to created things; health or sickness, praise or humilation, wealth or poverty,16 etc. Christus non sibi placuit.17 Mortification of the intelligence, of memory, of the will of
imagination, of the heart, of external senses. This in detail: thereby these holy excesses and frequent repetition may soon produce the habit and the death of the old man. Exuat te Dominus veterem hominem.18* * *
[DFin 219] Thus through mortification, one keeps the way Jesus Christ; with the Gospel and meditation, one lives the truth Jesus Christ; with Communion, Visit, Mass, one will have the life Jesus Christ. Donec formetur Christus in vobis.19
For the Novice
The day must include:
1. A meditation of one hour; two Holy Masses with ease for Holy Communion; an hour of Visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament.
2. Three examinations of conscience.
3. Little study and manual work.
I Barrier reef: discouragement. It is generosity that assures the fruit.
II Barrier reef: to want to hear and read much. Needed is the exercise of the intelligence, of the will, of examination.
III Barrier reef: The idle trust in God of him who feels a bit fervent: needed instead is much mortification and to begin practicing and living the resolutions that one wants to do for the rest of his life.
[DFin 32. 83] IV Barrier reef: the proud trust in ourselves: needed instead are more reflection and prayer: mental and oral and not other pious exercises. Graces are obtained through prayer. Read: il gran mezzo della preghiera of St. Alphonsus.20
V Barrier reef: many souls enter the Exercises unprepared, lukewarm: they are those who, already at the start, do not intend to reach amendment and uprooting of certain weaknesses, vices, habits in life. Perhaps they have all the rest; but not what should count most before God and leave the soul free to run along the path of sanctification.
[DFin 16. 48] Need
The orientation of life towards Heaven is necessary for him who has gone out of the road, for him who does not travel well yet and also for him who walks fast, and for him who has to choose his state in life. Deviations
are easy considering the distraction of the world, of passions, of the demon. Formation is needed thereby we may live in Jesus Christ: donec formetur Christus in vobis,21
and for a greater reason when one must be also mould
for others forma factus gregis ex animo (I Petri V, 3).22
Let prayer affect also the sentiment thereby we are excited to confusion.
If the soul finds itself in desolation or in aridity, it shall more broadly do reading and prayer, so that it finds itself well nourished and tasting something. Meanwhile let the soul be humble and serenely wait for divine Mercy.
[DFin 21. 51. 137-143] The School of Nazareth
Donec formetur Christus in vobis.
(Ad Gal. IV, 19).
Formation has to be modelled after the Divine Master: thirty years of private life.
Hence, it requires:
withdrawal from the world which is a school opposed to that of the Divine Master: trial period, novitiate, temporary profession: solitude and the company of Saints are sought after.
2. Internal mortification of memory, imagination, pride, heart, etc.; external: touch, hearing, eyes, taste, smell, following of schedule, program.* * *
3. Prayer: Sine me nihil potestis facere,23 hence presence at the Holy Sacraments, devotion to Our Lady, to St. Paul, visit, examination of conscience. The words of St. Paul have a special clearness: Neque volentis, neque currentis, sed miserentis est Dei (ad Rom. IX, 16).24 We need to get into the kingdom of Mercy and place ourselves under such governance and dominion.
[DFin 80] 4. Studium perfectionis: that is, to want to succeed in the divine knowledge, in the perfection of the will, in the holiness of life.
In the first part, I shall especially take into consideration:
God my Creator.
God my provident Governor.
God my loftiest end.
From this shall follow especially: humility of heart; docility to the divine will; observance of the commandments; the practice of natural virtues; resolution: I want to be saved.
A first sacramental confession.
Thus shall be formed the righteous man (Purification), Jesus Christ shall transform him to a Christian (Illumination) in order that he may become Priest, Religious, Saint, through the work of the Holy Spirit (Union).
[DFin 123. 172] The key of life25
1. In its essence, life is: a preparation for eternity; free preparation, neglected by many: preparation for eternity; supernatural preparation. We prepare our own eternity: ibit homo in domo æternitatis suæ.26
2. Of the mind, inasmuch as Paradise is vision; of the will, inasmuch as paradise is the confirmation of the supreme good, God; of the heart inasmuch as heaven is joy; of the body destined for resurrection and for the glorious gifts and for the satisfaction of its right desires.
3. The preparation of the mind is done with faith; the preparation of the will is done by observing the Commandments and in general with doing the divine Will; the preparation of the heart, with grace and the increase of it; preparation of the body, with keeping it subject to reason and faith, and mortifiying it with regards to what is illicit.
1 “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). - Many Notes of the present edition are derived from the edition of the DF by Andrea Damino, Roma 1985.
2 Words from the Apostles' Creed: “By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
3 “If one loves me... we shall come to him.” The complete text: “Si quis diligit me sermonem meum servabit et Pater meus diliget eum et ad eum veniemus - Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). Take note of the Trinitarian character of these three quotes.
4 Fr. Alberione establishes an equality between the Novitiate and the Spiritual Exercises, but the examination of the handwritten Notebook, that is the basis of Donec Formetur (DFms), reveals how the references to the Novitiate consist in short adjustments done later and they are found only at the Preamble and in the Norms for the Spiritual Exercises and for the Novitiate (DFst 104).
5 Also at this point on a copy of the printed booklet, Fr. Alberione has added a correction: he substituted “pensieri divini” (divine thoughts) with the word “considerazioni” (considerations). - Let it be noted that, in spite of the correction, the Founder intended precisely exercises of “divine thoughts,” as it would appear in the following paragraph where the expression was not changed.
6 Cf. Eph 4:20-24; Col 3:9-10.
7 Cf. Gal 2:20. - We can see the primary objective of the exercises together with the proposal of Fr. Alberione in these quotations from St. Paul. It is necessary that man should gradually free himself from the bonds that stop his adherence to the Lord, and work for the better to let Christ live in oneself: to let Chirst live... until He is formed in the whole person (cf. Gal 4:19).
8 Cf. the title of the Spiritual Exercises according to St. Ignatius: “Spiritual exercises for winning over oneself and direct one's life without letting it be determined by some disordinate affection (ST. IGNATIUS, Spiritual Exercises, no. 21).
9 Cf. Ibid., no. 20.
10 Cf. Ibid., nos. 1 and 135ff.
11 The complete statement, quoted other times by Fr. Alberione is: “Factus est Deus homo, ut homo fieret Deus - God made himself man in order that man might become God” (IRENAEUS, Adv. hær. III, 19,1).
12 Lk 14:23: “Make people come.”
13 1Cor 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
14 1Cor 3:9. The biblical statement is: “Dei enim sumus adiutores - For we are God's co-workers.”
15 “May the Lord clothe you with the new man.” Words used in the right of conferring of the religious habit and they allude to Eph 4:24: “And put on the new self.”
16 Cf. ST. IGNATIUS, Spiritual Exercises, no. 23. Cf. DFst 23.
17 Rom 15:3: “For Christ did not please himself...”
18 “May the Lord strip you of the old man.” Words that are used in the rite of conferring of the religious clothing. They allude to Eph 4:22: “You should put away the old self of your former way of life.”
19 Gal 4:19: “Until Christ be formed in you.”
20 ST. ALPHONSUS M. DE' LIGUORI, Del gran mezzo della preghiera. Per conseguire la salute eterna e tutte le grazie che desideriamo. (Regarding the great means of prayer. In order to achieve eternal salvation and all the graces that we desire).
21 Gal 4:19: “Until Christ be formed in you.”
22 1Pt 5:3: “Be an example to the flock”. In the Vulgate the text is in the plural. “Forma facti gregis ex animo - Be examples to the flock.”
23 Jn 15:5: “Without me you can do nothing.”
24 Rom 9:16: “So it depends not upon a person's will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy.”
25 For the concepts expressed in this chapter, Fr. Alberione draws inspiration from the book La chiave della vita (The key of life) by Can. Francesco Chiesa, who in the second to the last page of the book condenses these concepts as follows: “It is an inarguable principle that the present life is a preparation for the future. Hence it is necessary that man, in his various parts, should train himself in a manner that he acts by the future life, that he exerts the effort of living, as to his mind, the life of faith; as to his will, a life of obedience and resignation to the divine will; as to his heart, a life of prayer and practices in order to obtain the grace; and as to his body, a life of mortifcation. The present life must therefore be a life of faith, of obedience, of prayer, and of mortification” (La chiave della vita, Alba-Roma, Pia Società San Paolo, 1927, p. 257).
26 Eccl 12:5: “L'uomo se ne va nella [sua] dimora eterna. - Man goes to his lasting home.” In the CEI version is wanting the adjective his on which here weight is intended to be placed.