22. APOSTOLATE OF GOOD EXAMPLE
The examination of conscience in preparation for confession during the Spiritual Exercises can be done in various ways, but first, it is necessary to know what confession one intends to make, that is, if it is weekly, extraordinary or general. In any case, one may keep in mind a special point on which, above all, she wants to make the improvement, to obtain forgiveness. It can be that you are greatly enlightened and drawn to a specific point, as for example: total devotion to God. Perhaps, never as in the Exercises, that the meaning of being totally of God, of giving oneself to him in everything is best understood!
In the various ways of making the examination of conscience during the Exercises, never forget the essential points. Avoid worry, what matters is the sorrow. Take note of the consented venialities, like: envy, anger, spite, rancor, laziness, vain conversations, curiosities, coldness in prayer, excessive sensitivity, satisfaction of the senses.
Now, I want to talk to you of the Apostolate of good example. It is obligatory for all and all are to keep it up. It can be negative and positive.
Negative: to avoid scandal
Positive: to edify, by doing good.
Scandal may be given in different ways. Someone who introduces bad habits, like grumblings, keeping useless things, gives bad example.
A Superior who does not correct the abuses, who seeks her own good and not that of the Institute, who does not sufficiently instruct herself and the others, who is not vigilant, who fails in the vows, who neglects her duties, gives bad example. Giving bad example may be voluntary and involuntary.
Scandal is to give occasion to sin, with words or with deeds or with the conduct of life.
Be attentive to common life. It is very rare that getting up late is allowed. In nine out of ten cases, there is coldness and the spiritual life is dampened and grows weak. The vivacity of the spirit is maintained in getting up early.
Bad example can be given with words. To bring out the defects of others and tell about them; to find defects in everything, everywhere and making them public. At times, trust in persons is lost, even in the Superiors, in the confessor, solely because mur-muring word passes from one person to another; because somebody makes certain wrong judgments and reports to one whom should not be told. Oh, how much damage from some inconsiderate words!
Scandal is given with deeds. When there is someone accustomed to waste time, to quarrel, after some time, there shall be many who waste time, who quarrel. Religious life, then, is no longer Paradise on earth, as it should be.
At times, there is somebody who habitually excuses herself from the common observance, who asks unnecessary permissions and thus, the regular observance which is the great good of an Institute, crumbles little by little. Regularity, discipline requires sacrifices, continuous self-denial, but, religious life must be embraced with spontaneous conviction, with sincere will and be seriously lived. Whereas, if the habit of neglecting the little rules is acquired, one ends up in mediocrity and discontent. Your Institute has agility and requires: conviction, spontaneity, delicateness, intense love. But when doing a thing ad oculos servientes1 (for appearance only) becomes a mechanism, then, religious life disappears.
Bad example can be given with mere conduct. Two persons who always go together, who treat each other with excessive confidence, who are very close, do not edify. Let us not talk then of the more serious scandal that leads to mortal sins. Do not believe that bad example is always venial. It is serious when it damages the whole community, when abuses contrary to religious life are introduced.
On the way to Calvary, Jesus told the pious women: Do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children.1 Certainly, whoever does not educate the children well, who does not guide well the souls entrusted to their care, is responsible of their sins. If your daughters are to grow up not well-formed, lacking in eucharistic piety and not according to your vocation, whoever was supposed to help them, but failed to do so, is held responsible.
To give good example also means to encourage doing good with word and conduct. If you are punctual, the habit of punctuality will spread in the community. If you are unpretentiously charitable, treating others with humble amiability is quickly learned in your community. If you are a lover of poverty, if you avoid superflous things, if you dispose nothing without permission, you lead others to imitate you. If your behavior is edifying, the Sisters shall be drawn to do the same.
Now, you have a dignified religious habit similar to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which invites recollection.
Wherever someone passes by, she leaves impressions. When the good Sister passes through the streets, when she travels, she always and everywhere fulfills her duty and diffuses the bonus odor Christi.1 You must behave in a way that whoever sees you, should be able to think: there are persons on earth who, always and in everything, think of eternal life. The religious habit is a good preaching; always wear it with dignity.
Even if you were never been seen, just thinking of you as persons who live in God, for God, recollected and mortified souls, ought to be a reason of good example, sufficient to leave a good impression in memory, that suggests noble and edifying thoughts.
If you introduce in the house a way of judging in a supernatural manner, a way of living which is really pious, religious, the good use of time, you shall contribute to build a community that will persevere in religious observance and those who are to come after you, shall continue to walk on your footsteps. Whatever we do always produce in others a good or bad impression.
Your life should always edify; the persuasion of holy persons corrects many things.
Why is it that we grumble to some persons and never to others, with whom instead, we would deal only about spiritual matters? Tell me with whom you go and I will tell who you are.1 Example is the most effective training. Jesus said: Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.2 Somebody should say, instead: Do not learn from me, do not imitate me, because I do not behave well.
Towards the end of his life, after having washed the feet of the Apostles, Jesus said: Exemplim dedi vobis... what I just did was to give you an example; as I have done, so you must do.3
St. Paul says: Be imitators of God as His dear children.4 The children should imitate the father. But no one has ever seen God,5 and here is the Son of God who became man and tells us ut quemadmodum ego feci (vobis) ita et vos faciatis6 (as I have done, so you must do).
We do not know the effect of our words, of our behavior, but let us remember: many souls are lost due to bad example and many souls are saved by good example. Who can know and confess all the harm that they have done to others? Always accuse yourselves even of the sins you do not know, of the sins you had caused others to commit. Ab occultis meis munda me, et ab alienis parce servo tuo1 (preserve your servant, so I will be above re-proach, free from grave sin). Judgment will come and the Lord shall make us see all the good accomplished and we will be amazed of them, but someone may also be astonished of the much unforgiven evil and of those that she had caused others to commit. God does not want us to be the cause of spiritual ruin. Let us ask pardon: Lord, mercy, forgive me.2
We will tell Jesus: Lord, I do not even have the courage to examine myself on this point, but You see everything, You know it, I accuse myself as I am before You. Forgive my sins and those which I caused others to commit. Grant me this grace: if ever there are souls in purgatory because of me, let them free. I make this pact: make me suffer, send me as many humiliations as necessary to save the souls and to amend all the bad examples that I have given.
To the one whose love is great, much is forgiven.3
In the Holy Mass tomorrow morning, let us remember the souls who can be in purgatory because of our bad examples and may the Lord send us as much sorrow as necessary to make expiation for them. May you have much trust in the consecration.
1 Eph. 6, 6. The text is: Non ad oculum servientes.
1 Lk. 23, 28.
1 Cf. 2Cor. 2, 15: quia Christi bonus odor sumus.
1 Common proverb.
2 Mt. 11, 29.
3 Jn. 13, 15.
4 Cf. Eph. 5, 1.
5 Cf. Jn. 1, 18.
6 Jn. 13, 15.
1 Ps. 18, 13.
2 From the Act of contrition.
3 Cf. Lk. 7, 47.