Souls and Souls!
Tortona, 22nd February 1938
To the Priests who have been called to form a "Little Press Office."
Dearly beloved in the Lord, may the grace of Jesus Christ and His peace be always with us!
Today we must rejoice as it is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Antioch, where the first faithful began to be called Christians, that is, believers, followers, imitators of Christ Our Lord. Actually the old tradition which had remained unaltered up to the 16th century, says that it is not the Chair of Antioch that was referred to, but the Chair of St. Peter in Rome, the only Chair that can rise to be the symbol of the universal primacy of honour and jurisdiction that Peter and his Successors exercise from Rome over the whole Church.
But we must also exult in the Lord because, on today's feast, our little Congregation is setting up, in the holy Name of God, its first little Press Office, placing it under the patronage of the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, and of St. Francis of Sales. The Most Blessed Virgin is the Mother and heavenly Foundress of the Little Work and St. Francis was given by the Apostolic See as Patron of the Catholic press. He, as a Missionary and a Doctor, was among the first to use the press in support of right doctrine and in defence of the true Church of Christ and of the Pope.
The principal function of this most modest office is that of coordinating our news bulletins in the purpose for which, in Italy and abroad, various sheets and leaflets edited by different Houses of the Congregation came to exist. It is also designed to work with them so that they will always be a unanimous voice of one heart and one spirit, albeit in different styles and in different languages. This Press Office will receive, from the Superiors of our Institutions, or from their Deputies, whatever items of news they wish to be brought to the notice of all the other Houses of the Congregation and published, as widely as possible, in friendly newspapers in Italy and outside, for the glory of God and so that the Benefactors should feel ever more encouraged to help us.
The Office in its turn will send news, correspondence, short articles to our different bulletins. This will serve to give one particular slant to the press items of our Congregation. It will encourage work of greater intensity. It will unify our small strength, even in the domain of the press: strength united becomes stronger.
I have no doubt as to the great benefit it will have for the Little Work and for each of her Houses.
For the moment we must limit ourselves to this, no more; but I feel that, with God's help, we will not stop at the first stage. I have great trust in God and great expectations from you, my dear people. If it pleases God to cause it to grow bigger, with your valued help, with your daily industrious toil, this most modest Press Office will become an example of our great publishers; it will become the Work of the Apostolate of the Good Press in our dear Congregation. A Press Apostolate, for the people, that I have dreamed of for so many years, a press apostolate for the little ones, for the humble, for the mass of country dwellers, for the workmen, the Work of the Good Press for the workers, for the salvation of the people.
The press is a great force: it is a great orator that speaks by day, that speaks by night, that speaks in the cities, that speaks in the villages, even on the mountains and in the forgotten valleys. Is there any place the press does not get to? Is it not the press that creates public opinion, that influences peace or war? Oh what damage bad press has caused! But what good the press does, when it is in good hands, when it is placed at the service of God, of the Church, of our Country!
Can our Congregation be indifferent to such a force? Are we not obliged to avail of it for the sake of God and the peoples? With the popular press we will bring Christ to the people and the people to Christ.
This Press Office is only a modest box room. For the moment it consists of a poor table, two benches, paper, pens and an ink-pot. Up on the wall there is a Crucifix, a picture of Our Lady and one of Don Bosco. There are some books: the Bible, Dante, Manzoni. It is a small step, if you like, like the short step of a baby. Our Institution, in any case, is still such a baby! But it is a beginning; let us not lose heart, a good beginning!
Tomorrow, then, will bring what God wants, and also what we want if we work as if we were on our knees, little and humble at the feet of Christ and of the Church. If we at least begin in the Name of God we will have begun well.
Above all may our new labour be infused with a great love of God and of the brothers, now and for ever! May it be placed in the service of truth, inspired by truth alone, without ever diverging from the truth; but, both in its substance and in its form, may it be enlivened and infused with the charity of the Lord: proclaiming the truth in charity.
To live the truth, to practise it and serve it, the truth, in every way and with full devotion, even with the pen, so that it may live and shine in us and in the minds and in the hearts of those who read it.
Always work and write according to the teachings of the Faith and of the Church: they give us the revealed truth. Do and write only whatever is true, just, honest, right, but always under the impulse of charity: always and in everything faithful to the truth, but with a will and in an evangelical spirit of holy and sweet love of charity in Christ.
It was the Apostle Paul who, in his letter to the Christians of the Church of Ephesus, wrote: "For by living the truth in charity let us grow through everything in Him who is the head, Christ." (Eph 4:15).
So we, my dearest sons, as people and as a Congregation, must grow and progress in every good activity: we must grow through everything - this includes the apostolate of the press - in Him - that is, in the one who is the Head, Christ. Always, however, living the truth in charity. And we must make use of everything that the Church, our Country, theology, philosophy, literature, science and the arts offer us in honesty, whether ancient or modern: we must use everything, value everything, for the lofty purpose of the glory of God, for the spreading of the Gospel and Christian civilisation, for the defence of the Church, of our Country, of the family, of souls: to renew everything in Christ, including the press, through the press.
The new wine should be in new wineskins, but we must also put the old wine in new wineskins. "Otherwise," says Jesus, (Mt: 9,17), "the skins burst and the wine is spilt." What I mean is, if you want to get your work to be read, if you want to please and penetrate and conquer souls and do good, you must learn how to adapt where necessary the ancient doctrine of Christ to new living examples. You must use the methods most suitable for modern times, for today's readers. Language that is simple, appropriate, conversational, alive; short, scintillating sentences; news, correspondence, short, very short, articles, with always a ray of edifying light, a tender thought which causes joy and raises the mind to God.
Strong and rooted in the principles of the Faith and in everything that is the Church's doctrine, you must keep to the rule: unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful, and charity in everything!
Always be precise and clear, avoiding an affected style, like outdated fashions that have a mouldy air about them. Be free, but may your message be warm: be full and vibrant with the sweetest, most sacred, love for God, Pope, Gospel, Church, Family, Country, Congregation: for the little ones, the poor, the workers, the people.
Do not be tardy in your work, but always swift and eager in correspondence. Be good time-keepers, have a holy enthusiasm for that. Herein lies a great secret, after the help of God, herein lies the secret of success: faith, work, courage.
God will be with you!
May nothing weigh you down, may no difficulty dishearten you, may the fearless youthful energy of the young shepherd David, which is in you, never be suppressed or suffocated by the heavy armoury of Saul: your shield is the Faith: your strength is God whom you serve in humility even to the point of sacrifice.
May the Lord encourage your daily efforts, just as I also give you my heartfelt encouragement and blessing in Jesus Christ and in Our Blessed Lady. Yours most affectionately,
of the Sons of Divine Providence