48. Biblical sources of Murialdo’s spirituality

The author skimmed through the Writings of Murialdo to see how and how often Murialdo quoted the Holy Scripture. The many quotations drawn from Old Testament and New Testament tell us the familiarity of Murialdo with the Bible, a book well known to him and which he often used in his preaching whether to boys as well as to confreres. Besides the curiosity that such research can arouse, Murialdo remains an example also in this field, that is, to make the Bible not only a well-known book, but a source for his preaching and meditation. Moreover it is important to place the quote in its context in order to know why Murialdo used that sentence of the Bible and what interpretation did he give to the sentence quoted. The research done, then, is a fundamental starting point for more deepening that I hope someone may undertake.

Padre Alejandro Bazan

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48. Biblical sources of Murialdo’s spirituality  – Hints for reflection            (P. Alejandro Bazan)


 

The present work is offered as a contribution for an initial deepening on the “biblical sources” of the educational spirituality of Saint Leonard, since they contributed to structure his life and, consequently his educational activity.

To probe on this topic we assumed as basis the Writings of Murialdo (15 volumes) and his Spiritual Testament, using especially the indexes of both books. His Letters were not taken in consideration because we think that the great quantity of quotations analyzed (more than 5700) may constitute a sufficient material in order to draw already some reflections of synthesis. The method of work consisted mainly of a quantitative study of the biblical quotations, underlining those which are repeated most frequently, assuming that those are an indication that Murialdo valued them very much. Certainly such perspective of analysis has also clear limits, because there are circumstances in which an only quotation, for example “merciful Father – prodigal son” in the Spiritual Testament, embraces a whole page of reflections and characterizes deeply his spirituality, while many other quotations are only hinted incidentally, with one word as an addition to emphasize a theme. Even though, however, conscious of these limits, we believe that the analysis of repeated appearances of some quotations can offer a sufficient and reliable profile of the spirituality of saint Leonard. We will present only those quotations that appeared more than twenty times as a norm for our catalogue (Writings and Testament) and we will try to sketch a spiritual profile of Murialdo and to draw some pedagogical conclusions from them. Murialdo constantly quoted Holy Scripture. This indicates a knowledge, a “frequence” and a very deep love for the Word of God. In the documents that we analyzed (Writings and Testament) we find 5717 biblical quotations, from which 2083 from OT and 3634 from NT. In the spiritual Testament only 89 quotations are there from all of them. The biblical books more often quoted by Murialdo are the gospels of Matthew, John and Luke and the Psalms.

Favored quotations by Murialdo

 

From the following biblical quotations, ordered according to the frequency in which they occur in the writings of Murialdo and with the underlining of the part of the sentence that he more often repeats, we can already understand what themes are more frequent in his spirituality (nb: quotations are written in a short form).

1. Lk 10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. (35 times)

2. Jn 3: 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him … might have eternal life. (33)

3. Gal 2:20 yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me …by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. (30)

4. Prv 8:31 I found delight in the sons of men. (27)

    Rv 3:20 I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the                 door, I will enter his house and dine with him… (27)

5. Mt 11:29 learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. (26)

     Lk 10:16 whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. (26)

     Lk 12:48 much will be required of the person entrusted with much. (26)

     Jn 15:16 I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. (26)

6. Ps 77:11 the right hand of the Most High has left us. “Nunc coepi” [now I begin](24)

     Mt 16:26 What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (24)

     Mt 25:21 Well done, my good and faithful servant,… Come, share your master’s joy. (24)

     Jn 15:15 I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (24)

     1Jn 3:2 we are God’s children…we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (24)

7. Ps 16:5 Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure. (23)

     Mt 5:19 these … commandments… whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (23)

     Mt 16:24 Whoever wishes to come after metake up his cross and follow me. (23)

     Jn 20:23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. (23)

8. Mt 11:28 Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (22)

     Mt 19:21 if you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor… Then come and follow me. (22)

     Mt 19:29 you who have followed me… will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. (22)

     Mt 25:41 Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil. (22)

     Jn 15:5 I am the vine… without me you can do nothing. (22)

     Rv 3:21 I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne. (22)

Some impressions from the results of the research

First of all it is noticeable the large quantity of quotations that Murialdo introduces, uses and applies in his writings. He proceeds interweaving his ideas with biblical quotations and texts. He expresses his feelings and desires many times with the words of a psalm or with some expressions of the Word of God. Generally he, in accordance with the common manner of quoting biblical texts of his time, inserted short sentences taken from the Latin version of the Vulgate, while developing his thoughts on spiritual or apostolic themes. His love for Holy Scripture, confirmed also by those who knew him and by his biographers is revealed clearly with this superabundance of biblical references, since there is almost no page of his writings where we do not find different quotations.

Initially, the themes that mainly come up in the Writings and in the Spiritual Testament of Murialdo coincide with the expectations that emerge from the studies of the last 30 years about the spirituality of Saint Leonard: the priority of the love of God, his revelation and saving achievements in his Son, become man out of love, our election in Christ in order to be his disciples sharing his life and to be his apostles, gratitude for his infinite love, exhortation to conversion and pardon, education of youth so that they may have fullness of true life, the awareness of the obligation to re-present Jesus…, themes that we can be derived from the studies done until now on the spirituality of our founder.

For me it was a novelty, in a certain way unexpected, the sentence more quoted by Murialdo: “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part,” sentence that is part, as we know, of the answer of Jesus to Martha, who complained because he did not intervene in order for her sister Mary to help her in the house chores and in the care of the guests arrived. In his reply Jesus affirms that to be with him and to listen to his Word must be a priority over any other activity no matter how good.

The way in which Murialdo underlines and repeats this sentence “there is need of only one thing” leads me to think the necessity of a fundamental option of life: all for Christ, giving absolute priority to his person in order to obtain salvation or a sad mediocrity of spiritual tepidity. It seems to me that the necessity to choose between the “two ways”, that are proposed by psalm 1, or by the famous meditation of the spiritual exercises of saint Ignatius of Loyola about “the two banners” is stressed very much. It is imperative that we must commit ourselves to choose. We cannot remain on both sides. In question is the most important thing: eternal salvation! Moreover “salvation” is the objective of the question of Jesus: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” that Murialdo quotes very frequently. To choose Christ is to seek holiness: to stay with him and to contemplate him, to listen to his Word and put it into practice. The second part of the verse: “Mary has chosen the better part” recalls first of all the call of God, who consecrates us for love and allows us to put ourselves at his service of the salvation of youth.

The second aspect that caught my attention was the importance Jesus gives to the final eschatological reward. Certainly this theme, directly linked with that of “salvation” belongs to the spirituality of his time and it would be strange if it were not appearing frequently in this research. Probably this topic caught my attention because today the “eschatological” themes have almost disappeared from the daily thinking of Christians. Surely I knew that I would have found quotations regarding death, judgment, purgatory, paradise and hell, but I thought they would be less underlined and more concentrated on the danger of hell and on the punishments deserved for sins… Instead, as we can see from the texts quoted by Murialdo, the sentences that he repeats often are oriented mainly towards the reward and sharing in the divine glory. It seems that for Murialdo the vision of eschatological questions were marked by hope and trust to reach the glory of the Kingdom due to divine mercy, more than by fear of punishment for sin.

I thought also to find many quotations regarding Christian ascetics, human effort, sacrifice, strength of will. And this because I imagined that the texts more “mystical” of Murialdo on the love of God (infinite, merciful, eternal, present, personal, tender, gratuitous), on the fact that all is grace, on the provident love of God, on the image of God as a merciful father of the parable, etc., would rather be the mature fruit of his last years, with a vision full of wisdom and faith that we find in his Spiritual Testament. Undoubtedly there are texts that exhort about spiritual commitment, according the spirituality of his time, but they are not the most important neither the most quoted.

I believe that this points to a spirituality of Murialdo, that, even though it is clear the importance of our personal effort of conversion and spiritual journey in following Christ, is determined by the role of grace, that, revealing the love of the Father, transforms us, molds us in the image of Jesus Christ, and welcomes the divine action in “active passivity” and let ourselves be educated by it.

Spiritual profile of saint Leonard

Starting from these more frequent quotations of Murialdo, we will try to build a spiritual profile. (nb.: the quotations are paraphrased and in italics).

            The only one thing necessary… and the better part…

Saint Leonard Murialdo reminds us that only one thing is necessary: to follow Jesus in order to reach salvation and commit ourselves for the salvation of youth, because this is the better part.

            …is the love of the Father revealed in his Son…

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that we may have eternal life.

Christ has loved me and given himself up for us so that we may live for him and he for us.

– He stands at the door and knocks, if we open, he will enter and dine with us.

– Because his delight is to be with the children of man.

            …he chose and called us …

He has chosen and called us “his friends” because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

– He has exhorted us to learn from him, who is meek and humble of heart.

– He has made us experience that only the Lord is our portion of inheritance

and he has appointed us to go and bear fruit that will remain and be abundant.

            …to be disciples of Jesus…

– He told us to come to him, all of you who labor and are burdened and I will give your rest.

– He invited us to follow him: If you wish…come! Follow me!

– reminding us that in order to be his disciples we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

            …and missionaries of his gospel…

– being his presence among people: who hear you, hear me.

– inviting us urgently to conversion: “now I begin”…

– because without him we can do nothing.

– being ministers of pardon: whose sins you forgive are forgiven

– and educators of his people: whoever keeps and teaches these commandments, will be called great.

– conscious of this great responsibility, because much will be required of the person entrusted with much

-and because at the end we will be judged on love: Depart from me…, those who did not love.

            …awaiting in joy the fullness of the Kingdom.

– Trustful in his promise to receive hundredfold and to inherit eternal life

– let us ask the Lord the gift to be good and faithful servants in order to share his joy

– and because he will make us sit with him in his throne when he will reign with the Father.

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed

when he is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Some considerations from an educational point of view

 

First of all it is important to remember that in saint Leonard Murialdo spirituality and educational activity are not two different realities or two different spheres of his life, but a unique and same experience that involves his whole existence. There was not a Murialdo who lived a deep spirituality with God and who “also” worked in the education of youth… Only existed a Murialdo who, transformed (educated) by the experience of the love of God, that gave meaning, fullness and joy to his life committed himself totally so that youth, especially the poorest and abandoned, might live his transforming (educational) experience of the love of God and thus might have the fullness of life in Christ.

Therefore, the same biblical sources of his spirituality will be the foundations that will characterize his educational and evangelizing dedication to youth.

Following the preceding outline, we could suggest:

“The only necessary thing… and the better part…” It concerns to educate to liberty…and therefore in liberty. To work so that the youth may be able to choose freely, as protagonists, and to be faithful to these choices. Above all to help them so that they may realize the fundamental choice of their life, an option that for Murialdo means, “for Christ or against Christ.” This fundamental option for Jesus Christ is “the only necessary thing”: it is ne perdantur, the salvation… “to educate for paradise.” The “better part” invites us to give importance to the educational –evangelizing service to youth. It is the great dignity of the educator, who follows the steps of Jesus the Teacher and “re-presents” him so that the youth may have abundant life in Him.

“…is the love of the Father revealed in his Son…” God Trinity, who created us out of love and to live in eternal and intimate communion with him, with our brothers and with creation, who gradually taught us as people with the tenderness of his pedagogy so that we may be able to welcome his Son, who became man, the revelation of the love of the Father, and to be transformed by his Spirit. This pedagogy of the divine love molds us so that we might be able to live fully our dignity as children of God in Christ. Pedagogy of love that saint Leonard Murialdo experienced in his personal history, above all in his “paschal” passage from the crisis of his adolescence towards the joyful experience of being forgiven and raised thanks to the mercy of the Father and called to follow Jesus in priestly ministry, undeserved gift of his divine tenderness. When he will found the Congregation of Saint Joseph, dedicated to education, saint Leonard will ask his confreres to “commit themselves to spread the knowledge of infinite, ever present and individual love that God has for all persons,” because we “have known and believed in the love of God for us.” A truth that saint Leonard always transmitted to his youth as a fundamental treasure of his educational endeavor. The experience of being passionately loved by a God, who desires to share our life, who calls us, who waits for us with patience, who is glad to stay with us… conquered him and urged him to commit himself totally so that also his youth might have the experience of this fullness of life.

“…he chose and called us…” The experience of being chosen and called personally out of love gives rise to new interpersonal relationships, warm and positive, in which each young person will be able to feel loved with predilection, in a personal and unique way, and will help to mature so that he himself might be able to build new true relationships, full of affection with those surrounding him. This climate of relationship, characterized by tenderness, that Murialdo defined as “the new educational system” is the foundation of that “well united family” that must embrace the whole educational community. The relationships must be founded on affection rather than on roles and hierarchy in order to be “friends, brothers, and fathers” of youth. Those, who feel themselves loved, grow in self-esteem, learn to love themselves and are open to love neighbor and creation. Love is the engine of all the educational process, because it provides motivations, supports the effort, and frees the manifold potentialities of emotional intelligence, stimulates the passion for truth and service to neighbor in the best way, “doing good well.”

“…to be disciples of Jesus…” An integral and unitary proposal for education sees in Jesus Christ the realization of the full human potential and aims to educate by evangelizing and to evangelize by educating. The kerigmatic proposal of encountering Christ in order to follow him and to have fullness of life in him is the source, the nucleus, and the goal of our educational endeavor. A proposal that appeals to liberty: “if you wish…come! Follow me!” A proposal in education that appreciates every step, bearer true humanity, as a path of evangelization, that, with respect to personal liberty, leads clearly to a gradual path of growth in faith, for a full human realization in Christ (Populorum progressio, 21)

“…and missionaries of his gospel…” In the face of street boys, orphans and abandoned, youth in crisis… saint Leonard experienced with ever greater intensity the urgent call of Jesus to be at their service in educating and molding them into “good Christians and honest citizens.” Beginning with his first apostolic ministries, first collaborating, then taking the responsibility of directing some oratories in the peripheries of Turin, and later accepting to be the rector of the boarding school of Artigianelli, a commitment that embraced his whole life on earth, especially with the choice of founding a congregation so that his service to youth might continue after his death… all was geared in saint Leonard for living his vocation in Christ through the education of youth, especially poor and abandoned. He exhorted his confreres and the educators to be aware that we are instruments of Christ, always in need to be united with him, because without him we can do nothing.

He reminded them of the necessity to teach the path of a gospel way of life and to help youth in their journey of conversion in order to welcome the merciful pardon of God. His main objective as educator was to lead his youth so that they might have life, fullness of life in Christ. Aware of this responsibility, he invited all, educators and young people, to a sense of responsibility, because at the end we will be judged on the love we have given to our youth.

“…awaiting in joy the fullness of the Kingdom”. It is said that “for him, who does not know where he is going, no path is good.” On the contrary, saint Leonard knew very well the goal of his personal journey and of his educational endeavor he had to offer to his youth: to reach the glory of the Father in eternal communion with his Kingdom… and he was expecting with eagerness to discover the fullness of the hidden mystery in us: to be sons of God. This does not mean at all to neglect daily commitment for a better, more just and responsible life. On the contrary… just because we are conscious of this goal in the fullness of times, we commit ourselves now to work with all our strength to build a kingdom of justice, love, and peace; and our specific way of collaboration for building the Kingdom is the Christian education of youth, especially the poorest. We are not waiting with folded arms just because we have a sure hope . Those who have hope, work for the future. Saint Leonard did not offer only intellectual, but also professional education. He helped his youth to become active and positive part of society, accompanying them in the first steps towards a self-sufficient life. The hope in tomorrow stimulates and commits us in the today! With the eyes fixed on the final resurrection, even more so, industriousness, solidarity, responsibility, demand for quality, creativity … always characterized the formation endeavor of saint Leonard Murialdo.

We could analyze many other dimensions in the way saint Leonard used and lived the Word of God. The dimensions here considered, want only to be a small contribution to an initial reflection on this topic.

Alejandro Bazan

 

 

 

NB.

Number of quotations of the biblical books by Murialdo.

OT.: Genesis: 103; Exodus: 38; Leviticus: 4; Numbers: 5; Deuteronomy: 20; Joshua: 21; Judges: 3; 1 Samuel: 31; 2 Samuel: 23; 1 Kings: 9; 2 Kings: 10; 1 Chronicles: 3; 2 Chronicles: 5; Tobit: 14; Judith: 3; Esther: 5; 1 Maccabees: 6; 2 Maccabees: 14; Job: 48; Psalms: 741; Proverbs: 92; Ecclesiastes: 79; Songs: 77; Wisdom: 121; Sirach: 103; Isaiah: 224; Jeremiah: 103; Lamentations: 37; Baruch: 4; Ezekiel: 54; Daniel: 22; Hosea: 21; Joel: 11; Amos: 1; Jonah: 1: Zechariah: 8;

Malachi: 19.

 

NT.: Matthew: 920; Mark: 133; Luke: 602; John: 605; Acts: 81; Romans: 66; 1Corinthians: 279; 2Corinthians: 111; Ephesians: 78; Philippians: 88; Colossians: 14; 1 Thessalonians: 22; 2 Thessalonians: 5; 1 Timothy: 64; 2 Timothy: 27; Titus: 14; Hebrews: 138; James: 43; 1 Peter: 38; 2 Peter: 11; 1 John: 94; Revelation: 201.

 

Totals: AT.: 2083              NT.: 3634             Total: 5717 biblical quotations.

From Writings: 5628        from Spiritual Testament: 89.

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