The Salesian Rector
DON BOSCO'S CONFIDENTIAL MEMORANDA TO RECTORS
This Aid which is offered to you, dear rector, is meant to be a help in your delicate task of being the animator and superior of a local community. It begins with the memoranda, once labelled 'confidential' which Don Bosco sent to his 'beloved son, Don Michael Rua', the Congregations's first rector of the house of Mirabello (1863). We still have the original in Don Bosco's handwriting. After Don Bosco's death, Don Rua kept them hanging on the wall of his room. They were revised several times, and the final edition was left by Don Bosco himself as his testament to the Salesian rectors of all times.1 This basic document contains perennial values which go beyond other points no longer valid because of changing times and cultures.
If, like Don Rua, you can interpret these words which are full of inspiration and ever new meaning, you will also enjoy the experience of hearing once again the inspiring voice of Don Bosco and of feeling him close to you to inspire you as a friend, a brother, and a father. "I speak to you with the voice of a tender father opening his heart to one of his dear sons. Accept what I have written as a pledge of my affection for you, and as practical evidence of my earnest desire that you may gain many souls for the Lord."2
1. Let nothing upset you.
2. Avoid austerity in food. Let your mortification consist in diligently fulfilling your duties and patiently bearing annoyances. Take seven hours rest at night, with a one hour leeway in either direction for reasonable motives. This will be good for your own health and for that of your subjects.
3. Celebrate Holy Mass and recite the breviary pie, devote/attente. This, for both you and your subjects.
4. Never omit the morning meditation and a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament. As for the rest, carry out what the Rules of the Society prescribe.
5. Try to make yourself loved rather than feared. Let charity and patience be your steady guide in commanding or admonishing. Let all you do and say show that you are seeking the welfare of souls. Put up with anything and everything if it is a matter of preventing sin. Concentrate your efforts on the spiritual, physical, and intellectual well-being of the boys entrusted to you by Divine Providence.
6. Always raise your mind and heart to God before any important decision. When a report is made to you, listen to it completely and try to ascertain the full facts before passing judgment. Things that at first glance seem like mountains often turn out to be no more than molehills.
1. See that teachers have the necessary food and clothing. Keep their workload in mind, and when they are ill or indisposed have someone substitute for them.
2. Speak with them often, either individually or as a group; see if they are overworked if they need clothes or books, if they have any physical or moral difficulty or have problems with some pupils as regards discipline or learning ability. Do your utmost to provide for any need you discover.
3. In special conferences, urge them to question all the pupils at random, and read put their compositions in turn. Let them avoid particular friendships and partiality. Let them never bring pupils or others into their rooms.
4. If they have to give pupils a special task or admonish them, let them use a room reserved for that purpose.
5. On the occasion of special celebrations, novenas or feasts in honor of Our Lady, or a Patron Saint of the school or locality, or when some mystery of our holy religion is being commemorated, let teachers make a brief announcement to that effect. This should never be omitted.
6. Take care that teachers do not send pupils out of class; if it be absolutely necessary, let them be taken to the Superior. Neither should they strike negligent or unruly boys. In serious cases, let them promptly report the matter to the prefect of studies or to the rector.
7. Outside the classroom, teachers should not exercise authority; they should limit themselves to words of advice, warning or correction, as permitted and suggested by genuine charity.
With Assistants and Dormitory Monitors
1. What has been said for teachers can be applied in large part to assistants and dormitory monitors.
2. See that the various duties are arranged in such a way that both they and the teachers have time and facilities for study.
3. Talk willingly with them about their pupils' conduct. Their most important duty is punctuality at their posts where the boys gather for rest/school, work, recreation, and such like things.
4. If you observe that any one of them is forming a particular friendship with any pupil or that his duties or moral standing are being compromised, prudently assign him to other duties. If the danger persists, inform your superior immediately.
5. Call occasional meetings of all teachers, assistants and dormitory monitors to urge them to do their utmost to prevent bad conversation and to eliminate books, writings, pictures (hie scientia est), and anything else which may endanger the queen of the virtues, purity. Let them give sound advice and be kind-hearted towards everyone.
6. Let all take pains to discover pupils who are morally dangerous and insist that they be made known to you.
With coadjutor brothers . . .
1. See that they are able to attend Mass every morning and receive the sacraments as prescribed by the Rules of the Society.
Domestics should be exhorted to go to confession once or twice a month.
2. Be very kind in giving orders; make it clear by word and deed that you seek their spiritual welfare.
3. A brother of proven uprightness should supervise domestics in their work and moral conduct, so as to prevent pilfering and bad talk.
With the pupils
1. Never accept pupils who have been expelled from other schools or whom you know from other sources to be of immoral behavior. If despite due precautions any such boy is admitted, immediately assign him a trustworthy companion to help him and never let him out of sight. Should the boy fail against morality, he should be warned once only; on a second fall, send him home immediately.
2. Try to get to know the pupils and to let them know you in return by spending as much time with them as you can. Whisper a kind word to them privately, as you will know how, whenever you see the need. This is the great secret for becoming the master of their heart.
3. You may ask : "What shall I say?" Say what was once said to you. For instance:
"How are you?"
"How about your soul?"
"Will you help me in an important task?"
"Yes, but what's it all about?"
"To make a good boy out of you," or "To save your
soul," or "To make you the best of all."
If you are talking to an unruly boy, you might say:
"When do you want to start?"
"To be my pride and joy," or "To become another
To boys who approach the sacraments rather reluctantly:
“When shall we take the devil by the horns?"
''With a good confession."
"Whenever you like."
"The sooner the better."
You might also ask: "'When shall we do the washing?" or "Are you ready to help me to take the devil by the horns?" or "Shall we two be friends in spiritual matters?" Haec aut similia.
4. In our houses, the rector is the ordinary confessor; Make it clear, therefore, that you are willing to hear the confessions of alt, but give them plenty of freedom to go to other confessors if they wish. Let them know that you do not attend meetings at which the superiors discuss the moral conduct of the pupils, and dispel even the least shadow of a doubt that you might use anything you heard in confession or that you even remember it. Nor must you show even the slightest partiality towards anyone who prefers one confessor to another.
5. Foster and promote the Altar Servers and the St. Aloysius, Blessed Sacrament, and Immaculate Conception sodalities. Show goodwill and satisfaction to their members, but be their promoter and not their director. Regard these groups as the boys' own undertakings whose supervision is,entrusted to the catechist or spiritual director.
6. When some grave offence comes to your notice, call the one who is to blame or suspected to your room, and try in the most kindly way to get him to admit his fault and see that what he did was wrong, and then admonish him and invite him to put his conscience in order. By these means and by continuing to give the pupil kindly help, wonderful results have been obtained and improvements brought about which seemed impossible.
1. Let us willingly make ourselves available for religious service, for preaching, celebrating Mass for the convenience of the people, and hearing confessions, whenever charity and the duties of our state permit, especially for the parish in which our house is situated. But never accept obligations or other engagements which would keep you away from your house or hinder others in the performance of their duties.
2. As a courtesy, priests from outside should be invited to preach or join us for other celebrations on solemnities, musical entertainments, or the like. The same invitation should be extended to local authorities and to all the kind or well-deserving people who have done us favours or are in a position to do so.
3. Charity and courtesy to all, whether residents or outsiders, should be a rector's outstanding traits.
4. If material interests are at stake, yield as far as you can, even with some loss, when this will forestall quarrels or disputes that may violate charity.
5. In spiritual matters, try to solve problems in a manner that may redound to God's greater glory. Commitments, pettiness, vengeful desires, pride, claims, and even prestige must all be sacrificed to prevent sin.
6. In very important matters, bide your time so as to be able to pray and consult devout and prudent persons.
With members of the Society
1. The exact observance of the Rules, especially of obedience, is the basis of everything. If you want others to obey you, set the example and obey your own superiors. No one is fit to give orders unless he can obey.
2. Try to assign tasks fairly without overburdening anyone, and see to it that everyone carries out his duties faithfully.
3. No member of the Congregation may enter into contracts, receive money or make loans to relatives, friends or anyone else. Nor is anyone to keep money or administer temporal goods unless expressly authorized by his superior. The observance of this article will ward off the most fatal blight that afflicts religious congregations.
4. Avoid like the plague any tampering with the Rule. Exact observance is better than any revision. The best is the enemy of the good.
5. Study, time and experience have convinced me that gluttony, greed, and vain glory have been the ruin of flourishing congregations and esteemed religious orders. Time will also teach you how true some things are, even though now they may seem incredible to you.
6. Take the greatest care to promote by word and deed the common life.
In giving orders
1. Never order your subjects to do things which you think are beyond their strength or that you foresee will not be obeyed. Try to avoid commands repugnant to those receiving them. Rather, do your best to favor each one's tendencies by preferably assigning him tasks which you know to be more to his liking.
2. Never order anything that may harm a person's health, deprive him of necessary rest, or conflict with other duties or orders issued by some other superior.
3. In giving orders always be kind and considerate. Let there be no threats or anger and, least of all, force in what you say and do.
4. When you must order something difficult or repugnant, use this kind of approach: "Would you be able to do this or that?" or else.' "I have an important task that I don't like to burden you with because it is difficult, but there is no one else who can do it. Would you have time? Do you feel up to it? Would it interfere with your other duties?" Experience shows that such overtures at the right time are very effective.
5. Be thrifty in everything, but make sure that the sick lack for nothing. Nevertheless, let all be reminded that we have made a vow of poverty and that consequently we should not seek or even desire any kind of comfort. We must love poverty and what goes with it. Let us, therefore, avoid expenses not absolutely necessary in clothing, books, furniture, travel, etc.
This is a kind of legacy I leave to the rector of each house. If these recommendations are practiced I shall die in peace, knowing that God will certainly bless our Society, that it will prosper ever more before men and fulfil its mission. God's greater glory and the salvation of souls.
1. We transcribe here the draft of 1886, from the critical edition of F. Motto, Ricerche Storiche Salesiane, year III. n.1 (1984), p.150-160. Cf. also BM 10, 446 ff. and Epist.1 p.288-290 (letter 331).
2. Epist.1 p.288 (Letter 331)
3. The title of this sector has been abbreviated, as also have the contents.