Joseph De Piro showed his zeal for God’s temple in the discernment exercises he carried out before his chose his vocation to the priesthood and before he determined not to attend the Ecclesiastical Academy and return to work in the Maltese diocese, preferably at St Joseph’s Orphanage.
Discernment before the start of his studies to the priesthood. (May 1898)
Reasons in favour of the priesthood.
- Having felt this calling from an early age almost until age fourteen.
- That in the following years this calling was not forgotten for a long time.
- Until, after sharing it with my confessor for the first time at the beginning of last summer, I became more strongly convinced about this calling.
- The meditation on death. Upon reflecting on my life I feel that this is the true condition to which I am being called.
- The desire to give myself totally to God; He who suffered so much for my sins.
- The desire to walk in the way of perfection and not to be afraid of death, but rather to think of death as the means by which I can reach true happiness.
- Having read in the book by St Alphonsus de Liguori that he had left the world at the age of 26, but happy is he who leaves it at an earlier age.
- Having concluded, after a long reflection, that this is the lifestyle that best suits my character.
- My brother’s illness.
- My father’s death.
- The feeling that I should be happy in this lifestyle, considering all the issues that I have already had to face in this life.
- On May 8, 1898, after praying the novena to Our Lady of Pompeii, during which I asked her to help me recognise God’s will for me, I felt the strength to decide for the better – that is in favour of becoming a priest.
Reasons against becoming a priest.
- The animal instinct drawing me towards married life;
- and hence the fear that in my celibate lifestyle, in the fight between spirit and flesh, the latter should win.
In his ‘diary’ De Piro informs us that on December 11, 1901, he started a retreat in preparation for the Deaconate. During this retreat he prayed about whether he should be going to the Ecclesiastical Academy or to St Joseph’s Orphanage. These notes form part of that discernment process.
Reasons in favour of going to the Academy.
- Some family members would like me to enrol in the Academy and have even offered to pay my fees.
- The President of the Academy himself has visited the Rector of the Capranica College expressing his wish that I enrol at the Academy.
Reasons Against going to the Academy.
- Because, as far as I am aware, only those seminarians who can boast of a noble birth choose to enrol at the Academy.
- Because, by enrolling at the Academy, it will be like putting myself on display, in order to be chosen for some higher Ecclesiastical position; while it is certainly a sound teaching that Jesus chooses those who are humble. And since when He decided to choose me as his minister he looked for me among sinners, so also now, if He has determined for me some other role, he should know to look for me among his chosen ones. It is therefore not necessary for me to make myself known by going to the Academy.
- If I consider my own sinfulness I find that the only thing I deserve is a good beating and not prelatures or diplomatic positions! It is already infinitely more than I can ever wish for if I manage to become a priest.
- Considering my intellectual capabilities I acknowledge that I am not bright. Up to now I have managed. When the Lord called me to the priesthood I was in my first year, studying law at the University of Malta. Now I am in my third year theology at the Gregorian University. I did very badly the final exams for the Bachelor in Theology: I barely scraped through in two out of the three exams. Therefore, considering my abilities and the rigours of sitting exams, my hope of achieving higher University degrees is greatly reduced. I might do better if I study Canon Law.
- Since after Communion one of the first graces I ask the Lord is to help me understand his will, I believe that this justified objection to enrol at the Academy has been suggested by Him.
- Because I will be putting myself in the danger of wishing for important Ecclesiastical positions, roles and honours, and those who look for danger will perish in it.
- While, on the contrary, by refusing to enrol at the Academy, I will have protected myself from the possibility of wishing for, and more so from asking for honorary positions and roles in the diocese.
- Because I think that the Lord has allowed me to be tempted with the prospect of enrolling at the Academy in order to strengthen in me the decision I had taken some days before, to settle down in St Joseph’s Home, having obtained, the Bishop’s permission.
- In fact, once I had asked the Rector of the Capranica to convey to the President of the Academy my refusal to enrol at the Academy, I felt great consolations when I considered that I had chosen a crown of thorns with Jesus, rather than one of roses.
- St Joseph’s Home.
Reasons in Favour of going to St Joseph’s Home.
- Because an inner feeling tells me that from this orphanage God wants to establish in Malta a congregation of priests under the patronage of Saint Paul, and that establishing itself in Malta, it will also spread itself into foreign lands. N.B. At this stage I have been advised to set this reason aside, and I do so very willingly.
- The love of living in a community of priests. I feel I should be happy living in the company of the two priests, directors of St Joseph’s Home.
- The desire to do penance for my sins, especially for those that have offended my neighbour.
- Because knowing that if I live with my family, I would be putting myself in the danger of being attracted to wealth, or at least that material concerns will certainly occupy a large part of my time and considerations.
- Because in this way I can follow Jesus more closely.
- Because in this way I will be guaranteed an area where I can exercise my priesthood.
- Because it will be easier for me to live the virtue of poverty, even if I do not profess a vow of poverty, and in some ways even the virtue of obedience.
- So that on my deathbed I may be able to find some comfort in knowing that I would have suffered a little for Jesus’ sake, He who suffered so much for my sins.
Reasons Against going to St Joseph’s Home.
- The uncertainty caused by of my poor physical health.
- The Academy.