A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’
Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do; I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’
This Sunday’s Gospel includes the parable of the rich man who because of his abundant harvest decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones. Joseph De Piro was never involved in business, but he had initiative … besides the charism! Because of his pragmatism he was all the time busy with concretising his dreams: the two youths who joined him on 30th June 1910 increased to such an extent that the Founder thought of building the Society’s Home. On 3rd October 1932, the day of the laying and blessing of the foundation stone, De Piro delivered a speech in which he showed clearly that he was a man who stored up treasure, but not in place of making himself rich in the sight of God:
Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the workers labour.
The divine words kindle total trust in us, without any reserve, in God’s help. Better still, they give us strong faith in the first movement of the Principal Agent; they were already chosen and placed at the beginning of the rules which guide the new Missionary Institute which gathered us here for the benefit of its increase and prosperity. These words are, no less fitting and worthy to be remembered today.
Your Grace, as everybody knows God’s works and not ours, bear contrariety as a sign and as an ornament. In the work we have before us and in our hands, for the span of about fourteen years, there were so many difficulties one after the other, that they could have tired every man. But since it was God who set to work at the task, His servants never lacked courage. Moreover, like a firm and sweet breeze God’s spirit which always accompanied the difficulty blew in the sails of our poor boat, troubled by the waves.
And therefore all those who could recognise all the circumstances, whether very close or at distance which during such a long time led to today’s solemn occurrence, can understand quickly and well the great happiness which inhabits our soul at this instance. We have arrived at the longed for rite; we can, in God’s name raise our voice, as we in fact do, to invite Your Grace to pray and call down from heaven your choosing blessing On the Foundation Stone of this edifice. This Edifice will receive those who, with a generous heart befitting their youth, accepted the invitation they heard from on high to devout themselves to spread Christ’s kingdom on earth through their work. Yes, here these youths are prepared to be able to obey the order of the Lord of the harvest. ‘Go and teach all peoples. Preach the Gospel to all creatures.’
‘Go and teach all nations.’ It is here, Your Grace, that we quickly feel sentiment of humiliation and confusion when we start to think about the greatness of the need and the small amount that our work, still in its beginning, can offer – 1700 million, Your Grace, are today the inhabitants of the world. Out of these 1700 million, a 1000 million, that is much more than half of them, are still expecting the blessing of divine redemption; they still do not know anything about our Redeemer. Their ears have never heard the sweet name of Jesus who, because of the work of Paul of Tarsus has been ringing on our lips for two thousand years. Therefore when we compare such a large number to our small fold for which today we are beginning this building, no one has to wonder if our senses, the mind and heart feel full of confusion. But, to say the truth; if the gospel event of the widow’s mite encourages us, on the other hand we look upwards and put our hope in him who is Our most beloved Father because, when God is building, those who build the walls do not labour in vain. We find another consolation in the thought full of truth that God’s power which made everything out of nothing and the power of the God Man who fed thousands of people from five loaves, has never changed and is still there for ever. And the sign of the cross which Your Grace puts today on this Foundation Stone, You as a representative of the Vicar of Christ, as Christ among us, this sign descends also like ointment with balm on all those pertaining to our Missionary Institute; it makes them grow in the spirit of Paul their Father; it makes their hearts similar to his because, as the Chrysostom says, the heart of Paul is the heart of Christ. Then he makes them grow more and more in number so that, in the extensive missionary work, in the infinite enterprise for the salvation of the pagan world, even they have their share as soon as possible. This was the living wish of the holy Pope Pius X while he blessed the beginning of the Institute. This is the ardent wish of the reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, the Missionary Pope, whenever he repeats his blessing on us. This is the object so much longed for by us. Here finally we would be able to say that we have heard and fulfilled the commandment of Christ, ‘go and teach.’
Your Grace I would be guilty of failing you gravely if I do not take the occasion to give you my thanks today for all the help which you were pleased to give to our small work, since it appeared among us up to the present day. We are therefore not sorry to remember our state in which we then were; without form, surrounded by so much want and defects. For today we feel the satisfaction that we can say that our work, in its foundation, moved and led by Divine Providence, always found in Your Grace that Fatherly help which no one but us can esteem in all its greatness. The cessation of this very devout temple was not the last among favours. To this we can add the proposal of the present meeting and the honour you have been pleased to shower on us by coming among us to bless and place this Foundation Stone with all solemnity. And therefore we feel we are fulfilling our duty when, in front of such a gentle and courageous gathering of our admirers and friends who know how to lift their minds upwards and know how to keep their heart full of the thought of God and of His works. Yes, at this moment we present you our thanks to gain in force as soon as it is united to that of all the others. And we make ours the cherished words of the dear Missionary Pope gloriously reigning while we address them towards you, Your Grace, in the most kindled wish so that the Divine Founder of the Church pours always in abundance his graces on this diocese, so much beloved by your paternal heart.
Bless, Your Grace this Foundation Stone! And may this blessing, together with the blessing which the Father of all Christians was pleased to give us today, strengthen the truth that God started this work; that our hope in God’s help which is so necessary, is strengthened. According to what the words of the Royal prophet teach us: ‘If God is not he who builds the house, those who are building it labour in vain’.”