Conference of St John Bosco to the Marseilles Cooperators, February 17, 1881
We outline the stages of the saint’s thought: 1) God is the owner of our possessions, whether necessary or superfluous. 2) He has given us an explicit command to distribute our surplus among the poor. 3) This command is very important, because it relates to eternal life. 4) God will show mercy in this life and in eternity to the one who obeys and shows mercy to his brother here on earth.
“My God, I say, why have you not created me rich, why was I not given wealth, so that I might collect all the poor boys and help them become honest citizens on earth and good Christians destined for Heaven, and thereby contribute to a better future for our secular society!”
Though I do not possess wealth, I have the good fortune to have excellent Cooperators, endowed with good will and the spirit of charity. I have Cooperators who have made, are now making, and shall continue to make every sacrifice to do and support the work of God, the project favored by our great mother, the most holy Virgin Mary.
Then, my generous Cooperators, let us get on with our work, but where will the funds come from? God has told us: “Quod superest, date eleemosynam”: Give what is more than you need. Give therefore that which you have over and above to the Beaujour orphanage, so that this project may be completed.
But, you will ask, what do you mean by “that which you have over and above?” Listen, my worthy Cooperators. Every worldly property, all riches have been given by God; yet, in giving them to us, He allows us to choose what we need, no more! And God, who is our master and the owner of all we possess, will demand of us a strict account of everything we have in excess which we have not used according to His commandment. I am sure if we show good will and give that which we have in abundance, we shall certainly collect the necessary funds for our enterprise.
You will say: Is it our duty to give our surplus to charity? In answer, I must refer you to our Savior who commands that we give: “Give what is more than you need.” He has not set limits, and I do not dare to change His words.
I will only add that Our Lord, who feared that Christians had not fully understood the meaning of these words and would perhaps underestimate the great importance he attached to them, added that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Saint Augustine maintains that a great miracle is indeed necessary to secure a rich man’s salvation, if he does not use his wealth well by giving what he has over and above his needs to the poor. Let us therefore enter our homes, where we will surely find things we do not really need among our clothes, furnishings, food, trips, expenses, savings, and other things.
There is still another way to come to the assistance of the poor: To beg for them and to tell friends and relatives about the importance of almsgiving. It is God who has told us, ''Date et dabitur vobis”: Give and it shall be given to you. “Eleemosyna est quae purgat peccata". Do you want blessings and the forgiveness of your sins? Give alms! “Facit invenire misericordiam”. Do you want to make sure of God’s mercy? Give alms! "Alms delivereth from death and purgeth away sins and maketh them find mercy and life everlasting” (Tob 12:9). Do you want to obtain heavenly eternity? Give alms! God rewards us a hundred times for all our good works. He will keep His word and bountifully bless us with temporal and spiritual favors.
But, in the other life, what will almsgiving benefit us? We shall enjoy eternal blessings. The souls we cared for, sheltered, clothed, and fed ... will become powerful intercessors with God when we shall appear at His tribunal to account for our lives.
(MB XV, 693-95)