Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future Pope St. John XXIII) studied at the major seminary of Bergamo from 1895 to 1900.
In 1895, the 14-year-old Angelo Roncalli received the confidential “Little Rules” from his spiritual director. In the seminary, spiritual directors discreetly communicated the “Little Rules” to the best seminarians. These seminarians formed the Sodality of the Annunciation of Mary Immaculate.
Roncalli copied the rules out by hand and kept them always by him. He constantly observed them, even when he was Pope.
The “Little Rules” prescribed the following daily exercises: Holy Mass, meditation for at least a quarter of an hour, spiritual reading, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, general examination of conscience in the evening, five decades of the rosary, and raising one’s thoughts to God with devout invocations.
Members of the Sodality fasted on Fridays and Saturdays in honour of the Passion of Christ and of Our Lady. They went to confession weekly and set aside one day each month to prepare themselves for a good death.
The “Little Rules” emphasized the importance of the principal feasts of Our Lady, the month of Mary, devotion to St. Joseph, one’s Guardian Angel, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga.
Here are some excerpts from the “Little Rules”:
— Correct one another’s faults, and let him who is corrected say three Hail Marys for his corrector.
— Evil companions must be shunned like vipers, especially those who criticize virtue, good men, and good examples, subjecting them to ridicule.
— Be very much on your guard against human respect. Do not refrain from doing good, or indulge in evil because of any human respect or consideration.
— To guard the virtue of purity you must have a great love for Mary most holy, and in her honour say three Hail Marys for yourself and your companions, offering them to her and begging her for this virtue.
— Your chief devotion will be to the Blessed Sacrament: therefore great recollection in church, especially when there is exposition. Receive the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can, with the best possible dispositions and devotion, and with a prolonged thanksgiving. Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament frequently, rejoicing to keep Him company.
— Have a right intention in all things.
— Beware of idleness, which is the devil’s bait.
In February 1900, Angelo Roncalli made a retreat at the seminary, and on Feb. 27 he made a solemn promise to the Sacred Heart of Jesus not to commit any willful sin. Here is an excerpt from his prayer:
“During the holy Spiritual Exercises of this Year of Grace 1900, the 19th year of my age, and on this last day of the holy retreat (27 Feb.), while I am sacramentally united to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus through Holy Communion; in the presence of my most holy mother, Mary Immaculate; St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse and my chief protector; all the other saints; my special intercessors; my guardian angel; and all the court of heaven, I, the seminarist Angelo Giuseppe, a sinner, promise the most Sacred Heart, with all the solemnity and power this act of mine may have, always, today, and at all times, by the grace of God, to keep myself free from the slightest attachment to any voluntary venial sin.
“And since because of my weakness I cannot guarantee in the future to keep this promise by my own unaided effort, I place it in the hands of the angelic youth St. Aloysius Gonzaga, so pre-eminently free from all stain of sin, so pure in heart and mind.
“Choosing him for this purpose as my special intercessor and patron, I beg and implore him — he is so kind and loving — to deign to accept it, guard it, and by his prayers help me to keep it.”
「1900年恩寵聖年，年十九歲，在退省最後的一天（2月27日），藉領聖體和耶穌聖心緊密結合。在無玷聖母、她的淨配聖若瑟 –––– 也是我的主保、其他聖人們、我的特別代禱者、我的護守天使、及一總天朝神聖面前，我、安哲路.若瑟修生，此時此日，誠心決志向至聖聖心承諾：以後要藉天主聖寵，斷絕對故意犯的小罪最微小的眷戀。我深知單靠自己的軟弱力量，不足徹底履行這承諾；所以，我把自己置於年青天使般的聖者 –––– 聖類斯.公撒格的手中，他是何等身心聖潔無瑕。我特意為此請他作我的中保和主保，祈求他憐愛垂允我、守護我，賴他的轉禱幫助我、保守我的潔德。」