Object: Charisma of the Vocationist Family
June 6, 2004
Blessed Trinity Sunday
To all Members of the Vocationist Family
May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father.
The Charisma for a religious Congregation is the very reason why it exists and operates. Every religious family must constantly live and implement the proper charisma. I deem it useful and convenient to place in focus the essential elements of our charisma, and invite myself, you and every member of the Vocationist family to a deeper commitment to implement ever more our charisma, according to the needs of our time.
We are not called to clone Fr. Justin or his work, in the ways and forms of his time, but we are called to do today what he would do in the historical reality in which we live and operate.
Our Charisma is something alive, so while remaining the same as yesterday, it is subject to constant development, growth and adaptability to meet the needs of the universal Church, and of the local Church as well.
The charisma is source of unity and identity. It promotes the unity of the community because all members are bearers of the same gift from the Spirit, a gift which is shared with the brothers and sisters in their daily life and apostolate.
Every stage of our formation should include progressive studies, courses, classes or workshops on our charisma, as well as on the spirituality of our founder. A deepened understanding of the charisma and of the founder leads to a clearer vision of our identity, around which it is easier to build unity and communion.
The purpose of this letter is to help each and everyone of us to review: a) the significance of religious charisma in general; b) the meaning and value of the Vocationist charisma in particular; c) explore new ways and forms to make our charisma effective in 2004.
I hope and pray that a prayerful reflection or study of this letter may help us to rediscover and appreciate ever more the charismatic nature of our religious family and to avoid in our daily life a certain genericism, which is a true treat to the vitality of our life and apostolate.
1. Religious Charisma in General
1. 1. Its Meaning
Charisma (or charism) from the Greek root “char”, is the result of grace (charis). The charisma is a gift of the Holy Spirit granted to the faithful, of every rank and condition, to accomplish a particular mission for the well being of God’s people. St. Paul, the user of the word charisma, sees in it the action and the effect of grace, freely given, in personal and diversified ways to Christians by the Holy Spirit for the development and growth of the community of the Church.
1. 2. In the History of the Church
In the post-
1. 3. In Consecrated Life
Throughout the centuries the popes have used the word charisma to stress the action of the Holy Spirit in the foundation of new religious institutes. The perception of the charismatic nature of consecrated life has considerably contributed to develop the theology of the charismatic nature of the Church.
Mutuae Relationes, paragraph 2, state: “The very charisma of the founders reveals itself as an action of the Spirit, transmitted to the disciples, so that they may constantly live, keep, deepen and develop it in synchrony with the body of Christ, in a constant growth. This is the reason why “the Church defends and sustains the particular identify of each religious order (LG 44; cfr CD 33, 35, 1, 35, 2)”.
1. 4. Charisma of the Founder
The charisma of the founder is consider a personal and vocational gift, which prepares the founder to a particular vocation and mission in the Church; it is considered a personal, vocational gift, not as an individual, but as collective-
1. 5 Charisma of the Institue
The charisma of the founder, as much as a personal gift, is not transmissible. What is transmitted to the first disciples and to the entire community is the assimilation and the interiorization of the spirit of the founder. This qualifies the community to actualize, live, develop and bring to fulfillment the project and the contents of the founding experience that has given life to a new religious family.
The express charisma of the institute signifies the particular qualities of the gifts that continue through the vocational identity lived, maintained, enriched and developed by the entire community. The charism of a religious community is its very DNA, the unchangeable spiritual and ministerial nucleus, its reason for being and operating, and its identity, what makes one religious community different from another.
1. 6 Institutionalization of the Charisma
The institutionalization of the charisma consists in translating the fundamental, spiritual and ministerial contents of the charisma of the founder into charismatic structure. Rules and Constitutions guarantee the continuity of the founding experiences, which constitute the uniqueness of every Congregation.
The institutionalization may bring about some seriously dangerous risks; the community should be aware of these possible risks and do everything possible to prevent them. A charisma may be killed y its: ritualization, its minimization or imitation, the enlargement of its meaning and its neutralization.
1.7 Vitality of the Charisma.
Every religious institute must continuously and constantly discern the fundamental qualities of its charisma. To verify the vitality and applicability of the charisma one must consider the following criteria:
* Identity and continuity, i.e., the awareness and willingness of every member of the institute to implement the charisma of the community – with efficacious historical memory – in every moment of the history of the community.
*Organic communion, i.e., the duty of the individual members of the institutes to implement together the charisma, in organic manner and in full communion with the other members to manifest in the Church and for the world a common project and the sameness of vocation and mission;
*Dynamic adaptability, i.e., the continuous need to create ever new ways of enculturation of the charisma, without loosing its physiognomy within the Church;
*Charismatic creativity, i.e., the continuous renewal of the original creative spirit of the institute, so that it may continue to attract with enthusiasm and passion the people of our time.
2 Vocationist Charisma
2. 1 The Name
In the Bible, a name is not only a conventional designation of a person, but also the expression of a mission, a vocation or role a person or an entity must implement in the world. Many see in the imposition of a name the personal characteristics of the person called by that name. The name or characteristic of a person assumes a very special significance whenever there is a change of name: it always indicates a new mission received and that must be accomplished.
2. 2. From Servant of the Saint to Vocationists
At the beginning, before the foundation of the Vocationist family, Fr. Justin used to refer to the future Congregation he wanted to establish as the “Congregation of the Servants of the Saints”. With this name he wanted to express an essential characteristic of his religious family: the service to the vocation of all human beings to holiness. While a son can belong only to one family, a servant can render services to a multiplicity of persons. We see the potential saint in every person. In this name we see humility and optimism! Our starting point and our final destination!
In its historical reality our family has always been called Vocationist, to indicate our particular mission in the Church, our charism. Our mission is in our name. Vocationist, a new word, created by Fr. Justin, means a specialist in caring for vocations, one who dedicates his to vocations, one who cares and works for vocations. In a letter to his spiritual director, dated 28/8/1944, Fr. Justin wrote that whoever chooses to be a Vocationist devotes himself “to the seraphic apostolate of the divine union through vocation work”.
2. 3 Divine Union and Universal Sanctification
The ultimate goal of Fr. Justin, as well as of all his sons and daughters, is to achieve divine union and bring all souls to perfect divine union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In order to bring all souls to divine union, we work for universal sanctification.
Divine union and universal sanctification are essential elements of our spirituality and of our ministry. They are an integral part of our vocabulary, of our preaching and of our catecheses and they must be the constant objective of all our desires and aspirations.
The fact that Fr. Justin used as initials after his name SUS (Society of Divine Unions), and often spoke about the Society of Divine Union, and that he wrote a statue of the Pious association of the Divine Union, help us to understand ever better the importance attributed by the founder to our ultimate goal.
Unfortunately there is still some confrere that confuses ultimate goal with charisma. In our terminology Divine Union and Universal sanctification are universal vocations, while our charism must be specific and exclusively our own, since it is what distinguishes us from any other religious institute. Our charisma is the gift, the service, the way enables us to reach the ultimate goal. The charisma is not identified with the ultimate goal, but with the specific goal or specific mission of a congregation.
2. 4 Vocationist Charisma
The 1948 text of our Constitutions, the last ones written by our founder say: “As indicated by its name, the Society of Divine Vocations is established for the apostolate of divine vocation to the priesthood in general and to religious life in particular, especially among the humble people.” (art 2).
Fr. Castiglione, in a report presented at the XII General Chapter, defines our charism as: “Service to divine vocations, preferably among the poor for universal sanctification to divine unio” (Acts of the XII General Chapter p. 38).
In the Constitutions of 1931 Fr. Justin seems to really focus on our charisma thus: “The Society of Divine Vocations has been established for the cult, service and apostolate of vocations to faith and to holiness in general, to the priesthood and to religious life in particular” (P. 7).
Fr. Salvatore Russolillo, S.D.V. defines our charisma more specifically as: “Service to all vocations”. I find this definition simple, inclusive and containing the spirit of Fr. Justin. In the unselfish “service” to all vocations we see included the characteristic, proper of our community, of offering any and all vocational services “free charge” and other qualifications of a good servant as explained by Fr. Justin in Chapter 39 of Ascension.
Fr. Nicola Martino, S.D.V. prefers to define our charisma more specifically as “service of vocations to the priesthood and to religious life” with the understanding that the writings of our founder there is always a connection between vocations and sanctification.
Today the great majority of diocese and religious institutes accept and educate their candidates without charging any fee. Our commitment to offer our vocation services free of any charge, tuition or fees is still valid and exceptional, in as much ass this service is not offered only to the candidates for the Society of Divine Vocations, but to each and every individual who is discerning his vocation, regardless of these dioceses or religious family he wants to join. Our commitment to assist in any possible way all candidates for other dioceses or religious families remains a distinctive not of our Congregation and of our charisma. “Gratuita’” (free of charge) can be rendered with unselfishness, in as much as we do not think of our religious family only (Cfr. Spiritus Domini, n. 1. 1927).
2. 5 Vocations in our Charisma
For Fr. Justin and for us, all life is vocation. And individual can realize all his potential only to the extent that he succeeds in discovering and following his own vocations in life. Besides the vocation to life, to faith, to holiness, to the priesthood and to religious life we consider as a true particular vocation also the vocation to marriage and every form of vocation to service. All that we do out of love for the good of others is vocation; what is done to make a living, to earn one’s own sustenance is a profession or a job. Man is most successful, with the maximum satisfaction for himself and for others, only when vocation and profession, mission and work coincide.
On account of this vision of life as vocation, Fr. Justin was unable to exclude any ministry or service from our multifaceted activities, even though this created for him structural and organizational problems, and made very difficult the positioning of the Society of Divine vocations within the pattern of religious life.
In the “Notes for the Society”, Fr. Justin makes some statements that may help us clarify our charisma: There are many vocations, but they are not yet sure about where to go or how to follow the calling, they would definitely be well oriented and developed in the schools of the servants. Besides: Other religious institutes wait for vocations and welcome them, while we, personally and purposely go out searching for them, especially through our catechetical schools; we go awakening them, following the first steps of the life of Jesus with our methods and examples, that purposely aim at enkindling the virgin souls of the children with love for religious life…” (Positio II, p. 1156).
In our Vocation ministry and service we prefer vocations to the priesthood and to religious life not because they may be better, superior, privileged compared to other vocations, but simply because these are instrumental in helping others to discover and follow their vocations. Our founder sees priests and consecrated people as “ministers of sanctification” and as “transmitters of vocations”.
2. 6. Genesis of our Charisma
Fr. Justin writes: “the exemplar of the life of the Vocationist is Jesus during the forty days that go from Easter Sunday to Ascension Thursday. Still in the world, but in his glorious status! Still among men, but not with uninterrupted presence. On and off, at times with announced and at times with unannounced apparitions. Still continuing his personal work, the formation of the apostles, for his Church, for his kingdom of heaven on earth, entrusting them to the Holy Spirit” (Ascension art. VIII).
On July 16, 1912 the Consistorial Congregation promulgated this recommendation: it is necessary that the local bishops stir the zeal of pastors and zealous priests to search in their parish for good young people, to care for them in a special way and to cultivate them in Christian piety…So that if the Lord should call them, they may be found capable and well prepared to accept the calling and, at the proper time, enter the seminary”. This recommendation later became part of canon 1353 in the Canon Law of 1917, and was thus defined by Fr. Justin: “Base, foundation and root of the small Society of Divine Vocations and program of study, prayer and actions for its members” (Spiritus Domini, n. 1, 1927).
On September 20, 1913, day of his priestly ordination, Fr. Justin vows: “I shall spend all my life to awaken and cultivate vocations to the priesthood and to religious life”.
In 1917, writing to the future Sister Rachele Marrone, states: “The work that seems to include all others, is the awakening, searching, cultivating vocations to the priesthood and to religious life”. To the same, on December 26, 1918, Fr. Justin wrote: “The work of vocations does not consist in raising funds…but in a form of authentic holiness in women willing and ready to be little mother to many future priests, and even to more numerous saints” (Positio II, p. 960)
In a letter addressed to the “present and future superiors of the Society of Divine Vocations and to all members” he states: “We the Vocationists, and the Vocationist Superiors, throughout the whole world, are the ones most committed to searching for, cultivating priestly and religious vocations”.
In “Ii Clero e le Vocazioni Ercclesiastiche” , in 1933, Fr. Justin wrote: “We must convince ourselves of our personal and most binding duty of consecrating our life to ecclesial vocations…confirming that awakening, searching for, cultivating vocations is indeed the primary objective of priestly zeal and to it must be directed all sacred ministry” (p. 17).
The vocation ministry is the heritage bequeathed by our Lord to the Society of Divine Vocations. In a letter of December 17, 1924 to the future Fr. Giuseppe Di Fusco, S.D.V., our founder writes: “Has anything been left to us in the partition of all created good? To us the clergy. To us a part of all portions of the 12 tribes. Do you understand? The religious of all religious!”
2. 7 The Development of the Charisma
For Fr. Justin the saints are: the pope, the bishops, the members of diocesan clergy, the members of the religious orders and the people of God. To each and everyone of them we intend to offer a particular vocational service: to the Pope, vicar of Christ on earth, we offer the service of the missions ad gentes, with the specific task of searching for, cultivating, forming and presenting local vocations for the new churches (see Ascension, 740). To the bishops we offer the service of staffing the seminaries, the pastoral care of parishes and the cooperation in all diocesan activities, especially in favor of the clergy and of vocations, which have been betrayed or are in danger. To Consecrated people we offer the service of the Word of God, especially by offering spiritual exercises, and the vocational service of providing them with good and worthy candidates. To the people of God we offer the daily banquet of the Word of God and of the Eucharist, and spiritual direction for the ascension to divine union.
Our charism is born from the personal experience of Fr. Justin and of his first disciples, and it is based on the principle that “Poverty should never be an obstacle to follow one’s vocation”. This explains why one of our distinctive notes is that of offering our services free of any tuition, fee of charge; it follows that this service if preferably offered to those who have less, to the humble classes. It is then extended to the disadvantaged and to the less fortunate in every area.
“Poor” is not only the one who lacks money, but also he who does not receive enough affection, those who do not have the opportunity to study, those who live far away from churches and schools, those who do not have the joy of having an united family, those who belong to ethnic groups or social conditions that are discriminated against, and those who did not discover their vocation yet. Poor is also the one who has betrayed, or is about to betray his vocation.
Since “we have a real veneration for every vocation” naturally we commit ourselves and our services to bring back, to the original fervor and zeal for the sanctification of souls; “every vocation that has been betrayed or not properly corresponded”. A good share of the sufferings and persecutions suffered by Fr. Justin originated from this apostolate in favor of vocations that had been betrayed.
To his brother Ciro, a Vocationist priest, Fr. Justin writes: “You were right being so charitable with that priest; it is proper of the Vocationist priest to do whatever he can to benefit the clergy” (Oct. 9, 1954).
2.8 The Vocationary
The Vocationary, a place where vocations are cultivated, is the characteristic activity and the most exclusive field of activity of the Society of Divine Vocations The Vocationary is a religious, missionary institute “for capable and willing young men, who prepare themselves to serve the kingdom of God in diocese, religious families or in the world” (Ibid. 750). “In the Vocationary are welcome and educated spiritually and academically, free of any charge, all those who show signs of vocations but have not decided yet whether to enter a seminary or a specific religious family”.
The Vocationary is the first and most important activity of the Vocationist family; every other activity is subordinated or directed to the Vocationary. The Vocationary is the place where the Vocationist charisma is incarnated and implemented. Without Vocationary there are no Vocationist fathers, no Vocationist Sisters!
One does not to go the Vocationary to become a Vocationist, but to discover, discern and follow one’s vocation. The stay of a candidate in the Vocationary lasts as long as it is necessary to discover one’s vocation; consequently it varies from one individual to another. It is hoped ( and our work is geared in such a way) that the one who enters the Vocationary and discovers that he does not have a priestly or religious vocation, may discover, fall in love with and live his vocation to holiness living a committed Christian life in the world. In the mind and heart of Fr. Justin, the Vocationary must be a real nursery of vocations for all dioceses and for all religious orders.
Our services to the Church becomes a reality in the Vocationary. “The Vocationary is for others, not for us; the Lord will provide for us!” (Rimanete nel mio Amore, 208-
On April 22, 1936 Fr. Justin wrote to Fr. Ercole Alfieri: “Our congregation entrusts to you, as rector, the Vocationary of St. Mary of Bellavista, trusting that you will make of it a little cenacle of holy young men, so that you might be able to suffer some of them, according to the vocation of each one of them, to the various religious orders, not excluding our own”.
“The greatest need of the souls and consequently the greatest service that can be offered to them, is the good religious and the holy priest. The Servant of the Saints keeps as his central and main work, the cultivation and apostolate, the searching for and service of the divine vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life” (Asc. 749). For this reason and to this end every house of the Vocationist fathers must be a Vocationary, and shall be known as such. Every Vocationist house must not only be, but must also be called “Vocationary”.
2. 9 The Vocationist Sisters and the Vocationary
The letters of Fr. Justin to his sister, Mother Giovanna, are a precious source to see the relationship that must exist between the Vocationist Sisters and the Vocationary. “To foster the growth of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph are needed. In order to foster the growth of the chosen ones of the divine vocations, Fathers and Mothers are needed”.
“What I really want, as I have said so many times, is that we enter in the spirit of the Vocationist Congregation: that the Sisters that more work for vocations be given more honor and love, that they be better assisted and multiplied” (APG, Roma, 14-
In case of sickness and tribulations we obtain the mercy of the Lord by increasing our service to the Vocationary: “In case of tribulations, as serious sickness, promise to the Lord to employ totally more sisters to zeal and to collect for vocations, and see that the Lord will give you signs of appreciation” (Ibid. 4-
Love and zeal for vocations are conditio sine qua non to entrust a service of authority to a Vocationist Sister. “A sister that obeys and has great love for priestly vocations is qualified to serve as superior among the Vocationist Sisters. These are the two main requisites. If a sister does not have love for vocations she may be a doctor or a saint, but cannot and must not ever be a superior any place at any time, not even temporarily” (Ibid, undated).
Still to his sister Giovanna he writes: “The Lord asks from you sisters, and from the superiors in particular, that you multiply yourselves in your spiritual and temporal efforts and works, in order to help vocations, to establish a religious residence in every parish at this service; in order to lead all towns to daily communion with daily catechism classes. Thanks be to God. Remember this and mediate on it” (Ibid.). “Let us dedicate ourselves to a life of fervor, and to infuse this fervor for sanctification in all, through the work for vocations, spending our entire life for vocations” (24-
3 Applicability of our charisma today
3. 1 Our Charisma today
We believe that the Holy Spirit really inspired our charisma. Fr. Justin submitted it to the Church; the Church has approved it and then has entrusted it to us and charged us to implement it. The vocational situation of the Church today is not any better than it used to be at the beginning of the last century.
Jesus’ statement: “The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are scarce” is as true today as it was 2000 years ago! Likewise it is true today, as it was 80 years ago, the statement of Fr. Justin: “what is lacking is not vocations, but those who search for them and cultivate them”. Unfortunately this is true also in our Congregation!
The Church teaches us and reminds us that the mission of a consecrated person is not authentic, if he renounces, even only partially, to the charisma of his religious family. We must find our identity in the originality of our charisma going back to our roots (cfr. PC 2). The more a religious is faithful to the charisma of his Congregation the more and the better he serves the Church (PC 20).
The 1994 Synod on Consecrated Life continues to remind us that the most beautiful teaching of Vatican II about consecrated life is “going back to the origins, the discovery of the charisma, the renewed love for the founders, the study of their writings”. Our presumption of being historically close to our founder, could lead us to neglect the study of his writings and a certain reluctance to adapt new ways, forms, methods and expressions.
3. 2 The Vocationary today: is it still possible or passé?
We have said that the Vocationary is an integral part of our charisma and that that without the Vocationary we cannot have the Vocationist. The Vocationary, in its historical form, when hundreds of 11, 12 or 13 years old boys crowded our houses remains an historical remembrance, not a present reality. Our Vocationaries of Pianura and Ribera are but an historical rememberance, a nostalgic attachment to the past!
In some countries of Asia and Africa the Vocationary of the past may somehow still be practical, in some rural areas, where children cannot have easy access to secondary education. Presently the only Vocationary similar to our traditional Vocationaries is that of Thalore in India where we have approximately 50 youngsters, age 14 to 17, completing their secondary education. Here, as once in Italy, our Vocationary parallels the age and the academic formation of the minor seminary.
Somehow also the vocationary of Davao in the Philippines, structurally and organizationally reminds us of the Vocationaries of the past; but instead of boys, here we have young men who are attending their philosophical studies before they can be admitted to the novitiates or to the major seminaries.
The structures and the methods of the past must necessarily give way to the reality and ot the needs of today. The principle of the Vocationary as a place of discernment and vocational accomplishment is more needed today than yesterday! It is increasing the number of young men have a vague idea of vocation, may be feeling the attraction toward a Church vocation, but are not well oriented toward a diocese or religious order and many of them did not have the solid moral, religious education – nor a monolithic structure of the family – of the past. In conclusion, I see an increased need and applicability of the Vocationary.
3. 3 Possible new forms of Vocationary
We remain firm on what has been said so far: we must remain faithful to our charisma and we must increment our vocation ministry through the Vocationary.
I exhort, beg, invite and ask every Vocationist superior in special and every Vocationist in general to make sure that everyone of our house be really a Vocationary, and that every Vocationist parish have its own Vocationary.
Aware of the fact that the Vocationary is the reason of our existence and the very core of our ministry, that vocations are our breath, our life, our charisma and our gift-
a) We re-
b) In every parish and in every community, be given life to the oratory;
c) There be incessant prayer for vocations from us and from those we assist pastorally.
d) Every Vocationist be available to offer spiritual direction and vocational accompaniment to the people who ask for it;
e) Space be made available (at least one or two rooms) in every Vocationist house where can be welcome for a short stay those young people that ask to do experience of community life and vocational discernment, sharing with them our prayer life and our positive experience of consecrated life; this experience can be repeated or prolonged if the priest-
f) People coming for a vocation experience or discernment be followed accordingly;
g) Those deemed called and capable be presented to the diocese, or religious congregation of their choice, not excluding our own family.
When we say that every Vocationist must be a vocation director or animator, we are practically saying that every Vocationist should at least be a good spiritual director, capable of listening, discerning and accompanying the growth of the possible vocation. We consider spiritual direction an eminently vocational activity and apostolate. Not by chance, spiritual direction happens to be one of the major ascetical practice inculcated and recommended in our formation!
I am sure that I am not asking the impossible, nor something too difficult to accomplish. I fear that because what I am asking is so simple may be underestimated by some of us. Every Vocationist should be ready to offer this service; should one really be convinced of not being capable, without delay, he should start to work on it and become capable. It is never too late!
”Every Vocationist house must be called, and truly be a Vocationary”; is this pure utopia or a possible reality? This depends on you and only from you. Remember that!
3. 4 Prayers for vocations
Lex orandi, lex credendi, we pray as we believe; Our prayer reveals what is important to us or what is not important. One prays as he believes. If vocations are our life, our business, the reason of our existence, it follows that they must be an integral part of our life of prayer.
There is no need here to remind the pressing invitation of Jesus: “Pray to the owner of the harvest, to send laborers into his vineyard”. Prayer for vocations is the first and most important work and service for vocations that you and I must render and share with others.
I was both overjoyed and saddened during our regional mini vocation conventions hearing the people of Bovino asking the possibility of praying for vocations every Thursday instead of only one Thursday per month, and the people of Pianura asking for an opportunity to have perpetual adoration for vocations. It was the lay people asking!
I lament the fact that in some of our parishes there is no special prayer for vocations, there is no prayer for the beatification of our founder and no participation whatsoever in our vocational initiatives, activities or celebrations (read: feast days, conventions, retreats, vocations camps, professions or ordinations). (How many people in your city, in your parish, where you work, know that you are a Vocationist?).
I take the liberty of reminding you and renewing my request to add an invocation for vocations and an invocation for the beatification of Fr. Justin during every Mass in the prayer of the faithful. I also encourage, after communion, praying with the people “Lord, send holy priests and fervent religious to your Church”.
Fr. Justin said and repeats to us: “in whatever is good, you can follow my example”. Let us meditate on what Fr. Justin wrote to Fr. Olindo Giacci on March 22, 1949: “I would really appreciate it, if after serious and daily prayer, you might be enlightened by the Lord on a practical way of doing in this area a real and efficient vocation apostolate, both in the orphanage and in the parish…notice that you are doing what any good priest would be doing, but that is not enough for a religious apostolate and must less for a Vocationist apostolate. I expect from you, that after much prayer, and, if necessary much penance too, a Vocationist action plan because this is what the Lord expects from you”.
3.5 Prayer for Vocations in Fr. Justin
Fr. Justin expresses the best of himself in prayer. In dialogue with the three divine person of the Blessed Trinity he opens his heart, unloads himself, he worships, praises, gives thanks and implores what is more dear to him. His charism (which is our charism too) is always present in his prayers.
“Caring for vocations is the all holy, priestly life that the elect of the divine vocations must live until death. This preeminently, integrally supernatural life depends on our life of prayer, that is, it depends from the perennial, daily dedication and veneration for vocations. This explains why in our life of prayer we give special importance to those devotional practices which we call vocation practices of veneration to every vocation” (Pieta’ del Seminario, 30 – 31).
Reading the following excerpts of vocational prayers, let us pray with our founder: “From my union with you, I expect to become an apostle of animation, formation and service to all vocations and to those who have been called to be priests, religious, saints” (Dev. I P. 387).
“In my interior world, made of supernatural intentions and applications of priestly powers, I cannot limit myself to my family, to my congregation, to my parish, to my diocese…(Ascension, art 707).
“Every vocation is always an immense, eternal, infinite act of love personally diected, given to you, that becomes part of you and from you expects that you personally direct and give yourself to it, that you become one with it in a correspondence of love” (Dev. I, p. 825).
“Adorable Trinity, may your divine blessing and protection, make this Society of Divine Vocations worthy of your predilection and delight; may it be your tabernacle in the militant Church, your throne in the triumphant Church, your instrument in the work of universal sanctification” (Dev. I, p. 825).
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we offer you the most precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ so that endless numbers of souls may receive, understand and follow the divine vocations that derive from the evangelical counsels…for all those who were called to become saints and did not make it and for all vocations that have not been properly cultivated, that have been lost or betrayed, so that may find again their way and their goal” (Dev. II, p. 908).
“O my Lord, I want, and I beg you, make me the most docile and the best instrument of your vocation and your work of formation to holiness for all my brothers…O my Lord, raise holy men and women that search for and cultivate vocations, for every place where there is a spiritual struggle going on, for all works of apostolate, good servants of all…Come, in a special way to our Vocationaries, choose from among them and from with them the continuators of your mission salvation and sanctification, the new missionaries…the new ascetical leaders for all vocations of all religious families blooming today or in the future within your Church!” (Dev. II, p. 1424).
“You make me understand that you desire souls willing to offer themselves to go and call other souls to transmit and explain your vocations to faith, vocations to holiness and in a special way your vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life...Here I am, o my Lord, send me to awaken and recruit, to gather and nurture, to instruct, educate and sanctify the elects of the divine vocations…With you, for you and in you, O my Jesus. I embrace this cross of fire, the work of divine vocations with all its struggles and difficulties” (Dev. II, p. 1426 -
Our Charisma is our service to vocations: this has been the cross of fire, the charisma, the very life of Fr. Justin. It should be the same for you and for me! Our charisma (as all charisms) is a good for the common good an for the entire Church.
Our fidelity to the charisma is a good for the whole Church (PC 2). It is absolutely necessary for us to renew ourselves in our fidelity to the founder. The more one is faithful and serves the charisma of the Congregation, the more and the better he serves the Church.
How sad and discouraging it is to see some Vocationist who is everything and does everything, but does not work for vocations. Are you one of those unhappy, disgruntled, lukewarm Vocationists that has lost the joy of life, closing himself in his egotism or in his own shell? Read again, reflect. Mediate and act on what has been referred to above from the letter of Fr. Justin to his sister, Mother Giovanna on 1-
Our Charisma, ever the same and yet ever new and applicable, ever more appreciated and needed today, needs your tongue, your hands, your feet, your heart, your intelligence and your action to remain alive and to give life.
We can express or summarize our charisma with different words or expressions, but at the end we must accept what our Constitutions establish and what the Church has approved and given to us. In the Decree of approval of the Constitutions, Prot. N. 60-
May the Blessed Trinity, this God of love, this community of love, at whose image and likeness we have been made, may this God, who calls because he loves and invites us to call others to his love and to his service, shine ever more before us, in our minds and in our hearts, truly enkindling us with the fire of his love!
I conclude, once again, with a quotation from Fr. Justin’s letter to Mother Giovanna, dated September 14, 1944: “The more I get closer to old age, the more I feel to be father for our sister. The more I get closer to death, the more I am tormented by the desire of giving to every town and village a small community of Vocationist Sisters, and to every dozen of small towns, a community of good Vocationist Fathers…Our Lord…in so many places is expecting that our Sisters bring to him the souls of the children, of the youth and of the families and prepare for him many, many priests to meet the needs of the world. Then, let us work, gather, call form, found and open religious houses endlessly for the triumph of the love of God”.
Let each and everyone of us wholeheartedly say: if I want to be a Vocationist today, I can, I must, I want, I shall work for vocations to the priesthood and religious life in any field of apostolate I am assigned.
May our Society be always with the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V. of the Blessed Trinity.