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Advent – Christmas 2003

To all Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

I, Mother of God

My dear confrere,

Sources

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? … he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven, this is brother, sister and mother to me” (Mt. 12, 48 -50).

“The Holy Church, the Holy Family and the Divine Trinity are the center and axis of the Society of Divine Vocations. The Vocationists works in the Church, with the Church and for the Church, he imitates the Holy Family in the relationship of soul-child, soul-spouse, soul-mother of God Trinity” (Constitutions, Article 8).

“In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Vocationists must see the mystical ideal for their relationship with the Divine Persons, respectively, that of child of God in Jesus, Mother of God in Mary Most Holy, soul spouse of in St. Joseph” (Fr. Justin, Rules and Constitutions, Vol. 1, Chapter 4, Article 23).

“With the promise of fidelity the Vocationist commits himself to the perfection of charity, starting with the confreres, superiors, equals, and dependants, with whom the Lord has linked him in the same congregation” (ibid. Chapter -33, No. 94).

“Sign and banner of the Christian is the Cross…sign and banner of the Christian is the Sacred Heart of Jesus…sign and banner of the Christian is Mary Immaculate, of whom the book of Revelation says: a great sign appeared in the sky. A woman dressed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, with a diadem of twelve stars. In the reality of these three signs it is gradually revealed to us the reality of the saving plan of God” (Ascension 925).

“At the beginning and throughout the advent and Christmas time, shines before us the sign-banner of Mary immaculate (Asc. 926). This banner stands high as an invitation, as our hope and goal, she is the first and the most beautiful flower and fruit of our redemption, first and greatest ideal program of our redemption (Asc, 927). From Mary Immaculate shines forth all around us the divine action to operate in every soul and in the whole world the divine formation of Jesus, Son of Mary through the Holy Spirit, like wise through Mary and the Holy Spirit is operated universal sanctification according to Jesus Christ (Asc, 230).


1. Mother of God

Sine 431, when the Fathers of the council of Ephesus solemnly declared Mary Theotokos, that is Mother of God, to our days, thousands and thousands of titles that sink the beauty, the graces, and the predilections of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have sprung up from the loving heart of those who have been singing the glory of Mary, and even more from the sincere and pious devotion of Christians. All, in one way or the other, under one aspect or the other, derive from that first, most singular title; all of them in a certain way, are an explanation and a development of that.

Mary is an icon and type of the whole Church and of every believer. In every title of Mary we must see the beauty, the graces, the predilection of which the Lord wants to enrich each and every one of us. Whatever is said of Mary, in a lesser way can be said of each and every one of us.

“There is a sovereign soul a really privileged person who is truly Mother of God, in the assumed human nature of Jesus, the Incarnate Word. Jesus, the essentially son in the divinity and in humanity, graciously bestows on his chosen ones the maternal relationship of Mary and his filial affection for Mary, when they cooperate with the Holy Spirit and Mary in order to give him a new existence in the souls, and when they become one with the only Father through the union of their will with his (Fr. Justin, Toward the Ultimate Goal, 3.11).

According to the mind and heart of our Fr. Justin, the Vocationist is called to live a relationship of “Soul-Mother of God, which becomes a reality, when imitating Mary and cooperating with the Holy Spirit, we work to form the Baby Jesus in every elect of the divine vocations and in every person that divine providence places on our way.

The first gift that God has given to us in His life. He wanted that this gift be bestowed upon us through the meditation of a mother. It is truly mother not only the person that, cooperation with God transmits to us biological life, but any one who works to enrich life of human, spiritual, ascetical, mystical, affective, intellective, psychological, social, moral, relational life etc…

Maternity is always marked and almost naturally enriched of every love, every tenderness, every concern, every vigilance which is, by necessity transformed into giving everything, doing everything, inventing everything for the good and the growth of children. In force of its nature, maternity, and the relationship of soul-mother, involves integrally the whole person, and it cannot be something passive, or something to which one may renounce.

God, that we ordinarily call Father, as the Prophet Isaiah teaches us, has all the characteristics of true mother.


2.   I, Mother of God

For you and for me if it is not new or strange to think that everyone of us is called to become and to be mother of God. I must become and be mother of God! When in the formula of our religious vows we promise fidelity to the Holy Family in the Congregation, we solemnly commit ourselves to live the relationship of soul-child in Jesus, soul-mother in Mary and soul-spouse in St. Joseph. The constant presence of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is our greetings, in our emblem, in our chapels and in our prayers is a constant reminder of this commitment to imitate these supreme models of the relationships of soul-child, soul-mother and soul-spouse.

In the likeness and in honor of the divine maternity of Mary, the Most Holy Trinity calls me to live the relationship of soul-mother of God. To be mother of the Incarnate Word in his flesh is an exclusive privilege of Mary. To be mother of God through love and service is a privilege reserved to me, to you, to every Vocationist and to every loving soul. In order to live my relationship of soul-mother of God, I must relate, love and serve him with a motherly heart, as if I were his real mother! My maternity toward God, then must be a motherly relationship and function toward him.

In the Introduction to the guidelines “Sponsa Trinitatis”, Fr. Justin goes through the various forms of love and then he concludes: “All of them can reach their objective and realization in the adorable person of Jesus Christ, who grants the privilege of loving him as a son to all those who do the will of his Father, thus becoming one with the Father; in a very particular way he grants this privilege to the priests (almost like to Mary) through the Eucharistic consecration (n, 6; cfr. Mt. 12, 49 -59).

On a Good Friday I was deeply touched, moved and inspired when an elderly lady came to kiss the crucifix and with tears in her eyes, she exclaimed: My son, my son, what did they do to you!” Oh! How would I love to have her sense of maternity toward Jesus!


3. Soul Mother in Fr. Justin

According to Fr. Justin the supreme relationship with God is that of soul-spouse. Such a relationship is not reserved to a few chosen souls; it is a universal vocation as part of the universal vocation to holiness. Our vocation to motherhood is a consequence of the espousal relationship. The individual obtains the certainty of having been permanently established in the relationship of soul spouse of God, only when the soul starts feeling and living the spiritual maternity toward all souls.

Spiritual maternity derives from the fact that the soul-spouse makes its own the love, the will and the interests of God. One of the most practical ways to live the soul-mother relationship consists in accepting and following the divine inspirations. The fact that one feels and lives a spiritual maternity toward the souls, it is a sign and warranty of the existing soul-spouse supernatural relationship between God and the soul.

“By accepting, following, cultivating and – somehow – fostering the growth of inspirations, the soul – spouse assumes the function and the dignity of mother in the house of God and in the family of nations. Children of the soul-mother are all the good, holy deeds that she has conceived, actualized and perfected through divine inspiration; in another sense are her children, each and every soul, all creatures and daughters of God, her spouse (Fr. Justin, Ascetical Directory of Holy Virtues, 6, 8, n. 1).

He who loves God with a motherly heart wants to see him loved, respected and adored always and everywhere and consequently does his very best untiringly to render him present in every soul. Whenever one cooperates to the growth of God’s knowledge, love and grace in a soul, in a certain way, we become mother of god, giving him a new life in that soul.

The relationship of soul-mother of God is particulary visible in the priestly ministry: when we as priests celebrate Eucharist truly and really we allow the Son of God to continue the mystery of his incarnation, and – in a certain way – we can say that we give him life… When we baptize, we truly give a new life to the children of God; when we absolve, we truly give a new life to God’s children, who were dead on account of sin.

Fr. Justin implies this spiritual maternity also when he says that one of our surprises in heaven will consist in seeing our own resemblance in the souls that we have generated in the love of God; to them we have transmitted some of our characteristics, just as a mother transmits her traits to her child.

The relationship of soul-mother of God appears also in the common priesthood of the faithful. The one who announces the word of God and exhorts other to conversion, he who teaches catechesis, the one who visits and comforts the sick, the one who gives counseling and enlightens a confused person, the one who exercises the ministry of charity in all its forms lives and exercises the relationship of the soul-mother of God. Others exercise tenderness, concern and dedication to God in the service of the liturgy, in caring for the decorum of the altar and of the temple, in preparing and maintaining the sacred vessels and vestments. The hands that fix the flowers, that light candles, that enkindle vigil light, look like hands that in a motherly way want to caress the face of God.

“The apostolate of the soul-spouse…cannot be contained, it overflows in all those who are willing… and it influences and acts on all the souls that get close to her and then affects the whole world. Her behavior, so sweet and firm, is truly and completely motherly, especially toward those who are still young in spiritual life, toward the sick or the wounded, upon whom she exercises her function (Ibid. No 5 & 6).

Task of the soul-mother is not simply to give some kind of beginning of supernatural life, but it is to lead the child to its total growth and integral development in supernatural life, to the point to be able to say with St. Paul, that he has reached the fullness of the maturity of Christ, so that he may become mother of another family of souls, to whom he will transmit life in a variety of ways and levels. The soul-mother consequently must be an apostle, and wants to be such “to the maximum, until the end”.

4. Mother of Divine Vocations

You and I are vocationists, You and I must be mother of vocations. This maternity toward vocations is materialized by conceiving the possible vocation in an individual, facilitating its discovery in the one who has been called, fostering its growth, accompanying it to maturity and leading it to conform ever more to Jesus Christ, the first religious of God.

As a Vocationist, mother of vocations, I must conceive the vocation in the one who has been called; I must see it with the eyes of faith first and then I should help it to assume its own form and life. In my traits, in all my actions I must be fatherly and motherly; I must exercise all the functions and services of a true father and of a real mother toward those who have been called. I must defend, sustain, nourish instruct, protect and love God’s chosen ones.

Fr. Justin is leading to be soul-spouses in order to make us soul-mothers of all vocations. As one cannot be mother without giving or nourishing life, I cannot be mother of the divine vocations if I don’t give them life, it I don’t nourish them, if I don’t accompany them, if I do not sustain them with my affection. As a mother gives of herself, to the point of giving her life for her children, so I must give of myself to the point of giving up my life for vocations.

Not to be a mother for a woman is mortifying and humiliating both in the Bible and in real life. A person cannot be mother without having children. One cannot be mother of vocations if he does not generate nor nourish any vocation!


5. Mother Toward the Congregation

At the beginning of advent we make ours the longing and the prayer of Fr. Justin, “grant me your birth, “Grant me your birth, O Divine Jesus and my sweet life, the birth of your pure love “grant it to all souls, to every parish, school and mission, the birth of your pure love. Grant it to every family, to every community, to every association and to every soul. New life in the supernatural world, new life with Holy Spirit to the glory of your Father, (Devotional P. 220). Oh Divine Word and my sweet life grant your birth to this Congregation of ours and enable us to give life to son many other Jesus, to so many other priests.

Usually we refer to the Congregation as our mother, and in many ways she is mother to us. Now I ask you as I ask myself to extend this relationship of soul-mother to our religious family and to consider every confrere, every candidate, every aspirant, every residence, every vocational ministry and service as if they were our own children. The Congregation in general, and every member in particular want and need me as their mother. From me and from you they expect the gift of life, protection, care, esteem, and affection. This congregation expects from me the life of many children, of many vocations and of a new mentality and attitude of joy, trust, optimism, service and holiness.

The advent of God’s kingdom must first come in me, and then through me in the Congregation, in the church and in the world. The Congregation expects me, wants me, and needs me as its mother. How am I living this relationship of soul-mother toward the Congregation? What am I doing to give her new life, new vigor? As a mother is proud of her child so I want to be proud of my Congregation and of every confrere. As a mother gives her life for her children, so I, soul-mother want to spend my life for the Congregation. As a mother protects and defends her children, so I, soul-mother, want to protect and defend my Congregation.

Often mothers become eloquent lawyers to defend their children. Am I the defender of the Congregation? According to the needs of her children, a mother turns herself to be doctor, nurse, teacher, councilor, cook etc… Am I all these things for my Congregation? As I wrote to you in my first letter, now in the spirit of Advent and Christmas, I repeat, “ask yourself what you can do for your Congregation, rather than asking yourself what the Congregation can do for you”.

This Congregation of ours, that at times seems so fragile  and so needy, doesn’t need your condemnation or rejection; It needs your approval, your support, your motherly heart. Be for her a true mother, that gives her new life and not a parasite that deprives her of her vitality.

6. Practical Recommendations

In order to develop and foster in ourselves this spiritual maternity, I remind you of some practical recommendations given by Fr. Justin.

General norms:

1. Always desire to save yourself as a saint, and, desire the same thing and provide it to every soul.
2. Become a sower of joy, messenger of peace, irradiator of serenity every where
3. Grant to every person, even externally all the possible esteem and honor, in words and actions.
4. Wholeheartedly say of every person all the best you know of him.
5. Surround with tenderness the newest member of the community, those who are tempted and guests.
6. Lovingly practice brotherly corrections without ever supposing unwillingness to correct oneself.
7. Always sacrifice the proper interest for the sake of others.

Specific norms:

1. Carry on your heart the names of the confreres of your community in order to have them present in your prayers.
2. Respect all the norms of good behavior, good manners especially in community I and in society.
3. In things that are pleasant don’t interfere with others.
4. Avoid any curiosity of what others say or do if you are not bound by a specific duty.
5. Lovingly offer your services in things that are not pleasant.
6. Willing occupy yourself with instruction and entertainments of those who are less educated.
7. Likewise practice all the works of Mercy especially with the sick and the poor (Rules and Constitutions, Vol 1, Ch. 34, Numbers 98 &99).

Even though these norms where not directly written in order to foster the growth and fruitfulness of the relationship of soul-mother, they can serve to do so. I invite you to underline some of the words which practically indicate motherly attitude and love; desire, become, give, sower of joy and peace, cordially, tenderness, practice, lovability, sacrifice, heart, faithful, lovingly occupy, offer and services.

7. Conclusion

I conclude with Fr. Justin’s words, “with all his love toward the Holy Church, the Holy Family and the Blessed Trinity, the Vocationist must embrace his Congregation of which he is part and with which he unites himself in this triple and unique ideal; he sees and receives that irradiation of this triple and unique center. With outmost fidelity he must zeal its perpetual formation, expansion and fruitfulness making every effort to make sure that she will never lose any sons that the Lord sends to her, but rather helping every one to reach in our Congregation the highest possible perfection and to offer the greatest possible apostolate” (Ibid. Ch. 33 N. 96).

You and I have the joy and the duty of giving new life to this family of ours. Together let us make every effort to develop this relationship of soul-mother and our family will be transformed into a truly life giving entity, becoming at the same time ever more alive, peaceful, joyful, efficient, lovable and loving. Amen. In his birth Jesus gives himself to us through his mother, and you in the spirit of Christmas give yourself to the Congregation as his loving mother.

Wishing an eternal Christmas to you, to your and our friends, relatives, benefactors, collaborators and acquaintances, I greet you, embrace you and bless you.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V. of the Blessed Trinity.






 
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