Object: Growing in the conscience of what we are and in the love for what we do, we walk in the same direction.
My dear Confrere,
May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father.
Inspiration from Brazil
The Brazilian Confreres have chosen for their Provincial Chapter this theme: “Growing in the conscience of what we are and in the love of what we do, we walk in the same direction.” I am thankful to them for choosing this theme because it fascinates and involves me for its simplicity of expression, depth of content and necessary practicality in sight of our growth.
I interpret this theme as an invitation to walk in the same direction and as practical suggestion on how to reach it through growth in our identity and in the love for our multiform ministry. This message of mine wants to be a stimulus for the Chapter Members of the Vocationist Province of Brazil and an encouragement to all the members of the Vocationist family.
I have often repeated and continue to repeat enthusiastically my acceptance, from the spiritual, psychological and social point of view of the principle: “I am Ok, you are Ok (I am good, you are good)”, as a prerequisite of every interpersonal relationship. I accept and I propose this principle as a starting point and not as the end result. Saying, or better, recognizing that I am Ok (good), I recognize the positiveness and intrinsic goodness of life, and therefore present in me and in others; but I don't intend at all to say that I am perfect and therefore not in need of growth and conversion. Every time that I say: “I am good” automatically I add “but I can be best.” I know that I can better because I am conscious that the seed is good as it is good the ground in which it has been planted.
Every negativity about my being discourages every effort of growth or improvement. Every negativity about the being of my neighbour discourages every ministry or effort to help others.
I am Ok from the spiritual point of view
To reassure us and not himself, at the end of each day of creation, the Bible feels the need to repeat: “And God saw that it was good.” Every created thing is good! Only after the creation of the man does the Bible say: “And God saw that it was not good for man to be alone,” and so he makes man sociable, incapable to live alone and therefore needy of a community.
The starting point of the vocationist spirituality is really the creative word of God-
I am Ok from the philosophical and psychological point of view
Old scholastic philosophy reminds us “quidquid est bonum est, (all that exists is good)” To be is always better than not to be. In as much as I exist I am good, and likewise you are good. Every species regenerates its same species; therefore what is good produces something good; what is positive produces something positive.
Fr Justin repeats time and again his principle of practical philosophy: even in his goodness “man is limited and successive.” He explains this principle in the light of the first direct divine word to the living man: “Grow and multiply”. “Grow! Not so much in the body and in the natural state; since they were already in their virility. No infancy, no adolescence, nor first youth in Adam! But adult, full and virile youth. Grow therefore in the soul, that is, in the intellect and desires, in grace and in merits, in the supernatural state” (Ibid. pag IX, 9). “Multiply! It is the full development of growth. You are constantly becoming, working not as one person, but ten, but one hundred, but thousand; extending yourself in the eternity of God, applying yourself to the universality of all beings, in the immensity of space and time” (Ibid., 13). “Every child despite all the beauties of infancy, doesn't want to stay as a child, but hastens to become a little boy. And then despite all the beauties of adolescence, he doesn't want to stay as a little boy, but he hastens to become young. And then despite all the beauties of his springtime, he is not satisfied with flower, but he looks forward to the fruit and passes into the virility. In it, he finally rests. All the beauty of the various ages of man consists precisely in this progressive budding of infancy into adolescence, of adolescence into youth and of youth into perfect virility. (Dir. Del Fine cap. II)
I am Ok from the social point of view
God Trinity is a God of love, a community of love. In as much as I am image and likeness of God, I have to be a creature of love, a community of love. God is three persons, operations, perfections and divine relationships. I too must be a relationship. I ought to sociably live relating myself with others. Since the beings with whom I am relating are essentially good, from this relationship, there cannot be born anything that is not good.
As a good member of the society, I become custodian and protector, collaborator and friend, brother and child of my neighbour; my neighbour doesn't expect anything else from me other than what is good. The more society sees goodness in me, the more it opens to me, it receives me and gives of itself to me. When society sees me a danger, a threat, it gets away from me, it isolates me, or even kills me.
We walk together
We unite or associate ourselves with others in various ways and for an infinity of reasons. From the motive or reason for which we associate with others derives the nature of our association or grouping with others. In religious life we associate ourselves to form a religious family or a religious community. We do not become a family simply for the fact that we live in the same house, or eat at the same table! Community exists when there is communion of intents, communion of goal or purpose. We form community to bring forth the same objectives or the same charisma.
The present ecclesiastical legislation sees in the community an essential element of religious life. If there is no community, there is no religious life. Fr. Justin in different ways invites us to become aware of the fact that to form a community, more than being together, it is necessary to work for the same purpose.
We don't belong to the vocationist family only to become saints, nor so that we may live the evangelical counsels, not even in order to tend to Christian perfection; this has to be done by all religious and by a lot of laymen. We have chosen and we are Vocationists above all to embody and to keep alive our charisma of searching and cultivating vocations to the priesthood and to religious life.
We are Vocationists only as much and in the proportion of the work we do for vocations.
I can be a great ascetic or a great mystic, I can be an excellent educator, priest or administrator, but if I don't promote vocations, if I don't serve vocations, I am not a Vocationist! Paul VI reminded all the General Superiors: “If we are not faithful to the Charisma for which we are founded in the church we put to risk our very salvation”
To walk in the same direction, it is not necessary that each one of us be a vocation director or educator in a strict sense, but it is necessary that we all work for the same goal. This means that vocations ought to be always and everywhere our absolute priority. To this end must be directed every activity and every personal, spiritual and economic resource of ours. “I will spend all of my life to inspire, to cultivate and to form vocations” (vow of our father founder).
He who works in the parish, he who works in the missions, he who works in schools, he who works in the vocationary and he who works in the formation, walks in the same direction of the Congregation only if he subordinates every effort of his to vocation service. The Vocationists that directly work for vocations and those that work for the sustenance of vocations walk in the same direction.
How many of us do really work for vocations walking in the same direction? How many of us instead of promoting the charisma and instead of working for vocations promote only ourselves and our personal interests? Can he who doesn't walk in the same direction and uses the Congregation for his own personal profit be called or considered Vocationist? Wouldn’t it be more correct to consider him a deceiver, an usurper or an impostor? Certainly, this language is hard, but harder, more painful still is the situation of our brothers that don't walk in the same direction.
Even though I don not approve nor condone it, I understand more the ex confreres that, after having realized that they were not walking in the same direction and not wanting to walk anymore in that direction, have left the family (the body in which they had been incorporated with their religious vows) rather than those brothers that, obstinate in their egoism and in their determination to use the Congregation sucking its blood and even causing the loss of our good name in the eyes of society, they physically remain in Congregation, becoming true devastating cancers of our communities. May the Lord free us from such religious!
Let's pray that the Lord may free us from these brothers, not blinding them in their egoism and making them go out of the Congregation, but illuminating them with his grace and his divine light and putting them on the right track to walk in the same direction! Thinking about the goodness of the fallen seed in our hearts and of the goodness of the ground in which it has fallen, I really believe that a radical and total conversion is possible.
We will find our joy, we will reach our realization only if we walk in the same direction with all of our brothers. To remain without belonging can be your passport to the unhappiness in this life and in the other.
Growing in the conscience of what we are
To be a Vocationist is like to be Ok or good. I am Ok, but I can be more Ok; I am good, but I can be better; I am Vocationist, but I can be more Vocationist. Also in this we are limited and successive. Also in this being Vocationists our boundaries are indefinitely boundless and boundlessly indefinite. “Here I am, immense in my aspirations, in my needs, in my potential of goodness, of joy, of glory, because I am image and likeness of the divine infinity” (Ibid. pag. 22).
As in the ascension towards perfection, the Lord has not set any boundary where we can go no further; in the same way in our Vocationist identity, there are no boundaries. I can and must grow more and more. Also in being a Vocationist there is that ascensional spiral of which Fr. Justin speaks in the Directory Toward the Ultimate Goal. “For man the work of creation continues in the perennial elevation to an ever greater good, in order to be ever more and ever better image and likeness of the Lord” (Ibid. pag. 22).
“Develop and exercise in man the natural logic, the real consciousness of his true and profound humanity, the nobility of the reasonableness and the coherence between decisions and convictions. The progress in the natural reasonableness and in every natural perfection benefits immensely the progress in the grace” (Ibid. manuscript, pag. 462).
Conscience is knowledge, awareness, practical experience here and now! Knowledge is a prerequisite for desires, as desires are a prerequisite for actions. The deeper is my knowledge, the more vehement are my desires, the more uncontrollable my activity! It seems really unbelievable! Fr. Justin really believes that we do not have to grow only during our whole life, but that we will also grow for whole eternity!
“Life must unfold only forward and upward; love seeks always more and better. My whole being is life and love in your image and likeness. Everything in me must go according to the law of life and of love, your double and only law” (F.H. manuscript, pag 187)
“Only heading ever more forward, only launching myself ever more higher, will I be able to know you and to love you ever more and better, in your very eternity! The more I progress spiritually the more I will enjoy the favor of your grace of illumination and divine wisdom” (Ibid. pag. 188).
“Even in your eternity I will know you better, progressing ahead and upward; if from eternity I must exclude every idea of past and future, it is easier for me to exclude the idea of the past and the way of thinking backward in the past; it is easier for me to see the past in the present” (Ibid.).
“This eternal becoming of mine, more than anything else will enable me to know better your eternity and your divine present; more than any other thing, this everlasting progress of mine will make me know your infinity of every goodness, o eternal present of infinite goodness” (Ibid., 191).
“How can I be image and likeness, worthy gift of God to God if not through this everlasting, unlimited ascensional growth? Everlasting, unlimited ascensional growth of perfection in my being alive and active, intelligent and loving, operating and free person!
In this I resemble and I can resemble ever more to the Lord. Oh everlasting, unlimited ascensional perfecting of life and of the perfections of life in my deeds and actions, in my understanding and loving the Lord and in the perfections of my relationships with the Lord!
What is there, or can there be more similar to the divine height than the perpetual climbing toward God most high? What is there or can there be more similar to the divine beauty than the perpetual becoming more beautiful? What is there, or can there be more similar to the divine sweetness that the perpetual becoming more sweet?
What is there, or can there be more similar to the divine infinite greatness than the perpetual becoming greater? What is there, or can there be more similar to the divine infinite holiness than the perpetual becoming holier? What is there, or can there be more similar to the endless love than the perpetual becoming better lover, more love?” (Ibid. pag. 214).
I must become more and more aware, conscious of my identity as a Vocationist, of my charisma, of my spirituality so as to fall ever more in love with it, to allow it to take root in me and spread it ever better. It is impossible to know the full meaning, the beauty and the potential of my vocation without being attracted and catapulted toward its most complete realization.
Loving what we do
God is love and I, as his image, must be love. God loves so I must love. All the attributes of God are my attributes too even if in a very limited way. All that is limitedly good, beautiful and saintly in me, it is found in a supreme, infinite perfection in God. “… “All that I can do, I must do it; all that I must do, I want to do; all that I want to do…is done” (Dir. Del fine).
God has created us free; he has given us the gift of free will only so that we could love. Love involves a choice; since there can be no choice without liberty, it follows that there can be no love without free choice. Let us again listen to Fr. Justin who speaks as a philosopher and as a mystic:
“I believe and I adore the endless love with which you embrace the soul and from which you want to freely be corresponded to be able to embrace her in that nuptial supernatural relationship, to which liberty is ever essential. This understanding often becomes like a key to me with its light.
In this I see how you absolutely respect this liberty of man during his peregrination on earth. You respect it in its being and actions; you respect it in all the temporal and eternal consequences of the choices and actions, with which the sinner creates numberless difficulties and worsens his miseries endlessly…..
The law of love that is you yourself, this demand of love that is you yourself, this obligation of love that is you yourself, doesn't allow you to arrest the flood of your graces if not in front of the destruction of the same liberty and of the very creature that you want to save instead because you love her” (F.H. Pag. 138 -
Our blessed liberty has an essential role in the fact that we have been created as loving beings, in our condition and in our life as Vocationists. It is true that at times it can play us some ugly tricks, but it is true also that without it we cannot be Vocationists and we cannot climb the ascensional ladder toward the more and the better, toward what the Lord likes the most and benefits the souls most. We want to use always the liberty of specification, that is, between one good and the other, while we renounce the liberty of contradiction, that is, the possibility to choose between good and evil.
Free will stops being an obstacle or a danger when it is well illuminated by the intellect; then it becomes the most valid ally of God’s grace enabling us to reach the heroisms of holiness and of zeal for the souls. “Truth in the mind and charity in the heart” Fr. Justin used to repeat to the Lord.
If I were really to understood the preciousness, the necessity, the need of priestly and religious vocations, I could really count always on my liberty for greater creativeness, genuineness and enthusiasm in the vocation service. Oh blessed sacred Study! Blessed be my three daily hours of meditation, of sacred study and spiritual reading!
I am really convinced that, as in everything else, in the vocational service, ignorance is our worst enemy. Do I fully realize the good that can be done by one well cultivated vocation? Who can ever imagine the chain of goodness that for the whole eternity will follow as effect of one vocation? And what if we were to cultivate hundreds or thousands of them?
Love is the energy that enables man to act, to serve and to do. If we don't love what we do we do it badly, or unwillingly and we won't persevere in it. When one loves what he does, he doesn't easily get tired. On the contrary, when a person lies in idleness and gets rotten in the pond of his inactivity, he gets tired doing nothing and unable to act because the motor of the love is missing.
In our vocation service we will never do violence to human liberty if this is really well illuminated by the intellect. We would do violence to our free will only by hindering or stopping its attraction to what is good (= vocation).
Let the good old Latin saying come to our aid: “Age quod agis” (do well what you are doing).. Act properly as a Vocationist! As a Congregation in the vocational field today we are doing a lot and well: all it takes is thinking about our houses of studies in Rome, Mulayam (India), Ibadan (Nigeria), Davao(Filippine), Rio(Brasile), Posillipo and Florham Park(USA); to our novitiates in Altavilla Silentina, Mulayam, Oparanadim, Davao, La Plata (Argentina), Florham Park (United States), Vitoria(Brasile), Medellin(Colombia), to our vocationaries and houses for postulants of Anagni, Pianura, Ribera, Mola, Oparanadim, Mati (Filippine), Medellin, Antananarivo (Madagascar), San Juan and Thalore (India). 280 gifts of God! 280 vocations entrusted to our cares! Praise the Lord. In our vocation service, more than in everything else, we can and must do much more and better!
Let us individually and collectively study the philosophy and theology, the necessity and the need, the pastoral and the practice of vocation to the point of falling in love with it, and let us untiringly launch ourselves with the rest of our religious family to fully live our vocation and to cultivate and foster the growth not of one, but a hundred, a thousand, a million of plant-
Let us work intelligently and lovingly together and we will see the wonders that the Lord will operate in us and through us, despite all our limitations and our imperfections.
May the “sorrowful Lent” prepare us and enthusiastically introduce us into our “glorious Lent (Easter-
In union of prayers I greet, embrace and bless you.
Father Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V.