It is Not Fair! - Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

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It is not fair

Trinity Sunday 2003
Fr. Justin Vocationary, Florham Park, NJ – USA
To all Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

My Beloved confrere,
 May God the Holy Spirit unite us more with the Son to the Father!

Introduction

The kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a man who went out early in the morning to hire some men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them the regular wage, a silver coin for the day, and send them to work in his vineyard. He went again to the market place at nine o’ clock and saw men standing there doing nothing, so he told them: ‘you also go and work in the vineyard and I will pay you a fair wage’. So they went. Then at twelve o’ clock and then again at three o’ clock he did the same thing. It was nearly five o’ clock when he went to the marketplace and saw other men standing there. ‘Why are wasting the whole day here doing nothing?’ he asked them. ‘No one has hired us’ they answered. ‘Well then you go and work in my vineyard’ he told them.

When evening came, the owner told his foreman: “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first”. The men who had begun to work at five o’ clock were paid a silver coin each. So when the men who were the first to be hired came to be paid, they thought they would get more; but they too were given a silver coin each. They took their money and started grumbling against the employer: ‘these men who were hired last worked only on hour’, they said, ‘while we put up with the whole day’s work in the hot sun, yet you paid them the same as you paid us!’

“Listen, friend”, the owner answered one of them, ‘I have not cheated you. After all, you agreed to do one day’s work for a silver coin. Now take your pay and go home. I want to give this man who was hired last as much as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do as I wish my own money? Or are you jealous because I am generous? (Mt 20: 1-16).

The fact that a good deed, even if not deserved was done to a third party does not constitute an injustice or unfairness toward us.

Justice and Injustice

What is just and what is unjust? ‘Just’ is that action that gives to God what is God’s and to men what belongs to them, what is due to them in force of a right. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mt 22:21).

‘Unjust’ is whatever deprives God or an individual of what is due to him. Injustice is not to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Justice can be – and often is called the principle of equality; justice however does not mean to treat everyone the same way, to give everyone the same reward. Justice requires that everyone be given what he is entitled to, what he deserves, what he needs. Justice does nor eliminate, but respects the individuality, the uniqueness of each human being.

Wrong question

In Philosophical questions (who do not recall the famous syllogism?) the worst defeat for the proponent of the question was when the respondent would deny his premise or the “major”.

Often in condemning someone or something we exclaim: “it is not fair!” If we ask the wrong question, we will come up with the wrong answer; we build our syllogism on the wrong premise.

Rather than asking ourselves whether an act, a disposition of the superior is fair or unfair, we should ask ourseleves whether that specific action, that obedience or initiative may help us to be saints, or how can we see it in the light of the Gospel or of the vows we have professed. If we ask the wrong question, we come up with the wrong answer.

While justice requires the minimum, charity, upon which religious life is founded, requires the maximum. Justice is the foundation, the basis of our spiritual life; upon it we build the edifice of charity.

When we experience a certain rebellion, we should seriously ask ourselves a question that might come more or less spontaneously is: Is my dissatisfaction, my internal rebellion, my condemnation motivated by the desire to do more and better for the glory of God and the well-being of the souls or rather by my selfishness, by my laziness and by the desire to be left alone?

Let us then be careful, my dear confrere, about the question you ask yourself. A wrong question will lead you to a wrong conclusion.


It is not fair!

Those who know me, know well that the worst of me comes out whenever I am accused of unfairness. This accusation is made only to excuse one’s laziness or incorrespondence. I would like to ask you with the Lord: “Are my ways unfair, or rather are your ways unfair?”

It is good to keep in mind that often the expression ‘it is not fair’ is simply used to mean ‘it is not practical, it is not pleasant, it is not convenient, it may not be opportune’.

I compiled a list of the accusations of unfairness that I hear from other confreres. This list is far from being complete. Some accusations have been slightly alerted to harmonize them with similar complaints.

When we insist on seeing the duties, obligations and opportunities of religious life in terms of justice, we place ourselves on the wrong track; thus we will never reach our destination and probably will cause some crashes in which we are not only ones to suffer. For us, consecrated people, justice is the starting point, not our ultimate goal. Justice is the foundation upon which we build the castle of charity!

Several ‘It is not fair!’ quotes from the Old and New Testament

“The Lord is just and loves justice” (Ps 11:15). I will list some of the real or perceived injustices or complaints of the Old and New Testament simply because they help us to understand that there is nothing new under the sun, and also because they can help us to see how often the Lord comes to the defense of the accused ones.

It is not fair:

That man be alone (Gn 2: 18).
That the just dies on account of the sinners (Gn 18: 22-26).
That the just should die for the faults of the unjust(Gn Ibid).
That the sinner may convert and live (Ez 18: 21 – 30).
That the holy man may turn sinner and die (Ez Ibid).
Give the children’s food to the dogs (Mk 7:28).
To pluck ears of grain on the Sabbath (Mk 2:25).
To eat with sinners and tax collectors (Mc 2:16).
That you come to me to be baptized (cfr. Mt 3:14)
To harvest where one has not sown.
To set up tricks (?) for the Lord (cfr. Mt 22: 15-22).
To give to everyone the same reward (Mt 20: 1-16).
To accept an invitation and then fail to attend (Mt 24: 1-14).
To eat without first washing your hands (Mc 7:3).
To participate at a banquet without a nuptial dress (Mt 22: 11-14).
To aspire for the first place (Mk 10: 35).
To live with your brother’s wife (Mk 6: 18)
To heal on the Sabbath (Lc 6, 6-11).
That you stay here sleeping peacefully, while we are sinking (Lc 8: 22-25)
That an unfruitful tree takes up space (Lk 13: 6-9)

God is just and loves justice, but not whatever seems just is really just; not whatever looks unjust is really unjust. There is the danger of stretching the idea of justice and of injustice, as I have purposely done in the above quotations from the Bible.

It is good to recall the admonition of our Lord: “Unless your justice surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5;20). Let us make ours the forth beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, they shall be satisfied’ (Mt 5:6).

The ‘it is not fair’  of the Vocationists

Every Christian, every human being must practice, promote and defend justice. A world, a country, an institution without justice cannot be blessed and cannot prosper. It is proper and fair to raise our voice against injustice.

Often the Vocationists raise their voices to protect against true or perceived injustices. While I urge you to faithfully and loyally defend justice at any rate, I also warn you not to stretch the concept of justice to fit your pleasure or your comfort. Do not consider your own “I”, your own pleasure and comfort, the meter or criterion of justice.

Here is the partial list of the crisis or complaints against real or perceived injustices in the Congregation. To each complaints, follows in italilcs, some kind of explanation.

1. “It is not fair that our superior pay no attention to the needs of the confreres”.

Fair complaint. The supeiors should always procure the well-being of their dependants. The dependants can and must help the superiors to fulfill this duty by manifesting to them their needs. The superiors have also the obligation to help their subjects to discern true needs from fictious needs, as for example, the need of living in a certain area.

2. “It is not fair that a confrere be assigned to a specific ministry without previous consultation”.

The dialogue, the consultation with an individual religious, before transferring or assigning to a new mission is advisable, prudent, opportune, but it is not required for the validity of the obedience. It remains always true that after the consultation the superior must provide for the needs of Congregation or of the specific ministry; consequently he cannot always grant the request or the desire of the individual. You cannot think of closing a residence of abandoning a ministry because nobody is willing to do it. To consult or to listen to an individual does not mean that he tells the superior what he wants and that the superior must then obey him.

3. “It is not fair that the same people have to work all the time”

He who has the spirit of laboriosity and appreciates the value of work, is always working, works well and joyfully. It is easy to ask such a confrere to do something. The confreres affected by laziness or apathy do not overcome easily such a sickness. The problem is not on the part of those who work, but on the part of those who do not do their share of work or service.

4. “It is not fair that obedience and re-assignments always be imposed on the same people”.
Obedience must always be an act of love and generosity. He who obeys willingly loves his vocation and remains faithful to his vows. He who does not want to obey is spiritually ill. To the one who has more, more will be given. To the one who is richer in merits of obedience, more opportunities will be given him. No superior wants to be a torturer. I believe that there is a tendency not to ask a sacrifice from the person who is deemed incapable of such an act. There is no injustice on the part of the one who obeys or on the part of the one who commands. Injustice is on the part of the ones who willingly and irresponsibly place themselves in a state of apathy and indifference.

5.  “It is not fair that second class confreres are always assigned in situations and places more remote from Naples and Rome, while first class confreres are always assigned to the most prestigious positions.”

I do not believe in the first and second class division. I believe however that some are more generous than others, more gifted than others, more virtuous than others. About places, I would point out that the seven members of the central government of the Congregation come from seven different areas, from seven different voting groups. The importance of a position does not depend on its geographical location.

6. “It is not fair that only Italians occupy the positions of greatest responsibility within the Congregation.”

This is basically the same complaint as in number 5. The great majority of our confreres are still Italians. The Vocationist Fathers and Brothers form other countries are still very young. (Even though Italian by birth, I am American citizen and Fr. Ademire is a Brazilian). The Vocationists are all brothers, members of the same family; they all have the same duties, the same rights and the same opportunities; the place of birth is of no importance. Parochialism, nationalism have been overcome by globalization.

7. “It is not fair that while some confreres are treated with great consideration, others are neglected or mortified”.

I believe that any parent honestly believes and sustains that all children are treated equally. Even though all children are equal, those who are sick ( and in religious life, ‘sick’ are all those who are lukewarm, indifferent, virtuous) receive more care and attention in view of helping their healing process. Healthy confreres are treated as healthy and the sick ones are treated as healthy and the sick ones are treated as sick. (Spiritually speaking are you healthy or sick?).

8. “It is not fair to value our confreres positively or negatively only on the basis of their financial contribution.”

Absolutely correct. Especially when we underline ‘Only’. The real heroes, the martyrs of our Congregation are our Vocation Directors, Formators and Educators, who live in dire poverty, undergo demanding sacrifices, an naturally are not able to contribute much financially. Several vocation educators contribute more than some pastors and teachers. How can we not admire the confreres of our Italian Novitiate hose in Altavilla, who are making serious effort to sustain the Novitiate without contribution from the general treasurer. I repeat what I have said elsewhere: He who loves, does and give, he who does not love, does not do and does not give.

9. “It is not fair the some are granted permissions, while other are denied.”

I am not aware that this happened in the last three years, and I do not know prior to that. I am imperative that we overcome the idea that all the Vocationists are like sausages: all the same length, same thickness, same weight, same ingredients. Let us not destroy the individuality and uniqueness or our confreres. Once again, I repeat, not all have the same taste, the same needs, the same inclinations or attractions, the same ability to utilize an experience for the common good.

10. “It is not fair that often the communication of our superior deal with financial matters (money)”.

We are not of the world, but we are still in the world. We still need housing, food, clothes, medicine, educations and transportation. More than one confrere has complained that Father General during the Canonical Visitation asks questions about the spiritual life of the individuals. We must avoid excesses at all times. “Ista oportet facere et illa not omittere”. We should not underestimate the ability of the world and of money to enslave us.

The Congregation does not belong to the superiors; as administrators of the superiors must give an account of their administration, of what comes in and what goes out. I believe that the superior (not only the superior general) has a duty to conduct an open and transparent administration. It is hoped that the knowledge of the needs of the Congregation and of the generosity of the confreres may be an invitation to generosity and imitation.

11. “It is not fair that only some have the opportunity to participate in the community celebrations in Pianura, while others cannot attend.”

Having lived for so many years outside of Italy, I am familiar with this kind of suffering. I hope and pray that those who can take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy such family celebrations. Those who live far away from Pianura can and should celebrate the same feast days wherever they are. From time to time they may also plan some vacations to coincide with our community’s celebrations. I dare to say with Fr. Justin: “In good things take example from the undersigned”.

12. “It is not fair that I am constantly being asked to be more generous toward the congregation, while others, who have the possibility of giving prefer to give very little.”

Fr. Justin teaches us and urges to pray: ‘Always more, always better’. I believe that this principle may also be applied to financial productivity. We must overcome the tendency to count money in the pockets of others. Lack of generosity on the part of some should not kill my generosity. The talent (read ‘position’, ‘assignment’) is taken away from the one who buries it and does not produce anything for his matter!

13. “It is not fair that pastors be constantly asked to nag their parishioners and solicit more financial contributions from them for the needs of the Congregation.”

To ‘ask’ does not equal to ‘force’. Many persons are eager to contribute to a noble cause and they need inspirations and guidance. According to the agreement with every diocese, it is asked that in every parish staffed by the Vocationist, be taken two yearly collections, one for the missions and the other for the Vocationary. From the generous response of the people it does not look like people are nagged by the these collections; maybe some stingy, narrow minded pastors (thank God, fortunately very few) are disturbed by such activities.

14. “It is not fair that some can choose the confreres to live with, while other are not given such an opportunity and must live with the more difficult people we have in congregation.”

It was and it remains my dream to create “happy marriages”. Up to this date I have not succeeded, My idea of happy marriage was not and it is not that one could chose the confreres to live with; the superiors should study the various personalities or characters of the individuals  before putting them together. But, what should we do with those confreres who by nature are difficult or problematic and make life difficult if not impossible for others?

Ask yourself: Am I one of those difficult consecrated persons that make life difficult or impossible for others? If you have been such in the past, make sure not to continue being a problem person any longer.

15. “That reassignment (or my new assignment) is not fair.”

A new assignment may not be pleasant, may not be prudent, may not be the best etc. but a reassignment can never be unfair. To be unfair it should deprive a religious of some right, of something that belongs to him etc…Whenever a religious is given a new assignment or mission he knows that it is a temporary assignment, a temporary service. According to the law of justice whoever give us a position, assignment of mission can also take it away or change it.

16. “It is not fair that prayer life is left solely to the will of the individual.”

Our life must be a life of prayer. More than anything else we should be concerned with prayer and the organization of our life of prayer. Personal prayer and community prayer must abound in the life of every religious. Community prayers must be regular, and as far as possible must conform itself to the prescriptions expressed in our Directory. Let us not forget that the program of life of every community must be approved by the major superior. Private prayer must meet the needs and attraction of the individual. In the organization of personal prayer each individual may consult his spiritual director.

17. “It is not fair the Family Council does not meet regularly. (It is not fair that the local superior does not consult or inform the rest of the community, or that he behaves as of he were the owner of the Community). It is not fair that the members of the community be kept in the dark about the financial status of the community.”

The superior is the one responsible, the coordinator, not the owner nor the tyrant of the community. How can a superior expect the obedience of his confreres when he himself does not obey to the dispositions of the Constitutions and of the major superiors? The Family Council must meet regularly every month, often I advise some communities, to do weekly, in order to have greater sharing and more involvements. It should happen that the “I” of the superior should decrease, so that “we” of the community may increase. Is it possible that the lack of generosity of some confreres may be the cause of the secrecy of the superiors?


18.  “It is not fair to improvise vocation educators and formators.”

In the Society of Divine Vocations this should be impossible Each and everyone of us is a vocation educator and formator by profession and charisma. All our religious and priestly formation is ordained to make of us true Vocationists!

It would be proper and convenient that after a long period of service in other ministries, before returning to vocation ministry an individual be given the opportunity to review or update his immediate preparation. We try to do this. But, if unexpectedly a vocation educator gets sick or becomes unable to carry on his service, or one who was getting ready for such a service at the last moment fails us, what should we do? Should we close the novitiate or send home the students in formation? Certainly not! Be ready, because, you never know when the Congregation may need your services as a vocation educator.

19. “It is not fair that reconstruction work is done without informing the other members of the community.”

It applies here too, what has been said in number 17. I must only add that there are specific dispositions that no transformation work can be done without the express written permission of the major superiors. Even what is good, beautiful or necessary must be done the proper way.

20. “It is not fair that in some of our residences the whole community is seen in function of the parish.”

Every excess is dangerous. A religious community can never be seen only in function of a parish, not even if the main service of the community is the pastoral care of a parish. Even within the parish service a religious community must retain its identity and its nature.

21. “It is not fair that it is always the same people to render certain services.”

It is very easy to ask those confreres who have the spirit of laboriosity and generosity to render certain extraordinary services. How do you shake the indolence or laziness of some people? These types of people will never have time to do anything and at the last moment they disappoint you. I have had my share of disappointments trying to give an opportunity to lazy people or people that know only how to talk or brag.

22. “It is not fair that some confreres are not given any specific assignment within a community.”

The main duty of each and everyone of us is to become a saint and to sanctify others being witnesses of the eschatological truths. To do this one does not need an assignment or a function. For those who want to serve, it is not necessary to have a title; they find the way to be of service. Unfortunately, as many Italians, some Vocationists are not looking for an opportunity to be of service, but they seek a position. Honestly,, I believe that the problem is the opposite: everyone of us has two, three or more services to render!

23. “It is not fair that the superiors do not respect the decisions of the educators.”

This is a strange case! If a major superior does not respect the ability of a confrere, how can he entrust to him the very important mission of educating our students? As I have said of the local superior, I say of the educator: he is not the owner nor the tyrant of the students.

The educator accompanies and foster s the growth of the students and then gives his evaluation and recommendation together with the other members of the formation team. The major superior with his council has the right and the duty of admitting or dismissing.

The educator, or better the formation team recommends, advices, suggests and the major superior decides according to Canon Law and the Constitutions.

I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express once again all my esteem, affection and gratitude toward all our vocation educators and formators. I also want to remind those who want to create confusion or divisions that the educators form, evaluate and recommend, and to the major superiors is given the task of admitting or dismissing.

To have power of life or death upon a vocation is something that should make us tremble rather than exult. And what to say,, when two or three members of the same formation team express contrasting or diverging evaluations and recommendations about the same person? In the view of this perceived injustice toward the student’s vocation, the poor major superior in such a case cannot diverge from any of them!

Before cutting from the roots, I prefer to water, manure, clean and trim. Before cutting from the roots, I want to make sure that I have really tried everything. I am sure that Fr. Justin did the same thing.

I like to consider myself, in my service as Father General, as the first educator of the Congregation!

The list of the perceived injustices could be much longer. Thinking of these complaints I am reminded of the story of the old man, the young boy and the donkey: it is not fair that the boy mounts the donkey while the old man walks; it is not fair that old man mounts the donkey and the young boy walks; it is not fair that the boy and old man both mount the donkey; it is not fair that the old man and the boy walk while the donkey does not carry anything; and finally it not fair that the boy and the old man carry the donkey! I am consoled by the thought that our mission is to serve and not please.

The Injustice

The congregation, as inspired by God, as established by Fr. Justin and as approved by the Church, is not and cannot be a structure of sin or of injustice. It is and must be saint and sanctifier, and as such, it must be built on solid foundations of justice. The Building raised on these foundations must not be a house of justice but of generosity, love and holiness.

If in the Congregation there are some injustices these are the result of some of our abuses or neglect.

True injustice is that caused by each and everyone of us who proclaims to be Vocationist without being such in the reality of his life, or without even trying to be such.

We have been founded and we exist so that we may be the servants of the saints, the servants of the Church, the servants of the Divine Vocations. When we fail to accomplish this mission, we try to justify our failure by complaining about non-existing injustices.

I repeat: it applies to us the admonition of our Lord: “If your justice does not surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5, 20)

If we immerse ourselves truly in the life of the Blessed Trinity, our vision of justice will be rendered more precious by the vision of love and generosity. Instead of thinking about our personal good or comfort, we would be thinking about and we would be inventing new ways to serve and to give of ourselves. We would not think of our perceived injustices, of our overlooked rights, we would rather be thankful for all the opportunities that the Lord offers us for our purification, for our sanctification and for the sanctification of our neighbor.
Conclusion

Concluding I invite you wholeheartedly to mediate on article 457 of the Ascension:

1. Consider a special grace of the Lord (and then thank him, for example, using the Canticle of the Blessed Mother) the fact that we are object of complaints, or unfair criticism, however, we will never give any cause for it. And will eliminate any cause if there be such.

2. Likewise, we consider it a special grace, the fact that we are not understood, helped, favored or protected in our own initiatives and good deeds; we also consider it as a special grace of God when we see that our good intentions are misinterpreted, prohibited, contrasted, fought.

3. Likewise, we consider as a special grace of the Lord, the fact we are deprived of every esteem, support and human means; that we are left, abandoned, betrayed by our friends, by those who have been helped by us, by our relatives; likewise, we consider as a special favor of the Lord isolation and solitude.

4. Acknowledge our fault for all the bad things that happen around us, in our environment, in our society, attributing it to our lack of prayer, to our lack of cooperation with grace etc.

5. Consider yourself unworthy of enjoying any favor of the Lord, while asking for the same, consider yourself unworthy of enjoying peace of conscience, while doing everything in your power to obtain it; unworthy of avoiding purgatory, etc.

6. Loving accept death with all its surrounding pains, humiliations, renewing the act of acceptance of death at the end of every day, at the end of every major happening, in every danger in life (as for example, during storms, public calamities, sicknesses, etc…)

7. Effectively condemn to death whatever is faulty, too human, or simply material, in all affections, relations, occupations, in everything.”

May the Blessed Trinity grant you the joy of living a life of generous donation (offering) to God and to the brothers and to be every more a bond of love and union in imitation of the Divine Persons. How beautiful is Fr. Justin’s idea indicating that I am a gift of one divine person to the other. At the conculsion of his priestly prayer, Jesus says to the apostles, “You are my Fathers’ gift to me.” I am a gift only when I am donated or donate myself to another.

With every best wish I greet you, embrace you and bless you.

Sincerely yours,
Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V.

P. S.

1. I am writing from the United States where I am since May 27 on a canonical visitation and for medical reasons as well. On June 2, I underwent cataracts surgery in my left eye. Thank God the procedure has been successful. In a few days I should also have biopsy done.

2. Pray for our two novices, Babu and Rijo, who will take their first vows on June 29, and for Fr. Ezio Antunes, who has been appointed full time Vocation Director for the United States.

3. From May 2 to May 12 with Fr. Alfonso Limone, I visited our communities in India. There, 4 postulants were admitted to the novitiate; seven novices were admitted to the first vows and twenty temporary professed brothers renewed their vows. India is a growing community.

4. The second dormitory in our Mulayam Divine Union Vocationary is not completed yet. We have made arrangements to have it completed by the end of the year.

5. We are taking three professed brothers from India to Italy; one who has already completed his theological studies, comes to attend a course for educators and the other two for their philosophy and theology.

6. From May 13 to May 22 with Fr. Alfonso I visited also our communities in the Philippines, where five postulants were admitted to the novitiate and three temporary professed brothers renewed their vows.

7. Our confreres from India and the Philippines send their greetings, express their gratitude while also expressing their desire to receive your news and possibly some visit from you.

8. During the month of April, Fr. Alfonso Limone visited our communities in Nigeria. On May 27 Fr. Ademir Martini had also gone to visit the Nigerian communities. Since the construction work for our new Fr. Justin Vocationary has started, our frequent presence is required.

9. The US Delegation has made another great act of sacrifice, love and generosity giving and extraordinary sacrifice of $200, 000. 00 to pay for the construction of the one of the 8 buildings of Fr. Justin Vocationary in Ibadan. The US delegation has requested that one of the buildings be dedicated to, and designated as “Fr. Mario Muccittelli Hall.” When will I receive the happy surprise of your generous donation for this project?

10. On July 5, our confreres Giovanni Catone and Paolo Greco will be ordained deacons in Pianura: Congratulations to them. Unite yourself to them in prayer.

11. During the months of July and August we have scheduled several vocation camps both in Sicily and in Italy. How many participants will you send?

12. From June 23 to June 28 there will be our second yearly retreat for the Vocationists in Italy. The participation in the yearly spiritual exercise to be done with the community, is not an option, it is an obligation!

13. From April 5 to April 12 with Fr. Nicola Carandente I visited Colombia. By next March, our Province of Brazil, will open a new mission in Medellin. We have received permission from the archbishop and we have also rented a house belonging to the Dominican Sisters of the Assumption. Thank the Lord and pray for this new mission.

14. Through our confreres Fr. Lorenzo Gomez and through Fr. Edgar da Cunha we have received the donation of a piece of land near the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. We hope to open a new Vocationist mission in Ecuador between 2006 or 2007.

During my trip from Rome to Newark, I wrote the following letter to a dear confrere. I believe that the content of this letter may be useful to you for your meditation, for your renewed commitment to your vocation apostolate and to live as an authentic Vocationist. Consider it as addressed to you personally.

Re: Disconnected thoughts….
Heart to heart between father and son.

My Beloved Confrere,

It is May 27, 36th anniversary of my priestly Ordination. How many thoughts, how many memories, how many reasons to thank the Lord, and how many reason to humble myself and beg for forgiveness!

I am flying form Rome to Newark, place of my ordination, During the long mediation that occupies my time, in a strange but constant way, three people keep coming to my mind: Fr. Galasso, you and I. Why?

Fr. Galasso participated at my priestly ordination, he was then the superior general; he used to write his pastoral letters to us from the various skies that he was crossing; from 1968 to 1970 he received with humility and nobility several letters of complaints, accusation and condemnations from me for several things I did not deem fair. I have always admired Fr. Galosso, and even more Fr. Castiglione for their ability to withstand, understand and accept accusations. They have accepted and tolerated with great understanding, patience and love accusations that were generously coming from me and from others.

And you? How do you enter between Fr. Galasso and myself? Now I am in Fr. Galasso’s place and you are in the place I was then. You suffer what I suffered. Your feelings, your sufferings, your disappointments and complaints used to be mine.
I re-live my feelings of them and now I suffer with you, for you and more than you because now I add your pains and disappointments to mine and the cross becomes ever more of fire and heavy.

As you, maybe more than you, I have love and love the Congregation. As you, and maybe more than you, I make mine Fr. Justin’s longing, love, care and anxiety for vocations. As you, and maybe more than you, I suffer because I am unable to do all I would like to do in the vocation field.

As you, in 1969 I thought that Vocations were not our business; I felt terribly alone and abandoned; I was tortured by the thought that we were betraying the spirit of our foundation, that we were reducing ourselves to be just like diocesan priests; I felt that I was at the train station and it was impelled to decide whether to remain on the train I was or to get on to another train… or continue on the same old pattern made of trial and errors and of provisory solutions…what to do?

I opened my soul to Fr. Roland Foley, T.O.R. May God bless him! After listening to me with patience and love, he asked me why I had become a Vocationist and if I still believed in our charisma. I told him that I had entered the Vocationary, at age 12, wanting to become a priest, but then later, notwithstanding the invitations and pressure to pass to the seminary and notwithstanding some difficulties I had experienced in the Congregation, my decision to be a Vocationist was free, conscious and determined. I was fascinated by the person of Fr. Justin and by our charisma.

Fr. Roland asked me again; Do you still believe in the charisma of the Congregation and are still fascinated by Fr. Justin? At my positive and unequivocal answer, the good priest simply smiled at me, and added: “start doing something for your charisma and your founder, without waiting that others do it.” He continued to explain to me the philosophy of the Christophes: “It is better to light candle, than to curse the dark.” I started to do something without expecting others to do it; I did not do too much, but something was done. Thank God.

You have started to do something: maybe you did not do too much yet; maybe your work is not appreciated; others do not facilitate your work, do not cooperate with it, but it is a beginning! There is an Italian poetic expression “a little flickering is followed by a great flame.” Every beginning is only a flickering. When some of our American students used to complain that so many things has not been done yet, seriously and yet maliciously, I used to say: If we had done everything before your coming, there would have been nothing for you to do; we would have deprived you of the opportunity to do so many wonderful, great things that need to be realized.

You will never know how much I love and esteem you. Unfortuately my human formation in the family, in the Congregation, in the school and in the military have made me a man, who in order to be such, cannot and should not express his feelings, his emotions, tears, passion and love. This formation has somehow suppressed but not killed the boy in me. While outwardly I present the image of a serious, detached, cold person, internally I melt on account of my emotions, affection, tenderness and understanding. Even this is a cross for me.

From the years of my youth, I have always appreciated, often re-read and meditated the chapter on Tears in Spiritus Orationis; now I live internally in myself.

If you want to understand how I feel, kindly read this chapter in Spirit of Prayer. Often thinking of you I have also lived and repeated: “Darkened that false sun that I was following…” You were and are for me a little sun. I have placed in you all my trust and hope.

In your disappointment and bitterness you can at least vent blaming and condemning me…Whom can I blame?

As a good theologian you know that the Church is holy and remains holy, notwithstanding our sins and the presence of many other sinners among its members. Likewise, our beloved Congregation remains holy, precious, inspired and wanted by God. Notwithstanding our misery and our lack of total correspondence. When I hear you say unpleasant things about me, I feel bad; but when I hear you being bitter or negative toward our religious family, I cry bitter tears, I feel completely demoralized, I am destroyed inside.

Sometimes I have the feeling that you think of our confrees as if they were sausages: same length, same thickness, same weight, same ingredients, same color, same taste…The reality is that God had fun making each one of us unique in the world; this uniqueness cannot be ignored and act as if it did not exist.

Each one of us is different, unique, unclonable. Your reasoning about justice and injustice are based on wrong premises. I hope to talk about some of these things in my pastoral letter for Trinity Sunday, because I believe some of these things to be of common interest.

Now, my brother, I ask you to think about your calling, your charisma and the opportunity the Lord has granted you to do something in the vocation field. Try to do your very best and pray to the all powerful Lord for my conversion and for the healings needed in the Congregation, healings from our physical, psychological, emotional, mental and spiritual sickness. Even self inflicted sicknesses are real and cause pain. Amongst us there are many sicknesses and of various kinds. Each one of us carries his own baggage, that regardless of how big and heavy it may be, it remains invisible to others. Often I console myself with the verses of Metastasio “If we could read on the front of every person its internal agonies, Oh! How many of those who are object of envy, would be object of compassion.”

Responding to one of my own kind letters in 1970, Fr. Galasso simply wrote: “He who judges us is the Lord!” I fear the judgment of the Lord. I know I can never be found just in his presence. I have decided to avoid the judgment of the Lord (Is it a folly?) by taking him at his word: “Do not judge and you will not be judged.” This is the reason why I often remain silent and do not respond when I am accused. Do not expect that I pass judgment on you or on anybody else.

“Darkened that false sun…” used to sing Fr. Justin: darkened sun is not only the person who betrays the Congregation by cutting the bonds and getting on another train.

Darkened sun is also the one who remains a Vocationist only in name. Many years ago, Mons. Moscati, archbishop of Salerno, used to say: Many Christian Democrats, are Christian as Scipio was African.” I hope, pray and wish that neither you nor I may be Vocationist in the same way!

My dear brother, I do not see you as a darkened sun, but as a raising sun. With the poet Dante I tell you: “follow the sun…you were made to pursue virtue and knowledge.”

Instead of cursing the darkness of night, let us lighten our little candle in the darkness that surrounds us. You are and must be that “flickering” that is followed by a “great light.”

It is easy to give up and quit; anyone can do that. Only the one who perseveres to the end receives the prize, will conquer the award…Help me to navigate against the flow of the currents; help me to channel the various currents and to offer to our confreres and to the whole world heroic examples of fidelity to our vocation and to our charism, that may inspire that conversion of hearts that you and I desire.

The plane is getting closer to the other world and so are we! Courageously, let go on in the Lord’s name. Mussolini used to say: “He who halts, is lost.” Do not halt!

May Fr. Justin sustain and protect us in the hard journey ahead of us. With brotherly love and profound esteem I greet you, embrace you and bless you.

Yours truly,
Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V.





 
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