To all Vocationist Fathers and Brothers
My Dear Confrere,
May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father!
Advent, with the historical remembrance of the expectation of the Messiah, invites to prepare ourselves for his coming, making ours the desires and the longing of all the just one of the Old Testament. Christ is and remains the one who was to come, the one who came, and who will come again. Christ has been, is and will ever e the main object of the hope, desires and longing of the just ones, the saints and of those who want to be holy.
Advent directs us toward the future focusing on the one who is to come and who will come. At the same time it helps us to prepare ourselves for his coming. Advents implies an intimate, maybe unconscious, expectation of a messiah, of someone or something that will change for the better our lives.
An old story tell us about an once famously glorious monastery slowly but inexorably moving toward complete extinction. What used to be a beautiful song of love and praise for hundreds of monks and a center of attraction for thousands of pilgrims, was reduced to an unkept housing for four old monks, who merely survived expecting to die! No one ever knocked at their doors; grass and thorns covered what used to be the road to the monastery. Near the monastery used to live and hermit, an old Jewish rabbi, totally dedicated to prayer and penance. One day the four old monks decides to consult the rabbi, to see what he would suggest them to do. The old man receives them friendly, listens to them and then says: "Courage brothers, keep your chin up and keep going, because one of you is the messiah!
The four returned to the monastery thinking who might be the messiah. Each one of the thought, certainly the messiah is not I, therefore must be one of the other three. Even though they did not know who the messiah was, they knew that was one of them! This thought leads them to be more humble and slowly leads them to have more esteem for the others, to be more charitable toward them and to expressions and actions rich of brotherly love and of generous laboriosity. Their lives start to change radically; slowly the old monastery start to acquire again its old cleanliness, splendor and decorum; its liturgies become alive, some young men start knocking at their doors asking to be admitted, their number grows and great number of people kept coming back!
The expectation of the messiah will change our lives. The expectation of a messiah in each and everyone o four residences will totally change our communities and our entire religious family. Ask yourself, by chance, may I be the messiah? May my confrere so and so be it? Was not everyone of us called to share the messiahnicity of Christ?
The Vocationist must be a man of great desire
It is said, and it is true: not men but ideas changes the world. Ideas changes the world by changing individuals. Man has been gifted with the ability to think and to desire. Thought begets ideas; ideas beget desires, desires put into action our willingness and determination to act.
A few weeks ago Fr. Zoppo reminded me of a practical, ascetical principal of Fr. Justin: "quidquid possum, debeo; quidquid debeo, volo; quidquid volo, factum est – Whatever I can do, I must do, Whatever I must do, I will do; whatever I wanted to do, it is done! "No human act can ever be done unless it is thought and desired first. Thought generates desires, and desires cause actions.
The Divine Teacher said: "Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum, antequan patiar – I have so much desired to eat this Passover meal with you, before I suffer!" (Lc 22, 15). This ardent desire has sustained me on my way to Jerusalem and now is sustaining me on my way to Calvary. The supreme sacrifice of Jesus is the result of this constant and sincere desire!
St. Peter says: "Sicut modo geniti infantes, rationabile sine dolo lac concupiscite, ut in eo crescatis in salutem – as new born infants, long for pure spiritual milk, to grow toward salvation" ( 1 Pt 2, 1). To long for, to wholeheartedly desire is absolutely necessary to the growth and development of a human person.
Let us learn from Victor Alfieri and make ours his "Volli sempre volli, fortissimanmente volli – I wanted, I always wanted, very strongly wanted." The desire to learn, the will power, with God’s grace, makes possible, what may seem impossible!
St. Bernard exhorts us: "Let us freely nurture our longing for glory. We are entitled to it." Following this principle of St. Bernard, Fr. Justin believes that the Lord makes us know things, so that we may desire them because he wants to grant them to us (cfr. Ascension, art. 565). "Look into your heart since no pious thought or desire can be in you, unless it comes from God. If it is first in God and then in you, it must have its effect, provided you respond and present no opposition" (Ascension, Art. 147).
At times, Fr. Justin appears to be a real dreamer, dreaming the unreachable dreams! I am convinced that he was convinced that many of his dreams, desires and projects would never become a reality. Fr. Justin knew as we know that the transition from "quidquid volo – whatever I want – to factum est – it is done, is not something automatic nor easy. Fr. Justin knew, believed and still exhorts us today to desire without any limitation whatever is god, beautiful and holy, because the sole desire in itself and by itself enriches us of merits and virtues, as to the contrary, bad thoughts and desires impoverish and tarnish us even before we turn them into action.
To become a man of great desires, it will be helpful for us to review and make ours the "Acts of Desires of Divine Union," that are found in our Devotional at the beginning of every month. Likewise, it will be useful to pray and assimilate the chapters "Intentions of Love" which are part of Morning Prayer, for every month of the year. How beautiful and meaningful are those words "I intend …I intend and want…I would like and intend…I intend and be for it." In Spirit of Prayer, page 49, number 3, we read: "since I am actually unable to do this, I beg of you to accept and ratify these intentions and desires…"
"In Ascension, in the chapter, Help from above, it is always used the first person singular of the verb, expressing personal commitment "I shall be, I shall honor, I shall celebrate, I shall consider, I shall distinguish…" precisely to help us understand that everything depends on our personal commitment. It is useless to say: celebrate, do, honor…if the individual does not make a personal commitment. Whoever desires to be a person of good will, must commit himself in a precise and categorical manner" (Fr. Justin, Voi Donque Pregate Cosi: Padre Nostro, page 195).
What must we desire?
At times we groupe in the dark, we walk in the air without a real sense of direction; this caused dissatisfaction, unhappiness, frustration and complete disorientation. I n vain we try to find someone to blame. If we do not know where we want to go, or which objective to achieve, we will never achieve it!
As Individuals and as a community we need a vision, an objective, a project. In order to become a reality these visions, objectives and projects must be clear in our mind and desirable to our will; we must fall in love with them!
Personal discernment in spirit of faith and prayer, profound and constant study, consultation with experts and in-
What should one desires for himself
Jesus reminds us to desire first the kingdom of God and his justice, and assures us that everything else will be given to us. Fr. Justin exhorts us to long for divine union in the highest level of holiness for ourselves and for others. Common sense urges us to desire that we do our very best in our real situation and with the means at our disposal. Ordinary holiness consists precisely in our willingness to do our best in carrying on our duties.
In the spirit of Christmas it is proper to remember that Jesus, our life, comes into the world as our light; light that shines in the darkness and dispels it, enlightens every man and empowers everyone who accepts him (cfr Jn1, 4-
Fr. Justin has trained us to pray every day for final perseverance (most prayers are but ardent desires and inner longings). Final perseverance implies coherence and persistence in the vocation and condition, to which the Lord has called and elected us. We are religious so that we may enjoy the real freedom of God’s children, so that we may follow Christ freely, with undivided heart and without obstacles. I desire, I want and long to be of Christ, with Christ and for Christ. I want my life to be a constant longing for him, who is my way, my truth, my life.
Since the Lord has called and chosen me to be a Vocationist, wholeheartedly I want to be a real Vocationist for ever! As a Vocationist I want and must desire and dedicate myself to the formation of future apostles. Coherence demands that I work always and everywhere, directly or indirectly for vocations.
My beloved confrere, ask yourself: Is Jesus, the revelation of the Father and link of union between the Father and the Spirit, the real center of your life? Do his teachings really enlighten your way? Is he the secret of your joy? If he is not, I hope he will be it from now on. If he is, I pray that he will continue to be it in an ever more inclusive and lasting way. In light of this, with the very words of Fr. Justin, I wish you an "eternal Christmas, an eternal opening up to him, to his teachings to his love, to his mission, to his desires and expectations.
What to desire for our religious Congregation?
The XII General Chapter, in its programmatic lines has suggested what to desire, plan and realize for our Congregation during this six year term (there are now only four and half year left):
1) Deepen the study and inculcate the knowledge, life and spirituality of Fr. Justin to both our confreres and to God’s people.
2) Establish new and multiform ways of participation of all members to the various levels of government of the Congregation.
3) Consolidate the religious communities.
In my program, at the beginning of my service as Father General, amongst other things, I decided for myself, for you and for the entire Congregation to:
Facilitate, encourage and make possible the ongoing permanent formation of the individual members, their specialization in areas of interest to them and to the Congregation, their participation to conferences, seminars and spiritual exercises.
Always and everywhere have special consideration for those who work for and with vocations; find new ways and means to promote vocations; inspire and motivate our confreres and those who are close to us to the vocation apostolate.
Foster the Vocationist missions that offer good opportunities for vocations
Consolidate the Vocationist Communities …it will be a long and painful process, but it is necessary for the well-
Make Fr. Justin and his works known; distribute holy cards and other articles in order to promote his devotion, Encourage people to ask graces and miracles through his intercession and pray for his beatification. In order to achieve this we will appoint an assistant postulator in every country in which we operate.
Create structures, organizations or systems that give greater dignity, more visibility, more visibility and an easier identification of the Vocationists and their activities.
Did you make yours these desires yet? What kind of cooperation have you given and are you willing to offer toward their realization? Without your cooperation, some of these desires will never become a reality. Do not hide behind a false modesty saying to yourself and maybe to others that you are not capable: Such an attitude will be insult to the truth and a disguised from of laziness. Every one of us who wants to, can do a lot, To want is to be able to. Only the one who does not want, cannot do anything!
Advent remind us that the Lord fulfills his promises, that the desires and the longing of all the just ones of the Old Testament were not in vain; likewise, our desires for holiness and for self Vocationist realization will not be in vain. The Word empowers all those who receive him to be God’s children; the Word shares his life, his light and his power with us! Let us open ourselves to him so that he may enter in our innermost being and grant us the happiness and the honor to be his living tabernacles. Opening ourselves to Christ we are not doing a favor to him, but to ourselves alone!
The Joyful expectation of his coming does not consist in staying around doing nothing, but in an intelligent and efficient efforts to eliminate all obstacles, to facilitate his coming by preparing him the way, so that when he comes he may find himself and really feel at home, so that everything in us may fin his favor. The same applies to all our desires; their realization depends entirely on us since the Lord cannot but do his part!
With Christ we can and must achieve the ultimate goal of our existence and fulfill specific mission to which he himself has called us. This is my desire, my wish and my prayer.
With sincere esteem and brotherly love I greet and embrace and bless you.
Yours in J.M.J.
Fr. Louis Caputo, S.D.V.
Useful and important notes
Community Celebrations – Yearly Retreat
With this letter I am sending you the calendar of the main activities of the Congregation in Italy for the year 2002. Your participation to retreats, regional meetings, spiritual exercises and community celebrations is not an option but a must. Only a real serious reason, deemed such by the superior, can temporarily excuse us. I lament the fact that some confreres did not participate in the community’s yearly spiritual retreat; everyone who did not fulfill his duty with the community should send me a certificate of attendance elsewhere and an explanation on why it was not done with community. Let us make sure that non one will ever miss this yearly spiritual retreat. This is an important factor in the life of the individual and of the community as well.
I have asked our lawyer, Mr. Antonio Annunziata, to make a listing of all acts to be avoided in the administration of houses, ministries and services. We have suffered great losses and we are still paying dire consequences for unjust, illegal, superficial, capricious and unauthorized actions of some confreres. In case of doubt ask and always obtained written permission of the major superior before you make a commitment. You are not the legal representative of the Congregation. The Congregation cannot be penalized for the superficiality and irresponsibility of some confreres. Before you act, think that you will be accountable in first person!
Masses for the intention of the Superior General
Article 82 our Directory states: The priests and the Congregation, unless dispensed, every month, will celebrate two masses for the intentions of the Superior General. These Masses are usually applied for the deceased and to satisfy the obligation of the Congregation." No Vocationist priest is dispensed from this obligation; any previous dispensation is hereby abrogated as of December 1, 2001 – Every Mass celebrated for the intentions of the Superior General must be accurately recorded and then reported in the Financial report at the end of every semester. Anyone, who for pastoral needs, cannot fulfill this obligation, at the end if the semester must send to the general treasury the equivalent offering for the number of Masses not celebrated, so that the curia may provide to their celebration.
Funerals of confreres and relatives
Very few confreres participated to the funeral of our late brothers Fr. Antonio Valentinio and Fr. Vincenzo Romano. This was a painful and humiliating experience. It is true that we have commitments and that we are busy; it is true that some days are particularly busy, and that distances are prohibitive some time, but if a parent, brother or sister dies we find the way to participate to their funerals. Even if we have to cancel a previous commitment to participate to their funeral, people will understand and they will respect us even more knowing that we care for and love one another as one family. I have often repeated (because I really believe it) that the bonds of the spirit are stronger than the bond of the flesh. Other occasions of humiliation and suffering have been caused when a close relative of a confrere has passed away and the Major Superior has not been notified. A son, a brother may not think of notifying the Superior General of such an occurrence, but some other confrere of the same community should do so. We are a family, and as such we want to share joys and pains.
Whenever we receive a new assignment, we know that we are receiving a life-
Since I have been in office I have received five requests of exclaustration, or permission to remain outside of the community "Extra domum". It seems that many have the wrong idea that the superior cannot deny such a request! I wonder where such an absurdity may have come from! I did not grand to anyone such a request, nor do I intend to, unless I am convinced that there is a real serious reason behind it. It is not a good reason the fact that one does not want to obey, or because they have capricious reaction or feeling toward something or someone. I consider our religious vows and our incorporation in the S.D.V. as and even more than a marriage. Your parents and mine would never think of separating for one, two, or three years. It is sickening to think that a man may say to his wife: I do not intend to divorce you, I just want to try out someone else, and then after one, two or three year, if I do not like the other, I will come back to you! No, we cannot allow that a member of our body remains separate for one year, one day or one instant! If a confrere arrives at the point where he really does not want to observe any longer his vows, and want to betray the Congregation, that has made him a priest and still loves him as a loving mother he must find a benevolent bishop who is willing to incardinate him immediately and ask for an indult of secularisation. Under no circumstances will I allow a Vocationist to remain outside of the community, while he is still a Vocationist. At this moment I have two letters, from two different bishops, who would like to send back to the Congregation two former religious, who do not satisfy the bishop’s expectations!
Will participate as ex officio members to the general assembly to be held from Sept. 10 to Sept. 18 in Suculiana Marian all those who participate ex officio to the General Chapter to study the possibility of establishing an Italian Province. This assembly will have only consultive role. The assembly will study the possibility of establishing an Italian Province, the financial status of the Congregation, the possible conversion of houses and activities of the Congregation. There will also be a report on the status of the process of beatification of Fr. Justin. No later than Dec. 15, the Superiors of each community and the Provincial of Brazil should send to the Secretary General the listing of the representative of each community, so that we can set some study groups.
Our Confrere, Deacon Edmundo Escobal will be ordained as a priest on December 8, 2001 in Mati, Philippines. He is the first priestly fruit of our mission in the Philippines. I ask that you pray for him and make sure to send him a message of solidarity, brotherhood and best wishes. Fr. Alfonso Limone, general Councillor for the Missions, will represent you and me at this ordination. On Dec. 15, in Ahiara, Nigeria three of our confreres will be ordained deacons, Christopher Anyanwu, Patrick Nwachukwu and Flavian Osuagwu. Allelusia. So far in 2001 we had four death and nine priestly ordinations: Praise the Lord.
II Fiore che non Marcisce
I gladly accepted the idea of the Flower that does not wither, and I asked Fr. Giovanni Mamana to promote it in my name for the Congregation. It is an initiative similar to the Mass Cards promoted by us in the USA with great spiritual, social and financial advantages. So that this tender plant may grow and bear fruit, your cooperation is needed. Make it known and promote it with zeal and perseverance.
Vocationist Missionary Appeal
Fr. Alfonso Limone will call every pastor or rector of Church to set aside a date for the Missionary appeal for the year 2002. This appeal is needed to collect some needed funds to sustain our missions, to nurture missionary spirit and prayer, to make known and promote our missions. In addition to setting aside a most appropriate date, it is also necessary that you prepare this event with plenty of information and prior notices and prayers to maximize the profit for the Congregation and for the souls. As you might have read in Informazioni, the missionary appeals held so far this year have produced more than we expected. The generosity of our parishioners has been moving and encouraging. If you know any friendly pastor who might be willing to allow us to make an appeal in his parish, it will be a great help; feel free to ask them and then notify Fr. Alfonso.
Financial Contributions, Budget and Reports
We mailed a budget of the Congregation for the year 2002. Study it and see how you can help us to reduce our deficit. The needs are so many! The Congregation needs your generosity. In addition to your contribution, the Congregation expects from you and successful Missionary Appeal, and a social activity to raise funds for the Congregation. Make sure that the budget of your community is forward to the general Treasurer no later than Dec. 20, 2001. So that the contribution of the single communities may appear in the General Treasurer no later than Dec. 31, 2001. You might have noticed that the financial report of the second semester 200 and the first semester of 2001, contain many empty lines; it certainly does not honor the communities that are missing. Fr. Fasano cannot invent your numbers! The Financial report for each community and activity must reach the General Treasurer office no later than 45 days after the end of the semester. Three months after the end of the semester the General Treasurer will send the financial report of the Congregation to each community. While lamenting the empty lines, I gladly take notice of the fact that there is a lot of generosity within the Congregation, and that the contribution received were larger than our expectations. Heartfelt thanks:
May the Lord reward you for your multiple pastoral and missionary services, for your sensitivity to the needs of the Congregation and for your generosity.
May he shower upon you the abundance of his graces and blessings.
May the Lord make you a saint and a sanctifier.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!