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Lent  2007
To all Members of the Vocationist Family

Re: Vocationist Culture


My Dear Confreres,

  May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father.

Introduction

At the beginning of this Lenten Season, the Holy Spirit takes us to the unexplored desert of the Vocationist culture. The Holy Spirit leads us in this desert in order to temper us in our spirit,  strengthen us in our Vocationist identity and render us more  efficient in carrying out our mission, making us free from all that hinders or slows down our ascensional journey.
  
This study of the Vocationist culture will not be exhaustive; it just wants to be a starting point, a first rough draft, perhaps delineating the basics and putting down some fixed structures. I don’t intend to give any definition nor any explanation. I just want to start emphasizing the essential and principal elements of the Vocationist Culture. In our program for the next six years, we dedicate ourselves to studying “The Vocationist culture in itself” in this year of grace and life that the Lord grants us. I plan to further develop this topic in the following circular letters.

1. Concept of culture in general

Culture is a term that comes from Latin which means “to cultivate”; the usage of the word, was extended to all activities or situations that required an assiduous care; from “cultivate/care” towards the gods (that which we call “cult” nowadays), to cultivate/care of human beings, their education. In fact, the value of culture derives from this ulterior meaning in its modern sense: the culture seen as the identity of a group of people (comprising the language, customs, religion, money, etc.). In this regard, we can distinguish two conceptions that are fundamentally different:
1. A humanistic or classic conception presents “culture” as an individual formation, an activity that consents to “cultivate” the human spirit (in fact, it derives from the Latin verb colere).
2. An anthropological-social conception presents “culture” as variegated form of customs, beliefs, attitudes, values, ideals, different habits of diverse populations, groups or societies of the world. The Vocationist culture is seen in this anthropological-social conception.

The culture reveals us the characteristic traits of a collectivity and of the individual components of that collectivity, and it indicates the mentality, the lifestyle and the way of humanizing the environment. The culture is  the distinctive sign of a society or of a group of people; that is why we speak of workers’ culture, culture of rural environments, of the youth, of the immigrants, of  ethnic groups, but also we speak of religious culture, Christian culture, or (making it more specific) of Vocationist culture. The knowledge of one’s culture  helps a lot in knowing oneself.

The culture, being a product of human creativity and not that of nature, is not subject to the law of instinct. It is not instinctive or innate, nor can it be transmitted biologically, but rather it is made up by habits and tendencies acquired by every individual through one’s experiences in life. This process of learning one’s culture, designated with the term enculturation or education, does not come into being without effort: no one acquires culture without exerting effort. While the gifts of nature are granted independently from personal intuition or efforts, the gifts of culture, cannot be acquired without any effort from the part of the one that receives them.

Man, generator and product of one’s culture

There is a circular cause and effect in the relationship between the culture and the individuals. Every man is a son of one’s culture, but at the same time, he is forged by the culture in which he was born and partly perpetuates and partly modifies his culture. Man, being a product of his culture, becomes also partially generator of his very culture. This process, in fact, continues infinitely with the passing of time.  

The relationship between the individual and the environment remains essential. Some particular events would not have been realized if the causes for their accomplishment did not exist in the culture of those that have taken part as protagonists. For example, if Aristotle would have been born among our ancestors in the Stone age, he would not have contributed to the development of philosophical science. This doesn’t mean that in every society there are no individuals who are particularly gifted, but that the happening of events, inventions and creative expressions is in relation to the cultural environment of the man, who gives life to these manifestations. Between the individual and the culture, there must be a continuous, reciprocal relationship of nurturing, growth and respect.  

In order to have positive fruits from the cultural dynamism, it is necessary that instead of trying to remove or eliminate the various cultural preconceptions and prejudices - which is almost impossible to do – they must rather be brought to light. Out of necessity, this process entails some changes. The anthropologist Klukhohn wrote: “The culture’s progress relies on the acceptability of the changes within human society… Indeed, like a man who has lost his memory is not anymore normal, so it is unconceivable the idea of a society that can free itself from its past culture”.

A religious who assimilated the culture of his religious family is a cultured (educated) religious in the measure in which he fulfils in himself the model of a man delineated by his specific religious-cultural context.


The culture is dynamic and dialogic

All living things are subject to changes. The cultures slowly tend to enrich themselves with new elements or ways of doing something, while liberating themselves from other elements through the organization and the content of other cultures with whom they come in contact. This is indeed more evident in our present context of multi-cultures, where the exchange among different cultures is not only frequent but also instant and abrupt. Every culture is in tension between what it was (the past) and what it will be (its future), always in search of a better level of humanity, always more complete.
 
Culture and language

Man, because of his linguistic process, is distinguished from the rests of the animals. Language has a primary function in man’s characterization, in the transformation of his being and in the evolution of man’s history, to the point of retaining that the language coincided with the hominization period.

Language is the vehicle through which the major part of the elements of culture are transmitted from one person to another, from one generation to another; it remains always the primary key in understanding culture, and the revelatory aspect par excellence of every culture. In fact, the language permits the transmission, the continuity and the growth or enrichment of a given culture. Without a language, there is no culture, there is no people. Moreover, the language transmits the people’s way of thinking, because every cultural system has its way of seeing things and persons and its way of dealing with them. He who speaks a particular language participates in the way of living represented by that language. In the measure that one learns to speak and understand a foreign language, he learns also to react to his surrounding circumstances with different criteria.  

Culture and tradition

Culture is completely acquired by man from other men, not only as children learning something from their parents; the culture is acquired through imitation, practice, learning…. This act of transmitting from one generation to the other constitutes the cultural baggage, which is commonly called tradition. The culture is the product of man’s ingenuity, of his interpretation of the past and his project for the future.

The signs of culture

Language is the primary and fundamental element of every culture, as far as it is the means in transmitting verbal or written communication, but it is not the only means. Among the most significant cultural phenomena, it is necessary to mention the symbolism. The symbol has a didactic function, conventional sign that transmits ideas and concepts, a function that is practically indispensable. To mention some examples, it is quite enough to think of the usage of symbols in the world of advertisement, or in politics. Even the religious structures have learned to use eloquent symbols to express invisible realities. Think of the impact of the sign of the cross, of the logo of a religious community, or the coat of arms of a particular bishop. It synthesizes not only the message that it wants to transmit but also the program that it intends to realize.

The phenomenon of art

The phenomenon of art presents itself as something variable and in function of the culture itself. Art is a cultural phenomenon of notable importance, inasmuch as it involves the individual and the collectivity, either as source of inspiration and depiction of values or as destination and finality of the act. In fact, the language of art is one of the human experiences that is better known and more largely diffused. Some artistic expressions have a significant influx on cultural values and enable us to understand its contemporary context.  

Music, for example, is a phenomenon that communicates; hence, it is associative because it stimulates and influences the listeners. There are many aspects related to social elements in music production and consumption: aspects of solidarity and cult in the areas of social and religious communication; aspects of free time, when music offers relaxation.


2. The Vocationist Culture

Vocationist culture is the totality of the customs, beliefs, attitudes, values, ideals and habits of the Society of Divine Vocations. The Vocationist culture begins, develops and operates on the fundamental theme of vocation. In our culture, all is vocation in life and life itself is vocation. One lives in order to respond to a vocation, and one lives a vocation in order to live life in its fullness! Our very spirituality is indeed a vocation; we are called to be image and likeness of God-Trinity, we are called to the spousal union with the Most Holy Trinity. Our fields of apostolate, the searching out and formation of vocations, the pastoral care of the parishes, the formation of the youth in various teaching areas, the evangelization of the people are real and proper vocations. Each one of us must seriously commit himself, as program of one’s life and activity, to making Fr. Justin’s vow as his own: “I will spend my life to search and cultivate vocations”.

“Man finds only his true fulfillment by discovering and following his calling… All life, every activity, every ministry, every life-choice is seen as vocation. Vocation is what we do out of dedication and love. A vocation comes from on high and invites us to disinterested service of our neighbor” (A Life for Vocations, p. 3).

The gratuity of every vocational formation or service is a characteristic note of our culture. That which we gratuitously received, gratuitously we give. Since the vocation is the reason of our existence, it follows that every area of our apostolate shall be transformed into a Vocationary, a seed-bed of vocations for the dioceses and for religious orders; our every activity must be a vocational service.

In order to complete our idea of vocation, we add our own vocation of Lovers of the Trinity, Missionaries of the Ascension and Servants of the Saints to the general vocations (to life, to faith and to sanctity) and to the particular vocations (to priesthood, to consecrated life, to married life and to service). Our specific vocation as Servants of the Saints merges together and harmonizes our charism, our goal and our spirituality.

The supreme relations of soul-daughter, soul-mother, soul spouse of the Trinity want necessarily  to be reflected in our fraternal relations, and give new meaning and value to our spirit of hospitality, of family, of sharing and of being a society. The three highest models of these three supreme relations, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, become also our models in our vocational, pastoral and missionary service.

Our ascetical journey towards the highest peaks of perfection becomes our perpetual ascension to the divine union with the three divine Persons for the universal sanctification. It is translated into practice by our entering into the divine plural of “Let us make man according to our image and likeness”, (the first and the most important divine word for us Vocationist), and in accepting the divine call “follow me”, (the second most important divine word for every Vocationist).

Our first Lenten Season is the one that goes from Easter Sunday to Ascension Thursday. We want to imitate in a very special way the lifestyle of Jesus during the forty days after his resurrection. Our program is to live in the world but not for the world, making only some apparitions in order to strengthen the faith of the apostles. The work which we want to do is that which Jesus does during this forty days, the direct formation of the apostles. We live in the world, but we look towards heaven. We detach ourselves always more from the world in order to ascend always more to the heaven (cfr. Ascension, 8-10).

Here is how Fr. Justin vocationalizes even our spirituality. The Holy Spirit “in his divine vocations, attract us through Jesus to the bosom of the Father; with his divine inspirations, he forms us like Jesus, sons of the Father; and with his divine consecrations, he espouses us in that kiss of love, which  he is, in the relation between the Father and the Son” (Opere VIII, p. 22).

Another relevant aspect of the Vocationist culture is its universality. It is not and it does not want to be a culture of the elite. It begins with the concept of servant, because “a son cannot be a son if not within a family. The servant and worker, instead, can render services to several families, and so in a certain way, being a part of each one of them, doing this office with his blood, with his spirit, with his life!” (Ibid. 25) We reach out to all organizations, to all religious orders, to all dioceses, and to all the souls, in order to embrace them all in our family. “We desire that all may enter into one of our spheres. Everyone can do it easily and usefully. We wish that many may serve God with us in our vocationaries and similar apostolates, either as workers or as teachers and priests; all, as true and real members of the Society of Divine Vocations” (Ibid. 29).


3. Sources of the Vocationist culture
  
The first and the maximum source of the Vocationist culture is Fr. Justin. He said that the Vocationist Congregation was born together with him; similarly, we can say the same of our Vocationist culture. As it is impossible to speak of Christianity without Christ, so it is impossible to speak of Vocationist culture without Fr. Justin. All that Fr. Justin had done, said, written and accomplished is part of our culture.

The writings of Fr. Justin, which we are still publishing in the opera omnia, are the revelation and expression of our apostolic-ascetical-mystical culture.

Some healthy traditions are also part of our culture, as for example, the liturgical processions, the visit to the baptismal font, the consecrations. Frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual communions, silence, gratuity of our vocationaries, spiritual direction of the holy inspirations, laboriousness, liturgical modesty are part of our culture.   


The pillars of the Vocationist culture: charism, goal and spirituality

The essential acts of love in the divine marital relationship are: the cohabitation with God-Trinity, the imitation of God, the immolation to God, the union with God, the inspiration from God, the apostolate for the kingship of God on earth, the fruition of possessing God’s love in the soul, his spouse and queen. All this is done with the individual divine persons of the Trinity in the divine unity (1R 249-251).

The constant quest for vocations is not restricted to priesthood and religious life, but it is  opened, in this universal prospective of love, to every vocation to life, to faith and to holiness according to the desire of Fr. Justin.

The Vocationist within the Church … embraces as its own particular mission, the searching out and formation of priestly and religious vocations, especially among the underprivileged, through its characteristic work, the Vocationary (Const., 5).

Divine union is a general vocation and a demand of God’s love for every creature. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three divine persons who live the circuminsession “ad intra” (a divine person dwelling in the other and for the other), created us to their image and likeness, and therefore, we are capable of living the circuminsession “ad extra”. The life of every divine person within us, and ours in God is just a pale image of the circuminsession “ad intra”. This relation of ours with God begins at the moment that we are created and elevated. We can justly say that as grace increases in us, so also the level and the intensity of our relationship with the divine persons increase (cfr. Facciamus Hominem 1, n. 1177-1217).

Our charism, our vocation to holiness and divine union, as our ultimate goal, are intimately related and are inseparable from one another. We cultivate vocations as necessary means for our sanctification and that of others; not an ordinary type of sanctity, but that of consummated union in the relationship of soul-spouse of the Trinity.

We must grow always more in grace, as both cause and effect of charity…by removing every impediment of whatever other form of love. We must accomplish the study of God, which we call pilgrimage of love because the soul goes from one thing to another, from one book to another, from a saint to another, from one mystery to another seeking the ray of God’s love. The pilgrim pauses by the saints, because they shine out with special charisms of charity and apostolate of charity (Fr. Justin, passim).

Charity in Fr. Justin’s thought is an ulterior dimension of offering and of service: a dimension that takes as its icon, the key figure of the servant of God in the Gospel, in which the servant serves his master exclusively out of love (cfr. Ascension, 308-331). All the fervor that inflames his heart, all the flames of love are directed not to console him, but to sanctify and beatify him of the true and intense service of love which he himself offers and for which he offers himself totally. It is indeed for this that charity becomes the first and the highest commandment, first and the highest practice lived in view of a major purification and perfection of sanctity (cfr. Opere VI, 41-43). This charity finds its most beautiful manifestation in our favorite prayers: the Offertory of the most precious blood of Jesus and the Consecrations.

The renowned vow of charity of Fr. Justin, inculcated to every Vocationist as an implicit vow in the very formula of vows: “I solemnly promise… love for your Holy Trinity”, commits  everyone of us to do and to suffer every thing even death, in order to do everything that pleases God the most (Spiritus Domini 1938, 7-15).

The Holy Church, the Holy Family and the Divine Trinity are the center and axis of the Society of the Divine Vocations. The Vocationist works in the Church, with the Church and for the Church. He imitates the Holy Family in the relationships of soul-child, soul-spouse, and soul-mother of God ( Const. 8), working as servant of the Saints, imitating Mary and Joseph (in fostering the growth of the child Jesus), and in the continuous ascension of charity and grace.

The work of the Holy Spirit, the universal sanctification, consists in forming the soul according on the model of Jesus, in order to make every soul another Jesus. This work is done gradually in proportion of our growth in his love, in his gift, in his spirit (Opere V, 51).

I must go from virtue to virtue, from happiness to happiness, from glory to glory, from ascension to ascension, in order to be united with your divine persons, o blessed Trinity,  whom I believe and adore…
O my divine Vocation! O my divine inspirations! May I never lose such a great calling, may I never renounce to such a paradise! O my God, I beg you, make of this tremendous possibility an impossibility! (Opere II, 234).

The invitation of our beloved founder is actual and urgent. It is the most honorable invitation to sanctity: to be saints and sanctifiers, preachers of the Divine Union, and cultivators of divine inspirations; to walk, assisted by the spiritual director, that helps us to understand the right way of spiritual direction, of discernment of spirits and of the interpretation and approval of the holy inspirations.

The Vocationist tends always more to unite himself with God in his thoughts, in his desires, in his mind, heart and will, in order to enter into the amalgamation of love of purification, and to reach the absolute interior and exterior purity (cfr. Facciamus Hominem, 243-252).

The theme of vocation coincides with the relationship of soul-spouse, which is reached through the journey of daily conversion. In all of this, the vocation becomes a proof of predilection and the consequent necessity of a generous affirmative and free response. Indeed, for our election as souls-spouse, it is necessary to have an increasing detachment from sensible realities, in order to aim to what is essential in uniting us with him. An eternal call is for the eternity. It enables us to correspond to God-Trinity, and makes us always more his possession, in attracting us to his divine mysteries.

O my God and my All, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, since it is a requirement of your glory, a demand of your love, and of your will, today, I want to become a saint (Opere II, 223).

The special attention to the divine inspirations is one of the key points of our spirituality; they must be always welcomed with eager docility and fidelity! Responding to these inspirations, we confirm indirectly our “Here I am” to the Most Holy Trinity, in the divine calling, in the reality of this religious family of ours. The daily acceptance of this proposal of love puts us in this special vocation and consecration of ours, in this journey towards holiness, to be saints and sanctifiers.  Holiness is realized in us and in those near to us only in the measure in which we live the fullness and the actuality of our charism, and thus, become fully integrated in our Congregation.

4. Expressions of the Vocationist culture

Culture, something that is always invisible, becomes visible and tangible through concrete expressions. Common expressions of a culture are: a flag, a symbol, a way of doing things, a way of greeting someone, a way of expressing joy, approval or disapproval, the way of dressing, the food to be eaten, the liquids to be drunk and the place where to drink them, the aggressive, passive attitudes or attitude of resignation and, naturally, those common and frequent words of a given culture or subculture. The expressions of the Vocationist culture are the following:

1. The Vocationist logo; it synthesizes marvelously the pillars of our culture: charism, goal, spirituality, and vocabularies. Precisely, because the logo is the most complete expression of our culture, it must be visible, always and everywhere, on us and in our houses, in our apostolate and in all of our printed and letter-headed papers.
2. The images, pictures, statues and videos of our founder, who, in his life and in his writings, embodies the Vocationist culture. Without Fr. Justin, the Vocationist culture would have not existed.
3. The Vocationist greeting: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. When Fr. Salvatore Boccuti was brought in emergency to a hospital of Rome, Sr. Luisa Gargione was asked to take charge of him; in order for her to identify the priest, she entered various wards saying in a loud voice “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”. Upon hearing this greeting, Fr. Boccuti rose up, sat on his bed and exclaimed: “If Fr. Justin is here, it means I am safe”. Our greeting helps us to identify ourselves; it helps us and others to remember our charisma and our spirituality in its supreme relations of love with God-Trinity as soul-child, soul-mother, soul-spouse. It is necessary to propagate always more our greeting, to repeat it and to exchange it with others as a real wish, a true and real prayer for the person or persons we greet.
4. The images or statues of Our Lady of Divine Vocations. How can it be possible to glance at or pray before an image of Our Lady of the Divine Vocations without identifying ourselves with our religious family and our vocationistality? Our Lady is the first to have received the divine calling. We should never separate the concept of vocation from the thought and action of Mary.
5. The map of the world or the globe is for us a book of prayer; we use it in our libraries, in the receiving rooms of our communities, in our chapels and churches. It reminds us of the universality of our vocation to holiness, and our duty to commit ourselves ever more in promoting universal sanctification.

5. Terms used in the Vocationist culture

In our Vocationist culture, all of life and its expressions is vocation. If this awareness permeates our every thought, prayer, project and apostolate, there follows a development and use of terminology that is strictly expressive of our culture. It is enough for example to listen to a Neo-Catecumenate  or to a Charismatic member speaking for about thirty seconds just for us to realize his membership to these movements, even without making it explicit. The tongue beats where the tooth suffers! We cannot keep ourselves from expressing what we are.

We must develop our specific vocabulary and use it generously. It is a fact that some of our words are not quite familiar to our listeners; but rather than treating them as obstacles, they must serve as an opportunity to use and teach them to others. Reading the weekly non profit magazine called Vita, dated December 22, 2006, at page 8, I read with great interest these two expressions: “It is now the appropriate moment to make sure the true vocation of the social collaboration be realized” and “…birthday must be celebrated in its cultural transformation”. Let us express boldly our culture using terms that are strictly vocationist. Fr. Justin did not hesitate to create new words and expressions  in order to convey our culture.

1. “Calling” and “called” must enrich and permeates our every expression. Everything is vocation, therefore, everything is calling! A Vocationist is not promoted, elevated, nominated, chosen, assigned or transferred to a particular task or service, but he is called.  The appropriate and frequent use of the verb “to call”, in its passive and active voice, shows not only our vocationistality, but also the fact that he who called us to offer a particular service is ultimately no other person than God. It is not by chance that the title of the last biography of Fr. Justin, written by Fr. Anella is called  “Chiamato per chiamare” (Called to Call)! Instead of saying: “I was made superior, parish priest …”, let us try to say: “I am called to serve as superior, parish priest etc…”. Instead of saying: “Fr. John has been transferred, sent, assigned to…”, let us say: “Fr. John is called to serve…”.
2. “Vocationary” is not only a religious institute of the Vocationist intended for vocation discernment and accompaniment; every Vocationist house must be called “Vocationary”, the place where our vocation to faith, holiness, consecrated life and to priesthood is appreciated, cultivated and realized.  Instead of troubling ourselves in  creating new terms to indicate our religious houses, such as: Parish house, rectory, convent, monastery, minor seminary, house of student, house of formation, institute etc…let us rather remember and teach others the usage and reality of “Vocationary”.
3. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is our greeting. They are part of our family, models of our supreme relations with God-Trinity, the inspirators of our vocation ministry. We want to use and vulgarize this in our every greetings, repeating these holy names; with their images, we desire to decorate our churches, chapels and community halls of our communities; we want to invoke their names in our every necessity and in every happy and sad moments of our life.
4. The word “Vocationist” is also a term strictly Justinian; it means expert, specialist of vocation. In the scholastic philosophy, we learned that   denominatio fit a potiori (i.e., the denomination is deduced from the principal part); therefore, our name indicates the most essential part of our existence (Why is it so hard for us to add our initial “S.D.V.” to our name?).
5. Vocationated (called) is not only the tenth period of our Vocationist formation, but also the specific period dedicated to an immediate service in our Vocationary in its literal sense. I guess it was our Brazilian confreres who have coined and popularized the term “vocacionado” and “Vocacionados” to mean our aspirants in the Vocationary as the “called ones”.

In the Philippines, following the common usage, philosophy students, independently from being a candidate, aspirant, disciple or postulant, are called indiscriminately as collegians. Suddenly, one of them began doing a campaign to use another term to replace the word collegians, because it is rather worldly. One of them coined and introduced the word “Vocationarian”, reasoning out that as seminarian is formed from the word seminary, so also the word Vocationarian can be formed from the word Vocationary. For this, our students in the Philippines certainly deserve our applauses for their creativity.

6. Vocationistality is a new term which expresses the particular characteristics and culture of the Vocationists. Every living language continuously enriches itself with new words; it is not erroneous nor grammatically incorrect to create new terms.
7. The terms consecration, consecrated and to consecrate are integral part of the Vocationist vocabulary. They entail election on the part of God and the response from our part wanting to belong always more to the Lord. The pathway of consecrations facilitates our ascend towards the divine union.
8. Relation (or relationship) is a fundamental word of the Vocationist spirituality. For us “religion” is a relation with God and with our neighbors. God himself is a relation of love; every divine Person is a relation of love! Our relationship with God is a relation of “creature of God, little levite, valiant soldier, affectionate companion, chosen disciple, personal servant, confidant of one’s heart, ideal friend, personal lover, soul-child, soul-mother, soul-spouse”.

In our elevations, consecrations and prayers, the most common and expressive designators of our spiritual relation are always present: O my God and my all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!


9. Divine Union is our ultimate goal, the goal of every other goal, the very ultimate reason of our existence. We use this word in lieu of holiness, sanctity or salvation, which consists and is actualized properly in divine union. We promote universal sanctification leading all souls to divine union.

10.  Spouse, espouse, spouse of the Trinity and desponsionate are words used by Fr. Justin and by us to express to supreme relation of love with the blessed Trinity. We are not simply aiming at holiness or union with God, but to an espousal relationship with the three divine persons!

11. Universal Sanctification is another essential word in our vocabulary. It expresses not only the ultimate goal of every apostolate, but also our positive attitude, our optimism that leads us not to despair when dealing with the conversion and sanctification of the souls. We see in every soul, even the most unrepentant sinner, a possible saint. No crime or sin can deprive a soul of its esteem and lovability.  

12. Purification, illumination, union are the three words that describe our method of meditation, of our examination of conscience and our meditated spiritual reading. These are also found in our logo in connection with the suffering, militant and triumphant Church respectively.

13. To vocationalize means to see, to evaluate, to consider everything as a vocation, a calling, a mission that comes from God.

14. Ascension is not only that action of Jesus at the end of his earthly mission in which he returns to the Father; it is not only related to the title of the directory of our spiritual life! It is the program of our life projected as journey to the Father, heading always forward and upward! “Ascensionary” is also another beautiful word. Every Christian, religious or parochial community must become “a big ascensionary of souls in progressive fervor of service and of supernatural life” (Opere VIII, 213).

15. Esteem is a characteristic component of our educational system; it is an indispensable prerequisite to love and to be loved. Our esteem springs from the intrinsic dignity of human being, image and likeness of God, always able to experience conversion and to strive for sanctification. The esteem, which becomes a transforming source of energy for the esteemed person, generates and nurtures optimism in the person who esteems and in person esteemed (cfr. Asc., 542-543, 548 and 902).

These and other similar words express our culture, our values and our key points of view in understanding everything. There is no conversation, subject, interest, event or person that cannot be expressed using these terms, and nurturing the sentiments and attitudes expressed by them.


6. How to communicate and live the Vocationist culture

The culture is such only inasmuch as it “informs” (that forms from within) and modifies the life of an individual. A culture that does not touch the life of an individual is not alive and real for that individual, and hence it remains groping in its emptiness with an evident social-psychical unbalance.   

Living one’s culture is essential in order to live coherently one’s identity. If I insist in defining myself as Vocationist without incarnating in me its culture, I create a personal identity crisis, deriving from the lack of self-acceptance. This may lead a person to frustration, caused by the ignorance of one’s vocation and mission in life and in the society, rendering impossible a balanced relationship with others; it may also lead to schizophrenia or to double-personality. The crisis of family and community cohabitation, the way of living aloof expressed by aggressiveness, violence and alcoholism, drug and sex addictions are often the results of a personal identity crises, derived from incoherent relation between one’s life and one’s culture.

The lack of personal identity affects also religious people, who, either out of prejudice, personal stubbornness or out of negligence, are not living their consecration. These are misplaced
religious who do not consider anymore their consecration as free gift of God, freely and joyfully accepted, but as external imposition from the part of the Congregation, the superiors and the Constitutions.

Every Vocationist must incarnate his proper culture in such a way that he who does not know the Vocationists may have a good picture of them simply by observing one of us. This awareness and determination of wanting and having to incarnate the Vocationist culture is an effective stimulus to assimilate it always more intimately and enriching it with further development of its charism, spirituality and goal.

Ways of propagating the Vocationist culture

A culture, that is kept hidden, cannot be a transforming force. The culture inasmuch as a common good must be propagated, explained and lived. The first diffusive means of the Vocationist culture is and must be the Vocationist himself. The joyful witnessing of one’s life, the living example of a culture in action fascinates and attracts more that any other means. Henceforth, the Vocationist must commit himself to the daily conversion to the Gospel in order to be saint and sanctifier. In order to be an effective diffuser of his culture, the Vocationist must live in peaceful and joyful service to all vocations, in perfect accordance and harmony with God and with one’s neighbors, listening to the divine inspirations, always immersed in the blessed Trinity, always looking up high towards the espousal union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Another way of spreading the Vocationist culture is the propagation on the knowledge of Fr. Justin through film and books in various languages: A Life for Vocations propagates also the Vocationist culture and spirit in a concrete and incisive way.

The publication of the writings of Fr. Justin puts at our disposition the rich material that contains, expresses and develops the Vocationist culture in the person to whom it has been inspired, and gave form and substance to it. Everyone of us must have these books in his personal library and must also promote their diffusion and study to all classes and levels of persons.

The means of social communication, precious instruments for the propagation of any messages, must be explored and utilized for the evangelization of the vocationistality of life, the charism, goal and spirituality of our founder, Fr. Justin. Some timid steps are now being made on internet with  various web pages for the benefit of potential candidates or fans; very rarely we sent articles to Osservatore Romano, Avvenire, Repubblica  and other newspapers. Our very Spiritus Domini which is brought forward with effort and sacrifices, even economically, is not indifferent even though it does not always excel in presenting the Vocationist culture; it is not sufficiently appreciated and adequately propagated by our religious, even though it could be done very easily. Something has been done, but much more remains to be done in order to make known, appreciated and lived the Vocationist culture though mass media.


Conclusion

I am convinced that our vocation, our charism, our ultimate goal and our spirituality are certainly elements of highest value. The Vocationist culture is my environment, my habitat; outside of it, I don’t feel comfortable!

Receive the Vocationist culture as testamentary gift given personally by Fr. Justin to you. This little creature that is still in its infant stage needs air and light. Let it come out from its own shell; help it live in the sunlight! It is still a child, and is entrusted into your care.

Commit yourself to propagate the Vocationist culture. You can be the most effective means in spreading our culture. In this, we can indeed apply the principle of St. Francis of Assisi: “It is in giving that we receive”! The better way to understand, assimilate and live our culture is the effort to make it known to others.

To focus on our culture will help us to free ourselves from all ties, dependence, distractions or deviations that render our life less holy, less beautiful and less  happy.

Let us enter with Jesus in this desert of our charism, of our goal and of our spirituality and we will be able to succeed being fortified, consoled and transformed, while the angels of the Lord will celebrate with us and for us.

Have a holy Lenten Season! United in prayer, I greet, embrace and bless you.

   
  

        Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V.

P.S.

1. Save complications, the following confreres may be admitted to perpetual vows and/or to diaconate this year: Celso Acuña, Jonathan Ibeawuchi, Biju Chittuparamban, Ebere Magnus, Blessing Iwunyanwu, Denniskingsley Nwagwu, Moses Nwokocha, Alejandro Paz, Luis Miguel Castrillon, Javier Flores, Foti Rodrigo, Paul Hidalgo, Firmino Kim Maung Htwe, Joe Realista, Calexto Peligrino. Anyone who may have information which could hinder their admission is kindly asked to send it in writing to the Secretary General as soon as possible.
2. The Indians confreres: Shiju Chittattukara, Satheesh Kanjiraparampil, Thomas Naduviledathu, Jerance Thanickal have been admitted to diaconate, which will be conferred to them next month.
3. Our confrere, Salvatore Balestrieri has been admitted to diaconate; he will be ordained in our parish of St. Gabriel, in Rome, on March 17, 2007.
4. On March 25, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the Holy Mass in our parish, Santa Felicita e Figli Martiri, Fidene, Rome.
5. The confreres: Fr. Alfonso Limone, S.D.V., Fr. Giuseppe Fasano, S.D.V. and Fr. Ernesto D’Alessio, S.D.V. were nominated Councilors of Valleverde Foundation, Bovino.
6. The General Council has approved the opening of a religious community in Maasin, South Leyte, Philippines; the Novitiate of Davao will be transferred to this new house effectively on May 11, 2007.
7. The General Council has approved the opening of a religious community in Indonesia where are already our confreres Fr. Rosario Taliano, Fr. James Butts and 11 candidates.
8. The General Council has approved (and consequently I have promulgated) the Norms of Prudence and Proceedings. This document should be an eye-opener for all; it is a way of increasing our consciousness about the gravity and the consequence of certain acts.
9. Our young confreres Diego Robert, Carlos Roberto M. Pardo, Jorge  Andres Acevedo, Salvador Ruben Grillo, Marco Antonio Cordero have been admitted to the Novitiate; Emiliano N. Piràn Vargas, Nardo Caledonio Ardiles, Gustavo Daniel Ramirez have been admitted to the first Profession of vows; and, Carlos A. Vega, Ricardo Limonao Cares, Gustavo Ramos, Fabricio  Rodriguez, to the renewal of vows.
10. After my return from Brazil and Argentina, this February 26, at 10:00 o’clock in Altavilla, I will be pleased to encounter all the treasurers of the Italian communities. The participation to this encounter is mandatory to all.
11. We are now considering seriously the possibility of renting out the management or of selling the house of Siculiana Marina; if anyone has any good suggestion on this regard is kindly asked to communicate it to me in writing.
12.  We have bought a small house and a piece of land in Thalassery, Kerala, India, to open there a vocationary for those who undergo the preparatory year; it is in the Latin rite diocese of Cannur.
13. In the State of Goa, India, we accepted the donation of a small house and a piece of land of about 4000 sq. m., gift of Dr. Joseph Nazaret and his wife Marlyn, friends of the Vocationist Fathers in USA.
14. Within these days, the eighth volume of the Opera Omnia will be released: Spirito e Vita (Spirit and Life). Anyone who is interested to have copy/copies of it, may request from the General Secretary.
15. In order to implore pardon and divine providence, I ask all religious that every Friday of Lent, be a day of fasting and reparation.
16. Let us all remember that the total Oblation of ourselves to the Lord shall be done on Holy Friday; it shall be sealed with the kissing and adoration of the cross.
17. Anyone who has not made arrangements for the annual spiritual exercises should do so as soon as possible. Overlapping of schedules at the last course should be avoided. Remember that the next course is fast approaching (Guarcino, March 5-10, 2007).
18. I am really happy to see a greater participation in our regional/zonal meetings; the same is true with our various commissions who are working with seriousness and dedication. I really hope to have a hundred percent participation. It’s possible!

 
St. Michael's Church Newark NJ
St. Nicholas Church Newark NJ
St. Gerard Majella Church Paterson NJ
Our Lady of Solace Shrine Church Brooklyn NY
Parish of the Visitation New Brunswick NJ
St. Cecelia Church Iselin NJ
Mater Dei Parish Newport VT
Our Lady of Seven Dolors Church New Heaven VT
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