Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Orphans and the Pious House of the Annunciation

from: "Acts and Processes of the Sanctity and of the Miracles of the Venerable Jerome Emiliani", Somascan Fathers, edited by Fr.Remo Zanatta, Houston, TX 2015. P.98-100.

The institution of the orphans girls, also founded by Miani, was near the converted. The church was dedicated to the Announciation.
The first witness to be interrogated was Barbara Zanchi, daughter of Vincenzo and Elisabetta, she was from Redona. She was 45 and was accepted in the pious house at 7. She was in charge of the hand-looms.
Domenica Gavazzi of Bergamo was 42 and entered the Annunciation at 10. Her father was Giovan Battista, the mother Isabetta. She was in charge of the food and sewing teacher.
Anna Gabinali, or Gabuziali, of Bartolomeo and Maddalena. She was from Bergamo. She entered at 7. She was 39. Her duty was to keep in order the cloth.
These three witnesses were called to depose again in the apostolic process respectively on the 7th, 17th, and 18th of February, 1625. The second deposition is, in general, more abundant in news and details not only about Miani but the life itself of the orphans and institution. In the apostolic process other three orphans were interrogated who had received healing attributed to the intercession of St. Jerome: Giovanna Adobati, of Cristofoto and Antonia, born in Venice, 56, who used to help the teachers. Brigida Pellegrini of Celanella, daughter of Giobbe and Lucrezia, 47, in charge of the garden and of medicating. Maddalena Barili, 30, born in Bergamo in Borgo San Leonado, daughter of Rocco and Maddalena, who used to work at the hand-looms.
Also these depositions are rather generic. The old ladies had repeatedly narrated the facts of Miani’s life, but the young did not always put “enough fantasy”. In the recalling there remained especially the extraordinary facts, as the one of the bread. There are then the usual testimonies of general character: he was a men of holiness and bounty of life; in vile dress he used to do good and holy deeds, to bring back to good life the dissolute persons and build pious institutions.
In the apostolic process are not missing more particular news; he used to come often to the house of the orphan girls, which then was in the quarter of Pozzo Biano, to review “the actions”; among his friends there was a priest from Vicenza, a certain Angelo della Cera, a father Gelmo; he used to eat only bread and the worse giving the good one to the poor; he used to wear a black short cassock, a big leather pair of shoes and on the head hair “which were not beautiful”; for mortification he was wearing a low, small round cap called “bretignolo”; he was a strong, animated man; he had taught one of the mothers how to medicate especially the ring worm: before dying he wanted to wash the feet to all orphans one of whom, while dying, saw the luminous throne which would have received his father Jerome, he used to wear cloth he carried the cilice, he was sleeping on the bare ground.
Among the old ladies of the institution of the orphan girls the recalls are especially regarding sister Buona and sister Scolastica.
Sister Buona was born between 1515 and 1520. She died in 1593 about 80 year old. She had known Miani and many times talked to him. She had been a mother of the pious institution, “a completely spiritual woman, a good and exemplar life who was making many prayers.”
Scolastica died in 1610 about 90 years old, Father Vincenco Gambarana had entrusted to her the direction of the orphan girls; she kept that duty for many years. “She was a spiritual woman of very great devotion and attending with diligence to the government of the institution; she left a very good memory of her deeds and in the institution she is thought of holy life; she was making very many prayers”.
These two women among the first orphans gathered by Miani, besides preserving the memory with their word and testimony with their life, the bounty of their master, alimented in the hearts of the youngest a true devotion toward the founder.

The depositions give to the processes testify to that as well as the narration of the graces attributed to the intercession of St. Jerome; the sacks of bread deposited at the door while the whole community turns to him in prayer, or the basket of “fresh, white, beautiful” bread and great cheese in it, or the bag of money in a moment of need such as to induce mother Scolastica to pawn the chalice, and then the healings of Giovanna Adobati, Brigida Pellegrini and Maddalena Barili.

Somascan Fathers

Historical Notes about the General Archive

Historical Notes about the General Archive

The General Archive was located in Pavia, St. Maiolo Community, from 1569 until 1810, which was where Father General used to reside. In 1810 the Congregation experienced the tragic event of the Napoleonic suppression. Knowing that government was coming to take possession of everything that belonged to our Congregation, our fathers living in Pavia quickly tried to save all they could: documents, books and manuscripts were thrown into bags and brought to some friends who were in the same city of Pavia.
Some years later, Father Quarti recovered those bags and brought everything to Somasca, to Father Maranese, who had remained in Somasca as pastor of the parish.
In 1823, the Somascan Congregation arose out of the Napoleonic suppression, and in 1829 the first General Chapter was held in Genova, at the Church of Maddalena. In  that particular chapter our fathers also discussed where to place the General Archive. Three options were proposed: the first one was Como, “Gallio College”, the second was Somasca, at the “Mother House”, and the third option was Genova, “Maddalena”. Unanimously,  Maddalena was chosen because Genova was a quieter region in Italy at that time, compared with Milan and all over Lombardia in general.
Therefore, from Somasca all that remained from the Original General Archive was sent to Genova, at the “Maddalena Community”. Only the Letters of Saint Jerome Emiliani were kept in Somasca.
In the following years, the local superior of the “Maddalena” used to take care of the General Archive. For the most part the Archive was kept in a small room, sometimes not cared for very well.
In 1910, Father Stoppiglia (local superior of the “Maddalena”) requested permission (and it was granted) from the Father General to put the Archive in order. The Father General at that time was Father Pietro Pacifici, who later became Bishop of Spoleto.
Father Stoppiglia not only put  the General Archive in order, but he also published documents, searched for lost manuscripts, and edited different books. When Father Stoppiglia died in 1835, his assistant Father Marco Tentorio  passionately and strenuously continued this delicate and important task of taking care of the General Archive.
In 1946, father Marco Tentorio was named General Archivist by Father Giuseppe Brusa,  Father General of the Congregation. Father Tentorio began to travel all over Italy, visiting many communities, libraries, museums, and private collections, trying to organize the General Archives, which little by little grew in size so much that the current location was not enough anymore.
In 1973, Father Fava, Father General, approved the new expansion of the General Archive. From a small room, including hallways and a few “piles of documents placed in some corners,” the General Archive was moved to a different floor of the “Maddalena”, spacious and more organized.
After the death of Father Marto Tentorio, the Archive was entrusted to the local superior (Father Beccaria, 1993-2005).
On October 2005, the new General Archivist was nominated, Father Maurizio Brioli.
A decision was made to move the General Archive to Rome, in the General House, where it is currently located; the process was completed in 2008.

Some bibliographical references for the General Archive:
1.         1910 - 1935: Father Stoppiglia was in charge of the Archive. The reference is AMG (Archivio Maddalena Genova)
2.         1935 - 1973: Father Marco Tentorio was the General Archivist. The reference continued to be AMG. From 1973, a new reference is used: ASPSG (Archivio Storico Padri Somaschi Genova)
3.         2005 - today: Father Maurizio Brioli introduces a new and modern reference: AGCRS (Archivio Generalazio Chierici Regolari Somaschi). This is done in order to follow the system that all the General Archives are using (AG = Archivio Generale + our Congregation official reference = CRS)

Brief History of the Somascan Order



The Somascan Order is part of the religious movement that developed in the midst of the Christian renewal in the sixteenth century. Founded in 1532, it is second in the chronological series of the Orders of the Clerics Regular. In 1525 at Rome St. Cajetan Thiene started the Theatines; in 1532 St. Jerome Emiliani founded the Somascans in Venice. They are followed by the Barnabites of St. Anthony Maria Zaccaria in Milan, and by the Jesuits of St. Ignatius at the chapel of St. Denis, Montmartre, in 1534.
The times with their changed social and cultural conditions, called for variety of activities; they required active spreaders of the faith, who would indeed come from organized bodies, but who would mix with the world and deal with the world. Hence a double aspect of these Orders of the Clerics Regular. Their members were true religious, who took the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their poverty was even more absolute than that of the Franciscans: they lived in common and austerity. They all wore the black cassock of the secular priests. They all engaged in the same kind of outside work and apostolate. While first attending to the material needs of the sick, the poor, the illiterate, they found a way to their soul and raised them up towards God. Finally, they realized that the pope and the ecclesiastical authority could effect a thorough reformation and, therefore, they made themselves the direct helpers of the Holy See and the Bishops upon whom they immediately depended.
All the religious orders born in the sixteenth century are influenced by the Oratory of the Divine Love. At that time pious and religious confraternities were founded in several parts of Italy. One of them appeared in Rome in 1515, which was called the Oratory of the Divine Love. The attention of its members was turned toward the inner renewal of the religious life. The best way of spreading the religious renewal was to reform themselves through pious exercises, prayer, through the reception of the sacraments and the performance of works of charity. Humble and modest, they merely wished to set a good example. Several Christian humanists belonged to the Oratory. Their association was morally, socially and intellec­tually distinguished. It was soon joined by two men who were both to influence deeply the future of the Church: St. Cajetan Thiene and Cardinal GianPietro Carafa (later, Pope Paul IV), the spiritual director of St. Jerome Emiliani.

THE FIRST SOMASCAN CHAPTER in 1533: the Chapter of the mats of straw.

It is the heart of the summer 1533. Around Merone the harvest is almost finished. The moon rises on the sleeping countryside. A few men walk noiselessly along the deserted field. They look like conspirators. They suddenly stop and sit on clusters of millet that are scattered on the ground. These men are going to hold a council, like on the eve of a battle, trace a plan, and regulate a battle.
At the same hour in the world a conspiracy is being plotted, inspired by ambition and cupidity. But these evening walkers are the companions of the Divine Love, the friends of the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit guides them.
It is a long time since Jerome heard the call for help. And long, since did he answer. But now he is asked for more. Two questions must find answer this night: What more should he do for the love of God? What more should he do for his neighbor?
Men of different talents united in Merone to associate themselves with the servant of God in the help of their neighbor. There are priests and lay people. Jerome, who always judged himself unworthy of receiving the Holy Orders, consults the first ones with a profound respect. Altogether they plan land­marks, establish a program; little by little a conclusion is reached. What a clear and inspiring evening! The condottiere calls for a council the members of his flock, and forms a regular militia glorious through the centuries in Christ's army. Seated on straw and scornful of the ancient emblems of the dynasty of the Emiliani, Jerome founds a new family and takes a new coat of arm: Christ carrying the cross, and a motto: 'My Burden is Light', and the title: 'The Compagnia of the Servants of the Poor.'


The good grain will abound. Now there must be a cradle, which will be the mother-house, the novitiate, the residence of the disciples of St. Jerome. Nevertheless, Jerome is far from thinking that he has founded a religious order. He thinks of a small institution, a fraternity, a company like that of the Divine Love.
Later on, accompanied by a few children, Jerome crosses the St. Martin Valley. Some small villages bordered by ponds, surrounded by mountains, attract him. Splendid scenery! But at Vercurago where his friends offer him the hospitality he does not stay. The spot is not deserted and silent enough, while the neighboring village seems favorable to peaceful contemplation.
No one can move heaven and earth without kindling the hatred of Satan. Jerome is struck by the malevolence of a wealthy man: "Out of here, starving beggar! No tramp in my territory!" Jerome does go away in search of another house. In the gentle light of autumn here is a village on the edge of a lake, protected by a mountain, Somasca. Suddenly Jerome stops. Without difficulty he obtains from the Ondei family a house. It is not a resting place, but a point of departure. The converted soldier of New­
Castle has found his headquarters. Near him, men are going to realize their vocation and work for the glory of God.


The second assembly was held in Somasca. The moment had come to give the institute stable regulations inspired by the statutes of the Divine Love, by the Benedictine ideal expressed in the motto: Ora et Labora.
In the house of the Ondei convened men of different social classes, priests and lay people, dressed humbly. The name of 'The Compagnia of the Servants of the Poor' was definitely adopted and many decrees were approved by the assembly. The administration of the institutions would be assigned to some honest and capable laymen; thus the religious members would be free for their spiritual apostolates. As for poverty, they agreed unanimously to refuse anything that could constitute an assured income, the religious becoming firm in the desire to live with the unique trust in the Divine Providence. For the same reason, the servants of God sould never accept family inheritance of those who would become members of the community. They engaged themselves to live by daily alms. They would receive the Holy Orders, recite together the divine office, would preach the gospel and hear confessions.
The great concern of Jerome was always the renewal of the Church for which he composed a prayer that the children said daily: "Dear Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask of your infinite mercy to return the Christians to the state of sanctity that showed forth at the time of the Apostles."


By the Bulla of June 6, 1540 Pope Paul III approved the newly-born Institute and gave faculty to elect superiors, to call for a general chapter, to issue the constitutions.
In 1565 a prelate of twenty-seven years of age, Charles Borromeo, made a solemn entry to Milan. He entrusted the Somascans the direction of St. Maiolus College in Pavia. A few months later, the young Arch­bishop of Milan made an official visit to the tomb of the Father of the Poor, opened the coffin and incensed the relics. It was the first ecclesiastical approval of the sainthood of Jerome Emiliani.
In December 6, 1568 the Society was officially named "The Order of the Clerics Regular of Somasca" by Pope Pius V, once Jerome's friend in Pavia.
In the region of Lombardy as well in Venetia the example of Jerome Emiliani continued to stir enthusiasm. However, it is only in 1747, under the pontificate of a Somascan alumnus, Pope Benedict XIV, that the ceremony of the beatification took place in the Vatican Basilica. Twenty years later, the 16th of July 1767, Clement XlII proclaimed saint Jerome Emiliani.
The 24th of May 1921 by a decree of the Congregation of the Rites, Pope Benedict XV granted
the Somascan Order the privilege of venerating the Blessed Mother under the name of “Maria, Mater Orphanorum”, “Mary, Mother of the Orphans”.
1928 Pope Pius XI proclaimed solemnly St. Jerome Emiliani "Father of the Orphans and Univesal Patron Saint of Needy Youth".
Through calamities and difficulties of any kind that have developed during the four centuries of history the Somascan Order has never ceased its apostolate for the needy youth. St. Jerome has now on earth those numerous hands and arms of which he has dreamed. His disciples have founded seminaries, houses of education, colleges, professional schools, workshops in Italy, in Switzerland, in Spain, in Central America, in Mexico, in Colombia, in Brazil, and in the United States of America. In Belgium exists a branch of the Somascan Order since the Hieronymieten dedicate themselves to teaching and to the care of the sick under the patronage of St. Jerome Emiliani. They are established in the Oriental Flanders, at St. Nicholas-Waas, Gand, Beveren-Waas, Lokeren, Maldegem, Sleidinge, Stekene. These religious members address to the Founder of the Congregation of the Servants of the Poor this beautiful prayer: "Your hands were instruments of prayer and charity. Teach us to pray and love in spirit and truth”.

Provident Father

Provident Father,
You call the young adults by name from different families, cultures, and pasts - each of us unique and made in your image, blessed and challenged with the different gifts given to us by you.
You call us to be one.
You call us to be perfect.
You call us to be merciful.
You call us to be holy. 

You call us to be your adopted children. Lord, grant that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Orphans, under whose mantle we find protection , we remember that you said you will not leave us as orphans,  but will be with us always . As ones who dare  to call you Father, light our hearts on fire so that we may choose to say "yes" to your love with our entire being and in turn share ourselves with your other children - our brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering.
Grant that we remain united with those who have come before us and those who will follow in our footsteps, to proclaim your message of love in the name of your Crucified Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Family continues to increase
In April, we were talking about a large number of new children entering our “Lar” after the initial “wave” of children the odd one still kept coming. The last one just came on May 31st, which was the Feast the Most Holy Trinity, and he is the third brother of two boys who had arrived the month before and who live in Lar. The next day, June 1st, we celebrated the International Day of Children, there are now three groups of three brothers who live here.
Fedinho y Samito
Some minutes after his arrival
When it seemed things had stabilized in terms of the number of children, a new child arrived unannounced on September 30. The helpless situation in which he was found led police to bring him to our center, no more documents that a letter explaining briefly the reasons for his admission   and with nothing but a bag of cookies and the clothes he wore, probably given, partly, if not all,  by the same  family services of the  Police. We welcome and hope he feels at home, while waiting for clarification of his family situation and see if there is a better option.
On Sunday, September 27th, we celebrated our patron, the Virgin Mary with the title of Mother of Orphans, we got a surprise: The dairy cow has given birth after months and months of waiting and hearing that she was pregnant or as they say here, “cheia” (full), and we had begun to doubt that she was full.
It is not the “son of the Moon” as the song of the now extinct Spanish band Mecano, but a son of “Cometa” (LUA- Moon in Portuguese) was the name given to the other dairy cow.
The cow
The cow “Cometa” with it´s calf “Treviso”
The name of the calf is Treviso, a name of an Italian city where our patron, St. Jerome Emiliani on the same day, (the 27th) but 504 years before, left a sign of his gratitude before an image of the Virgin for having escaped from castle where he was imprisoned.
That same Sunday, coinciding with our patron, there was also a great celebration in the parish, as 16 children received Baptism, together with another one, who made his First Communion. Congratulations to all and to those who prepared them. Thanks also to all those who helped make it was such a festive, participatory and organized ceremony.
The Sunday before, the celebrations were no less, as we celebrated  St. Peter Claver,
Solemn Mass of St. Peter Claver
Solemn Mass of St. Peter Claver
patron of the  parish, a Spanish Jesuit who in 1610, while still a novice, went Colombia where he wanted to be “always the servant of the black people” (aethiopum semper servus). We had a visit from the new pastor, who had recently taken possession of this parish and another, where he lives. We had solemn Mass celebration, food, and performances, including dance, in which the new pastor participated with art.
It would seem that celebrations also stimulate the cattle, for the night of October 4 saw the birth, by Moon light, of Paz (peace), the new calf of  “Deolinda”.
Mother and daughter
Mother and daughter
The name was chosen to commemorate the Peace Treaties signed in Rome that same day in 1992, which led to the end of the civil war in Mozambique. A date that is still celebrated throughout the whole country.
Football training with coach
Another new feature of recent months is the “football school” which, although without official recognition, is being carried out in our Center, for both boys of Lar as well as youth from around the area, helped by some of the older kids in the Lar. All are welcome to participate The training sessions are  all loaded with a good amount of physical exercise: jumping, running, sit-ups … that ends with what everyone likes the “big jogo”(big game) football match, with several rounds, as the number of students cannot be accommodated  in just  two teams.
Apoyo escolar de portugués
Tutoring the Portuguese language
Along with the work of sport, there is also an increase in individual work. Seeing the approaching end of the course, and the need to prepare well for the end of cycle exams, a new group has created for all those who, in addition to personal study and educational support during the day, want “something more”. Envisaged mainly for strengthening the core subjects: mathematics, Portuguese … are offered. It is a great success, and done at a time when they were normally resting or glued to the television. Also Congratulations to our new university student, Waite and our seminarian Abel. Win in the fight against the power of the television is not easy, but you are getting there day by day.
Waite and Abel tutoring a class
Waite and Abel tutoring a class

Monday, October 5, 2015

Somascan missions in Nigeria

For five centuries the Somascan Fathers and Brothers have carried out throughout the world Saint Jerome Emiliani’s legacy, “work, devotion, and charity are the Foundation of our activity”.

The Somascan Fathers or “The Company of the Servants of the Poor" was founded in 1534 when Jerome Emiliani called together his collaborators and companions for a general assembly. This handful of laymen and priests adopted an organized structure for the movement of religious and social reform started by Jerome in 1529 in Venice. Their goal was to dedicate themselves to the care, assistance, promotion of poor, orphans, abandoned youth.

The Somascan Fathers and Brothers continue St. Jerome's mission by: living in communities pursuing holiness by prayer and ministry to the poor living in humility and kindness loving poverty and work praying to the Crucified Jesus and Mary Mother of the Orphans being either priests or brothers. Performing different ministries in the Church, such as: care of orphans, disadvantaged and poor treatment of at-risk-youth rehabilitation of drug addicts education pastoral care and spiritual guidance pastoral care of minorities foreign missions youth formation. Working in: group homes treatment and rehabilitation centers retreat houses schools youth centers parishes.

1. Giovanni Ferro Children Village: It is a village for children where our fathers, with local families and volunteers welcome street children who are abandoned and who have nothing. We are building a vocational school, where children can learn a job.
2. Parish with an Elementary School (grade 1 to 6th)
3. Center of Promotion of the Women (young girls are at risk for human traffic to Europe, the prostitution mafia is very active in that south region); we offer a place, support, and job opportunities, teaching trades, skills (bakery, tailoring, along with some basic accounting)
4. Education, formation of young seminarians to become a priest. We have a house of formation where young men can discern their own vocation to the priesthood and religious life.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Evangelical Counsels Hidden in the Our Father

The Evangelical Counsels Hidden in the Our Father

Freedom is the ability to live out the words of Christ in His prayer commonly known as “The Our Father”. It is in the Our Father that our earthly passage to complete eternal freedom is outlined.  I honestly believe that the only way to be completely free is the purposeful embracing of the evangelical counsels hidden within Christ’ prayer. The evangelical counsels are: 1. Poverty 2. Chastity 3. Obedience (obedience means “to listen”).

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (I love God and He is my all.) “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. (In heaven there is no marriage as we know it on earth. In heaven we are like the angels Matt. 22:30 this is the evangelical council: Chastity.) “Give us this day our daily bread” (evangelical counsel: “Poverty” that is acknowledging that I am fed by the hand of God daily. My air, my water, my rest, all are gifts from the Father enough for this moment, enough for today. Also, the Eucharist, the bread of life, is the resurrected food which sustains and nourishes the resurrected life, the eternal life, within us John 6:53.)  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (This speaks of the evangelical council: “obedience”. In “obedience” I “listen” to Christ within myself and Christ within all, even those who persecute me, I listen for any semblance and/or resemblance to the spark of life within all known as Christ. It is in listening that I preserve the source of this life with great care, carefully guarding the harmonious unity first known in the beginning of all creation as the “Holy Trinity”. ‘I (Christ) was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be’ (Proverbs 8:23). And, ‘In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ John 1:1). And “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (i.e. ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’ 1 Tim 6:10 is further encouragement for embracing the evangelical counsel “poverty”. I trust God not goods. I want to be completely free.)

I heard that a Saint said in regard to various prayers and formulas, “After the Our Father everything else is a play on words.” 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Evangelization of Those Discerning Their Vocation

According to recent CARA* reports regarding vocation (and basically even common sense) it was discovered that people become religious brothers, sisters, or priests because they meet those who are already brothers, sisters, priests. Several decades ago there were more religious and priests who evangelized in large part by their presence. Discerners had a greater opportunity to see religious brothers and sisters and priests in action preaching by the very example of their lives. However in this recent revival of interest (in light of the fact that many have not been raised with regular interaction with religious and priests) there is a need to evangelize candidates as they discern by the vocation directors and other community members and priests. 
Some candidates believe that they have arrived to all there is as far as being where they need to be spiritually, they are unaware that we continue to transform (or continually convert) because God is inexhaustible eternal love. The vow of "conversatio morum" comes to mind, which is the vow of "continual conversion" meaning we actively strive to turn away from the temporal as we learn to invest our minds, our hearts, and our actions to that which is of eternal value. As we shed our various temporal attachments we become ever-more immersed in the "Fruit of the Spirit" i.e. kindness, gentleness patience, self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23).
 Important point: Candidates do not always realize that it is in “formation” that they will experience the instruction for continual conversion through the charism of the founding fathers and mothers (and/or ministerial priesthood). Candidates need to know they do not have to immediately feel the fullness of their new identity as a religious brother or sister or priest upon application and acceptance. The formation process is part of the individual’s conversion process. The founding fathers and mothers recognized, experienced, and articulated these specific paths, these precise charisms, as trusted and true. The living waters of instruction (formation) on navigating the specific graces of the various characteristics that make up each charism will ultimately allow those being formed to minister effectively from the well-spring of their spiritual growth. The candidates growing knowledge and experience of the workings of their order’s charism (and/or ministerial priesthood) will keep themselves and those to whom they minister safely in the stream of “abundant life” (John 10:10).

Part 1
I write today to make clear the reality that vocation directors need to clearly explain to discerners  how their own vocation aids them in “working out their own salvation” (Phil 2:12) so that the candidate can follow and trust this way of more deeply living out the gospel. Discerners need to know that as they grow in the love of Christ (through the charism of religious life or the priesthood) they will aid others whom they will ultimately serve with their salvation.  In this sense vocation directors are further evangelizing the candidate through their testimony, that is to say, a detailed explanation as to how they are more perfectly living out the gospel. Vocation inspiration will flourish as promised as a result of the vocation directors clearly articulated testimony, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). Candidates will then have a greater confidence in embracing this way as their very own.
All true vocation assistance evangelizes, that is to say, it leads us to an ever-expanding eternal freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from the temporal realm. What is the “temporal realm”? The temporal realm is made up of all particles of fear of loss great and small and of every false notion regarding the purpose of consumption and ownership. In actually like the “birds and the flowers” we are held in God’s hand and though we are gifted with participation in material harvests the only purpose of these harvests are the good of mankind at large. I have heard that sometimes the thing people fear most is freedom. What is freedom? Freedom is the ability to live out the words of Christ in His prayer commonly known as “The Our Father”. It is in the Our Father that our earthly passage to complete eternal freedom is outlined.  I honestly believe that the only way to be completely free is the purposeful embracing of the evangelical counsels. 1. Poverty 2. Chastity 3. Obedience (obedience means “to listen”).
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” I love God and He is my all. “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. In heaven there is no marriage. In heaven we are like the angels Matt. 22:30 (this is the evangelical council: Chastity). “Give us this day our daily bread” (evangelical counsel: “Poverty”) that is acknowledging that I am fed by the hand of God daily. My air, my water, my rest, all are gifts from the Father enough for this moment, enough for today.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (This speaks of the evangelical council: “obedience”.) In “obedience” I “listen” to Christ within myself and Christ within all, even those who persecute me, I listen for any semblance and/or resemblance to the spark of life within all known as Christ. It is in listening that I preserve the source of this life with great care, carefully guarding the harmonious unity first known in the beginning of all creation as the “Holy Trinity”. “I (Christ) was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be” (Proverbs 8:23). And, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” i.e. “the love of money is the root of all evil” (more on the evangelical counsel “poverty”). I trust God not goods. I want to be completely free. (I heard that a Saint said in regard to various prayers and formulas, “After the Our Father everything else is a play on words.”
In vocation discernment we answer the question, “How free do you want to be?” St. Paul explains, “An unmarried person is concerned about the Lord's affairs: their aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. A married person is concerned about the affairs of this world--how they can please their spouse. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:33-35). However, if you cannot live a celibate life because of your “passions are too strong” then it is “not a sin to marry” (1 Cor. 7:36). The question now becomes, “If I can control my passions, if I can live a fruitful celibate life in order to grow in perfection, what am I waiting for?”
Important note regarding those candidates who apply. Naturally, there has to be reciprocity (acceptance) from a community or diocese validating that they are relatively sure that the candidate has the grace for the vocation. In all vocations “reciprocity” is the ultimate validating factor. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Cor 13:1). (If overtime there is no reciprocity from vocation directors potential candidates should consider other vocation options that hold more promise according to their reality.)

Part 2
A key point that discerners need to be made aware of is that the vast majority of active discerners are seeking community life be it in a religious community or within the comradery and support of their fellow diocesan priests under the leadership of the bishop or archbishop.
1.       We can do many things alone except live in community. Even God lives in a community called the Holy Trinity. Jesus said, When you see me you see the Father". We need others to see Christ in and who may also experience Christ in us. We truly need this exercise of freedom from self-absorption, the self-absorption that comes from spending too much time alone. We need others whom we can love as our very selves. St. Benedict was not at all keen on the hermit life, the singular life. He might allow a monk to live a singular life only after having lived in community for several decades but even then it was only allowed on a temporary basis. So living alone without someone to exercise oneness, to experience the constant mirroring and echoing of Christ one in the other, can be unfruitful for many. There may those called to single-in-the-world permanently but the vast majority of discerners are already living single in the world. They experience a type of spiritual loneliness that causes them to keep searching for the amplification of heaven on earth amidst community though many cannot articulate this yearning for peers at first. (My use of the word “peers” does not mean those of one’s own age. I am talking about persons in the sense of other athletes in the spiritual life who have invested their time in training in order to “run the race to win” 1 Cor. 9:24.) Just as those who have never been baptized might not be able to articulate their need for the freedom that commitment to Christ offers so also discerners cannot always fully understand the wellspring that awaits them in their vocation as they thirst for more of Christ. (I am saying it is up to vocation directors and others who are spiritually experienced in the things of eternal value to evangelize them regarding these truths.) Why do they thirst still? How can discerners drink more deeply from the wellsprings of eternal life that Christ extends? Answer: By understanding the fulfillment realized in community because ultimately all of heaven is communal and Jesus asked that we bring heaven here “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.
2.       Make no mistake marriage in itself is fulltime ministry. A woman commits to the fulltime ministry of wife and mother at the altar of Holy Matrimony likewise, a husband commits to fulltime ministry of husband and father (1 Cor. 7:4). St. Paul says, and I believe with great seriousness and literally, that a woman who marries needs to be concerned with pleasing her husband and she deserves the commitment of the husband to be concerned with pleasing her, that is to say to minister unceasingly as one tends to his or her own body (1 Cor. 7:33). The spouse rightfully deserves this holy dedication and in this love of wife, live of husband, as one’s own self they live out for all to see the unity of the Holy Trinity. Holy Matrimony is a community, a domestic church, but it is temporal. Jesus said, “Do not be in error. There is no marriage in heaven” (Matt 22:30). In heaven we know our loved ones, those who were closest to us, but our love is not greater of lesser than other persons in the eternal kingdom of heaven. In marriage we practice with great persistence the exercising of corporal mercy. However, the purpose of Holy Matrimony, as with all vocations, is to “love one’s neighbor as oneself”. In this sense the agape love, that is to say, the “eternal love of God” whereby all our the bride of Christ and true friends with each other should be expanding out to mankind as a result of the graces received in holy matrimony. There is no such thing as building a small world of our own that is exclusive in terms of love and charity whereby others are left unaided by the agape love exercise between the couple now made one. In this sense, “those who have wives should live as if they do not” (1 Cor. 7:29). In other words, love all as oneself, it is the true purpose of the strength and loving support gained in the marriage to do so. Our spouse aids in our vocation of moving deeper in the eternal realm of our Savior Jesus Christ but our spouse in themselves are not our saviors. At some future point we will be united to Christ as His spouse (and the Church collectively as His Bride).
3.       Once a single person (who has yet to marry) has a vast experience of loving God in creation, loving God in neighbor to degree that they experience others as true mothers, fathers, husbands . . .  as in, “if you give up mother, father, husband . . . I will give you back 100s” they may find that little by little they lose their desire for the smaller domestic church that holy matrimony is. I am speaking now to those who already experience the reality of everyone being a sister, brother, for real as in “who is my mother, my brother, all who do the will of the father.” When we close the door to a romantic element in our lives the door to a unity of hearts with all human beings swings open wide (an experience so real it can be quite surprising as we realize we are completely united having now experienced a type of spiritual DNA with all persons as fellow children of God). It can be difficult for many to shrink the experience of unity with all persons into what can come to feel like a small container of an exclusive relationship such as Holy Matrimony. Yet if we do decide to marry know for sure we do not sin as St. Paul says. Just know that the agape love amidst the couple and children should expand to all over time in a Spirit of great hospitality not exclusivity. And it is for this reason that if a person feels trapped or less free to serve God in any way as a result of their movement toward marriage they should pause and rethink their direction. One’s true vocation gives them the support and love to love others not to be alienated from the reality that all are our brothers and sisters.
4.       But most of those who are called to marriage are not contemplating religious life or the priesthood. Religious life and/or priesthood has never appeared on their spiritual radar. Those called to marriage know who they are and many would never, nor have they ever, seriously considered religious life or the priesthood, though they might have toyed with the idea as a fictitious notion of sorts. Those who have been given the special grace of contemplating (of considering, of discerning) a religious vocation or the priesthood should not underestimate the “pearl of great value” that they have received. Buy the whole field, that is to say, don’t hinge on the parts you don’t fully understand or which might not be perceived as totally comfortable. In a field there are rocks, brambles, and the like. Want the pearl? Buy the field.
5.       Remaining single in the world permanently is an option but it requires an ongoing ministerial commitment (a “plow to but one’s hand to” Luke 9:62). If you decide to stay single, stay busy for our Lord. Being single in the world is not being a perpetual bachelor or bachelorette who does some good deeds on occasion. It is a lifelong commitment to this path of grace and therefore our hearts are freely and willingly closed to all other vocation options as we move forward.
6.       It is only by eating resurrected food, i.e. Jesus in the Eucharist, that we are able to live the resurrected life now. “Oh death where is thy sting”. Death has shrunken to complete insignificance for those willing to be completely free. Did you notice when Jesus was resurrected He made no mention of the suffering He endured. Jesus even seemed to be making light of His wounds when He invited Thomas to put his hand in His side. Jesus’ demeanor shows no sense of shuttering concerning the temporal aspects of His earthly horrific sufferings. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have complete freedom from death. I remember the joke made by St. Lawrence during his martyrdom who, when being grilled alive, humorously said, “It is time to turn me over. I am done on this side”. St. Lawrence responded with casual insignificance and light-hearted candor at the barbaric taking of his life (so little was his joy in Christ affected).
7.       Freedom is awesome. Don’t be afraid to be free. Run with the herd (the team) of other spiritual Olympians living in community or serving for the diocese as a priest, or marry if you wish. But know that for most we cannot truly realize our spiritual athleticism alone. It is in seeing the pace of the other runners, by experiencing their support (two are better than one. If either of them fall the other is there to help them up” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. In community (be it religious life, priesthood, or holy matrimony) we are more fully aware and more fully challenged, more fully supported, to truly “run the race to win” (1 Cor. 9:24).

* Center for Applied Research of the Apostolate (from the first paragraph page 1)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Señor, Dios Mio
No tengo idea hacia dónde voy.
No veo el camino que aún queda por delante.
No puedo saber con certeza dónde termina.
Ni siquiera me conozco a mí mismo
y el hecho de que creo cumplir tu voluntad
no significa que lo haga realmente.

Pero  creo que mi deseo de agradarte,
sí te complace de verdad.
Y espero tener ese deseo en todo lo que haga.

Thomas Merton