Called to be Saints - Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

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“Called to be Saints”
All Saints Day 2003
To the Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

My Dear Confrere,
 May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father.

From the Word of God
“Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God, which he had promised beforehand through his prophets in the sacred Scriptures, concerning his Son who was born according to the flesh of the offspring of David: who was foreordained Son of God by an act of power in keeping with the holiness of his spirit, by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received the grace of apostleship to bring about obedience to the faith among all  nations for his name’s sake; among these are you also, called by Jesus Christ, to all God’s beloved who are in Rome, called to be saints, grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm, 1, 1-7).

“The ultimate goal of the Society of Divine Vocations is to direct and lead all its members, and through them, all people to perfect Union with the Divine Persons. In order to achieve divine union, it works for universal sanctification…it considers the whole world to be a great sanctuary” (art. 2, 3, 4).

Our Congregation firmly believes in the vocation to holiness. We believe that the vocation to holiness is the vocation of all vocations. It is a personal vocation, but also a community vocation. I must be holy as an individual; we – all together must be holy as community.

Become a Saint
According to our tradition Father General must write a pastoral letter for the solemnity of All the Saints. Paraphrasing with St. Augustine says about vocal prayer, in the letter to Proba (cfr. Office of the Readings, Sunday and Monday of the 29th week), I say that the intent of this letter is not teach or to remind what you already know and preach so well, but simply to revive in you the desire for what the Lord is already prepared to grant you, so that this vocation to holiness may become more alive in you.

St. Paul reminds us that we are “loved by God.” It is a reality that console us, it dignifies us and it sustains us. The Lord loves us as we are, with all of our limitations and our faults. He does not wait that we convert first so that  he may later love us. He loves us even before our conversion. Our acceptance and our correspondence to his love prepare us and make us able to become holy and perfect as he is! “The vocation of mankind is to make visible image of God and to be transformed into the image of the only begotten Son of the Father. Such a vocation takes a personal form, since everyone is called to enter the divine beatitude; but it is also a vocation of the human community in its totality” (CCC no. 1877).

Holiness foments holiness
In our human experience we see that love either finds alike or it makes alike those who love one another. Divine love is greatly superior to human love and therefore it has a much greater ability to transform us. As saints called and loved by God, independently from any merit of ours, we should learn to love also those that humanly speaking don’t deserve to be loved. Only when another person feels accepted and loved by us, he can accept our invitations to holiness. I really wish and pray that you and I could distinguish ourselves on account of our cheerful and brotherly acceptance and welcoming joy, as it should be proper for the Vocationists who are trained to see and revere the possible saints in every person.

We are loved by God because we are his image and likeness. Since for me as a Vocationist, God is above all divine holiness (Asc. Art. 1), it follows that “I am already essentially of God, and yet I am destined to belong to him even more; I am destined to be always more like him; I am destined to be ever more united to him in his being and action so that I may ascend, - through all levels of love – to the supreme relationship and divne union, in the likeness of the God-made-man” (Asc. Art.2)

“All creation is in a necessary relationship with the Lord God, who alone is the creator, guardian, organizer of the universe, the unique first principle, the only ultimate goal. All my life and the life of my neighbor must be spent in this relationship. All my all life and that of my neighbor  should be spent leading the internal and external world to grasp and live this relationship; this is what religion should always be, namely: a total relationship with God, a total holiness, which is functioning solely for God. Religious of God, with the grace and imitation of the God-man, Jesus Christ” (Asc. Art. 4)

As the fruit of the plant-priest has to be another priest, so the fruit of the saints has to be another saint a multitude of saints.

I am not the only saint
I am a saint of God and I have to deal with the saints of God. My initial holiness as the initial holiness of my neighbor is not the consumed, supreme, perfect holiness to which we have been called. Calling me to holiness, God has placed me on the track, at the beginning of a run that leads to the ultimate destination. The way that remains climbed is still very long; I have a long way to go!

Without realizing it, we are surrounded by a lot of other saints and from them  we receive encouragement, strength and support. Nobody can cross alone this bridge from earth to heaven. There is the Father that calls us and waits for us, the Son that accompanies us, the Holy Spirit that pushes us from within, the whole celestial court that encourages us and all the living saints on earth that help us.

We have to see that the saint in our brothers, even if externally we succeed in seeing only imperfections, defects or faults. Every brother has been called as I have been called; is loved by God as I am loved. Every human being has received the salvation as I have and maybe is more motivated than I am. This vision brings us to a greater understanding of our brothers and to a more generous cooperation towards others.

Ascensional Journey
For me and for you the journey toward holiness demands efforts of a long and ascensional journey. It is a journey that requires constant effort on my part, but also the humility to let myself be guided by the one who takes me by hand. I accept with humility and gratitude the grace of God that operates in me and generously I undertake to cooperate with the same grace so that it may grow and bear fruit in me.

I believe that I am good, but I am also convinced that I am able, I want and must be better. Likewise I believe that I am a saint, but I am also convinced that I am able, I want and must be ever more saintly.

The conscience of my initial holiness sustains me and encourages me. A couple of weeks ago I dismissed a layman with the greeting/wish of Fr. Justin: “Be a Saint.”  With great spontaneity he answered: “Really I want and must become a saint. The more I think of it, the more it seems possible and more it seems easy, all it takes is to walk on the footsteps of Jesus and then to live coherently.” If I succeed in coherently living my vocation, I will be a great saint. Grant me, Lord, this coherence between my vocation and my way of life.

Building on the Positive
To reach true holiness I must eradicate every sin and vice in me and to enrich myself of every Christian virtue. More than to see in this a negative part and a positive, a destructive part and a constructive, I see two sides of the same medal. The best, and more effective way to eliminate my specific defects is to grow in the opposite virtues. Where virtue is sowed and cultivated, automatically the vice is suffocated. May the Lord free us from thinking that we must first eliminate our faults and only after that grow in the holiness.

God “wants all men to be saved and reach the knowledge of the truth” (1Tm 2, 4). God has chosen me and you as instruments so that the salvation may really reach every human being. Correctly, Fr. Justin sees us as ministers of sanctification. Human life and spiritual life help each other. The more I am religious, the more I live and appropriate my human life. The more I develop and live my humanity, the more I feel and behave as a true religious of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: “Man by nature and by vocation is meant to be religious. Since he comes from God and goes to God, man doesn’t fully live a human life, if he does not freely and fully live his relationship with God” (art.44). And still: “The only true development is that of the man in its integrity. It means to let grow the ability of every person to answer his own vocation, and thus to the call of God” (art. 2461). “Man’s vocation to eternal life doesn’t annual his humanity; it only makes more imperative our obligation to use our energies and the gifts received by the Creator to work in this world for justice and peace” (Ibid. 2829). Natura not facit saltus, nature doesn’t jump. Grace doesn’t abolish the human nature, but builds on it. Developing my human maturity, I facilitate the job of the grace in me and in others.

Esteem toward others
In the spiritual and priestly formation we have learned that “sancta sancte tractanda sunt (holy things must be treated holily). Shouldn’t we also say: “Sancti sancte tractandi sunt (the saints have to be treated holily?) The respect, the consideration (the esteem, says Fr. Justin) due to holy things and even more to the saints, has to be a characteristic of ours. “Society is essential to the realization of the human vocation” (Ibid. 1886).

We cannot consider the whole world as a great sanctuary of God without having a real veneration for every creature. To be saints and sanctifiers we have to excel and to preach holiness starting with good manners, with politeness, opening ourselves to others. What I say of others is meant first and foremost of our brothers. Our spirit of firmly demands a spirit of opening, of reception, of true joy whenever we encounter our brothers and have an opportunity to share with them. To the visitor in general and to the brother in particular you should offer an environment saturated with spirituality, with prayer and joy, as well as with order and neatness.

The esteem for others produces in me tolerance towards others, just as the Lord is tolerant with me. The ascetic, the saint is demanding with himself and tolerant with others. The arrogant and the mercenary is indulgent with himself, but rigorous with the others. Each one of us knows by experience how it is difficult to eradicate certain defects, certain weakness. How can we forget this reality when we are dealing with others? Every time I ask forgiveness for my sins, I also ask the Lord to increase in me the virtue of patience so that I may maintain my equilibrium, but above all so that I may have the ability to better understand and help my brother. How humiliating and mortifying it is to see or to feel that a brother behaves in abrupt, rough or in an unmannered way with others! A person treated in this way will never feel (at least through us) his vocation to holiness.

Let us foster the holiness of others with our example
Trying to put the thought of the church into practice, in order to assure to ourselves and to the faithful entrusted to use the substantial nourishment of the liturgical prayer, I encourage, exhort and ask to pray Morning Prayers (Lauds) and Vespers with the people in parish churches and to invite laypeople to pray with us in our chapels. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comes to our help recommending us: “in the regions in which there are monasteries, it is vocation of these communities to foster the sharing of the Prayer of the Hours with the faithful and to offer the solitude needed for a more intense personal prayer” (art. 2691). The Pope keeps on repeating to us: open, open wide the doors to Christ. With generosity and prudence we open the doors of our chapels and our houses to Christ in the person of our neighbor to share with them the joy of the community prayer, and to offer them an opportunity to enjoy moments of silence and moments of solitude.

Signs of growth in holiness
Am I progressing in journey toward holiness? To answer this question and to avoid possible illusions in our spiritual journey, Fr. Justin offers us a list of signs of diviner fervor; he assures us that the soul “rejoices whenever it can find in itself the signs of spiritual progress; we likewise love to see these signs in all souls” (Asc. Art. 7).

“A certain dissatisfaction with oneself, but without anxiety”. I am loved by the Lord; I am a saint of God, but still with so many voids, with such a lack of correspondence to the divine love. I see that the love of God and his grace sustains me, therefore in front of my deficiencies I don’t get discouraged, I don’t give up. “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, says the Lord. A certain malcontent of ourselves, but without anxiety, pushes us ahead to continue our journey with greater enthusiasm. The malcontent of ourselves, coupled with restlessness and anxiety, discourages us, it paralyses us on our way to holiness.

“Continual returning to new impulses.” Every now and then a rest is needed to make the inventory of our state. Every meditation, every examination of conscience is like a stop to refuel, taking an inventory in order to re-supply and enrich ourselves of those virtues that are still lacking in us. They become a powerful impulse to restart our ascension toward holiness with more enthusiasm. Restart without stepping backwards! Every time that one climbs a new step, he takes a fresh breath, gains courage and trust. The endless journey toward holiness has to be always old and always new; always the same but with new motivations and with renewed vigor.

“Always aiming at a well-determined and specific goal, never being aimless.” Our goal is always that of ascending to the Father. Our orientation, our zenith is always and only God. This well defined goal must be detailed as far as to, “the what, the how, the where, the when”; likewise, we must determine the means to be used, and the intermediary goals to be achieved. We must qualify and quantify these things so that they may help us to practically see and measure our progress. God is the supreme order and our life has to be orderly. We cannot and we do not want to act or to live aimlessly. If we don’t know where we want to arrive, we will never reach our destination. We must harmonize in use the universality of the ultimate goal with the specificity of means, practices and stages. “One thing only is necessary” all the rest has to be orderly subordinated to that one!

“The conviction that the Lord expects from us as something special, that to which he makes feel a special attraction.” If the Lord makes us feel a special attraction toward a way of praying, to a certain ascetic practice or a devotion, he makes us fell it only because he wants to grant it to us. If God were to make us feel an attraction without wanting to grant it to us, he would be cruel and ungodly toward us. This special attraction is as a real inspiration; it is the will of God for us and we put it in action, without any hesitation and without delay.

“A constant and eager desire for an ever increasing perfection, that is translated in specific efforts.” Love never says enough! True love knows that it is able to, and wants to do ever more and better. In order to translate our willingness to do more and better into reality, “this more and better” must be specific and particular; it has to be able to be quantified and verified. It is not enough that ones wishes to be holy or a great saint; this desire has to be transformed into well specified steps or actions. To have the desire: “Today I want to become a saint or I want to be more saintly than I was yesterday” is undoubtedly something good, but to be efficient it has to go down to the detail, to the practice; for example: I will pray today ten minutes more than I did yesterday, I will make this mortification, I will confess sacramentally my sins, I will visit that sick person etc…

Concluding the first part of the Ascension “Contemplating my sky”, Fr. Justin writes: “Acts, are needed, everywhere and always acts of devotion and prayer. Otherwise one falls into the hands of sluggishness, the most untamable of the monsters, according to Fr. Faber. Intense, elevated acts. Acts that become always more simple and more extensive, to the point of almost getting mixed and disappearing in the intimate sense of this or that truth, of this or that duty, of this or that operation, in the presence and union with Lord. But even then we have acts: more simple and more pure in their subject, more direct and immediate in their object, but always acts. ‘Give me acts, give me always acts and I promise you the perfection’ we can repeat with the thought of the great spiritual director, the Redemptorist Ven. Passerat” (Asc. No. 50). We cannot delude ourselves thinking that we may become saints simply with our words or our sophisms. It is helpful to recall the motto of S. Anthony of Padua: “Actions speak louder than words.”

“We assume all this in the souls of good will, in their pilgrimage toward heaven” If at times I should discover in me or in others symptoms of tepidity, I won’t despair, I won’t lose heart. I will restart my journey with renewed vigor (cfr. Asc. No. 7 and 8, passim).

As Vocationist Fathers and Brothers we cannot become saints alone. Either we wills sanctify ourselves with many others, or we will lose ourselves with many others!

With the wish that you and I may really become “saints and sanctifiers”, and with brotherly love I greet, embrace and bless you.

Always yours in J.M.J

Father Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V. of the Blessed Trinity.

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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