To the Vocationist Fathers and Brothers
My Dear Confrere,
May God the Holy Spirit unite us ever more with the Son to the Father.
Starting with the External
With the echoes of the joyful Christmas "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men that the Lord loves" still in our ears, we begin our Lenten journey! Peace, God’s gift to us, "the tranquility of order" Through its invitation to penance and conversion lent leads us to self control and consequently to order.
Order means to place everything in its most convenient place, where it belongs. Without a sense of discipline or self control there is no order. Disorder and confusion are indication of an absence of God, since God is essentially order. This is the reason of this message-
"Serva ordinem et ordo servabit te."
It is often repeated that the external is an indication of the interior. While external order without spirit and maintained out of mere ostentation may lead into a farisaic attitude, external order desired and maintained as a form of respect for the creator and his creatures leads us to God and to value people and things. Order speaks of God and leads us to God while making us acceptable to both God and men.
For us Vocationists, external order is an ascetical practice in spirit of adoration to the divine omnipresence tending to make of all creation "the great sanctuary of God".
Fr. Justin speaks of the ascetical practice of decorum, beauty, harmony of colors and sounds, aroma of perfumes, clearness and candour of our environment. External order is not simply kept for the sake of order, it is directed to God’s greater glory and to the functionality of creation. Order is not in function of the sole complacence of the orderly person. It is a duty toward the creator and the creatures as well.
External order becomes a means of sanctification for ourselves and for others.
Order in our own person
God is order, and, I, as an image and likeness of him, must be the personification of order. Only in the proportion of the order I am capable of keeping within myself I will be capable of facilitating the ascensional passage from me to creator, for the people I come in contact with.
To maintain order within our own person means, first of all, to cultivate a complete and sound hygiene of my person any my clothes, within the context of what Fr. Justin call "liturgical modesty".
A very special invitation, my dear brother, dress properly! How humiliating and embarrassing it is to hear "is so and so a religious? A priest? Why don’t you teach your religious how to dress properly?"
No, I do not want to touch here the complicated topic of religious habit! While it is my strong wish and desire to see you in public properly dressed in black clerical clothes, I beg you, dress properly. Dress as a professional, as a well educated person. If you wear clerical robes, as you should, remember that you cannot and must not dress as a priest or religious only partially! You cannot and must wear the clerical collar with shirts, pants, shoes and sacks of any other color, but black, unless the Bishops conference of the country in which you live has explicitly designated another color. No other category of people abuses and offends its proper uniform as some religious do. If you wear civilian clothes, do not show up in public (much less in a church) as if you were at picnic or at an outing in a mountain. Try to harmonise the colors of the various pieces of vestments you wear, with the outmost respect for the culture and the people you live with.
Everyday people everywhere spend a fortune to attract the attention and please the people they meet, ‘regardless of whether they are known or not. I ask that you do not waste money to offend or to alienate people from the church by the way you dress. Personally I suffer, I am mortified and humiliated every time I see a confrere not properly dressed; to me it is and indication of negligence toward oneself and disrespect toward others. In Spirit of adoration toward divine omnipresence and of respect and esteem toward others, dress and behave always with dignity and decorum.
Order in our environment
How beautiful it is to enter into a place that is clean, in proper order and elegant! Such a place does not happen to exist by chance, it must be wanted, created, maintained every day; it requires expenses, work, perseverance and discipline. Let us take inspiration and learn from the wonderful, splendid places we visit.
Our churches, our houses, our places of work must shine with clearness and tidiness. What are you doing for the maintenance and improvement of your place? Is it possible that the lack of tidiness and cleanliness of the place in which you live and work, may cause you and others to desire to stay out of the house unnecessarily?
Tidiness, cleanliness, decorum, proper ventilation of our places are not and must not be only concern or duty of the superior, but of every religious that lives in the house, even of our guests!
At the beginning of lent start to place on your daily agenda, as well as on the agenda of your community meetings: decorum, tidiness, cleanliness of the places in which you live and work. Dedicate to this some time, personal work and money! Once again, I ask you, make sure that your residence or parish is easily identifiable, even extremely as a Vocationist place! I am proud of and thankful to our confreres, Fr. Muccitelli, Fr. Da Cunha, Fr. Vigilante, Fr. Rusolillo, Fr. Petracca, Fr. Terlizzi, Fr. Capraro, Fr. Limone and so many others who in spirit of sacrifice dedicate a lot of attention, work and resources to the maintenance, decorum, cleanliness and order of the places in which they live and work rendering them pleasant, welcoming, tidy and healthy.
Order in one’s work
I am very happy to see that the great majority of the Vocationists really have the spirit of laboriosity. I thank God and the confreres for this blessing. With our precious work we can become saints, realize our vocation, serve God’s people, and maintain the Vocationist vocations and missions. It is said that excessive work never killed anybody. I believe that excessive and unorganized work leads to neglect our physical and spiritual health causing inefficiency, waste of energies and discouragement. Yes, my brother, order and discipline are needed in my work and yours.
Do not create the messianic complex. Do not think that you can or must do everything, and that if you do not do a determined thing, the world would collapse. You must do all you can give the proper priority to your prayer life, to your health, to your Vocationist identity and to your specific, assigned mission or service.
One of our faults in our work is the tendency to do everything by ourselves with the catastrophic results of inevitable failures, discouragement and poor quality in what we do, We must learn to work as a team. When we work in harmony with others, as a team, our work becomes pleasant, more productive and more sanctifying.
If you work alone, by yourself, everything comes to a stop or ends when you are not there…and to make sure that this would not happen, you do not take time for prayer, rest, vacation, meals, recreation, nor for your personal or community needs, with deleterious consequences for yourself and for the congregation.
Working together, organizing groups, giving to others the opportunity of doing something we guarantee the continuation of our work and of the activities and charisma in which we believe. Fr. Justin exhorts us to leave after us an infinity of groups or organization which may continue to glorify the Lord and serve Gods’ people even after our own death.
In spirit of charity, practicality and even justice, start to discover the talents and good will of all those who surround you, both in the community and outside the community. Form effective teams to carry on the various activities and ministries and you will see how your work will multiply while at the same time you will find time to do many other things with great joy on your part and satisfaction of others. So that this may happen, it is necessary to practice many virtues like charity, patience, justice and perseverance. Thus work well organized can help us to become saints and to sanctify others.
Only in order to explain myself better, I want to give some examples that may serve as inspiration and encouragement. Fr. Mario Muccitelli continues to do a lot of good, and to be very helpful for the Congregation through his Mass Card Promotors and with the Shepherds of Youth. Fr. James Capraro has provided and invaluable service to Fr. Justin’s Crypt with his group of volunteers.
The same Fr. Capraro, what a precious service is rendering to our missions through the Vocationist Missionary Cooperators! How could Fr. Vassallo carry on his multiform ministry within the charismatic movement without the Servants of the Living Christ? There can be no effective parish without groups, organizations or societies.
When you must take the well deserved rest or must be transferred to a new assignment, when you will get old or go to eternity who will carry on your work and ours? Be a true Vocationist, discover all seeds and signs of vocation to the various ministries and services in those who are around you; form, organize and assist them, so that all these vocations may be discovered, and realized bearing much fruit with great glory for God and for the well-
Fr. Russolillo in Posillipo has organized "The friends of vocations", Fr. Ferraro in Quarto has organized "Fr. Justin’s prayer group", group , Fr. Mammana has started the movement "the imperishable flower". I would really love to see in every Vocationist parish and community – paying heed to Fr. Ademir’s multiple appeals and invitations – a well established "Vocation Group" and a "Youth ministry team".
Order in our vocation service
I am a Vocationist, before I am a priest. For me and for you to be a Vocationist is more important than being a priest. This being Vocationist before than being a priest requires that I be such also in my work. My ministry can never be complete or effective if it is not founded on my charisma and vocation service, and if it is not totally impregnated by the Vocationist spirit and charisma. In my work and yours, vocation service must have first priority.
Today there are more vocations than yesterday. Today more than yesterday we need cultivators of vocations, even amongst the Vocationists! In spirit of justice and honesty, I ask that your work more as a Vocationist.
We work in parishes, because vocations are born, discovered and nurtured in the parish. Why our vocations are coming only from a few parishes. I cannot and refuse to believe that God calls his chosen ones only in certain geographical areas. Why my small home parish has given to the church four religious priests (and five other who did not make it to the priesthood) within the arc of four years, and then there are have been no more? To me it is clear that if the terrain of a parish is not cultivated from the vocation point of view, the vocation seed, abundantly spread by the divine sower, will never se the light of sun.
How beautiful it is to celebrate Mass in Pianura, Quarto, Soccavo, Altavialla, Newark or La Bebida, surrounded by a large group of happy altar servers! The Vocationist work in a parish must start with the Altar Servers. Inspiring children, young and adult people alike to fall in love with the altar and with service, we prepare the terrain so that the vocation seed may be born and grow. There should be no Vocationist parish in which a Mass is celebrated without altar servers.
Articles 16, 17 and 18 of our Constitutions emphasizes the vocation aspect or characteristic of our parish work. Articles 13, 14, 15 and 16 of our Directory, in addition to the vocation aspect, stress the importance of our team work. In addition to what is explicitly stressed in these articles, I ask that you organize and cultivate vocation groups and ecclesial groups or movements that promote vocations.
I have always considered lent and its various forms of mortification and penance as the most appropriate time to re-
Let us start to work in union with the Holy Spirit and let us cooperate with his work of universal sanctification promoting, encouraging, assisting and forming the future ministers of sanctification. Conscious of the fact that the Spirit blows where and when he wants, let us make sure that we do not hinder or mortify his work pretending that vocations be always and only the Lord, the one who calls. Every vocation, in a certain way, is unique. Often I ask myself if with our criteria of vocation selection, we do not kill all the vocations that do not coincide with our values and pre-
In order not to be too long, I leave to your consideration, study and meditation the order of your spiritual life, as well as the meticulous and transparent order of your economy, documents, books archives of the house and of the parish. The Lord invites us to tidiness, because this sustains us, facilitates our spiritual progress and renders more effective our work. External order and decorum, little by little, will lead us to a greater order in our interior life.
Wishing you a holy Lenten season and fruitful ministry I embrace and bless you.
Yours in J.M.J.
Fr. Louis M. Caputo, S.D.V.