A way of missionary spirituality for today

(From the Document of the Spirituality Congress, 2002: Our Missionary Spirituality along the Journey of God’s People.)

“And passing through the midst of them, He went his way” (Lk. 4: 30)

The anointing of the Spirit, which we have received in order to evangelize, turns our life story into a spiritual journey[1]. That journey has an objective: to configure us to the ideal of a missionary that our Father Founder proposed in the definition of the Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and that the Constitutions and the Statements of our internal magisterium also express. That journey—inspired by the Spirit—has different stages, employing different strategies and means.  It is unpredictable, although it is dependent on our way of being human and keeps on taking shape as a spiritual biography.

After exploring the state of the world at the beginning of this new millennium and how this Congregation understands its missionary spirituality today, we dedicate this third part to describing our Way of missionary Spirituality for today.

1. The path of a MISSIONARY: a life at the service of the kingdom

Our spiritual journey is, above all, the path of a missionary[2]. This is not something laid out in advance, nor does it follow predetermined rules.  It is the mission and its demands that mark out and defines our agenda, our days and months and years.  The path of the first evangelizers according to the Acts of the Apostles can serve as our paradigm. The Holy Spirit guided them and they lived moved by Spirit’s inspiration.  That is also our path.  That was the paradigmatic path of our Founder[3].

a) The Life Journey of the Missionary

A missionary’s life in the Spirit is adapted to the life stages of every adult human being: discovery of vocation, activity in response to this discovery, crisis and a final stage of serenity and greater passivity.  In each of these stages, the human being encounters possibilities and difficulties, prospects and limitations.

The adult life stages of our Founder, Anthony Mary Claret, can be summarized by three verbs that were so meaningful: pray, work and suffer[4]. There was an initial stage for him of discovery, prayer, vocational exploration; during this stage he had his experience of “quid prodest”[5]. After this he intuited another stage in which, impelled by the Love of Christ, he dedicated himself unreservedly to missionary activity and the search for his authentic place in the Church[6]. The last stage of his life was marked by a great crisis in which he experienced passion, suffering, and persecution but, at the same time, felt himself graced with the gift of love for his enemies and a more intense identification with Jesus in the Eucharist[7].

All of us missionaries pass through these stages that are paradigmatic and not merely successive.  They correspond to our life cycles; in them God’s will for us is revealed.

Through initial formation, missionaries are fully inserted into apostolic activity.  In it they have to learn to fully live their youthful love and enthusiasm for Christ.  In middle age we run the risk of routine and annoyance at the scarcity or lack of results. This is the time to renew our initial love, our original vocation, in light of the Gospel and of our charism.  We find new impetus and new reasons to persevere in our vocation.  In this stage one feels bidden to concentrate on what is essential. Late middle age (maturity) carries the risk of falling into individualism, into close-mindedness and into laxity.  The spiritual path helps us to restore our vitality, to purify ourselves and surrender ourselves in generous self-giving.  This age presents us with the possibility of maturing in the gift and the experience of spiritual paternity.  Old age is characterized by a progressive withdrawal from activity, or by illness or enforced inactivity.  Although it is often a sad time, it gives the aged missionary the chance to mold himself to the Passover (Pasch) of the Lord.  In these circumstances mission takes on the overtones of passion, a passion that identifies us with the passion of the Lord.  Thus, in each missionary the mysterious process that began years before reaches fulfillment.  Death is then awaited and prepared for as an act of supreme love and of the total giving of oneself[8].

b) The Dynamic of Growth in the Spirit

Within the dynamic of life in the Spirit there is also a triadic structure, “purification-enlightenment-union”, that characterizes the internal dynamism of each of the life stages of a missionary.

Sin dwells within us, or at least the proclivity to sin does[9]. The ascetical means that are typical of the Church’s spiritual tradition help us to control and correct the tendencies of our nature that is wounded by sin.  The path that leads to holiness brings with it the acceptance of spiritual combat.  Our Father Founder impels us to marshal the virtues within ourselves and fight against evil tendencies[10]. The masters of the spirit teach us how it is necessary to learn the art of self-control and self-integration in order to satisfactorily live the gift we have received.

Listening to the Word, prayer, contemplation, study, insertion into reality, enlighten our life and give it new energies for progressing in the way of the Lord[11]. The Spirit grants us his inspirations that make possible what seems impossible for our own unaided efforts[12].

Growing docility to the Spirit deepens our experience of union with Jesus Christ and enables us to avail ourselves of it. Conformation to Jesus Christ is presented by our Constitutions as the goal of our spiritual journey[13].

c) The “Mystery” of Apostolic Activity

To be a missionary is to share in the “missio Dei” (the mission of God). Thus our apostolic activity is holy.  God is the primary subject of our action.  Our Founder expressed it this way after his preaching in Andalusia: “The Lord has always been my fuel”[14]. Our apostolic activity is, likewise, the action of a body and not only of a member.  We make up a “congregational we”—and, even more, an “ecclesial we”—that is the authentic subject of every missionary enterprise: “in the Church there is a unity of mission but a plurality of ministries”[15].

With this awareness we overcome any individualistic vision of our ministry and we feel connected with the history of Salvation in our time[16]. When our missionary service is born from zeal and charity, it allows our greatest possibilities to be realized, it establishes our personality and composes the story of our life.

Apostolic action is not merely external activity.  It is the sacramentalization of the mission of the Spirit and of the Risen Lord[17], and of the mission of the Church and of the Congregation within it.  From this we can understand that there is a wondrous inequality between our missionary commitment and its accomplishments.  The accomplishment is always greater than the effort.  During the mission we are in God and in the Church, we are their instruments and thus their action is present in our own activity[18].

This requires us to integrate interiority and activity.  In the mission we go out of ourselves to be with Christ.  What is more, we are united with Him in a very special way[19]. The preparation of each one of our ministries, especially the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments, is a constitutive moment for our spirituality[20].

d) Evangelized in Order to Evangelize 

Evangelizing activity is, therefore, for us the main source of our spirituality, not only because through it we evangelize others, but also because through it we are evangelized[21]. This occurs under certain conditions:

– When we are disposed to listen and to welcome and not only to speak and act.[22]. The “seeds of the Word” (semina Verbi) have been sown in every human being, in every human community. These seeds are the “word of God” for us, a word with which we have to dialogue and to which we must listen.  Attention to the Word of God is, for the missionary, the presupposition that allows him to then be a good minister of the Word.

– When we value what is different. Discovering the values that reside in different human groups and individuals, allowing ourselves to be affected and enriched by them, is a wellspring of spirituality.  The consequences of this are unpredictable, just as the Spirit is unpredictable.

– When we turn to the other: listening to and welcoming the other fosters a process of personal change that is expressed in incarnation or insertion.  The missionary shares the life of the recipients of his evangelizing mission.  He lives with them and in them he finds one of the wellsprings of his vitality.

e) The Ability To Do Battle: Creative Imagination and Martyrdom

There are many obstacles, difficulties and tests on the path of each missionary’s life.  Unpredictable, crucial and decisive moments also arise.  External factors (like an assignment, a failure, an historical event) or internal factors (such as an illness or depression, a loss, a friendship, or a crisis of faith or identity) produce an enormous tension in his life. The missionary will discover the meaning of his vocation if he avails himself of spiritual accompaniment, from the brothers around him who welcome him, from friends that counsel and comfort him[23]. There are also many who oppose the establishment of the Kingdom[24]. Nevertheless, for the missionary “nothing deters him; he rejoices in privations; embraces sacrifices”.  Within him the virtues of perseverance and constancy, fortitude and prudence, are active.

Faced with difficulties, the missionary demonstrates his prophetic imagination and his creative ability…Lack of Spirit leads to routine, to monotony, to mere repetition.  The presence of the Spirit is a fire that animates and recreates everything.  A missionary can never be complacent.  He is always discovering the newness of the Kingdom of God in everything he is doing.

At the limits of the life of an authentic missionary always lies the possibility of martyrdom, the “limit case” of self-giving, of love, of confessing the faith and of proclaiming hope.  Martyrdom is a gift.  And it always must be recognized as such.  It is a gift for the martyr and also for the Church and the Congregation.  It is a paradoxical gift, but a real one. We can flee from it beforehand, if we escape danger, if we seek security, if we avoid any type of risk.  Martyrdom on the horizon gives a distinctive coloration to the missionary life[25].

Among the kinds of martyrdom are those commitments to evangelization, to others, to the People of God, that involve margination, isolation, condemnation. It is when the missionary can say: “I was in jail”, “I was expelled”…Initial and continuing formation thus become “a school for martyrdom”.

2. On the spiritual and sacramental journey of the church

When we state that our vocation—as consecrated people and as missionaries—is founded on baptism and confirmation, we make reference to what is at the core of our being, what establishes us.  We do not have a vocation that makes us superior to others, but a particular vocation that enables us to truly be Christians.  Thus the basic element in our spirituality is that which we share with all our brothers and sisters, christifideles (Christ’s faithful).

a) The Cycle of the Liturgical Year, “Our” Path of Spirituality

Holy Mother Church offers all Christians, and thus us missionaries as well, an outstanding path of spirituality: the cycle of the liturgical year. It is a cycle of waiting and preparation (Advent), generation and birth (Christmas), initiation and purification (Lent), death and resurrection (Easter) and day-to-day life[26]. Through it we relive, year after year, all the mysteries of Christian life and integrate into our life, in a progressive and pedagogical way, the food of God’s Word and the spiritual teaching of the Church.

We live the cycle of the Liturgical Year day after day, at the various moments that fill our day with spiritual meaning: the celebration of the Eucharist, the Office of Readings, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers, the praying of the Daytime Hour and Compline[27].

Our integration into the mystery of the Church’s liturgy is the best path of spirituality for us.  We travel it along with the People of God, some as ordained ministers[28], others as missionary brothers.

b) In the Heart of the Eucharistic Church

For us Claretian Missionaries, the celebration of the Eucharist and the worship of the Presence of the Lord is the axis on which our spirituality revolves and the source of our strength for the journey.  And we have inherited it this way from our Father Founder.  His whole life revolved around this mystery and out of it he realized his project, until he ended in his mysterious identification with the Lord (the grace of the sacramental species)[29].

This basic Eucharistic experience of Claret today finds a wonderful continuity and deepening in the so-called “Eucharistic ecclesiology”, going beyond mere Eucharistic devotionalism. It means being aware and living out the mystery of the Church from its wellspring and culmination, from its source and summit, which is the Eucharistic presence of the Lord[30].

Thus for us the Eucharist is not merely a devotion, but the generative center of our missionary and community life, where the Body of Christ, which is the Church, is created and recreated, where the Revelation of the Word occurs most intensely and efficaciously.  The Word we listen to and proclaim really is, for others, and us a summons to the table of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist the Word takes on its full sacramental force in relationship to the Body of Christ, while at the same time revealing the deeper meaning of the internal Church community, in which the members share in the breaking of the bread, the sacrificial attitude and the solidarity with which they will then go out as servants of the Word to encounter their brothers and sisters.

Like Claret, we live the mystery of the Eucharist from season to season.  It acquires different overtones, different meanings, as our life goes on.  We cannot live the mystery all at once, and thus we ask our Father for “our daily bread”.  Even though we celebrate only a single mystery, the experience of the Eucharist differs for each of us.  We want to reach the point of identification and conformation to Christ so that we can say, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me”, and, along with Him, to make our life a gift “so that all may have life and have it in abundance” (cf. Jn. 10: 10).

Gathered around the table of the Lord, who shares his life with his disciples, we experience the sorrow of the exclusion of so many people from that other table the Lord has prepared for his sons and daughters: the good things of Creation entrusted to the human family.  The Eucharist is a powerful call to work together to transform the world according to God’s plan.

c) Praying in and from the Eucharistic Presence

Along with our Father Founder, we understand that the Eucharist is the nucleus of all Christian prayer.  The Eucharistic celebration shows us that we pray “through Christ, with Him and in Him”.  The Church is not the author of her own prayer, but receives the prayer of Jesus and of the Spirit, which she offers back to Him.  The Jesus who called the Twelve “to be with Him” (Mk. 3:14) wants to be with us “forever” in a perfect communion of life and prayer.  The Jesus who gives his Body and Blood to us as his Bride, the Church, also gives us his prayer, his intercession, his praise and adoration.

The Eucharist is the prayer that the Church proclaims “through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  The Eucharistic Church never prays alone.  The Church and her Lord are united in the same flesh (cf. Ep. 5: 31), in the same word, in the same passion; they are one body, in one and the same prayer[31]. As Bride, the Church shares in the prayer of the Bridegroom.  Making Eucharist, the Church creates itself.  “The Church makes the Eucharist…the Eucharist makes the Church”.

United to Christ, we intercede for the men and women of the earth.  We beg the Father to send his Spirit to create the Messianic signs of the Kingdom.  In prayer we unite ourselves to all the conflictive situations in the world.  We allow the tears and cries of the suffering of humanity and nature to penetrate us, so that they may be converted in petition, in intercession[32]. We only pray in the Spirit, like Jesus, when the cries of the people, which come before God’s throne, are mixed with our voice raised in supplication.  Prayer creates solidarity, spiritual communion with all people…”Pray for your enemies”, Jesus told us. The Eucharist, then, becomes the sacrament par excellence for reuniting the dispersed, “sacramentum mundi” (the “sacrament of the world”). At the same time, contemplation of Jesus in the Eucharist liberates our hearts from fear and from self-centeredness and leads us inexorably to a decided commitment on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are oppressed.

d) Welcoming the Gift of the Word

“The Word of God is the primary source of all Christian spirituality.  It nourishes a personal relationship with the living God and with his saving and sanctifying will”[33]. The Chapter document “Servants of the Word” offers us an important spiritual perspective for developing the dimension of “hearers of the Word”[34]. Only passion for the Word nourishes us and impels us to give ourselves to others.  We are “servants of the Word in community”[35]. Without a deep passion for the Word we are nothing.  Through diligent reading of the Word we solidify our identity as disciples of Jesus and we rediscover the mission that He entrusts to us of proclaiming the Kingdom.  Our communities are called to be true schools of spirituality where, as Mary did, the Word is listened to, welcomed and shared.

The Word-Mission Project, which the Congregation has proposed, helps us deepen our individual and community encounter with the Word and aids us to understand it in its contexts and translate it into our missionary life.

e) Prayer as Remembrance, especially of Mary Most Holy

The communion of the Church with human beings is not restricted to those who are alive today.  The Church feels united also to those who have “gone before”. It recalls those who have preceded us, calls upon them, convokes them in its faith and creates a universal community.  Certain holy people, like Joseph, the husband of Mary, Anthony Mary Claret, Ignatius Loyola, Alphonsus Liguori, Dominic Guzmán, Teresa of Jesus, Catharine of Siena, our Martyrs of Barbastro, etc., but especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, are very much present in our collective memory as we pray.  Our spirituality is nourished and configured starting from their missionary lives and their intercession.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of our Congregation, is for us a memory and an abiding presence.  We call ourselves “sons of her Heart”; we call upon her as formatrix, directress and, above all, as spiritual mother.  Our missionary spirituality has an irreplaceable Cordi-Marian imprint[36]. We experience that, as in Jesus, our mission has to be seen in conjunction with our status as sons.

The remembrance of those who have passed through the world marked with the sign of faith or in the universal hope of the Kingdom becomes subversive prayer, imperiling the status quo.  The story of the vanquished, the losers, those who lived their lives anonymously, those who suffered the consequences of injustice, lives once more and is internalized as a transforming power.

Besides the remembrances of the canonized saints, we recall our deceased living in communion with us, our roots, our fathers and mothers in the faith, learning from them and resolving not to repeat the mistakes they made.  And all this takes place in the presence of God who has lovingly received them and shed his light upon them: “Bring them into the light of your presence” (Eucharistic Prayer II).

f) Healing Grace: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick

Holy Mother Church offers the believer who is ill in spirit or in body healing processes that culminate in the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick.  We missionaries also, suffer from the effects of our sins or from the things that happen to our bodies.  We too have recourse to penitential or healing processes and we fittingly celebrate the sacraments of healing grace.  St. Paul understood his mission of reconciliation from his own experience of having been reconciled by the grace of the Lord (cf. 2Co. 5: 18-19).

In especially serious cases we recognize the need to live times of Christian and missionary re-initiation[37]. Only in that context does the sacramental celebration, which the Church offers, acquire its full power and recuperative meaning.  In those moments, spiritual accompaniment and the closeness of the community are of great importance.

3. In community of life

The life of our communities revolves around life together and prayer; but the mission is at the heart of every community.  The brothers are a source of sanctification because they are the places where God acts.

a) Inserted into Our Spiritual Tradition

Spirituality is transmitted among us through life together and through communion.

To enter into the community of the Congregation is to become part of a great spiritual tradition and to commit oneself to it with creative fidelity.  The older members of the Congregation and the older Organisms take on a new prominence in this context.  They are the ones who bear witness, the ministers of the spiritual tradition.  Their presence and influence are especially important in those places where young missionaries live in order for the inheritance to become prophecy.  It is fitting for the older members to exercise a role of spiritual paternity[38].

To enter into the community of the Congregation means to be reciprocally open to a future in which new generations will play a decisive role in the spiritual regeneration and its transmission[39].

b) In a Community That Is a Family in the Spirit

We live our spirituality in a community, a family in the Spirit.  This requires communication of faith, traveling the road together, mutual help, fraternal correction, the sharing of resources and experiences as authentic brothers in the Lord[40].

Communion in the spirit is necessary.  Community meetings have to become settings for communication and dialogue—especially in the elaboration of the community project—and less forums for debate or the mere programming of activities[41].

One of the most negative effects of secularization and fragmentation in society is the loss of social identity on the part of religious in our society.  And this is a basic need.  Everyone in the world needs to feel he or she belongs, to feel socially accepted.  Because of this we suffer the lack of a sense of belonging and identity. Obviously the best place to find that defense of our identity is the community we live in.  The community offers support for that deep vocational reason for our existence as consecrated people. Our belonging to a community makes us understand that we are important, not only because of what we do, but especially because of what we are.  Our fellowship of love is the best sign for our society: “fraternal communion, before being an instrument for a determined mission, is a theological space in which we can experience the mystical presence of the Risen Lord (Mt. 18: 20)”[42]. But this is not possible if our community does not touch our spiritual life, because our fraternal life is “participation in the communion of the Trinity “[43] and this model demands that nothing be held back.

Missionary community—among us—is in need of thorough renovation.  The “mission house” of these new times must be regenerated in the different surrounding of the Congregation.  Our local community is called to be a school of missionary spirituality[44]. Our Claretian community is missionary and not monastic.  Living religious and missionary fellowship among the people and going forth on mission out of this experience is a path that gives a new air to our spirituality.  Inserted fellowship uncovers the deepest meaning of the Word[45], lives the Eucharist in a special way and collaborates closely with the local Church and with the culture of each people[46].

Multi-cultural Claretian communities are arising among us; intercultural communion presents us with new challenges.

In this same context the Encounters and Workshops held by the Claretians can and do take on a new importance as focal points for spiritual animation and regenerative encounter.

c) Community Discernment of the Spirit

A missionary community is, in a revealing way, a community adept at spiritual discernment.  This may be one of the aspects where we need the most growth in the future.  Discerning the good spirit is something that goes beyond mere intellectuality acuity. Thus no one can consider himself superior to anyone else. In discernment a community places itself humbly before God with the desire to discover God’s will[47]. Thus discernment demands: prayer, listening to God and to the brothers, awareness that God usually reveals his mysteries to those who are the simplest, poorest and most child-like.

The human traits presupposed for all authentic discernment are: knowing how to dialogue, how to work out solutions, how to accept or treat personality conflicts.

d) Community Appealing for the Kingdom of God in the Church

Everything in our life centers on the Kingdom of God that is coming[48]. Thus we live like the Apostles and in the style of the Apostles

Emphasizing the prophetic dimension of our charism affects our personal and community spirituality[49].  We belong to a people chosen by God to inherit his Kingdom, where the prophetic word illumines the course of history, fosters a just and dignified life for every human being and promotes the fellowship beloved by the Father.

We must never forget that we form communities that belong to the great community that is the Church and the particular churches with their Shepherds.  Our Father Founder wanted us to be deeply inserted into the spiritual dynamism of the Church[50]. We cannot understand what it means to carry out ministry without being rooted in the Church.  Thus we must allow ourselves to be borne by the Church’s great currents of spirituality, by its teachings, by the unpredictable action of the Spirit in the Church and, above all, by the Church’s Liturgy.

Our love for the Church must sometimes be manifested in a healthy criticism and a humble defense of Gospel values.

4. The personal path of missionary spirituality

Each missionary responds to his vocation when he develops his own path of spirituality in a personal life project and commits himself seriously and faithfully to it.  Although our works do not justify us—only the action of the Spirit within us does that! – nevertheless, it belongs to us to be aware of the gift, with which we have been graced, to actualize it and to care for it. It belongs to each of us to believe in the possibilities that the Spirit grants us and to allow ourselves to be borne by the Spirit in our individual lives[51]. Spirituality must be seen above all as faith in Jesus, the Son of God, as trust in Him and in his Spirit, as love of friendship and gratitude and, because of Him, as our fidelity to the Covenant.

a) Fidelity to Our Covenant and Its Commitments

In Jesus God the Father offered us a new and everlasting Covenant.  We have accepted the call to follow Jesus and imitate his fidelity and commitment. The charism of the evangelical counsels (obedience, chastity and poverty), which we receive as gift and task, express our commitment to the Covenant and make us its servants in this world.  The faithful living of the three evangelical counsels configures our personal, community and missionary spirituality. The progressive revelation of all their energies situates us on an authentic path of spirituality[52]. Through the evangelical counsels the Spirit liberates us from all inordinate sexuality, possessiveness and control and makes us fit to turn these basic realities into avenues for expressing love of God and of the brothers, expressions and paths of apostolic love. To live the evangelical counsels is to live like Jesus.  Through a journey made on the basis of calls, gifts and renunciations, we die to ourselves and experience the mysterious power of God in the weakness of our human lives.

When we allow ourselves to be counseled by the Gospel of Jesus and by his Spirit, and we are docile—in our hearts and in our works—we enter into a state of deep happiness and we transmit it along with peace.  The Gospel counsels us above all to live in keeping with the poor, the weakest, the most excluded from the table of love.  The evangelical counsels are a path of personal and community integration in a world where disintegrating forces are often present. To the extent that we develop our lives according to the Gospel’s demands we experience the joy of those who follow the Lord.  This joy often contradicts the criteria for happiness that are widely spread by the social communications media.  Thus the evangelical counsels have a tremendous counter-cultural, prophetic impact.

The historical and cultural context we live in offers new possibilities for better shaping our living of obedience, poverty and chastity.  But at the same time the neoliberal ideology that is so omnipresent threatens us and taints us.  Chastity is called upon to display the sacrificial and redeeming ability of love.  Missionary poverty must shine forth as a parable of the living action and presence of Jesus, who made himself poor and lived among us.  The option for the poor must, today more than ever, be a realistic incarnation of solidarity and prophetism[53]. In a world where the face of Christ has been multiplied by the increasing number of poor people, missionary life is impossible without a personal relationship and a serious commitment to these brothers and sisters of Christ, God’s special children.  Obedience disposes us to seek the ways of God and commit ourselves in concerted action.

We will now present some means that allow us to advance on the path of spirituality and to overcome our evil tendencies and roadblocks.

b) Physical Exercise

Care of the body also forms part of the spiritual process.  As is becoming clearer every day, psychosomatic unity indicates that that we cannot have spirituality that has no reference to the body, nor real bodily health that neglects the spirit. When our body is out of balance our spirit tends to be out of balance as well.

The most well rounded spiritual traditions pay great attention to the body and its asceticism.  This is emphasized by those of our brothers who are in contact with Hindu or Buddhist spirituality.  When this is recognized, we rediscover the meaning of fasting and abstinence, of regular physical exercise, healthy and sensible eating, sports. Especially in Eastern spirituality—more and more valued and welcomed among us—this is a key aspect.  We are becoming more and more convinced that psychosomatic balance and the spiritual life are interrelated.  The various types of imbalances or dependencies that we can suffer from[54] find their best remedy here.

Our body is the temple of the Spirit and a member of the Body of Christ; its mission is to glorify God.  In our body, our history, our deepest memories, is etched.  The body is the setting of the adventure of our life.  It has a Eucharistic vocation to become a body handed over.  The virtue of chastity must keep on progressively integrating everything in the bodily dimension.

Our body is very closely linked to nature.  It is the part of nature that we have tamed the best.  Our spirituality takes on deep ecological overtones that we cannot disregard.  Many of our brothers are living the spirituality of nature, of passion for ecology[55]. It is an excellent trend[56].

This sensitivity makes us better perceive the possibilities for all human bodies, but also their shame and degradation.  Many of our missionaries—as part of their spirituality—find themselves drawing near to human bodies in order to cure them from evil—as Jesus did, in order to restore their dignity and make them worthy settings for religious and Christian experience.

c) Personal Prayer

Prayer has dynamic meaning in our spirituality.  Claret’s missionary zeal was enkindled during prayer: “in meditatione mea, exardescit ignis” (“in my meditation, a fire blazed forth”) (Ps 38: 4 – cf. Vg) was one of his most cherished texts. The chapter of the Constitutions that deals with prayer says, above all, our prayer is “missionary prayer”; it has to be open to the reality of creation and of history.  It is constant recognition, adoration, intercession and praise of the presence of God in our world and in our history, the echo of a life united with the brothers and sisters, especially the poor and those who suffer. Our most intimate relationship with God “Abba” is marked—as in Jesus—by awareness of the mission we share and by prophetic intercession[57].

We know full well the importance of personal prayer in our lives; but there is the general complaint that we do not know how offer resistance to the frenetic pace we keep and we show no willingness to regularly find the time off we need and time set aside for prayer.  If the desire is strong, undoubtedly one can find a way to make it a reality.  Personal prayer has to come from a daily commitment in our lives.  It is the best way of celebrating our covenant with the Lord, the Bridegroom of the Church, so that our mission may bear fruit. This personal encounter with the Lord gives meaning to everything that happens and to everything we do.  Fostering the prayer of our brothers—individually and in community—is to care for their spiritual health. The Claretian Directory offers some practical guidelines we should not ignore[58].

It is appropriate to give special emphasis among us to a ministry of personal prayer that takes into account cultural differences.  In the Congregation today different sensibilities are shown in this respect: one has an Asian sensibility, another an African one, another a European one, another an American one.  In every case, those who have the gift of mastery in prayer and in life in the Spirit—masters of prayer! —must find a welcome among us.

d) Contemplation and Art

The contemplative ability—so necessary for living the spiritual life—is not reduced to study.  It is expressed in other ways.  Our Abba and Creator has endowed us with senses, sensitivity, a capacity for symbolism and transcendence.  The development of these abilities empowers our spirituality in unexpected ways. We cannot forget that in the “Veni Creator” we call upon the Spirit to enkindle the light of the senses (“accende lumen sensibus”). Empowered by the presence of the Spirit, our senses perceive reality better and take advantage of it; they are the best preamble to religious experience.  When we develop in ourselves the ability to see, hear, smell, touch and taste, our spirit finds the best preparation for becoming active and encountering the meaning of reality. The asceticism of the senses has no other goal than this: “to hear, see, touch, smell, taste” in the most enlightened way[59]. The contemplation of art prepares us to journey to our limits and from there to attain a transcendence over all that exists.

Con-templation reminds us of the word “temple”.  A contemplative is one who is able to discover in everything its symbolic, transcendent dimension and convert reality into a place of the epiphany (manifestation) of the Glory of God (cf. Ps. 19: 1-7), into an authentic “temple”. Contemplation of art and of creation (God’s artwork) empowers our symbolic and sacramental vision.

A very important element in spirituality—to a large extent dependent on contemplation—is creative ability, the ability to be a creator.  God has created us as creators.  The ability to create is an expression of spirituality.  Only the Spirit creates.  Those who are borne by the Spirit perceive in themselves a strong creative ability in all the areas of being human.

We are convinced that all the instances of creativity that have been produced among us have been authentic instances of the Spirit, regardless of the area in which they have taken place.  This is how the Spirit is manifested in the human being: as Spiritus Creator (Creator-Spirit).

e) Spiritual Reading and Study

Our charism as hearers and servants of the Word demands that we cultivate the contemplative dimension in a special way.  Study belongs to that dimension—as Thomas Aquinas told us long ago.  The contemplative dimension is developed in us through regular study, reading, and reflecting on our thoughts and feelings[60].

Today we have vast amounts of information at our disposal.  But what purpose does it serve if it is not translated into formation? All information is potential nourishment for our spirit and our mission; it passes from potentiality to reality through the “power of conceptualizing”, through the discipline of study and meditation. Information that forms us allows us to have a more open, more catholic mind.  It prepares us to live with greater intensity and greater realism.  Intellectual curiosity opens us to the world of the spirit and displays in us that innate philosophical and theological ability with which we have been graced[61].

A community of missionaries that is excessively pragmatic, mere workers, which does not cultivate its spirit, its intellectual capacity, cannot exercise a ministry that helps their brothers and sisters.

Besides information in newspapers, there is another level of information that has withstood the test of time: the reading of the works of great thinkers, of literature, and of art.  The lack of spiritual depth that we sometimes detect among us finds one of its main causes here.

f) Spiritual Accompaniment and the Personal Project

Many missionaries recognize the importance of spiritual accompaniment for our journey of spirituality, not only in youth, but also at every age.  We need to communicate ourselves on the deepest level with a brother or sister experienced in the way of the Lord[62]. This serves as a point of reference for us, a means of contrast, and a stimulus.  Part of the duties of our superiors is a service of spiritual animation in relation to the community and, from this, to each of the brothers in the community[63]. Today thoughts are interestingly turning toward shared accompaniment in a life renewal group, even though the group consists of members from different communities and even includes other members of the Claretian Family.

The personal project is an expression of responsibility for our vocation[64]. Thus it expresses the commitment of each one of us to the Covenant with God.  The elaboration of the personal project only has meaning when it is done in response to God’s grace and the presence of God in our life.

Fraternal correction has always been important in the Church’s spirituality and that of religious.  Jesus asks us not to criticize our brothers and sisters, but, out of the primacy of love and respect, to work together for personal and community growth (cf. Mt. 18).

(Chapter III Of The Document of the Spirituality Congress, 2002: Our Missionary Spirituality along the Journey of God’s People.)



[1] Cf. IPM 16.

[2] Cf. SW 13.

[3] Cf. IPM 17.

[4] Cf. EA 619.

[5] Cf. Aut 68.

[6] Cf. Aut 212.

[7] Cf. EA 663.

[8] Cf. VC 70.

[9] Capital sins.

[10] Cf. Aut 340; 424.

[11] Cf. CPR 54.

[12] Cf. MCT 146.

[13] Cf. CC 51.

[14] “May the Lord be blessed for stooping to use such a miserable person as myself to do such great things.  May God’s be the glory and mine the confusion I deserve.  Everything I have I owe to God; He has given me health, energy, words, and all the rest besides.  I have always known that the Lord was my fuel; but on this trip all the rest knew it too.  They could see that I hardly ate or drank anything all day, except a potato and a glass of water.  I never ate meat, fish or eggs, or drank wine.  I was always happy and they never saw me tired, despite the fact that some days I preached as many as 12 sermons” (Aut 703).

[15] AA 2.

[16] Cf. SW 16.

[17] “It is not a matter of the male or female religious doing what he or she pleases.  The Council speaks of “apostolic and charitable activity” originating in and animated by the Holy Spirit.  Only this kind of activity fits into the very nature of religious life, insofar as it constitutes a sacred ministry and a particular work of charity that has been entrusted to religious by the Church and that must be exercised in its name” (Contemplative Dimension, 4).“It is urgent to increase individual and community consciousness of the primary origin of apostolic and charitable activity, as living participation in that mission of Christ and the Church, which has its origin in the Father and demands that all those who are sent employ a consciousness of love in the dialogue of prayer” (Contemplative Dimension, 4).

[18] Cf. IPM 38.

[19] Cf. PO 13-14; AA 4.

[20] Cf. SW 11.3.

[21] Cf. SW 13.

[22] Cf. SW 15.

[23] Cf. IPM 21.

[24] Cf. CC 46.

[25] Cf. SW 17.

[26] Ordinary Time.

[27] Cf. CC 35.

[28] Priests and deacons.

[29] Cf. PE 14.

[30] Cf. SC 10.

[31] Cf. SC 7.

[32] Cf. SW 16.1.

[33] VC 94.

[34] SW, 13-17.

[35] SW, 6-9.

[36] Cf. IPM 20.

[37] Cf. IPM 21.4.

[38] Cf. IPM 18.

[39] Cf. IPM 36.

[40] Cf. SW 7.

[41] Cf. IPM 28.

[42] VC 42.

[43] VC 41.

[44] Cf. IPM 23.

[45] Cf. SW 16. 4.

[46] Cf. SW 9.1.

[47] Cf. CPR 61.

[48] Cf. IPM 42.

[49] Cf. SW 10.1.

[50] Cf. SW 19.2.

[51] Cf. CPR 52.

[52] Cf. CC 36.

[53] Cf. IPM 44.

[54] Drinking, eating, smoking, sex, etc.

[55] Defense of the earth and its creatures.

[56] Cf. IPM 50.3.

[57] Cf. CC 33.34.37.

[58] Cf. Dir 84-93.

[59] Architecture and music are environmental arts that place us at the limits of the world.  Architecture gives form to space and music gives form to time.  They create the environment that enfolds us; they give form and meaning at the limit of the world.  Painting, sculpture, dance, theater, and cinema give form and depiction to everything that dwells in the world.

[60] Cf. IPM 34.

[61] Cf. IPM 34.

[62] Cf. IPM 21.2.

[63] The exhortation “Mutuae Relationes” thus expresses it when it says: “Their authority comes from the Spirit of the Lord in conjunction with the sacred Hierarchy… Religious superiors have the mission and authority of being teacher of the spirit relating to the evangelical content of their own Institute; within this ambit, then, they should exercise a true spiritual direction of the whole Congregation and its communities.  Through it they assure a practice that is in sincere harmony with the authentic magisterium of the Hierarchy, aware they are fulfilling a mandate of grave responsibility within the ambit of the evangelical area indicated by their Founder” (MR 13, a)

[64] Cf. SW 13.3.

Related posts: