ON THE OCCASION OF THE 175th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PRIESTLY ORDINATION OF THE FATHER FOUNDER

“DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”

These words of Jesus to his disciples during the Last Supper indelibly mark the life of the Christian Community. It deals with making memory of a life that had as its only objective to fulfill the will of the Father, with love as its only inspirational principle, with building communion with God and with the brothers as a permanent horizon, and, as a sign of understanding, the reality of the Covenant of God with humanity. The community that celebrates the memory of the Easter of its Lord is called to live in such a way so as to be converted into a sign and testimony of the Mystery which it celebrates. He who “celebrates the memory with heart” is felt called to “be memory” of Jesus and to be a sign of the Kingdom in the history of all times and of all peoples. It is the joyful and difficult mission of the Church.

To fulfill this mission the Spirit raises up charisms and ministries in the Church. This year the Holy Father has asked that we fix our attention particularly on the ministry of priests. He has called this the “Year of the Priest”. This initiative has been backed with various initiatives in distinct particular churches. I am sure that many Claretians will join with them finding an opportunity to deepen the awareness and experience of their vocation as religious priests, as missionaries of the Kingdom.

It is a joyful coincidence that precisely this year we commemorate the 175th anniversary of the priestly ordination of our Father Founder. On June 13, 1835 he was ordained a priest in the chapel of the residence of the Bishop of Solsona. There some Claretians will gather to remember this important moment in the life of the Founder. We will unite ourselves with them from various parts of the world.

Our Father Founder felt called to the priesthood from a very young age (cf. Aut 40), though the circumstances of life took him down other roads. As a young adult he rediscovered this call which was gradually being clarified to him. He went through a phase of breaking-off with the world and which materialized into the option to become a priest (Aut 93). At the end of his formative process he was ordained a priest after having made forty days of spiritual exercises with “great pain and temptation” (cf. Aut102). It was surely a moment of purification in the motivations and the ideal of a priest for the seminarian Claret. Restless, he continued seeking-out how to live his priestly vocation, always accompanied in this search through the texts from the Word of God in which he felt a powerful call from the Lord, and through his contact with the people for whom he discovered the need to listen to this Word.

We know that he felt, finally, called to consecrate himself totally to God in a radical following of Jesus by means of a prophetic ministry: he would be an “apostolic missionary”. All of the dimensions of his existence were articulated around this radical following of Jesus. He lived the gift of his priestly vocation in the absolute surrender to God:

          which required him to be a witness, “reproducing in himself that form of life that the Son of God embraced” (cf. LG 44);

          which filled him with the desires to announce the Word that he himself assiduously heard and meditated upon;

          which made him attentive to the situations of his brothers, dear brothers and sisters of God, and which moved him to creatively seek-out new ways of responding to their needs;

          which continuously oriented him toward new missionary horizons and shifted him toward the frontiers of evangelization;

          which filled his heart with apostolic love and converted him into the dynamism which moved his entire life

          which moved him to discover in Mary the Heart totally open to the Word of God and to the needs of her sons and daughters;

          which helped him to value the vocation of others and to promote new initiatives which would strengthen the evangelical dynamism of the Church.

Furthermore, Claret felt himself called to live this vocational gift in missionary fraternity, sharing life with other priests and laity (these composed very quickly into a missionary community) animated by his same spirit (cf Aut 489) and nourishing in it their surrender to the Lord and the missionary character of their ministerial service.

The celebration of this anniversary within the Year of the Priest invites us to think about the demands which help us to live the ordained ministry in this missionary context. We are called to insert ourselves in particular churches, but without ever losing the horizon of the universality of our missionary vocation. We are called to walk jointly with other members of the Christian community, but always attentive to the needs of all, beyond the frontiers of the Church. The consecration to God, which defines our life, creates in us a sphere of freedom which prepares us to live the mission from the missionary charism which the Spirit has given us. Discernment in missionary fraternity, with its various means, guarantees us the evangelical and ecclesial rootedness in our options.

It would be good to re-read and to meditate that which the Constitutions tell us in nn. 82-85. There they indicate to us the features which ought to characterize the exercise of the ordained ministry in our missionary community. It calls us to emphasize the prophetic dimension of this ministry as much to the service of the particular Church as to the Universal Church. The life of the Father Founder encourages us to this.

We return to the charge of Jesus to his disciples: “do this in memory of me”, and we feel ourselves called, in each one of those places where we have been sent, to unite ourselves to his sacrifice so that the world has life and has it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). May our ministerial service help the Christian community to be this “memory of Jesus” and His announcement of the Kingdom.

Josep M. Abella, CMF
Superior General

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