OCTOBER LETTER – 2012
“Family” is a word that resonates deeply in the heart of each person. This word resonates with various accents and modalities according to different cultural contexts, but for the great majority, “family” is a word that evokes very deep feelings. Into the family we were born and formed, in it we were loved and learned how to love, in our daily family living values were instilled in us that later shaped our attitudes and our projects. We have often seen how the lack of a proper family environment has caused serious damage to the lives of some people, especially in the early stages of their lives.
The model of family has been changing over time, at varying rates in each cultural context. In countries with greater economic development it has moved from the model of “extended family” to “nuclear family”. In other places the model of “extended family” still continues, although this continues to evolve, at different rates but in a inexorable way. Anyway, the family remains, and will continue to be the cornerstone of society.
We are all part of the family that welcomed us and introduced us to the network of human relations in life. We are truly grateful to our families. We are interested and concerned about the life of our family and each one of its members. We strive to remain close to them and accompany them in the various circumstances of life. Our family is always an important point of reference for us.
The document “Men on Fire with Love” of the last General Chapter calls our attention to a new kind of family experience: the Congregation. It is true that the word “family” is used analogously, but it wishes to express a reality that embraces our whole person and all the areas of our life. The chapter document tells us: “We do not join the Congregation through a contract which we are able to rescind at will. We are not part of an association in which we dedicate part of our time and energy. We are a new family in the Spirit which is not based on flesh and blood but on love and in listening to, welcoming, and proclaiming the Word of God (cf. Mt 12:46 -50; Jn 15:12 ). Our new relationship and our community life, is symbolized and realized in the Eucharist and is nourished by prayer, family lifestyle, co-responsibility in government, and collaboration in the common mission (cf. CC 12-13) ” (MFL 38).
Our Congregation was born as a community. Father Founder and his five companions were felt moved by the same Spirit (Cf Aut 489). The Lord brought them together to form a community in which they would experience that same presence of the Spirit which unites people with ties stronger than any other and in which they will find the motivation and support necessary to be consecrated to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The history of the Congregation shows us that the stronger the link to community life, the more joyful is the vocational experience of each one, and more effective the missionary Project. The testimony of our martyrs of Barbastro is significant in this regard. They truly felt as brothers, helping one another on the road to martyrdom. This is also the experience of other Claretians who had to confront martyrdom alone, but felt themselves as part of a family that they knew carried them in its heart.
To love the Congregation is to love one’s family. To be positively interested for the Congregation is the natural consequence of feeling oneself part of this family. To work for the Congregation, both on the community and universal level, is the way to express our feeling of belonging to this family which has accompanied us in the growth of our experience of faith and continues to sustain us on the vocational journey. It pains me to know of those who are not interested in knowing its history or current reality. To better know about the development of the Congregation and the life of Claretians who lived their vocation radically and with joy helps us to respond to the call of the Lord with greater generosity. I believe we must put more emphasis on these aspects in the formation processes. On the other hand, there are many Claretians who show a remarkable ignorance about the spiritual patrimony and the history of the Congregation and who, unfortunately, don’t show any special interest in rectifying this situation. There has been a great effort in offering in various languages instruments which allow everyone to become closer to this rich congregational patrimony. Let us not ignore, but, rather, take advantage of them. I have seen Claretians who have repeatedly visited Europe and have never visited Claretian places nor prayed before the tomb of our Father Founder. This would have helped them to better understand the origins of our Institute.
How beautiful it is to be able to share with others the joy of belonging to the same family! In our family communion all of us feel grateful for the gift that each one brings to the whole community. Where this communion is lived with joy and radicality, the community makes itself more clearly a sign of the Kingdom of God, and the evangelizing commitment of each one of its members is fed and sustained with greater effectiveness.
It is sad, however, to see those who only demand their “rights” – which most of the time are just “whims” – who exist only to fulfill their own plans without taking in mind the community project, who deny to the community what it deserves by not handing-in what they have received as a result of their work or donations or gifts, or who easily ask for secularization or exclaustration when they see it can be advantageous to their particular interests. It hurts us and concerns us that there are brothers who do not feel joyful in the community.
We are all protagonists in the life of this family which is the Claretian community, and for this reason, we should ask what each of us can contribute. The Congregation is our family. The family is the place where we support each other. The congregational family is the space which allows us to feel as brothers and to learn the language of love and generosity which gives us the ability to live as brothers for all the people to whom we have been sent. “We give thanks for the gift of the community, as the place in which we have come to be brothers (cf FLC 11) and we will strengthen the virtues and attitudes which help us to grow in communion: humility, sincerity, fraternal correction, reconciliation, mutual appreciation, interest, and concern” (MFL 56.1). May the memory of our Father Founder help us in this regard.
I wish all of you a joyful celebration of the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, our Founder.
Josep M. Abella, CMF.