October 24 is a special day for our Claretian Family. We pause from our routine activities, take a good look at the life of our Founder, and draw inspiration to renew ourselves in the charism he has bequeathed onto us. We shall unite ourselves with him to glorify God and offer ourselves unreservedly to the mission of the Lord.
I invite all of you to take a little time to contemplate the life of our founder and imagine what he would ask of his missionaries today in order to be true to our missionary vocation.
The profile of a missionary, which Claret wrote in the autobiography (Aut 494), expresses what he hopes from us. The first thing is the fire of love that burns in us. Everything naturally follows from there. He ardently prayed for it thus: “My Jesus, I ask you for love, for great flames of that fire you brought down from heaven to earth” (Aut 446). Without the fire of love, a missionary is like a locomotive or a ship without fire and steam to move them (Aut 441).
Some of the deep spiritual illuminations of Claret, which he describes as what the Lord gave him to understand, are about us, his missionaries. Claret applied the seven thunders narrated in Apocalypse 10:1 to the missionaries who should shout aloud the word of God like thunder and imitate the Apostles James and John, the sons of thunder, in zeal, chastity, and love for Jesus and Mary (Aut 686). Jesus revealed to Claret that It was not Claret or his missionaries but the Spirit of the Father who was speaking in them while they were proclaiming the word of God. Hence, every missionary could say, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Therefore, he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and the broken hearted” (Aut 687). Indeed, we should be able to say it about ourselves today.
This jubilee year of Mercy invites us “to be merciful like the Father” (Misericordiae Vultus 13). The love for God and for our brothers and sisters poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (CC 10) is the merciful love of the Father. Our Founder experienced the peace, joy and harmony of his missionary community and the fruits of their apostolate as the singular grace God in His infinite mercy and kindness (Aut 609). Claret would want us to celebrate God’s merciful love in the community and impart it to all our brothers and sisters in our mission with the tenderness and compassion which we learn from the Heart of Mary.
An important message that Claret received from Jesus and Mary for the missionaries was to learn mortification to be more fruitful in the mission (Aut 684). In a consumer world, which promotes consumerism and spending, it is a taboo to speak about mortification and moderation. Paradoxically these values are all the more relevant for us today to be credible witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel.
Our Founder understood his vocation as a process of transformation into God. He earnestly prayed for this change: “At the words of consecration the substance of bread and wine are changed into the substance of your body and blood. Almighty God consecrate me; speak over me the words that will change me totally into you (Aut 756). Holy Eucharist, the bread transformed and broken for the life of the world, gives the clue to understand the process of transformation that has to happen in a missionary.
It reminds me of the story of Tagore in Gitanjali. A mendicant who went from door to door begging heard that the King of Kings, seated in a golden Chariot, was passing by. With eager longing, he waited on the wayside hoping that the luck of his life had come at last. The chariot of the King stopped near him and the king alighted to the poor man’s delight. Alas, before the beggar could do anything, the king held out his hands begging for alms. Confused, the mendicant reached out to his bag, took out a small corn and placed on the palm of the king reluctantly. Back in his hut, the poor man emptied his bag on the floor. To his surprise, he found a little grain of gold in the heap of his alms. He bitterly wept. If he had had the heart to give his all to the King of Kings, everything would have turned into gold!
Claret did not withhold anything for himself, but rather offered his whole self to the Lord. No wonder his life was transformed into Christ. It is this process of transformation that the XXV General Chapter invites us to embrace. We shall actively open ourselves whole and entire to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit in the Congregation. Wish you a very Happy Feast of the Founder!
Fr. Mathew Vattamattam cmf
General Superior of the Congregation