Vocational Letter – February, 2018
It has been many years – many- where two verbs seemed to run through some villages by a Claretian in an attempt to appeal to a missionary vocation with young people. The verbs were: to evangelize and educate. I was surprised and I continue to be amazed. These words have always been part of my religious vocation as a Claretian. And I said to myself: Why can’t I?
From the beginning, I saw that I needed many changes in my life. I had always aspired to be a teacher. But not a religious. And when I would meditate and reflect… I thought of the missionaries who were dedicated to educating and evangelizing. I was invited to move to the «other side.» I heard a few words which were profound: Come and see. There is always a promise that’s coming. Here is where it all started.
Dealing with religious life, studies, and learning about human and spiritual themes, I soon realized that this «mission» could be for me. And I loved the Gospel of Jesus which enlightened me, the example of Mary who encouraged me, the life of Claret where I fell in love. One day I found a phrase by R .Tagore which excited me: «Life is given to us and we deserve to share it.» And also other verbs made me think: «I love…» «I wait…» «I found…». Seneca said that if one doesn’t know where door leads, no breeze will be favorable.
God put me on this path and I started to walk for him. Jesus of Nazareth was a little and yet a lot of my northern star and my guide. With my discouragements and uncertainties, I’m still here and still walking. Antonio Machado said: ‘the path is made by walking.» I was not completely convinced because footprints can easily be erased. This is why I corrected the teacher and he said to me: ‘the path is made by love.» The footprints of that love will never be erased. «Education is not like filling a glass, but to light a fire» (Aristophanes). I have tried to be attentive so that my fire doesn’t stop giving light.
God asked me… Men urged me… and Jesus always surprises me: walking, teaching, evangelizing, playing, loving… precisely the mission which excited me: to be well-formed from a human, intellectual and religious perspective can’t be done only with the laws, but from a passionate and heartfelt vocation. I was asked to be open to the grace which the Spirit would place in my life. And to be open to what may be new, with the signs of the time.
LOOKING FOR PATHS
There have been many stages, as a human being and as a Christian. First; not knowing which path to follow, hesitating, looking in a direction and then another, new horizons and surprises. Secondly, becoming acclimated; how to reach out to people, students, not only intellectually, but above all, in a Christian manner. Third; I became convinced that God was frolicking, jumping, walking and encouraging through the students… The meaning of the verbs began to make sense in my life. According to Unamuno, we cannot create a generation of idiots; on the contrary, a new generation, who are creative, excited and filled with hope. In this case, a missionary generation and Claretian.
When asked about the meaning of this verb which is performed and fulfilled in my life. To educate so as to teach needs a time for learning through formation. The world needs the education of truth, of a personal education. One needs quiet time to enter into the mystery: Education at all its levels, needs personal formation, human, scientific, religious, and according to the Claretian charism. When one is nurtured, it then overflows into the other: in children, young people, adults, in all environments and is able to bring the Gospel to the periphery which needs it most, especially to students with limitations. It is required that many young people, those who are detached, risk to be educated. There is a need for missionaries educators. They are challenged to educate humanly, culturally, in a Christian manner, with a unique charism: from a Claretian. It is a call for many young people to overcome routines and to be willing to offer themselves; so that they may form values, in the «Excellence» of education, filling their heart with an attitude of service, humility and generosity. It is a call to educate, and after having been educated, to be able to reach out to others without reservations, in a positive manner. Education is converted into missionary education. The education from this perspective is the most direct path to true evangelization. Each course is a path of the soul, for the student and for the teacher. There is always a need to look for a «missionary type » of education. He is the one who teaches, educates and thinks about the future. I thought I had to be the father of our future, rather than the son of our past. The teacher and the student lives in a classroom as the soul lives in the body. A student learns to love, and if it’s loved, it feels truly loved. Students then become the real protagonist in education and learning.
This is the other verb that the Claretian missionary mentioned. It also captured my attention. I would say that it focused on the catechesis which Pope Francis shared. It is a call to be a missionary like Jesus. Go to the sick and poor like Jesus. Announce the Good News, like Jesus. All this powerfully touched my heart. The slides presented to us by the missionaries focused on the mission which made it difficult for me forget. This left an indelible mark on my life. He was a missionary like Jesus. He was on a mission-educating with a special charism: the charism of Claret. Could I go to the missions or stay here in Europe, but bringing the Good News in a mission entrusted to me?
It’s not easy, it wasn’t easy speaking about missions with examples, words, and about culture. I had to speak about being a missionary in a culture and to be consistent. The class called for a permanent recycling. How does one evangelize in a classroom? First, to be open to the science of truth, presenting the culture from love and with good humor. Any culture has much to offer. Second, learn from the students. They may have not been in the university for a long time, but they have a lot to share. Third, be willing to have a good humor and see love as something worthwhile. Love, if it is true, is always giving. A smile is necessary and urgent when beginning any class. This isn’t learned in the university. You learn it day by day when you open your heart with others. It is a Claretian virtue if one looks to the Founder. Father Claret said: «When you have to correct anyone, reach out with the hand of sweetness, for this is very effective. Sweetness is the great servant of charity and its inseparable companion. To have to rebuke, may be considered bitter; but, with sweetness and baked in the fire of charity… it is warm, friendly and delicious. Let us not forget that proverb that says: «More flies are caught with a drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.» And fourth, don’t shy away from dialogue. Listen, share, stop talking and allow them to express themselves. Students can teach us a lot.
Educate-evangelizing is a binomial that, perhaps, cannot be dissociated from the Claretian dimension. Educate, teaches from the cultural preparation and from the testimony of the Gospel. Evangelize-educating follows the same binomial, and is impossible to live separately. Evangelize from the Gospel lived and loved, from prayer, and from silence. The silence leads me to the Gospel and the Gospel leads me to value this mission by sharing and good humor. We are called to live the joy of the Gospel. As Francis of Assisi would say: “we always have to preach with our life and if we have to, use words,” For this reason my life is moving like water that runs without ceasing, by the stream which refreshes my soul. So, I feel that I can be a pilgrim of hope and tenderness in this wonderful mission of educating and evangelizing. This is what it’s all about.
Pedro Fuertes Combarros, cmf.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, España.