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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

Letter to Sister Prema


20 January 2015
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.

 

“I want to become a saint, by satiating the thirst of Jesus for love and souls.
And there is another big desire-to give the Mother Church many a saint from our Society.
These two are the only thing I pray for, work and suffer. Please pray for me, that I may fulfil his desire as regards our Society and myself” (Bl. Teresa M.C.) 

Dear Sr. Prema,

May the grace and peace of the Lord be with you, with all your Sisters and especially with all the Capitulars. You are almost on the eve of the celebration of the 10th General Chapter of the Missionaries of Charity.

Sunday the 1st of February 2015 is a great day of thanksgiving for you not only for the Decree of Praise but above all for the past fifty years of the Society’s phenomenal growth and expansion amidst the many trials, hardships and many other forms of sufferings and even persecutions. You have gone through fire and flood. The water has not drowned you, the fire has not burnt you, because the hand of the Lord was upon each one of you. God has revealed, God has saved, God has proclaimed (cf. Is. 43:1b-13). Blessed be the name of the Lord!

We will be offering a special holy Mass of thanksgiving on that day, if possible with all the M.C.s in Rome together, in order to thank God with you and pray for you that the celebration of the General Chapter may be a profound Pentecostal experience for you and a new Pentecost for the entire M.C. family.

The whole Chapter is, in a way, a “great thanksgiving” for the manifold and rich blessings of God. It may be good to have also a Day of Atonement and reparation for the many infidelities, negligences, omissions and carelessness, for the lack of the spirit of poverty, simplicity, chastity, docile obedience, and charity and other virtues of joy, gratitude, etc..

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us: Holy Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on all, especially on all the Capitulars gathered together in the upper room; melt us, mould us, fill us and use us. You are not alone in the upper room, but you are with our Lady and the Apostles, Bl. Teresa M.C. and the entire heavenly court, and in particular our M.C. community in heaven.

The strength and vitality of your Society does not only depend on the number of members you have and how well organized you are and how efficiently you all work. The real strength of the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity family consists in the number of saints we have in our M.C. family. “Today we have a tremendous need of saints, for whom we must assiduously implore God” (V.C. 35:3). “The church has seen in the profession of the evangelical counsels a special path to holiness…” (ibid.) In the Vita Consecrata, numbers from 35 to 40, the word “holiness/ holy” appears about twenty times. If we simply take the word “Holy”, which has four letters, these letters could stand for some of the essential elements of our religious life. The first letter in the word “holy” is ‘H’, which could stand for humility. We know that there are no proud saints in the Church, canonized and venerated. The second letter is ‘O’, which can stand for obedience, which is a vow that every religious has to make and practice. The third letter is ‘L’, which can stand for the twofold love of God and one’s neighbour, as the letter also has two dimensions, the vertical and the horizontal. They are like the two wings of a bird. No bird can fly with one wing alone. No human being can be saved without this twofold love, with which we fly to God. Here we can easily understand the Gospel of Mathew 25:31-46. This twofold, inseparable love is linked and merged into all our thoughts, words, actions, behaviour and attitudes. It is like salt in the food. The last letter of the word “holy” is ‘Y’, which could stand for yearning for God. “Like a deer that yearns for running streams, my soul is yearning for you, my God” (Ps 42:1 ff.). According to St. Augustine, without this yearning for God there is no prayer. He identifies prayer with the yearning of the human heart for God.

We have another word in the M.C. vocabulary: “Thirst”. Ultimately these words are similar, like “longing”, they coincide with our inner experience and our longing for God. Bl. Teresa M.C., for example, wrote:

“The attraction for the Blessed sacrament at times was so great. I longed for Holy Communion. Night after night the sleep would disappear and only to spend those hours in longing for his coming. This began in Asansol in Feb. and now every night for one hour or two, I have noticed it, from 11.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m., the same longing breaks into the sleep”.

Besides, Vita Consecrata identifies our call to consecrated life simply as a call to holiness in the first place. It says:

“The call to holiness is accepted and can be cultivated only in the silence of adoration before the infinite transcendence of God…” (38:1).

Our effort, then, is not only to have many vocations but to have holy and fervent members, which is becoming increasingly difficult. In the book of Judges we see the example of Gideon and thirty-two thousand men. Out of thirty-two thousand men only three hundred were ready to lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps, who were then put on one side. Only three hundred were ready to do as God wanted. God said: “With the three hundred who lapped the water I shall rescue you and put Midian into your power” (cf. Judges 7: 1-8). God wants us to be humble and obedient without any questions. Jesus said to Bl. Teresa M.C.: “Obey Me cheerfully, obey Me promptly and obey Me without any questions”.

Thanks be to God, you have many Sisters who lived a very holy life and have gone home to God marked with the sign of faith, humility and love, beginning with our Foundress Bl. Teresa M.C. and many others. You have many hidden saints living in the various communities whose holiness of life is known to God alone. In the evening of life, when we appear before God, not only will we be judged on love, but we will have many surprises as well.

Your General Chapter is a time to listen to God in prayer and listen to God in each other with love, patience, and respect, even if at times it can be very hard and demanding. It is a time to search together into the mystery and miracle that the Society of the Missionaries of Charity is!

In comparison with many traditional Orders and Congregations your history is short, but very intense, and your Charism is still very fresh. The growth and expansion has been very rapid; the consequences of which have positive and negative aspects, and somehow you may be paying the price every now and then. Still for me it is a miracle of God’s love and tender care. Imagine, you are almost 5200 professed Sisters, without counting the novices and candidates. You are in 760 or more houses in about 140 countries, including those in harsh, difficult and dangerous conditions, where your Sisters joyfully choose to remain with the poor and die for Christ, giving them whole-hearted free service. (cf. Sr. Prema M.C.’s letter to Fr. Sebastian M.C. on 16th July 2014). Your growth has been phenomenal. Thanks be to God! There is an absolute need to thank the provident God and Father on your knees, with arms outstretched.

Besides, there is a fast growing community in heaven who will be praying incessantly for the community on earth and the poor and the suffering people you serve.

While thanking God for the past, you are called to live the present with joy and enthusiasm. This is vital for all the members and for the entire M.C. family. The other Branches, especially we, the Contemplative branch of the Brothers and the Lay Missionaries of Charity, draw inspiration and strength from you who live so close to Jesus, who is the heart and soul of our M.C. way of life and apostolate. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.

Every religious institute is composed of two constitutive elements: the institutional and the charismatic.

 

ReligiousInstitutes
 

 

 

 

It is our duty to safeguard, to protect, to defend, to diffuse and to deepen the Charismatic aspect, (cf. Canon 578). Both Institutional and Charismatic aspects must depend on the institutional and Charismatic Church. The very nature of the Church is Institutional and Charismatic. It is in the Church, with the Church, and for the Church that a Charism is given by God to an individual or a group for the good of the entire Church and of the world, to serve the Church in a new way by serving the people of God…and for us in particular, serving the poorest of the poor.

We are with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia). We are for the Church. We are in the Church. The Church is our Mother and Teacher (Mater et Magistra).

Dear Sr. Prema, I would like to thank you in the name of and for the sake of the Lay Missionaries of Charity (LMC) all over the world for the invaluable and constant help you and your many Sisters give to the LMCs. You have no idea how much the Lay M.C.s not only appreciate their call within a call, but are encouraged to make every effort to become better and holier and to make their families the domestic sanctuaries of the Church.

Once again I would like to recall here our Mother, Bl. Teresa of Kolkata’s letter written from Asansol, sometime in the beginning of March 1947. I would like to quote a part of the letter here, even though many of you may know it by heart. This letter was written to his Excellency Archbishop Ferdinand Perier SJ. Bl. Teresa wanted the archbishop to tell the Holy Father Pope Pius XII everything. In her own words:

“Your Grace, tell the Holy Father everything. Tell him that the Institute will be especially for the unity and happiness of family life - the life of which he has so much at heart. Tell him about the countless broken homes, here in India, in Kolkata, in everywhere - It is to make these unhappy homes happy – to bring Jesus into their dark homes that our Lord wants me and the Sisters to give our lives as victims for homes.- By our poverty, labour and zeal we shall enter every home - gather the little children from these unhappy homes…”

The LMCs, while thanking you, Sr. Prema M.C., and the Sisters who help them to grow in holiness and persevere in their LMC vocation, would request that you and the Sisters continue to pray for them and help them in whatever way possible and necessary so that they become better and holier and work for “the unity and happiness of family life”, after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

I would like to conclude this letter with the words of Pope Francis to all consecrated persons, written on the 21st of November 2014: “This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but on the One in whom we have put our trust (cf. 1Tim 1:2), the One for whom nothing is impossible (cf. Lk 1:37). This is the hope which does not disappoint; it is the hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future. It is to that future we must always look, conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that he can still do great things with us”.

Love and prayers. God bless you.