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

Lent 2016

 

  

8 March 2016

Dearly beloved Brothers and Sisters,

May the grace and peace of this holy season of Lent, which prepares us for the joyful feast of Easter, be with you. The sorrow of Good Friday was turned into an unspeakable joy for those who shared with Jesus on the cross, his suffering and death. In every death there is the seed of the resurrection, like in every grain of wheat there is life and fruitfulness, when it falls into the ground and dies.

The four Sisters who were martyred for Christ and those who suffered death with them are like the grains of wheat fallen into the lawless and chaotic city of Aden. The best full form of the word M.C. is Martyrs of Charity, which our four Sisters: Sr. Anselm M.C., Sr. Judith M.C., Sr. Marguerite M.C. and S. Reginette M.C., have now realized. Sr. Salley M.C., their surviving superior, was like Our Lady standing at the foot of the Cross and going through the martyrdom of the spirit and heart.

With them, we too join in some way the martyrdom of the heart, of the spirit…the martyrdom of love…as we all belong to the same family, and I feel that my own sisters and brothers have been martyred. Our Sisters perhaps were more prepared and resigned, while the other twelve or more lay people perhaps were not. But the merciful God in this Jubilee year of mercy will show mercy to all. God’s mercy has no limits, no boundaries, and no barriers.

Although humanly speaking it was a very heart-renting experience for all of us, I feel proud of those sisters, and even jealous of them, because martyrdom is the greatest gift of God in this world that we can receive from the good God. So, in a way, let us not cry or lament, but let us praise and thank God. Our suffering, our martyrdom is thinking of those eighty or more poor people, whose sisters, mothers, friends and saviours those Sisters were, are now no more. But they, too, are God’s children, and in some mysterious way God will find some people to take care of them.

The martyrdom of our sisters is a challenge for all the members of the M.C. family. We often grumble and murmur, get upset with little inconveniences or lack of certain facilities, or are unwilling to accept joyfully and gratefully the presence of certain members in our communities, in our families. For me it is a lesson, that I have to learn to go beyond my likes and dislikes, beyond the external appearances and superficial emotions so that I can live my M.C. vocation as defined by Jesus himself: “Your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls…; “In your immolation, in your love for me, they will see Me, know Me, want Me”. Now is the acceptable time to offer more sacrifices, smile more tenderly and pray more fervently. In addition, we are in the heart of the season of Lent 2016

The call to religious life is a call to martyrdom. We come to understand that consecrated life is a substitute for martyrdom. With the Edict of Milan in 313, Christian persecutions in the Roman Empire came to an end. And the heroes and heroines of faith, hope and love, the true followers and lovers of Jesus who longed for martyrdom, did not have the possibility to die for Christ, like Peter and Paul and other apostles, and the martyrs of Rome during persecutions, which started from Nero to Diocletian, from A.D. 64 to 313.

So, they found a new way of martyrdom, which was supposed to be the call to consecrated life. It was known as the “white martyrdom”. If we learn to make use of all the many opportunities that the Lord gives us each day, we can easily become martyrs. “This is done by those who from morning to night submit joyfully to a rule, who strive to be attentive to their prayers, and recollected all day long, who keep silence when they feel inclined to speak, who avoid the sight of such objects which excite curiosity, who suffer without complaint the unseasonableness of the weather, who show kindness toward those whom they feel a natural antipathy, who accept humbly and patiently the reproaches made to them, who accommodate themselves to the tastes, desires and temperaments of others, who stand contradiction without irritation....to do all this, not once in passing, but habitually…to do so not merely patiently, but joyfully – this is already heroic virtue. And, when later on grave circumstances present themselves, heroic action will not prove too difficult: for we shall then have the strength of the Holy Spirit Himself” (cf. The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology by Adolphe Tanquerey).

Saints like St. John Berchmans used to say that “community life is my greatest penance”. Community life, observing all daily routine of the day with love, in joyful spirit, is a white martyrdom. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and many a saint and mystic, spoke of the martyrdom of love that pierced their hearts.

Our Lady’s heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow. Consecrated persons are called to learn to die day-by-day to oneself and to one’s own interests, accepting and obeying the will of God in the superiors without questioning, promptly and joyfully for the love of God, as Jesus did. Jesus saw his Father’s will in Pilate, who unjustly condemned him to death. Jesus had no other desire except to fulfil his Father’s will with all his heart, mind and soul. So much so that he said: "My food is to do the will of my Father who sent me” (Jn 4:35).

Love never gives up; love never gets tired of loving, giving and forgiving. Love necessarily leads to suffering. Jesus said to Bl. Teresa M.C. that she would suffer: “You will suffer, you suffer now, but if you are My own little spouse, the spouse of the crucified Jesus, you will have to bear these torments on your heart…” (cf. Bl. Teresa’s letter, 13 January 1947). No pain, no gain; no sacrifice and suffering, no salvation of souls either.

In the apostolate the money to buy souls is suffering accepted with love. As disciples and followers of Jesus we must realize that in every circumstance of our life, above all in suffering, we must be inspired by our divine Model, Jesus our King, crowned with thorns and crucified. Humiliation is a bitter cross. Abandonment is a real crucifixion when it is rightly understood. Mass and communion are inseparable from Calvary. There is no reparation without penance and sacrifice. Suppress the cross from our life, and everything will vanish. The cross is the structure. Since it bore our saviour, it leads to salvation, so must it be also for us in all our undertakings.

Although the wooden cross was invented by the Romans as the worst form of punishing a notorious criminal, Jesus our Saviour, who was unjustly condemned by Pilate and nailed to the cross by the Roman soldiers, sanctified and sacramentalized what was a curse, a stumbling block, and a folly for both the Jews and the Gentiles. But for us believers it has become the power and wisdom of God (cf. 1Cor 1:18 ff.).

“Vita Consecrata” number 23 says: “It is in the contemplation of the crucified Christ that all vocations find their inspiration. From this contemplation, together with the primordial gift of the Spirit, all gifts, and in particular the gift of the consecrated life, take their origin”.

The more the consecrated persons stand at the foot of the Cross, not only the more immediately they discover the sublime beauty and necessity of the cross, but also experience the truth of God, who is love (cf. Vita Consecrata No. 24). “It is precisely on the cross that the one who in death appears to human eyes as disfigured and without beauty, so much so that the by-standers cover their faces (cf. Is 53:2-3), fully reveals the beauty and power of God’s love” (V.C. 24).

Since Friday 4th March 2016, the M.C. world and all those who are connected with them joined hands in prayer to the One who knows and sees everyone and everything. He alone can forgive those who intent on inflicting evil on the innocent people, even brutally and mercilessly murdering our beloved Sisters and those who were working with them, who were serving the poorest of the poor whole-heartedly and freely, without counting the cost, without seeking rest or reward. They did not make any distinctions of religion or nationality, colour or country, for all our Sisters were foreigners. The only criterion of giving whole-hearted free service was whether the persons they served were the poorest of the poor or not. No human being worthy of his name could ever do such an inhuman and “most unkindest act” of all.

Our prayers should rise from the bottom of our broken hearts and afflicted spirits in the form of a plea for mercy for those merciless murderers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). This is the heart of Jesus’ teaching by his words and by example, and this is also the heart of the teaching of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Let us pray for all the victims of wars and violence, especially for those who were brutally assassinated on Friday 4th March 2016, in the lawless and chaotic city of Aden, in Yemen. We also pray much for Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, who is still found missing.

As we are very close to the feast of St. Joseph, I would like to conclude this letter by wishing each and every one of you a very happy and holy feast of St. Joseph, the just man, who is the patron and protector of the universal Church. It was on the 19th March, 1979, the Society of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative was founded in Rome. So it is our Foundation Day as well.

Pope St. John Paul II writes:

“In Joseph, the apparent tension between the active and contemplative life

 finds an ideal harmony that is only possible

 for those who possess the perfection of charity”

(Redemptoris Custos, 27)

St. Joseph, pray for us and bless us. The martyrs of Yemen, pray for us.

Love and prayers.

God bless you.

Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, M.C.