Tag Archives: spiritual paternity

Saint Patrick

St Patrick.jpg

The Office of Readings for the feast of Saint Patrick offers a different reading than what is below. In fact, I would urge you to read the Office of Readings for Saint Patrick just so you get to know the real person versus the fiction one hears on his feast, at least around these parts. I am thinking of what it means to live in the awareness of having spiritual patrernity (or spiritual maternity if you are a woman reading this post). We often do not hear much of spiritual fatherhood these days; it is not in vogue in many mainline Catholic centers, unfortunately. But when one considers the fact that we all, because we are baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection, and that we have been given the gifts of mercy, Confirmation and Eucharist, we witness to the Good News of Salvation. By our clear testimony we shepherd others who do not know Christ to know Him. Our very words and actions betry our belief in Christ. The homily of Saint Asterius of Amasea exhorts us to be like Christ the Good Shepherd. Are we up for the challenge on this feast of Saint Patrick? In what ways is your heart like Jesus’ heart? Will you pray for the grace to be a spiritual father or mother to those who need your testimony?


You were made in the image of God. If then you wish to resemble him, follow his example. Since the very name you bear as Christians is a profession of love for men, imitate the love of Christ.


Reflect for a moment on the wealth of his kindness. Before he came as a man to be among men, he sent John the Baptist to preach repentance and lead men to practice it. John himself was preceded by the prophets, who were to teach the people to repent, to return to God and to amend their lives. Then Christ came himself, and with his own lips cried out: Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. How did he receive those who listened to his call? He readily forgave them their sins; he freed them instantly from all that troubled them. The Word made them holy; the Spirit set his seal on them. The old Adam was buried in the waters of baptism; the new man was reborn to the vigor of grace.


What was the result? Those who had been God’s enemies became his friends, those estranged from him became his sons, those who did not know him came to worship and love him.


Let us then be shepherds like the Lord. We must meditate on the Gospel, and as we see in this mirror the example of zeal and loving kindness, we should become thoroughly schooled in these virtues.


For there, obscurely, in the form of a parable, we see a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. When one of them was separated from the flock and lost its way, that shepherd did not remain with the sheep who kept together at pasture. No, he went off to look for the stray. He crossed many valleys and thickets, he climbed great and towering mountains, he spent much time and labour in wandering through solitary places until at last he found his sheep.


When he found it, he did not chastise it; he did not use rough blows to drive it back, but gently placed it on his own shoulders and carried it back to the flock. He took greater joy in this one sheep, lost and found, than in all the others.


Let us look more closely at the hidden meaning of this parable. The sheep is more than a sheep, the shepherd more than a shepherd. They are examples enshrining holy truths. They teach us that we should not look on men as lost or beyond hope; we should not abandon them when they are in danger or be slow to come to their help. When they turn away from the right path and wander, we must lead them back, and rejoice at their return, welcoming them back into the company of those who lead good and holy lives.

Saint Joseph Cafasso: patron for prisoners and spiritual directors


St Joseph Cafasso.jpg

The Pope’s weekly general audience address today was
dedicated to Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860), a member of the “St Francis of
Assisi Institute,” a priest (ordained in 1833) who died 150 years ago. He is
most known as Saint John Bosco’s spiritual father (director) from 1835 to 1860.
Cafasso died in 1860; Pius XII canonized in him 1947. In 1948, Pope Pius XII named him the patron of Italian
prisons and, in 1950, proposed him “as a model for priests involved in
Confession and spiritual direction.” His uncle is Blessed Joseph Allamano. Saint Joseph Cafasso’s feast day is June 23.

I never heard of Saint Joseph Cafasso
until today, partly because I am not well attuned to the life of Saint John
Bosco of which he seems to be most connected. According to the Benedict, Joseph
Cafasso’s ministry helped to form “the true pastor with a rich interior life
and a profound zeal for pastoral care: faithful in prayer, committed to
preaching and catechesis, dedicated to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and
Confession, in keeping with the model incarnated by St. Charles Borromeo and
St. Francis of Sales, and promoted by the Council of Trent. St. Joseph Cafasso
sought to establish this model in the formation of young priests so that, in
their turn, they too could become formators to other priests, religious and lay
people, thus creating a unique and effective chain.” AND how could anyone NOT take Saint Joseph Cafasso as a paradigm for Christian life?

A theme that I am picking
up these days from some of the Pope’s addresses is the constant need to stay in
the “state of grace.” You might say, “no Kidding, Paul! Really?” Mock if you want, but there is an increasing distancing from God, especially staying close to God by means of staying in
a state of grace through the sacrament of confession. We know that the pure of heart are the ones who inherit the kingdom of God. One of the things we know
of Saint John Vianney is that he devoted himself to confessional. Cafasso, the
Pope said, “loved the Lord totally, he was animated by a well-rooted faith and
supported by profound and prolonged prayer, he showed sincere charity to
everyone. He knew moral theology but was equally well aware of the condition of
people’s hearts for which, like the good shepherd, he took responsibility.”

Benedict
XVI explained that that Saint John Bosco never copied his master. Not an
insignificant point: we need to take under consideration those who guide us but
we also need to assert our independence from a “master teacher” in order for
grace to flourish.  Otherwise we
merely parrot the other in an unthinking manner. The Pope said, “He
imitated him in the human and priestly virtues – defining him as a ‘model of
priestly life’ – but maintained his own attitudes and his own specific
vocation. … This is a precious lesson for those involved in the formation and
education of the young generations.”

What may be interesting for us to
know is that Saint Joseph Cafasso was renown for his “concern for the lowest, especially for prisoners
… who lived in inhuman and dehumanizing conditions.” Characteristic of Cafasso’s
work with prisoners is remembered today as he “often delivered great sermons
that came to involve almost the entire prison population, with the passage of
time he came to favor individual catechesis, made up of conversations and
personal meetings. While respecting the individual situation of each
individual, he tackled the great themes of Christian life, speaking of trust in
God, adherence to His will, the utility of prayer and the Sacraments, the
culmination of which is Confession, the meeting with God Who, for us, becomes
infinite mercy.”

Spiritual maternity for priests

Do you ever think of the connection between holiness and priests? I am NOT suggesting a vague academic consideration of the topic but I am wondering about it in the concrete. Every now and again the notion –perhaps I can even say vocation– of spiritual paternity and maternity arises in me and I am not exactly sure where the idea comes from or where it is going. The matter of the holiness of priests –indeed, of all people, concerns me, but right now I am thinking specifically of the ordained’s holiness because it is a real need in our ecclesial life together today.

Friends, laity and clergy alike who work as spiritual fathers and mothers, live a beautiful vocation in walking spiritually with those who are ordained. They become familiar with the personal narratives of sin and grace, they hear about the presence of the Lord in daily living, and they know the struggles of faith, hope and charity. In a word, spiritual fathers and mothers see the reality of Divine intimacy at work.

So, let me say a very brief word about the idea of spiritual maternity for priests. Actually, let me point you in the direction of the spiritual maternity of Catherine Doherty, a well known mystic of the 20th century who had a special love for the priesthood and the enduring need of priests to be holy. Doherty said once, “I wish I could tell every priest that I share his pain and joy, whatever it may be, because I love the priesthood passionately.” But there are others as Cardinal Hummes indicates in a recent letter (see below), who have been called to this vocation.

What I am interested is real holiness, not fake spiritual sentimentality, not some vague “connection” with the divinity. Rather, holiness is a way of life centered on reality as it is given and lived in the light and tension of the Gospel, the sacraments and the Church.

Having CHummes.jpgconcern for priests, Claudio Cardinal Hummes wrote in 2007 to the world’s bishops asking for help in establishing in their dioceses places of eucharistic adoration and the development of a spiritual work that looks to women to assist in flourishing of holiness in the priesthood. That letter bears greater attention and so I have linked it here.

Cardinal Hummes says many memorable things in his letter on spiritual maternity but important item that needs to rememmbered is the following:

According to the constant content of Sacred Tradition, the mystery and reality of the Church cannot be reduced to the hierarchical structure, the liturgy, the sacraments, and juridical ordinances. In fact, the intimate nature of the Church and the origin of its sanctifying efficacy must be found first in a mystical union with Christ.

 For more information read my friend Father Mark’s recent essay on the subject.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms

Categories

Archives