All our parishes are being reorganized with very creative proposals to encourage the faithful to live the mystery of the passion and resurrection of Jesus from their homes. We have asked Fr. Fernando Negro, Provincial of USA-Puerto Rico to write a reflection that will help us to enter into the spiritual dynamic of Holy Week from our homes.
A REAL STORY
“During the Korean War it happened that a civilian was arrested by the communists who ordered to shoot him. But when the young communist leader learned that he was the director of an orphanage that cared for abandoned children, he decided to spare his life in exchange for the execution of his son, who was shot at age 19 years old, in the very presence of his father.
The war ended, and the United Nations forces captured the communist leader, tried him, and they ultimately sentenced him to death. But before the sentence was served, the Christian whose son had been shot, pleaded for forgiveness.
His argument was that the communist leader was very young when he ordered the sentence and was really ignorant of what he was doing. “Give him to me,” said the father, “and I will re-educate him.” Finally, the United Nations forces agreed to this unusual request; the father took the murderer in his own home and cared for him. The young communist was converted, and ended up being a pastor of the Church.”
We follow the Risen Lord not as a moral response to an ascetic-ethical life proposal, but as a path of gradual identification with the person of Jesus.
It is about our vital configuration in the Death and the Resurrection of the Lord in our lives. It is about showing in our life that God really is tenderness and compassion, as repeatedly appears especially in the psalms.
Every Christian is called to this exciting mission, but we are especially called to live our baptismal consecration from the angle of radicalism and freedom.
When the Desert Fathers began to live their special consecration, they did so, looking for the ‘conversio morum’, and they made the ‘votum monasticum’ that implied a new way of being: prayer, asceticism, fasting, chastity, silence … but they never wanted to objectify this votum for fear that what they freely chose became a strict obligation with moralistic overtones.
Saint Augustine will clarify that although monastic (religious) consecration implies renunciation, instead of being contempt for the world, it is its re-conquest. Only in the thirteenth century, with Pope Innocent III will religious consecration go hand in hand with the three current vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
All this invites us to place the accent on Consecrated Life not in the rigorous way of life, but in living in the deep the radical experience of following the Risen Christ.
Therefore, when the figure of the Master disappears from our life, then the meaning of our religious life is blurred. For this life style is sustained only by the passionate love that He manifested to us (each one in a very special and particular way) and to which we also want to respond passionately.
Let’s look at a brief interior x-ray of the passionate love that led Calasanz to open the first free and popular Christian schools in the history of the Church, so that we be encouraged to share ‘the passion for Christ and for others’, especially children and young people:
- Touched by the strength and the light of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, he undertook the internal journey of his “second conversion”, as it happens in the biography of many, especially in their 40-50 years of life. From being good, in the best sense of the word “good”, to being HOLY.
- This growing love for Christ is linked to the discovery of His face in abandoned boys who wandered the streets of Renaissance Rome, which was loaded with architectural, sculptural and pictorial beauties. But “the quiet music” that Calasanz’s heart was tuned in at that time, made him go through all that, anchoring himself in the call to do something for those abandoned children.
- Thus, he begins the Schools for the Poor (Pious Schools) in the sacristy of Santa Dorotea (gift of God). Going forward, we are in the year 1597, it will be an absolute evidence for Calasanz that “defending schools for the poor, he was defending the cause of God.”
- That loving passion for the face of God in the poor was not detached from his passion for the Church to which he will remain faithful to heroic extremes, as we well know from his biography. He will express this passion in his constant references to the Church and its problems of disintegration due to the expansion of Protestantism, in its obedience and unconditional fidelity, when on the point of death he sent two Piarists to make the gesture of total submission to Peter in his name.
- He had a passion for Truth, that truth that, more than a definition, is above all a person: Christ. Calasanz defines the educator as “cooperator with the truth” and says that the schools are an efficient remedy to preserve and cure all kind of evils, and to direct and illuminate the goodness that dwells within each person (Memorial to Tonti, 7). He wanted the Piarist to be a live mediation through this double tool: the light of God (Piety) and the human light (Letters)
- Calasanz had a passion for the Mother of God, taking her in his name as religious (Joseph of The Mother of God) and putting her in the title of the “Order of the Poor of the MOTHER OF GOD of the Pious Schools”. His passion for the love of Mary was his consolation in moments of difficulty (“under your protection and patronage …”, a prayer with which he wanted all community meetings to end) and the feminine icon of what it means to be educator, giving birth to the new man.
To finish, we copy from one of our documents, “From Christ”, which says:
“If there are things that can only be seen with the eyes of the heart, Calasanz, passionate about the love of God and enthusiastic about education, knew like few others, the unfathomable riches of Christ, the Good Teacher. The Calasanzian perspective has been included in the Constitutions, which outline the Piarist life project. That is why they must be the object of study, permanent reference, love and personal integration”.
Fernando Negro Marco, Sch.P.
Ponce, PR April 2, 2020