A compendium of articles that focus on the three pillars of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood: mission, community, and spirituality.
With the publication of C.PP.S. Heritage II: Community, Mission, Spirituality, the C.PP.S. general curia has achieved its goal of providing a compendium of documents aimed especially for the use of our candidates and those responsible for their formation, although these two volumes are also suitable for a wider audience. Such a compendium had been requested by many of our members in formation ministry over the years, and on the occasion of a course for formators presented in 2003, we chose a number of articles and presentations, many given at that course, for eventual publication.
This second volume focuses on what have come to be called the three pillars of our Congregation: mission, community, and spirituality. In the four decades since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, we have as a Congregation reflected at length on these dimensions of our community life. Those of us who were in the Congregation during the years of the Council and those following recall the excitement, passion, and occasional conflict that process engendered.
One of the fruits of that reflection, given a special impetus in the recognition of the uniqueness of societies of apostolic life in theology and in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, is the awareness that our apostolic goal, our mission, has a place of priority for us that makes us different from vowed religious. As a document from the Union of Superiors General puts it:
. . . societies of apostolic life are more properly defined in terms of their apostolic goal, and how they order their life together and the spirituality to sustain both their work and that life, rather than their degree of approximation to vowed religious life. (Quoted in C.PP.S. Heritage I, p. 15.)
We also have been influenced by a renewed awareness of the missionary nature of the Church, a theme that received special emphasis at the Second Vatican Council in the decree Ad Gentes. That decree reminds us that “. . . the Church is by its very nature missionary, since according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit” (no. 2).
Twenty-five years later, Pope John Paul II would write an important encyclical on mission and stating emphatically that “proclamation is the permanent priority of mission” (Redemptoris Missio, 44). Such statements would have come as no surprise to our founder, who liked to call himself an “apostolic missionary” and for whom preaching the Good News was always a “permanent priority.”
That sense of having an urgent apostolic goal, of being missionary, which inspired Gaspar to found the Congregation, is evident in almost every article in this volume, regardless of its stated theme. We can talk about “three pillars,” but perhaps it might be more accurate to speak of a single column made up of intertwined pillars. St. Gaspar had a very clear sense of his mission, he ordered community life to support that mission and his Missionaries, and his spirituality was the source and sustaining power of his missionary zeal.
As one reads the articles in this volume, it is clear that writing about community life, for example, inevitably involves a discussion of mission, since Gaspar wanted community life to support the ministry of the first Missionaries. Indeed, as John Klopke points out in his article on the mission house, that institution was part of the mission itself. The mission house was both the community and the ministry, inextricably bound together.
The spirituality of the Blood of Christ, formed in St. Gaspar especially during his years of exile under the tutelage of Francesco Albertini, can likewise hardly be separated from his ministry and his ideas for community life. We may have different ways of expressing our devotion to the Precious Blood and different ways of describing our Precious Blood spirituality, but the underlying theme of the redeeming and reconciling love of God that is at the heart of the mystery of the Blood of Christ remains as the bedrock. This vision, this experience, led Gaspar to re-evangelize the Church in the Papal States in his day, and leads his Missionaries today to be preachers of the Word, heralds of the powerful message of the Precious Blood.
The first four articles deal with the theme of community life. Fr. Romano Altobelli, C.PP.S., offers a scholarly presentation of the nature of community life from a general theological perspective as well as addressing St. Gaspar’s understanding of community life as found in his letters and in the first Rule.
Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S., current moderator general of the Congregation, presents perspectives on community life in the light of two important documents of the Church, Fraternal Life in Community and Consecrated Life, as well as in the light of our heritage and charism.
According to the late Fr. John Klopke, C.PP.S., the mission house may be St. Gaspar’s unique contribution to the history of religious life. In his article he points out how the mission house was not merely a residence for the Missionaries but was an integral part of the mission itself.
The Congregation now has a presence in some twenty countries of the world, and the international and multicultural realities have significant impact on forming for community life today. Fr. Barry Fischer addresses those issues in his article on forming for community. The next three articles deal specifically with our mission. Fr. Beniamino Conti, C.PP.S., a lifelong student of our founder, offers an article on Gaspar’s idea of the apostolate, an article rich in the words of Gaspar himself.
In his article, Fr. Barry Fischer reflects on the historical context of each of the "three pillars," reflects on our present reality, and suggests possible challenges and directions for the future.
At the end of the course for formators held in the summer of 2003, Fr. Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S., general councilor and well-known theologian and speaker, wrote a synthesis of what had been learned and held to be significant during the course. He outlines the nature and challenges of our mission in the Church and world today and the consequences for formation.
The spirituality of the Blood of Christ has undergone noteworthy development in the last several decades. The late Don Luigi Contegiacomo, C.PP.S., postulator of St. Gaspar’s cause for canonization, offers a historical perspective on the spirituality of the Precious Blood that draws on the original Rule of the Congregation as its principal source.
In the next two articles, Fr. Conti presents us with two sketches on the spirituality of the Precious Blood in the life of our founder. One outlines how St. Gaspar gave expression to his devotion to the “Divine Blood,” the concrete spiritual practices that he advocated. The other traces the development of his devotion, especially during the crucial years of his exile when he was under the spiritual care of Don Francesco Albertini, and in the early years of the Congregation.
Fr. Robert Schreiter rounds out the volume with two articles. One offers a concise historical and theological presentation on Precious Blood devotion and spirituality. The second is a reflection on those symbols associated with our Precious Blood spirituality that have special meaning for us today.
Now that the second volume is published, I can, as editor, breathe a sigh of relief. At the same time, working on this project has only deepened my conviction that much remains to be done to make available the rich resources of our heritage to the English-speaking world. Certainly there could be many more volumes added to these two, and I hope that in the future the general administration of the Congregation will continue this project.
In working on a book like this, one is left with a sense of gratitude to many people. First of all, of course, are the authors of the articles in this volume, whose love for the Congregation, enthusiasm for their subject matter, and whose mastery of the material are evident. We are most grateful to them for revealing to us the riches of our “C.PP.S. Heritage.”
I want to give a special word of thanks to Pauline Vokits, who set up the book for printing, who was our principal contact with The Messenger Press, and who carefully read every word of this book several times. While we have never met in person, we carried on a lively “dialogue” by e-mail. Her observations, questions, and suggestions have contributed to making these two volumes much more readable and useful.
Finally, I thank our moderator general, Fr. Barry Fischer, and my fellow general councilors Frs. Francesco Bartoloni, Robert Schreiter, and Luis Filipe Cardoso Fernandes, not only for supporting me in this project, but for the many ways in which they have contributed to sharing our “C.PP.S. Heritage” with our members, candidates, and lay associates.
In name of the C.PP.S. general curia I am happy to offer this second volume to all who wish to know more about our rich heritage and who seek to find in that rich heritage an inspiration for their life and ministry in the service of God’s Reign.
Jerome Stack, C.PP.S. Secretary General
April 7, 2006
500th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier, principal patron of the Congregation.