Throughout the next year 2022 we will be living a new Piarist Vocational Year. It has been convened by the General Congregation in the framework of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the constitution of the Pious Schools as a religious Order of solemn vows and the approval of the Constitutions written by Saint Joseph Calasanz. These anniversaries mark the consolidation of the Piarist religious and priestly vocation and deeply express its value and significance, which has been credited by so many years of history. I think that dedicating a year to deepening our vocation and finding new ways to sow it, promote it, welcome it and accompany it is something very valuable and necessary. Like everything we do, we want to live this Vocational Year in deep commitment to our Mission. We are for it and we call for it.
Ten years ago (in 2012) we also celebrated a Vocational Year. Like the current one, we also summon it and live inspired by the figure of Glicerio Landriani. Today we renew our thanksgiving to God for the venerable figure of this young Piarist, and as then, we continue to pray that his holiness and example of life may finally be recognized by the Church. May Glicerio Landriani, patron of the Calasanz Movement, continue to inspire everything we can live in this Vocational Year. Do not forget to visit the website that we have opened as a contribution to his canonization process.
I said that ten years ago we celebrated another Vocational Year. The fruits that were granted to us in that year were not few and had to do with many decisions regarding vocational teams, Vocation Ministry projects, the elaboration of materials, the growth in our awareness that Vocation Ministry to the Piarist religious life is an essential and priority task for all of us who are part of the Pious Schools. We have not convened this Vocational Year with the same objectives that we set ourselves ten years ago because, thank God, we are not in the same situation. We have walked quite a bit. The goal we set for ourselves is still valid, and that I could synthesize as a “doing things better”, but I believe that at this point in our process we must know how to name new goals and challenges. I would like to propose some, always in a synthetic way, because each of them would give for a specific letter, and some for a book. Let’s get started.
- A spirituality of “construction of the Order”. You have heard it many times, but I want to continue to insist, because I think we are facing a central issue. The Pious Schools are not an end in themselves; they are an instrument of the Kingdom. But a very valuable instrument. Sometimes we forget that working for the construction of the Order and doing so in this aspect as essential as the incorporation of new young people who want to give their lives as Piarist religious and priests, is a formidable way to make that the Pious Schools can continue to offer their contribution to the promotion of the Kingdom of God.
It is not enough to give one’s life for the Mission. The Order must be built. If Calasanz had “only” given his life for the Mission, none of us would be here. Calasanz gave himself to the Mission and built the Order, because he understood that it was fundamental to the mission he assumed as a vocation. I believe that we are facing a spiritual challenge, a challenge that has to do with our way of understanding our vocation. Drawing all the consequences of this way of thinking becomes a very rich path of discernment and enrichment of our way of living, working and deciding. We are to make this “spirituality of building the Pious Schools” permeate all the facets of our lives. And we must do so for missionary reasons, because there is nothing more apostolic than calling people to be apostles.
- Plurality and Priority. We are blessed by the precious gift of Piarist vocational plurality. Different ways of “living the Piarist” have been born, all of them valuable, all of them necessary, all of them complementary. Little by little we are giving name to these vocations, and we are consolidating them with the faithful and creative effort of those who live them. We thank God not only for the diversity, but also for the quality and significance of these new vocations, called to enrich the charismatic gift of Calasanz. But diversity is not at odds with the clarity that there is a specific vocation that must be proposed, worked on and understood as a priority. The Piarist religious vocation is based on the precious intuition of “giving everything”. Everything. It is a response of wholeness. It is not better or worse than other answers. All are necessary. But the basis is in the desire for wholeness. There is only one love, there is only one center, there is only one desire. And that is at the core of consecrated life and, without a doubt, in the soul of each of the young people who consider the Piarist religious vocation.
I would like to repeat something I have already said in another fraternal letter: God calls each one according to different vocations. And each one is fully valuable, because it is the one that God has inspired in one’s soul. But they are different. And religious life has always had, has and will have a plus, which is at its root: to give one’s whole life without reserving anything for myself; to love Christ and the mission totally, without other wonderful, good and holy loves; to trust fully, without seeking to be the master of one’s own life; to seek to live free for the mission, with no ties other than one’s own vocation and its consequences. The vocational decision to follow Christ is not the result of a choice in the “shopping” of vocational alternatives, all of them variously equal and exposed in the showcase as a list of “options to choose from”, but the result of an honest experience of seeking God’s will for your own life, without fear of finding in the depths of your soul that God is asking you for “everything.”
- Delve into the vocational dynamics of the Calasanz Movement. The Calasanz Movement is one of the treasures of the Order. In its bosom our children and young people live and grow, in a formidable community, formation and missionary process. We must continue to reflect on the promotion of the vocational dimension of this pastoral process. It is true that the process, in itself, seeks that each of the young people who live it find their Christian vocation. That is clear and, I think, well understood. But I believe that the Calasanz Movement has within itself many more potentialities to discover, which have to do with the process of vocational discernment of our young people. I propose to the coordinating team of the Calasanz Movement, and to the provincial and local teams, to open a new page in the project that they animate, focused on the vocational impulse.
- Privileged spaces for vocational research. All the educational and pastoral work we do is vocational. But I think there are some spaces that are especially privileged for the generous heart of a young person to meet in a meaningful way with the call of God. I would like to suggest just three, by way of example: the experience with the poor, the opportunity for intense spaces of prayer and the joy of the I believe that our young people need to live these three keys of Christian life in their vocational search. To have the experience of working in situations of poverty and marginality, receiving from the people you meet so many questions and so many looks; to have the opportunity of spiritual exercises in which you can pray with intensity and peace, letting God enter your life, so often occupied by many other concerns; to feel the welcome and listening of the Piarist community, sharing with the Piarists their joy, their life and their dreams, and to do all this in an accompanied and progressive way, they are “opportunities from God.” God manifests freely, but normally does not manifest in a dispersed or linear life. The question of wholeness will arise from experiences of wholeness. The question of religious life can spring from experiences of mission, consecration and communion. That is why I propose these three privileged spaces of vocational call.
- Proposals for “vocational breakdown”. In this line, I dare to propose that we reflect on the possibility of proposing to young people “vocational break options”. Obviously, I am thinking of those young people who manifest true interest and vocational openness, even if they are not clear about the concrete way in which they feel called to live it. Proposing experiences that break the linearity and equality of proposals for all seems to me like something that we have to know how to raise. And do it in the three directions indicated in the previous paragraph or in others that we consider valuable.
- Piarist Parishes and Vocational Culture. We are in the process of starting up the Network of Piarist Parishes. I am very satisfied with the path we are traveling, which has already been held by the first general assembly of all the members of this “network of parishes”. I know that, little by little, new parishes will be incorporated into this fraternal and missionary network that seeks to endow our parishes with a greater Calasanctian identity. Well, I would like to propose to the members of this Network that they choose to work in depth on Vocational Culture within their parishes and in the network itself. I think this field is still very unexplored in many of our parishes, and it will be very good to work on it.
- To expand our ecclesial presence. We are a very plural Order, and this is good. There are diverse realities among us in terms of how we are known in the Church and in society. But I think we can say that we need to be more present in various ecclesial realities of our countries, and that when this works well there are always young people who feel challenged by a vocation like ours. It is important that the particular Churches work for the generation of vocations like the Piarist vocation, and they will only do so if we encourage and provoke it in different ways. Our contact with parishes and youth movements, our presence in university environments or our valuable and significant participation in social networks are not alien to this challenge.
- Discern and detect the turns we must give to our projects. All provinces have a Vocation Ministry Project. I believe this is one of the most valuable fruits of the Vocational Year of 2012. But there is still a need to work on these projects. We need to continue reflecting on the “turns” that we can and must give to our plans, materials, and activities, however consolidated they may be. Let us maintain the dynamism of review and enrichment of our plans and projects and share the new steps we take with the Order’s team in charge of Vocation Ministry.
- Know how to accompany the final decision of young people who live vocational accompaniment. Those responsible for Vocation Ministry are well aware of this experience. Young people who have lived with interest and perseverance the process of vocational accompaniment, when the time comes for the final decision and to take the step to start the formative process in our homes, they back down and do not take the step. Sometimes due to family pressures or the context in which they live, or difficulties that can be accompanied, we have young people who “in the end did not enter”. Possibly this will always happen, but we can and must plan ourselves how to accompany these final moments and – also – how to know how to wait in an available way and accompanied way for a vocational rethinking of a young man who at the time did not take the step, but never ruled it out completely.
- Prayer for vocations. Our communities pray for Piarist vocations. This is clear and good. I value and admire it. But there are steps that we have not yet taken, such as, for example, public, community and frequent prayer for Piarist vocations in all areas of our life and mission. We must pray for vocations with children, with young people, with families, with educators, with the children of the Calasanz Movement. We have to work so that the awareness that our children and young people need Piarists becomes clearer and more mature. I believe that this can and must also be a good fruit of the new vocational year.
I stop here, with these ten contributions. But I do not want to end without inviting you to continue the reflection, and to endow this Vocational Year with all the richness that we can offer and all the shared effort that we can make. Let us never forget that the harvest is abundant and the labourers few; let us pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest.
Receive a fraternal embrace.
Pedro Aguado Sch.P.