Supplement Reading: 8th May (Celebration of our Founder’s call)

MSSP Celebration

8th May – Our Lady of Pompei

Our Founder Joseph De Piro, discerns that the Lord is calling him for priesthood.

On May 8, 1898, the day when university undergraduates used to pay homage to Our Lady of Pompei, venerated in the Jesuits’ Church just opposite the old university, Joseph clearly felt he had to change his life course. During this particular religious celebration, he understood that his true calling was to become a priest and not a lawyer. And so, later on that same year, he went to Rome to begin his priestly studies.

For us MSSP, this is a very special day, not particularly because of the title of our Lady, but because in front of her, Joseph De Piro kneeling in prayer, realized what the Lord was calling him to become. On this day we as MSSP (both lay and religious) focus on our call as baptized and the way the Lord is calling us to manifest our faith.

Our vocation is both personal and within a community of faith. For this reason, we need to constantly discern prayerfully God’s desire for us today. Discernment is not about taking the best decision, but a process of becoming closer to Christ so as it will be Christ who lives in us and thus the will of the Father will be done. It is a lifestyle that is able to sift God’s ways in the midst of the ordinary, the contrariety and the waiting. Discerning our vocation is not about making a good plan for life but about becoming that child on whom God is free to bestow his graces.

In the coming days, Fr. Martin Galea will prepare us for this MSSP celebration with some short reflections. Share them with your communities.

DAY 1: Building on the solid foundation of Love

Love is the treasure above treasures. Our first and greatest obligation is to love first and above all else our Lord because we owe it only to Him, who we are and what we have. We have been created just to love him. We love God our Lord, if we hate what He hates and love what He loves.

Joseph De Piro (Almanac, 1924)

We cannot be completely sure whether we are doing the will of God if we are not active in a life of prayer, unless we are doing our utmost to listen to the Him. But how can we be sure that we are truly listening to the Him? One essential criterion for a positive answer to this question is our true love for the Lord in our heart.

Such a wonderful treasure is not without a key. This lies in the hands of every Christian. It is prayer. Prayer is to the Christian soul what water is to the tree. We grow and become stronger in virtue and graces until we pray. If we leave out prayer, our soul does neither advance nor does it live in grace.

Joseph De Piro (Almanac, 1924)

We really do not know how to love. Thus, we must ask continuously for this love. We must ask God to help us fall in love with Him and the key to this is prayer. Our heart has a continuous longing for a lover. We must be grasped by God’s love in order not to direct our longing elsewhere. This is a project which God is committed to. God knows us, and he is continuously chasing us. God uses events in our life in order to ‘steal’ our heart away.

An attitude of discernment can only be nourished by a life of prayer. If prayer is part of our life, we will be able to recognise God’s voice, not only in the time of prayer but at all times. We will be able to say whether an event is coming from God or not. 

Joseph De Piro clearly points out that we have to ‘love what God loves and hate what God hates.’ Love is oneness with God and the aim of Christian life is “having the same mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5), to embrace the same sentiments that Christ had towards others.

My second great duty is to love my brothers and love them as much as I love myself, for so my Lord desires. He who says that he loves God and at the same time does not love wholeheartedly even his enemies would be lying…

Joseph De Piro (Almanac, 1924)

DAY 2: Seeing through the eyes of God

Joseph De Piro had a spiritual perspective on life. He was able to see that God was behind all that was happening in his life. Writing to his mother about the loss of his brother, he invites her to see the events happening in their family through the eyes of Faith. Whatever God permits in our lives is being used by Him for our good.

According to my judgement, this year has been a year of misfortune. However, this is my way of looking at it. God does nothing that is not perfect, and his works cannot be but good. On this occasion, I can say without fear that the consolations I have experienced have been greater than the grief caused through my great loss.

Joseph De Piro (Letter to his mother, 22 Dec 1898)

Joseph De Piro makes St. Paul’s call his own: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” If we truly believe that whatever is happening in our lives is coming from God, then we must obviously be thankful. 

Whatever is happening in our hearts is because God loves us.  But in reality, are we thankful for what is happening in our lives or do we get stuck, grumbling about the latest obstacle?  Can we see that there is a plan for us? A spiritual look reads contrariety and difficulties in life as a sign from God…

As everybody knows God’s works bear contrariety as a sign and as an ornament.  In the work we have before us and in our hands, for the span of about fourteen years, there were so man difficulties one after the other, that they could have exhausted every man.  But since it was God who set to work at the task, His servants never lack courage. Moreover, like a firm and sweet breeze God’s spirit which always accompanied the difficulty blew in the sails of our poor boat, troubled by the waves.

Joseph De Piro (Speech for laying of St Agatha’s foundation stone, 1932)

Like a good farmer, God weeds out our motivations to make purer, directing them towards love. God’s process in us is like the refining of gold, a process that is never easy. Seeing contrariety as something allowed by God, we start to realize that everything is for our own good and for our own purification. Thus, His dream for us comes across more clearly.

DAY 3: Listening to our heart

We will not find peace if we are not in God. Discernment is necessary to continuously seek God’s will in all that we do. Joseph De Piro shares with us his own experience of discernment: 

We must toil, work and pray to God himself to give us help in doing his will. I am sure He will not deprive us of his help. Now God shows us His will not only in things external to us but also by means of inspirations, and by distancing our heart from one state and attracting it to another state. God created us to do His will, not to do what we want.

Joseph De Piro (Almanac, 1924)

Joseph De Piro also shows us that a key to discernment is self-awareness. He had a deep knowledge of his own heart, especially of his own weakness. Are we in touch with who we are?  Are we struggling to go deeper in our reality? Since we are a mystery to ourselves, we need God’s help to sift through our thoughts, feelings and motivations. God speaks to us through these.

Being aware of his sinfulness did not lead Joseph De Piro into despair. Only the evil one would make us despair and enclose us in ourselves and to fall in a state of self-pity. This is the way he tempts us in our fragility. God, however, wants us to entrust ourselves more and more into His hands because “while we were His enemies, we were reconciled to Him” (Rom 5:10).

Discernment is not just about choosing between a good thing and a bad one. It is mostly about choosing the better part. Given the option to study ecclesial diplomacy in a prestigious university in Rome, Joseph De Piro opted out not because it was something bad in itself but because it would have deprived him of something better. Instead, he chose to live and work at St Joseph’s Home, a place set up to take care of children in need. Discernment helps us not to cling to our own ideas, but to seek that which gives us a Life that does not fizzle away.

The only thing that remains is our relationship with God. If this relationship is not built every day, at the first crisis things get dark and heavy very quickly. We are invited to choose the essential, that which truly matters. Then everything else will follow and flow more easily.