Following Christ in the Footsteps of Padre Claret

Monday, October 12 – Friday, October 16, 2020. The Claretian Missionaries, Delegation West Nigeria bivouacked for their annual one-week Spiritual Exercise, the Annual Retreat, at the Liguori House, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, West of Nigeria. Liguori House, along the popular Ibadan-Ife Express Road, belongs to the Redemptorist Fathers, who also administer it. As shown in the album below, it offers great ambient for proper personal and community spiritual query and regeneration.

Of all retreats, this year’s was typical. It was a well-attended Claretian retreat, steeped in the rich spirituality of our Founder Padre Claret, by a Claretian for the Claretians. Fr John Ezenwankwor, CMF, the preacher, took the entire retreatants through the core spiritual life of Santo Antonio Maria Claret as enshrined delicately in his Autobiography. No material source could ever be touchy to any Claretian than that book. It was a wake-up call.

Arriving on Monday, the main sessions started on Tuesday keeping faithful to the programme that guided the gathering and kept the whole period lighted.

We are called to follow and imitate Christ by identifying our life and actions with those of Claret. This brings about our identity initiated by honest survey of self. The awareness of self, or rather, self-identification must be the starting point just as Christ Jesus did. When he needed to know who people thought him to be, he straight-on asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” All that people said referred to him: a prophet, miracle worker, compassionate God and, of course, a Messiah.

Moreover, without much peroration, he inquired from those close allies, “Who do you say that I am?” (cf. Matt. 16:13-20). In all, as Claretians, beyond what people say about us and what we hold about ourselves, an important aspect of our identity is who we are before God and who we are in relation to our brothers and sisters. Thus, in our self-evaluation, we must keep in mind our eminent Pen Picture distinctively stated in the Claretian Constitutions no 9. The Father moderator refreshed our minds with this important definition of the Claretian person. Thus, a Claretian Missionary is:

A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him: he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in all the torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus Christ. His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind.

This verse, Fr John emphasized, should be a guideline for us, the roadmap, so-to-say, in arriving at our true identity as Claretians.

Furthermore, in imitation of our Father Founder, St. Anthony Mary Claret, the preacher reminded us that we must strive to cultivate the virtues that aided Claret to live according to the delineation of a Claretian Missionary cited above. Claret prioritized humility. He considered it the mother of all virtues necessary for every missionary (cf. Autobiography, §341).

He went on to enumerate other virtues necessary for a missionary as poverty, meekness (which moderates zeal), modesty, mortification, and love. These were the thrust of our reflections.

A meek heart is propelled by humility. In this context, one that withdraws in order to give prominence to the other, in imitation of the heart of Jesus that is ‘meek and humble’.

Modesty, from the Latin “modestus”, means ‘keeping within measure’. Modesty for us Claretians implies simplicity, decency, and indeed, moderation in everything we do or say. Our life must speak about who we are and whom we represent.

Above all, the love we are called to possess is different from mere show of sentiments – but a love that impels a missionary to a disposition to always do God’s will; a love that knows no boundaries, doing good always irrespective of the recipients.

Therefore, what really defines us as Claretians is the love of Christ, and that only propels us – “Caritas Christi urget nos.”

The one-week spiritual renewal did not pass without the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Sacrament of God’s love demonstrated in his mercy and compassion. And two great liturgies for the soul and body ensued thereafter to signature the end of the Retreat.

At last, the good news is that all retreatants went home safely and very rekindled with the fire of God’s love as we journey as Claretian Missionaries. The other news, not bad nor sour, but purifying experiences, was that most people arrived very late to their various destinations or nearly missed their flights as they trekked long distances for lack of intracity transportations due to the heavy gridlock triggered by the #ENDSARS protests that swept across the nation, worsening in Lagos. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary – Be our Salvation

Saint Anthony Mary Claret – Pray for Us!


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