Letter 5 - Spiritual Renewal and Progress

21Sep

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Letter 5 - Spiritual Renewal and Progress
 


Cremona, May 26, 1537

To my Angelics and divine Daughters in Christ:
Mother Prioress,63 Mother Vicar,64 Madonna65
and Angelic Paola Antonia [Negri]66 
and all the others who are both my daughters,
and daughters of St. Paul the Apostle, in Christ, 
at the convent of St. Paul the Apostle.  
In Milan

 

MY SWEET AND BELOVED DAUGHTERS, MONLY STRENGTH AND CONSOLATION, 

I am overwhelmed with joy when I think that soon I will be among so noble and generous souls as you are, amiable daughters.  You are my crown and my glory, so much so that someday I will make our holy Apostle Paul feel envious of me on account of you.  In fact, you are not inferior to his [spiritual] daughters in your great desire to suffer for Christ, in your total contempt of worldliness and self-denial, and in your striving to lead people to a spiritual renewal and to Jesus Crucified who is despised so much. Moreover, you, my daughters, all of you, not just one, by wholly renouncing any desire for recognition as well as the interior consolation which Paul’s disciples in general used to cherish very much, are filled with apostolic zeal in removing from the hearts of people not only idolatry and other big, big defects, but also in routing out the most pernicious and greatest enemy of Christ Crucified, which is nowadays triumphing almost everywhere—I mean, Lady Tepidity.

Unfurl your flags, my dear daughters, for Jesus Crucified is about to send you to proclaim everywhere the vital energy of the Spirit. Infinite thanks to you, Lord, for giving me such generous daughters.

In the meantime, my beloved, please make every effort to gladden my spirit so that on my arrival I may find that you have made great spiritual progress as you compete with one another.  May I find that some of you have acquired such stability and fervent perseverance in spiritual matters that you will never again be victim to a will that fluctuates between fervor and tepidity, but rather will enjoy a steady and holy fervor, nourished by life-giving water and enriched by new vigor.  May I find that another one has received such great faith that even the hardest things seem quite easy to her, without being deceived in her confidence by either presumption or vainglory.  May I find that someone else believes that she has reached perfection by doing her daily chores, no matter how insignificant they may be, with constancy and persistence, not allowing herself to become bored or feel humiliated.  May I find that another one has utterly denied herself, putting aside her own interests to care for others, since she has convinced herself that it is a great gain for her not to worry about herself but about others, and mindful to be at all times prudent and mature in her activities.  May I find that others have arrived respectively at overcoming their irrational sadness or their discouragement at having lost control in the war against self, or their hardness of spirit, voluntary distractions, or this or that shortcoming.  And so from all this progress of yours may I conclude that you have received the teacher of justice, of holiness, and of perfection: the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.  He, of course, will not let you go wrong; rather He will teach you everything.  He will not let you lose heart, but will always remain with you.  He will not leave you in need, but will provide you with everything.  He will grant you, in particular, a continuous spirit of self-abandonment on the ignominious cross, and lead you to a life conformed to Christ’s according to the pattern of the great saints.  Consequently, you will be able to say with your Father, “be imitators of us as we are of Christ.”72

Be mindful only of this: both our Blessed Fathers, St. Paul and Fra Battista,73 have left us such a great example of noble and profound love for Jesus Crucified, love for their own sufferings and humiliations, and love for the thorough conquest of souls, that, if we had no such unbounded desire for the aforementioned things, we would not be considered their children, but bastards and mules. You, of course, do not want to be in such company.  Your generous hearts want to belong above all to Christ and to please me, your beloved father.  And I always think of you with loving care, anxiously awaiting the moment when I can return to you.

To Christ Crucified I recommend you through your worthy Superiors: that they may not fail in their usual care for you, both because of their love for you and because of my prayers, the prayers of this faithful servant who constantly offers you to Him.

I ask you to tell them to cheer up my heart by bringing about your progress and mine, too.

May Christ make this a reality.  May He bless you all with a special blessing of His, a blessing complete and perfect.

My mother,74 Cornelia,75 and our Battista76 send their greetings.

Special greetings from my dear Isabella77 and Giuditta 78.

May Jesus Christ bless you.

From Cremona, May 26, 1537.

Greetings to my Giuliana.79  I remind you to be generously responsive to the holy and zealous effort of our noble Paola [Torelli]80 and to give joy to our common Father, our saintly Father Superior.81

Your Father in Christ and indeed your Spirit in Christ, 

Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

 

REFLECTIONS
  • Acceptance of our crosses, patience in dealing with conflicts, and tolerance of people’s imperfections are all signs of authentic love for Christ.
  • True love banishes lukewarmness which prevents us from imitating Christ Crucified.
  • Only those who imitate Christ can convincingly invite people to follow him.
  • Anyone who has attained the inner peace produced by a deep and solid faith will never be worried when things go wrong nor will he exult when they go well because he has learned to leave everything in God’s hands.
  • People who love God attach no importance to any tasks that are entrusted to them, or are given to them by chance, because these tasks, great or small, have the same value in the eyes of God when done in love.
  • We show great love for our neighbor when, in imitation of Christ, we deny ourselves and put Christ above ourselves.
  • Those who accept their crosses deny themselves. They rely on the teachings of Christ more than on their own knowledge. They follow the Spirit who preserves them from error, sustains them in difficulties, and gives them abiding peace.


QUESTIONS

  • Can I carry the cross of living with imperfect persons patiently and willingly?
  • Can I overcome the dullness of a day-to-day life, lived without liveliness and in moral and spiritual lukewarmness? Am I able to carry this cross, which is heavier than any other crosses I carry, with strong determination?
  • Am I convinced that only by living in harmony with Christ can I find the motivation to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm as it has then become part of my very life?
  • Do I know that changing moods is a sign of unsteady faith?
  • Do I accept in the same way, for love of Christ, both tasks that are important and those that are modest?
  • Do I understand that to be able to love my neighbor truly, I must loose myself?
  • How can I know if I am inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit?


 FOOTNOTES 

 63. Domenica Battista (Angela) da Sesto: sister of Fr. Dionisio, first Prioress of the Angelics in Milan (1536), a missionary in Vicenza where she was Prioress of the Converted, and Porzia Negri was her vicar.  See also Letter VI, Introduction.
64. Most probably she was one of the first six Angelics, not counting the Prioress, Domenica Battista (Angela) da Sesto, and the Mistress, Paola Antonia (Virginia) Negri.  The other four were: Agnese (Isabella) Baldironi, who is traditionally credited with suggesting the name “Angelics” for their religious family, Antonia Maria (Ludovica) da Sesto, the Prioress’ sister, Maria Maddalena (Bianca Lucia) Rottoli, and Tecla (Bianca) Martinengo.
65. Countess Torelli.  See n. 12.
66. See n. 59. 
67. See Gabuzio 35: Countess Torelli “deemed that he [Anthony Mary] would be most qualified for the project she was contemplating, namely, that he establish and direct a convent for her young ladies.” 
68. See n. 118. 
69. Cf. Carlo Gregorio Rosignoli, Vita e virtù della Contessa di Guastalla Lodovica Torella, nominata poi Paola Maria, dell’ insigne monastero di S. Paolo e del Regio Collegio di Maria Vergine (Milan, 1686) 29.
70. See n. 9. 
71. See Premoli, Storia 38–39, n. 2. 
72. 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1 
73. See Letter I, Introduction. 
74. See n. 15. 
75. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
76. A member of the Zaccaria household.
77. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
78. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
79. Very difficult to identify, but without a doubt a member of the Angelics’ entourage in Milan. 
80. See n. 12.