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The Spiritan Is One Who Finds His Strength in God

Spiritan history shows the great ardour of the pioneers, in the founding of local churches and in multiple works created for the service of peoples. The immense task was not done by half-measures. They did however, sometimes, run the risk of rushing in headlong to the point of identifying themselves totally with “their works”. This is a danger for everybody. Poullart des Places went through a similar experience. “I was taking stock of myself and realizing that I was a long way from arriving where I should have arrived.” And the admission is better: “Alas! I am only a mask of devotion and the shadow of what I have been” before concluding: “What good does it do me to have done what I have done?” This painful question still arises today, when the enthusiasm of the beginnings dries up.

The bitterness of Libermann also shows when he becomes aware of the slipping of some people. How to adjust the double desire of doing effective missionary activity and putting oneself at the will of God? A Spiritan is not a monk! Libermann knew that well. But, the value of work did not depend primarily on activity, any more than today it would not depend on the number of meetings on one’s agenda. If God has no place, if his love no longer nourishes the love of the missionary for his contemporaries, he becomes a mere “clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13, 1).

To explain this reality, Libermann crafted the expression “practical union”. Does it not express his own experience, when trying to untangle all sorts of difficulties, he kept a great serenity, fruit of an unshakable trust in God! His secret? Accepting the grace of God and acting only under its inspiration. For Libermann it is essentially a question of relying on “fidelity of divine grace, which produces our union with God in our acts” (E.S.p. 556).

In a certain way the missionary must be like a fish in water! The fish can only evolve harmoniously supported by the water. It finds in it what is essential for its life. In this way the one whose heart is in God can go forward, crossing calm or stormy waters. Whatever the moment, the missionary learns to live with God. The soul “filled with God, knows how to be patient like God; it does not want success, either greater or faster that God wants it; it examines the state of things calmly and in the spirit of God; it acts according to the lights and the strengths which it gets from above, and leaves to its divine Master the concern to make its works fruitful according to the measure of his divine mercy on them” (NDIX, p. 328-329)

Claude – Francois Poullart des Places

 

claude des placesClaude – Francois was born on the 26th of February 1679 into a rich Christian Family of Rennes (Frances). Introduced to serving the poor by a local priest, Claude was to always have a particular regard for the destitute. After a long period of discernment, he decided to give up what would have been a promising and profitable career in law to undertake studies for the priesthood.

During his priestly studies in Paris, he met some clerical students who were too poor to pay for their courses. So, he used what resources he had from his family to support them and at the same time brought them together into a community.

On the 27th of May 1703, the feast of Pentecost, he and his eleven companions consecrated themselves to the Holy Spirit before a statue of Our Lady of Redemptions. Thus was born what became known as the Seminary and Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

On the 2nd of October 1709, at the age of 30, Claude died and was buried, as he wished, in a pauper’s grave in St. Etienne du Mont. His foundation was to develop and send many missionaries all over the world.

Fr. François Marie Paul Libermann

 

Francis Libermann was born in 1802, the son of a Jewish rabbi in Alsace. He converted to Catholicism after a long period of agnosticism and went on to study for the priesthood. He suffered from epilepsy, a medical condition that for long hindered his progress to the priesthood. He did not give up. He had the dream of establishing a society for the care and education of freed slaves.

He was ordained in 1841 and the same year opened the novitiate of the new society “the Society of the Holy Heart of Mary”.

In 1848 he led his society to merge with the faltering Spiritans. The new new society was called the “Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the Protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary” with Libermann as its Superior General.