The 14 essential characteristics of a priest of the Incarnate Word
A Priest of the
Institute of the Incarnate Word:
According to the specific charism of our Religious Family, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word must “work in supreme docility to the Holy Spirit and according to the example of the Virgin Mary, so that Jesus Christ will be the Lord of all that is truly human, even in the most difficult situations and under the most adverse conditions. This charism is the grace to know how to work concretely so as to extend the presence of Christ in families, education, the mass media, the scholarly, and in all other legitimate manifestations of human life. It is the gift of making each person like a new Incarnation of the Word, thus fulfilling our essential call to be missionaries and Marian” (Constitutions, 30-31).
The focus on the Incarnation also means that, for him, all that is authentically human is open to the Gospel. Just as the Word, in assuming a human nature, united to Himself all that was authentically human, so the IVE priest must also work in such a way that no apostolate is foreign to him.
An IVE Priest seeking to “follow Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit”, must consecrate himself totally through the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In this way he will accomplish the full offering of himself as a sacrifice acceptable to God by which his entire existence becomes continuous worship to Him in charity.”
He does not, however, make this sacrifice alone. The profession of vows is made in union with others. “This consecration is manifested by forming a Religious Family, professing vows publicly, and living a fraternal life in common. The public testimony we must give includes detachment from the world. To live according to the Holy Spirit, we must separate ourselves from the spirit of the world: … the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him (Jn 14:17).
In order to live out this consecration better, he also makes “a fourth vow – consecration to Mary. This consecration is a total surrender to Mary so as to better serve Jesus Christ, and has two aspects: “filial slavery of love” according to Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort’s commendable method. (Constitutions, 82-88).
In light of Jesus’ true humanity, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word must seek to practice the virtues of humility, poverty, suffering, obedience, self-surrender, mercy and charity to all men. In a word, he too, must take up his cross. This attitude must move him, in a particular way, to live his vows of poverty and obedience within the scope of Christ’s Redemption and Christ’s redeeming love; that is to say, within the scope of the Christ’s self-denial in His redemptive Incarnation. This is attested to by St. John Paul II in Vita Consecrata, when he says, the religious’ “fidelity to the one Love is revealed and confirmed in the humility of a hidden life, in the acceptance of sufferings for the sake of completing in their own flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24), in silent sacrifice and abandonment to God’s holy will, and in serene fidelity even as their strength and personal authority wane.
Fidelity to God also inspires devotion to neighbour, a devotion which consecrated persons live out not without sacrifice by constantly interceding for the needs of their brothers and sisters, generously serving the poor and the sick, sharing the hardships of others and participating in the concerns and trials of the Church.”
An IVE priest must be characterized by the importance he gives to the celebration of the Holy Mass; in particular, by celebrating it with great reverence. His devotion to the Holy Mass should manifest the Institute’s marked devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
For him, “the Eucharist must be one of his great loves, since “it is the sign of a God who wants to remain among men and who gives Himself up to man totally: “In the Sacrament, the logic of the Incarnation reaches its extreme consequences.”
For this reason, “participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most important act of [his] day. It is the main act of worship, the sacrifice of praise that gives infinite glory to God. It is in the Mass that Christ, the High and Eternal Priest, perpetuates His redeeming sacrifice on altars all over the world, in such a way that the effects of His Passion reach all men of all times.” (Constitutions, 137).
And particularly within the Eucharistic Liturgy, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word must recognize the essence of the Holy Mass: the renewal of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The primary role of a priest is sacrifice. Therefore, every priest must regard, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the most essential moment of his day, when he identifies himself with the sacrificed Christ, both as priest and victim. As the Constitutions say, “if we do not learn how to be victims with the Victim, all our sufferings are useless.”
Outside the Holy Mass, an IVE priest also manifests the Institute’s devotion to the Holy Eucharist through daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Constitutions say, he “should try to have exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour each day, if possible” (139) For, St. Peter Julian Eymard teaches that, “Eucharistic Adoration is the holiest of actions. It is so because it shares the life of Mary on earth, when she adored Him in her womb, in the manger, on the Cross or in the Divine Eucharist, and because it is the perfect exercise of all the virtues: faith, hope and love.”
The faithful priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word lives a “serious spirituality” and not a sentimental one, which is first of all evident in his commitment to practice and preach the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Our Directory of Spirituality teaches us that every priest of the Institute must have a “clear understanding of the irreplaceable value of the Spiritual Exercises for the renewal of Christian life – teaching each person to conquer himself and to arrange his own life according to God’s order. This should bring [him] to know the Exercises deeply, to prepare [himself] to preach them fruitfully, and to have the necessary disposition so as not to miss any opportunity to preach them.
Secondly, his “serious spirituality” is manifest in the desire to transcend the merely sensible, such that he is disposed to pass through the “dark nights”. As the Doctor of Mystical Theology himself expressed, “To love is to labor to divest and deprive oneself for God of all that is not God” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent to Mt. Carmel, 2, 5, 7).
Why a “serious spirituality”? Because evangelization of the culture, “demands from us a spirituality with unusual nuances.” As Pope St. John Paul II, our spiritual father, teaches, ““All this demands a new approach of cultures, attitudes, [and] behaviors aimed at in-depth dialogue with cultural centers and at rendering fruitful their meeting with the message of Christ. This work also demands a faith on the part of responsible Christians that is illumined by continual reflection when confronted with the sources of the Church’s message, and a continual spiritual discernment pursued in prayer….True inculturation is from within: it consists, ultimately, of a renewal of life under the influence of grace.” On another occasion the late Holy Father also exclaimed, “for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, the Creator, in His admirable plan of goodness, provided the Church with a singular help by means of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the limitless promotion of the Spiritual Exercises.”
“The strictest fidelity to the Supreme Magisterium of the Church of all times, the proximate norm of faith, is absolutely necessary” for every priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (Constitutions, 222). In particular, we regard the following elements as fundamental to our charism: the teachings of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the Apostolic Exhortations Evangelii Nuntiandi and Catechesi Tradendae, Blessed John Paul II’s speech to UNESCO and others on the same subject, the Puebla Document, the Encyclical Letter Slavorum Apostoli, the Encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 55, c, and any forthcoming directives, orientations and teachings of the Magisterium of the Church that may be issued regarding the specific purpose of our small Religious Family.
An IVE priest must give preference to the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, be formed “under his magisterium,” and hold him “especially as a teacher” for the following reasons:
- He “illumined the Church more than all the other doctors. In his books, one profits more in only one year than in the study of all the others during his whole life.”
- He “most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, [and] in a certain way he seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”
- The “Church has proclaimed that the doctrine of Saint Thomas is her own.”
- God has willed that by the strength and truth of the doctrine of the Angelic Doctor, “All the heresies and error that would follow will be driven away, confounded and condemned.”
- His knowledge is of undeniable and fundamental importance for the right interpretation of Sacred Scripture, so as to transcend the sensory and achieve union with God, and to build the edifice of Sacred Theology upon the solid base provided by a profound knowledge of the philosophy of being – a “perennially valid philosophical heritage” and the advances of philosophical investigation.
“To search for the truth, to discover it, and to rejoice at having found it,” said John Paul II, “is one of life’s most exciting adventures. An example of this search and the paradigm of studiousness is the life and very personality of Saint Thomas, the prince of philosophers and theologians, as the Popes have often called him.”
In this vein, he must also give importance to the best Thomists, especially Fr. Cornelio Fabro.
In his missionary and apostolic work, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word should make his own St. John Paul II’s request that “the lay faithful be present, as signs of courage and intellectual creativity, in the privileged places of culture, that is, the world of education — school and University — in places of scientific and technological research, the areas of artistic creativity and work in the humanities,” thus bringing the redemption brought by Jesus Christ to each particular field through the original richness of the Gospel and of the faith.
He must also, in particular, dedicate himself to the vocational apostolate. As St. John Paul II said, “The entire community must seek to foster vocations, even as a sign of the community’s vitality and maturity. We must reestablish an intense pastoral movement, starting from the Christian vocation in general, which is an enthusiastic youth ministry, in order to give the Church the servants she needs.”
Joy is something that has characterized life of the Institute of the Incarnate Word from the very beginning, and for this reason it is very present, both in our Constitutions as well as our Directory of Spirituality.
Here are a few of those citations:
95. Joy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the effect of charity, requires us to make use of any and all means so that “nobody may be disturbed or grieved in the house of God” (St. Benedict). We must live fraternal charity: that is, outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:10); bear their weaknesses, both physical and spiritual, with unlimited patience; be eager to obey one another; seek not one’s own good as much as one’s neighbor’s; practice true fraternal love; live always in the fear and love of God. Love your (superior) with true and humble charity; do not let anything come before Christ who will take all of us together to Eternal life” (St. Benedict).
136. We must have an intense desire for the cross…and, especially, to ask for the grace of knowledge and joy of the cross which are only achieved in the school of Jesus Christ.
145. The saints remind us of the joy that is the fruit of thiscross: “I have not been able to suffer, but to me all suffering is sweet.” (St. Therese of the Child Jesus) Our hope should be that all pain would give us comfort. Pain “is the fulcrum on which one becomes a lever in
order to serve man, as well as to transmit to many others the immense joy of being a Christian.”(St. John Paul II)
204. Joy, the Christian’s gigantic secret, is spiritual andsupernatural, and arises from meditating on the mystery of the Incarnate Word.
Finally, for an IVE priest and the entire Religious Family, joy must be manifested in special ways: in the celebration of the Lord’s Day, Sunday; in having a sense of feasting; and in the recreation that we call eutrapelia.
Wherever he may be on mission, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word must effectively insert himself into the reality of his apostolate. This aspect of the charism demands that he must “sink his teeth into reality.” In order to achieve this, we can point out two indispensable aspects: the first is fidelity to Jesus Christ; the second is Thomistic metaphysics which helps us avoid “shadowboxing,” as Saint Paul says (1 Cor 9:26). This means knowing the reality of how people live, how the youth live, what problems they have, how they must be helped in order to improve, etc.
By this, it is meant that a priest of the IVE is disposed to go to that mission that no one else wants. For us, these “outpost missions” are what we like to call “emblematic missions” since they represent a veneer of honor for our small religious family. It is quite possible that in these missions a number of things could “go wrong”: the apparent absence of abundant fruits in the midst of intense apostolic labor, few or no vocations, etc. At the same time, if we hadn’t agreed to go there, no one would have wanted to go due to the difficulties. Nevertheless, the silent sacrifice of those who give their lives for Christ will never go unrewarded; these sacrifices are an enormous source of blessing for the entire Institute and for the universal church.
Here are a few links showing how priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word are going where “no one else wants to go”:
– “We did what we had to do” (Rome Reports)
– The Mass Returns to Mosul (National Catholic Register)
– Newly Built Church in Refugee Camp in Iraq (CNA)
– Iraqi Catholics defy ISIS with Stations of the Cross (Crux)
– Despite Terror Christians in Tunisia Remain Hopeful (CNA)
– Priest in Syria Carries on Church’s Ministry (Catholic News Service)
– Pope Francis Urges Priest in Gaza to Have Courage (Catholic Herald)
– Holy Land Priests Try to Help Parishioners Confront War (CNEWA)
– Argentine Priests Aiding Flock in Tajikistan (Zenit)
– Egypt’s City of Charity (CNEWA)
The sick person should seek to be conformed to Christ, and likewise those who help with the care of the sick: chaplains, religious brothers and sisters, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, administrative and technical personnel, social and volunteer assistants. John Paul II reminded these that they are called “to be generous disciples of Christ, the Good Samaritan. Aware of your identity, discover in the sick the face of Our Lord, in pain and glorious . . . [in order] to be credible witnesses of Christ’s love.”
This outlook on life for a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word is, first of all, a consequence of his vow of povery. Our Constitutions say,:
(63) “Thanks to this renunciation of temporal goods, the vow of poverty becomes endless worship of Divine Providence since the religious is certain that “bodily danger does not threaten those who with the intention of following Christ, abandon all their possessions and entrust themselves to Divine Providence.” The Father, full of goodness, who takes care of the birds and the flowers of the field, will not
abandon those who confidently surrender their lives to Him.
(68) A particular way of giving glory to God is by infinitely trusting in His Providence, based upon His design of salvation,
that manifests itself most eminently in the Incarnation. We must learn to look at everything as having come from The One who doesn’t even forget a sparrow… and who has even counted the hairs on our head. For that reason Saint Paul teaches that all things work for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28). When he says “everything”, he leaves nothing out. This includes every situation, whether prosperous or adverse; whether concerning the good of the soul, goods of fortune or reputation. This “everything” further includes all conditions of human life (family, study, talents, etc.), all interior states we experience (joys, happiness, deprivations, dryness, displeasures, tediousness, temptations, etc.), even faults and sins. It includes everything, absolutely everything….We must believe with unyielding steadfastness that even the most adverse events, those most opposed to our natural view, are arranged by God for our own good, even though we don’t understand His designs, and we ignore the end that He wants to bring us to. Yet for this to happen, we must fulfill a condition on our end, and this is why he adds “those that love Him”.
A strong example of this is the fact that we consider our enemies as a part, spiritually, of our religious family, since they have done and do us good [ . . . ] “omnia cooperantur in bonum” (Rm 8:28).
Basically, an IVE preist’s consecration to Mary should bear fruit by “marianizing” his life. To “marianize” life, one must first do everything through Mary. The phrase “through Mary” indicates the way, that is, the fusion of intentions. The Mother of God keeps nothing for herself, but she teaches and tells us in all things, just as she did to the servants at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). (85)
Second, we must do everything with Mary. She is our companion and model, the masterpiece of God, who must guide “all our intentions, actions and operations.” The Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1); with greater reason we can say the same of the Virgin Mary – in whom the Almighty, whose name is Holy, has done great things. “While in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ… turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues.” (86)
Third, one must act in Mary, in intimate union with her, which means that an abiding unity should exist between the consecrated soul and the Mother of God. He who loves abides in the beloved; this is ardent love, tending toward a mutual union, becoming more profound and more solid with each positive act. In this way one imitates the Incarnate Word who came into the world and dwelled in Mary’s womb for nine months; and Jesus’ last command and gift becomes effective: ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home (Jn 19:27). (87)
Finally, one must do everything for Mary. The Blessed Virgin, who always submitted to Christ according to the Father’s eternal design, must be the end that guides all our actions, the object that attracts the heart of each consecrated person, and the motive at the beginning of each task. Mary is the “proximate end, our mysterious intermediary, and the easiest way of reaching Him.” (88)