An essential element of Religious Life is knowing the Founder of the Religious Order or Congregation and the specific charism, spirituality, or physiognomy they have transmitted. Every specific Religious must make a concerted effort to be faithful to the writings, the teachings, and the spirituality left by their Founder. This is also expressed in these words: “Being faithful to the charism of one’s Order!”
FOUNDATIONS/FOUNDERS. Orders as well as Congregations have Founders, raised up by the Holy Spirit often to address or remedy a certain need in the Church. One of the best examples in the past 200 years is the person of Saint John Bosco (1815-1888) and the foundation of the Salesian Order. Bosco lived in the 19th century, in the midst of a radical cultural and economic transition dominated by the Industrial Revolution. Consequently, many of the young, especially boys, were left abandoned on the streets and this of course meant trouble—stealing, fighting, and much more. Therefore, Saint John Bosco, moved by the Holy Spirit founded the Salesians most specifically to help out the young, but especially the teen boys. It turned out to be one of the greatest blessings for the Church, the young, the family, and the world at large. That being said, today the Salesians, both men and women orders, are dedicated to many things, but the hallmark of their charism is helping out the youth on both a human and spiritual level, especially helping them to encounter Christ and His Church.
The author of this article is a Religious in the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and he would like to highlight and articulate the basic charism transmitted by their Founder, Ven. Bruno Laneri (1759-1830). Incidentally, Lanteri’s life overlapped with the life of the great Saint John Bosco and they both worked in Northern Italy.
The following are the most salient elements of the charism of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary left by their Founder Ven. Bruno Lanteri. This charismatic grace bestowed upon the Church was of enormous help more than a century ago, but it is also applicable to the modern world, now more than ever.
1. THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA. (1491-1556) The chief Apostolic tool of the Oblates is the giving of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, sometimes known as Ignatian Retreats. The 30-day Retreat, 8-day Retreats, weekend Retreats, as well as Annotation 18 and 19—Retreats in daily-life, are all part and parcel of the Oblate charism, very much in harmony with the Jesuit charism.
2. POPULAR MISSIONS. Lanteri also took from the spirituality of Saint Alphonsus Liguori in the giving of what are called Popular Missions. By this is meant, the Oblate priest is invited to a Parish to preach a mission—a series of talks or reflections with the purpose of enlightening consciences, teaching the art of prayer, reconciling souls to God through Confession, and promoting the three M’s: Mercy, Mary, and Mission!
3. FORMATION OF THE LAITY. Lanteri understood the importance and necessity of this aspect of the charism. For the Laity has a very special mission, in the words of Saint Pope John Paul II in his document Christifideles Laici (Dec. 30, 1988)—they are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. In other words, lay people living in the world—are called to sanctify the world, the temporal reality. To this purpose, they are called to be saints as Jesus commanded: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.”
4. FORMATION OF PRIESTS. Lanteri was keenly aware of the importance of fostering vocations to the priesthood, the formation of future priests (seminarians), and the ongoing formation of priests. Consequently, Lanteri insisted on this formation and ongoing formation of priests in the religious order he founded. Indeed, a well-formed and holy priest could then, and still can today, do immense good in the conversion, formation, and salvation of many souls.
5. SPREADING GOOD AND SOLID LITERATURE. Back two hundred years ago television, podcasts, You-tubes, and the whole gamut of electronic media did not exist. Therefore, Lanteri insisted on the spreading of good, solid literature, especially good books. He was a firm believer that a good book could result in the conversion and salvation of many, and in fact many were converted. To the contrary, many could be lost through reading poisonous literature. Today, there is a proliferation of excellent Catholic books and literature to promote. That being said, it is equally important today to preach and evangelize through the mass-media, through the electronic means of communication! Ven. Fulton Sheen might be considered a modern model to follow.
6. FIGHTING AGAINST THE HERESIES OF THE DAY. In the time of Lanteri, the most pernicious and pervasive heresy was that of Jansenism, which had contaminated many minds and hearts in Europe in his time. In all honesty, the charism to fight against heresies of the day is necessary now more than ever. There are so many heresies—theological and philosophical errors—that it is hard to know just where to start in our spiritual combat. Still we would like to mention a few such heresies: Materialism, Consumerism, Hedonism, Rationalism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Syncretism, Humanism, Indifferentism, Nihilism, Freudianism, Marxism, Utilitarianism, and a real poison—Moral Relativism. How important it is today that the spiritual sons of Ven. Bruno Lanteri be able to address and explain these moral, spiritual, and philosophical errors and the poison they spread far and wide.
7. CONFESSIONAL MINISTRY. Lanteri, in the formation of his priests and the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, placed a strong emphasis on the importance of being available for the Sacrament of Confession, and being well-trained and good Confessors. He was known to have said: “The Oblate priest should be found dead in the pulpit or in the confessional.” Good places to die!!!
8. MERCY. With the ministry of Confession, Lanteri insisted on preaching and living out the Gospel of Mercy. His motto NUNC-CAEPI translated “Now I begin” meaning: Even though one fall a thousand times a day—1,000 times a day he should get up and entrust himself to the loving embrace of the Father of the Prodigal Son. One of the worst enemies in the spiritual life is that of giving in to DISCOURAGEMENT. Lanteri fought constantly and valiantly in all times and places against giving in to discouragement. Saint Ignatius called this the agree-contra—to fight against the bad tendency of becoming discouraged.
9. LOVE FOR THE CHURCH AND THE PAPACY. Another hallmark of the Oblate charism transmitted by Lanteri is that of a love for Holy Mother Church and the Vicar of Christ, the Papacy. God speaks in many ways, but especially through the Magisterium and the Papacy.
10. MARY AS MOTHER AND FOUNDRESS. Finally, and of paramount significance is the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. Lanteri insisted on the fact that Mary was and is the Foundress of the Oblates. Every Oblate of the Virgin Mary is an oblate—a gift or offering to the Church, through the hands and heart of Mary. Indeed, Mary is the Queen and Mother of every Oblate. Entrustment of one’s total life to Mary is part and parcel of living out the Oblate charism. Oblates pray to Mary, meditate upon her virtues, preach Mary, encourage Marian devotion, love Mary, and are willing to die for the honor of Mary. On the Oblate emblem are these short but pertinent words that every Oblate has in his heart: “Maria cogita, Maria invoca”—meaning: “Think about Mary and call upon Mary.” In sum, in the words of Saint Louis de Montfort, “Mary is the quickest, easiest, shortest way to Jesus.” Loving Mary is a key to holiness and eternal salvation, and at the very heart of the charism of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.
Friends in Jesus and Mary, we have come to the conclusion of our humble treatise or essay on a basic element of Religious Life—the primary and essential importance of the person of the Founder of a Religious Congregation, e.g. Saint John Bosco and Ven. Bruno Lanteri. Then in a simple summary fashion we have pointed out the importance of the charism, the specific spirituality transmitted by the Founder Ven. Bruno Lanteri. With that we have expressed ten of the charismatic gifts endowed by the Ven. Bruno Lanteri to his religious order, Oblates of the Virgin Mary, and thereby to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Indeed, a Religious will be a good and holy Religious if he strives to be faithful in living out and preaching, by word and example, the specific charism of his particular Founder and Order. May God’s blessing and Mary’s prayers fill you with extraordinary, light, peace, and love!