"He does not ration his gift of the Spirit."
This is a very personal reflection. I know first-hand that God does not ration his gift of the Spirit. About 20 years ago, after much prayer, a private retreat, and discussion with my spiritual director, it became clear to me that I, a husband with two children, wanted to live my life more fully as a Passionist. But how? The only way I knew was to embrace the one gift that is unique to all Passionists – their vow to keep alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus Christ, the Memoria Passionis.
I wrote to Fr. Michael Joseph Stengel, then the Provincial of Holy Cross Province. I requested his permission to enter into a year-long private formation leading up to the Feast of the Sorrowful Mother, Sept. 15, when I would hope to take the Passionist vow.
Fr. Michael Joseph replied: "I don’t have the power or authority to give you permission to take this vow. We Passionists don’t have a monopoly on this charism. We can’t ration it out. It belongs to the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit shares it with whoever desires it. I can’t give you permission. But my blessing you have as you prepare to take this vow." About a year later on the Feast of the Mater Dolorosa, in the chapel of Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, before family and the Passionist Community, I made the vow that Passionists have been making for nearly 300 years – the Memoria Passionis.
God is not stingy, not miserly, not tight-fisted. God does not ration his gift of the Spirit. God lavished me with the unmerited gift of the Spirit, the desire to preach Christ Crucified. And God allows me to share this gift in Passionist retreat ministry.
What has this personal reflection, the Memoria Passionis, to do with all of us during this Easter Season? Just this: As we continue to celebrate the Season, we are called to remember that the centrality of the Gospel is the cross, because it leads to life – never rationed, but bestowed lavishly.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.