The spirituality of our cofounder is vital for our time. Growing up as a Jew, Francis Mary Paul Libermann came to know the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- the mysterious God ever faithful to his promises. That experience gave him a tremendous sense of the presence of God in his life. After his conversion to Christianity, he was disowned by his father and suffered terrible sickness that delayed his ordination. Nonetheless, his Jewish conviction of the fidelity of God the Father allowed him to perceive the negative as well as the positive events in his life as gifts of God.
Our spiritual heritage bridges spirituality, East and West. Libermann's spirituality resonates with many themes of Asian cultures. Like the masters of the East, he had a deep sense of the mystery of life. His systemless spirituality is the foundation for his understanding of practical union with God.
Libermann saw that to dance with the Divine, we must let go of our own selves, egos, and desires and trust in the divine mystery always present to us. We must become as light as a feather and be radically flexible to the direction of the Holy Spirit. He writes, "O divine Spirit, I want to be before you like a light feather, so that your breath may carry me where it will and that I may not offer the least resistance to it."
On his deathbed, Libermann encouraged his followers: "Be fervent, fervent, always fervent, and, above all, charity, charity, charity above all. Charity in Jesus Christ, charity through Jesus Christ, charity in the name of Jesus Christ."
We are not monks, but our lives are dedicated to the apostolic life which is rooted in Christ's mission. "The apostolic life is that life of love and of holiness lived on earth by the Son of God in order to save and sanctify people. By it He continually sacrificed Himself, thereby glorifying the Father and saving the world" (Spiritan Rule of Life, no. 3).
Seeking to live that apostolic life everyday means carrying on Christ's life and love. When we are faithful to that call, we are just as much in union with God the Father as Jesus was in the Father's love. "Union with God in prayer leads us to be of service to others, and the apostolic work we do is, in its turn, a worship offered to God in the Sprit and a deepening of our union with Him" (Spiritan Rule of Life, no. 87).
What is distinctive about Spiritan spirituality is the kind of work it leads us to do: ministry to the poor, to those who have never heard the Gospel before, and to those places no one else will go. We say in prayer, "Here I am, Lord, send me." And he does.
Naked before God
Libermann had a deep sense of union with God. Everything was taken away from him: his health, his family -- even his ideas were rejected by his confreres at the time. He had nothing. He was naked before God. The active poverty of his life taught him not to hold onto anything. He experienced God with his whole heart and mind.
Following Libermann in this way demands a tremendous capacity to be open to the Holy Spirit. We have to let go of that which is discontinuous and hold onto what is continuous. This ability is the central message of the Acts of the Apostles upon which so much of our docility to the Spirit is modeled.
Our way is life with an anchor in God. This enables a God-anchored mobility: We are able to be flexible because we are rooted in the fidelity of God. Love is the only thing that endures.
Prayer is the word we use to describe our relationship with God, ourselves, and other people. We have to take time for relationships, which means we have to take time for prayer. We have to learn what it means to be lovingly present at every moment and with every person. We have to learn not to be distracted but solely to concentrate on the presence of God in every moment.
Libermann's is a very tightly knit, simple spirituality, but extremely demanding by way of asceticism. It does not allow escapism and it constantly makes us aware that to live in union with God means in this moment, in this circumstance, with these people, in these conditions we have to be present to Him.
Modeled on Mary
God's Jewish mother Mary is the model for habitually dwelling in the mystery of God's graces. Her lived knowledge of the Spirit was intimate and intense. She is the concrete example for us who seek to dwell in God's love without reservation.
Mary is like the moon, which has lightness and brightness because it receives everything from the Sun. It is because Mary is totally empty of herself in humility, that she can receive the divine Spirit and be a carrier of that love.
She is the perfect paradigm for missionaries, because that receptivity is necessary for all missionary work, and that is why Father Libermann chose her as patroness of his missionary order.
Living this Love
Father Libermann's spirituality is open to different interpretations -- as many, in fact, as the number of people who try to live it. Libermann had a tremendous sensitivity to the particularity of God's action in each person's life, recognizing the rich variety of vocations and ways within the same one Holy Spirit.
Libermann's spirituality is embodied. Only when we live it can we really know it. His spirituality is not for the sake of discussion or definition, but for the sake of enhancing our relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. It is in activity that we live spirituality, in practice that we encounter the living God of Jesus Christ.