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P. Jesús Fernández: “Our Founder exhorted us to go out and take risks in the apostolic life out of love for Christ and his Church”

By 30 June, 2017January 2nd, 2023No Comments
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We publish a selection of the spiritual lesson given by Fr. Jesús Fernández, President of the Id Institute of Christ the Redeemer missionaries and missionaries, on the occasion of the 58th Anniversary of Foundation, in Rom

On that sunny morning of June 29, 1959, twelve young men, along with our Founder, who was also young, visited the Bishop of Tenerife, the Most Rev. Domingo Pérez Cáceres. Who was the youngest of them all? Fernando Rielo Pardal, an employee in the postal service who was recognized by all as their Founder. Guided by an unshakable faith, he offered himself to the bishop for any mission he might be assigned to, especially involving dedication to young people estranged from or opposed to the Church.

Our Father Founder was a child of his time. His love for the Divine Persons and the Church was nourished by the Gospel, continuous prayer, and the Eucharist. Passionate about growing in faithfulness to Christ, his unitive prayer flew towards the Most Holy Trinity. For that reason he would tell us, “It is of great importance for you to acquire the state of beatific supplication, which, as the supreme expression of mystical unitive prayer, will shape your filial consciousness, betrothed to the Father, concelebrated by the Son and the Holy Spirit, to such a degree that, having already been marked in this life with eternal glory, you may contemplate earth from heaven rather than heaven from earth.”[1]

The first Missionaries who accompanied our Father Founder on that first feast of St. Peter and St. Paul were married, and most of them worked at private companies. He attended to both their spiritual and material concerns. Gentleness, firmness, affability, and rigor were integral parts of the formation of these first Missionaries. By word and deed and moral authority he exhorted and corrected them with exquisite love.

In simple fashion he taught the first Missionaries not to be afraid of the word holiness and the word conversion. To be holy we need not perform extraordinary acts or possess the grace of extraordinary phenomena. Conversion is nothing but ceasing to look at ourselves so as to look towards God. In this manner we shall see that the gaze of Christ is a gaze of love, care, affection, and tenderness. He acted this way with everyone and especially with the rich young man. The word conversion is contained in the words Follow me. I should respond to Christ’s call without hesitation: “Yes, I will follow You.” And I must respond to the question “Do you love Me?” without doubting: “Yes, I love You. You know everything.” With this yes our intelligence opens to a new vision, a new horizon. Conversion is to depart from an egocentric existence towards another filled with generosity, from wanting to place oneself at the center of and above others towards placing Christ at the center of everything and everyone, in such a way that I must appear as the least of all. Conversion leads us to love our enemies and treat those who hate and persecute us in the best manner (Lk 27:29). Some will say that it is very hard to do so. But I must reply that it is not a question of making great efforts, but of letting the Holy Spirit act in our heart; by his power He will change our thoughts and desires and give us true motivation to carry out the will of God, even when it is very difficult.

But he was also characterized, from the moment he arrived in Tenerife, by his personal apostolate, as he relates in his Legends of Love: “My apostolate spread at an unusual speed. This circumstance required bigger venues where large crowds gathered. Thirsty for faith, they imposed new paths on their lives in response to my Christian confession of faith. On occasion, the words were confirmed by stirring miracles. The local bishop’s interest in this movement gave rise to the formation of a team for popular missions under his authority that traveled around the island of Tenerife, moving from town to town. From the mission team the Institute of Idente Missionaries arose on June 29, 1959. How many confessions there were! How many conversions! The churches were filled with people who would receive the Eucharist during Holy Mass and continue to do so with constancy. My dedication to the capital was exhausting in view of the religious needs: the talks for workers and students involved an immediate manifestation of grace, in terms of sheer numbers. In connection with two movements, social and student, I gathered around myself about two thousand souls that received the Most Holy Eucharist, filled with enthusiasm for the intrinsic holiness of the Church and convinced about the state of grace. It would be impossible to recount the numerous problems people brought to me. I can say only that for days and days at a time I could not touch my bed to try and bring some relief to my utter lack of sleep. I would thus contemplate dawn over the sea accompanied by people crying out of love for Christ because they were seeing that the new, divine horizons I was presenting to them turned their existence into a new life marked by faith, hope, and the joy of heavenly goods.”[2]

He was also active in fostering vocations within different states of life and helping both younger and older people to follow the path Christ was indicating to them. We do not realize how many tears he shed beseeching the Father for our vocation to holiness. By his life he taught us the value of grace, supplicatory prayer, and the Father’s call for us to be governed rather than to govern, to be obedient rather than to command, to think of others rather than ourselves, and to take the last place rather than the first. Our Founder exemplified all of the foregoing because he was overflowing with love for the Father and a serene peace which endured in the midst of storms and choppy seas until the moment Christ and Mary came for him to take him heavenward with Them. “Throughout my life,” he himself assured us, “I have been a son begging at the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem.”[3] The only thing that mattered to him was souls, by virtue of his immense love for the Most Holy Trinity, and hence his living out and conveying the Gospel to all, men and women, in every place and time, so that they would be holy. He showed us that the Gospel was not a tribute to sadness or nostalgia, but to a joy expressed in the beatitudes.

Furthermore, our Founder taught us to reason, reflect, and defend views regarding the Holy Scriptures and exhorted us to go out and take risks in the apostolic life out of love for Christ and his Church after praying in silence in front of the Tabernacle. To do so, we had to emerge from our fears and anxieties, seeking to resolve conflicts and problems by turning to the Gospel, the only source that could give us light and clarity and transmit the peace which Christ says the world cannot give (Jn 14:27).

We Idente Missionaries can say that in our Founder we have known a man as innocent as a child, with a priestly soul. He emerged from the convent of the Redemptorist Fathers with the call to give up everything and follow the Father with a mystical filial consciousness. Twelve men of proven religious virtue from different religious orders confirmed that he should found our institution for the aspiration to holiness by means of the ascetical-mystical examination. The foundation was not easy. He encountered many internal and external obstacles. In all sincerity, he told us he did not possess the qualities—not just spiritual or mystical, but even human—to found and take on the foundation. He felt very weak, and only the power of God kept him alive. He begged the Father for the grace to enable those who approached him to have confidence. He observed that there were many young and also highly educated people who were far from believing in and loving the Father and needed our charism for their conversion and sanctification.

The logic of holiness does not follow human logic. He would go upstairs and downstairs at practically the same time. He seemed to be going up a step and immediately going down two. He knew he could not back out after setting his hand to the plough of the foundation. Furrows of blood and tears rendered the soil where he would found fertile, and, like the great prophets of the Old Testament, he never completely viewed the Promised Land in this life.

He knew the Father would always offer him a solution in accordance with the divine will and not his. The cross was for him the sign of love and victory according to the words of Christ: “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

In September 2004 I saw him for the last time. He was tired, very tired, and his eyes were shining, not with fever, but with tears of happiness on learning that his institution was emerging from a dark well: the Holy See had granted recognition to the Institute on a diocesan level as a new form of consecrated life, and the Idente priests would be incardinated in our martyred institution. I said, “Father, I am going back to Rome. Do you have anything to convey to your daughters and sons?” He replied, “May they be saints, as well as the Church founded by Christ.” I said, “It is hard for me to take leave of you.” He answered, “It is for me, too. Be docile to the Holy Spirit.” He looked at me with great tenderness. I then gave him the kiss of a spiritual son for his spiritual father. In the end, he said, “Take care of charity. Never forget that a day without the cross is a day devoid of the Father’s love. Do not hold on to anything. Offer everything.” In his last gaze I saw the fruitfulness of being in Christ. His body, burdened with weariness and labored breathing, harbored gently penetrating eyes, with the transparency and innocence of a child.

I send all of you my best wishes on this Fifth-Eighth Anniversary of the Founding of the Institute, the feast of two giants of holiness, Peter and Paul, whose food was to do the will of the one who had sent them, Christ (Jn 4:34). They carried out the divine will, which sometimes seems to us too harsh and laden with the cross, for God’s plans do not coincide with ours. Our life, in the image of Christ’s, must be “to seek and fulfill the will of the Father.” Such was the life of our Father Founder.

[1] Codex Orationis, New York, 1996, unpublished.

[2] Legends, Part Three, Chapter 2, LV, “The Wake of a Star.”

[3] Legends of Love.