July 16, 2010
My dear Friends,
As many of you are aware, last July 16, 2010 I joined a new Religious
Congregation named "Society of the Queen of the Lilies."
Since then I have received many letters from friends who for years have read my monthly newsletter in which prison issues were oftentimes discussed about. Several have questioned me about the why and the how of my choice; who gave me my religious name? ... (Fr. Elijah of Carmel Mount). They also wanted to know whether I would continue my mission in Poggioreale Prison or not. Finally, having read the newsletter of July 2008 (http://www.solidarity-mission.it/nl_luglio_2008.htm#newsletter), they asked me if it was actually an entry in this Congregation or rather a re-entry ....
Therefore I would like to use this newsletter to talk a little about me, but let me clarify right now that if I’ll talk about me it is only for one reason: to witness and celebrate the mercy that God has bestowed on me.
The Society of the Queen of the Lilies
On the 16th of July, 2010, I joined the branch of the Fathers of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies, which is made up of Fathers, Servants and the branch of the Laity, the so-called " Marian Bethany."
I actually came back to this Society after 12 years. In fact from 1977 until 1998, I was
a member of the Society... what happened? Let us go on step by step.
The storm of '68
I was born in 1955, in Naples – Italy. After a wonderful childhood, (in spite of the untimely death of my mother); loved and cuddled by my family (I was the youngest); fully inserted into the Catholic Church (I attended even primary school in an Institute of Sisters; I started my secondary School attending the Institute for Surveyors, A. Pantaleo, in a city near Naples named “Tower of the Greek”. So much for the study: The Institute was occupied by students for six months!
It was the year of the students Revolution. We were in the year 1968!
It was the time when young people were divided basically into two distinct groups: Right Movements and Left Movements.
When it came for me the hour to choose, (In that time to remain neutral it would have seemed to choose not to live) there was no doubt: I chose the left one. I have always felt within me a force that drove me to be on the side of those that I considered the weakest, most defenseless, most crushed. (After my conversion to God, I realized that all the humanity is crushed under the weight of sin and it is poor because it needs the love of God). I joined a group called “Continuous Struggle” ( Lotta Continua), it was one of the groups whose action was situated in the area of "extra-parliamentary" of Left.
My choice had several consequences on my way of life including the complete loss
of my Catholic faith. Instructed by Communism ideology I started to consider the existence of God a fable
invented by the Church and the Religion as the opium of the people. Furthermore I started to live with no moral rules. (Some slogans of that time were
"Imagination to Power", "Forbidden prohibit", "sex drugs and rock and roll").
After a few years I left the group “Continuous Struggle”, because I was completely disappointed at the failure of the communist ideology to "change", the world. There were many people who, disappointed like me, decided to join armed groups. They thought that the only way to change society for the better was through violence. Others found “refuge” in their small private life, looking for small daily satisfactions.
For me, there came years of deep reflection on the meaning of life (Now I can say, without doubt, that this deep reflection was certainly wanted and guided by God) that led me to a great awakening of faith. It was the year 1976.
God had become a living reality for me. I Attended for six months a Catholic Charismatic group where I began to approach the Person of Jesus, but the clear perception of who Jesus Christ was really for me came thanks to a father of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies who invited me to attend a spiritual retreat according to S. Ignatius style.
An explosion of light
What happened during that spiritual exercises can only be described as a huge explosion of (spiritual) light. I could express with a sentence of John's Gospel the aspect that most struck me: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life." (Jn 3,16)
I was "dazzled" by God's love for humanity. With St. Paul it seemed I could also
say: "He loved me and gave Himself for me!" (………)
The encounter with Jesus and my decision to become a priest in the Society was one. Certainly I felt a lot of resistance inside and outside of me. (My family did not agree with my decision, nor did my friends. For both of them my change was something inexplicable. The sacrifice that cost me the most was to leave my girlfriend… there was also an attempt to "escape" from God’s calling, but finally Grace prevailed over my temptations.
The authenticity of my vocation was confirmed by the whole Society of the Queen of the Lilies, first and foremost by the Foundress of the Congregation, Mother Lillian of Paradise (I am planning to tell you about Mother Lillian of Paradise in another newsletter ).
A vocation which was confirmed by the Church in the person of the Responsible of the Seminary of Chieti, which I attended from 1977 until 1982 and finally confirmed by the very Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Corrado Ursi,
I was ordained as a priest by Him on July 15, 1982 in the Temple of Queen of
Lilies, in Saint George a Cremano. I was given the religious name of Fr. Elijah
of Carmel Mount by Mother Lillian of Paradise.
Priest of Christ in the Society of the Queen of the Lilies
From 1982 until 1998 (The year that I left the Congregation) my priestly mission took place mostly in youth ministry and missions abroad on behalf of the Society. (The youth ministry activities took place mainly in San Giorgio a Cremano Naples where Mother Lillian wanted to build the first Temple in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, called with the new title of "Queen of the Lilies" I was also assigned to Rome for several years where the Congregation has got its General House. Abroad, I was a missionary in Colombia from 1987 to 1990 and in the Philippines on several occasions in the years 1994 and 1995).
In 1998 I decided to leave the Congregation and many people asked me the reason for my choice.
The Charisma of purity!
Paradoxically enough, my exit from the Society was not originated from a lack of faith in the charisma (in the words of Mother Lillian the charisma God gave her is a direct command of Christ: "Jesus wants his Mother to be known under the new title of Queen of the Lilies and wants her message of purity spread out in all over the world "), but because I believed in it too much...
According to the Italian Bishops ( see the document "Mutuae Relationes” edited
on April the 23th of 1978) Charisma of Founders is an experience of the Spirit
that is transmitted from the Founders to their disciples to be lived,
preserved, deepened and constantly developed according with the ever expanding
body of Christ by them " (No. 11)
It is difficult to summarize the Charisma of Mother Lillian of Paradise, because it is her way of life. However, to give you just an idea of it, I would like to mention Mother Lillian when talking to Jesus, she says: "I believe in the madness of Your Love for me!"
How could we not accept this pure love of God manifested in Jesus even to the madness of the Cross?
What made me wonder about were the words of St. John when he says: "The command that Christ has given us is this: Whoever loves God must love his brother also.” (1Jn 4,21)
I felt strongly in my heart the desire to do more for my brothers and Sisters specially for the least ones.
The mysterious plan of God
For his mysterious plan, God allowed me to leave the Society of the Queen of the Lilies in 1998, In fact I got all the required permissions both from the Superior of the Society and from the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Michael Giordano. After two years, God revealed His intention to me through Cardinal Giordano: I would carry out my priestly mission as Chaplain of Prison in Poggioreale Jails. It was the year 2000, dedicated by John Paul II to the Jubilee of the Redemption!
I’ve been a Prison Chaplain for almost ten years now, and I can assure you that if it were up to me, I would be happy to keep on ministering as Prison Chaplain for good. I believe that everyone needs to experience the pure love of God, but I am sure that our Brothers and Sisters who are prisoners have a very special place in Jesus' heart: "I was in prison and you visited me" Mt 25.27.
Father Elijah is back
People who don’t believe in God’s Providence could interpreted as something happened by chance the way I got back to the Society after 12 years…
It started off with a need that I had for a place where to live. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the new Cardinal of Naples, assured me He would think about that. Soon thereafter the Father Superior of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies, Fr. Lilliano of O.J., came to know about my need. He said to me: "Come with us, our house is your house!"
I lived as a guest in the same house That I had left 12 years before (from 2008 to 2010). The Society in these years had carried up many activities of solidarity with the poor of the Archdiocese of Naples and even with some churches of Africa. The Father Superior and all the Community of the fathers welcomed me in a very special way and He often would tell me: Father, please join our Society again. Be sure of this: the gift of God is for good and even Mother Lillian would be happy if you came back as a Father of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies.
I joined the Congregation on July the 16th, 2010. For my commitment in the Congregation I was told to resign as a Chaplain of Poggioreale Prison. However, as I said to the inmates, I will pray always for them: May God give them the strength to get out from whatever prison of sort (especially the prison of sin) and get back to society completely rehabilitated.
Dear friends, God's love is forever. I invite you to celebrate with me this pure love and to welcome it more and more into each of our lives.
Furthermore we got from God the gift to live at the beginning of this third millennium and I would like to ask you something:
Isn’t the loss of perception of this crazy love of God for humanity which alone can give meaning to life the most dramatic problem that the post-modern world have to deal with?
May God be with all of You!
Father Elijah of Mount Carmel