Every religious community, through its founder, has received a gift from the Holy Spirit that helps the Church fulfill its mission. It is this gift that makes each religious community unique. The Charism is the particular vision of the founder that has left a lasting character on the life and work style of the community.
Imagine a prism which disperses a white ray of light into a whole spectrum of many colors. Each charism that the Holy Spirit has inspired in the Church is just one ray of color. No charism can be exhaustive and show the whole beauty of God and the Church, but it is called to show that one aspect beautifully. When a Charism comes into existence, it speaks of a need of the whole Church at that particular time.
A Charism can be expressed in three aspects:
- the mystical aspect: corresponds to God’s initiative, His gift, His invitation to live abundantly.
- the ascetical aspect: is our response to God’s invitation and the concrete ways in which we say our ‘fiat’ and live fully.
- the apostolic aspect: is how we are called to give life to others.
The mystical aspect
We have a God who seeks. He seeks unrelentingly, passionately. Every journey into our interior world begins with an invitation from the Lord. As Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and invites her into a relationship with him, so too does he pursue us, meeting us where we are, in order to nothing less than transform us into Himself.
The mystical aspect of the Charism of the A.V.I. is centered on Christ the Priest. The essence of what Christ the Priest did was to give his life on the cross. It was Christ the Priest who transformed water into wine at Cana and wine into blood at the last supper. Christ the Priest transformed death into life and suffering into redemption. Christ the Priest transforms us into Himself if we let him.
Mental prayer and Thanksgiving after Communion are so important in our Charism because these are privileged means that allow Christ to transform us. It is a Charism with the Mass and the Eucharist at the center, thus, the importance placed on the sacramental life and on Eucharistic adoration.
The ascetical aspect
“The glory of God is man fully alive, the life of man is the contemplation of God” (St. Ireneus). Convinced of this, the only possible response that does justice to Jesus’ declaration: “I came so that they could have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10), is to really embrace life and the call to holiness.
It is in the ascetical aspect of the Charism of the A.V.I. that we pursue the interior life, prayer, holiness, virtue and the different aspects of man – our need and desire for joy, friendship, balance, beauty, unity and the call to live fully.
The apostolic aspect
After being invited to life, responding by living fully, the natural consequence is that we are called to give life. In every fruitful relationship there is a life-giving aspect. It is no different for the relationship with God and each Charism. In the Charism of the A.V.I. we do this in two ways: through evangelization and through formation.
“For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: “Now I am making the whole of creation new.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI,1975, n. 18)
Part of the Charism of the A.V.I. is to take an active role in this mission of evangelization, transforming the world through this radical “renewal of humanity” which the Gospel brings.
“Who is the formator? It is he, father or mother, teacher or friend, who has lived and lives an encounter with something or someone that has burned his flesh and his soul, and has provoked in him a wound. But it is not a mortal wound; rather it is a new, healing wound, towards life and man. A formator is he who has sat down at table, at least for an instant, with the eternal that resounds in a poem, in the wonder of nature, in the eyes or hair or words of a person, in an instant that filled him with profound peace, but at the same time never gave him peace again.
But that which is most important is that the formator is he who does not, simply because he cannot, keep this experience to himself. He wants to communicate it, to live it again with those who have been placed in his care or on his path.” (Massimo Camisasca)
The desire to give formation is birthed from a living encounter that has seared our soul and never left it the same. It is first of all the recognition that we have been given a tremendous gift. Secondly, this gift does not and it cannot leave us indifferent and so affected are we that we cannot help but to desire to form others, to share this gift of life’s fullness that we have been gifted to experience.