Pope Paul VI proclaimed and celebrated the year 1975 as a Holy Year. It was called the “Holy Year of Renewal and Reconciliation.” Within the framework of this jubilee, our confrere, Abuna Jacob Mariam, was raised to the altars. He was known thus among the Ethiopians and Eritreans, and among us as Saint Justin De Jacobis.
He is an exceptional model of holiness and missionary life; a light for us, his confreres in the Community; a leader for the missionary Church; and a paradigm for those who are pastors today and will be tomorrow, especially in the episcopal field.
His personality and holiness are an abundant wealth, which give us lights for many pages of reading, reflection, and prayer. I sketch out these few lines that will lead us to deepen these aspects and continue digging his life’s rich mine.
- A deeply human saint:“Gratiam non tollit naturam, sed perficit et supplet defectum naturae” “Grace does not suppress nature, but perfects and supplements the defects of nature.” Saint Thomas Aquinas, I p.9.2. art. 2 ad 1.
Yes, our saint was a very human man. He impressed by his tenderness. His homilies were full of compassion. In the pages of his diary, he refers to his mother, who accompanied him from heaven, when he spent Christmas 1839 almost all alone. He narrates the pain of remaining by himself in the mission of Adwa, as his confreres left for other mission centers.
Our saint was not a misanthrope. He was a friend, first, to his confreres in the Community, to his faithful Catholics, because of his proximity, and he even went to the heart of the Orthodox and Protestants. How special it is that many still visit his grave today, after his earthly pilgrimage. It was because he was so human, that he became very dear to the heart of God and the poor.
- A saint with a deep sense of belonging to the CM: The life of this apostle within the Company was not a rose garden. His confreres in the mission made him suffer much, like Father Sapeto, who was more an adventurer than a missionary. Monsignor Montuori, his auxiliary bishop and then his successor, was a heavy cross and an obstacle on the missionary path. Not to mention the Superior General, Father Étienne, who, instead of being a support in his missionary work, almost expelled him from the Congregation. But let us be fair, recognizing that many other confreres, wiped away his tears, were his staff in the moments of struggle, and balm to heal his apostolic wounds, like the postulant Abba Ghebre Michael.
In our mission today, even in the midst of so much media of one kind or another, how “fragile” we can be. With what ease and pain we see confreres depart, who started the Vincentian way with us, and prefer other fields different from those to which the Lord called them. However, let us recognize that we live in family and close to the confreres, both those who leave and those who continue in the Vincentian field. The CM is a flowering tree with lots of shade for everyone. We need a lot of the “resilience” that De Jacobis lived so deeply and we must ask the Lord for this gift.
- A saint to whom Mary showed the way: When Propaganda Fide and the Congregation sent him to evangelize Abyssinia, our confrere asked permission to go first to the Rue du Bac, where, nine years earlier, Mary, the Mother of the Company, had given the immeasurable treasure of the MIRACULOUS MEDAL to Sister Labouré.
When he reached the shores of his mission, she already had arrived with her outstretched arms. She whispered many secrets in his ear, showed him the way of the poor, was his guide and company, and opened the doors to the hovels of the poor and, even more, the doors to his heart for her Son to enter. Finally, beside the headstone and under a hospitable tree, at the end of 20 years of missionary life, and “after this exile, she showed him Jesus, the blessed fruit of her womb.”
Today’s and tomorrow’s missionary must carry the Bible, the Crucifix, the Rosary, and the Constitutions in his missionary backpack, and, before the cell phone and the computer, many, many medals of the Mother – today, as yesterday, she opens missionary rifts for us.
Marlio Nasayó Liévano, CM
Province of Colombia
24 July 2019