What exactly does the “Lanterian charism” consist of? A religious charism is a spiritual reality, a gift of the Holy Spirit, by which the Founder and his followers seize upon and live the Gospel in a particular way. As such, it belongs to the realm of Mystery and eludes any precise and clear-cut formulation. We can, however, outline its essential traits by meditating on the life and words of Fr. Lanteri and trying to secure his fundamental insights.
The Essential Outline of the Lanterian Charism
With that having been said, the Lanterian charism is, very succinctly, characterized by the following five elements.
A Keen Sense of the Mercy of God Made Manifest in Jesus Christ
The God who took hold of Fr. Lanteri is a God of goodness and of mercy: the Father who sent His Son, as the Good Shepherd, to save man. Fr. Lanteri places Christ, gentle and merciful, in the center of it all. He experiences Christ as his Companion, as his Teacher, his Model, Help, Recompense. He became a fervent witness to it in all of his activities. The Lanterian heart lives in the presence of a God Who loves each person for who he or she is and Whose love is free and without limits, and it knows that “man’s salvation is the greatest object of interest to the attentive care of Providence”. This vision inspires certain characteristic attitudes:
- An ever renewed trust in God: “Immediately destroy every shortcoming in the fire of love, and repeat continually, and with firm resolve: ‘Nunc coepi’, ‘Now I begin.’.
- A fraternal love which bears all the marks of a man of great human feeling: “The love with which they will love one another shall be a cordial love, such as befits true brothers of the same family, an affable love, a love that is one step ahead, forbearing, preserved at the cost of whatever sacrifice”.
- Finally, it is a goodness that permeates his whole style of evangelization: “In the heart of Lanteri, truth is always joined to love: always practicing zeal for the truth in a spirit of love, striving to win over the heart before the spirit, by making one fall in love with very truth that he defends and teaches”.
A Filial Love for Mary
At the age of twenty-two, the young Lanteri had entrusted himself totally to Mary as a trusting son would do. Later on he would make this fervent prayer to Mary: “Holy Virgin, Mother of God and my Lady, I ask two things of you and both are necessary for me: give me your Son, He is ‘ treasure, without Him I am poor. Give me to your Son, He is my Wisdom and my Light, without Him I am in darkness “. Christ remains ever at the center of the whole of Fr. Lanteri’s theological vision and spirituality, but the Virgin Mary occupies a privileged place therein as Model of faith and Mother who brings to Christ. On the emblem of the Oblates we read: “Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca.” They are St. Bernard’s words which invite us to contemplate the image of Mary as presented to us in the Gospel: model of one who is totally at the disposal of the Word and of the Spirit; and to invoke Mary, with such trusting prayer as entrusts all that we are and all that we do to her maternal intercession. An important element of the spirituality of Fr. Lanteri is the offering of oneself to the Lord through the hands of Mary.
A Genuine Sense of Fidelity to the Church
Fr. Lanteri often quoted the words of Christ, ” My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (Jn 7:16), as the foundation of his total adherence to the teaching of the Church. He invites the Oblates to profess a “total, sincere, and inviolable obedience to the authority of the Holy See, and a total attachment to its magisterium”. It is an important component of the spirit of communion with the Church, the “sensus Ecclesiae” that must characterize the Lanterian spirit. Insertion into the Church’s journey, love for the Pope, prompt attentiveness to his word are some of the essential attitudes for a Lanterian both in his or her own formation as well as in any pastoral initiative. Such a spirit also entails the possession of a particular attentiveness for working in step with the local Church, the responsibility for which belongs first and foremost to the bishop.
Lanteri chose the Ignatian way both for his own spiritual life as well as for its use in the apostolate. “The Exercises of St. Ignatius are, in general, a very powerful instrument of divine Grace for worldwide reform, and in particular, a sure method for everyone to become a saint, a great saint, and quickly “. The Exercises chart a spiritual course which teaches one to contemplate Christ in prayer, in order to follow him in a radical way and to live the Gospel fully in one’s vocation. Ignatian pedagogy helps unite faith and life, it forms free men and women, able to discern the call of the Lord in the concrete situations of history; it is a sure path to spiritual growth. The Lanterian takes his or her place squarely within the ongoing tradition of the great Ignatian family which has succeeded, especially in recent years, in renewing and presenting the pedagogy of St. Ignatius in a way that is relevant for today. It should be added that Fr. Lanteri nourished his spiritual life with other great masters: St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis de Sales, St. Theresa of Avila, and many other Fathers of the Church and theologians, thereby teaching the importance of letting oneself be formed at the school of the great authors of Christian life.
An Ardent and Intelligent Apostolic Consciousness
Fr. Lanteri was a man set afire with a blazing fire: he burned with the desire to help all encounter Christ. For this to take place, his apostolic action was directed, on the one hand, toward that evangelization that happens deep within a person, particularly with spiritual direction and confession, and on the other, toward the evangelization of the culture, especially through the circulation of the printed word. These were two complementary directions to which Fr. Lanteri was attentive all his life. Another characteristic of his was also the concern he had not only to evangelize, but to form evangelizers. Certainly, his apostolic intuitions can still today inspire the creativity of many men and women who, sensitive to the anxieties and hopes of the world, are looking for the most effective ways to love and serve. With Fr. Lanteri the apostolic heart is committed to “making all men and women who are docile to grace, know and feel that (…) the most essential business of their true happiness demands that they unite themselves to the Supreme Good”.