God said to Abraham: “Look toward Heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them… So shall your descendants be” (Gn 15:5). More than worldly success or material prosperity, the Almighty promised him a chosen and blessed people as recompense, among whom He would choose to live and manifest Himself.
With only one son, Abraham did not live to see the fulfillment of this promise with his physical eyes. Nevertheless, during the exodus from Egypt, his descendants numbered more than six hundred thousand men (cf. Ex 12:37)… And yet this was just the beginning. Not only twelve tribes would have their origin in him, but the pact with God would also make him, by faith, “the father of a multitude of nations” (Gn 17:4). The apex of this original promise is found in Our Lord, the “first-born of all creation” (Col 1:15), and extends from Him “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Thus, it is in belonging to Christ that we truly distinguish “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). His patriarchate does not merely nor even primarily consist in a carnal sonship, but rather in a spiritual one.
In the religious families of the Church, this supernatural fatherhood is effected through founders. In fact, “each religious Order has its Sinai in the person of the founder and the charism he received from God.”1 He “represents a divine image for the religious, a model that […] reproduces Christ in a way adapted to his children.”
The true founder is, therefore, one who is characterized as being a father by transmitting spiritual life to his disciples. As a providential man, chosen to initiate a new charism in the Church, it is incumbent upon Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP, to be father to a multitude of sons and daughters, who are spread throughout the world today.
This, however, is not the only fruit produced by the presence of the Spirit in thefounder. Many are the works he has accomplished, the initiatives begun under his impetus, and the plans he has drawn up for the future, which his spiritual children strive to bring to fruition. Most importantly, the graces that his paternal heart obtains for countless souls are innumerable.
As a thriving tree might acknowledge the bulb from which it sprouted, this work of the Heralds reverently bows before its own cause, filled with heartfelt gratitude. It wishes to thank Our Lady for Msgr. João’s eighty years of unblemished fidelity in the service of God, the Church and humanity, as well as for his integral and uninterrupted testimony of virtue, which makes him an example and support for all those who have the grace to call him father.
1 ALBA CERECEDA, SJ, José María. Un documento histórico del Papa. In: Ave Maria. Bar-
celona. N.486 (Feb., 1985); p.22.
2 GILMONT, Jean-François. Paternité et médiation du fondateur d’ordre. In: Revue
d’ascétique et de mystique. Toulouse. Tomo XL. N.160 (1964); p.416.