8.07.2007 @ 17:36
Under 10: Living the present in openness to the future - Min. general
Living the present in openness to the future - Br. JosÃ© RodrÃguez Carballo, ofm, - Minister General
Dear Brothers: our Chapter of Mats is coming to an end. During these days we have joyfully celebrated the gift of our vocation as Friars Minor, sharing, in profound fraternal communion, what each one of us carries in his heart: his joys, fears and hopes. We reflected together on the challenges of following Jesus in the light of the vocational texts of the New Testament and on the Gospel as our Rule and life. We went on pilgrimage together to the main places of our redemption: Nazareth, the Lake, Mount Tabor, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. We allowed the stones to speak to us, but, above all, we allowed the Lord to speak to us through His Word.
Echoing what many of you shared with me personally or in groups, we could well say that our spiritual Chapter was a powerful time of meeting and fraternity among us all, who came from more than 49 different countries. Barriers fell and we all played our part in building bridges of encounter and communion. However, our Chapter was, above all, a powerful time of encounter with ourselves and with the Lord, who continues to look upon us with love and to call us by name to follow Him more closely each day.
At the end of this Chapter we feel the need to express our profound gratitude to the Lord for the possibility He gave us to visit His Land and also the beloved Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, - in particular to the Custos and his Discretorium, as well as to the fraternities of Nazareth, Capernaum, Tabga, Mount Tabor, Gethsemane, St. Saviours, Bethlehem and Ain Karem -, for having opened their doors wide to us and for accompanying us constantly during our pilgrimage. I, personally, also feel the need to thank the Commission which took charge of the organisation of the meeting, both those appointed by the Curia and those appointed by the Custody of the Holy Land, and the General Definitory for its enthusiastic support to this initiative and for its participation.
At this moment, I would like to share some convictions with you and to offer you some elements which I consider to be fundamental in your project of life, as in mine, in order to continue your journey.
1. Life, our life, is beautiful, very beautiful. Dear young Friars, live it to the full, live it to â€œthe maximumâ€. This brings with it living without reservations. It is not the time for reductions, it never was, and even less so today. Nor is it time for mediocrity. Live your vocation joyfully. Knowing that if we are here it is because He loves us will help you to do this. We are, as men and Franciscans, the fruit of the limitless love of one person: Jesus. Keep a grateful memory of this gift, it will help you to keep it â€œyoungâ€.
2. Life, our life included, is not easy. Life is a struggle, a constant agony. Two doors are placed before us: one broad, which leads to perdition, the other narrow, which leads to life. Two paths are open before you. It is up to you to choose the one which, though hard and marked by the cross, leads to life and not to death. Set out into deep water! Struggle, dear Brothers, without weakening until you reach the goal, like Paul of Tarsus, the great athlete and fighter, teaches us. Always begin anew, as Francis teaches us, desiring always to begin again. Do not tire of beginning time and time again. There is no defeat except that which we impose on ourselves. There is no failure except that of not trying anymore. Today, and certainly tomorrow, our life is only for athletes.
You shared some of your fears during these days. I would like to underline two in particular.
1. The structures. You said you feeling you are being used to maintain structures which do not seem to have much sense today frightens you. Feeling that you are the protectors of structures frightens you. I would particularly like to make a distinction between physical or material structures and structures of life and mentality.
- Physical or material structures. With regard to these structures, I see it is necessary in many cases, some of them urgent, to have suitable re-dimensioning in order for the structures to be at the service of life and not life at the service of the structures, as is happening in not a few cases. I think that it is necessary to carry out a proper discernment so that the structures may help us to live as minors among minors and may guarantee the living of other irrenounceable values of franciscan life, especially those of the fraternal and the contemplative dimensions. But I am, at the same time, mostly concerned about putting the structures we have, whether big or small, at the service of authentic, evangelical and inter-personal relationships. We certainly have to respond to the signs of places (it is not the same to be in one place as in another), we have to couple the question â€˜where are we?â€™ with another two questions which are no less important: Who are we? How are we?
- Structures of life. I am here referring to the structures which have to come into play in the tool we call the personal and fraternal projects of life. In both the personal and fraternal life we cannot lack some elements or tools which allow us to nourish our vocation and manifest our mission: prayer, work, local chapters, ongoing formation, the prayerful reading of the word, apostolic works, etc. These structures will help us to put our life in order, to work out an ecological project of life and to live within it. It would be very difficult to keep faithful to what we promised without them.
- Mental structures. The profound renewal of the Order will not be achieved without a change of the mind and heart of the Friars. New structures will be of little use, Msgr. Romero used to say, if there are no new hearts. It is to this structural change that we must give priority. Once this is achieved, the rest will follow as a consequence. I think it that a suitable ongoing formation, both personal and fraternal, and suitable to the demands of today, is undeniable in this context.
2. Becoming comfortable and middle-class. One and the other is to be feared. I ask you to look to the past with gratitude and to embrace the future with hope by living the present with passion. You must not think that everything begins with you, it would be a great error to ignore our history or not to appreciate what your elders did and are doing. Nor should you think that you are here to continue living as we live, or to do the same thing we are doing. New wine in new wineskins. New responses are required for new questions and new situations. This is a time for fidelity, but for creative fidelity. You have to have the courage, the necessary clarity and audacity to reproduce the creativity and sanctity of Francis. You have to have the courage to be prophets, like John the Baptist, the courage to live the present with passion and, in this way, to prepare the future. Donâ€™t be mere spectators, be builders; do not be those who repeat things, be creative. Donâ€™t be victims of the materialism and consumerism which you rightly point out is found in your surroundings.
Preparing the future
Preparing for the future requires, among other things:
1. Giving quality to our life. This, as you yourselves rightly noted during this Chapter, necessarily passes through the quality of relationships: the quality of relationship with oneself, of being fully reconciled with oneâ€™s history, without complexes of any kind; the quality of relations with others, healthy relationships characterised by trust, familiarity and the acceptance of others on the basis of faith; the quality of relations with God (being careful not to manipulate them) which are manifested in the daily search for and encounter with Him in personal and communal prayer, in the Word, in the sacraments, in the Friars, and in the men and women whom we meet, especially the poor…; the quality of relations with the world, which presupposes, as you yourselves pointed out, a just relationship and being careful not to allow yourselves to be entrapped by it, but always keeping, on the basis of faith, a broad and positive view, which is, at the same time, realistic. Be neither pessimistic or naive. We are called to be the leaven in the dough.
2. Increasing communications on various levels: personal, fraternal, provincial, inter-provincial and the Order. A lot has been done, a lot still has to be done. I think that it is fundamental for us to empty ourselves in order to achieve this since it is only in this way that we can open up to the richness of the other, seek the truth together and communicate our fears, worries and hopes without fear. I consider it fundamental for us to overcome prejudices, knock down walls and build bridges in order to increase communication. I also think it is important, for you especially, to learn another language in addition to your mother tongue. It is only in this way that we will progress in making our Order more international and inter-cultural, as you yourselves pointed out in these days.
3. Having a clear sense of belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. This is my family. Accept it as such, with its lights and shadows, as we accept our blood family. In this sense, I consider it fundamental that we pass from â€˜Iâ€™ to â€˜youâ€™, and from â€˜youâ€™ to â€˜usâ€™. Be wary when we say: â€œTheyâ€, the â€œothersâ€ when indicating the Friars.
4. Overcoming the gap which still exists, as you yourselves have denounced, between initial and ongoing formation. Help us in this, dear young Friars. Sure there are Friars who, because of their age and other situations of life, can no longer change. You can and must! If ongoing formation is a question of fidelity to oneâ€™s vocation for everyone, with all that this implies, it is, for you also, a question of survival, just as accompaniment is.
5. Giving priority to life over theory. Theory, as the recent Extraordinary General Chapter reminded us, can and must enlighten life, but cannot substitute for it.
6. Being open to the missionary projects of the Order. We are a missionary Order. As no one can be a missionary by his own will, so also no one, either the individual Friar or the Minister Provincial, can close himself off from a call or the divine inspiration to â€œleaveâ€ oneâ€™s own country to go to the Holy Land, Morocco, Thailand, Myanmar, China, the Africa Project, the Sudan, etc. Be generous and take on the risk involved in â€œleavingâ€ without knowing where you are going.
Dear Brothers â€œunder tenâ€: Be men of hope, of that hope which is born of knowing we are loved and accompanied by the Lord. Open your eyes to what is positive around you. Return each day to your first love. Donâ€™t simply be young Friars, be Friars who are young. Live anchored in the essential, without distractions. Live in truth and authenticity. Live the present in openness to the future. Seek the Lord assiduously and, once you have found Him, follow Him radically. Donâ€™t be afraid, our God is the God of the impossible. And, of course, run and announce all you have seen and heard to those you meet on your journey. May the Lord bless you and protect you always.