Wednesday 28 October 2015

Salesian Consecrated Life in its two forms

I find this a useful way to stress the element of consecrated life in our salesian vocation.

There are many ways of following Jesus: married, diocesan priest, consecrated life.

The diocesan priest is not defined by celibacy. There are priests in the Catholic church who are married: priests of the Greek Melkite rite, the Maronite rite, and so on.

But the consecrated person is celibate by vocation. He feels called to follow Christ in the concrete choice that Christ made to live celibate. This is why Vita Consecrata says that consecrated life is a living memorial of Jesus, following Jesus even in his concrete choices, choices that are not obligatory for all followers of Jesus.

Now Jesus made a choice for celibacy within a culture and a religion where celibacy was not a value. This I find best illustrated by the tragic story of Jephthah's daughter: "Do to me as you have promised God, but allow me three months to mourn my virginity." (Judg 11,37) Virginity is not a value in Israel. It is not a blessing to die virgin. One mourns one's virginity if one is to die, like Jephthah's daughter. It is within such a religion and such a culture that Jesus chooses to be virgin and celibate.

That his choice was strange is illustrated by the accusation that he must be some kind of eunuch. Jesus' reply: There are those who are born eunuchs; there are those who are made eunuchs by men; there are those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Jesus chooses celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God.

More light is cast on his choice, on the mystery of his celibacy, by the story of the Sadducees who approach him with the case of the woman who was married serially to 7 men (Lk 20,27-40): "In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" And Jesus: "In the resurrection there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but you will all be like the angels in heaven." Like the angels - who see constantly the Face of the Father.

Jesus, already in his earthly life, lives the life of the resurrection. He lives constantly beholding the Face of the Father. He enjoys the Beatific Vision. He is eternally Son. He cannot be the husband of anyone. He cannot be the physical father of anyone. He is already what we are all called to be one day: filled with the fullness of the Father. Of that fullness, marriage is only a sign, an anticipation. In the resurrection there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.

And we consecrated persons, we feel called to follow Jesus even in this choice of his, to not be married. We are trying, like him, to live already now the life of the resurrection. The escatological dimension of chastity. An exalted vocation. A gift given to those to whom it is given. Impossible - but with God, all things are possible.

Called to live this vocation with joy. Quite a call.

And in a pansexual context, in a context where young people are extremely sensitive to the issue of sexuality, the mystery of Christ and his choice of celibacy cannot but speak loudly. The witness of consecrated people who live their vocations with joy, with radiance, cannot but be meaningful.

Obviously, a vocation that cannot be lived without great love, without an intense passion. "Solitude is fatal to a soul that does not burn with great passion" - Kazantzakis.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Saints in jeans

This poem was part of the powerpoint meditation we had this morning during the CRF meeting, Nairobi, with quotes from Pope Francis. I was struck by it, especially because I thought several of the young salesians I know would be delighted by it. But, searching the net, it appears that the pope never wrote it. Anyway, here it is, from…/the-poem-pope-francis-…/
We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers.
We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their power.We need saints who have time everyday to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs.We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.We need saints who like movies, the theater, music, dance, sports.We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.
But even if the pope never wrote it, I was thinking: there is the possibility of a very "normal" kind of sanctity, which perhaps is also a very Salesian kind of sanctity.
The challenge, of course, is the sanctity part. No discounts there.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

"Led by the hand"

"Led by the hand" - a good way of talking about the "divine pedagogy" or the mediations of God in our own lives. A book, or a person, or an event through which God works. For me, at this moment, it is Rossi de Gasperis, through his books, Sentieri di Vita, the marvellous biblical-Holy Land comment on the Spiritual Exercises, opening up unsuspected depths in Jesus, or perhaps depths that were only suspected and not really known, not explored, and now opening up marvellously, meravigliosamente. 

Monday 12 October 2015

Circumcision of the heart

1. The circumcision of the heart. Not the material observance, but the Purity of Heart, the Purity of the Eyes, the kind of purity that characterized Jesus, so that everyone, man and woman, felt at home and safe in his presence.

This is the law written on our hearts. This is the transfiguration of the tables of stone, and of the heart of stone, into the heart of flesh.

2. When there is no Temple and no cult, we find ourselves, like the Israelites, before the Lord without intermediaries and without mediation. And then we realize that the sacrifice, the only sacrifice that we can offer, the real sacrifice, is the sacrifice of our BODY. The sacrifice of Thanksgiving, of Eucharist, of Obedience, of surrender to his will for me.

3. Whatever I do, even in the most secret recesses of my heart, AFFECTS everything and everyone, simply because the one who acts is this ME that I have become through my acts, the one who interacts is this ME. So there is solidarity in sin, just as there is the Communion of Saints.

Student confreres at the UPS

To student confreres at the UPS:

Your responsibility to your provinces, and to the congregation, before God: to become the best persons you are called to be.

Your formation is ongoing: intellectual, fraternal, pastoral, spiritual.

In your lived experience, your vissuto: learning to discover the presence of God, the action of God, the invitation of God - and to respond.

I often think of a novel which would explore the inner world of a religious, a Salesian - the world of his self-talk, his motivations, his convictions, his feelings - the place where he meets or fails to meet God. Or perhaps where he ignores, neglects, sidesteps God who is always THERE.

UPS e epifania

Nel vissuto quotidiano di un professore universitario, si può sempre chiedere: sono una epifania, una rivelazione di Dio? Sono la Faccia del Padre ai miei confratelli, collaboratori, studenti?

Il tema del primato di Dio, mistici nello Spirito, non è per niente staccata dagli altri due temi del CG27. C'è una unità profonda tra i 3 temi, che è l'unità dei due comandamenti. Non è possible amare Dio senza amare i fratelli, i giovani.

L fraternità: evidenza dell'amore di Dio, del primato di Dio. UPS: uno spazio di fraternità. SERVIZIO. RIVELAZIONE. 

The fascination - and the Mind of Christ

The short gospel of last Saturday: "Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!" and Jesus: "Blessed instead those who hear the word of God and keep it."

The fascination of Jesus, the fascination aroused in people. Am I fascinated by him? Where do I stand w.r.t. him, who is the base and ground and foundation of my life with its current choices, my religious life, my consecrated life?

And then: putting on the Mind of Christ. "Blessed rather those who hear the Word of God and keep it."

Consecrated life, not just the priesthood.
And priesthood: not status, not comfort, not convenience, but ministry, service.
Mission, not just work. Do I show Christ? Am I the Face of the Father like Christ?

We ask:
for a fascination, a renewed fascination for Christ.
that we might be revelation, epiphany.
whatever be the past - now is the day of salvation, here God is working.

Spiritual direction

In the process of spiritual direction,

  • one can condemn
  • one can listen with sympathy, and give advice
  • one can listen and process: help see, help take responsibility, help to hear God 
One could ask: what is the experience of my own spiritual direction? A rich vein to be mined. Even if the experience has not always been great, or not always positive, there is much that I can learn. 

And then: even if I am convinced that I should listen and process, and help listen to God, perhaps some tools are needed, perhaps some training would come handy. 

Our vocatio to be the House of Bethany

Called to be the House of Bethany - Martha, Mary, and perhaps also Lazarus all together and at the same time. To serve the Body of the Lord, as Martha did, but also to sit, or at least to long to sit at his feet, like Mary.

It is not the work that is the problem, but the way we work. If Martha had not complained, Jesus would not have scolded her.

It is not the work, but the love that moves one to work and the other to sit.

So the question is: How do I work? Why do I work?

The better part: the part that will LAST. Da mihi animas caetera tolle. Even the work is directed towards that end, the end that is RESTING in the Lord - which is what Mary is doing, and which is the better part, the part that will not be taken away.

So the question is not whether or not I have the time to sit. The question is, would I sit if I had the time? Or would I fill up my time, somehow?

And I remember the Kierkegaard remark about BOREDOM.
Kierkegaard makes an interesting connection between boredom and God. Does that sound right? I thought it did... The connection between boredom and emptiness is easier to understand, but this one is interesting: God and meaningfulness, emptiness, boredom and meaninglessness.
"In Kierkegaard’s mind there was no doubt that the relentless pursuit of pleasure and the inevitable boredom that follows is the sign of a deep spiritual malaise. In a purely naturalistic world were God has no place, boredom is first citizen." (Ashley Miranda, "Soren Kierkegaard and the Militant Atheism of our Times")

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Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary