Thursday 30 June 2016

Makrothymia in 1 Cor 13, 4a

Bishop Morfino commented abundantly on 1 Cor 4a, usually translated as "Love is patient, kind." The Greek has MAKROTHYMEI and CHRESTEUETAI. Makrothymei, according to Morfino, is the Septuagint translation of HESED. There is not much indication on the net of this connection - perhaps because the Septuagint is usually ignored, given the long tradition, deriving from the Protestant concentration on the Hebrew text. But the NT seems to be going back to the Septuagint. Here is something from (By Richard Niell Donovan, who is a homilist rather than a biblical scholar, see

"Love is patient" (makrothymei) (v. 4a). The Greek word makrothymei is derived from two words––macros (long) and thumos (anger). To be makrothymei is to be long-suffering––to endure irritants without allowing one's anger to lash out in retaliation.
This kind of patience is characteristic of God, who is "merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving (Hebrew: hesed) kindness and truth" (Exodus 34:6). This hesed love grows out of Yahweh's commitment to the covenant relationship with Israel. In many cases, Yahweh punished Israel for its sins––but always as discipline designed to foster repentance rather than as punishment designed to destroy. Yahweh kept coming back––kept finding ways to restore Israel––kept loving.
Now God calls us to that same kind of long-suffering love for each other.
"and is kind" (chresteuetai) (v. 4b). The word chresteuetai, like agape, is an action-word. It suggests being helpful––doing good works. The patience of verse 4a involves restraint––holding back negative action. The kindness of verse 4b involves action––stepping forward to solve a problem or to share a burden or to meet a need.

Friday 24 June 2016

Schopenhauer and formation

Irwin Yalom's The Schopenhauer Cure - easily available on the net - is a good read - especially for the examples of group therapy interactions that the book contains. Examples of how a formator could get down from the externals - behaviour, remarks, attitudes - to the motivations.

We would, of course, need to develop the ability to dig deep into an experience as salesian religious - not as pure psychologists.

Here the theme of the true concreteness of experience: if God exists, and if he is working to redeem the world, we will find traces of his action in our experience. The true return to concreteness, perhaps essayed by Edith Stein, certainly advocated by Lonergan, and clearly remarked upon by Fred Lawrence. 

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Ongoing formation in old age

These days in the General Council we are reading the documents of the 90+ provincial chapters: "quite a job." In one of these – an extraordinary chapter, I would think, for its brevity and beauty – this line: "We will continue to encourage our elderly confreres to support our mission by their prayers and sacrifices." And I find myself thinking: no, there is more that can be said about being an elderly salesian, there is much more. "Supporting the mission by their prayers and sacrifices" is far too extrinsic, and betrays a reductive understanding of mission: mission = work. But mission for the Salesian is his capacity to reveal God, his being a "sign and bearer of the love of God". And mission understood in this way never comes to an end - and in fact, it can only grow in intensity in a life that is well lived, a life that comes with gospel wisdom to the years of maturity and old age.... I think we need a letter on Salesian old age, or Salesian elders, or Salesian wise men. Cencini said that during the Year of Consecrated Life: we all say that formation ends only with death, but how many congregations have thought of giving help to our older brothers and sisters to live the evening of life as the culmination and peak of formation?

Tuesday 14 June 2016


In personal accompaniment / spiritual guidance, and in pastoral accompaniment, the absolute need to help a person access his experience, what he is going through. A boy enters one of our boarding schools, for example - perhaps even an apostolic school, which still exists in parts of the Salesian world, or an aspirantate, one of the traditional ones, or one of the newer types. Who thinks of exploring and helping the young person explore what he is going through as he makes several transitions: from the small circle of his family to the larger environment of the school; from his local culture or sub-culture to the "salesian" culture of the school; from his local language or languages to the English that is used in the school; and so on ? And yet here it is that the drama is taking place.... Our rectors certainly need to be formed to be able to "accompany" in this sense: helping the young person to access and process his experience, often quite painful.

I have been speaking about a young person entering a traditional salesian house, but it could very well be the case of a young salesian entering into his new missionary destination: a young salesian from Vietnam or India, Sri Lanka or East Timor, trying to settle down in one of our provinces in Europe or America, or else in Africa or Asia.... The absolute need is for him to find someone who can help him face the inner challenges, shocks, turmoil. This is not fantasy. One of our provincials here in these days was sharing something along these lines. 

The fourth Salesian vow

When the early Salesians in Argentina were finding it difficult to apply the Preventive System, Don Bosco wrote a letter to don Costamagna who shared it with the others. The subsequent spiritual and temporal prosperity of the Argentinian province was attributed to this letter. What strikes me is that some salesians who were finding it especially hard to be patient and charitable obliged themselves by vow to do so, and they used to renew this vow every month, at the exercise for a happy death. A fourth Salesian vow while Don Bosco was still alive!

Ceria: Don Bosco's system produces good pupils because in the first place it produces good educators.

Caviglia: the Preventive System is Don Bosco.

Albera: the Preventive System is the magna carta of our congregation.

(See The Salesian Rector, nn. 109-110)

Sunday 12 June 2016

The heavenly Jerusalem

The celebration was a truly blessed moment - not only for the event itself, the ordination of our brother Salesians and Missionaries of Africa, but of the many people whose lives have crossed ours in these years - from Bishop William Shomali, to Abuna Munir, Piergiorgio, Laconi (and I think I saw also Sig. Raouf), to the White Fathers (Bill Russell, Leopold Vonck, Frans Bouwen, Jim...), Sr Monica, secretary at the Latin Patriarchate and Sr Naomi, secretary at the Custody of the Holy Land, Stephanie Saldana and Frederic Masson and their kids, Filipino friends from Rehovot, Tel Aviv, Agron, San Lorenzo, San Pedro Calungsod, and Notre Dame, our Geez rite young people and their chaplain, Edy Schopping, Mamma Yvonne and Vicky and their families, Dr Marcie Lenk, and the families of some of our young men.... It was a pleasure to see Abuna Sandy Habib too, who turned up the previous day, all the way from Gish.

To be there in St Ann's, and to think back, over Joaquim and Anne who are supposed to have lived there, with Mary... just outside one of the entrances to the Temple; and the Pool of Bethzatha where their grandson cured a paralytic who had been lying there for so many years and who had forgotten even whether he really wanted to be cured; the many centuries after that, including those when the church became a madrassa, and the Franciscans were permitted to enter once a year, on the birthday of Mary, and that too through a little window... and the restoration of the church again, later now, with the blessings of the French... the many generations of young salesians who have been ordained in this church, and the wonderful reality that is Jerusalem, despite the pain, the suffering, the anguish, the tension. "Do not forget Jerusalem," ended Bishop Shomali, after a wonderful homily in which he cited pope Francis bringing back 3 Muslim families to the Vatican with him from Lesbos: Mercy has no Boundaries. "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my mouth." Jerusalem, over which Jesus wept, and whose fate is so much bound up with his, in way that Rossi de Gasperis makes so wonderfully clear in his Sentieri di Vita, and which I find myself excited about and moved, but unable as yet to express, because probably it has not yet become mine....

I was pondering about eternal life, the life of the resurrection. Paco had difficulties about saying that Jesus lived already on earth the life of the resurrection. True, that has to be qualified, given the difference between his earthly existence and his glorious state. But the glory does break into the earthly existence, and he does live seeing the Father. Did he not say, Blessed the pure of heart, for they shall see God? He is the Pure of Heart, the Pure of Eye, who lives constantly the blessed vision of God. Which is the deep mystery of his celibacy "for the sake of the kingdom." His heart is completely filled with God - that it makes space for all of us without needing to cling to anyone.

Ratzinger does make the point that eternity breaks into time, resurrection into our earthly existence. That needs to be digested. If the glory of Jesus consisted in his loving, complete and trusting acceptance of the will of the Father, up to and at the point of a brutal and senseless death, then that glory breaks into his life lived in that kind of surrender, and in little and big ways it breaks into our lives when we live that surrender and love.

The peace of celebrating the Eucharist in St Anne's, surrounded by brothers and sisters whose lives one has crossed, even if briefly – is that not an anticipation of the joy that we hope to experience some day in its fullness? And, sometimes – the thought crosses the mind – what other will be that joy? – Yet Jesus did speak of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as living and alive, because God is not God of the dead but of the living... So they are alive, and there is a life in God that penetrates this life and surrounds and extends beyond it....

Friday 3 June 2016

A priest who is a Salesian

A great theme for reflection: how does one live and work as a Salesian priest?

The danger is a dichotomy: the priesthood being one thing, and my being Salesian quite another. 

Featured post

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