Wednesday 13 July 2016

Revision of the Manual of Prayer - first meeting in Rome, 8-10 July 2016

Our meeting for the revision of the manual of prayer In Dialogue with the Lord was an implementation of # 67.7 of GC27, which asked for such a revision. The last version of In dialogo con i Signore - we take the Italian as the standard version - was in 1990; there was a much smaller book in 1973.
Our meeting began with a greeting by the Rector Major, where among other things he reminded us that the manual should reflect the internationality of the congregation.
Next, a lectio divina led by José Luis Plascencia, SDB, on the scripture citations in the chapter on prayer of our Constitutions. A whole morning dedicated to this, ending with the Eucharist.
The afternoon was filled with a huge discussion about the quality of Salesian prayer, or rather about the way Salesians pray, with the big question: will a new manual change anything for the better? Is it worthwhile at all revising the manual? In the end, a small decision: to go ahead with our work, knowing that it is, in the end, a simple and humble, if precious, task.
In the process we have been discovering the manual of 1990: very well done, with introductions that are wonderful summaries of Salesian prayer, strongly aware of the call of Vatican II to begin from the word of God, and its promotion of the liturgy. But also the discovery that the manual is hardly used by confreres and communities, and quite unknown in some parts of the congregation. In fact, it would appear that there is no version in German and in French. Large parts of francophone Africa, therefore, do not know this manual. In other parts, there has been a substantial work of inculturation and contextualization, as for example in the manual of the South Asia region, also used in anglophone Africa.
Another big discussion was whether to go in for a revision of the 1900 manual, or a little handbook along the lines of the manual of the FMA. No conclusion to this discussion - only a close and careful study and familiarity with the 1990 text will lead us to an enlightened decision.
But most of all, we need to keep in mind certain changes that have taken place since 1990. The Rector Major already reminded us of one of these: the marked consciousness of the internationality of the congregation. The other great change - and this is truly significant - is the digital revolution. As Filiberto Gonzalez Plascencia reminded me later - the young salesians live in a different world. We need to work our way into this new world, this digital world. Perhaps then the revised manual will take the form of an App.
A question that came to me was also this one: how much does the manual of 1900 reflect the fact that we live our vocation in two forms, the ministerial and the lay, the Salesian priest or deacon, and the Salesian Brother?
For now, the work has been divided, and we hope to get a first draft in the space of a year.
Suggestions are most welcome - especially from the digital generation.

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