Recollection Material – December 2021 Vision of Hope 1
Phil. 2:5 – 8.
With a simple tone and plain language Fr. General offers us a glimpse of the reality that supposes a passage from lament that paralyzes to a hopeful vision: Let us not detain ourselves on what does not function well to justify our own mediocrity. We can all count. We all go together in this boat, and each one, according to his own capabilities, takes turn to row towards the same direction” (Report, p. 22).
The new methodologies of revision and evaluation of works in team point to this direction: the starting point must be the potentialities found in a human group or community, so that the same positive energy found there may permit to discern and choose the strategies to overcome determined obstacles or challenges.
Before concentrating on synodality, the theme that will be the motive of prayer in this recollection, it is fitting to remember that we need a change of perspective in this direction of which we speak. In the personal as well as communitarian level we must start from what we were able to let germinate, with God’s help, as good fruit around us.
Return to yourself.
We cannot look with hope if the Spirit does not assist us. Without Him our tendency to judge situations and persons with pessimism is underlined more and more. With Him on the other hand we are capable to discover the newness of Christ there where life is reborn and thus contribute to fraternal life. Let us open our heart to the motions of the Spirit and let him be the one who pleads in us that the prayers of this day be heard.
Our Lord and God, look at our heart. That your mercy may listen to our aspirations, because our heart burns not only in our own desires but also in desires to contribute towards fraternal charity. Lord, you know our heart, and you know that this is so. Grant that we may offer you the service of our intelligence and our tongue. Nevertheless, give to us what we may offer you because we are needy and poor; you, rich for all who invoke you, and truly you are solicitous for us. Amen (conf. 11, 3 paraphrased).
Your voice is my joy.
We offer you a biblical text cited by Fr. General in the General Report on the State of the Order. It is Phil. 2:5-8, the so called ‘hymn’ in the Letter of Paul to the Philippians, but only the first part. Allow the words of this Letter to help you enter into the mystery of Christ’s humbling and emptying of self, the root of all solid exaltation and secret fount of the synodal path of the Church.:
“5. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.
6. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
7. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found in human appearance,
8. he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Strategies for Reading and Points for Reflection.
The Challenge of Synodality.
The Order of Augustinian Recollects does not want to journey at the margin of the Church. On the contrary, it wants to feel and journey with her. For this reason, she wants to be open to Grace and the Kairos that speaks to us today of communion and synodality.
In many of our brothers there exists a synodal disposition:they are open to pastoral and communitarian dialogue; they promote attitudes and gestures of communion and synodality. Nonetheless, there are instances of resistance: “Our communitarian life itself – says Fr. General – is becoming more participative, still there are among our religious who own a portion of his dominion and security. We are learning to trust in the mission proper to lay persons, but clericalism and desire for power continues to weigh in. Open dialogue, team work, and communion continue to cost us much. We have spoken of it for many years, but we advance very little. We must ask ourselves: why? We shall advance little if we are not disposed to change our manner of doing things” (ch.1, 3).
As we can see, the challenge is there, and we are summoned to give an answer. Ask yourselves: What would you ask the Lord to help you live with an authentic synodal disposition? In what notes do you desire to journey with the others?
5 Keys to journey together with hope.
Convoked under two orientations.
Recognizing ourselves as assembled bring us to discover how to be faithful to the call of God today. Two orientations are suggested to us: “The Church today is in exit, she lives a process in which one must be conscious of two key operatives: synodality and discernment. Both must be considered in the life and the mission of the Order, if we want to be Creators of Communion and Prophets of the Kingdom.
For this it will help us to be attentive to and to avoid, as Pope Francis says, three dangers existing in the life of the Church: clericalism, spiritual worldliness and gossip” (ch.3,1) .There are two key operatives and three dangers or temptations. Now, ask your heart: Do you feel convoked and challenged before these dangers and temptations? With which of them do you contend more? Do you discern to what the Lord today convokes you?
Community, Communication and Communion.
These three words with “C” can well express what the Fr. General says in point 2 of Vision of Hope on which he comments in chapter 3. The witnessing of those who want to live the prayer, the fraternal life and the apostolate from the community is unquestionable and functions as propeller for new initiatives. Nevertheless, it gives the impression that there is need for more and better communication in our communities, and perhaps it may be the one of the most basic and necessary forms of creating communion.
“We are conscious that something does not function when we have time for tens of weekly reunions with the laity and it takes us effort to have one reunion with our own community. If there is difficulty for the dialogue and community meeting, we must confront it” (ch. 3, 2).
What do you do to be more communicative in your community? What gestures, attitudes or moments do you find wherein you are more open, assertive and communicative?
“Available” missionary disciples.
At simple glance, it seems like an unnecessary aggregate to even make reference to ‘availability’ when speaking about missionary disciples. And yet a reading of certain realities in our Order seems to justify it. In fact we have the illusion of being missionary disciples, and yet we resist if we are demanded to give greater availability. But “be careful”! Fr. General underlines that in the reunion of Provinces there were cases of true generosity when faced with the challenge of change, and above all, the young ones show us that availability which in some of us is lacking. “Nevertheless there are religious who, enjoying good health and good age, they resist going to poorer places or going out of the country where they are found. In the reunion of Provinces, the interchange of religious is significant, which has been given in some cases. In others however, the resistance is perceived, not so much in young religious who, in general, are open and available” (ch. 3, 3).
Let the disposition, of the young friars, for the mission, revitalize us! In this recollection, ask for the grace of availability from the Son, who emptied himself, humbled himself, and died for you!
Throw a glance at the praying brothers.
In the words of Fr. General a dosage of realism is not lacking, since he speaks of the difficulties we the Augustinian Recollects have for the life of prayer. Nevertheless, he returns again to the signs of vitality that he finds in our communities, inviting us to “throw a glance” on the brothers who know to make every day an option for the dialogue with God together with the brothers: “if we raise our eyes, we can admire the great number of brothers observant, simple and always available. Many religious have assumed that fidelity to prayer and observance do not contradict interior freedom, renewal and creativity. If we are not men of prayer, it is difficult to be coherent and achieve personal unity” (ch. 3, 4). The relationship between prayer, interior freedom, creativity and personal unity should make us “re-think” our commitment to the life of prayer from what can be obtained with it and not merely from complying with what is established: God truly wants you to be free, unified, and creative for the service of love, and for this he offers you spaces and times with him and with the brothers.
Is prayer the fount and the secret of your personal unity and your “evangelical and Augustinian” creativity in a world where many times we find ourselves inclined towards fragmentation that disperses and divides us interiorly?
Poverty, humility and charity.
The evangelical poverty is liberating when accompanied by humility and charity. There is nothing more Evangelical and Augustinian than this thought. The biblical text that we propose today evokes an image of Christological poverty incomprehensible without the humilitas et caritas Christi. We should learn to take our personal and communitarian options in relation to material goods from this understanding of the mystery of Christ humble, poor and full of love. Now, if we feel that this is still very difficult to achieve, let us think of a more accessible criterion of discernment that we find in some brief words of the Report: “The spirit of self-betterment is good and helps us grow, but greed decentralizes us and corrodes the heart”(ch. 3,5). This point allows us to discern between a way of growing and maturing, on the one hand, and on the other of deteriorating and corrupting oneself.
Is there something that you covet and which takes away your energy to love the truth? This is a question for the heart.
In the General Report on the state of the Order, we are told that it is necessary to strengthen a culture of dialogue, of listening to one another, of spiritual discernment, of consensus and communion to find spaces and ways of group decision and to respond to the pastoral challenges. Based on this we propose to you a biblical icon for prayer.
The Samaritan woman (Jn. 4: 7-42), deals with a scene of dialogue and communion of persons. She can be questioned, is open to dialogue from the heart, she does not remain mute, the dialogue with Jesus produces changes in her life, and provokes exploration in the life of others. Her proclamation is key so that others chose to walk the road together with Jesus.
An image: To surrender my life into the hands of the Lord, for he is the goldsmith who purifies our faith (St. Augustine, s. 301, 6).
Lord, help us to understand that no one is saved alone, that we need each other, and that the road towards you, indicated by St. Augustine, we traverse together. Give us the grace to live and enjoy our fraternal communion and the solidarity as the real expression that we make pilgrimage towards you, that you are our longed-for Fatherland. Amen.