GENERAL CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS: October 16-20, 2016
The Capitulars took a refreshing trip to Gennazzano, a town in the Province of Rome that lies at 1,230 feet above sea level. They visited a famous church and entrusted the 55th General Chapter to the loving care of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio (Our Lady of Good Counsel).
They also had the opportunity to visit the chapel where the remains of Blessed Stephen Bellesini, a friar of the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine, lies. An apostle of the youth and education, he was for a time a Novice Master, and later was transferred to Gennazzano, home to the miraculous fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel, for whom he had a great devotion.
The Capitulars entered the sanctuary through the Holy Door, celebrated the holy mass, and closed the visit by praying at the image of the said miraculous Lady.
Towards the end of the previous week, the different commissions guided by the light of revitalization labored to expound the proposals that shall guide the future of the Order in the forthcoming years.
Implied in these were the renewed lines of actions and structural changes that require strong basis in our proper and universal norms i.e., those of the Order and of the Church. Consequently, there was a need for an expert in Canon Law who will help shed light on various possibilities. This task was especially entrusted to a commission that made a report during the morning session. Fray Ricardo Daniel Medina OAR, a canon lawyer and one of the advisers of this General Chapter, replied to the questions that the Capitulars raised concerning the different possibilities in the configuration/restructuring of the Order.
The afternoon session was dedicated to the works of the commission. The members continued to focus on defining their respective proposals, commenting and assessing those of the other commissions. It was a matter of methodology that enriches and concurs the decision taken by the Chapter. Observably, the day’s schedules were enthused by the inspiring words of Cardinal Braz de Aviz who presided the holy mass.
In the morning, the DECISION PHASE began. In accord with the Ordo Capituli, the commission secretary will report to the plenum the proposals approved by the commission.
During the presentation of each proposal, the other commission secretaries as well as the vocals (i.e., the Capitulars) will have the opportunity of making their observations, of opposing, or of completing it. After a proposal has been thoroughly discussed, the commission is given ample time to weigh the opinions heard and to take those that create positive impact.
Afterwards, the commission will present again in the session hall those proposals that have been discussed and revised. The commission secretaries and electors can now air briefly their opinions regarding the proposed ordinances. During the discussion, each proposal is subjected to voting. If there is another alternative text proposed by another commission or by any of the electors, the text of the presenting commission is given preference and must be voted on first.
If an ordinance is approved by absolute majority of affirmative votes, the said proposal will form part of the Life and Mission Project of the Order. If a proposal attains the absolute majority of votes, thanks to IM (Iuxta Modum or Yes with modification) vote, the said proposal will be returned to the commission. This commission will study the suggestions and approaches received in the hall, but it has the faculty to accept them or not, according to its view.
Whatever may be the choice, the said proposal will have to be presented again to the session hall and to be subjected again to a vote. This time, the vote will only be either Yes or No. If in the new voting the proposal receives an absolute majority, it will be among the ordinances; if not, it will be discarded.
A discarded proposal, however, could still be reconsidered in the Chapter hall if a third of the Capitulars will ask for its reconsideration, and such reconsideration is accepted by absolute majority of the Capitulars. In this case, the commission will again present the proposal in the plenary assembly, following the same mechanics in other proposals.
Note: There was no specific publication of any particular event for this day. We just surmised that, from experience, the “very engaging” DECISION PHASE continues to sizzle… that is to say, the per-commission presentation of proposals and the ensuing debate and voting characterized the sessions of the day.
Today marked the celebration of the feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki, a Japanese martyr and patroness of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity. On this occasion, the Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, sent his greetings to the SARF all over the world.
In a special way, the day saw the encounter of 60 Recollects (the Capitulars and the student-priests at Via Sistina) with Pope Francis. The excited visitors were received at the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Palace. Fray Miguel Miró, Chapter President, delivered his greetings to the Holy Father, expressing the renewal of the Order’s vocation in the service of the Church. In the words of the Pope, on this encounter “they have wanted to change and offer to God the life of the Order, with its hopes and challenges, in order that He be the One to give them light and hope.”
With his warm welcome and gratitude to the Prior General, for the kind words addressed to him, and in the name of the entire Augustinian Recollect Family, the Bishop of Rome stressed that “to seek for renewal and motivation, it is necessary to return to God.” And, transfixed by his love to be able to love and to confront the current challenges, walk with Jesus, in prayer of thanksgiving and interior purification.
Pope Francis invited the Augustinian Recollect Family “to maintain with renewed spirit the dream of St. Augustine to live as brothers ‘with one mind and one heart’ (Rule 1,2), which reflects the ideal of the first Christians and to be a living prophecy of communion in our world, that there may be no division, nor conflicts, nor exclusion; instead concord reigns and dialogue is promoted.”
The visit included the giving of a souvenir to the Pope: a painting by Fray Jaazeal Estelou Jakosalem OAR, entitled “Embrace of Mercy”, and a special edition of the two volumes of History of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, authored by Fray Angel Martínez Cuesta OAR.
Fray Jakosalem’s oil-on-canvass painting shows the image of Pope Francis embracing the Christ-child (after the image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian refugee who died by drowning along with his mother and brother in the Mediterranean Sea, his iconic image brought increased attention and concern about the European refugee crisis).
“Embracing Mercy” symbolizes the Church’s “motherly” attitude on the plight of the refugees; and Pope Francis personally lived it as his own advocacy. In the face of this global crisis, the Church embraces the many faces of injustice brought about by poverty, neglect and indifference of rich nations.
The two tomes written in Spanish of the History of the Augustinian Recollects are the summit of the project started years before and entrusted to Fray Ángel Martínez Cuesta. In the prologue of the Volume 2, the Prior General says that “from now on, the two volumes of this History of the Augustinian Recollects are not only books of the library. In them our history is narrated and they are references for all who like to know our roots and our mission in the Church.”
The gesture of giving our History to the Pope intends to be a renewal of our Order’s commitment to the mission of the Church entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects, and a manifestation of our availability to go where the Church needs us.