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ON THE OCCASION OF PERPETUAL PROFESSIONS
Tarquinia, August 31, 2013.
Dear young people,
In the Bible one reads two episodes happily matching up with what you will celebrate in the church of your Institute at Tarquinia.
The first took place on the banks of the Jordan, when, after their endless journey in the desert, Joshua told the people to choose whom they would serve: “Do you choose the Lord or the foreign gods, the gods beyond the river?” (Joshua 24,15). Know that in choosing the Lord, you choose the liberator, the savior, the one who is close to you, because you are the people He has received and whom He cares for without cost, for whom He wants true freedom. If you choose Him, know, however, that He is a jealous and demanding God: He ensures loyalty, but asks of you fidelity.
The foreign gods, those across the river, are not demanding. They don’t disturb the life of ease and quiet. They promise a cheap happiness, roads open wide in front of you. Later, however, you will discover that a cheap and easy happiness is illusory, that it is a new form of slavery, more painful than the one known in Egypt.
The second episode we read in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, referring to what occurred more or less near the same waters of the Jordan, which for the Jews sprang, as it were, from Heaven. It speaks of Jesus witnessing many of His listeners turn away from Him because, according to them, He used a language that was too hard. He then asked the Apostles: “Will you also go away?” (Jn 6:67). It is as if he said: make your choice! Peter, who was not expecting that question, looked at the apostles standing near, and before anyone could give a reckless or wrong answer replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69).
My dear young people , Peter responded on behalf of all, and therefore in your name also, since you have chosen Him who has called you with eternal words, who reveals that to walk in the footsteps left by the Holy One of God is the most beautiful of all of life’s decisions.
The religious profession that you will make, which you have prepared for with the seriousness proper to your Institute, is in fact a response to a choice. It is a generous and demanding choice, because you choose the Lord, who is All, the Supreme Good, endless beauty, the absolute truth, nothing more beautiful or greater that one could desire. I said “response” because you know better than I that it was not you who chose the Lord, but He who chose you, because he loves you with a wholly particular love, a love of predilection, a love beyond all human imagination. The “yes” that you will pronounce with the formula of profession is a response to God’s initiative.
You have decided to follow Jesus in the way of chastity, obedience, poverty and the Marian vow . You want to be so united to Him as to imitate Him in these fundamental options of life. With the vows that you will profess you pledge to be transparently His, revealing his chaste, poor and obedient face. Those seeing you must be able to see Christ: Christ who is chaste, because one loves with a pure and unreserved love unto the gift of self; Christ who is obedient because one abandons himself to the liberating will of the Father; Christ who is poor because true wealth is not found in material goods, but in the values of the Kingdom. The Marian vow because you have chosen to go as missionaries which was the particular desire of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe.
Blessed Giles of Assisi, the third companion of St. Francis, summed up this idea in a popular saying coming from his simple wisdom: “He who loves more, longs more.” By this it is intended that the more ones love God, the more one desires his riches, which, according to what St. Bonaventure wrote in The Journey of the Mind to God, are “fruits that no one comes to know if not received, nor received if not desired, nor desired unless inflamed by the Holy Spirit.” The religious vocation is one of those fruits that mature with the profession you are about to make.
Allow me now to mention the Institute to which you will belong. I know that it arose at the doors of the third millennium as a response to the conciliar Decree Perfectae Caritatis that invites religious to “return to the sources.” In addition to the Rule of the Order of Friars Minor, you also profess the Marian Traccia of Franciscan Life which is it’s Marian expression, whose spiritual legacy you have accepted fully and live out within the Marian Houses and in the Houses of the Immaculate, engaged in the use of modern means of communication (television, radio), and in religious-priestly activity and that which is missionary.
Very well, I am pleased with all it all. You too are witnesses to the variety of charisms mentioned by S. Paul (1 Cor 12:4 ), poured forth by the same Spirit, and which therefore cannot contradict each other. Consecrated life and new ecclesial subjects are living forces of the Spirit of the Church; forces that appeal to the youth because of the freshness of their phenomena, the authoritative presence of the founders, and because of the agility of organizational structures not as yet so complex . However, I am reminded of the words of the Blessed John Paul II on May 30, 1998, adressed to the leaders of the new forms of consecrated life: “The emergence of new institutes and their diffusion has brought to the Church’s life a newness that is unexpected and sometimes even disruptive. This has given rise to questions, uneasiness and tensions, at times it has led to presumptions and excesses on the one hand, and not a few prejudices and reservations on the other. It was a period of trial for their loyalty, an important opportunity to verify the authenticity of their charisms. Today a new stage opens in front of you: that of ecclesial maturity . This does not mean that all the problems are solved. It is above all a challenge, a road on which to travel. The Church expects the fruits of communion and commitment.”
One of the central issues, in my opinion, is the threat of a certain self-reference, that is, the desire to emphasize at all costs one’s own distinctive characteristics. Instead, I believe it is a certain proof of maturity to try to overcome this attitude, recognizing with a humble and Franciscan spirit that the edification of the Church is the ultimate reference point of one’s particular charismatic experience.
The theologian von Balthasar in an essay on spirituality (Verbum Caro) sustained that when a religious and ecclesial reality is essentially preoccupied in distinguishing itself from others by setting their own convictions as the only excellence to be referred to, it is a sign of closure that can only be of harm to the future of the Church. As also can be, I might add, a certain confusion between the ends and the means, whereby the texts, suggestions, attitudes or words of the founders can be considered more decisive than the teaching of the magisterium and even than that of the biblical texts. In this case, a movement that officially professes to be a mediator for a new form of evangelization, becomes the substitute.
Listen to this anecdote: a father was watching his child one day trying to move a very heavy flowerpot. The little child one was trying, puffing, growling, but could not move the flowerpot even an inch.
“Did you use all your strength?” asked the father.
“Yes,” replied the child .
“That is not true, said the father, because you did not ask me to help you.”
Dear young people and dear confreres : let us all, together, move this flowerpot toward the light of God in order to understand that which it is in need of, and to cause an explosion in various colors of it’s flowers swollen with heavenly nectar.
P. Fidenzio Volpi, ofm cap
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