Father General has traveled to India to preside over the Chapter of the Bangalore Province. He will not return to Rome until the end of December. He has asked me to make a brief reflection in his name for the “Towards the XXVI General Chapter” video series, following the pattern of the five previous videos that he has offered us in recent months.
Despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, many communities have already held the “local conversations.” Some Organisms have also completed the “zonal conversations.” Others, located in countries heavily affected by the pandemic, are having difficulty holding them. At one pace or another, likely, almost all of us have already experienced the power of conversations, the novelties that happen when we hear “other” voices than the usual ones, and allow ourselves to be challenged or encouraged by them. We recall that the Emmaus journey inspires the path of preparation for the next Chapter. The first question Jesus asks the two disciples as they walk discouragedly back to their village is, “What conversation are you having on the road? We also hear that same question. We have set out to “talk” with three approaches in mind:
– Synodal approach. We Claretians do not walk alone. We are part of communities and organizations. We are members of the Congregation and the Church. When we open ourselves to others, many things begin to stir and change. Indeed, the temptation of installation and individualism always lurks, but we are people called to walk and meet. Something inside us tells us that this is the right direction even if we don’t always follow it.
– Appreciative approach. Our problems and illnesses are apparent. The pandemic has only made them more acute. Therefore, we need to emphasize what generates light and life because, in all of us, there are seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty sown by the Spirit of God. If we focus only on what is wrong, we are likely to create toxic environments that do not help us to improve. If we celebrate what works well, we will multiply the energy and desire to continue growing as individuals and communities.
– Narrative approach. Instead of spending so much time reflecting or criticizing, why don’t we spend more time telling what we are experiencing, telling the little stories of what God’s Spirit is doing in us, in our communities, in mission? Life generates life. We will be surprised at the enormous transformative power of stories. After all, Jesus spoke to us about the mystery of the Reign of God through short, beautiful, and compelling stories-the parables.
Our “conversations” are exercises that allow us to train ourselves to face the missionary vocation. We are convinced that the General Chapter has already begun as we have started to converse among ourselves and with others based on some questions that take us beyond the daily routine and make us dream of a renewed Congregation.
We are in Advent. If every year this time invites us to wait for the coming of the Lord, this year 2020, so full of anxiety and uncertainty, Advent reminds us of Jesus’ invitation to “be vigilant” and “stand on our feet” because the Lord is not far away, he walks with us, he shares our troubles.
Advent is also the liturgical season of great dreams. The Word of God reminds us that “a branch shall spring forth from the stump of Jesse” (Is 11:1), that the Lord of the universe “shall prepare for all peoples on this mountain a feast of succulent foods, a feast of old wines” (Is 25:6), that “we have a strong city, he has set up walls and ramparts to save it” (Is 26:1), that “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be opened; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Is 35:6). Without dreams, we cannot understand the excesses of God. That is why, in our preparation for the General Chapter, we do not limit ourselves to analyzing what is happening to us or even discovering the seeds of life. We want to dream personally and communally, to open a skylight in our lives, to let God surprise us with what is to come. The Congregation of the coming years will not only be futurum (the result of our current programming) but, above all, adventus (the coming of God’s amazing gift).
From the General Government, we wish you all a serene Advent, guided by the light of the Word of God. And we encourage you to make the most of the “conversations” along the way in this second stage of the journey.
Fr. Gonzalo Fernández, CMF
Vicar General / General Prefect of Spirituality