Witness of Communion

Nov 11, 2020 | Mathew Vattamattam, Noticeboard, XXVI General Chapter

Dear Brothers,

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

On 24 October we concluded the 150th anniversary of the passover of our Founder St. Claret in a simple and austere way with a handful of people in Vic Spain. It reminded me of the simple funeral of our Founder on 27th October 1870 in the monastery of Fontfroide. However, many of you could follow the vigil service and the other moments of celebration in Vic via online live. For us, the jubilee year was an occasion to grow deeper in the spirit of our Founder and renew ourselves in that spirit. This jubilee is a providential prelude to the forthcoming General Chapter.

I was in Vic with the Vicar General at the sepulcher of our Founder with all of you in our hearts. I carried on the conversation we had with the Founder at the vigil service in the next days. I like to share some of my inner movements as I contemplated the life of our Founder. I also placed a few petitions for the whole Congregation to be relevant and fruitful in our times.

The two “great graces” [1]which the Founder received during the hardest time of his life is precious for us too. The first was the eucharistic presence that he experienced throughout the day. We need to overcome the duality of God’s time and our time, worldly life, and Godly life, life in chapel and life outside it by having only one time and one sacramental reality of invisible grace guiding our visible life and relationships. Without this sacramental dimension, consecrated life would be like a body without life, a corpse. Wherever we are present, let the Lord grant us the grace to be icons of his living presence.

The second great grace of our Founder was the gift of forgiveness he had towards those who were hostile to him. Claret’s stand for the values of the Gospel made some people hate him and do all sorts of things to tarnish his name and even kill him. The gift of forgiveness was a great grace in continuity to the sacramental grace of Jesus’ presence in his heart. The joy of a forgiven and forgiving heart generates life. When a missionary lives with a wounded heart and pampers unforgiveness and hate, his heart is leased to the ploys of the devil. Our preparation for the General Chapter should be a journey of reconciliation and forgiveness among ourselves and with the people whom we serve. The more we are unfettered in our hearts, the freer we will be available to God for the action of grace in us.

At the sepulcher of our Founder, I presented 5 petitions to the Father through the intercession of our Founder. I like to share with you the first one which is very relevant for our onward journey and preparation for the Chapter. It is for the grace of the testimony or witness of communion. This is the most needed gift today to follow the call of the Pope in the encyclical “Fratelli tutti”.

What do I mean by “witness of communion”? Communion, “koinonia” is a gift, like a diamond, with many splendid angles, but remaining a single precious piece. The witness of communion is the sum total of our relationships founded on God’s love for each of us and for all creation.

The core of communion is the love of God which binds all our relationships. A missionary whose heart is not rooted in God limps in all his relationships even if he promises to live for God and love him with all his heart, mind, and will. I think our intimacy with God also passes through stages involving a shift from “I do things for God” to a stage I discover that it is “God who does his work through me”. In all our relationships, true love stays in times of trials.

Community life is the next level of authentic communion. It costs to live with persons of different character traits, mindsets, and temperaments, and ideological affinities. Like an orchestra, it is worth the trouble to strive at fraternal communion and community mission. Indeed, communion in the community is a symphony of the Gospel love played by the hearts of the members which we need to master as missionaries. It is so sad to see great missionaries who cannot orchestrate their gifts in their communities, or the communities fail to rejoice in their gifts. When each one guards the territory of his authority and ministry like a proud lion, fraternal communion is not possible in a community. I remember an anecdote. When an admirer was praising the adorable nature of a gifted Claretian who was popular among the people, a humble brother in his community asked him, “have you lived with him in the community?”.

An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together” A loner missionary makes good performance for a short duration, but he is restless when he has to slow down to take along his brothers. This is a real temptation for many of us. We need the orchestra model to offer something beautiful together to the world. There are bleeding communities that are hurt from the “friendly fire” of the members because of the incapacity to sit together, dialogue, and envision their mission together by pooling their gifts and talents. It is saddening to see beautiful missions being wounded and handicapped in such bleeding communities. They hurt not only themselves but also God and the people. The cult of individual freedom and privacy of modern culture makes community cohesion a challenge. Fraternal communion in the community is a mission in itself. This is a grace I asked the Lord through the intercession of our Founder. It is easy to sow division in the communities in the name of ideologies, region, tribe, culture, caste, and tradition, but difficult to patch up torn relationships. We need to train ourselves to have more holding space in our hearts to integrate the diversity of perspectives and interests into the unity of our Claretian life and mission.

The third level of communion is between various charisms and forms of life in the Church and in society. Divisive thinking that splits the world into “us” and” them” between laity and clergy, between diocesans and religious, traditional and liberal Catholics and other invented differences makes us pawns of the evil one who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. We shall not become fodder for the devil’s plot to destroy human fraternity. Our hearts should be able to embrace every human person irrespective of their religion, culture, and race, and all the creation with a sense of fraternity.

Though Covid-19 is a matter of concern, I see people getting used to its presence in society as a member of the clan of viruses. The awareness of its presence helps us to take precautions. I am far more worried about the viruses of violence, division, and fragmentation in society which has taken concrete expressions in recent times. I think of the recent events of mindless massacres in France and Austria. The Gospel of love and the universal fraternity of humans is the cure against violence and division. Let us consciously practice the witness of communion by opening our hearts to the healing love and life of the Risen Lord as we walk forth as missionaries with spirit. God bless you all.

[1] 694. On August 26, 1861, at 7:00

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