March 12, 2005
Closing of the Marian Fathers General Chapter, Rome, March 12, 2005
His Excellency, the Most Reverend Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti, C.P.
Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of the Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life
Like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter
The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
It is an honor for me and a cause for joy to find myself in your midst this morning to preside the Eucharistic Celebration at the close of your General Chapter. It is an event of grace. It is an assembly that experienced an authentic fraternal communion under the action of the Holy Spirit, attentive to His interior movements, open to the light of an authentic discernment, for a verification, for a new dynamism, for a projection, that is aware of the authentic good of your Congregation.
I extend my greetings and my felicitations also in that name of the Prefect of our Department [of the Holy See], to each of the Fathers, who will be at the service of the Congregation for the next six years.
Particular best wishes to the new Superior General, who, in his service, will have to inspire the Institute, encourage, guide each of the religious, and require the observance of the Constitutions and fidelity to the Church and to the Holy See on the part of all the Confreres.
We are gathered here at the conclusion of your Chapter sessions. The code of Canon Law (Canon 631) underlines that “the General Chapter, which in the Institute holds the supreme authority by the norms of the Constitutions, must be composed in such a way as to represent the entire Institute, resulting in a true sign of its unity in charity. It is in the competence of the Chapter above all: to safeguard the patrimony of the Institute, as of Canon 578, and to promote an adequate renewal that will harmonize with it, to elect the supreme moderator, to deal with matters of greater importance and subsequently to bring forth norms, that all are obliged to observe.”
The patrimony of the Institute does not regard the economy, but that which is expressed well in Canon 578, with the following concept: “the intention and the projects of the founders, sanctioned by the competent authority of the Church, related to the nature, to the purpose, to the spirit, and to the specific character of the Institute, as also healthy traditions, things that constitute the patrimony of the Institute, must be faithfully observed by all.”
You are certainly aware of these orientations, and that is why we are here to lift up our thanks to God, by means of His Son, in this solemn Eucharist.
There are at least two significant reasons for thanking the Lord. The first of these is surely the approval of the Ratio Formationis Marianorum, an important document for your formation, which is the fruit of intense work that took place within your Institute for almost 12 years.
The second reason is the approval of the Rituale, that contains your own rites and the specific prayers of your Congregation.
It is evident that our Thanksgiving is offered also for the gift of the new General and of His Council.
I call to mind, as regards the service of the authorities, that the directives of the instruction “Ripartire da Cristo” are intended to give strength and direction also for the whole Institute: “A fundamental duty is that of superiors, to whom the service of authority has been entrusted, a demanding duty and, at times, opposed. It requires a constant presence, capable of inspiring and of proposing, to call to mind the raison d’etre of the consecrated life, to help the entrusted persons toward an ever-renewed fidelity to the call of the Spirit. No superior can renounce his mission of inspiration, of fraternal help, of proposing, of listening, of dialogue. Only thus will the entire community be able to find itself united in full fraternity and in apostolic and ministerial service. Of great actuality are the directives offered by the document of our Congregation, [entitled] ‘Fraternal life in community’ when, speaking of the aspects of authority which it behooves to value today, calls to mind the duty of spiritual authority, of the authority that produces unity, of the authority that knows how to make a final decision and to assure its execution” (RdC, 46).
During the mandate of the new Superior General there awaits you the celebration of the centenary of the Renovation of your Congregation (August 29, 1909), accomplished by Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz.
It will be a special event that requires a fitting preparation, with intelligent and incisive initiatives, to give more intense vigor to your spirituality, and to your Charism.
Beginning now we ask our Lord for the graces necessary for the preparation of this event and, with the intercession of your Blessed Renovator, we are sure that there will be no lack of fervor.
I recall during this celebration another reason for thanking the Lord and of profound joy: re-establishing of your communities in the countries of the former Soviet Union, especially the birth of a new community in Ukraine. Surely, its situation is not easy, but with the help of the Lord and with fraternal love it is possible to have the assurance that in patience and in perseverance everything, without doubt, will blossom at the opportune time.
“Pro Christo et Ecclesia” is the motto engraved in the heart of each of you: it impels you to work in the world, following Christ, for the good of His Church and in special communion with His Vicar and successor of Peter the Apostle. All of us, here today, above all in the moment, are in communion wit the Holy Father, who unfortunately, given his illness, was not able to receive you in private audience, but He is close to us, spiritually present.
The readings proclaimed today on this Lenten journey, call to mind the mystery of the Lord’s passion and of the Cross.
The history all of your Congregation right from the beginning was placed ‘under the cross’. Your Founders has indicated the Immaculate to you as a support in difficulties and trials, mindful of the invitation of Jesus, who, from the Cross, indicated Mary is the Mother of the Apostle John who there was representing the whole Church, all of us.
To live your charism with fidelity it is necessary to assimilate and to correctly understand with the help of the Holy Virgin, this mystery of the Lord’s Passion that won, obtained salvation.
In his Gospel the Apostle John directs us toward the effort of seeing what is determinant in Jesus’ Passion, and what consequently must be the principal object of a Christian’s meditation. It is not a matter only of physical and moral sufferings borne by Jesus, even if all of this can be important for us, because it is a support, a comfort in our difficulties.
We can actually say: “the Lord suffered before we did, the Lord passed through these trials” and feel comforted. But as long as we remain on this level, we have not yet arrived at the determining sense of that which the Gospel offers us, the theologico-salvific meaning of the Lord’s Passion and Death.
We will understand it only when we have arrived at seeing the life of Jesus as the Word of God offered, placed at the disposal of every one of us. This kind of availability is evidenced in an unequivocal manner precisely at the moment in which the offering is refused and in this way it manifests itself as absolutely gratuitous. This rejected offering gives itself to the very depths, that is to death, which is the end of every possibility of man to offer oneself for an other. The Lord’s Passion is the manifestation of God’s love for us with an unmistakable offering that, at the moment is rejected reaches the highest degree of certainty. A Cross in not only having difficulties or that there are people that do not understand us; certainly, all of this can be sanctified by the mystery of the cross, but the fundamental sense of the Cross in the Gospel as Word-Person given without holding back in spite of human rejection, and by that very thing the ability to redeem the one that rejects it, through the victory of merciful love.
To give witness in one’s life in the offering of self and to cooperate with the Lord in the salvation of our brothers it is necessary to live an intense Eucharistic life. The Holy Father exhorts us to this in His Apostolic Letter “Mane nobiscum Dominine” for the Eucharistic Year: “You, the consecrated ones, called by your very consecration to a more lengthy contemplation, remember that Jesus in the Tabernacle is waiting for you to be at His side, to pour into your hearts that intimate experience of His friendship that alone can give sense and fullness to your life” (MND, 30).
In prayer, in adoration, and with the strength that from the Eucharist let us learn ever more that Jesus came from God to overcome evil by of gratuitous love. His victory was accomplished on the Cross and it does not cease to be accomplished in us, ever passing through the Cross. Christ, and only He, is the example for every one of us. We too have to overcome evil with love. We need to offer our life for Him: Pro Christo and together with Him to bring His work to completion.
May the Holy Spirit through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of the Church illumine your mind, inflame your heart to bring to your communities and to your works a new spiritual ardor nourished by these days of prayer, of dialogue, and of fraternal sharing.