Sorry, this entry is only available in German.
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light! Come, Father of the poor; Come, Giver of gifts; Come, Light of the heart; Greatest Comforter, Sweet Guest of the soul… fill the inmost heart of Your faithful, cleanse that which is unclean; water that which is dry; heal that which is wounded; bend that which is inflexible; fire that which is chilled; correct what goes astray. (from Veni Sancti Spiritus)
this prayer to the Spirit, I pray with you with greater intimacy and focus. The corona virus is compelling us all to stop and take a long, evaluative look at what have happened locally and globally that has led us to where we are now in order that the Spirit may lead us to new creative paths. The pandemic is teaching us that our world needs renewal or else we are all going to perish. Our regard for every human person, systems operative in the family, neighborhood communities, schools, churches, religions, politics, economics, technology, social media, our care for Mother Earth, they all need to be re-grounded on more universal, inclusive, equitable, less judgmental, adversarial, principles in order for us to thrive anew as a civilization of love and life.
We welcome anew the Spirit at Pentecost but we somehow forget that the Spirit was here from the very beginning at Genesis. (cf. Genesis 1:2) The movement of the Spirit has always been to bring order from chaos, to give life, to lead us to all truth, to teach us everything that we need to know. (John 16:13) But the same Spirit blows wherever it wills and we cannot tell where it comes and where it goes. (John 3:8). Our theologizing, our calculated thinking and planning cannot predict nor inhibit the way of the Spirit. It always surprises us, expanding our vision and freeing our hearts more and more from all encumbrances so that we are free for God in our world. Just as we cannot see air, silence, the Holy Spirit renews our world in ways beyond our seeing. We simply have to be present to Presence in every moment.
Our world including Mother Earth is in birth pangs about what is the future like after the pandemic. The great mystic Julian of Norwich, in his 13th Showing, says it, “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” He explained this to mean, to be joyful in all circumstances, however adverse, for the reason that all things will ultimately be put right in Christ. We need to be careful about how to receive this message. Does this mean we simply fold our hands and leave everything to God? Is this some kind of soft theology that promises manna from heaven amidst our suffering?
The pandemic is teaching us to hope. Hope is our capacity to entrust the future in the hands of a loving God. Hope is not something soft; it is a struggle to hope. We struggle because it seems that evil, tyranny, violence, fear, death is more dominant than goodness, peace, unity, love, life. God’s response to evil is hidden in the risen Christ. He never rescued his Son at the crucible of suffering but he eventually validated him with new life after he passed through helplessness, fear, violence, death. God will ultimately vindicate us and will show the world and all its systems how wrong it was in many ways. (cf. John 16:8) But we need to decide. In the face of evil and suffering, shall we allow our hearts to be dominated by fear, hopelessness, indifference, bitterness, anger, disappointment or shall we be more open, responsive, loving, forgiving, life-giving? The Spirit renews our world and all of creation in more patient, gentle and humble ways. We are invited not to stand in its way but to flow with the agenda of God for our world.
So, what is ours to do to? What are the possibilities and challenges that are being offered to us that we need to attend to with renewed courage and hope? Someone once said, “today we don’t need big men with little hearts but small men with big hearts for only the little and the small can pass through the eye of the needle.” Little acts of goodness done with extravagant and committed hearts. Our new normal today is an imperative to return to the basics of Gospel living, corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Our own Brother Charles has left us a spirituality – imitate Jesus in Nazareth, seek the last place, live simply, do apostolate of goodness one person at a time, be a brother and friend to every person regardless of color, creed, status, be close to the poor. Pope Francis is urging us to go to the peripheries, be harbingers of the joy of the gospel, safeguard minors and vulnerable adults, engage in on-going formation, protect Mother Earth our common home. We also need to go back with new enthusiasm to the basics of our spiritual practice – daily adoration, daily meditation of the Gospel, review of life, monthly day in the desert, fraternity meetings. We renew our fidelity to the practice not to perfect ourselves but to take greater responsibility for the gift and let its fruits flow to others infinitely until God is glorified in their own lives.
Brothers, in this time of the pandemic, we receive a special gift from Mother Church – declaring Brother Charles a saint. Together with the other members of the spiritual family including those who have been inspired by Brother Charles but are not “canonized” members of the spiritual family, we thank the Spirit for this gift. We hope and pray that Brother Charles’s life, message, intuition, legacy may be made more available and be an inspiration to many people, as the Spirit wills. For ourselves too, we pray for greater resolve to witness in our lives and ministry what Brother Charles had lived for.
I end my letter with the Collect at Mass today – “Father, sanctify your whole church in every people and nation and pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth.”
Thank you very much. We continue to hold each other and our world in prayer. Please pray for me also.
Philippines, 31 May 2020
Philippines, 12 April 2020
I am risen, and I am with you still, Alleluia. (cf. Ps 139:18)
I am writing to you from my hermitage just like many of you in quarantine. This imposed enclosure is an excellent invitation for daily adoration, Gospel meditation, desert day, review of life, praying for the world, especially the poor, with fidelity, intensity and focus. A quality life of solitude and prayer is our humble act of charity to our world in pandemic.
Looking through my window, I am watching for signs of new life from Nature. It’s dry and humid here but birds are playing and singing their unique repertoire of songs, butterflies gently flying from flower to flower looking for nectar, trees are looking green and giving shade in spite of the battering heat. Amazing, how nature has its own way of heralding the Resurrection. No worries, complete abandon to God who takes care of them. We, humans are supposed to be a superior breed because of our reason but the same has systematically edged out trust in God in the day-to-day and we rely more on our egoic thinking. This same thinking has been the cause of violence, hatred and mistrust. Resurrection is offering forgiveness, love and trust. The world has to choose.
We are in enhanced community quarantine until May 3 but priests are given access passes for liturgical and charitable works. I have been using it every day to visit people where I am invited to accompany the dying and the family in their loss, facilitate dialogue in families, give food and money to those who have been laid off from work. Someone moved me to be with the people in their helplessness especially because they could not go to church and pray. The Presence brought by my presence is a soothing balm of comfort for them. I have been extra careful though to follow the protocols of hygiene and distancing in order not to give more harm to the community. This morning, my friend Lemuel came to the hermitage very hungry, haggard-looking, asking for food for his starving 4 young kids. Lemuel has been laid off from work. Handing over to him some goods, I am blessed by his joy but I also feel the uncertainty in his eyes.
After prayer this morning, I take a long loving look at the map posted at my wall. My eyes are fixed at the four continents of Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas. The virus is indeed a great equalizer for rich and poor countries are suffering from the same fate. I see faces of doctors, nurses, patients, their families, worried, afraid yet fighting for life. (While writing, I am informed that my sister working as a nurse in the US is COVID positive. Her family is now at risk).
The world is undergoing its passion. I see faces of helplessness, worry, fear, sadness, hatred, violence everywhere in multiple disguises. I ask: what is the message of the Resurrected Christ to our world today? What is God inviting us to see? Where is he leading us? Does Resurrection mean He will rescue us from all these? What is God’s response to His people in pandemic? How is the gentle message of the Resurrection be heard amidst the overpowering news of death, suffering, conflict? Where is the path of hope and new life in this our difficult time?
Brothers, please suffer with me these questions. I need you, we need each other, the people need us. Resurrection is not some cheap joy nor sweet sounding words to rescue us from our suffering. We have to strain our ears and stretch our hearts to hear the Message. We wrestle with God for answers even if his answer is hidden in His silence.
I find the reading of John’s version of the Resurrection narrative this year a Kairos. Some details from John could help us see and hear the Message. Since I am not schooled in biblical hermeneutics that well, I rely on a prayerful reflection of the text. Please be generous if it sounds naïve.
Let me just point out 3 things. First, John speaks of the Resurrection as happening “on the first day of the week, while it was dark.” (Jn. 20:1a) Resurrection bursts forth from the very foundations of our humanity and the world, in the darkness of unknowing. This reminds us of Genesis when the world was dark and formless and the Spirit hovered over the dark waters. Then God said: “Let there be light and there was light.” (Gen. 1:2-3)
Today, the world is in the darkness of the pandemic. The future even seems darker for many. How shall businesses, government, the people recover? Is our strategic planning, optimistic forecasts, finding the cure enough light to give us a bright future? In the midst of utter darkness, where the world’s foundations seem to be shaken, Christ the light bursts forth. Can we see? Seeing does not come from our human logic for the same is easily defeated by darkness. Light comes from the Resurrected Christ. Is God going to rescue us from this evil? Not at all for evil does what it does. God redeems. He ultimately vindicates virtue, goodness, fidelity while we go through evil and suffering just like what He did to Jesus. God and the Resurrected Christ is ultimately in control not evil and death. This is our creed. We simple have to trust its truth and live it in the day-to-day.
Second, John emphasizes that Mary of Magdala first saw the open tomb. (Jn.20:1b) She was sad because she could not yet link the open tomb with the Resurrection. It was only after she wept that she saw the Risen One. (cf. Jn. 20: 11ff) This is an invitation for us to see our reality through the gentle lens of the feminine – in sadness and in tears. Both prepare the heart for real seeing. There are many things that we are sad about our reality today. We are in tears because in one way or another, we are part of this wounded, broken and violent world and in many ways, we have contributed to its violence and wounding.
Lastly, Mary reported to Peter and John what she saw. Peter and John saw it for themselves. Peter saw. John saw and believed. They all did not yet understand the meaning of the Resurrection. (cf. Jn. 20: 2-9) This detail is inviting us that in order to experience new life, we need to reach out to one another and walk together as a community of truth seekers. Our reality is a shared vision and nobody monopolizes the whole or absolutizes his/her part of the whole. Each one contributes. Each one believes that the other has something to contribute. Truth humbles us for instead of possessing it, it possesses us. It is always beyond us. So, we need each other’s contribution. Truth is a free gift revealed to a vibrant pilgrim community who seeks with hope. Sad to say, in our post-modern world, power is mistaken for truth. So, one becomes arrogant of his part and absolutizes his part as the whole truth. This is the same mentality that creates war and violence. Resurrection is offering peace and forgiveness. We need to choose.
Brothers, we continue to share our search for truth in the Risen Lord today both in the solitude of our prayer and in our fraternal and missionary engagements. Brother Charles is showing us and is also walking with us the path, in our longing to follow Jesus of Nazareth, to be a brother to all, to live Nazareth, to be present to the poor, to review our lives, to cry the Gospel with our lives, to smell like the sheep in our mission to the peripheries, to live the Gospel before we preach. This is our spirituality as diocesan priests in the footsteps of Bro Charles. This is also our gift to our world and to our church today. As a gift, it is undeserved but we need to constantly readjust the gift through practice. Here, we are all beginners and fellow strugglers but together, we encourage one another to keep coming back to our practice.
16 March 2020
“I shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living. No longer shall I behold my fellow men among those who dwell in the world. My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent, is struck down and borne away from me; you have folded up my life, like a weaver who severs the last thread…” (Isaiah 38: 11-12).
“There is such a thing as a good death. We are responsible for the way we die. We have to choose between clinging to life in such a way that death becomes nothing but a failure, or letting go of life in freedom so that we can be given to others as a source of hope.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved).
feeling deeply both gratitude for the gift and sadness for the loss, I announce to you the passing of our big brother, dear friend and a living icon in the fraternity, MARIANO PUGA CONCHA from Santiago, Chile. He passed away last 14 March 2020 at 88 years old. He died of lymphatic cancer.
Allow me to honor the soul brotherhood we had with Mariano with the following lines. My first encounter with Mariano was in Cairo General Assembly in 2000. Prior to his election as general responsible, his presence in the assembly was like a virus contaminating us with joy and laughter with his delightful singing accompanied by an accordion. Little did I know that these songs were from the slums of Santiago, very jovial and empowering and never depressing. He was like a troubadour singing with his lungs and heart the dreams and aspirations of his people in Santiago. His wild spirit and joy-filled music captivated me.
My second encounter was in the US in 2002. He was visiting US fraternity while I was in a sabbatical. The late Howard Caulkins, another dear friend proposed that if I would come with him to the country assembly in Minnesota then, he would drive me to Mepkin Abbey where I would spend my sabbath year as monastic guest. We did drive together and there, I met Mariano again. Very easily, we reconnected, soul to soul, in a deeply personal and intimate way. I was sharing with him my crisis with the Church, with my personal demons and with God and I never felt so listened to. He simply embraced me tightly like an elder brother comforting a younger brother, with tears in his eyes, feeling my pain. Then, he smiled at me with these soothing words, “It will be okay.” We parted ways with a promise to hold each other in prayer – I to the Abbey and him to Tammanraset. My more recent encounter with him was last year in Cebu during the General Assembly. At 88, travelling across the globe took a heavy toll on him. He was hospitalized twice, and in both times, I was with him. The sage in him was calling me to come out from the tomb of my pretense and share personal testimonies. We easily reconnected, brother to brother, valuing each of our stories, at the emergency room (where he stayed for 5 hours) then, inside his room (which he vehemently resisted for he wanted to stay at the ward with the poor people), until very late in the evening. Then, with a smile on his face, he whispered to me, “the assembly has just finished, I could now go home.” I went home that night, so humbled yet so enriched by this soul-full exchange, our review of life which for Mariano is at the heart of any assembly of brothers.
Allow me to share also some lines which Fernando Tapia wrote to me about Mariano. “Mariano was a passionate seeker of God and a lover of Jesus of Nazareth. The encounter with Him through the poor of a dump changed his life forever. He left everything and entered the seminary. Here he met Charles de Foucauld and followed his spirituality until the end of his life. He was a spiritual father and formator at the seminary of Santiago. Then he became a worker priest for more than 30 years of his life sharing in the lives of the poor. He always lived among them. He was their pastor, defender during the time of military dictatorship of Pinochet, suffered being imprisoned 7 times. He promoted a church committed to the poor. He preached many retreats in Chile and outside of Chile. He was a man of prayer, of joy, close to everyone, a friend of believers and non-believers, a missionary to the peripheries of the Chilean society, following in the footsteps of Bro Charles. The gospel was his guide which he wanted to cry with his own life.”
Mariano, brother, friend, thank you very much. Thank you for you wild witness of a wild God in Jesus of Nazareth. I share the gratitude and the grief of the poor people of Santiago whom you have touched by your witness. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd welcome you to your new abode for eternity which he prepared for those who are faithful.
Brothers, I pray with Mariano that in our meetings and assemblies, we continue to risk sharing our poverty and vulnerability to one another. It is our poverty that unites, qualifies and liberates us as brothers-in-fraternity. The same is our springboard for mission with the poor, as we said in Cebu. May it also be our humble yet firm resolve to share in the missionary life of Jesus of Nazareth with the poor in the footsteps of Bro Charles.
With my fraternal embrace,
“A child is born for us, and a Son is given to us…” (Isaiah 9:5)
I am so sorry that this Christmas letter comes to you as a new year’s message. It’s just that in our diocese at the moment, I am asked to do a couple of sensitive ministries that many at times, I lose my balance. Wresting with evil and all its complex shadows that damage persons, relationships and institutions like the church, I repeatedly struggled to fall into the hands of a loving God for light, inner peace and love. But at times, I feel sad, angry and helpless. And so, by the grace of God, I am here, better late than never. Allow me to embrace you with warm greetings of joy in your local fraternities, dioceses, country and continental fraternities. Though many of you are still without faces to me but I continue to whisper each of your names before the Beloved. (Thanks to our directory but it needs updating). Last year, I was privileged to have met brothers from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Southeast USA, South Korea and Myanmar. In a special way, the Haiti meeting of the Association of the Spiritual Family of Charles de Foucauld last April has both grounded and expanded my knowledge of the Spirituality and Tradition. Thank you, sisters and brothers for the hospitable welcome, brotherly exchanges and humble witness.
I would like to start with the first question that Yahweh asked Adam in Genesis: where are you? I ask this question periodically just to check how grounded am I with my reality. Reality is not really mine but God’s reality in me and in the world and how free or unfree am I in responding to it. Adam was unfree, afraid of his nakedness, hiding from God, guilty of his sin. Without his knowing it, he operated from a distortion that alienated him from God and from his truth. From Adam came forth a whole “cracked” humanity. Yet, the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the new Adam: “a shoot springs from the stump of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests…” (Isaiah 11:1). There is a new humanity that is born from a tree that is cut from its roots – a humanity not hostaged by evil but “divinized,” restored to its original goodness. The crack is still there not anymore as a block but as the only opening for the flow of God’s grace to come in. And so, we pray, “O God… grant that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” (Christmas, Collect).
Pope Francis has enabled us to look again at the nativity scene with his apostolic letter, Admirabilis Signum. The most admirable sign is that a humble infant God entrusted himself into the hands of a broken humanity. While most of humanity was not ready, the shepherds, animals, the manger were ready. They represent humanity receiving God in its lowest poverty, brokenness, imperfection, filthiness and by this radical act of self-donation, we become what we receive. This is pure divine initiative. The “manger” of our hearts, hardened and torn by evil in all its forms, both structural and personal when held before God becomes a humble yet prophetic space for encounter, dialogue, healing and hospitality with the many disguised faces of the Emmanuel today.
Allow me to bring into the picture Bro Charles, his wild life, excessive behavior, restless energy, passionate letters. He spent all his life trying to ground himself on the Mystery of the Incarnation. “Lord, if you exist, let me know you.” His was a cry for an experiential knowledge of God. He wrestled with the Mystery. And in God’s gentle and patient ways, he led him into a liberated response to the forgiving love of God. “Now that I know that there is a God, I cannot but give my whole life to him.” A further growing down into the Mystery made him say these words, “my way is always to seek the lowest place, to be as little as my Master, to walk with him step by step as a faithful disciple. My life is to live with my God who lived this way all his life and who has given me such an example from his very birth.” Jesus did nothing other than to go down and this marked Bro Charles permanently. The radical littleness of God at the Incarnation bore fruit to a life of further growing down into the radical humility of God in Nazareth. From Bethlehem to Nazareth, two foundational mysteries of God revealed in the life of Jesus and when we get this right, in the footsteps of Bro Charles, our lives, our way of doing mission as diocesan priests and the way we see the world is changed forever.
Before the Mystery, may I invite you to hold the complex realities of our local, country, regional and international fraternities, our dioceses, our church and our world. We have already seen some of these in Cebu but there is a need to see them with new eyes and respond with new enthusiasm and hope. The unassuming humble God of Nazareth may have subtle invitations for us in these realities.
In the April gathering of some 20 members of the Association, we learned of Haiti as a poor country but rich in faith. Our Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Incarnation have a very prophetic and concrete presence in the lives of the Haitians in agriculture, education, livelihood programs, social services. Yet, corruption in the political system is making the country still in a dark tunnel of poverty, uncertainty and unrest. (As of the moment, the situation is even getting worse). Frs. Jonas Cenor and Charles Louis Jean, former little brothers of the Incarnation started the fraternity with 3 brothers in 2015. Fr. Fernando Tapia has visited and invited them to the Pan-American Meeting in 2017. With occasional visits from Fr. Abraham Apolinario, they continue to look for possibilities to meet regularly. The problem is not only distance but more so, the political climate is making travel dangerous. Where is God inviting us?
Our membership in the Association is a gift. I am in awe at how Bro Charles has inspired so many charisms and missionary work in the Church and some are still coming in. We could not set aside, however the tensions that this diversity brings. But these tensions could be life-giving when they are seen in the bigger agenda of the Kingdom. We all are invited to drink again and again from the same Spirit so that we can all walk together in harmony. The Association, though is asking for our more active involvement in terms of correspondence and attending meetings. I am handicapped in the French language and so I have invited Fr. Matthias Keil to represent us.
The fraternity in Santo Domingo and Santiago is very alive yet getting older. Pioneer member and retired Bishop, Rafael Felipe, his presence and life-witness is like a lighthouse to both clergy and seminarians of the diocese of Beni. He has been introducing the fraternity to the seminarians and had preached a couple of priest retreats on the Fraternity. Fr. Lorenzo, a very dynamic priest of a small parish lives in a semi-monastic community of priests, sisters and seminarians. Fr. Angel Marcano, however, asks the question that still seeks for answers: why after 30 years, we have not grown? Where is God inviting us?
I was privileged to have attended the 40th anniversary of Fr. Jerry Reagan in Toybee Island, Georgia, USA in May. His rectory is a fraternity house where priests could come and spend the night. He drives for 2 hours every month to Augusta to meet with the brothers, including Fr. Peter Clarke who is already 91. Starting with adoration, then review of life and ending with an agape, their meeting has been very regular and intimate that when a brother decides to leave, it leaves the fraternity fragile. With no new member, the fraternity is even more vulnerable.
The fraternity in South Korea is young and vibrant. Fr. Paul, who has lived in Tamanrasset for some time, started the fraternity in 1994 with Fr. Philip Yoon and is joined in by mostly young pastors. Christianity in Korea is very unique because it is laid on the foundation of the blood of thousands of martyrs who are mostly lay people. The brothers contribute from their personal money in order to put up a house where they could meet for the monthly meeting. Just like many, they struggle with desert day, review of life and the English language.
Seeing Frs. Eugene and Matthew and how they live, the fraternity in Myanmar has an ascetic face. The majority Buddhist religion made prominent by the presence of pagodas everywhere and the wearing of slippers (not shoes) make living in Myanmar naturally simple. Asking a non-JC priest, however, about his perception of the fraternity, his answer has disturbed me, “I cannot be honest with my answer in front of them.” What is the underlying face of the fraternity? Where is God inviting us? The brothers, though, struggle with finding regular time for meeting, desert day and review of life.
Cardinal Benjamin Stella, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome has written me a letter through Fr. Aurelio, expressing his deep closeness with us and that we may “live afresh and with joy our mission according to the guiding principles” of the Holy Father. He, however, spelled out some concrete challenges – that we may take seriously the Nazareth month; that our fidelity to the means of spiritual growth ad intra is a necessary requirement for authentic mission ad extra; that our going out to the peripheries needs to be accompanied by our on-going conversion in order to bear fruit. The international team is scheduled to meet with the Cardinal in Rome in July this year.
In our team meeting last October, we, your brothers in the international team have discerned a major path that we need to take. We train a team of itinerant priests who will introduce the Fraternity Week (modeled after Brazil) to 4th year-theology seminarians, young priests and even make it available as annual retreat for priests. We need to write to the local ordinaries and we are starting this venture in Asia.
Finally, my gratitude to the financial acumen and hard work of our two Matthiases – Fr. Matthias Keil of Austria, our general treasurer and Fr. Matthias Fobe of Germany, our financial consultant. We have now a new bank account under 2 signatories – Fr. Matthias Keil and myself. Speaking of finances, the international team has agreed that brothers who need assistance to attend the Month or meetings abroad they need to be first supported by the local and country fraternities and only then will the international fund be asked to help out after due consultation with continental responsible. This is to put a stop to a sub-culture of entitlement and using the fraternity as a passport to travel abroad.
Brothers, Christmas is the opportune time for us to give birth. We move forward to the new year by looking back at the Father who gave us Jesus. We too need to give birth to our simplicity of life, joy of being, humility, loving compassion to poor. Side by side, together as brothers and friends, we walk by faith not by sight for our on-going configuration into Jesus’ life and ministry as inspired by Brother Charles and for our life-giving mission work with God’s beloved people.
Kindly offer a prayer for me, your inefficient brother-responsible.
With my fraternal embrace,
At the International Assembly in January 2019 in Cebu, Fr. Eric Lozada was elected as the new International Responsible. By then, the National Team decided to call for a special gathering of the local responsibles and those brothers who have made the Month of Nazareth in order to pray, share and discern together for our new National Responsible as well as to review on the realities and mission of our local fraternities.
We are the twelve (12) brothers from four fraternities who came, as others were caught up with earlier set pastoral commitments. At St. John Vianney Clergy House within the seminary compound of Dumaguete City we found a home from August 26 – 30, 2019.
The noise at the nearby airport spoke of the myriads of realities that beset and attempt to deviate us from our focus in our life and mission as priests. Listening to the experiences and questions of the brothers and reflecting on the Letter from Cebu we felt the invitation to silence and be in touch with the Source of our vocation and mission, Jesus, the Risen Lord. An hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament , at the overnight vigil and during the Day in the Desert we have to embrace the many painful realities within our broken selves, in our hibernating local fraternities, in our wounded prebyterium and in our scared and scarrred society.
Hope is marked in our hearts! The cross over the heart: Jesus Caritas.
Blessed Brother Charles carried this fire as a brother to everyone He dared to walk along with those in the peripheries. Pope Francis both in his persona and pronouncements exudes this joy on the mercy and compassion of God to reconcile and bring healing to the young people, the families, those who lost homelands by war and violence and to our beloved paining earth, our common home.
We are called to retrace our journey back to Jerusalem, the place of Jesus passion and resurrection. And even to go further back to Galilee, the place of Jesus meeting and calling his disciples.
As brothers in the fraternity, the only way to move ahead is to review our attraction and initiation to Jesus Caritas. We have to outgrow from the travels and meetings that may have given the impressions of us being a secret, elite and pious group. At the Month of Nazareth we have attended and where we have made our final engagement to the fraternity, at our National and Continetal gatherings and at our local fraternity sharings are the many moments where we broke the bread of ourselves and were nourished.
Perhaps the open door of fraternal spirit that initially attracted and inspired us in our priestly ministry may have become now a narrow door that tests our endurance. Indeed the good soil needs plowing and weeding so as to welcome the seeds sown to put on deeper roots. Our local fraternity does not depend only on the charismatic personality of the responsible. Its strength also lies in each responsible members. This we have to strive and encourage one another to revive our common fidelity.
Towards the end of our gathering we have elected an interim National Responsible who will lead us towards our National Assembly in 2020. Fr. Vel Villasis from Iloilo accepted the call. He also chose his team in the persons of Fr. Ervy Lajara (Visayas), Fr. Anthony Jun Piguerra (Mindanao) and Fr. Larry Famarin (Luzon).
As we setforth back to our mission places, we are so grateful to the kind services of the religious sisters and the warm welcome and company of Dumaguete brothers. God bless us all!
Download the document in PDF format: Letter of cardinal Beniamino STELLA, 24 july 2019
Feast of the Visitation of Mary, 31 May 2019
A LETTER FROM THE GENERAL RESPONSIBLE TO THE BROTHERS OF THE WORLD
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26)
Warm greetings of peace to you, dear brothers,
With all humility, I make a personal confession why it took me so long to write this letter. Many times, I sat in front of my computer not knowing what and how to write. It felt like a pregnant woman about to give birth but her pelvis is too narrow for the new born. I struggled with words but my biggest struggle was the heart, having the right spirit and disposition of a brother. Many of you are mere names to me without faces and stories that we share to qualify our being brothers. I needed the time to ground myself to the Father who has invited me to leave the comfort of my homeland and is sending me as a missionary brother. I needed moments of nakedness before Jesus at prayer whose Spirit at Nazareth is inviting you and me to this great adventure of downward mobility, living simply but with joy, in ordinariness and obscurity, finding the last place, consumed by the gospel of the greatest as the least, seeing Jesus in the poor, apostolate of goodness, not lording over but serving, to be poor in spirit for the sake of the kingdom. I needed the space of being rekindled by the spirituality, life and intuitions of Brother Charles through the testimonies of brothers and sisters who are deep into the life and the tradition of the Fraternity. The meeting with the spiritual family at Haiti last April, my visits to the brothers in Haiti, Dominican Republic and the United States and my retreat at a Trappist Monastery in Georgia have been a tremendous help. (These will be the subject of my next letter). Jesus too needed that space in my heart for my conversion because even if I am 30 years in the fraternity and have been in 3 months of Nazareth, I still have unhealthy and immature ways that may stand in the way of this ministry. Being an unfinished project myself, I need your honest feedback and fraternal advice. Please tell me and I would gladly receive them as a gift for my on-going formation.
As you know, before I was elected general responsible, my world revolved around my little fraternity in a small village, without TV and internet, as a chaplain of a small Carmelite monastery of nuns and dean of studies of a small college seminary, coming from a small diocese in the Philippines. My world was then very small, my way of living very rural and the thought of writing to the brothers all over the world is overwhelming at the least. I thank the Advocate for enabling me to write. I pray that these same words may not stand in His way of teaching us everything that Jesus wants us to know. I thank you for your generous patience. I am so sorry for those who feel orphaned by my long silence. In my silence, I whispered your names in my prayer (thanks to the directory), one day at a time.
Another Look at Cebu Assembly and Beyond
Our Cebu Assembly last January was indeed “a precious manifestation of the Spirit of Pentecost.” My brotherly joy and sincere gratitude to all of you who have prayed for us while in Assembly. To our continental and country responsibles with our former general responsibles, Mariano and Abraham who have travelled to the other side of the globe just to be in the assembly, thank you very much. To the previous team – Aurelio, Jean Francois, Emmanuel, Mark and Mauricio – for your great planning and hard work before and during the assembly, thank you very much. We can only build on what you have generously laboured. Thanks in particular to Aurelio for the legacy project of iesuscaritas.org website and for Jose Alberto Hernandis who is very willing to manage our website. My joy and gratitude to the members of my team with Tony Llanes as my co-general responsible who are very willing to serve. Since ours is service to the international fraternity, may I beg you to write to us your concerns, news, invitations, feedbacks, stories. I personally chose them to represent the four continents so that there would be more easy access to news and information. Here are our contact details:
Eric Lozada, firstname.lastname@example.org – 63 9167939585;
Tony Llanes, email@example.com – 63 9183908488;
Fernando Tapia, firstname.lastname@example.org – 56 988880397
Honore Savadogo, email@example.com – 226 70717642
Matthias Keil, Matthias.firstname.lastname@example.org – 43 67687426115.
Just as you trust us, can we also trust you to help us in this? More than a top-down dynamic, we wish to have more dialogue, transparency, reciprocity, feedbacking in our different levels of communication. For a start, we are meeting this 11-18 of October in South Korea and we would appreciate anything from you – personal, local, national, regional – that you may want us to consider and respond to. You may channel them to me or to your continental representative in the team.
Brothers, the Letter from Cebu is not a finished document. It is a work-in-progress. May I invite you (and let us be together in this) to make it a subject for personal and fraternity re-reading and discussion. In Cebu, we have identified and have committed ourselves to be missionary diocesan priests inspired by the witness of Bro Charles. We have contemplated the realities of our society, church and fraternities from the different continents and countries. We have listened to the call of the Spirit to be church in the peripheries (thanks to the prophetic leadership of Pope Francis). And from the calls that we heard, we are firmly resolved to concrete and strategic actions for the development of our society, church and fraternities.
In your re-reading and discussion, may I invite you to treat the document as a friend whose words are Spirit-filled, transformative and prophetic. The reality of violence, terrorism, injustice, trafficking, serious ecological crisis, migration, globalization of indifference, fundamentalism, secularization (the list is too long) is very complex. Yet almost immediately, we tend to project this reality from outside. This attitude is not very helpful. We need to be more involved. Asking the Spirit for the gift of courage and humility, we take a long, loving look at our interior structures/subcultures –values, mentality, lifestyle, biases, attitude, preferences, wants – as diocesan priests. We name the many subtle ways where we have been part of the problem. We share our realizations to brothers in our fraternity who could help us in our growth. Perhaps, the most beautiful gift we could offer our world today is by owning that we have been a part of the problem. Hopefully, with repentant and transformed hearts, we become part of the solution.
The Spirit is calling us to be a church in the peripheries. Asking the Spirit for the gift of courage and trust, we explore together the peripheries of our soul – the rejected, ugly, despised, deep-seated, hidden, denied parts of ourselves that we need to claim, own, accept, embrace and heal. Here, we need the intimacy of our fraternity to be able to share our deepest wounds without being judged. As need be, we may consult a professional for our on-going growth and recovery. Then, the next time we go to the peripheries, we are different. We are more interiorly free and happy missionaries. The sad thing is when we go with our unhealed wounds and unreal selves. We go blind, needy, full of ourselves and we do not even know that. We forget the agenda of Jesus and the Kingdom. How can the blind lead another blind? I am convinced that the best gift of mission we can give to the people of God, especially to the poor is our attentiveness to our on-going transformation as missionary disciples of Jesus.
Brothers, in Cebu, we saw how we all struggled with the desert day and review of life. We need to treat this fact not as a conclusion but as a starting point. The conclusion is quite obvious and we need to be honest about it. It means poor quality of our meetings, our relationships, our ministries and even our prayer. This is our poverty and our lack of attentiveness to the essentials. This is also our path to liberation and wholeness if we want it. We need a firm resolve to commit to a regular and quality time of solitude in the desert where the Divine Therapist could transform us and make us whole. Our review of life is not a mere report of our lives and ministries, no matter how honest we are. Rather, it is a place of encounter with the Spirit who enables us to see our lives as God sees us. Our fraternal sharing is a real place of heart-to-heart meeting. In the regularity of such meeting, we grow together as soul brothers – more trusting, honest, intimate, truthful, less judgmental, pretentious and defensive, more caring and committed to each other’s on-going growth as beloved disciples of Jesus at Nazareth inspired by Bro Charles. This witness of fraternity is for me a good vocation campaign.
Come, O Holy Spirit, Come
Allow me to speak a little about the coming Pentecost feast. The Acts of the Apostles records, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the spirit enabled them to proclaim.“ (Acts 2:1-4)
With due respect to our bible experts, especially Emmanuel Asi, may I invite you to meditate with me this text. It seems that the favourite place of the Holy Spirit is when persons meet as an intentional community of friends, brothers, ((including sisters) believers of the Risen Christ. At its core, a community, different from a crowd, is a firm resolve of every member to ceaselessly work for what unites rather than what divides, mindful that everything is a gift and that there is only One Giver. Though we struggle with differences (mind you, it is always a tough one) but we keep coming and falling into the Source that unite us. Every time we pray, “Come O Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” we are praying what Jesus the High Priest dream of the world, “Father, that all may be one just as you and I are one.“(Jn. 17:21) The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life (as we profess in the creed) infinitely animates, enables, transforms and gathers all of creation so that it becomes one living image of unity in the Trinity just like in the beginning. The whole earth, not just the human world, as Pope Francis fondly calls, becomes our common home where life in all its forms is revered as sacred and a gift. When Paul teaches the community at Philippi “to put all things under Christ,”(2:10) Christ is the universal reference point of everything and not just for Christians. To be men and women of the Spirit, then is to always work for what includes rather than what excludes, for dialogue, for universal fraternity with everything that is.
Jesus’ name for the Spirit is the Advocate. Jesus promised the Advocate who will teach us everything that we need to know. In legal terms, the advocate means a defence attorney. The Spirit is our defence against the spirit of the Evil One operating in our world today, be it in political and economic structures, in interpersonal, familial or communal relationships even in the subcultures within church and religion. It is very cunning and deceptive, always disguised as good and even as license to do evil in the name of God. The text tells us that the coming of the Invisible Spirit takes the visible form of tongues of fire resting on the head of each of the apostles gathered. We pray for that fire to rest on each of us “to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh” and make us more able to discern very well where evil lies from good. May the fire of Truth rekindle our hearts with a passion for Jesus and the Kingdom. The other visible image of the Holy Spirit is a strong wind that fills the entire place of those gathered. We pray for that strong wind to topple down and transform hearts and institutions hardened by indifference, violence, hatred, resentment, exclusion that only fragments God’s creation. May the Spirit who is a strong Wind widen the spaces of every human heart to include the poor, the marginalized and the stranger in the family of God’s beloved children. May our fraternities be schools of the Spirit so that we become passionate yet gentle disciples of Jesus at Nazareth in our violent and fragmented world as inspired by Brother Charles.
Brother Charles, the Universal Brother
Finally, a note on Brother Charles. Early this year, Little Sister Kathleen of Jesus published a book of the same title. It contains the major themes and I love how it is written. Thank you very much, Kathleen. As you already know, Brother Charles – his life, message, intuitions – should occupy a significant space in our on-going formation as diocesan priests. It is what qualifies us. The more we know him, the more we know Jesus, his Beloved. Brother Charles is not just some icon to be venerated. He is a living call, a tangible point person in our deep longing to follow Jesus.
On the call to be universal brother, Little Brother Antoine Chatelard points out, “It’s first about being a brother, before thinking about being universal.” In the life of Brother Charles, the intuition to be a universal brother first happened in October of 1901, as Sr. Kathleen narrates, when Brother Charles settled at Beni Abbes. Through the generosity of his cousin Marie, he was able to buy a piece of land strategically located halfway between the walled local villages and the French garrison. He built, through the help of the French army, a little monastery bounded by lines of big stones. And this is the key. “He himself would rarely go beyond it but anyone could enter. He wished to be a universal brother in a context of conflict involving many opposing parties. “(p.16).
That was a moment of insight! The call to be universal brother is first and foremost the call to be a brother. In Brother Charles, to be brother is to stand in the in-between, (not black or white but gray) in the middle (not the same with being at the center) of many opposing parties. A brother is immersed, rooted, right in the midst of Reality with all its paradoxes, tensions and complex cross-points and he never leaves his stance. If he leaves and moves off the middle, he becomes particular. In embracing one, he excludes the other. He is not some fence-sitter who does not have any concrete stand on any socio-political-economic-cultural or even church issues. On the contrary, he is grounded on what is going on and he stands in the middle of everything. When he opts for the poor and the marginalized, he includes the rich. Precisely, it is only in being at the middle of things that he can embrace all things as universal brother. And it is only then, with this evolving insight that Brother Charles began to call his house not a hermitage (living under a cloistered monastic rule of life) but a fraternity where anybody could come and is welcome. He painted at the ceiling of his fraternity the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose arms are wide open to anyone who comes. His consuming closeness with the Sacred Heart of Jesus leads him to imitate Jesus Caritas, the Universal Brother par excellance of which he is only a humble witness pointing to Jesus.
Brothers, thank you very much for your generous patience in reading along my rather long letter. I continue to hold you, your fraternities and your dioceses in my prayer one country at a time. Please pray for me also your little servant-brother.
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
52nd WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2019
1. “Peace be to this house!”
In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).
Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.The “house” of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.
So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”
2. The challenge of good politics
Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated. It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.
Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.
Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.
3. Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace
Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”. This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.
In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:
Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.
Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.
Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.
Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.
Blessed be the politician who works for unity.
Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.
Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.
Blessed be the politician who is without fear.
Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.
4. Political vices
Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.
5. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others
When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.
Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need. Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.
6. No to war and to the strategy of fear
A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.
Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.
7. A great project of peace
In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.
Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:
– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;
– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;
– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.
The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).
From the Vatican, 8 December 2018
 Cf. Lk 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”.
 Cf. Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu, Paris, 1986.
 Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 46.
 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 7.
 Cf. Address at the “Civitas” Exhibition-Convention in Padua: “30 Giorni”, no. 5, 2002.
 BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Authorities of Benin, Cotonou, 19 November 2011.
 Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), ed. Carlen, 24.
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
PDF:PF 1_1_2019 en