Lenten letter 2021 to the brothers around the world. Eric LOZADA

But now, declares Yahweh, come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Tear your hearts and not your clothes, and come back to Yahweh, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and he relents about inflicting disaster. (Joel 2:12-13)

All of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. By our baptism into his death, we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life… [ ] our former self was crucified with him… [ ] and now the life that he lives is life with God. In the same way, you must see yourselves as being dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. (Romans: 6: 3-11)

Greetings to all of you, my dearest brothers!

As I am writing to you, I am holding you and the complex realities that each of you are facing because of this global crisis. It seems that the pandemic is revealing to us our strengths and our weaknesses, in personal, national and global relations, in the economic, political and religious spheres. The pandemic is a time of great unveiling, as Fr Richard Rohr puts it and as Pope Francis seems to imply as he engages in a systemic deconstruction of our global structures in Fratelli Tutti. I wish not to add to their magnificent work. Rather, I intend to situate our celebration of Lent with what the pandemic reveals and teaches our world. I would like to visualize the celebration of Lent as a downward spiral journey, the deeper we go, the more we expose what is hidden in human hearts and in the subcultures of our world that hold us hostage in the dungeon of sin, fear, indifference, violence. If we all take this journey together with honesty and firm resolve, we reach rock bottom from which all the lies of sin, the delusions and distortions of this world originate. This is our entombment with Christ, as St Paul says, where our old selves are buried with Christ so that the Father could give birth to a new life in us in Christ. It is my hope that at the end of our 40-day Lenten journey through Easter, like the apostles after the resurrection, we all walk with renewed joy and courage crying out the message of God’s love and delight for our world.

Our journey starts with what the Prophet Joel proposes, “Come back,” “turn to God with all of your heart.” We start the journey with a question: Whose am I? To whom does the world turn? If we take a long, loving look at the world and ourselves, it seems that the world, we, have many false gods (manifest or hidden) that we worship, attend to, give all our time and energy. Our addictive society seems to have deep-seated forms of idolatry, supplanting the true God of our deepest longing with the false gods of superficial living. That is why, the Prophet recommends fasting, weeping and mourning. We need to fast from what we feed our minds and hearts every day that are toxic and not coming from the Gospel values. We need to weep over the violence, injustice, indifference, greed of this world because, in very subtle ways, we have been operating under their spell. We mourn over the mistakes of the past and learn not to repeat them. St Paul calls this a baptism into Christ which is also a baptism into his death. Our baptism is our initiation and our communion in the Paschal Mystery. What is it that we are willing to die to for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel? We need to name our dying. And in the passivity of our dying into Christ, the Father’s redemptive work in us and in our world restores us to original life of grace. When we consciously die to the old self, the self which is enslaved by sin, we become free and empty of ourselves yet living fully and authentically in the new life of Christ and in Christ.

And so, dear brothers, may we all commit to this journey from slavery to freedom, from fear to trust, from darkness to light, from sin to grace. May this journey be our humble yet sincere gift to the people entrusted to us and to our anxious, fragmented and violent world. Allow me to express also my deep appreciation for your humble witness of the Gospel and zealous care for the poor in your own places of assignment, especially at this time of the pandemic. My gratitude to our brothers who wrote the five texts and the translators of those texts. They were meant to prepare us spiritually for the canonization of Brother Charles. May I invite those who have not read and reflected on those texts to access them at our website: www.iesuscaritas.org. And for those who have, continue to go back to these texts.

Complementing our Lenten journey, I thought of introducing the process of re-grounding. In my correspondences with Cardinal Stella of the Congregation for the Clergy, he has been asking me important questions about how are we in terms of our fidelity to the charism of Brother Charles and how are we growing in mission as diocesan priests inspired by his spirituality. From these conversations, the whole idea of coming up with a global survey is born. Instead of responding to these questions alone, I thought of us together in an adventure of finding and reclaiming our precious gems which may be hidden from us but which continue to inspire us. I am proposing a process in two phases.

The first phase will be more on facts. Here, I am making an appeal to the local, national and continental brother- responsibles to do the major work. You, brother local responsibles shall provide us with facts from your local fraternity as to how many are the regular members and other important information. When the survey form arrives, please read it carefully. Be mindful that the facts that you are providing our global fraternity are true. A note on regular members. They are brothers who have been regularly attending your monthly meeting for at least a year or have been regularly connecting digitally to you or to any of the brothers from your local fraternity. If the brother is in a remote assignment but he regularly connects, he could still be a regular member. Brothers who are interested of our spirituality but could not commit to regular attendance at meetings or regular correspondences, they are called “sympathizers.” The key is commitment. Survey form will be coming from your national/country responsible. There is a time frame of two weeks for you to fill up the form and return it to your country responsible. I sincerely thank you for your generosity.

The second phase will be some months or a year later. The process will be more of a communal review of our lives as to how are we growing in terms of our fidelity to the charism of Brother Charles and how are we growing in our missionary zeal as diocesan priests inspired by Brother Charles.

Thank you very much, dear brothers. Please know that I continue to hold your continent and your country in my prayer. Kindly hold me also in your prayer. I need that.

With fraternal delight,

Eric LOZADA, international responsible

Dumaguete, Philippines, February 2021

PDF: Lenten Letter 2021 of Eric, eng

All is grace. The last letter of Antoine CHATELARD

All is grace! We are welcomed to CHRISTMAS and the New Year at the same time as Covid 19. Édouard and Paul-François tested positive, Immanuel and I negative, last Monday night after the visit of a niece of Edouard’s who came from Paris for 16 and 17 December. That’s the reason why we are organising ourselves for a new situation without knowing what the day holds.

Thank you for your news and your best wishes. Almost all arrived after a long silence that is explained by the events of this special year, which has challenged usual habits and relationships. It is also a new way to share our story over years that have left traces with the celebrations of historical characters, who had not marked my story as I was far from France and without the possibilities of information that we have now.

To those who may have questions about my activities and my new book, I must tell them that, for obvious commercial reasons, it will not be published until the date of canonization is announced. It has been at the publishers for more than a year and will only speak about Charles de Foucauld in Tamanrasset, beginning with the story at the Asekrem, where he was only a few months in 1911, and which still poses questions about his true motivations. It will be followed by a chapter on his activities the following year (1912) in Tamanrasset typical of his conception of world affairs. Chapter 3 will be limited to his only pre-planned travels with a young Tuareg in Marseille in 1913, never before mentioned, not even in the most recent books. Finally, the last chapter, on January 12, 1913 in Tamanrasset will allow us to see him live out his various actions as we try to follow his revised and amended timetable.

This will be just an introduction to other topics that merit clarification and which can still reveal to us a form of holiness that is not always clear. I have just learned that Pope Francis, was not content to conclude his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, speaking about Charles, but has just offered a biography of this future saint to the members of the Roman Curia, without citing what book this is from. Concluding “Fratelli tutti” by mentioning our brother Charles, has encouraged me to continue my work to show in greater detail what his fraternal life was like with the men and women he loved, not only for a time, for a single day, but every day, during the last years of his life. Hundreds of people came to what he called “communion” when he was still dreaming of gathering disciples, but where he was always alone.

In the early years he only wrote down the names of the recipients of his alms and small gifts, on loose sheets that are not found in the edition of his notebooks. It is important because it lets us know that he knew hundreds of people, from the early years. On the other hand, during his last three years, he wrote down their names every day and we can tell that several came hundreds of times. These figures are important to understand the importance of these visits he received, and the subsequent contacts they had among themselves.

The one who in the early years did not go out further than a hundred meters, no longer hesitates to go miles to those who are sick, to visit his new house or see his garden, while busy with his linguistic work, his times of prayer and a very copious correspondence. I wish to show that he no longer does anything for their conversion, even if he often speaks about it, but he feels the duty of working for their salvation as his own, loving them as they are and as Jesus loves them. So, he expresses his concern for the salvation of all in the daily lists of his notebooks, in his rare personal writings or in his abundant letters.

So, I am learning to rely on these people, surprised to discover that many were still alive when I arrived in Tamanrasset and the Asekrem in 1955 and even much later.
Charles still has certainly something to say to our Church and to the world, even if it is not new. The official and universal recognition of his holiness will be a good support for all those who refer to him throughout the world, and especially among bishops, priests and lay people, religious both men and women who were inspired by him and who have died, after having played their part in the world. Especially, it will be a challenge to young people, those not interested in this testimony of another century.

Thanks to Pope Francis, who could have ended up quoting Francis of Assisi again, and who has spoken to us of Charles, as if granting him an important role for the future of the Church and of the world after the universal pandemic, which is delaying his canonization. We have never spoken as much about our Blessed Charles as recently with the death on his feast day of Bishop Teissier. Algeria’s ambassador to France spoke in prophetic language, describing him as a saint and above all as a compatriot. The Canonization will not contribute much to these ceremonies in Lyon and at Notre Dame of Africa. Many would have seen the magazine “En Dialogue” No. 14, about Charles of Foucauld and the Muslims, published just before these events.

I must admit that aging does not improve my chances of mobility, even indoors and despite outdoor physiotherapy sessions. The daily questions take up more time than my work about de Foucauld, and the too distant prospect of seeing my book come out does not encourage me to work, despite questions coming from all over, including Tamanrasset and other parts of Algeria, which oblige me to answer about small things that keep me in touch with his history.

A happy Christmas and a better 2021 to all.
Antoine

PDF: All is grace. The last letter of Antoine CHATELARD

2020 Pentecostal Letter, Eric LOZADA

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)

Beloved brothers,
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.

Your brother and servant responsible,

Eric LOZADA
Philippines, 31 May 2020

PDF: Pentecostal Letter from the general responsible to the brothers, Eric LOZADA, Pentec.2020, eng

Easter letter 2020 to the brothers around the world. Eric LOZADA

Philippines, 12 April 2020

I am risen, and I am with you still, Alleluia. (cf. Ps 139:18)

Beloved brothers,

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.

My humble prayer for each one of you. Please also pray for me.

Eric LOZADA

PDF: Easter Letter 2020, Eric LOZADA, brother responsible, eng

Letter of Eric. Our brother Mariano PUGA

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).

Beloved Brothers,

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,
Eric LOZADA

PDF: Letter of Eric. Our brother Mariano PUGA, engl

Letter of Christmas of the general responsible, 1 January 2020

“A child is born for us, and a Son is given to us…” (Isaiah 9:5)

Beloved brothers,

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,
Eric Lozada

PDF: Letter of Christmas of the general responsible, 1 January 2020

LETTER FROM DUMAGUETE 2019

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!