“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is. 9:1)
“Christ is the Rule of our life.” (Rule of Life, 7)
Along with the General Council I feel honored to send all of you, and each one individually, greetings for a Happy and Holy Christmas. May the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ be for all of us overflowing with deep joy and deep-seated enthusiasm in living with authentic witness our religious life in community and in pastoral service to the Church and the Congregation.
My greetings go especially to our dear and numerous young people in formation (aspirants, novices, seminarians) and to our sick and elderly members and to those going through times of particular difficulty and personal hardship.
I extend the same greetings with pleasure to our dear La Salette Laity who, with admirable dedication and profound missionary spirit, accompany us and enter into solidarity with us in proclaiming the Good News in the various environments in which we work, in the light of the message of hope and of reconciliation of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette.
This year Christmas assumes a special significance for us religious, falling as it does close to the opening of the year dedicated to Consecrated Life.
I remind us all that João Cardinal Braz de Aviz, Prefect of CICLSAL, on January 31, 2014, indicated the main focuses of this remarkable celebration: to call to mind with gratitude the recent past, to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope. These few words summarize the entire direction of the journey which religious are called to undertake this year to the point of “renewing” and reviving the deep motivations for their consecration and the commitment of their life and witness in the Church.
This call is valid even for us and should not leave us indifferent.
If Christmas celebrates God’s breaking in to human history in order to illuminate, give direction to and save our life on earth, even more so does it challenge us as religious both on the personal and communal levels.
Yes, we too need to have our lives illuminated, given direction and saved.
A question arises spontaneously: what impact has the birth of Jesus had in the past and continue to have today in my life as a man and a religious? How has it influenced or changed my way of being, of thinking, and of looking at myself, at things in general, at God and others?
Have we too, like the Hebrew people, had the experience of passing from a situation of darkness to a situation of light? These two elements, in fact, are constant parts of our daily experience as consecrated persons.
The Year of Consecrated Life, having already begun, presents itself as a graced opportunity and a true gift that the Church offers us so we might put into focus the objectives and values that are at the foundation of our religious consecration and which perhaps over time may have weakened: a passionate and unconditional love for the person of Jesus, particular attention to his Word and a dedication without reserve to his mission of salvation. All this we find recapitulated and expressed in an indelible way in Number 7 of our Rule of Life which affirms: “Christ is the Rule of our life”.
The Year of Consecrated Life, furthermore, offers us the opportunity for reconsidering the way in which we have welcomed and then implemented the mission entrusted to our Congregation by the Church.
Beyond the objectives mentioned above, in the “Letter to Religious” the Pope lists some expectations for the Year of Consecrated Life and invites everyone to make these their own:
1. ‘’That the old saying will always be true: ‘Where there are religious, there is joy.’ We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.”
2.“I am counting on you ‘to wake up the world,’ since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General, ‘Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. This is the priority that is needed right now: to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth’… A religious should never abandon prophecy” (29 November 2013).
3.“Men and women religious, like all other consecrated persons, have been called to be ‘experts in communion.’ So I am hoping that the ‘spirituality of communion,’ so emphasized by Saint John Paul II, will become a reality and that you will be in the forefront of responding to ‘the great challenge facing us’ in this new millennium: ‘to make the Church the home and the school of communion’” (and we La Salettes should add, ‘and of reconciliation’). “I am sure that in this Year you will make every effort to make the ideal of fraternity pursued by your founders and foundresses expand everywhere, like concentric circles.”
4.“I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries.”
5.“I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.”
As the Pope tells us, let us strive to translate into concrete gestures and into ways of living, in community life and in ministry, the scent, the joy and the beauty of our religious consecration so that these might emanate from us to all those around.
Therefore I warmly invite the Provincial Superiors and the local superiors, to do their best to urge our religious communities during this year to reflect on our life, on all levels – human, spiritual, charismatic and pastoral – in the light of these expectations of the Church, of today’s world, and of our Rule of Life.
News from the General House (Rome)
+ From October 20 – 25 Father Adilson participated in the annual Assembly of the Province of Mary Mother of the Americas, which was held in Orlando, Florida.
+ November 8 – 24 Fathers Adilson and Joe went to the Philippines for the provincial Chapter of elections and then continued on to Myanmar for the canonical visit with the La Salette community present in that country.
+ Father Efren, for reasons of health, left for the Philippines November 17 and will return to Rome January 1, 2015. Father Alex, for his part, is spending three weeks of well-earned vacation with his family in India. He will return December 16.
+ From 17 to 19 November Father Henryk directed and hosted the meeting of KEP (Commission of greater provincial of Europe), which was held in the House of Zakopane (Poland).
+ November 26 – 28 Father Silvano participated in the semi-annual meeting of the Union of Superiors General which had as its theme: “Toward new relationships for a culture of encounter.” Two themes in particular were treated: the first relating to the Synod on the family (3 delegates from the Union participated) and the second concerning the document “Mutuae Relationes,” which the Pope has asked be rewritten and updated.
+ On December 2, Father Adilson, Vicar General, celebrated very simply with the religious community of the General House, the Sisters of the Presentation (our priceless collaborators) and a group of the young student priests here, a Eucharist of thanksgiving on the occasion of his (25th) priestly Jubilee. Father Silvano thanked Father Adilson in the name of the entire Congregation for what he has done so far as a priest and religious for the cause of the Kingdom of God as well as for his greatly-appreciated presence on the General Council.
+ On December 3 we had the joy of welcoming Father Edmund Jan Michalski, Superior General of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, along with his Council for a warm and fraternal encounter. Our “cousins” shared Midday Prayer with the community and then joined us for a lunch prepared for the occasion by our Sisters. The next encounter between the two General Councils will take place at the home of our “cousins.”
+ December 8 – 11 there was a meeting at the General House of an “ad hoc” committee, consisting of Fathers Silvano, Adilson, Joe and Jacek (Pawlowski), with the purpose of analyzing, examining and studying the many responses received from the questionnaire on Formation sent throughout the Congregation. From the material returned to us we will be able to derive the themes for formation which are important for our Congregation.
My hope and that of the General Council form into a prayer that each of you be able to celebrate with sacredness the memory of the birth of the Lord, and welcome and live with joyful enthusiasm the gift of the Year of Consecrated Life.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Reconciliation, help us to walk earnestly and with renewed commitment along the road of spiritual and charismatic renewal - personal and communal - to form us into “a religious community which may be ever more a sign of the Kingdom” (Rule of Life, 3) in the Church and in the world in which we live.
Fraternally yours, Silvano Marisa