Today, October 20, the Augustinian Recollect chapter friars were received by the Holy Father, Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican, at 11 o’clock in the morning, on occasion of the 55th General Chapter of the Order being held in Rome.
The encounter with the Holy Father commenced with some words from Miguel Miro, Prior General of the OAR, wherein he recalled that “during the past six years we have petitioned the Lord that he shower his Spirit upon us to discern what the Lord asks of us and what the Church expects from us,” referring to the objective put forward in the preceding General Chapter to revitalize and restructure the Order. For this purpose, the OAR Prior General also recalled the necessity to “advance in the process of conversion: personal, communitarian and pastoral.” The Prior General also indicated the accompanying difficulty which this change brings if no change is produced in each and every one of the friars of the Order. He also showed to Pope Francis, in the name of all the brothers of the Order, that “his pontificate is providential. It is shaking us from our routines and comfortable pastoral attitude ‘that it has always been done this way’; it has exposed our ambiguities, our fears, and has cracked our securities that come from a long way in the past.”
After these words, the Pope directed these words to the OAR friars present: Be men of hope, with horizons, capable of putting all our trust in the mercy of God, conscious that we are incapable of confronting only with our own strength the challenges that the Lord puts before us.”
He further encouraged them to “maintain with renewed spirit the dream of St. Augustine, of living as brothers “with one heart and one soul” (Rule 1,2), which reflects the ideal of the first Christians, and be the living prophecy of communion in this world of ours, that there be no more division, no conflicts nor exclusion, but that concord should reign and dialogue be promoted.”
Two OAR gifts for Pope Francis: painting and the history of the Order.
A painting entitled “The Embrace of Mercy” made by a Filipino Augustinian Recollect, Fray Jaazael Jakosalem, was presented to the Pope. Moreover, he was also gifted with a special edition of the two volumes of History of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, elaborated by Fr. Angel Martinez Cuesta.
The painting of Fray Jaazael Jakosalem presents Pope Francis embracing a child Jesus inspired by Alayn Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy who died being drowned while attempting to cross the Red Sea. It is a symbol of God’s nearness to the littlest, to those who suffer the consequences of a world dehumanized, to those who were obliged to abandon their homes without hope for the future. This embrace of mercy of the Pope for this child represents that Mother Church who must look at this reality, that she must not turn her head to the other side, that she must attend, at first hand, to the needs of the world.
The two volumes of the History of the Augustinian Recollects are the culmination of a project started years before which was entrusted to Fr. Angel Martinez Cuesta to finalize. In the prologue to Vol. II, the Father General of the Order, Fr. Miguel Miro, emphasizes that “from now on, the two volumes of this History of the Augustinian Recollects, are not only books of the library. In them our history is narrated and are a reference for all those who want to know our roots and our mission in the Church.” This gesture of submitting our History to Pope Francis wants to be a renovation of commitment of the Order to the mission which the Church entrusts to the Augustinian Recollects, and to demonstrate our availability to go where the Church needs us.