May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.
Next week marks one year since the closing of the 56th General Chapter. We do not forget the reverberations of that beautiful experience of communion and synodality which our Order lived and which has been followed by the chapters of the four Provinces. We do not forget the voices of the friars asking to better and more intensely accompany the laity, and the religious as well, who live concerned with the others but forgetting about themselves. We do not forget the desire of the chapter members that the Order’s structure be light and simple so that we can serve the friars better. We do not forget the desire manifested by all to be more attentive to the needs of society’s least protected and to promote our Arcores Solidarity Network, so that it becomes the heart of the Recollection wherever there is a difficulty, a privation, a cry of pain or an attack against the dignity of persons. In the Chapter, it was also made very clear that we want to continue working so that our houses and ministries are safe places, especially for the least and most vulnerable in society. And of course, we do not forget the words that Pope Francis addressed to us in the audience of 17 March 2022: Let us give our charism, our gift, to those who can carry it forward. Please, let us not mend things that are beyond repair.
What have we been doing in the General Curia during this first year after the Chapter?
1.- Cultivating dreams
In the General Chapter and in the Provincial Chapters we have tried to dream God’s dream. We have asked ourselves: What does God want from us and for us? How does God dream of us? We can affirm that the Life and Mission Project, which was the final fruit of each of the chapters, is God’s dream for the Order and for the Provinces. It behooves us, the governing team, to safeguard and to cultivate those dreams. Cultivating dreams does not mean living in the clouds or engaging in cheap daydreams that remove us from reality. On the contrary, cultivating dreams means looking for ways and giving concrete answers so that those dreams can to fruition. It is up to us to bring them down to earth, to enflesh them in the particular situations lived by the Order in the different cultures and realities, or simply, to cultivate them.
Cultivating means “to help flourish”. That is what we have been doing, trying to make bloom what was given to us a year ago as a seed. And although we are not “expert farmers”, we do know that each plant and each seed require particular care, a particular soil, a particular temperature and a particular season. Each dream, each project of the General Chapter also requires its own care. Above all, those who dedicate themselves to cultivating seeds and dreams know that they have to arm themselves with patience and have to learn to wait, because they depend on certain circumstances and on other people.
St. Joseph was a cultivator of dreams, with his feet firmly on the ground. The figure of St. Joseph invites us to not lose the ability to dream, the ability to open ourselves with confidence for the future, despite the difficulties that may arise. Do not lose the ability to dream for the future (…) And you, priests, dream about our faithful, what we want for them. Dream as young people do, who are “brazen” in dreaming, and there they find a way. Do not lose the ability to dream, because to dream is to open the doors to the future1.
Our projects will be worthwhile to the extent that they reflect God’s light, our dreams will be worth dreaming and sharing to the extent that they lead us to fulfill God’s dream.
2.- Listening to the beats of the heart
The first thing that God asks of people is that they listen to him: Listen Israel (Dt 6: 4-9), and the first service that we can render our fellow men and women is to listen to them, because to listen is to realize that the other exists, to confirm them in their own existence. I listen to you because I care about you, because your story and your life are of interest to me. Whoever does not know how to listen will end up losing the ability to speak or will speak without touching the heart of the other. God is the great listener and only he who is able to listen with the heart of God will be able to speak with the mouth of God.
This first year of the six-year term has been a year of listening. We listened to the previous governing team; that was the first thing we did: we sat down with them, compared notes, listened to them. We listened to each other, the members of the Council, without prejudice, freely and trustingly. We will listen to the Priors Provincial; we are already preparing our first meeting with them for April 17-21. We listen to the members of the Order’s other organs of government. We listen to our lay collaborators, who help us carry out our evangelizing mission. We listen to the Church through Pope Francis and our pastors. We listen to those who do not think as we do or even despise us, because even in their words we can find seeds of truth. In sum, we listen to all those who can help us understand things better, who can help us discern and discover new paths.
We can frame all the meetings that are being held by the different organisms of the Order within this process of listening.
We are organizing the RAY Synod and the Augustinian Recollect World Youth Day for the second half of July in Salamanca (Spain). We want to listen to the young and together seek ways of revitalization.
We are listening to the Secular Fraternities, who have been holding numerous online meetings to know each other better. We are listening to understand them and international meeting for November this year in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
We are also listening to the heartbeats and voices coming from our educational centers. Recently, the coordinating team of the Educar Network met in Panama; they will hold their 7th Educar Assembly also this November, in Guatemala.
We are listening to the formators and vocation promoters. Preparations are underway for the month of preparation for solemn profession and the meeting of vocation promoters for this November in Maringá (Brazil).
We heard the voices and cries of the most disadvantaged, of the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey; immediately ARCORES, with its heart wide open and the solicitude of a father, got down to work to address all needs as far as possible. In April there will be a meeting of the Board of Directors to prepare for the General Assembly in Madrid in June.
The General Secretariat of Charism, Spirituality and Ongoing Formation met in Madrid on January 25-30, in search of new ways to help us live our consecrated life in a mature, conscious and joyful way. They are preparing for the launching of the elearning platform, which will be a milestone in the life of the Order, as far as ongoing formation is concerned. Under said secretariat, the Ministerium Sapientiae, which is in charge of organizing monthly recollections, Augustinian retreats, prayer workshops, etc., has also scheduled its meetings for the month of May in Rome.
Likewise, the other organs of the Order are also listening. The Commission on Economy, the members of the Secretariat of Parish and Missionary Apostolate, the Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, the Commission on Communications and Online Evangelization, etc. have all met online.
St. Joseph is a “custodian” because he knew how to listen to God and allowed himself to be guided by his will; precisely for this reason, he became even more sensitive to the people entrusted to his care, was able to read events realistically, was attentive to his surroundings, and knew how to make the most sensible decisions2.
3.- Praying to discern
Someone once said: How my thoughts change when I bring them to prayer. How true these words are and how well they reflect the heart of man! We are moved by impulses, feelings, emotions, obsessions … but when we give ourselves the chance to bring all those impulses and feelings to prayer and place them in the presence of God, they are transformed, and our way of seeing things and of thinking shifts, resulting in a change of attitudes and decisions as well. That is what we at the General Curia and each member of the governing team try to do every day: to place before the Lord our projects, ideas, plans, programs and dreams. When, before God, we reflect on what arises within us at a given moment due to impulse, enthusiasm or an urgent need, in God’s light and under the action of His Spirit, we see things differently and we end up rethinking and changing our plans to give way to God’s plans, which, doubtlessly, will always be infinitely better.
In addition, all the initiatives and projects of everyone in charge of the different areas of the Order’s activity are counterchecked with the other members of the General Council, which allows us to further fine-tune our discernment in the decision-making process.
Pope Francis says that St. Joseph “did not seek explanations for the surprising and mysterious reality he faced, but accepted it in faith, loving it as it was”. He explained that the patron of the Universal Church is a teacher of spiritual life and discernment, and thus, he can be invoked to “unshackle us from too much reflection that sometimes gets us lost, in spite of our best intentions”3.
St. Joseph, help us to continue to cultivate in ourselves the dreams that God has for our Order and to know how to make them flourish. Teach us to listen to the heartbeat of each and every friar who comes to us and above all to the heartbeat of God. And finally, grant us discernment, give us the gaze of clarity and wisdom that you possessed so that we may journey ever wakeful, guided by the light of the Spirit and so that we may arrive at the right decisions for our Order.
May the Lord bless us with his peace.
Rome, 17 March 2023.
Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Joseph.
Miguel Ángel Hernández Domínguez OAR
Pope Francis. Catechesis 9 on St. Joseph, January 26, 2022.
Pope Francis. Homily at the beginning of his Pontificate, January 19, 2013.
Pope Francis. Homily of March 19, 2021.