WITH THE CHURCH, A HOME AND A SCHOOL OF COMMUNION
Fr. Paolo Archiati, OMI, Vicar General
In our journey of reflection on community, the theme we have chosen for the first year of our Oblate Triennium, today I would like to invite you to reflect on two Church documents of the past 20 years. This will allow us to broaden our view beyond the confines of the Oblate world and to tune into the Church’s wavelength, in which and for which we exercise our ministry.
The first document is “Fraternal Life in Community”, by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It is a document from 1994 that is worth reading again during this, our first year of reflection on Oblate community. In particular I would like to invite you to read numbers 39-42 of this document, possibly as preparation for a community meeting in which it would be timely not only to share but also to focus on some essential elements of the life of the community and its apostolic activity.
I would like to focus in particular on an expression that we find in number 39, where it speaks of a “just balance” between two positive aspects of community life: respect for the person and for the common good, the demands and needs of the individual and those of the community, personal charisms and the community’s apostolate. This balance, often risky and difficult to achieve as well as to maintain, “should be far from both the disintegrating forces of individualism and the levelling aspects of communitarianism.” These are expressions from the document, which goes on to define the religious community as “the place where the daily and patient passage from ‘me’ to ‘us’ takes place, from my commitment to a commitment entrusted to the community, from seeking ‘my things’ to seeking ‘the things of Christ’.”
There is certainly material here for serious reflection and discussion in community. What is highlighted in this paragraph affects not only the lives of individuals, but also their mutual relationships and the apostolic project, the ministry and the service assigned to the community.
The second document that I would like to propose for reflection and community discussion is the Apostolic Letter of John Paul II “At the beginning of the new millennium”, 2001. It would be interesting to make the document the object of reflection and discussion, especially with regard to the theme of community, numbers 43-45. This Apostolic Letter is obviously addressed to all Christendom, but there are passages that resonate and represent a major challenge for consecrated life. Here is what John Paul II proposed at the moment when the Church was preparing to cross the threshold of a new millennium: “To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings.” (43). Faithfulness to God’s plan and responding to the world’s deepest yearnings: are these not also, perhaps, aspects that characterize us as Oblates of Mary Immaculate?
In the words that follow, the pope develops this point, trying to explain what that which he just stated means in practice and stressing the need to promote a spirituality of communion as the foundation, not only of community life but also of all the relationships that we called to establish among ourselves and with others.
This text made ??me think of an idea that surfaced in the Chapter of 1992 and ended up in its document “Witnessing as apostolic community.” I remember that during that Chapter, they sensed the importance of making, within the Oblate family, a shift similar to that made ??on the international level in the fairly recent past: from dependence to independence, from independence to interdependence. The idea of interdependence had been accepted very positively and with a certain euphoria. But in fact, this word is almost always accompanied, in the Chapter document, by the word “communion.” Personally, I was convinced, and still am, that the end point of this journey is precisely communion. Interdependence, while helpful, always implies dependence: mutual indeed, but still dependence. The reality of communion, however, surpasses any form of dependence because it is based on the concept of a gift.
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