The XXVI General Chapter of the Redemptorists recently concluded its deliberations on October 7, 2022 after it convened on September 11 in Rome. Three statements were given during and after the Chapter which should make us Filipino Redemptorists reflect on where we are today and the challenges we face in the future which we should face squarely during our incoming Provincial Chapters.
First was that of Pope Francis. On the first of October, Pope Francis addressed the delegates and he offered to them these words of inspiration and exhortation:
“Do not be afraid to tread new paths, to dialogue with the world, in the light of your rich tradition of moral theology. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty in the service of those most in need and of the people who do not count…
In your Constitutions there is a very fine expression, where it says that the Redemptorists are available to face any trial to bring Christ’s redemption to all. Availability. Let us not take this word for granted! It means giving oneself entirely to the mission, with all one’s heart, dies impendere pro redemptis, unto the final consequences, with a gaze fixed on Jesus.
The Church and consecrated life are living a unique historical moment, in which they have the possibility of renewing themselves to respond with creative fidelity to the mission of Christ. This renewal passes through a process of conversion of the heart and mind, of intense metanoia, and also through a change of structures. At times we need to break the old pots, inherited from our traditions, which have carried a great deal of water but have now fulfilled their purpose. And breaking our pots, full of affections, of cultural customs, of histories, is not an easy task; it is painful, but it is necessary if we want to drink the new water that comes from the wellspring of the Holy Spirit, the source of all renewal.”
After reading his statement, he had an impromptu address in which he said:
“I was struck by a phrase your group said: ‘Leave your comfort zones and go out on the mission.’ I wonder, what are the comfort zones that a congregation has, that a province has, that a community has and that each one of us has? Ask yourselves that question, because it was said that each person accommodates the vows as he pleases. And so, you can practice poverty with a bank account, you can practice chastity with a companion, and you can practice obedience by talking and deciding what you want. These are very distorted forms. But the one that always produces a distortion in the three vows is comfort. That is where the evil comes in, in trying to be comfortable, to be at ease, to live a bourgeois life, without going out, and going out on the mission…Each one of us must analyze our own temptation to be comfortable. We all have that temptation; we all face that temptation.”
From such statements, clearly Pope Francis is exhorting all of us to reflect on where we are today in terms of our mission and lifestyle and to be engaged missionaries truly immersed among “those in need and the people who do not count.”
Second was the statement of Fr. Rogerio Gomez CSsR, our new Superior General who sent this to the Union of Redemptorists of Brazil on October 12. While this statement is meant for his confreres in Brazil, it might as well be addressed to all of us Redemptorists, for in the document, he highlights the complex and challenging times in which we live and asks for courage from all of us:
“We are experiencing a phenomenon to which we must be very attentive: the erosion of democracy, the use of religion to manipulate reality and to impose fear and exclusion on the poor. This reality should make us think. We must be wise as children of light,’ says one of the excerpts from the letter.
The spread of fake news can be related to the sin against the eighth commandment: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness!’ It is an enormous disservice to the truth.”
“How can we believe in the true God and defend weapons, persecute traditional religions, destroy Mother Nature, and not invest in public health, education, science and social policies for the benefit of the poorest and the country’s development? How can we believe in the motto ‘the truth that sets us free’ (Jn 8:32)? However, we live with the flood of lies that deceive people and create reality.
How is it possible to speak out against abortion yet advocate the death of blacks, indigenous people, homosexuals, and women, the death penalty, cover up domestic violence, reaffirm machismo, promote prejudice against northerners and minorities, and cause social mistreatment? The teaching of the Church is evident in affirming ‘the inviolability and dignity of life from conception to natural death (JPII Evangelium vitae, 2)’.”
Third is the recent letter of Fr. Gomez to all Redemptorists around the world, issued on the Feast of St. Gerard last October 16 addressed to everyone in the congregation from superiors to Council members, Secretariats to Formation Teams, professed and lay missionaries and even the formandi. In this letter he affirms the important role of the Brothers in the congregation, but is in crisis owing to lack of promotion and attention and calling on everyone to find creative ways to recruit and form Brothers to reverse the present reality of their dwindling numbers.
All these are framed within the call for the coming sexennium, namely that we all strive to be missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. There are many reasons why sometimes we feel discouraged owing to the sad global realities (the impact of climate change, the repercussions of the pandemic, wars and conflicts, consumerism, secularism, individualism, etc.), the national situation (return of dictatorship, unchecked corruption, patronage politics, inflation, rising prices, etc.) and even dynamics within our own congregation.
We pray that the Provincial Chapters that will be unfolding in our two units would lead us to the path earlier taken by St. Alphonsus, St. Clement, St. Gerard and all our confreres who through the years since we were founded followed in the Redeemer’s footsteps!