A spirituality of encounter to live synodality in the Church

“Practicing the spirituality of encounter: this is essential for living synodality in the Church”. This is what the Pope declared to the members of the Primatial Council of the Confederation of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine received in audience on Friday morning January 13 in the Private Library. We publish below the speech of the Sovereign Pontiff:

Dear brothers, hello and welcome!

I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the meeting of the Primatial Council. I greet you, Father Abbot Primate, and I thank you for your words, as well as you, Superiors General and the Father Secretary.

Your Confederation was established in 1959 by Saint John xxiii . This structure, even if it is not of a juridical type, is important for fostering communion between the congregations which compose it and which share the same charism. Indeed, the main objectives of the Confederation are to unite the different branches of your Order in a bond of charity, to enhance the evangelical significance of your charism and to help each other, especially with regard to the spiritual dimension, the formation young people, permanent training and the promotion of culture.

Even if each Congregation enjoys its autonomy, this does not prevent the confederal statutes from providing competences which favor a balance between this autonomy and an appropriate coordination which avoids, in any case, independence and isolation. Isolation is dangerous. We must be very careful to preserve ourselves from the disease of self-referentiality and to keep communion between the different congregations as a true treasure. You are well aware that you are all in the same boat and that “no one builds the future by isolating himself or only by his own strength, but by recognizing himself in the truth of a communion which is always open to encounter, dialogue, listening and reciprocal help” (Letter to all consecrated persons on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated LifeNovember 21, 2014, ii , 3). Practicing the spirituality of encounter: this is essential for living synodality in the Church.

Like any other form of consecrated life, yours must also adapt to the circumstances of the times, of the different places where you are present and of the cultures, always in the light of the Gospel and its charism. Consecrated life is like water, if it does not flow it rots, loses meaning, it is like salt which loses its flavor, becomes useless (cf. Mt 5:13). The good memory is fruitful, it is the “deuteronomic” memory of the roots, of the origins. We must not content ourselves with an archaeological memory, because this transforms us into museum pieces, perhaps worthy of admiration but not of imitation; on the contrary, the deuteronomic memory helps us to live fully and fearlessly the present to open ourselves to the future with renewed hope. You too — as Saint John Paul wrote ii — “have a glorious history to preserve and tell”, but above all you have “a great history to build!” Look to the future, into which the Spirit is projecting you to do great things with you” (Exhortation ap. Vita consecrata, March 25, 1996, no. 110).

The fundamental rule of religious life is the following of Christ proposed by the Gospel. Take up the Gospel as the rule of life, until you can say with Saint Paul: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Let the Gospel be your vade-mecum, so that, avoiding the temptation to reduce it to ideology, it always remains for you spirit and life. The Gospel continually calls us back to place Christ at the center of our life and mission. It brings us back to “first love”. And loving Christ means loving the Church, his body. Consecrated life is born in the Church, grows with the Church and bears fruit as the Church. It is in the Church, as Saint Augustine teaches us, that we discover the total Christ.

God made us for Him and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him (cf. Saint Augustine, confessions, 1, 1). Therefore, as Canons Regular, your main occupation is the constant and daily search for the Lord. Look for it in community life, a reflection of the being of God and of his delivery and testimony that “God is love” (1 Jn 4,8.16). That the koinonia make you feel all builders, weavers of fraternity. Seek the Lord in the assiduous reading of Sacred Scripture, in whose pages Christ and the Church resonate (cf. Saint Augustine, Disc. 46, 33). To seek the Lord in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, the culmination of Christian life, which signifies and realizes the unity of the Church in the harmony of charity (Conc. Vat. ii , Const. dogm. Dei Verbum, not. 25). Seek it in study and in ordinary pastoral care. Seek it also in the realities of our time, knowing that nothing human can be foreign to us and that, free from all worldliness, we can animate the world with the leaven of the Kingdom of God. These are the different paths of a unique search, which presupposes the path of interiority, knowledge and love of the Lord, in the school of Saint Augustine: “Do not leave yourself, enter constantly in you; truth dwells in the inner man” (cf. From Vera Religion, no. 39, 72; confessions, 3, 6, 11). In this way, the light of the Master within illuminates temporal realities for us.

Dear brothers, this time of encounter between yourselves and with the Successor of Peter helps you to revisit your charism and to strengthen the communion of life on the example of the primitive apostolic community (cf. Acts 2,42-47). And this communion is also the anticipation of full and definitive union in God and the way to it.

I thank you for your presence and for your testimony in the Church. May Our Lady keep you and intercede for you. I wholeheartedly bless you and your communities. And I ask you to pray for me.

A spirituality of encounter to live synodality in the Church – L’Osservatore Romano