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The Brothers François, Basilio Rueda and Alfano

21/01/2011: General House

If we are attentive to the models of sanctity of our Marist Family, January offers a unique coincidence of dates:the 21st of January we recall the life and death (1996) of Brother Basilio Rueda,the 22nd of January, the life and death (1881) of Brother François,and the same date, 22 January, the signing of the decree of heroicity of the virtues of Brother Alfano (1991). These three Brothers, who have had their causes as confessors opened, come together on these days, and the dates have been preceded by that of the foundation of our Family on the 2nd of January. On one hand, the source, and on the other, three Brothers who have received the Marist charism and brought it to shine in holiness.The three, Basilio, François, Alfano are very different, and each has developed a facet of the great portrait of the Brother: living on the frontiers of the Church and at the heart of the Church, living with men and with God; working to make Christ known to youth and to root Christ deeply in the soul of apostles.Focusing our regard on our various models of holiness, our confessors: François, Alfano, Basilio, and our martyrs of Oceania, China, Spain, Africa, we can ask what portrait of a Brother do they paint. From the lives and activities of thousands of Brothers throughout the world, what great mosaic can be found which may be like the portrait of the Brother? The answer seems to be suggested by a picture of our Founder, a picture which was made on the occasion of the canonisation or just before: it was made up of thousands of faces, the faces of Brothers, and in each Brother’s face could be divined the faces of innumerable children and youth the Brothers had formed. This is certainly one of the answers. The portrait of the Founder thus formed from the faces and lives of so many Brothers is indeed the ideal portrait of the Brother. The Brother’s portrait is the sum of the lives and mission of all the Brothers. This portrait is called the « communion of Marist saints ». When Br. François decided to be the living portrait of the Founder, his intuition was absolutely correct. In the DNA of every true Brother, there is the portrait of the Founder. But our Marist saints have known how to accentuate certain traits in a such way that by looking at them we see more clearly who we are. Brothers François and Alfano were much concerned about the interior life, being rooted in Christ. Formators of Brothers, they could in truth say with their lives: « Something which has existed from the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes, that we have watched and touched with our own hands : the Word who is life, … What we have seen and heard we are telling you so that you too may be in union with us, as we are in union with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1Jn : 1-3). In the portrait of the Brother, this is a basic characteristic: hearing, seeing, touching, watching, living with the Lord. Without this intimacy, no Brother can really be one.As for Brother Basilio, he tells us that the Brother’s mission, in fact, has no boundaries, embracing the whole ambition of the Founder, who said: « All the dioceses of the world enter into our views ». During his time with the Better World, from 1961 to 1964, he ploughed many countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, the countries of Central America, Spain, Italy, forming priests, preaching to bishops, promoting Vatican II… Basilio, in fact, enormously broadened the mission of the Brother, showing us that, when it is a matter of proclaiming Christ, of serving the Church, there are no frontiers. As Superior General he took up his travels again so as to be close to all the Brothers.Other Brothers have been stationed on difficult frontiers of the Church: Br Henri Vergès in dialogue with the Moslem world, Brs Servando, Miguel Angel, Fernando and Julio, who preferred the inhuman situation of a refugee camp to their fine colleges or peaceful missions. They were true pioneers of « missio ad gentes! ». They wagered their hearts and lives to the extent of losing them. Coming close, giving their lives for the least, is another marked trait of the portrait of the Brother.It was no different for our martyrs of Spain. In the full spate of persecution, they continued to open schools, and to maintain contact with youth as long as they could. It happened that teacher and pupils were shot together. Brothers of high culture or Brothers engaged in manual work marched towards martyrdom together, showing us how much Christ was the absolute for them. All these have contributed to the Brother’s portrait the traits of audacity and absolute fidelity.Our saints lived far from mediocrity. It is a concrete and frequent snare, this temptation of settling down, of being content with a life of habit, marked by the bell, the clock, the watch, the cellular phone… Opposed to a settled life, Br. Bernardo multiplied apostolic initiatives: study groups, theatre companies, mobile library, study bursaries for the poorest pupils, saving bank for young men working in the mines, apostolic movements among youth, cultural conferences, prayer evenings, hospitality to the poor, folkloric activities, visits to the sick, vocations recruitment and accompaniment. Bernardo was far from being settled down. An abundant generosity, inventive, humane, constantly finds new fields of apostolate. Being on the watch for new fields of apostolate in the world of youth is an aspect of the Brother’s portrait which Bernardo, and also Laurentino, Virgilio and the other martyrs lived and remind us of.Our models of holiness trace in the portrait of the Brother traits which speak of boldness and tenderness, plunging in and the hand held out to others, a life close to God and concerned with the sufferings and joys of youth. All could make their own the phrase with which Br. François often ended his letters: « You well know, Brothers, what a tender affection I have always had for you! ». They made a special point of cultivating the brotherhood which is the first characteristic of the portrait of the Brother.So all the ambitions of Marcellin are fulfilled, the attainment of the first places at the crib, the cross and the altar, as well as the apostolic ambition embracing « all the dioceses of the world ». Our Marist saints cultivate the sensitivity of the Founder to discover new lands of mission, new aspirations among the young, poverty hitherto unknown and today awaiting the attentive closeness of a Brother.Our saints tell us that our portrait of the Brother is never painted once for all, but is enriched by all the treasures each Brother brings. It is a portrait which lives, grows, become impoverished too, and one for which I am responsible; responsible for its luminosity, its capacity to speak of Jesus, its capacity to say « Brother » unambiguously.There are two portraits of the Brother, the official one, a composite of the lives, works, prayers of the Brothers forming the Marist Family. The other portrait is the one which shines on the face of each Brother and which is, as it were, closer to people, the one youth can see when looking at us. It is especially on this face that the young can see or not see Christ, contemplate and love him or encounter only an ordinary human face. For the Lord to shine on us, we need to expose ourselves to his light, cultivate intimacy with him. Then we can say: «Something that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes, that we have watched and touched with our hands : the Word who is life, … What we have seen and heard we are telling you so that you too may be in union with us, as we are in union with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1Jn 1-3). _____________Br. Giovanni Bigotto

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