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“We are present where people have open wounds”



Br Emili participates in a panel on Consecrated Life

04/02/2016: General House

Brother Emili Turú was one of the speakers in a panel of religious during the International Encounter on Consecrated Life promoted by the Vatican held on Jan. 28 – Feb. 2.

The discussion took place on Feb. 1 at the Paul VI Hall, just before an audience with Pope Francis alongside 5,000 participants.

Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, was the moderator of the seven religious, who reflected on “Consecrated Life today in the Church and in the world: provoked by the Gospel.”

They respresented the different forms of consecrated life - ordo virginum, cloistered monastic life, religious institute of apostolic life/ monastic life/ societies of apostolic life, secular institutes, and new Institutes/ ‘new forms’.

In his speech, the Superior General covered three dimensions of religious life: mission (the religious is present where people have open wounds and in the peripheries); fraternity (it is up to the religious brother to “exaggerate fraternity”) and mysticism (“What I am able to make transparent?”).

Br Emili’s words, which were done in off-the cuff, are as follows.

Emphasis on Apostolic Religious Life Today

Regarding the mission

They have spoken to us about geographical and existential boundaries that we are invited to inhabit, to move, to be in... where apostolic religious life touches the wounds of humanity.

We are there where in people's open wounds, whether in geographical or existential peripheries, in so many places and circumstances where we are present. There is a religious person accompanying and being God's presence and tenderness where there is suffering, even in the most remote places on earth.

What I want to emphasise is what Sister Carmen Sammut, SG, Missionary of Our Lady of Africa, suggested yesterday when she said in this same room that we, religious of apostolic life, are on the margins of society and the Church. But she said it just like that, as an afterthought, so I found it very interesting to take that point.What does it mean that we are in “the margins of the Church”? It sounds a bit bold to say “in the margins of the Church;” I would perhaps say “in the margins of the institution,” in “the periphery of the ecclesial institution” but “in the name of the Church.”

It seems bit strange to say this in the place where we are, but I think we are invited to live in that periphery. It is that place where there are those who belong to the Institution, as well as those who do not belong to it or feel excluded from it.   

So who can make this communication bridge with non believers, people who are searching, people from other religions, people that understand life differently? I think that that is a very important path for religious apostolic life that is worth stressing.  

It’s an experimental field, of searching, of exploration… in the name of the Church itself! And this means to dialog: dialog, the culture of encounter. To dialogue with people who are very far from our way of thinking, of our way of being. And dialogue means listening to learn; maybe some people say that that is a “dangerous” (in quotes) place.  Indeed, borders are always dangerous places.

One has to take up risks, and I think that that is part of our mission for the good of the Church. Therefore, it is not something to repress but rather to support, because we do it for the good of the Church. That brave Italian priest that fights the mafia, Don Luigi Ciotti, says that “one dies from excess of prudence”; and I think that that makes a lot of sense in our institutions.

Jean Baptiste Metz would say that religious life had to be “shock therapy” for the Church. And shock therapy is not a sweet therapy: shock creates seizures. I ask myself to what extent are we, as religious apostolic life, a shock therapy for the rest of the Church…

In all, I believe we are not called to be the institution’s officers, but prophets among the people. And that's not the same!

Regarding fraternity

The Pope speaks a lot about the virus of clericalism, which is a fairly widespread virus. So, what can we do to combat this virus? What antidote do we have to neutralize it? I think that one of them is “fraternity,” which stresses horizontal relations: basic equality of all members of God’s people.

I think clericalism has mostly a male face: the clergy are men. But it does not just have a male face, and that's what makes it even more dangerous, because there is this virus in many of our heads, be it men or women.

So, speaking about the “religious brother,” I think that part of our contribution to the Church is to highlight these horizontal relationships, which are very opposed to clericalism. Even today I still hear people say: “Brothers? How come you got left behind half way? You have not bee ordained, you are not priests.”

Some people think that we lack something. If this isn’t clericalism…!  So I think that it is up to us “to exaggerate fraternity.” To exaggerate it within the Church to emphasize the importance of these horizontal relationships. We are male – religious – brothers. As the latest Church document on the religious brother says, maybe this call of “exaggerating” fraternity applies to us.  

Regarding our life’s mystical dimension

Finally, I think that religious apostolic life has an extraordinary challenge regarding the mystical dimension of our life, the dimension of spirituality, following the Risen One.

I think it is one of the biggest challenges, maybe the biggest one.

Why? Because the type of life we have does not help us. We are very immersed in society, developing professional activities; and there is a lot of hurry and a big tendency towards superficiality around us. Therefore, it is very easy to catch it. How can one give a dimension of interiority and depth in our lives to live them with equilibrium? To not be blind activists who do, and do, and do… and do not even know exactly for what, nor what they are really doing.

I wanted to end by recalling a French writer, Christiane Singer, who said: “At the end of your life, they are not going to ask you who you were, but what have you let pass through you.” This means, what has been transparent? What have you made transparent? Unless you have a major dimension of depth, all it does is reflect itself. What am I capable of making transparent? I think it is an extraordinary challenge and to give an appropriate response is probably the best service we can give to the Church, to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters of our society.


Br Emili Turú, fms

Vatican, 1 February 2016

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