In 2014 we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the death of Br. Gabriel Taborin, the Founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family. In the different places where it is present today the Sa-Fa Family, many celebrations are carried out. It is also a good opportunity to recall the most important topics of his thought, his charism and his spiritual intuitions.

The interaction school-family-parish

It is the most original and incisive aspect of Br. Gabriel’s charism regarding the mission. Br. Gabriel had experienced it as teacher in his native village and then he proposed to others the same educational activity which did not consider the school as an isolated element, but in relation with the Christian community and with the families. For this reason, later he could write: “Given my position and my daily relations with the schools, the churches, the families…, I was able to see the usefulness of putting in the hands of Christian youth, especially those in the countryside, an inexpensive book which might at the same time be used at school, at church, and by the families, and become the complete library of the poor” (Way to Sanctification, Introduction).

The Holy Family, inspiring the educational action

When Br. Gabriel gave the definitive name to his Institute, he thought in the Holy Family of Nazareth. It was not simply choosing a title among others, but giving a spiritual reference, a model of identification in the building up of the community and in the educational activity. The family of Nazareth is the ambience where the Son of God grew up. Mary and Joseph were the educators of Jesus; but we can also say that Jesus was the educator of Mary and Joseph, with his words, with his behaviour –sometimes mysterious,– with his humble submission during many years. Let’s recall some expressions of Br. Gabriel: “In the world it is thought much in the ancestors and they boasted of their deeds: religion could but boast of making memory of its own. The good Christian is often bore in spirit of faith until the humble roof of Nazareth, where one can find this august family that meets all the divine and human virtues” (The Guiding Angel of the Pilgrims to Ars).

The “family spirit” as model of relations

As Superior of the religious family that he had founded, Br. Gabriel devoted his entire life to cultivating what he called “the esprit de corps and the family spirit” among his Brothers: He built a house where to welcome all of them, he wrote many letters to keep the relationships, he visited the schools and communities, he intervened in the cases of conflicts and did all the possible so that mutual relationships were presided by charity, respect and simplicity. In one of his Circular letters to the Brothers we can read these beautiful expressions: “All the members that form a Congregation (a family or any other group) in which this spirit really exists, have but one heart and one soul; they love and help one another, share joys and sorrows, success and failures. Mutual attention and kind fraternity achieve the unity among the most different spirits and characters. What belongs to one belongs to all and among them the words ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ are not used. Each one considers himself less than his brother and it is God who reigns over all of them” (Circular no. 21, 1864).

Br. Teodoro Berzal