“Each one, as a faithful administrator of God’s manifold gifts, should use them to serve others ” Pet. 1, 4: 10.
Dear Brothers, members of the Nazarene Fraternities, Aspirants to Brotherhood, Educational Communities, Christian Communities, Catechists and friends of the Sa-Fa Family:
The month of November brings us the necessary appointment with our Founder, Venerable Brother Gabriel Taborin. We are called again to celebrate on the 24 the anniversary of his ascent to heaven. This year we also celebrate the 220th anniversary of his birth (November 1, 1799). Let this celebration bring us closer to his person and lead us to see in him a witness of unwavering faith, fidelity to his vocation, and generosity in the evangelizing mission.
Our attention to his example of faith, vocational response, and mission are in continuity with the extraordinary missionary month that the Church lived last October. A call addressed to Christians to awaken Jesus’ longing to bring to the whole world the message of the Gospel.
As Sa-Fa Family, we are also invited to live and proclaim the joy of the Gospel. Our recent General Chapter asks us to see the profound reason for our joy, born from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Let’s put the gifts we have received at the service of the mission. Discovering these gifts must lead us to joy, and this joy will bring us to the mission.
The depositary of our charism was Ven. Brother Gabriel. This gift of personal grace has become a gift he shared with many. Thus, our vocation is called to become a call to a charismatic family. From this perspective, the entire Sa-Fa Family is responsible for communicating this gift to men. “Each one, as a good administrator of God’s multiform grace, put at the service of others the charism received.”
I invite you to look at two particular moments that Brother Gabriel remembered with great joy. Two experiences that can help us to focus our response of life and mission.
“I would find it difficult to describe the inner joy I experienced.”
Ven. Br. Gabriel used these words to recall his taking of habit in the church of Les Bouchoux, made with five other companions in the presence of the parish priest and about eight thousand people. “That day was no doubt one of the most beautiful and comforting of my life,” he wrote in his autobiography. Again, we see this special joy “I had the joy” on the day of his Perpetual Profession in Belmont before Monsignor Devie. A day in which this Bishop gave him the task of Superior: “It was a memorable day for me.”
In these ceremonies, Ven. Gabriel was fulfilling his dream of dedicating his life to God, offering himself in doing his will. It is not only the human dream of having reached a final goal but the beginning of a great desire: to give himself entirely to God. Brother Gabriel did not come up with a plan for his life; he let himself be guided by a dream, like so many men and women who have changed the Church and the world. This dream became a way guided by faith; the numerous trials he had to face made it grow. Instead of discouraging him, they prompted him to live coherently and take on the risks of accepting the Lord’s ways. He could hardly have done it alone; he was always open to the help of the mediations of men of the Church and the Brothers themselves. His dream was fulfilled in a community.
All of us may have lived an itinerary of faith with traits similar to those experienced by Brother Gabriel. Considering our faith, we can either accept being labeled Christians or live a committed and life-generating faith. Sometimes we abandon ourselves to other gods or to relaxed attitudes that have little to do with the demands of the Gospel. Living the Christian faith implies a relationship with Jesus and with God but also with the Christian community. To discover faith for those who are still far away means to open the door to a relationship with Jesus, or at least to let His Word finds ourselves.
Recalling our lives, let us try to focus our attention on what made us happy, what filled us with enthusiasm and strength to follow life. Let us ask ourselves why what was at the bottom of that moment and let us try to put it back into the context of what I want my life to be — May the testimony of faith and life of Ven. Br. Gabriel lead us to find our response to the Lord’s calls.
“I engaged myself to that holy ministry with great joy.”
From 1826 to 1829, Brother. Gabriel lived the experience of a traveling catechist in Chatillon-Les-Dombes, Brénod, and Hauteville… and at that moment, he remembers, “I engaged myself to that ministry with great joy.” The way Br. Gabriel understood and fulfilled his mission as a Brother manifested his deep spiritual life. He did not consider the mission as a job but as a vocation. He focused his life on the mission as the ultimate reason for his surrender to Christ. This dedication filled his life.
The mission of Br. Gabriel presents some features that illuminate our mission. I would highlight two of them among the others: his generous dedication and his effort to put the person in the center.
The concern to carry out the mission well led him to give his time without boundaries, sparing no effort to take care of relationships, to be creative… that is, to live the mission with generosity, with passion. Monotony, professionalism, or the demands of our mission can lead us to lose our determination, to act without convictions or to fall into negativity. To look at Br. Gabriel makes us discover the value of focusing on the other. To think about his need, to seek his good and, in the words of our Chapter, “Live your vocation with generosity, boldness, and creativity.”
His spiritual openness and the negative personal experiences he met at some point in his growth led him to be very careful to show kindness and attention to the recipients of the mission. His pedagogical writings are an example of how he paid attention above all to the child or the adult whom he intends to teach or form. Likewise, his letters show his human warmth always oriented towards a greater good. We too have received the invitation from our last General Chapter to care for “the integral care of the person…. giving answers to the real needs of each person and appreciating in each one the richness of diversity…”. Our Nazarene charism asks us to adopt this pedagogy of closeness.
Celebrating this Feast, let us live the spirituality of joy and gratitude of those who feel loved by God. Let us live our faith with coherence and commitment. Let us live our mission generously by putting the person at the center. The joy shared and celebrated reconciles and creates fraternity. Happy feast to everyone!
Rome, November 5, 2019
Br. Francisco Javier Hernando de Frutos AG