A Moral Theology Workshop and an Annual Retreat, organised by the Province of Bangalore for Redemptorist confreres, took place in Hyderabad, India. The eight days from 8th to 15th July 2022 were prayerful and insightful days. Confreres from India (the Province of Bangalore and the Vice Province of Majella) participated in this experience guided by Fr. Larry Kaufmann C.Ss.R from South Africa. Fr. Larry facilitated moments of reflection personally and collectively, and this helped to experience renewed vigour in ‘Vita Apostolica’.
These days were a time to recall and make resound biblical sources that shaped the Redemptorist missionary life: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3, 16)”; and “With Him is Plentiful Redemption (Ps 130, 7)”. These words of scripture together highlight that FROM the Trinitarian Dimension of Mission, we experience the Redemptive Mission of Christ.
The Workshop conducted from 8th to 10th July 2022 was very Alphonsian and Redemptorist. It helped rejuvenate our reflections in Moral Theology in the light of Church teachings, especially the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”. It invited us to polish the Redemptorist lenses in order to gain pastoral insights about the Formation of Conscience. It had a specific focus to “The law of Gradualness”, which teaches to take human persons at the stage of growth in which they are, as against Jansenistic judgmental and rigorous views on morality. The personal exercises and group dynamics during the Workshop helped to look at one’s personal moral mapping and autobiography to find key moments that shaped one’s conscience. The dynamics also helped to reflect how biographical details or pivotal life-changing moments of certain others influenced one’s formation of conscience.
Following the three-day Workshop, the retreat brought five grace-filled days and enriching experiences, with the central theme of “Vita Apostolica of the Redemptorists”. The specially prepared daily morning prayers set the tone for the theme of the day. This prayer concluded each day with the prayer to Mary, the Mother of Evangelization. Fr Larry chose to share on four aspects of ‘Vita Apostolica’ as themes for the Retreat days, namely, A Life of Prayer, A Life of Consecration with a special focus on celibacy, Community Living and the Spirituality of living and preaching the Gospel. He brought life to the Biblical narratives of Moses, Naaman, Joseph with the multicoloured coat and Jeremiah with graphical explanations, Scriptural parallels and reflective interpretations on the respective theme of the day. He made the narratives as meta-narratives in order that they speak to us in the present context. The Eucharist we celebrated together united our struggles and intentions along with the sacrifice of Christ.
Two conferences each day and the prayer services in the evenings were based on the respective theme of the day. Evening prayers guided by Fr. Larry included Centering prayer, Imaginative meditation preparing for the sacrament of Reconciliation, the ceremony of the Washing of the feet and a faith sharing to communicate a Sunday homily. A few books and some digital materials were shared by Fr Larry as aids to continue further reflections during the course of the retreat and the outflow from it. The second group of confreres are in a similar experience of the Workshop and Retreat in Bangalore from 19th to 26th July 2022.
Fr. Larry Kaufmann C.Ss.R. as a Contextual Theologian, wove in his studies and research in Moral Theology, Scripture, Systematic Theology and Psychology. His critical reflections in Alphonsian Spirituality and his gained insights flowing from his pastoral involvement and study – made it relevant to our context as well. Some of these are even books, now also available digitally. We are grateful to the Provincial Council for organising this wholesome experience, the first-such retreat gathering after the Pandemic.
Fr. John Paul Xavier, C.Ss.R.
The Province of Bangalore, India.