Fr. Rogério Gomes: Do not allow yourselves to be invaded by pessimism, indifference, discouragement and mediocrity. Joy, enthusiasm, hope and a heart open to listening to the Word of God turn the daily routine, which is often hard, into a little daily Easter.
On 5 November this year, the Superior General met with the novices of Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting began with a prayer organised by the three novitiate houses (Bella Vista-Argentina, Tietê-São Paulo and Piedecuesta-Colombia), followed by the presentation of each of the novices and the formation teams. Father Rogério then addressed the novices with a few words, inviting them not to lose focus in the last days of the novitiate because there is a risk of thinking about the return and the longing to meet family and friends and to prepare for the religious profession. In view of this, he invited us to ask ourselves: What does God want of me at this moment of my life? And from there, am I ready to be free to follow the Lord, in Alphonsian words: to do the experience of “distacco” (detachment).
He referred to the religious profession as an ascent to Jerusalem with Jesus to offer oneself to the Father in favour of the most needy and he cautioned us: “Religious profession is not a status. Nor is it a gateway to an institution that offers a comfortable life, and privileges, but to put oneself at the service of the recipients of our mission, it is a call to a new availability”. That’s why it is important to break away from the temptation to make a comfortable life for oneself since consecration is opposed to three realities that the world offers: possessing, power and pleasure. In the face of possessing, one lives the vow of poverty; in the face of power, the vow of obedience; and in the face of pleasure, the vow of chastity. However, this “is lived by cultivating an interior mysticism which helps to give meaning to what one assumes, what one wants to live”, which turns the consecrated person into a joyful person, with a joy that is rooted in the heart.
One of the realities that also helps is the community life that is fostered by accepting, understanding and loving the other, the one who lives next to us, a confrere. From there, the joy of consecrated life is also born, from the encounter, from saying to the other, you are important to me. We must learn to listen to the vocational and salvation story of the other who lives with me, because God is at work and if for him we are not numbers but persons, we must also treat the other as a brother. In this way, every consecrated person also becomes a bridge of dialogue with the world, and society is seen as God’s work. Therefore, it is important to plant gardens of fraternity.
Father Rogério continued his reflection by referring to the time that is approaching, that is, the “juniorate”, in which he invited to intensify the experience of God. Studying theology is the moment to deconstruct the myths of our faith and to discover the presence of God throughout history. In the time of our theological studies, “we must not forget the jars that have been filled up in the novitiate, but rather help them to become new wine” that helps and contributes to today’s society. And he referred again to community life so that it is fostered by listening to others. It is important “to be well trained, to listen to the people because not studying and preparing for pastoral work is a sin against poverty”.
Father General also invited us to be promoters of vocation, to transmit to young people with a vocation, aspirants, and postulants who come after us the joy of being Redemptorists: “do not let yourselves be invaded by pessimism, indifference, discouragement and mediocrity, but be filled with joy, enthusiasm, hope, with your hearts open to the Word of God”. It is good to make the “daily routine” a little Easter. We are challenged then to live a full consecration and, even with limitations, to be able to tell today’s world that it is possible to live differently. We are missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer.
After these comforting and encouraging words, there was a round of questions on the role of the religious brother today, on vocation promotion, on the formation of those who enter at a certain advanced age, on how to update the spirit of St. Clement today in order to leave our “Rome”, and on the challenges for young people who want to enter the Congregation in this stage of reconfiguration.
The meeting concluded with a song and prayer organised by a team from the three houses of the novitiate, as at the beginning. It was a very nice meeting, and I think it was an important detail of Father Rogerio to take the initiative to meet and show his closeness to the novices.
Novice Ervin Danny Calero Álvarez
Read the entire text of Fr Rogerio Gomes’ address to the novices (translated from the original in Spanish)