The 20th January 2024, Saturday, was a day spent as part of the ongoing formation for the entire community of San Alfonso (The members of the General Government, the confreres working for the General Curia, the confreres of the Alphonsian Academy, the confreres of the Collegio Maggiore, the confreres working in different capacities in the Church and community). Fr Serafino Fiore, C.Ss.R., former General Consultor and provincial of the province of Naples gave the reflection on Community life. He chose to speak on the challenge to Build Community Today as Redemptorists. In the reflection during which Fr Serafino spoke with much passion and enthusiasm reminding the confreres that our Redemptorist Constitutions and Statutes have perhaps the best presentation on Community Life ever written taking into account the various dimensions of Community (Community of Prayer, of Persons, of Work, of Conversion, an open Community, etc.). His reflection focused on the uniqueness of the Community of San Alfonso which has over 60 members and is larger that many provinces in the Congregation with so much of richness of culture, nationality, language, age, experience, learning, and confreres serving the Congregation in different capacities and also aware of the transitory nature of the community with confreres staying for but a few years only. While it is a challenge to build community in such a diverse and multi-faceted community yet, it is a calling which we have to embrace each day to live as a community in our consecrated life. Just like a bird carefully builds its nest with much care and tenacity we each day have to construct and build our community.
Fr Serafino using his vast experience as a Redemptorist and General Consultor and Provincial posed simple yet challenging questions: What more can we say about Community life? What more can we do about our community life? What and how do we use the Documents on Community life (Our Constitutions and Statutes, the Final Document of the XXVI General Chapter, the letter of Fr General on Community life written last year in November?
Fr Serafino chose three important points to reflect on in answer to the above questions so as to work together towards a common vision of Community life for the entire community.
Kindly read the translated text of the complete talk here:
First, Faith and Fraternal Life. He asked a challenging question, “What makes us say that faith and community stand together, or together they sink? At the very heart of our faith is our relationship with God strengthened and deepened through personal and community prayer and meditation. Quoting for General from his letter he said, “A religious community that does not have a relationship with God is empty. The relationship with God includes personal and communal prayer.” Fr Serafino spoke very passionately on the necessity of the contemplative dimension of prayer in the life of a Redemptorist that nourishes our community life. Quoting from St. Alphonsus, Thomas Merton, and Constitution # 24 he showed how necessary contemplation is in the daily life of a Redemptorist that enables him to see his life as a gift from a loving God and how he is called to make a gift of his life to the same loving God and to his confreres.
Second, At what point are we? In this section, Fr Serafino elaborated on and called on the confreres to examine the quality of our community life. Referring to Fr General’s letter on Community life he chose to highlight that “community is the place where we share our existence, our salvation history and our memories of redemption.”
Third, Humility. Fr Serafino insisted on the importance of Humility to learn from life, from the laity, from one’s own experience of life, and for a synodal process in daily community living. He cited different moments in the life of St Alphonsus where St Alphonsus with great humility was open to learning. Fr Serafino concluded his reflection on the necessity of humility for building community life with the following words, “It is impossible to human beings but not to God. His grace can do everything, provided we make a journey backwards, and dedicate ourselves to an equally constant and patient exercise, to rediscover any profound motive for our consecration or ministry: be it a true relationship of love with Jesus Christ, be it right intention, be it truth with ourselves. But even for this exercise, much humility is needed.”
Later, Fr Serafino was the main celebrant and homilist at the Community Eucharist in the Community Chapel at San Alfonso. He once again reflected on the readings of the day with an eloquent reference to various moments in the life of St. Alphonsus and his zeal for the mission like Jesus and his zeal for the kingdom, and again various moments in the life of St. Alphonsus who was considered crazy for some of his decisions in favour of the poor and abandoned like Jesus whose family thought he was crazy and so wanted to incarcerate him. Fr Serafino emphasised the craziness of love in the heart of a God crazy with love for us, that was the essence of the writings of St. Alphonsus.
Joseph Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.