The three promises

The assembly of religious men and women in Lourdes

“The three promises that we all pledge to fulfill are but one only. Sharing goods, celibacy, the reference to a minister of communion are a form of poverty that we all deliberately chose for ourselves, which today is considered upstream thinking”, said frère Alois, prior of Taizé, in his address during the general assembly of the Conference of the Religious of France that closes today, November 26, in Lourdes. A visible sign. Recalling the visit to frère Marcellin, prior of the Great Chartreuse, a year after the tragic death of frère Roger, frère Alois mentioned that there he saw “monks who remind of the Desert Fathers and live without expectations”, and call to mind “a sign of the Almighty”. It is a form of spirituality that consists in offering “one’s humanity to God and accepting that God will do the rest”. “This view of religious life – explained the prior of Taizé – helps us understand that our promises imply a renouncement”, that “they cannot be fulfilled unless there is an ongoing reference to Christ”. These commitments make of us “a visible sign of something that transcends, the sign of Christ in the world. By living them fully we want to bring Christ to everyone”. In Taizé, he said, “the youth are sensitive to this sign, although they don’t express it. They often see in us men and women who achieved a certain degree of fulfillment. They don’t see the underlying struggle, the weaknesses… but what they perceive is correct. It’s up to us to return this to them with all our energy”.The strength to love. “In order to maintain a lifetime promise – continues frère Alois – it is necessary to dare to live in a state of expectation” that is directed not only towards the future but also towards God” in the present time. “It is necessary to have the courage to believe that emptiness can be filled by God starting from today, that we can already live in the joy of expectation”. Living the promises fully doesn’t mean “seeking a form of perfectionism that is against the Gospel. Rather, it is an invitation to remain vigil”, countering the mainstream trend which claims that “we can satisfy ourselves alone by ensuring our own material security, and deciding for our own good”. Promises “spring from the joy of the Gospel. In fact by fulfilling them, we are constantly led towards communion with Christ”. On the other hand, “we are led to participate in Christ’s struggle in the world”. This, underlines the monk, “is true in particular as relates to the promise of celibacy, a commitment necessitating inner attention, so that our “yes” may develop at the pace of our existence”. “We cannot talk about celibacy without speaking of praise – he states -. Praising God for the life He bestowed upon us, for our being, for our body, soul and mind”. We “are earthly creatures” and “sexuality is both a beautiful and fragile reality. It concerns the innermost parts of our being. There naturally are wounds and guilt feelings. But we also know that sexuality is also a force for love, for admiration. In our faithfulness to celibacy, and this applies also to faithfulness in wedlock, we are once again living a situation of tension and beauty, constituted, as in the Gospel, by the unity of the land and the sky”. Sensitivity for beauty. “Finally – exorts frère Alois -, we must be careful not to neglect our sensitivity for beauty. We must pay attention to it, in fact, we must cultivate this sensitivity”. There is also the importance of listening. “In Taizé – he recalls – frère Roger often reminded us that we are not spiritual masters who achieved their goal. Our call is to listen”. For this, “we must give priority to listening to those who are entrusted to us”. “I am aware that self-surpassing and sanctity are often lived in silence by a number of Christians, whether they are lay, religious, or priests – continues the monk -. But we all are also tempted to stop, to settle down, half way through. Frère Roger reminded us that at a certain point it is necessary to chose between mediocrity and sanctity. There is much joy in listening to the almighty call of Christ: ‘Be saints!’. Maybe it’s not because it is distant from us that we find it so hard to achieve sanctity. It’s because it’s closer to us that we expect. God places it before us constantly”. Thus “which ‘overcoming’ am I being asked of now? It is not necessarily a question of ‘doing more’ – explains frère Alois -. What we are being asked is to love more. And since love in not primarily expressed through feelings but through action, in attention given to others, we should continue proceeding along this path without lingering. We don’t follow an ideal; we follow a person, Christ. And our promise originates in forgiveness and in the reconciliation offered by God. Through the life of Christ we see that the Lord is never tired of resuming his journey near us. Nor do we feel too tired for new beginnings, so as to ensure that in our lives the earth and the skies will come together”.

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