“Experts in Communion”, that is what Pope Francis calls us to become! The standard to reach is high: experts are people who are top masters in their field of competence and who are able to guide others since they are usually ahead of others in their field…Experts in Communion? We would rather describe ourselves as “walking towards communion”, since we are aware that our religious life is a life-long learning about the real meaning of “loving” in truth.
Is the Pope’s request impossible or unrealistic? One of the greatest paradoxes which is also one of the inner struggles common to most consecrated, is the difficulty to live such communion in our daily lives, beside our deep desire to follow Christ and to live truly Evangelical lives…We know the theory, we meditate the Word, we meet to debate topics such as inter-culture and inter-generations, but often we resent being unable to understand each other, to wholeheartedly deliver us, we try to change the others rather accepting them as they are ; often individualism limits us; often we prefer to be involved in our ministry and fulfil our tasks rather than deliver us to our closest brothers and sisters…..Yet, as Mother Teresa loved to repeat, “love begins at home”!
To penetrate the mystery of Communion, it is fundamental to truly focus on the dimension of acceptance, since it is true that “love means giving all, giving one’s self”. Without acceptance our gift might be short-sighted by being self-centred in our search: giving, being at the service and being useful to the others brings great joy and even self-satisfaction! Only who accepts with simplicity can give with humility. Without acceptance, our gift runs the risk of being one sided, top-down for the person we want to help; without acceptance our gift can even be transformed into an act of possession (my cafeteria, my biblical group…). Acceptance purifies our gift when it goes with opening our heart, ready to accept what the other can offer….The gift answers the question “What can I do for the others?” Acceptance is like a velvet touch encouraging to ask ‘What can I do for you?’ but also ‘What would you enjoy doing for me?’ concerned with putting the other first, giving the joy to please, to give and to love.
“Yes, thank you!”
Having the possibility of living in community is having the possibility to tell the world: I need my brothers, my sisters, each of them. Not for their services – but for what he is, for what she is; because he and she are a gift of the Creator received to enrich me; because his/her point of view – different from mine – invites me to open up my heart; because more people think better than one; because we do not interpret the message of Jesus Christ in the same way which encourages me to constantly investigate, to further penetrate the Mystery of Love…. Therefore, to become experts in communion, let’s learn to say more often “Yes, thank you!”
Each yes is a sign of trust, each yes is way to value the other: I give up a little bit of myself, to leave you more space, to grant you the joy to give. Each yes is a way of loving because it is like saying “I need you” and because it allows us to mature in humility.
Entering into such logic of acceptance, allows us to gradually understand that even in a situation of dependency love can be abundant. Let’s not be afraid to accept and to be dependent on each other! When we will no longer be able to run, when our mental condition will no longer allow us to give, our heart will always be able to welcome…like little children. Let’s train our heart to be open! If we live the communion, we will not be caught off by illnesses and old-age dependency, but it will be our way of loving to our last breath. Since our novitiate, we are well aware that holiness is more the result of letting do than doing: one must not aim at perfection, but let God act through us…But it takes a lifetime to learn the difference between what we know and accept to rely on others!
A Symphony Orchestra
It is a fact that instinctively people do not like difference. It is disturbing. It means living with people we haven’t chosen, who have a different approach to reality, who think and act differently, people from other generations or nationalities, with a different education or theological formation…Is it therefore impossible for different people to live together in communion?
The image of a symphony orchestra would prove the opposite. Impossible, no. Difficult, yes. Communion, like harmony is the fruit of a long, demanding and persistent effort. The Gospel is our symphony; Christ is both the composer and the director – even more He is Music personified; each of us plays one’s partition; the quality of the ensemble is not only the result of an individual effort but of the love we all have for music, of the desire to follow our Director, aiming at achieving symphonic beauty. If one musician wants to play louder, or does not listen to the other, if a triangle envies the role of an oboe, if a piano spends more time in criticising the others instead of playing or if the first violin pretends to be the director – there is no hope for a successful symphony!
What unites us is more important than what divides us. The fraternal atmosphere, the mutual listening, the search for a common good, the quality of liturgy, our devotion to our Charisma, our joy to be consecrated…are privileged moments of Grace since we can go back to the source of our vocation and live a strong moment of communion, regardless of our differences; the symphony we are called to play all together.
Communion is a gift from the Above
The invitation of Pope Francis to become experts in communion brings us before the magnificence of our vocation, with its full beauty as well as all it demands. To live in depth means to overcome what’s upsetting, impulsive reactions, prejudices, sensitiveness, to dive deep into our will, where we decide to love. It implies a permanent decision to renew, just as we regularly reconfirm our yes to consecration. To live in depth implies being convinced that absolute similarity is sterile but exchange is creative. Otherness is fundamental to live in communion. God intentionally made us different in order to need the others and thus live in communion: let’s keep this in mind when we pray “thy will be done”.
To live in depth implies taking the risk of exposing ourselves to disagreement, misunderstanding or being judged by our brothers and sisters. It is an essential risk to live in communion. Expressing our thoughts and feelings is a way of giving ourselves to our brothers and sisters; and listening to what they want to share is a way of accepting them. It requires great freedom (therefore humility); an open spirit and open heart to understand and relate; it requires full mutual trust. Peace of heart comes from the absolute certainty that we are infinitely loved for what we are.
Communion is a gift from the Above: let’s invoke it in praying Our Father; let’s invoke the Spirit of Communion to teach us to love; let’s follow the Virgin Mary, our Lady of Welcome in being humble and available…
In order to become experts in Communion, let’s be open to renewal, to rediscover the Grace of our religious consecration, let’s further open our hearts to the Love in order to transform our lives into a gift of ourselves and a constant thanksgiving.
Text adapted from International Union Superiors General
Icon written by Vivien Imbruglia, NRVC.net