PAUL’S GENERAL CHAPTER DIARY

(NOT OFFICIAL)

PART 7  3rd October 2013

 

Sunday 29 September 2013

 

Sunday Mass The Chapter co-ordinators left this morning free, and there were several Masses in the Shrine church to which the brothers were free to share. An early Mass was arrranged for the friars at the (usual) time of 7.30, and fr Gino Leonardi presided. I read the first reading, from the prophet Amos. It was a condemnation of religious people who enjoyed the good life and did nothing for the poor. And the Gospel was its match, with the parable to the religious Pharisees about Dives and Lazarus.  The Psalm was Psalm 145. This is what I wrote in my reflections:

 

“This psalm, always used for Morning Praise in the Office for the Dead, is the song of the lowly. I have copied it in attentive calligraphy. I would like it used at my funeral! The chosen verses list those who are beloved of God, - the oppressed, - the hungry, - the prisoners, - the blind, - those who are bowed down, - the just, - the stranger, - the orphan. You can almost hear the Beatitudes in these verses. This psalm is very similar to Psalm 67 (Hebr 68) celebrated recently on the 22nd Sunday of Year C:

 

Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,

such is God in his holy place.

God gives the lonely a home to live in;

he leads the prisoners forth into freedom.

 

You poured down, O God, a generous rain:

when your people were starved you gave them new life.

It was there that your people found a home,

prepared in your goodness, O God, for the poor.”

 

If it weren’t a Sunday, the 29th of September would have been the Archangels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. Good wishes to anyone who bears those names.

Networking The “free morning” gave me the chance to circulate among the brothers and speak about Servite publications, especially of the revised Missal and the Book of Blessings of St Peregrine. So I spoke with fr Benito Isip from the Philippines, fr Leo Spicer from Australia, fr Susaimani Arokiasamy from India, Mel Loftus from Zululand, Francis Kawuki from Uganda, fr John Fontana from USA and of course our own fr Bernard Thorne from The Isles. I made a little headway in promoting our Servite liturgy.

 

Great Climb It was a rather dull day, and indeed it began to pour heavy rain in the late afternoon, flooding the shingle forecourt. I thought that perhaps we had finished early and I was back in Manchester. The mountains had disappeared, of course and you couldn’t even seen the nearby forests. But fr Giuseppe Zaupa from Monte Berico and now-recovered fr Franco Azzalli went off in a car to the (previously) far-distant mountains known as The Rough Chain. They parked the car, went up higher on a cable car, and the went climbing right to the top of the range, over the top and down again. On their upward climb they used hand-chainrope to pull themselves forward. Afterwards Franco told me, “If I had known what I was letting myself in for!”, and his hands were quite sore. But this is Franco, who had been rushed to hospital two weeks ago. And he looked just fine. Good for them.

 

Commissions  Fr Dennis Kriz went roaming into the local mountains all morning. He missed his commission on Servite Family and Church, which was still arguing about all sorts of fine points, and needed to meet again. I think our Indian  fr Dos was lobbying all round different chapter brothers, me included, as though it were Westminster rather than a collegial commission task. We would hear more in the afternoon. Other commissions were completing their work too, ready for an afternoon assembly.

 

Constitutions and Directory  Obviously the first document for final presentation was the one I had been involved with all these years, our Rule of Life and its re-organisation into principal text and Directory. It was a great joy to me, Franco, Hubert and Gottfried (and also Venanzio and Miguel Flores not present) to have the whole process given a unanimous vote of approval. A round of applause followed.

 

Common Life  The document about our community life and consecration was next. I had reported what a surprisingly inspired and good text was given at the first presentation. Just a few amendments were made for the second presentation, and this too was given a welcome applause as it was approved by the assembly. As you read this, please don’t think this only took a matter of minutes. The process is more detailed for such things, including time for questions and speeches.

 

Servite Family  The Servite Family and Church document came next. It was presented by the senior member of the Chapter, fr Lorenzo Tanganelli who sits at my table and is one of the lovely discoveries of this Chapter for myself personally. And he has a delicious sense of humour. But he had been really troubled by the commission work, because some people were a bit domineering. And he was genuinely nervous about making the presentation. I whispered in his ear that the Holy Spirit would watch over him (as if he didn’t know that already, but it’s good to be reminded). He made his presentation, nobody was needing to ask any questions. The vote was taken and went through convincingly. He was applauded, and returned to the table opposite me, almost deflated by anti-climax! But his headache quickly left him. Members of other branches of the Order will enjoy the document about Servite Family, UNIFAS (Union of the Family of Servants of Mary), and such like.

 

Formation We confronted the Formation document next. But not for long. It was well after six o’clock, and the Prior General, fr Gottfried, stood up and said, “I think you have had enough for today. It is Sunday, after all. We shall stop now, have Evening Prayer, and then come back to all this tomorrow.”  Then he came over to me and said, “You’ll be the Moderator (= chairman) for tomorrow morning’s session.” I knew it was coming, but I’ll have to have a word with fr Lorenzo, because I too get nervous with these public tasks.  Anyway, that’s for tomorrow…

 

Monday 30 September 2013 

 

Good morning! No it isn’t! We got soaked last night, and it was still pouring rain this morning. We we all got into the Shrine church with a real wetting.

 

Fr Giuseppe Xotta  We had news last night about fr Giuseppe Xotta in hospital at Vicenza. The devastating peritonitis has been more or less conquered, and they are lessening the induced coma. They have given him a trachyotomy, which means that he’s breathing by his own strength at last. And he opened his eyes, welcomed his sister at his bedside, and visually joined in a prayer. Slow but real progress. We miss him here at the Chapter. He was going to represent Uganda, where the Order is bubbling with new and very encouraging life. A visitor to the Chapter, fr Francis Kawuki, is a young and most presentable friar from Uganda. He has been given fr Giuseppe’s place at the table, and is proving how well the foundation of the Order is going in that land.

 

St Jerome  Morning Mass and Prayer were directed by the Venetian Province, with fr Lino Pacchin presiding. Fr Stefano Bordignon gave the homily. He’s the one who presented the Lectio Divina spiritual reflection on the Scriptures at the opening of the Chapter. He has a real gift, as we were to find out later in the day. He spoke about St Jerome being an austere saint, not just a bishop and a famous writer.

 

More Voting  Then we were back to the assembly, and I was deputed to keep order in the house. It wasn’t too difficult, fortunately. The document from the Commission on Formation could have been awkward, with everybody feeling some kind of expert on the subject. But the homework had been done well. Just a few speeches, and a very satisfactory conclusive vote. We have a state-of-the-art voting system. The same little console in each person’s place has switches for languages for the translations, and specific buttons for voting yes or no or yes-with-amendments. By the time of this second reading of documents, the amendments vote is removed. 

 

Next came the document on the Structures and Government of the Order. Or did it? Nobody seemed to have the text, and I certainly didn’t, which is rather problematic if you’re directing operations. Apparently 50 copies had been left in the assembly-room, but somehow “disappeared” overnight. We had to wait for a re-print, and it was quite a long document. “Chat among yourselves,” I announced. And after about 10 minutes the papers arrived, the content was presented in detail by David Majía – the Colombian friar sent to Indonesia from Mexico (!). His first presentation had been something of a disaster. But this time he was well briefed and it was perfect. Just goes to show: allow new and younger people to learn the ropes, I told myself, even if they have to learn the hard way! The Formation document sailed through the voting process and was approved by the Chapter.

 

Common Life Document The morning was almost over, and we had finished all the documents written by the friars here present. There would be more later in the afternoon. In this Diary I’m not going to print the documents. It would take for ever. But I’m so impressed with the Common Life Document that I would like to share it with you. If you don’t want to read it in detail, just skip on to the next bit of the Diary.

 

SERVITE FRIARS GENERAL CHAPTER 2013  -  DOCUMENT ON COMMON LIFE

1. The 213th General Chapter of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary, mediating on the words of the Gospel, “Behold, the servant of the Lord.  Be it done to me according to your Word,” and contemplating the icon of the Virgin of the Annunciation, desires to deepen our awareness of some elements of our Servite identity.  We, who are called to live our vocation as servants, look to the Virgin Mary as the person of relationship, who always brings about encounter (Instrumentum laboris, 10).  Following her example of faithfulness to the Word, we want to reaffirm our confidence in the call to be men united in the name of the Lord, and to renew our adherence to the Good News of the Reign, in order to create and extend fraternity in the Church and in the world.  [Const. 74] 

 

2. Gathered together in Chapter, we have taken into consideration the reality of the Order in the various regions of the world where it is present and active.  We have reflected on its lights and shadows, and, listening to the Spirit, we have tried to capture some guidelines that we now offer to you, Brother, and to every single community, as a stimulus to renew our way of life. 

 

a.       “The angel appeared to her.”

You, too, have been visited by God, who never ceases to seek you, so that you,

like Mary, might live in God’s presence, that fills life with joy.  The word of the angel, “Rejoice!” continues to resound today as an appeal to a hope that flourishes, despite the difficulties that you may encounter.

We invite you, therefore, to open you heart and mind, to break down all forms of prejudice and barriers that create division, and to strive for unity and justice in a fragmented and divided world. 

 

b.            “How can this be?”

In listening, and in daily meditation on the Word, we invite you to live your  fraternal life with enthusiasm, to see the ‘other’ as God sees you, a person of faith and dignity, ever aware that each brother is called to be the dwelling place of God among us. 

 

     c.   “Be it done to me according to your Word.”

         You, too, Brother, have a dream to fulfill: to be, as Mary, the full expression of the Father’s love.  We are certain that this occurs when the Word is at the center of your life, and when, in personal and communal prayer, you let theWord lead you to listen also to the others, which makes dialogue, hospi-tality, welcome and creative collaboration possible.  

 

     d.  “She got up and went in haste….”

  Mary, after welcoming this Word, set out on a journey. You, too, Brother, are urged to go out to others, and to share with them your expe-rience of God. In the light of our charism, which we consider as a gift for today’s world, you are  
called to be a man of communion, creating relationships of peace, mercy, justice and constructive love.

 

3.  In order to continue our journey of conversion and renewal, the General Chapter is convinced that:

 

   a. our houses be places of encounter, open spaces that embrace all men and women of our time;

   b. different forms of work, expressions of our service, allow us to earn our daily bread, and to be a sign of that Divine Providence which cares for the needs and necessities of others;

   c. our communities need to be aware of the problems of today’s people, in order to create networks of solidarity, and, by living simply, to generously share with others;

   d. internationality, expressed in our being scattered throughout the world, be a fundamental value for the construction of new relationships of communion and service, and be a prophetic voice in a world wounded by divisions and racial prejudice;

   e. the gift of compassion be an essential incarnation of our identity as Servants. Inspired by Mary, the woman of courageous love standing beside the Crucified One, we too desire to be merciful, to bring relief and comfort in every situation of human suffering, and to live, like St. Peregrine, in compassionate service;

   f. the care of creation be for us, Servants of Mary, an expression of communion and a commitment to cooperate in the creative activity of God;

   g. our communities ought to be meaningful expressions of that charism which enlivened the Seven Holy Founders; the jurisdictions of the Order ought to favor the creation of new expressions which make the charism always current and attractive. 

   h. our living the Gospel help today's youth fall in love with the person of Jesus and with his message, so that they might find in the life of the Servants the response to their desire for fullness of life;

   i. with respect to the identity of the friar Servant of Mary, we all have the same dignity and equality.This also manifests itself in our particular care and attention shown to elder and sick friars.

 

4.  The evaluation of these proposals be the subject of dialogue and discussion in our chapters (conventual and provincial) and in fraternal meetings with the priors provincial and with the prior general (canonical visitation), lived in the spirit of loyal collaboration. 

 

5. Trusting in the love of the Father who has made us partakers of his plan of life, we want to express together with you, brother, our thanks for all the gifts with which the Spirit has enriched the Order of the Servants of Mary.


Marian Document   The General Chapter is offering a long, profound Marian Document to the Church and public. It has done this before with Do Whatever He Tells You in 1983 and Servants of the Magnificat a few years later. This new one is called Let It Be Done To Me According To Your Word. The Servite Marianum University in Rome has prepared it, and we received its presentation some days ago from the Marianum President fr Salvatore Perrella. Today, with a short re-presentation by fr Paolo Orlandini, the General Chapter endorsed and passed the Marian Document as its own. It will be published later in the main languages of the Order.

 

Message to the Servite Family  This was the surprise. A committee was set up to produce a meaningful message to the whole Servite family, Servite friars, Servite enclosed nuns, Servite sisters of many congregations, Servite secular institute members, Servite secular order members, other lay groups and friends of the Order. That rising star fr Stefano Mazzoni from the Annunziata Province was part of the production team, with fr Ricardo Peréz and Regnum Mariæ member Esther Buenfil (our simultaneous translator). What transpired was altogether inspirational. Their Message was immediately given a unanimous vote of approval and became our message. You will like it, when I can get hold of an English translation.

 

Here is the document:

 

MESSAGE TO THE SERVITE FAMILY

The Order of Servants of Mary, gathered in the 213th  General Chapter at Pietralba, is pleased to write to you, brothers and sisters of the Servite Family. We gladly use the same words that have been in our shared prayer together at this gathering, words that have inspired our reflections and evaluations during these days. Now we want to declare with you those same words,  which are words that have changed the course of human history. These words opened the way for the God of life to come and be present among us, taking flesh in our  human nature: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be done onto me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). We wish that Mary’s firm and lively reply to the angel, which is portrayed in the icon of the Annunziata, will come to you as our loyal and heartfelt greeting, for you to be in communion with us with a joy that is complete (1John 1:3-4).

 

We have come from all over the world. We have brought our different experiences,  struggles, dreams and worries to this meeting. We have been still at this mountain shrine of Pietralba in an spirit of listening, of mutual acceptance and the sharing of gifts. Our aim has been to renew our personal commitment to Jesus, Master and way of life for us. We wish to be like Mary, people of communion together, in accordance with our vocation as Servants.

 

We know we live in a world of constant change. We remain attentive to the signs of the times. We strive to respond courageously to the new challenges and demands that human history is  presenting to us. We endeavor to listen to the new needs of women and men today. We are looking at a humanity that is on the move, progressing and developing, yet still divided by barriers and prejudices. We want to look at every situation where we find ourselves with the same eyes of the Virgin of Nazareth. With her we want to hold her own attitude of tenderness, and pour the oil of compassion on every wound inflicted by injustice, intolerance  and human violence. We want to collaborate with Christ the Son to put down the powerful from their thrones and raise the lowly. We want to send the rich away empty and to fill the hungry with good things (Luke 1:52-53). This way we can surely take hold of the gift of God’s ineffable love. Thus we follow Mary, who accepted God’s love with meekness and passion. So we may unite our voices in a new song of praise:

 

- To the Father who seeks worshippers with sincerity and loyal love (Jn 4:23). Let us express our thanks and prolong in our own lives his his own quality of love. As we listen to the invitation of Jesus: "If only you knew the gift of God" (Jn 4:10), we also experience the urge to quench our thirst and to get out of situations of rigidity and immobility and be able to be a true home for the God who has set his tent in our midst. Assured of God’s indwellint, we are drawn to live in the dignity of the children of God. This makes us strong in adversity, however it might come to us. And when we are in touch with human misery, we will not give up a sense of beauty in everything God has arranged. We learn to echo in ourselves the harmony of God’s primordial delight when he saw "that everything was very good!” (Gn 1:31). This is the prophetic message that we wish to announce. This is the the project we are called to build: "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21:3), where the One who makes all things new, never ceases to touich us with his hand to wipe away every tear. With Mary, all Servants, brothers and sisters, in the Kingdom, we commit ourselves to those same gestures which bear consolation  and comfort to every situation of suffering. In the name of the Father, in whom we profess our faith, none of us will a cause of pain that brings tears to others. We will be  only a source of joy and hope that will take away all sadness.

 

- To the Son, who came among us to make our joy complete (Jn 15:11), we renew our dedication and commitment to put the wellbeing of others at the centre of our lives. Being called to be salt for the earth and light for the world (Mt 5:13-14), we want to live his Word with one mind and one heart, living in our flesh all his his own feelings, his choices and his actions. While we are aware of our limitations and weaknesses, we recognise that we have a priceless treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7). We endeavour to answer the Lord’ call every day, as he invites us to cast our nets wherever human beings are still denied their freedom, wherever human rights are trampled, wherever the vicious logic of self-interest corrupts and destroys people’s lives and relationships.  Our limited energy and size in this world should not be seen as an obstacle on our way. Rather, we trust in the One who always chooses what the world considers worthless, to confound the plans of the strong and the wise (1Cor 1:27). We  wish to embrace our limits as a stimulus to move forward. We set out on a journey to the edges of human history. We carry with us the gift of love that we have freely received and willingly pass on to others with generosity and passion. We do this in the name of the Son, in whom we profess our faith. We pray that no-one be ever divested of their dignity, nor deprived of that freedom that allows them to live a life that is meaningful and serene.

 

- To the Spirit, the source of every gift and every consolation, we open our minds and  hearts to express an imaginative newness which will bring us to to the fullness of life in accordance with the plan of God. As the Servite Family, we are sensitive to  our diversity of ethnicities, cultures, mentalities and experiences. This is a real wealth for our witness in the world. It creates bonds of fraternity and peace with all creatures. Recognising how sin creates division, let us live a daily conversion. We will refrain from saying: "I am right and you are wrong". We want to banish from us anything that divides and prevents us from welcoming the uniqueness of the other. In diversity we discover the creativity of the Spirit. So let us work to promote unity and harmony in our homes and regions and nations. In the name of the Holy Spirit, in whom we profess our faith, may no-one feel excluded or marginalized. May each of us be a shared particle of Truth, as we embrace the small truths of everyday life like the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit. Together, in respect for others, those particles come together and show forth the Spirit all God’s  strength and greatness.

 

May our praise be echoed in the song of life. There the Word is made flesh and opens us to an ever-new fruitfulness. As Servants of the Virgin Mary full of grace, we are also ready to announce the gift that has been given to us. So we go and stand alongside who are being crucified today, and not with the ones who crucify others. We stand alongside those who are being condemned and not with the ones who condemn others; we stand alongside those who are being marginalized and not with the ones who exclude people.

 

May Holy Mary help all of us, her Servants, brothers and sisters, to welcome the loving plan of God with joy and complete willingness. In this way may we know how to be, within the Church and in the world, an expression of fraternity and solidarity, a visible presence of God's compassionate embrace,  a vital yeast for building the Kingdom of God.

 

Final Constitutions vote  A final vote was needed to the proposal, “The text of our Constitutions and General Directory as produced by this Chapter will be sent to the Holy See for approval, and six months after approval will go into force for us all.” The six months space is to allow for translation and publication. Once again I took great satisfaction in being part of the long process of work on our Rule of Life. As they say in Italian (don’t mention cruise-ships!) “the ship has arrived in port”!

 

The day ended as it began, with plenty of rain. But there was good time for circulating and networking among the brothers. I took the opportunity of having a long conversation with fr John Fontana, Provincial of the United States Province. He’s looking forward to going home to America, even if his job is somewhat overwhelming and he has to cope with the decision to extend the mandate of Provincials and Officials from three years to four.

 

Quite a lot of the friars have been asking for copies of the many photos that I’ve been taking. I blame my camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, which my sister Colette uses, so I got hold of the same model. It is brilliant, with an especially good telephoto system. Those photos are now whizzing their way round the globe to all our Servite connections.

 

 

Tuesday 1 October 2013

 

St Thérèse of Lisieux  That’s today’s Saint, who is also patron of the Missions, and our mission community in Zululand was in charge of the morning liturgy. St Thérèse is a favourite of many people, including myself, especially for her clear writings on “The Little Way” of belonging to Jesus. Her name in the monastery was Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and I often reflect on the psalms which “long to see the face of God”. It’s also feastday for my friend the Prioress General of Servite Sisters of London, Sr Marie-Thérèse Connor. She’s in Canada holding and extended General Council Meeting of the sisters. Bonne fête!!

 

Old friend fr Mel Loftus presided. Fr Thulani Ntsele from Zululand gave the homily, with translation into Italian by Australian fr Leo Spicer. Thulani told stories – parables, he called them, a popular way of teaching and preaching in his home land. Fr Francis Kawuki from Uganda concelebrated at the altar as well, and I was asked to play the organ for the hymns. We began with “He sent me give the good news to the poor”, which is quite lively for a tired gathering of early-morning friars. But they rose to it, with lively vocal help from fr Collie McGlynn.

 

Evaluation We did a quite careful evaluation of the Chapter in this morning’s session, considering the good points (many of these, thank God!) and the points where some improvement is needed. Obviously the main point of satisfaction has been the friendly meeting of so many brothers, new faces and old faces, from across the world. The average age of the Chapter members has surprised many, with so many younger friars contributing a lively presence to the Chapter. The system of filling the meeting room with eight group-tables of six people each was considered a great success: it allowed everyone the chance to speak and be heard. Everyone is quite tired now at the end of this long assembly. This allowed us to say, “too many words!” – a real problem for extended meetings like this. Both the prayers and the deliberations seemed very wordy to quite a few. But overall, good satisfaction was expressed for the whole experience. Yes, sensitivity to those who don’t speak Italian needs attention, and the opening reports seemed to go on far too long. As old Father Alexis Mullens used to say about the new liturgy, “All very nice but far too long!” 


Bishop Ivo of Bolzano and Bressanone At the end of the morning we received a visit from the local Bishop. He is bishop of Bolzano and Bressanone, the latter being that city we visited on our way back from Maria Luggau, where we had the slide presentation about the Ice Man. Bishop Ivo was very genial. Speeches were made, and he told us about his extensive diocese and how they are very proud of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pietralba. He joined the community for lunch and received a collection of Servite publications as a gift from us all.

 

Regional Conferences  The afternoon was given over to the Regional Conferences, which group together various jurisdictions of the Order – Conference for Europe including General Houses, Conference for North America including Mexico, Conference for Latin American, Conference for Africa, Conference for Asia and Australia. Each conference’s leaders gathered together, as they do about twice a year, for matters of common interest. I was invited to the European Conference to act as intepreter for our Prior Provincial fr Bernard Thorne. There was all sorts of conversations about noviciate at Monte Senario, personnel and financial problems and so forth. These conference leaders’ meetings also serve as a kind of very helpful support group for provincials.

 

Closure The official closure of the 213th General Chapter was quite a ritual, enclosed in a form of Evening Prayer. A brief (Deo gratias!) summary of the Acts was read aloud. Then we had the official transfer of the Mozambique foundation from the care of the Spanish friars to the care of the Brazilian Province. This was quite emotional, as I mentioned before. Former Provincial from Spain, fr Javier Badillo, showed a powerpoint of beautiful pictures from Mozambique recalling the Servite history there over the past 29 years. Then the decree of transfer was read and a greeting of peace between Javier and the Brazilian Provincial fr Paulo Sergio Angeloni.

 

After the Psalms and the Bible reading, the Prior General gave a formal and lovely closing homily. I would print it here, but these pages are getting long. Here is the website reference, if you wish to read it and share it: http://capitulum2013.net/ .

 

Then we shared a sign of peace among all 55 people present. We’ve come to know one another quite well, and this action, too, was quite emotional. By tomorrow morning almost everyone will have left this place, so there was a certain “farewell” in the greeting. We sang Our Lady’s Magnificat and closed the Chapter in fraternity and peace. At the evening meal all the special goodies were put on the table, in an atmosphere of party and gladness. The southern Tyrol diet, especially in the mountains, does nothing good for the waistline. Some austerity must surely follow!

 

Wednesday 2 October 2013


A bus had arrived up here in the mountains, to take almost everyone down the length of Italy to Rome. I jumped out of bed early, to send my reflections for next Sunday’s Mass readings. I wanted to say good-bye to everyone – I would be leaving tomorrow from Verona. They piled onto the bus and waved goodbye at 7 o’clock, aiming for Monte Senario first, and then onwards to Rome. Apart from a few stragglers, the place was suddenly empty and very quiet. It was a beautiful morning after all that rain, and a fine sliver of waxing moon was up in the dawn-sky over the mountains. I shall go for a walk in the forest today, after finishing this Diary. I might write some more about the homeward journey, but probably not… I want to get this Part 7 completed with some pictures, and send it off across the internet to you and all friends. I’m thinking, what a blessing this has been, almost a holiday!

 

Fr Paul M. Addison OSM
Servite Priory
500 Bury New Road
SALFORD Lancs. England M7 4ND

pauladdisonosm@tiscali.co.uk  

pauladdisonosm@gmail.com