The Covid-19 has accentuated the features
of the end of an era, a change of
civilisation. History tells us that the period (sometimes long, sometimes
brief) preceding the birth of a new civilisation is a period of decadence: a
time of chaos and uncertainty, exactly like this moment in which we find
Seeking inspiration for the present
moment, I turned my gaze to the early Christian communities, which developed
and expanded in an inexplicable way during a very difficult period for them,
even more so than ours.
In this regard, I was surprised recently,
when reading a profound reflection by a pastor of the Lutheran church, to come
across the neologism “anti-fragile”
applied to the Church. He makes a very suggestive interpretation: mechanical
systems are fragile in their complexity; organic ones, on the other hand, are
anti-fragile because they are designed to grow under pressure. Some parts of
our bodies, like bones or muscles, for example, need pressure to stay healthy
and grow stronger. Similarly, the early
church was a profoundly anti-fragile system, growing and becoming stronger as
the pressure on it increased.
We can apply the same to our communities
or congregations. We are born into conditions of stress, of pressure, and we
develop best under those conditions. On the other hand, when there is no such
pressure, we relax, and we lose strength and become ill.
If living under pressure is part of the
normal conditions of the Christian community for its development and
consolidation, then it is normal that the early Christians appreciated so much
the virtue of patience which,
according to the dictionary, is the “capacity to suffer or endure something
without getting upset.”
Cyprian of Carthage, Justin, Clement of
Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian all speak about patience, considering it a peculiarly Christian virtue, and the
greatest and highest of all virtues.To know that we are in God’s hands,
without wanting to control events, to live without anxiety or haste, and
without ever using force to achieve the goals we want to reach. Justin
describes patience as strange, and
stresses that it led to many conversions of pagans.
Its testimony was like the leaven that is
put into the flour and leads to fermentation. Both the early Christians and our
founders and foundresses were actively involved in the birth of the new in a decadent world.
Although outward signs might give the
impression to the contrary, Religious Life has a great relevance today. At the heart of what we are called to be is
exactly what today’s women and men need. At the heart of our life is a series
of non-negotiables that, lived in authenticity, have enormous germinal power.
The ensemble of such a life is a prophetic
contrast to the decadent practices of the present moment and a patient
leaven of change.
I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign
of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: “Radical
evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But
religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.” This is the
priority that is needed right now: “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus
lived on this earth... a religious must never abandon prophecy”. (Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis to all
Consecrated Persons, II, 2)
Not radicality, but prophecy. Or perhaps
better still, the radicality of prophecy.
Obviously, it is not a prophecy of setting oneself up as a model for anybody in
the Church, but rather the prophecy of
littleness and fragility, which testifies to God’s mercy. Prophecy - says
Br. Michaeldavide Semeraro - is the
ability to embrace death, failure, non-visibility, marginality, and to do so as
a permanent option for the whole of life.