"During this pandemic the Church remains a school of humanity and spirituality"

Fabrizio Méndez Gómez, Costa Rican, is, he says, "happily married, from whose love three beautiful daughters have been born." With a university degree in Philosophy, Pedagogy and Education Sciences, and in Administration, degrees obtained at universities in various countries, he has held the responsibility of being academic director and instructor at the Latin American Institute of Computing in San José, Costa Rica, and as technical and academic coordinator of CEDES Don Bosco de Alajuela, Costa Rica. Since 2015 he has been coordinating in the Company of the Augustinian Technical College of the City of Children.
Testimonies | 2020 May 15

We entered into conversation with Fabrizio, who says that for seven years he was a Salesian religious and his fundamental academic training received it directly from the Salesians of Don Bosco in Guatemala and, after a few years of university training in other centers, "the turns of fate made me return with the Salesians".

Through the veins of the Salesians and the inspired of the spirit of Don Bosco circulates interest in youth; more if they are vulnerable. And so, Fabrizio feels very at ease in the atmosphere of the Ciudad de los Niños, of Agua Caliente de Cartago, in Costa Rica, with young people of scarce resources who arrive from all areas of the country to this socio-educational institution, directed by the Augustinians Recollects.

"The accumulated experience has led me to generate good initiatives for the sake of our recipients and has provided the possibility to make a direct commitment to the companies that have fallen in love with the Ciudad de los Niños project," says Fabrizio, who is making available to the CDN its training and personal experience.

In the midst of this almost feverish educational and professional activity, Fabrizio, what has been your process of faith?

From my teens my attraction for religious life helped me to form my Christian life and what I am today. I always shared and enjoyed living in poverty, chastity and obedience, and, trying to be a living example of Christ's life, I wanted to show it with joy towards young people – "with young people all heaven is already here" - who see the Church as something boring. As a catechist I prepared many for first communion and confirmation, and I was also a coordinator of youth groups or even, at times, acted as a spiritual counselor. And as a husband, I try, as far as possible, that Jesus be the center of the family, despite the ideologies that abruptly fill young people in the Universities.

The Church is often a stumbling block for many people, even believers. How do you see the Church? What opinion do you deserve?

From a sociocultural anthropological perspective, it is a meeting point for personal fulfilment - I find myself - social -meeting with the other - and of transcendence -meeting with the Transcendent- From a perspective of faith, it is the right place to live and share faith in God, although faith is to be lived in the house, the street, the temple.
I believe that in the time in which we live, especially during this pandemic, the Church remains a school of humanity and spirituality, for she is silently always present on the front line attending the sick and bringing comfort and hope to its members, but also praying for everyone from anywhere in the world.
The Church, in this pandemic, is manifesting itself more alive than ever.... Francis' iconic image celebrating almost only Easter can only be a misperception, as he was certainly spiritually accompanied by the "domestic churches" of every corner of the planet. I also believe that it makes the message clear: The Church is not the great cathedrals and temples, but the people in their homes, squares and/or streets, and especially hospitals and health care centers...

What problems do you think are the most pressing in our society?

Although the list could be long, I focused on three:
Dehumanization: Human beings in recent decades are living amid that tension caused by the loss of values or the "light" experience of values. Abortion, euthanasia – now stronger by COVID-19 – gender ideology, armed conflicts, religious conflicts, even genetic manipulation, etc., have caused an abyss of anti-value and a wear and tear of the human institution par excellence: the family. The more you attack him, the less quality of men and women we have, if not defended "from within". I mean, with humanity.
Mediocre professionalization  : This is, in some way, also a consequence of the          previous.  To the extent that everything is relative, the professions lose importance and validity for the construction of a better society... You no longer need to strive "so much" to be professional in something... There are so many easily disposable style options, powered by a vision of speed, because the world changes fast, that you can hardly generate long-range changes... Everything is short-term now... Just look at the conception of work that young millennials have ... The law of minimal effort is a serious obstacle to generating better quality professionals and, therefore, the quality of society is lower.
The lack of a sense of belonging: That is, it is necessary to feel part of a family (at least), a community, a labor institution, a country... Under the premise "we are citizens of the world" hides the fallacy that today it is no longer necessary to be close to the family (from a physical point of view), or for a long term job, or to settle in a country... Today is here, tomorrow can be there... But it is clear that to the extent that people or human groups have greater or lesser cohesion around a collective imagination, to that extent they will be able to face with greater chances of success the problems of daily life that affect them all... It is therefore necessary to feel also part of the Church, of a community of faith.

In a society like you paint it, how can the Christian faith be lived and bear witness to faith?

Fortunately, the Church, a community of faith, is a divine institution, but also a human one. Two thousand years of history bring with them a "procession" of martyrs, saints, blessed, servants of God, and ordinary Christians who with their own lives have borne witness that Jesus lives, and in His name everything is possible, as proclaimed by the apostles and disciples of the first communities. Faith, as a personal encounter with Jesus, is evident in the everyday, in the people next door, in the faces of those who cross the street and we never see again. The important thing is to be carried away by grace, and that the same grace act through one, however sinful we may be. The grace will always be greater.

Living the faith, practicing religion, certainly means going against the current.

There's no doubt about it. I am of the so-called Generation X, in which respect for religious things was still maintained, but things have changed. Today ideological tendencies envelop the fragile minds of young people and not so young, and lead them on paths that are not right; they end up abandoning all religious practice. It's hard to fight this, but it's not impossible. We must be a living Church, be up to date on everything and like what young people like to bring them closer to Christ.

Luckily and graceful from God, my family and friends are vivid testimonies of what God does in each of them to give Him glory and spread His kingdom.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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