“Three ways to live our project: encounter with God, encounter with the brothers, encounter with the disadvantaged”

Presentation homily of the new prior provincial of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, Carlos González, with a programmatic vision for the four-year period that begins after the celebration of the 128th Chapter of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine in Marcilla (Navarra, Spain), held between June 20th and 30th, 2022.
News | 2022 Jul 02

First of all, I would like to thank you for the trust you have given me to carry out this service, the service of prior provincial. I know how important it is to be the animator of the almost 300 religious that we are.

For this reason, because I am aware of this importance, I put myself in front of three witnesses of a journey of faith, three great, significant people for me who inspire me and support me.

The first is Abraham. When I was a child I went to the house of doctrine, the place where they taught us catechism, and both there and in the school run by the nuns, they told us stories about the great characters of the Bible.

They excited me. One of the stories that caught my attention in a strong, deep way was the story of Abraham. We know very well all that Abraham has to live, and one of his strong moments and great phrases is when he goes up to Mount Moria with his son Isaac for the sacrifice. The son asks where the victim is, and the answer is "God will provide."

Confidence. Abraham teaches me how important trust in God is, even in difficult times. I believe that the Province is going through a demanding moment, due to a situation that we all see is not easy to cope with. But greater than that is the presence of God and, therefore, Abraham, a character of deep trust in God, teaches me and I believe that he teaches us to trust in God.

The second significant character is Mary, my mother, our mother. Teacher. The specific moment that comes to mind is when the angel asks her, from God, to cooperate in the work of Salvation and she, with such a great decision, accepts. An unconditional acceptance: let it be done to me according to your Word. Yes, what God wants, he does.

It teaches me the importance of unconditional acceptance. And he continues to support her, because later he continues to listen to the Word of God, in the events, what God wants for her, what he asks of her; she internalizes, turns it over, and responds. Unconditional acceptance of God's will and always attentive response, always doing what is convenient, which supports God's plan. Trust and unconditional acceptance.

The third person is the Holy Spirit, my friend, our friend, abundance of life and abundance of love. It fills us with life, it is the vital breath, personally and as a Family it is the force of God that fills our hearts. For me there is a phrase that Saint Augustine repeats a lot, taken from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (5,5): the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

There is abundance of life and there is abundance of love. The Holy Spirit has placed in our minds, in our being, in our hearts, that abundance. Therefore we can walk because the Spirit accompanies us.

Whose project is it that we are undertaking? Of God. The project, the dream, belongs to God. Jesus Christ communicated it to us and we have it in the Gospels. He has a marvelous project for all human beings, the text of the Beatitudes indicates it to us with extraordinary precision: there is a synthesis of the project of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, for all of us. We will be happy in that commitment and construction of the Kingdom of Love.

We are certain that building this Kingdom of love of Jesus everything will go very well. We want to live this project in the manner of Saint Augustine. It was the Holy Spirit who gave us the gift of our charism precisely to build that project and that dream of Jesus.

And we are asked if we want to join that project and dream of Jesus in the manner of Augustine with our charism; and as a religious Family we have said yes and the Holy Spirit is accompanying us with his abundance of life and love so that, effectively, we contribute our part as an Augustinian Recollect Family in the Church and in this world.

We have been meeting for nine days with a clear objective: together, to establish a Project of life and mission for the nearly 300 religious that we are and that we want to be the guiding line for the next four years.

This Project of life and mission only makes sense if it draws on and supports the project of Jesus in the manner of Augustine, as he left it to us in the Rule and as it is inspired by our Constitutions. Only then does it make sense. Why 63 decisions? Is it necessary if we already have a clear path in the Gospel, in the Rule and in the Constitutions?

It is not essential, of course, but they are precise indications in the here and now of our communities, of our services. Therefore, they are important. Are we going to fulfill this dream materialized in the Life and Mission Project or are we going to stop halfway? I do not know. What is clear to me is that one is the ideal and another is the reality.

I bring up that phrase by Albert Schweitzer: “Dreams and ideals are like stars. We never reach them, but they guide our way”. We do not reach the Gospel, it is an ideal that helps us to walk. We do not fulfill the Rule perfectly, it is a dream that is there and we want to live it. Nor are we going to fulfill the Province's Life and Mission Project perfectly because it is an ideal, it is a dream.

By this, I do not mean that I am inviting you to do it anyway and leave it aside. You have to find the best conditions to carry it forward. What I mean is that you have to be realistic, and there are elements that can be carried forward and there are elements that cannot be carried forward.

In any case, the greatest thing we have done here in these nine days and in all the time of preparation where our communities were gathered, talking, making suggestions; our laity in the Secular Fraternities and the JAR (Augustinian Recollect Youth), all the members of the Family, all that previous work and all the work during the Chapter, that is what is rich, and that is more important than the 63 Decisions that we write in our Life Project and mission.

Why do I say it is more important? Because in all the previous work the spirit of what we want is collected, the dreams, the needs, what helps us walk, what we want are collected.

The written document that will appear in a few days and that we will all have in hand specifies some of the elements, not all, of this spirit that is inside, that is below. Therefore, all that dialogue that we have had is more important, exchange of ideas, enrichment with the ideas of others, contributing our own, those concerns that we have been able to weigh…

All that spirit is bigger than the brochure, and this is the one that will accompany us and will help us to walk. Three ways are asked of us, as religious, so that we know how to live our Gospel, our Rule, our Constitutions, the Project of life and mission. Three elements:

  • That we know how to go to the desert, to meet God.
  • That we know how to go to the community to dialogue, help each other and work together.
  • That we know how to go to those in need, especially to the places we call the periphery.

Three paths: the encounter with God, the encounter between us, fraternal, the encounter with the people we serve, we need them. We know these three keys very well. I ask the Holy Spirit to unlock our fears, to unlock our difficulties, the problem is not in Him because He is abundance; we have the problem when we do not allow ourselves to be moved by the abundance of life and love that come from the Holy Spirit.

I conclude with a thought. When we were working these days and all those messages arrived, they all had a common denominator: the Holy Spirit: that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, that the strength of the Holy Spirit, that the love of the Holy Spirit are the key in your chapter meeting, that know how to second the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…

Personally, they told me, that you know how to be the guide, break your fears, break your lukewarmness, and there is only one way, open yourself to the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Among the many messages I received one from one of the simple professed, a quote from Benedict XVI that I want to share with you. This chain is important in the fraternity: he gave me this thought and I give it to you now, because I believe it is essential for this service that I am now beginning and for all of us who are carrying out services for our Family and for the Church, and I believe that we are all. And he says like this:

“Therefore, to the extent that our union with the Lord grows and our prayer intensifies, we too go to the essential and understand that it is not the power of our means, of our virtues, of our abilities, that accomplishes the kingdom of God, but it is God who works wonders precisely through our weakness, through our inadequacy to the task. Therefore, we must have the humility not to simply trust in ourselves, but to work in the Lord's vineyard, with his help, abandoning ourselves to him like fragile clay pots”. [Benedict XVI, general audience of Wednesday, June 13, 2012].

I trust in God, I accept what he asks of me, I ask the Holy Spirit that his abundance break my frailties and my weaknesses.

I end with this: The Bishop of this Diocese, Francisco, the day he visited us, spoke to us about that phrase attributed to Saint Augustine but which is not from Saint Augustine, we do not know who it is, but it is very valuable. We walk in a fraternal way, as a group, working as a team, it is the ideal.

The phrase says: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. In what is essential, in what is necessary, let there be unity; in the doubtful, in the secondary, let there be freedom; but that in everything we live charity.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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