Best Wishes for a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2009

When
the fullness
of
time come,
God
sent forth his Son,
born
of a woman,
born
under the law,
to
deliver those
who
were under the law,
so
that we could receive
our
adoption as sons.
(Galatians
4,4-5)
 
 

Rome, December 2008
Best Wishes for a blessed Christmas
and a prosperous New Year 2009
To the Most Rev. Superiors
Of the Rogationist Circumscriptions
To the Religious Communities
THEIR SEATS
 

Dearest Confreres,

I would like to take
the occasion of the usual letter for Christmas wishes to communicate
to you my experience in the recent 12th Ordinary Assembly
of the Synod of Bishops, in which I had the grace, honor and joy to
be one of the ten delegates of the Union of General Superiors. This,
above all, to remind me and you of the centrality of the Word of God
in our  life which, definitely, has been the object of the Synod.

The Synod of Bishops,
as we know, is an institution of consultation willed by Pope Paul VI
in answer to the desire of the Fathers of the 2nd Vatican
Council, to maintain alive the authentic spirit of sharing formed from
the experience of the council. It can be defined as assembly of the
representatives of the catholic episcopate that has the duty to help
the Pope in the governance of the universal Church with opportune advises
on some specific arguments. According to the normative, religious, experts,
religious auditors, lay and brother delegates are invited to it.

Personally, I consider
my participation an authentic gift, because it has offered me the opportunity
to take part, from the inside, in the reflection that the Church makes
of itself through the representatives of the universal episcopate. In
some way, my participation, as Superior General, becomes a gift and
a recognition also for the Congregation. I took advantage of the occasion
to present to the Synod Fathers coming from all over the world a typical
expression of our vocational apostolate of the Rogate. I gave them as
gift the 2009 Agenda Rogate and a compact disk on the life of our Holy
Founder.

This Synod on the
Word of God in the life and mission of the Church
, was placed in
continuity with the previous one on the Eucharist source and summit
of the life and mission of the Church
(2005), the fruit of which
was the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation: Sacramentum Caritatis
(2007), of Benedict XVI, which we all know.

Concretely the 12th
Synodal Assembly, as stated in the Instrumentum laboris
was proposed to attract and stimulate the love for Sacred Scripture,
to which "the faithful should have wide access" (cf. DV 22);
see the unity between the bread of the Word and the Body of Christ,
to fully nourish the life of Christians; to draw the indissoluble circularity
relation between the Word of God and the liturgy; to urge everywhere
the exercise of Lectio Divina, duly adapted to different circumstances;
to offer to the world of the poor the word of consolation and hope of
the Gospel. The Synod, which is eminently pastoral and missionary, has
understood even more to deepen the doctrinal foundations of the Scripture
and its intrinsic links with Tradition and the Magisterium
(cf. IL, 4).
 

The work that continued
for three weeks with General Congregations (assembly) and the Small
Linguistic Group  (commission), had its own procedural order where
nothing is left to chance. The methodology of discussion, intervention,
proposal and vote, widely tested in the 22 synodal assemblies that have
so far succeeded each other (12 ordinary and 10 specials), reveals an
effective organization that could be considered, in some respects, also
for our General chapters. The Holy Father has taken part in the work
directly and personally presided over several general congregations.
 

The work of the Synod
were introduced by the initial report (relatio ante disceptationem)
of the General Speaker, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, PSS, Archbishop of Quebec,
which summarized in a complete way the theme and related issues organically
addressed in the Instrumentum Laboris ; it was followed by the
five reports concerning the reception of Word of God in the five continents
from the part of the same Synod Fathers. Immediately after, in the different
successive sessions, the interventions of the Fathers (5 minutes) took
place. They  generally consider  the specific numbers of
the Instrumentum Laboris. Thus, there was a rich and fruitful
exchange of insights, experiences, testimonies of faith, thoughts and
ideas on the Word, from which emerged an articulate image of the Church
in its different local realities, regarding the Word of God and its
current challenges and expectations. Particularly touching are the speeches
by some Fathers who told how the announcement and witness of the Word
still lead to persecutions and even martyrdom in their Churches.
 

In the second phase, 
in the light of interventions in the aula, the General  Speaker
presented a summary report (relatio post disceptationem) with
a range of issues and emphases that have been repeatedly debated in
circles and small linguistic groups and reported at the assembly.
 

In a third phase, the
smaller circles have devoted some time to make suggestions and comments
preparing a series of concrete proposals that, subject to the General
Speaker  and the Special Secretary, were joined in a unified list
of Propositions, which was then presented to final discussion for possible
amendments. The final list of Propositions, with the amendments made
and approved, was presented in plenary session and submitted for the
final vote of the assembly.  The role of experts has been important
for the preparation of the post disceptationem
report, for discussion and the development of Propositions.
 

In the first phase
of the work I had also the opportunity to make an intervention which
I focused on the vocational dimension of the Word of God. It
referred to the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris that deals
with the mystery of God who speaks to us [nn.23-26] and the consequent
attitude of listening of the believer, in obedience of faith. I tried
to briefly highlight the vocational dimension which is the Word "appellant"
for herself, as acting effectively in the hearts of those who receive
it, and because it contains figures, stories and reflections that narrate
the calling  of God of some Biblical characters in view of missions:
all callings, I said, have as unique and definitive model, the 
vocation and mission of Jesus Christ, Son of God, that leads to the
completion of the Father's saving plan.
 

In biblical perspective,
therefore, man is defined as "responsorial identity", a subject
continually called upon to freely respond to the appeals of the Word.
In the life of the of every person, the Sacred Scripture, therefore
assumes above all, a theological role because it opens to the
transcendent and a pedagogical role because it educates to listening,
to the encounter with the message of the Word, and to the discerning
of the proposal in order for him to make a stand in front of himself
and his history. The relation between the Word and vocation therefore
assumes a spiritual value that confers the theme of “prayer
for vocation”. Such a prayer commanded by Jesus in the Gospel (Mt.
9,37-38/ Lk. 10,2), while is a request of workers for the harvest, becomes
a place of listening, of proposal, of availability and vocational response.
A “biblical spirituality” founded on the prayer for vocations (and
specifically for vocations to special consecration), makes sure that
the Word, heard and accommodated in the heart, could transform itself
in discernment and vocational journey. Concluding, I traced some pastoral
consequences that should be considered in the pastoral work for vocations
among the youth, to the promotion of the prayer for vocations and the
witnessing of consecrated life.
 

There are two significant
moments, and for some aspects historical, that have characterized the
Synod on the Word. The first has certainly been the intervention of
the Special Envoy Shear-Yahuv Cohen, Head Rabbi of Haifa (Israel) on
6 October. For the first time, an authority-representative of Hebraism
intervened in a Synod of the catholic Church to speak of the Hebrew
use of the Bible. The meeting with the “elder brothers” reminds
us that we owe them something as far as the Scripture (The Old Testament)
and that it is possible to receive from them fruitful teachings of veneration,
exegesis and jewish use of the sacred texts.
 

Another historical
moment has been the discourse of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople,
Bartholomew I on 18 October. The Holy Father has desired to give particular
relevance to the meeting by making the Patriarch intervene in the Sistine
Chapel after the solemn prayer of Vespers. Referring to the patristic
oriental tradition, Bartholomew I has spoken of the “five senses of
the soul”, which are “faculties of the heart and the mind” necessary
to approach the Word. Listening and proclaiming the Word through
the Sacred Scriptures, seeing the Word in nature and above all,
in the beauty of icons, touching and sharing the Word in the
communion of the saints. The discourse of the Patriarch, which the Holy
Father has briefly commented in his thanksgiving, has been a testimony,
nourished by the spirit of the Fathers and of the Sacred Liturgy, on
the value of the Word of God in the orthodox Church; expression
– the Pope says – of a profound spiritual joy and living experience
of our communion, a joyful experience, an experience of unity perhaps
not perfect, but true and profound.

The 55 final Propositions
are, ultimately, the fruit of the work of the Synod. Divided into three
sections, corresponding to the parts  of the Istrumentum Laboris,
they summarize the wealth of debate on the Word of God. The Propositions,
along with Lineamenta, the Istrumentum Laboris, the
post disceptationem
report, the texts of speeches, both those presented
in the aula and those in scriptis, the final message (nuntius)
to the People of God, have been finally subjected to the consideration
of the Holy Father so that he may evaluate the opportunity to offer
to the Church, as is customary, an Apostolic Exhortation on the Synodal
Theme.
 

To share the wealth
of what has been discussed at the Synod, I highlight below some issues
which are certainly important for us and for our pastoral ministry,
referring to the final Propositions. The references are certainly partial
and do not exhaust the wealth of content. In this perspective, I am
leaving the reading of the complete Propositions to everybody. (see:
http://www.vatican.va/news
services/press/sinodo/bollettino 22 xii-ordinaria-01 italiano/b37 01.html
). 

First, it is useful
to point out that the Synod, having as its theme the Word of God
in the life and mission of the Church, did not simply deal with the
Scripture. It was revealed that the expression Word of God is analogical.
This refers primarily to the Word of God in the person of Christ who
is the only-begotten Son of God, the Word of God made flesh (cf. Jn
1, 14). The Word transcends the Sacred Scripture, even if it contains
it in the singular way; under the guidance of the Spirit it is guarded
and preserved by the Church in her living Tradition (cf. DV 10) and
is offered to humanity through the preaching, the sacraments and the
testimony of life. With this wealth of meanings it must be understood
and proposed (prop. 3).
 

The theme of the Word
of God, as was in the propositions, has been prevalently addressed 
in the pastoral perspective, but it also highlighted the theological
and exegetical issues relating to literary genders, methods and levels
of interpretation and today’s hermeneutics of Scripture in relations
with Tradition and the Magisterium. The propositions of these
themes have had ample spaces. They are issues that are of particular
concern to the Holy Father. He even gave his specific contribution to
them during their discussion (cf. Prop. 5.6.12.25-29).
 

In the reflection on
the Word of God, there has been basic and continuous reference to the
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum of the
Second Vatican Council, for the great exegetical, theological, spiritual,
pastoral and ecumenical contribution it has made. I believe that in
the attention that this year we intend to give the Word, we may, in
our community, do a re-reading of this important conciliar text (prop.
2).
 

Word of God and
liturgy
. There are different propositions that address the relationship
between the Word of God and liturgy. The liturgy, in fact, is the privileged
place where the Word of God is expressed fully, both in the celebration
of the sacraments, and above all in the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the
Hours and during the Liturgical Year. The mystery of salvation, narrated
in the Sacred Scripture, finds in the liturgy its proper place of 
announcement, listening and implementation (prop.14).
 

In the Eucharist, apex
of the liturgy, the Word of God becomes sacramental incarnation
and leads the Sacred Scripture to its fulfillmen
t, so without
the recognition of the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist
– the Synod said - the intelligence of
the Scripture remains unfinished
(prop.7). The importance of the
Word emerges in the other sacraments: Penance and the Anointing of the
sick (prop. 8, 35), the Marriage (prop.20), the Order (prop.31) and 
in the Christian initiation. The Synod has offered pastoral indications
so that the proclamation of the Word in the Liturgy be manifested in
the celebration.
 

Particular emphasis
was given to the importance of the celebrations of the Word of God (especially
in communities that do not have the possibility to celebrate Eucharist
on Sunday). In them the welcoming of the Word, prayer of the Lauds,
the thanksgiving and supplications
  are manifestations of the
Spirit in the heart of the faithful and in the Christian assembly gathered
around the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in fact, makes the Word proclaimed
and celebrated bear fruit in the hearts and lives of those who receive
it (prop. 18).
 

Then there was a hint
on the Liturgy of the Hours as a privileged form of listening to
the Word of God
that belongs to the living Tradition of the Church.
The Synod, in addition to the desire for a broader involvement of the
faithful, calls the ordained, religious and those who are delegated
by the Church to their sacred duty to pray the Liturgy of the
Hours (prop. 19).
 

Remaining in the liturgical
context, I want to highlight another element that has been particularly
present in the many interventions of the Fathers in the assembly. It
concerns the preaching and, more particularly, the Sunday homily which
for most Christians is the only moment of confrontation with the Word.
Noting how the homily is not often appreciated and is, at times, falling
short of its function, its nature and objectives have been highlighted.
There was a desire to have a Homiletic Directory that should
outline, together with the principles
of Homiletics and art of communication, the content of biblical themes
that recur in lectionaries in use in the Liturgy
. The homily, aimed
at actualizing for the community the Word proclaimed, should lead
to the mystery being celebrated, transmit the teaching of the Church,
call to conversion, invite to mission, share the joys, sorrows and
hopes of the faithful
. The biggest concern that has been expressed,
however, was the necessity that the priest should first announce with
his life what he proposes with words, and that he must express in
his word the very convictions of his heart. The first recipient
of the word
- said a Bishop - is the same homilist who must
allow himself, first of all, to be taken by the Word of God, to be
its disciple so he could be a pastor and a teacher
(prop. 15).
 

Word of God and
consecrated life
. Of special interest to us is what the religious
Synod said on Word and the consecrated life. The close relationship
that exists between the Word of God and Consecrated Life has been underlined.
It draws an expression of Benedict XVI who had defined consecrated life
as living "exegesis" the Word of God (2 February 2008),
because it comes from hearing the Word of God and accept the Gospel
as its standard of living
. Further, it adds that  Consecrated
Life is itself a "word" with which God continues to speak
to the Church and the world
. It is also recognized its valuable
contribution to the witness of the Gospel and, in particular, the tradition
of prayerful reading of the Word through Lectio divina.
 

Then, the  consecrated
persons are urged to keep alive this precious tradition of priority
attention to the Word, taking care to ensure the personal and community
spaces of listening to the Word of God and to promote school of biblical
prayer open to the laity, especially the young. They should  know,
it adds, to listen to the Word of God with hearts of the poor and give
their answer in their commitment to justice, peace and integrity of
creation
(prop. 24).
 

Word of God and
training of candidates on the sacred
order. I deem also of 
particular interest what the Synod has reiterated about the relationship
between the Word, sacerdotal life and formation. The teaching of the
Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis
has been re-considered.  It  states that the priest be
the first "believers" to the word, in full awareness that
the words of his ministry are not “ his”, but
of the One who sent him. Of this Word he is not the master: he is a
servant. Of this Word he is not the
single owner: he is indebted to the People of God
(PDV 26) (prop.
31).
 

Regarding the priestly
formation, it reiterates that the Scripture must be the soul of theological
training, stressing the essential circularity between exegesis, theology,
spirituality and mission
. Being near to the Word during the time
of the initial and permanent formation requires multiple approaches:
the liturgy, Lectio divina, the exegetical and hermeneutical
study, the spirituality (prop. 32).
 

Word of God and
prayerful reading
. There were many interventions  of the Fathers
regarding this theme. It has been mentioned that in many Christian communities
there is, even among the laity, a flowering of experience of the
prayerful reading of the Word
. Aware that this reading of the Scripture,
through Lectio divina and other similar methods, is particularly
fruitful for the Christian life, the
Synod Fathers see a real sign of hope and encourage all Church leaders
to redouble their efforts in this direction
so that the dialogue with God becomes everyday reality
. Among the
indications that are offered in the proposition and are certainly useful
for us, there is the exhortation to the due initiation to this practice,
that the praxis of the prayerful reading
be made with the liturgical texts that the Church proposes in the daily
and Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, it should have as goal
the commitment to charity
. For this, there is a call to assure that
Pastors and, in a very particular way, future priests , should have
proper and adequate formation to this reading so that they can
in turn train the people of God in this spiritual dynamics (prop. 22).
 

I wish to point out
then,  the reference to the vocational dimension of the Word, that
was the theme of my speech in Assembly. It is present in the proposition
related to biblical  animation and the young people, where,
in addition to the evangelical reference of the calling of the rich
young man (Mt. 19: 16-22), there is the desire that the Scripture 
should be presented in its vocational implications so as to help and
guide many young people in their vocational choices, even until the
total consecration
(prop. 34).
 

The proposition on
the Word of God and love for the poor are to be considered important
for some emphases that are also of our own spirituality. It says that
as Encyclical of Benedict XVI Deus Caritas est teaches, the
first to be entitled to the proclamation of the Gospel  are precisely
the poor, they are in need not only
of the bread but also of the words of life
. However, the poor
are not just recipients of charity, but also agents of evangelization,
as they are open to God and generous in sharing with others
.
Pastors are called to listen to them, to learn from them, to guide them
in their faith and should motivate them to be architects of their own
history
(prop. 11).
 

There are hints, even
in the context of our current celebration of the centennial of the magazine
“Dio e il Prossimo”, related to the proposition on the Word and
means of communication
. The Synod underlines the great importance
of the media, languages and the new culture of communication for evangelization.
The announcement of the Good News

- it says - finds new scale in today's communication characterized
by its intermedia quality. It is therefore necessary
to know well the media of communication , accompany their quick transformation
and invest more in communication through the different tools that are
offered, such as television, radio, newspapers, internet
(prop.
44).
 

Finally, I would like
to make reference  to the many propositions that are found in the
third part under the title Word of God in the Mission of the Church,
also because the topic touches, from the biblical perspective, the priority
theme of "mission" that 10th General Chapter has
left us. The Synod, while encouraging  all the baptized to the
proclamation of God's Word (prop. 38), looks at different areas of the
mission such as: the commitment in the world (prop. 39), inculturation
(prop. 48), art and culture (prop. 40, 41), the safekeeping of creation
(prop. 54), the phenomenon of sects (prop. 47), ecumenism and interfaith
dialogue (prop.37.50.52.53). Reaffirming the urgency of the mission
ad gentes in the present situation, following
the example of Saint Paul, of the apostles and the many missionaries
who, throughout the history of the Church, brought the Gospel to the
people, the Synod claims that the announcement
must be explicit, made not only within our churches, but everywhere,
and must be accompanied by the coherent
testimony of life, which makes clear
and strengthens its content
(prop. 49).
 

The last proposition
of the Synod invites to look at Mary, the
Virgin Mother of the Incarnate Word, who with
her yes to the Word of Alliance and
her mission, perfectly fulfilled the divine vocation of humanity
.
The Synod affirms that the devoted and loving attention to the figure
of Mary as a model and archetype of the Church's faith, is of paramount
importance to operate even today a real paradigm shift in the relationship
of the Church with the Word, both in attitude of
prayerful listening as well in the generosity of
commitment for the mission and the
proclamation of the Word
. This is the hope and final prayer so that
the Synod “could bring fruits of genuine renewal in every Christian
community "(Benedict XVI, Angelus at Pompeii, 19 October 2008).
 

The Message to the
People of God (Nuntius) that the synod wanted to send at the end of
its work has  particular and eminent depth and richness in biblical
and poetic language. The text is constituted according to a symbolic
dimension, through four declinations of the word, almost like four stages
of a journey guiding to the listening and amorous reading of the Bible.
The word is  voice which has already emerged in the creation
and materializes in the pages of writing read in the light of the Spirit;
it is face, the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, it is he
who reveals the meaning of the scriptures; it is home, that is
the Church as place of the Word, supported by four columns (Acts 2:42):
education
(catechesis, homily, the proclamation), the breaking
of bread
(the Eucharist, summit and source of the life of the church),
prayers
(the psalms, the lectio), the fraternal communion
(because to be a Christian it is not enough to hear the word but we
must put it into practice); and finally, road that is mission,
they are the roads of the world where the Word walks (family, school,
art, communication, religions, the poor, etc.)
 

I think that both
the personal and communitarian reading of the Message will stimulate
us to get attune with the great theme of the Word of God, the first
source of every Christian spirituality
(VC 94) (see:
www.vatican.va).  

This is what I wanted
to share with you from my experience of the Synod. I realized even better
that, as Rogationists, born and founded on a word of the Gospel, the
Rogate, which contradistinguish our identity, we must be increasingly
aware that our whole life, in its personal, communitarian and apostolic
dimensions, draws inspiration, strength and nourishment from the Word
of God read, prayed and lived in everyday life.
 

The Synod noted that
the centrality of the Word of the Church, especially touches the consecrated
life. For some time, it is consistently highlighted even in the proposals 
for the renewal of the Rogationist spiritual journey. Starting from
teaching and example of Father Hannibal, assiduous reader of the Scripture
(cf. Quaranta Dichiarazioni e Promesse, XXIII, XXIV, XXVI. See
also the recent edition: DE VIRGILIO, G., Appassionato della Sacra Acrittura,
Father Haanibal, Today, new series no. 28), simply retrace our Rule
of life, Constitutions and Norms (C 91, N 96.99), the Ratio for
the initial and permanent formation (RI 27.28; PFPR 53), the Chapter's
Documents (cf. CSL (1998) 46.47.49) and also some recent letters Circulars
(eg. Venite all’acqua [2002]).
 

I hope that this Synod
and the forthcoming Papal Apostolic Exhortation, may be providential
opportunities for us to rediscover a new fidelity to the daily encounter
with the Word, fidelity as encounter with Christ who manifests his love
for us every day, calling us and sending us as apostles of Rogate. Let
us read, deepen and fully understand the Sacred Scriptures, let us transform
it in prayer and witness of life, let us listen to it with love and
faith in the liturgy.
 

In the climate of the
mystery of the coming Christmas,  in which the Word of God, who
is Christ the Lord manifested himself as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem
to be "God with us" and announcing his   salvation,
I would like to close with the concluding words of the Message:
 

Let us now
create silence in order to listen effectively
to the word of the Lord and let us conserve the silence
after listening, so that it may continue to
dwell, live and talk to us. Let us
make it resound at the beginning of our day
so that God will have the first word and
let us allow it to echo in us 
in the evening so that the last word
will be of God. 
 

Dear brothers and sisters,
All who are
with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with
you all!” (Titus 3, 15).
 

My cordial Christmas
wishes, sanctified by the Word of God, for a New year lived in his Light.
 
 

Fr. Giorgio Nalin,
RCJ

Superior General