Pastoral Letter - Ascensiontide 2021
As you know, I like to write a few words of encouragement to you a couple of times a year, usually in Eastertide and Advent. The last six months have not been particularly eventful as the plandemic is still disrupting our usual opportunities to travel, therefore, at times such as this net-working with fellow bishops in similiar jurisdictions becomes particularly helpful as our seminarians cannot always travel to their nearest HCCI bishop for ordination. Such was the case, when last December our good friend, Bishop Tom Simota, kindly ordained Fr Sergio to the priesthood for us, a cause of great joy. We have also been delighted to welcome Deaconess Consuelo and several new seminarians.
Notwithstanding the disruption to regular church business, the last few months have been momentous for Dom Bruno and I as we gradually dismantled our old life at St Gall’s Retreat and moved to a rented apartment in Ticino. Letting go of a lot of clutter has been liberating, though the process of moving was exhausting. We love our new locality and feel accepted by the local community, which is a great blessing after nearly a decade in Avers. Although the people here in Leventina are as secularised as most other Europeans it seems to me that there is still an underlying and understated spirituality lingering here, like warm embers beneath the ash of the hearth, that might be fanned into flame if there were a sufficient influx of Spirit.
This has been a good move for us, yet we have suffered a drastic drop in income, which to myself especially has been a considerable source of stress. Dom Bruno has bought a new house in Norway, and though we cannot travel there as yet we do hope that later in the year we may be in a position to open our guest rooms there and that we’ll see some of you there before too long. Watch this space!
I must confess that it has not been so easy to muster joy this Eastertide but one must try, as joyfulness is one of the true marks of a disciple of the Master Jesus. This is something much deeper than always looking “on the bright side of life”, though of course positivity helps too. No, a Christian can be sorrowful, perhaps suffering from the loss of loved ones; or loss of health or wealth; and still have access to a deep well of joy within, a blessed assurance that in the midst of trials the Holy Spirit, the Parakletos, the Comforter, is but a breath away. So let us breathe deeply of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost knowing that awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit will bear the fruit of love, joy and peace.
Here, in this part of Valle Leventina the parishes are all served by the Capuchin Friars who have had a convent in Faido since 1612. This order works hard to preserve the true spirit of St Francis, who was one of the great saints of joy, so when I see the friars about the local villages they remind me of St Francis who once described his religious order as a “society of joy” and exhorted his brothers to “Always be joyful”.
When we prioritise our contemplative life and regularly immerse ourselves in the presence of God, hopefully some of His light will stay us and shine through us, so that we in turn, in our own little way, may be a light in the darkness of these times, guiding wayfarers to their eternal home.
As a final thought for Pentecost I would like to leave you with some sayings of the Camaldolese monk, Blessed Paul Giustiniani, which if reflected on may help you to draw forth the fountain of joy.
"Love the profound tranquility of holy solitude."
"Savour the sweetness of retreat in cell."
"Go to Church for the work of God, not by habit or duty, but rather driven by the interior desire to praise our Creator."
"Celebrate holy Mass in the joy of the Spirit."
"Take delight in the daily practice of the private recitation of the psalter."
Rejoice in the modest measure and simplicity of food and drink."
"Be happy to live at the hermitage".
If these few recomendations seem difficult to achieve in a busy life then perhaps appeal to the Holy Spirit for a secret place in the heart, some interior space, where your spiritual hunger may be satisfied.
For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” (Gal. 5: 22)
Your brother in Jesus and Mary,