October 16

The Capitulars took a refreshing trip to Gennazzano, a town in the Province of Rome that lies at 1,230 feet above sea level. They visited a famous church and entrusted the 55th General Chapter to the loving care of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio (Our Lady of Good Counsel).

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They also had the opportunity to visit the chapel where the remains of Blessed Stephen Bellesini, a friar of the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine, lies. An apostle of the youth and education, he was for a time a Novice Master, and later was transferred to Gennazzano, home to the miraculous fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel, for whom he had a great devotion.

The Capitulars entered the sanctuary through the Holy Door, celebrated the holy mass, and closed the visit by praying at the image of the said miraculous Lady.

October 17

Towards the end of the previous week, the different commissions guided by the light of revitalization labored to expound the proposals that shall guide the future of the Order in the forthcoming years.

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Implied in these were the renewed lines of actions and structural changes that require strong basis in our proper and universal norms i.e., those of the Order and of the Church. Consequently, there was a need for an expert in Canon Law who will help shed light on various possibilities. This task was especially entrusted to a commission that made a report during the morning session. Fray Ricardo Daniel Medina OAR, a canon lawyer and one of the advisers of this General Chapter, replied to the questions that the Capitulars raised concerning the different possibilities in the configuration/restructuring of the Order.

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The afternoon session was dedicated to the works of the commission. The members continued to focus on defining their respective proposals, commenting and assessing those of the other commissions. It was a matter of methodology that enriches and concurs the decision taken by the Chapter. Observably, the day’s schedules were enthused by the inspiring words of Cardinal Braz de Aviz who presided the holy mass.

October 18

In the morning, the DECISION PHASE began. In accord with the Ordo Capituli, the commission secretary will report to the plenum the proposals approved by the commission.

During the presentation of each proposal, the other commission secretaries as well as the vocals (i.e., the Capitulars) will have the opportunity of making their observations, of opposing, or of completing it. After a proposal has been thoroughly discussed, the commission is given ample time to weigh the opinions heard and to take those that create positive impact.

Afterwards, the commission will present again in the session hall those proposals that have been discussed and revised. The commission secretaries and electors can now air briefly their opinions regarding the proposed ordinances. During the discussion, each proposal is subjected to voting. If there is another alternative text proposed by another commission or by any of the electors, the text of the presenting commission is given preference and must be voted on first.

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If an ordinance is approved by absolute majority of affirmative votes, the said proposal will form part of the Life and Mission Project of the Order. If a proposal attains the absolute majority of votes, thanks to IM (Iuxta Modum or Yes with modification) vote, the said proposal will be returned to the commission. This commission will study the suggestions and approaches received in the hall, but it has the faculty to accept them or not, according to its view.

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Whatever may be the choice, the said proposal will have to be presented again to the session hall and to be subjected again to a vote. This time, the vote will only be either Yes or No. If in the new voting the proposal receives an absolute majority, it will be among the ordinances; if not, it will be discarded.

A discarded proposal, however, could still be reconsidered in the Chapter hall if a third of the Capitulars will ask for its reconsideration, and such reconsideration is accepted by absolute majority of the Capitulars. In this case, the commission will again present the proposal in the plenary assembly, following the same mechanics in other proposals.

October 19

Note: There was no specific publication of any particular event for this day. We just surmised that, from experience, the “very engaging” DECISION PHASE continues to sizzle… that is to say, the per-commission presentation of proposals and the ensuing debate and voting characterized the sessions of the day.

October 20

Today marked the celebration of the feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki, a Japanese martyr and patroness of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity. On this occasion, the Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, sent his greetings to the SARF all over the world.

In a special way, the day saw the encounter of 60 Recollects (the Capitulars and the student-priests at Via Sistina) with Pope Francis. The excited visitors were received at the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Palace. Fray Miguel Miró, Chapter President, delivered his greetings to the Holy Father, expressing the renewal of the Order’s vocation in the service of the Church. In the words of the Pope, on this encounter “they have wanted to change and offer to God the life of the Order, with its hopes and challenges, in order that He be the One to give them light and hope.”

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With his warm welcome and gratitude to the Prior General, for the kind words addressed to him, and in the name of the entire Augustinian Recollect Family, the Bishop of Rome stressed that “to seek for renewal and motivation, it is necessary to return to God.” And, transfixed by his love to be able to love and to confront the current challenges, walk with Jesus, in prayer of thanksgiving and interior purification.

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Pope Francis invited the Augustinian Recollect Family “to maintain with renewed spirit the dream of St. Augustine to live as brothers ‘with one mind and one heart’ (Rule 1,2), which reflects the ideal of the first Christians and to be a living prophecy of communion in our world, that there may be no division, nor conflicts, nor exclusion; instead concord reigns and dialogue is promoted.”

The visit included the giving of a souvenir to the Pope: a painting by Fray Jaazeal Estelou Jakosalem OAR, entitled “Embrace of Mercy”, and a special edition of the two volumes of History of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, authored by Fray Angel Martínez Cuesta OAR.

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Fray Jakosalem’s oil-on-canvass painting shows the image of Pope Francis embracing the Christ-child (after the image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian refugee who died by drowning along with his mother and brother in the Mediterranean Sea, his iconic image brought increased attention and concern about the European refugee crisis).

“Embracing Mercy” symbolizes the Church's “motherly” attitude on the plight of the refugees; and Pope Francis personally lived it as his own advocacy. In the face of this global crisis, the Church embraces the many faces of injustice brought about by poverty, neglect and indifference of rich nations.

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The two tomes written in Spanish of the History of the Augustinian Recollects are the summit of the project started years before and entrusted to Fray Ángel Martínez Cuesta. In the prologue of the Volume 2, the Prior General says that “from now on, the two volumes of this History of the Augustinian Recollects are not only books of the library. In them our history is narrated and they are references for all who like to know our roots and our mission in the Church.”

The gesture of giving our History to the Pope intends to be a renewal of our Order’s commitment to the mission of the Church entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects, and a manifestation of our availability to go where the Church needs us.

Pope Francis personally received the framed artwork "Embracing Mercy" from a Filipino liturgical artist at the Sala Clementina, Vatican City, Rome after the special papal audience granted to the Augustinian Recollects who are participating in the 55th General Chapter last October 20, 2016.

This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received the sixty members of the 55th General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the theme of which is a prayer of St. Augustine: “All my hope lies in Your great mercy. Command what You will and give what You command”. This invocation, affirmed Francis, leads to being “men of hope, capable of placing all our trust in God’s mercy, aware that we are incapable of facing alone with our own strength the challenges that the Lord proposes to us. We are small and unworthy, but God is our security and joy; He never disappoints us and He is the one Who leads us on mysterious paths with fatherly love”.

In their General Chapter, the Augustinians wished to revise and put before God the life of the Order, with its hopes and challenges, so that it is He Who gives them light and hope. As the Pope observed, “to seek renewal and impetus it is necessary to turn to God, and to ask Him, ‘give what You command’. We asked for the new commandment that Jesus gave us: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another’ and it is what we implore: His love so as to be able to love. … God is always giving us this love and He is always present in our life. Let us look to the past and give thanks for the many gifts received”. We take this historical perspective, Pope Francis emphasised, in the hand of the Lord, because it is He Who gives us the key to interpret it; it is not about no longer making history, but rather discovering the presence of the Lord in every detail, in every step of life. The past helps us to return again to the charism and to appreciate it in all its freshness and fullness. It also gives us the possibility of underlining the difficulties that have emerged, and how they can be overcome, so as to face current challenges, looking to the future. This journey alongside Jesus becomes a prayer of thanksgiving and inner purification”.

The grateful memory of this love in the past “impels us to live the present with passion and with ever greater courage; then we can ask, ‘Command what you will’. To ask this implies freedom of spirit and willingness. Allowing oneself to be commanded by God means that He is the master of our life and that we have no other; and we know well that if God does not occupy His rightful place, others will do so. When the Lord is the centre of our life, everything is possible; there can be no failure, nor any other evil, because He is at the centre, and it is He Who guides us”.
In this special moment, He asks us to be His “creators of communion”. We are called to create, with our presence in the midst of the world, a society able to recognise the dignity of each person and to share the gift that each person is for the other. With our witness of community, living and open to what the Lord sends us, through the breath of His Spirit, we can respond to the needs of every person with the same love with which God has loved us. Many people are waiting for us to reach out to them and to look at them with the same tenderness we have experienced and received from our encounter with God. This is the power we bring: not our own ideals and projects, but rather the strength of His mercy that transforms and gives life”.

Francis concluded his discourse by inviting the participants in the Chapter to uphold with renewed spirit St. Augustine’s dream of living as “brothers with one heart and one soul, that reflects the ideal of the first Christians and is the living prophecy of communion in this world of ours, so that there is no division, conflict or exclusion, but that instead harmony and dialogue may reign”. He commended the intentions and projects of the Order to the protection of Our Lady, that she might guide and protect them, asking them to pray for him and to transmit his blessing to the whole Augustinian Recollect family.

October 13

Day 11 of the Chapter. The Capitulars prayed the Liturgy of the Hours. The holy mass, presided by Fray José Mª Aguerri, the Prior Provincial of the Province of the Our Lady of Consolation, was offered for the deceased benefactors of the Order.

As the information phase of the Chapter concluded, COMMISSION PHASE ensued. The different commissions were tasked to study in detail the following areas: charismatic identity and government; mission, ministerial, and educational apostolate; the youth and vocations; formation; and the restructuring of the Order. The Life and Mission Project was reviewed. The capitulares had to dig up anew the results of consultations, the opinions heard in the Chapter hall as well as the reflections of the commissions themselves. They were recapitulated to facilitate the formulation of concrete proposals to be presented in the hall and to be subjected to vote.

Before the groups went to work, some pending issues relative to restructuring had first to be addressed: secretariats, commissions, institutes, and the possibility of creating new forms of organization, etc.

At the start of the afternoon session, the capitulares voted on the final draft of the mission of the Order. This will be integrated in the Life and Mission Project.

As the Vespers hymn goes: “Night will not break your relationship with mankind; night is the time of salvation”, and after supper, the Chapter delegates gathered in the chapel for a lectio divina wherein they put all lights and shadows experienced during these days of the Chapter, all illusions, fears, hopes and insecurities in the hands of Jesus in dialogue with Nicodemus. It was time to pray the Word in John 3, 1-3. It was an invitation to identify with Nicodemus, the perfect teacher of the law, man of the temple, of age and with much experience… But Nicodemus lacks something, he misses something much greater. He needed to be born again… to submit self to the Lord, his only love. “Do not be afraid”; “Peace be with you”; “Do you love me more than these?”; “Your faith has saved you, go in peace”; “I am with you”; “My grace is enough”. The LV General Chapter was, indeed, witness to the “night that is time of salvation”!

October 14

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated with vocations to the Augustinian Recollect life as the main intention. Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, Prior Provincial of the St. Ezekiel Moreno Province. Fray Lauro Larlar gave an exhortation during the homily, calling to mind the importance of religious life as the reflection of the appeal of Jesus. Only from the Lord, with all our hope in his great mercy, welcoming His will, can religious life illuminate lives and awaken the vocation. That is the challenge.

From the start of the morning session, the whole day was dedicated to the work of the commissions, some of which have already profiled their first proposals that will be appearing soon in the Chapter hall.

Each commission is led by a President who moderates the reflection and the interventions, and a Secretary who takes charge of collecting all ideas that emerged and presents them in the session hall.

Although the commissions have a specific objective to deal with, they can also make proposals on any other issue tackled by the others. In this way, the dialogue in the plenary sessions is enriched even more.

The starting point of each commissions is the Life and Mission Project of the Order, the consultations made with the religious, the technical studies carried out during the sexennium, the contributions of the Capitulars in the plenary sessions, and the ideas that emerged during the meetings of the commission.

October 15

At the Roman basilica of St. Augustine, where the tomb of St. Monica lies, the Capitulars gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. Fray José Ramón Pérez, Vicar General and First General Councilor, presided the mass and gave the homily.

As calendared for their Saturday schedule, the General Chapter members also went on a pilgrimage to the St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican) covering the five stations of the Via Crucis which they had prepared for their entry through the Holy Door.

The brief yet intense procession started at the Castel Sant’Angelo. The first station was an invitation to meditate on Psalm 122. At the second stop, in front of the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, was the central figure of the reflection.

The third station was at the threshold of the St. Peter’s Square. It was a moment of praying together the Prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy. At the fourth stop, facing the Holy Door, everyone was invited to embrace God’s mercy with Psalms 103 and 24. 

The last of the stations, already inside the basilica, was near the tomb of St. Peter, which in that afternoon, was jam-packed with people. There the Chapter President, Fray Miguel Miró invited those present to renew their faith by reciting the Creed.

The final invitation was something inspiring for everyone: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).

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