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Marist Bulletin - Number 150

 

BROTHER BASILIO RUEDA
17/06/2004

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José Flores García, Chepo, begins his work as Vice Postulator
BROTHER BASILIO RUEDA,
A MODEL FOR CHRISTIANS IN POSTMODERN TIMES

Br. Lluís Serra

67-year-old Brother José Flores García, known to his friends as “Chepo,” was born in Tepatitlán, in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. He earned a degree in Education, and Master’s Degrees in Mexican History and Educational Psychology at the Escuela Normal Superior and at the Iberoamericana University in Mexico City. He has taught from the primary to the university level, dedicated himself to youth ministry, written textbooks (including joke books), and been the principal of Marist schools in Uruapan, Michoacán, Querétaro, and Orizaba. He is a member of the Province of Central Mexico. At the present time he is the Vice Postulator in charge of the cause of canonization for Brother Basilio Rueda, about whom he has written two books, “Quemar la vida”, a biography, and “El estilo de una vida, selección de testimonios.”

I have just noted that you are a “Vice Postulator.” Please tell us about the work you are doing in this office.
Every process for sainthood goes through two phases, one diocesan and the other Roman. My work consists of following through on the tasks related to the cause of canonization for Brother Basilio during the diocesan phase. Brother Giovanni Bigotto, Postulator General, has delegated me to do this work, which is taking place in the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico, where Brother Basilio died.

Who was Brother Basilio Rueda?
He was a Mexican Marist brother who started out as a teacher in Marist schools in Mexico City. Then he was director of the formation house in Querétaro. Later he was involved in the Better World Movement, founded by the Jesuit Father Lombardi, in Mexico City, Rome and Quito. After that he was director of the spirituality center in El Escorial, Spain, and while there he was elected Superior General.

What years are we talking about?
He was born in Acatlán de Juárez, Jalisco, Mexico, in 1924. He became Superior General at the age of 43, a post he held for two nine-year terms. He died on January 21, 1996, in the city of Guadalajara.

What are the reasons why his cause for sainthood is being initiated?
First of all, because of his extraordinary personality that encompassed spiritual, pedagogical, and philosophical realities and the religious life after Vatican II. Second, so many people acclaiming him for his virtues, spirituality, teachings, love for the Church, and adherence to the will of God.

To adhere to God’s will, one must know what it is. How did Brother Basilio come to know what God was asking of him?
From the time he entered Marist life, he always had a spiritual director whom he consulted, not only to resolve questions of obedience but also to grow in the love of God and his brothers. He constantly tried to discern what God was asking of him at important times in his life as well as in his governance of the Institute.

You have had access to his personal notebooks. Could you give us a specific example of what you have found?
Providentially we have found parts if his spiritual journal referring to times in his life from 1956 to 1986. Once he was asked to choose between becoming director of the scholasticate in Mexico and director of the El Escorial center in Spain. After praying and consulting his spiritual director, he opted for El Escorial so he could serve the entire Institute and not just his own Province. Also, when rumors surfaced that he might be elected Superior General, he went off to pray and then spoke with Father Lombardi to face up to his openness about whatever might happen.

It sounds as if he took matters very seriously…
Absolutely. When it came down to important decisions, he never hesitated to resort to prayer and consultation. When his time as Superior General was over, he made the exercises of St. Ignatius, as he had done on other occasions, to discern God’s will for the next chapter in his life.

Do you think his personal notes will be published some day?
Before that happens, they will need to be looked at by the Diocesan Commission for the causes of canonization.

A few months ago the press published reports that Mother Teresa de Calcutta experienced dark nights of the soul. Did Brother Basilio undergo a similar experience?
In his spiritual journal and his personal writings we find expressions like this: “I had a hard time concentrating,” “I spent a good while wandering aimlessly before beginning my prayer…” I haven’t noticed instances where God seems to have dropped off his radar screen, although he probably endured arid and tedious times.

One often points out his prophetic vision in guiding and governing the brothers…
In this sense, his spiritual and human accompaniment with a host of brothers in the Institute is remarkable, in personal interviews as well as through letters. The archives contain some 50,000 letters. His circulars are rich in teachings about the religious life, so much so that some Congregations use them as a reference. He always acted in a collegial way with his General Council and with Provincials.

He was also close to many outside the Institute. He was a personal friend of Father Arrupe, Father Alberioni… and was even a consulter at the Synod on the Family in 1980. Why do you think he had so much influence in the Church?
His ties to the Union of Superiors General allowed him to recognize his abilities and courage, for which he was esteemed and consulted on subjects concerning the religious life. He learned how to interpret his experience of the inspiration and paths that came out of Vatican II.

What points of his teaching on the religious life are especially relevant today?
Those that refer to obedience, prayer, and community life, in which he gave pride of place to the plan for community life… Various publishers (Áncora, the Paulines, and Vida Religiosa) took an interest in his writings and published them in their collections, generating large print orders. His new way of looking at devotion to Mary in his “A new space for Mary” was very interesting.

I interviewed him several times. I was impressed by the way he integrated psychology, faith, and spirituality, and also his spiritual gifts. Do you think many others share my view?
For many brothers he was an unfailing support in the development of their spiritual life; for others, a counselor at difficult times in their religious life; for still others, a companion on their journey through life. His advice and guidelines arose from his personal experience of faith and human maturity.

Brother Basilio didn’t keep office hours…
You’re right. He was always ready to welcome others. He tried to find at least an hour a day for his personal prayer and meditation. Almost always, he had to snatch them late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. It’s amazing how he maintained his availability and even-tempered ways in spite of his long hours.

Many of us remember his sense of humor and jokes…
He was renowned for his sense of humor, whether with his companions in houses of formation, his brothers in community and the apostolate, or in his conferences and informal conversations. Among his personal notes, I came across pages where he listed jokes by topics, to use in his talks. Many remember his quotes from Cantinflas, the internationally known Mexican comedian.

What relationship have you had with Brother?
I met Brother Basilio when I was a scholastic – he was the director of our formation centers. His being a brother from my Province, we’ve enjoyed a good-natured relationship. When he was Superior General he welcomed me for interviews several times. When he returned to the Province, we became closer – met more often. We enjoyed many great times together.

How did people react when he died?
- Not only when he died, but during his illness. An unbelievable number of people, including brothers, were anxious to know how he was doing. A few hours after he passed away, condolences began to arrive in overwhelming numbers.

What interest does the holiness of Brother Basilio hold for the Church?
Brother Basilio is a man of great significance in our world since he learned how to integrate faith, culture, and life in profound and harmonious ways. He can serve as a model for living the Christian life in these postmodern times.

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