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Marist Bulletin - Number 260

 

Interview with Father Amador Menudo, affiliated to the Institute
01/09/2006

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Father Amador Menudo came to Rome and stayed at the General House for a few days. He is affiliated to the Institute. His frank and open personality allowed us to share with him some intimate moments while remembering his pastoral collaboration with the brothers of Seville. He has special memories of some months spent with Brother Basilio Rueda in America animating retreats and meetings with the brothers. He recognises that age has diminished his capacities, but he still works as the diocesan Delegate for art and catechetics in the entire diocese. He has been a presenter of religious programmes on radio and television. During his stay he left us this beautiful testimony.

AMEstaún : How did your relationship with the brothers start?
Father Amador Menudo: I was born into a very Christian family and from my childhood I started going to daily Mass; I was a member of the “religious dancers” of Seville, singer… and I made myself well known. Towards the age of twelve, I lost my way a little and I kept company with young girls… But I was also attracted to the seminary and I said: “I want to enter the seminary.” I still did not know the Marist Brothers, but I started to get to know them when I came to Rome to study. At university, they were the servants of all for taking notes, true collaborators… there were the most helpful of all the students. When I arrived at Seville, they called me and I started to celebrate Mass for the children and young people of their colleges; there was still a separation between the boys and the girls. I had studied morality and I understood that above all the rules of liturgy there was a supreme rule that was that all live the liturgy and give glory to God, in their class in their work.

What years are you talking about?
The years 69, 70…

In full euphoria of the II Vatican Council
Yes. Even though I had anticipated the Council because when I was young I went out in Rome, my thumb in the air hitchhiking and finding out about everything. I returned to the seminary with new ideas and I influenced the whole seminary.

And now, forty years after the Council, how do you see this realisation of the Church?
I am very optimistic. Firstly, I looked at the world with the eyes of the Gospel, not as something bad but with the eyes of Jesus, with pity, as being sheep without a shepherd. The harvest is great but the workers are few… Jesus did not say that the land was fallow, that there weren’t sowers, that there was nothing. He said the ears carry so much fruit that the arms are lacking for welcoming all these good people. There is a lot of goodness in the world! I think that people are good, but there are also those who are not so good.

Did the Council strengthen this vision of goodness, this optimistic vision?
Yes, yes, yes! I think like Teilhard de Chardin that “all the world is going towards the point Omega”, towards the heights, in an undulating line, a little bit towards the base, a little towards the heights, but together towards the better; the liturgy goes towards the better; the priests who have stayed go towards the better; the Marist Brothers, more human, simpler, humbler… I believe that the world is better, I believe that the Lord died to take away the sins of the world and to raise us all; he did not come to condemn the world, but to uplift it, and the resurrection of Jesus passes amongst us.

With the brothers you started the school ministry. In which schools did you start?
Firstly in the colleges of Seville with the laypeople, to whom I gave conferences. My ideas proved to be very new, because I had been a fortunate student and I had been sent to be made a canon but I was able to save myself from it; I was not interested in dressing in red or silk, for what I wanted was to work with simple people, with young people. And Father Häring then took me, admitted me and directed my studies in morality because I wanted to know what had to be said to the People of God, the message of the joyous news that was pure and clear, the Gospel. I started then to address laypeople and my message proved to be new and the people listened to me; they invited me to eat with them so that I could continue to speak to them, and from that, schools of parents started in the colleges, in all the colleges of the religious… also in the Marist colleges.

Brother Basilio Rueda invited you at a certain time to collaborate with him in animating the pastoral ministry of the brothers. That was a special experience in your life as a priest.
I was active mainly with the Marist Brothers of the Province of Bética, but Brother Basilio started to take me through Spain, in Spanish-speaking North America and then to South America to give sessions on prayer in Chile and Argentina. Brother Basilio was… I knew that he was heroic in everything. We slept for two hours, two and a half hours… From dawn we started to receive the brothers and that continued until dusk… I spoke deeply with him. We spent complete nights crossing the oceans by plane and we spoke about everything deeply.

What special experience do you have from the treatment of the brothers during these meetings and these retreats? Do you have a special anecdote which has left its mark and which has influenced your life in a special way?
Good, the brothers always edified me because I saw them as very cultivated, very wise, very good people… with a humility so great that the Marist vocation enchanted me because it was… what the people want to see in the Church at the service of people and not all in the heights, with titles and dominating priests, superior to others. We are neither the proprietors of the Church, nor the proprietors of life, nor the proprietors of works, nor the proprietors of parishes; we are the servants of the people, we are at their service, at the service of what the people want.

The brothers affiliated you to the Institute at a time of your life. What was this experience like? How did you experience this moment?
I experienced this here in Rome and it was marvellous for me. More so, I was touched when I saw my name inscribed on the religious calendars of the brothers of Spain. The day after tomorrow will be my birthday and they will say, “Let us pray for Father Amador Menudo, affiliated to the Institute!” And the brothers will pray for me! I pray every day for you. Here in Rome, I have dedicated my Mass so that all will be united and the seminarians who came to eat with me, and who since this time also start to be servants of the Marists. It does not matter where they go, they will be servants of Marist works because they have already learnt who you are.

You are a great friend of Father Manuel Portillo
Yes, we are very good friends and both of us were at the service of the brothers with Brother Basilio, such that when one of us could not respond to the requests of the brothers the other one took his place. We continue to collaborate with the Marist Brothers in all that they request of us, but Father Portillo and I have different tasks in the diocese. He looks after the missions and I am the delegate to the bishop for two things: art and catechetics.

What experiences do you remember from your years as teacher in the seminary?
For twenty years I was teaching in the seminary and at the same time I was responsible for radio and television programmes. That is why I had to abandon the lessons. In teaching people, I felt very happy. Sometimes I find myself with priests who say to me, “You were my teacher,” and they shake my hand and they are priests! And I say, “But how?” “Yes, your words made me understand how I must preach Jesus Christ.” (He laughs) I m already old!

How many priests are your former students in the seminary?
For twenty years? I would not know how many! As well, I was formator and spiritual councillor for seminarians for eight years. Now, due to talking so much I have used up my vocal cords and I can no longer give talks to the multitudes, or in the great amphitheatres where I did so often and without a microphone! I spoke recently but I no longer have the vocal cords. During my childhood, I was a soloist in the cathedral choir and I sang at the Vatican without a microphone during the seventies; I still had a strong voice then.

The popular saying says: “Whoever speaks a lot will not be lacking in sins.”
Oh yes, that is true! You make mistakes when you speak a lot. (He laughs) Touché! When I was young, I had a vocation as a monk; I wanted to enter the monastery but life and the Church called me… and when I saw the needs of the people, I launched into it. I slept for three or four hours, no more; I gave myself totally; I could not do any more and I put my head on a cushion to sleep for at least three minutes because I was exhausted… and the bishop then said to me, “Rest a little.” I live now in silence. All my dear friends are dead. Some men and women come to see me to speak with me, to consult me. I live alone in my house; silence is my delight. I do not listen to music even though I like it very much, because I studied it professionally with singing and conducting choirs… At one time, I did sculptures and paintings, but not now. I hardly read because what I have has already nourished me. Thus, I consecrate my present life to prayer, contemplation and silence. Silence is my daily exhilaration.

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