2011-12-23 GENERAL HOUSE

How is your heart, brother/sister?

According to an ancient tradition, the Apostle James the Greater was buried in northeast Spain, in a place around which the present city of Santiago de Compostela developed. For more than a thousand years, his tomb has been the goal of pilgrims from all around the world, travelling these ancient roads on foot for weeks or months.

Many of the people who have travelled what is called the “road to Santiago” often speak not so much about having covered so many kilometres, but, more importantly, of having made an “interior journey” which brings them to their “centre”. In fact, this is represented in a labyrinth traced in the floor of the cathedral of Chartres (France), probably as an alternative travelling space for pilgrims without the means to journey to the great places of pilgrimage like Santiago de Compostela, Rome or Jerusalem. Today, many still make this circuit which, following a long and winding path, leads invariably to the centre.

It seems to me that the period of Christmas is also an invitation to travel the road that leads us to the “centre”, where each person can encounter him/herself and contemplate, in peace and   silence, the Mystery dwelling within, inasmuch as “the Son of God by His incarnation has united Himself in some fashion with every man” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Isn’t this what Fr Champagnat invited us to, when he said that he desired for us the first places at the crib, the cross and the altar?

Making this journey to one’s centre does not mean, in any way, encouraging isolated or egoistic persons, who have nothing to do with others. If this journey is authentic, in fact, it becomes manifest in signs such as peace, equilibrium, openness to others. It appears to me that the world would be very different, much more peaceful and just, if we could count on more people truly “centered”. Martin Luther King expressed this in a very powerful way in his acceptance speech on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964: “I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up again”.  

Some years ago, visiting our brothers in the State of Chiapas (Mexico), I was struck by the way in which the people of this region greet one another. Instead of our impersonal “hello”, they ask “How is your heart, brother/sister?”  Such a direct question provokes, in those of us not accustomed to it, reflection about how our hearts, spirits, souls, really are. It would be wonderful if we could all take time, especially in these days of Christmas, to ask ourselves this question and see how we are on our way towards our own “centre”.

Persistent advertising, especially at this time, encourages distraction and attention to the superfluous, increasing the risk of superficiality. But we well know that there are gifts which can only be received in the calm of silence. The Book of Wisdom expresses it beautifully in poetic fashion:

“When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run half the way of her swift course,
down from the royal throne leapt your all-powerful Word” (Wis. 18: 14).

How is your heart, brother/sister? I wish you a marvelous and fruitful journey to your centre, in a way that all humanity may benefit from it, beginning with those around you.

May Mary, who “stored up all these things in her heart”, be your blessing.

Happy Christmas!

Br. Emili Turú, Superior General


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