Circular letter, 27 December 2011.
“THE LORD KNOWS THAT WE ARE HERE”
27 December 2011
St John the Evangelist
I am writing this circular letter in the Christmas atmosphere and meditating on the passing of time at the beginning of a new year.
“Parvulus natus est nobis filius datus est nobis! A child is born for us, a son is given to us!” (Is 9:5). The grace of God, source of salvation for all, has been revealed and it teaches us that we live welcoming the Blessed Hope and the manifestation of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ (c.f. Titus 2:11-13).
The Lord knows we are here
Celebrating Christmas means rejoicing in the fact that God has kept his promise. We are dealing with a God who is faithful, a God who keeps his promises.
It was early one morning. An elderly gentleman was waiting in the queue at the doctor's surgery. He was glancing at his watch ever more frequently. Finally it was his turn.
The doctor was also his friend. He welcomed him kindly and took his time to deal with him. First a few cordial words, then on the couch to measure his blood pressure and listen to his heart and lungs.
The doctor, seeing that the gentleman was rather impatient and was anxiously looking at his watch, asked him if by chance he had another appointment. The old man replied that he had to go the old people's home to have breakfast with his wife.
- “But she has Alzheimer's”, the doctor said, trying to slow him down.
- “Yes, it's true, but for five years I have been going to have breakfast with her at nine o'clock, exactly”.
- “And you still go, every morning, even if your wife does not know who you are?” said the doctor emphasising the words with surprise.
- “She doesn't know who I am, but I know very well who she is”, concluded the man with a wry smile. And out he went with a purposeful step.
I heard this story some time ago. But it comes back to my mind in many practical situations in my daily life and in that of the Orionine Family.
I think of the many parents, faithful to their vocation, even when their own feelings or the gratitude of others do make not the little, humble duties enjoyable.
I remember the Christians of Buritis, in the Amazon region of Brazil, and those I have met in different parts of the world, coherent with their own faith at the cost of sacrifice and paying a daily price.
I see in my mind's eye the faces, scenes and daily routines of confreres and sisters who give their lives in prayer and in the mission, every day, without “blowing their own trumpet”.
Now, as we approach Christmas, this story makes me think about the “Faithful God, who keeps His covenant and good will for a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). We no longer knew who He was – sin breaks relationships more than Alzheimer's – but he continues to know very well who we are “and came to dwell among us” (John 1:14). For this reason, even now, in the passing of our days, in the joyful and sad events, we can say, with Don Orione and Renzo in the “Betrothed” (Promessi Sposi): “ He knows that we are here. Blessed be the Lord!”
Best wishes and trust in Divine Providence, dear brothers and sisters who have consecrated your lives to become instruments of the providential love of God; “ let us keep true without wavering to the profession of our hope, because He is faithful to his promises” (Heb. 10:23).
To you dear children, young people, older people, sick people and whoever resides in the warmth of the tents of Divine Providence, say with confidence, “ the Lord knows we are here”, his faithfulness is our help and our shield” (Ps. 91:5) every day of 2011.
Happy New Year 2011, dear friends, benefactors and those who work with us, “the mercies of the Lord have not ended, his compassion has not come to an end; they are renewed every morning, great is his fidelity” (Lam. 3:22-23).
To all, in the name of Don Orione, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2011!
LOOKING AT 2011
Begin well the journey indicated by the 13th General Chapter.
2011 is the year following the General Chapter. It is the most important year for starting the journey according to the lines of action and decisions taken for the good of the Congregation. This is the purpose of the Provincial Programming Assemblies.  The involvement of all is needed.
As I have already written, not everyone must do everything, but a specific commitment is requested of various sectors (individual religious, communities, province, general government, secretariats, etc.). Everyone is called to play his part, because only with the contribution of all, can the lines of action and the decisions become a reality as a whole. 
It is a question of what is good for us. We need a continuous care for our personal life, community life, the congregation's life, in response to the will of God and the changes in which we are immersed.
We have given our attention and reflection to preparing for the General Chapter. Now we are asked to commit ourselves as sons to put into practice what the Chapter has entrusted to us with authority. Let us not be content with reading the document of the Chapter, nor just making comments or general resolutions.
For the decisions of the Chapter to be effective , there must be an organic and continuous implementation. We shall do it following the dynamic guidelines offered by our Constitutions and backed up by the tradition of the Congregation.
As a General Council we have produced some practical guidelines for the six-year session and the provincial assemblies will do the same to move from the general plan to the detailed planning.
Then we shall use the annual meetings of Superiors to reflect, stimulate and implement the various decisions in the communities and local activities.
The annual booklets for permanent formation are designed to help to translate the great themes of the six-year project into spiritual and practical guidelines; we already have in our hands the first, headed " At the sources of salvation ."
The work of the Secretariats will assist much in animating the implementation of the CG13 guidelines according to each area.
The international conferences organized by each Secretariat will be key moments for a wide-ranging comparison on the ways of thinking, tools and dynamics of renewal. At the end of 2011, we will have the missions and the administrative/economic conferences.
All these instruments of the congregational journey would be worth little without the personal commitment to conversion and renewal. Each one, in his place, should say: Nunc incipio , now I begin, and proceed with confidence in Divine Providence.
The fraternal union to nourish the love of God in us
I do not wish to recall the usual "Unity is strength", but " union in Christ is strength" of a religious family, consisting of those who " not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God were born "(cf. Jn 1:13).
" Funiculus triplex difficile rumpitur . We have had some experience: in some Houses people, are few but united, there is unity of government, dependence on each other, there is unity in charity; in other Houses people are many, but they do very little because there is no harmony. Frater qui adiuvatur a fratre quasi civitas firma ".  And Don Orione, in front of his brothers, could say:" This beautiful union is thanks to God and we must keep it at the cost of sacrifice. "
If in our communities, we can say the same thing, we will not be short of the providence of God, even regarding vocations.
Don Orione has impressed the family model for community life, with human, spiritual and practical attitudes, typical of a family (natural family, the family of Nazareth ...). He left us the spirit of a family known as typical of the Congregation and, thanks God, still alive.
In the past, the family spirit has mitigated the risk of formalism. Today, it can help us win individualism. The family spirit must bring about more fellowship and dedication in our relations.
Dear Confreres, in 2011, let us unify  more our relations in response to the movement of fragmentation of individuals regarding the community, of the communities vis-à-vis the province, of each province with respect to the Congregation as one family . As religious we are not only associated with religious communities; the houses and the provinces are not only confederated in the Congregation. The Family Spirit breeds the unity of the Family when it invigorates the ways of relationships, rules of communal life and sharing in the communities, in the provinces and in the Congregation.
More fraternal union . We all know what it means and what it demands. Let's go on, generously. I am almost ashamed to go into practical details and to give directions.
How much weakness does the anaemia of brotherly love bring about.
How much vitality the blood of brotherly love gives.
What a discreet but solid, spiritual and lasting joy comes from committing oneself to spend time with the confreres, abiding by the programme of community life and apostolate, patience and compassion  for the physical, mental and spiritual limitations of each one.
About this issue, I will mention only one new and particular aspect .
Today there are means of communication that threaten to split the community. I refer to computers, internet, cell phones, in addition to the more traditional telephone and television. These are goods that normally foster relations. But they can also become a temptation. Temptations are always a distortion of what is good. They are a temptation when they offer us alternative relations: not the real ones, at home, given to us by Providence, but virtual ones; not those that require sacrifice, but those that are pleasing, not the conjugal (community and apostolate) ones but those that we choose, more attractive, less demanding, that we can turn off when we want with a click or put the address in the waste basket or the spam .
You know how much I esteem and also use the new information technologies. We use these media as tools for relationships, work, information, etc. But we must be careful and put hierarchy and priorities in our relations to avoiding distortions and malnutrition in the relationships.
By observing certain customs in the use of the computer, I am inclined to apply to this field Don Orione's warning about certain religious - he said - they do mirabilia outside and are miserablilia at home ,  they always have time for others but not for the Lord and for their Brothers.
"He spends more time at the computer than with the Confreres."
"He looks more at the monitors than at the helpers and guests."
"Where is he? Elsewhere, watching TV for hours on end. "
How many hours people spend elsewhere, on the sound waves and before the media screens.
We must stay more at home , in the parish, at school, in the Little Cottolengo, with the Confreres, the real ones, God-given, and not outside , via the Internet and other means. Today, you do not go out only by the front door, but even when we retire to the office or bedroom  in front of one's computer, or the streets and squares of the Internet. Some give more time to the community of facebook or twitter , or the like, than to their community.
Someone requested a letter "to discipline" this issue. Even at the Union of Superiors General there were questions about it. The outcome was that, given the nature of the instruments, there cannot be valid and enforceable rules for all.  The only way is that of self-education, training and the asceticism of brotherly love.
More commitment for vocations
I mean the commitment to our vocation and commitment to calling for new vocations . They should not be separated, ever.
The Pope recently wrote: "T he fruitfulness of vocational proposal depends primarily on God's free action, but, as pastoral experience shows, it is also favoured by the quality and richness of personal and community witness of those who have already responded to the Lord's call in the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life ". 
What can we do for vocations?
Make our vocation grow.
Surely, if our God appeal as men of God increases, if our community life is animated by charity, if our works of charity " open people's eyes to the faith and warm the hearts of love for God”, we and our Congregation will become interesting, as is said of the early Christian community in which " the number of disciples was greatly increasing ". 
The problems of the crisis of vocations in the Church and in the Congregation are real and complex. Some are specific to the religious life. But it remains true that Don Orione categorically stated: " we will always have as many vocations as we deserve through our prayers and our good example. The vital question of vocations expects its positive solution from all of us. Young people are looking and if they have a seed of a vocation, they are moved towards them ". 
In organizing the 13 th General Chapter, we introduced the issue of vocations (topic 4) because in the consultations it had been very much stressed. It means that there is a great expectation in that regard. And also concern.
The number of perpetual professions (14) and of Priestly Ordinations (13) is much diminished. Large provinces such as Italy, Argentina and Poland are in a crisis of vocations and in recent years have also experienced the total absence of novices.
Despite the entry of new vocations from countries where the Congregation has only recently been established, and they are still limited, the balance between entries and exits (i.e. deaths or defections) is negative, so there was a significant decline in the total number of members, from 1034 to 934, in 6 years.  In some countries there is a strong temptation to justify and organize the lack of trust. 
My dear Confreres, now more than ever we must be fond of the " small but great Mother, the Congregation ."
First of all, we must intensify prayer for vocations (ours and new ones) because they are a favour to ask of God, through prayer.
Then, let us love the Congregation by making ourselves and our apostolate more vocationable (signs of the gospel and of the charism, interesting and attractive). It is the best we can decide. The vocational fidelity and zeal in the apostolate are sine qua non and essential conditions for new vocations.
And of course, there is need to reflect and organize the efforts of promoting and fostering vocations. Any particular and good initiative should be encouraged. It should be connected with a vocational project of the province . Decision 26, CG13, calls for the establishment of the Provincial Centre for Vocations (provincial director, head animator, initiatives, people, events, calendar, etc..) which will ensure continuity, ordinariness and communal dimension to the specific promotion of vocations, in connection with the youth ministry. 
May we remember 2011 as the year of the resumption of our commitment to vocations? The joy and gratitude of the ones for the others would be multiplied.
From heaven, Don Orione walks with us with his goods wishes and his intercession: " Happy New Year! The future is in the hands of God, who governs and orders all things wisely. May the Lord God send his favours upon you one hundred times, upon your families, upon those whose names are in your hearts. May this be a year of consolations, of holy joy, of immense good upon your souls and those of others . "
May the Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, obtain for all true peace with God and with others, so that we may continue to do good and always good to everyone, but evil to no one.
Your brother and father in Don Orione
Don Flavio Peloso FDP
( Superior general )
 See attached list of various jubilees of religious life and priesthood.
 Cfr further down Lettera circa le Assemblee provinciali di programmazione November 6, 2010.
 A three-threaded rope is difficult to break because it is made of three intertwined ropes: it is extremely strong. “ A brother who is helped by another brother is like a stronghold ” (Meetings, p. 80)
 I am using the verb “unify” ( unitas facere in Latin), rather than “unite”, because it expresses the real job of “making unity”.
 In the famous Hymn to Charity, recorded in 1936, Don Orione urged: “We are apostles of charity, of pure love, of lofty and universal love: let us make charity rule through meekness of heart, by being compassionate to each other”.
 Don Orione talks about it in the well-known letter from Mar de Espanha, 30th August 1921, regarding the spirit of prayer life , that is of the love for God: “ Even if outside the house their name is on everybody's lips and people admire their ability, the brains and even the apostolic zeal, their Confreres at home, who see them continuously, who take their meals with them and who have the right to have Priests who are like guiding Angels, are utterly displeased with them. Wonder makers outside; miserable at home.
 Just as it is forbidden to keep a TV set in the bedroom, even more so a computer connected to Internet! If it is bad manners to read the newspaper at table during meals, even more it is to keep the mobile on at meals or at meetings, as well as to leave or oblige others to be quiet because “I am on the phone”.
 This topic was discussed in the General Council and was dealt with by a Note on the use of the mass media by Fr Achille Morabito, published in Acts and communications, 62 (2008), p. 327-332.
 Message for the world day of prayer for vocations, 2010.
 See Acts 2, 42; 4,32; 5, 12-14; 6, 1-7.
 Writings 99, 118. “ Religious should remember there is no better way than their own example to commend their institutes and gain candidates for the religious life, Perfectae caritatis , 24 reminds us. See the Letter Vocation and Vocations in Acts and communications 2007, No. 222-223, p. 3-18.
 As of May 1st 2010.
 I mean to say that people become resigned to the state of things, they refuse react and to plan since “nothing can be done” and instead they arrange things just to keep going as we are, as best they can and until we can.
 See on this matter the letter of the general councillor, Fr Silvestro Sowizdrzal, in another section of this issue of the Acts.