In the United States, today is the Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross (because of the North American Martyrs whose feast was yesterday), so a happy feast day to everyone reading this on the other side of the Atlantic. Here’s a picture I took yesterday in the room where Saint Paul died; the reliquary, containing his blood, is normally kept in a very safe place but was taken out yesterday for the feast day.
This morning in the Chapter we received the final text of the central decree/main proposal on restructuring. A special commission had been set up to redraft the text we saw yesterday. Yesterday I had told the Polish Provincial, Father Andrzej (through his translator, the Polish Delegate, Father Waldemar), the old joke about a camel being a horse designed by a commission. However, what came back today was no camel, but a very good statement, which kept the clarity of the previous text while taking into consideration the suggestions made yesterday. The text was approved by the Chapter (unanimously, as far as I remember).
The rest of the morning was spent discussing and voting on a number of proposals which had been sent to the Chapter (any professed member of the Congregation can send a proposal to the Chapter). An interesting one, supported by a number of Italian Passionists, was concerned with setting up a School of Theology of the Cross here in Rome. This proposal came to the Chapter in three different forms, from three different people. We already have the Cathedra Gloria Crucis at the Pontifical Lateran University (which is some kind of “chair” of Theology of the Cross and is the successor to the former Scuola Superiora della Sapienza della Croce – which I think might be translated as a School of Advanced Studies of the Wisdom of the Cross – which was located at the Antonianum, the Franciscan University in Rome). Most of the Capitulars who are connected with universities or theological institutes (who constitute about 10% of the Chapter) spoke against the proposal being approved there and then, and suggested other ways of promoting the study of the Theology of the Cross and also of our own Passionist Spirituality. The general feeling was that more detail would be needed before moving in this direction, including a clarification of the future of our presence at the Lateran University. Consequently, the proposal was not approved. Another more modest one, recommending that at least once every two years the General Council hold a programme of training in “the essential elements of our Passionist Life” for those who will be working in formation of our novices and students, was approved by the Chapter, as was a proposal from the brothers taking part in the Chapter that the General Council recommend to the provinces that those brothers who are not candidates for the priesthood “have the same educational opportunities for human and spiritual growth as any other member of the Congregation”; this particular proposal was approved unanimously.
In the afternoon session, the Chapter voted to approve the Indonesian Vice-Province being raised to the status of a province. Father Sabinus Lohin, the former Vice-Provincial and new Provincial spoke about the situation of the Passionists in Indonesia and other members of the Chapter who had been involved in the story of our sixty years of presence in Indonesia, in one way or another, gave their testimony. The mission in Indonesia was founded by the Dutch Passionists in 1946; later, Italian Passionists from the Pietà Province (Abruzzo, Umbria, the Marches) came to work in Borneo. Two of the Capitulars spoke about Father Umberto di Natale, a young missionary in the 1970s who had stayed at his mission, although he was gravely ill, because he took ill in Holy Week and did not wish to leave the people of his remote parish without the sacraments at Easter. Having completed the Easter Triduum, he collapsed and was carried through the forest on a stretcher by his people to the river where they put him in a boat and rowed three hundred kilometres to bring him to the hospital, where he died at the age of twenty-nine, offering his life for his people. It was very moving to hear this and other testimonies about the history of our Passionist presence in Indonesia. The newly created province now has about one hundred and thirty members, all but a handful of whom are Indonesian.
After this, we went outside for the official photograph. I took some unofficial ones which I’m not posting as they were quite blurred. However, I wanted to share this one with you, as it reminds me of the Stella Artois advert of the priests on the ice.
The rest of the day, including a late session after supper until 11.00 p.m., was taken up with proposals, mostly about formation of novices and students; tomorrow is the last working day of the Chapter.
BTW, I haven’t forgotten about last Wednesday’s Papal Audience (I promised a fuller account and more pictures) but it’s late and I’m tired, so goodnight!