Seven highlights of the SARF

The Prior General has sent a letter to the religious and the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity on the occasion of the feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki.

On the occasion of the feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki, martyr and patroness of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity, the Prior General, Miguel Angel Hernandez, has sent a letter to the religious and the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity, highlighting the important role of the laity in the perseverance of the Augustinian Recollect charism. In his letter he wanted to call for reflection and highlight the vocation of the Secular Augustinian Recollects.

Among other things, the Prior General indicates in his letter that the function of the Augustinian Recollect religious is that of “advising and accompanying”, and it is the Secular Augustinian Recollects who “have to take life in their hands”. “This does not mean that we want to disengage ourselves from the Fraternities, we will continue to walk together”. My wish,” he says, “is that this letter will uninstall us a little, stir us up inside and awaken in all our Fraternities a sincere desire to grow, to put in the open and at the service of the brothers, all the hidden potential that exists”.

For all these reasons, Miguel Angel Hernandez wanted to highlight seven aspects of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity that he considers noteworthy:

1. The Secular Fraternity is a lay vocation that the Holy Spirit has raised in his Church. A vocation to live the Gospel and our Christian life from the charismatic identity of the Augustinian Recollects. A vocation to holiness. That is our fundamental objective and the Church tells us that by living the Rule of life with authenticity it is possible to attain life in Christ. Good proof of this is the witness of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki and many other brothers and sisters, whom Pope Francis calls the saints next door, with whom we have lived and shared life and of whom we have no doubt that they already enjoy the presence of God.

2. Our language is that of the laity. It is necessary to purify the language and religious symbols in our Fraternities. If, as I say, we are dealing with a lay vocation, it makes no sense to continue using a language proper to the consecrated life that lends itself to confusion. The novitiate, the vows, the profession, the master of novices, etc., that is a terminology proper and specific to the religious life, which cannot have a place and must be banished from our Fraternities. The same can be said of clothing and other religious symbols and distinctives that are used and that create confusion for those outside and also for those inside. We are lay people who want to live our baptism from the spirituality of the Order of Augustinian Recollects. Nothing more, but also nothing less.

3. We are specialists in charity, not specialists in St. Augustine. The Fraternity is not a group of people who want to specialize in St. Augustine. The Fraternity is a group of people who want to specialize in loving and serving in the style of Augustine. It is not only about knowing the doctrine of Augustine, it is about aspiring that our heart burns like Augustine’s and is inflamed by the fire of the Word of God. Obviously, going through the Pilgrim Itinerary will lead us to a great knowledge of St. Augustine as well, but it is not the main thing, these are the additions that the Gospel speaks of.

4. The Fraternity is a group of brothers who share life. It is not possible to live the Fraternity, nor to feel brothers with all the consequences with a couple of meetings per month. It is not possible to be a brother by learning a lot of doctrine from St. Augustine. If we want to seriously embrace the proposal that is made to us from the Fraternity, we have to give ourselves enough space and time, so that we feel that, in our hearts, “the other” has become a true brother and not just someone who attends the same meetings as me. The meetings of the Fraternity have to become an opportunity to be able to pour out our hearts into the hands of our brothers, with all confidence and freedom, knowing that I will not be judged. Many times in our meetings we hear beautiful things about St. Augustine and learn many other interesting things. However, we go home with the same lump in our throats and the same sorrow and anguish that we brought to the meeting, because we have not had the opportunity to share the moment we lived. The meetings of the Fraternity should offer us those spaces to share life. And that demands that we all be trustworthy, discreet, respectful and understand that what the brother shares with us is a treasure that he puts in our hands and that I must keep for myself in the deepest part of my heart.

5. The Pilgrims’ Itinerary, much more than a few study cards. Probably for the vast majority of the Fraternities the Itinerary cards do not go beyond a few study topics. This is one of the great challenges ahead of us: to explain the Itinerary properly and to make the friars understand that the topics offered are not really the most important thing. What is really important is the opportunity we are offered to talk about ourselves, about our life of faith, about what God is doing within us, about the difficulties we encounter along the way, about our dreams and hopes, but also about our frustrations and defeats. And all this in the light of the themes we are dealing with.

6. New wine, new wineskins. We cannot pretend to rejuvenate aging fraternities with young people. Certainly, we cannot set limits to God, but it is normal that young people do not feel attracted to groups of older people, with very different mentalities, experiences and ways of seeing life. For that reason, the ideal is that in each ministry where the Fraternity exists, new Fraternity groups arise, each one living its stage and its moment; for that and for that reason we follow an Itinerary. All the groups can and should have common moments of meeting: monthly retreat or with the periodicity that is decided, convivial meetings, some talks of formation, celebrations of our saints and feasts of the Order, etc. In all these moments we have to share all together, those who made their promises 30 years ago and those who arrived before yesterday. But the formation has to be differentiated. Each one has to make his own process, because the really great thing about the Pilgrims’ Itinerary is that, if you take it seriously, it transforms you inside and changes your life.

7. We religious advise, but we do not direct and much less command; we accompany, but we do not make the decisions. The leading role belongs to the laity. The time has passed when the religious advisor did everything in the meeting. The time has passed when the Fraternity group was in the image and likeness of the advisor. The time has passed when the members of the Fraternity went to the meeting to listen and then went home without further ado. If there are not enough prepared people, that should be the main commitment of the advisor, to prepare brothers with leadership capacity and teachers capable of configuring Christ in the hearts of others. We must all work so that the fraternities become less and less dependent on the advisors, which does not mean, as I have already said, that we want to disengage ourselves from them. On the contrary, we want to see them grow and assume their proper role.