Card. Eduardo Pironio: A holiness of incarnation

MADRID, Spain. 
February 5th marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Eduardo Pironio. As a tribute and message, and in preparation for the Assembly of all the Associations of the Teresian Association, we publish some of his reflections spoken in Rome on May 24, 1991.  He speaks about the signing of the Decree of approval of the current Statutes of the Association and meditates on the Way of Emmaus.

That November 21st

E-Pironio The reading and signing of the Decree [of the Statutes of the Teresian Association,1990] on behalf of the Holy Father meant, for me, a special moment of a long journey. A path that I personally traveled with the Association for many years, when I was Head of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. Therefore, the Teresian Association, we would say, was connected with the Holy Father through that Congregation where I had to accompany the search in hope, in serenity, in suffering, in prayer.

This has been a journey within the Church, in deep communion to see what the Lord wanted. A path that continued when I was already President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The will of God was very clear and it was necessary to return to the very root, to the source of what the founder, Father Poveda, wanted. This is how the wording of this Decree came about, which is not one more in the history of the Decrees I have signed, both in the Congregation for Religious and those I am now signing for Lay Associations. It is a decree made with intelligence but, above all, with the heart, with a lot of love for the Association; with the same demanding love of which I spoke to you this morning in the homily; with the same demanding love with which the Lord has marked you.

For me, that November 21, feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, commemoration of the promulgation of the Lumen Gentium – a key document on the Church -, and also of the proclamation of Mary, Mother of the Church, was very significant. It touched me a lot and marked me with the alliance that I have with the Association. It is an alliance that is truly one of love, fidelity, and service. Whatever I can do in the years that the Lord gives me life, I will continue to do with a warm fondness, because I really feel it.

That Decree - I repeat - was not just written but prayed over. I want you to take it and live it this way. May you feel the reality and the truth of the coherence of all that precedes. May you also feel the final sign and the desire that our beloved Teresian Association really be marked by a very great impulse towards holiness. A holiness of incarnation, a holiness of presence, a holiness of transformation.

Holiness of incarnation

You are essentially lay [a dialogue with a group of members of the Primary Association] but radically open to a God who has called you by name, who has also marked you, and to whom you have responded with a special fidelity.

Spirituality of incarnation. As a friend of mine who has already died, a bishop, said, - or as Paul VI said, he was killed - [he refers to Monsignor Enrique Angelelli, bishop of La Rioja, Argentina, whose process of canonization is in process] "With an ear attached to God and the other stuck to the people." That is, open to problems, to challenges, to things that are happening in history, in the lives of people. With an ear open as disciples of the Lord. I love talking about being a disciple. The Lord, in today's Gospel, spoke with his disciples [Road to Emmaus, Lk. 24,13-35].

Spirituality of incarnation and spirituality of presence. To be there where the whole salvation of our people is at stake. Where the whole salvation is at stake, particularly of those who need it most. In the different areas where you are to act, be it the university, the work with peasants, directly in research and culture, always living the culture of our peoples.

Presence that means authentic Marian transparency, as the Holy Father said [St. John Paul II] in Covadonga. Authentic Marian transparency, which means simplicity, simple everyday presence. I wish that you be so. I have known the Association like that, with that transparency. I have always known it very simple and this is why I always felt at ease. I have known it as deeply Marian; I have felt it in deep communion with the Church. This is why, in short, I love the Association so much and, I repeat, I feel very well in it.

Then, a truly transforming presence, with the ardor of the Spirit that makes us clear witnesses to a new evangelization.

Spirituality of incarnation, of presence, of transformation

The Pope is calling us to this new evangelization, the goal of which is the construction of the new civilization of solidarity, of truth and love. Paul VI always spoke of the civilization of love. John Paul II added civilization of truth. Lately, at Fatima, he spoke of the civilization of solidarity, truth and love. In short, if one analyzes in depth what the new evangelization means and what civilization means using all these adjectives or nouns -truth, justice, love, reconciliation, peace, life- this is a civilization of life against the civilization of death.

Really, you should know that you have to journey along three fundamental lines: a very deep spirituality, a holiness of very authentic incarnation, and in deep communion with the Church.

Not with a Church at a distance but with the Church in the concrete, whether we like or not the people with whom one has to work, be priests, religious, or other Associations of the laity. Live the Church, love the Church. Here, in this house, [Villa Marini, Poggio Mirteto, Rome, Italy, in 1974] I prepared my retreat for Paul VI and the Curia, on the Church. Arantxa [Aguado] was then like one of you, during her Santa Maria course. They helped me in the preparation of the outlines I would use to preach the Pope's retreat on the Church. Paul VI loved the Church so much, the mystery of which -we would say – he opened to others.

Then: be deeply ecclesial, with that very concrete Church feeling, of communion, wherever you are, at the local Church, in the places where you have to work.

And as I said before: That your attitudes may reflect more an atmosphere of service, fidelity, contemplation and poverty in the style of Mary, poor and simple, the servant, the contemplative. May your love for Our Lady be not just a proclamation of words, but an identification with her feelings: get into her heart, poor, contemplative, and faithful. And, from there, assume what it means: "I am the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word."

We lived that November 21 [1990] with great intensity. The Decree is written not only in a book; but it is written in the heart of all of us, in the commitment to this Association, in the heart of the Pope with whom they were fortunate to share the Eucharist the following day (Arantxa Aguado, then President of the TA, the Governing Council, and ACIT members). And it is written, above all, in the heart of God, who is faithful. He is the one who will do it, as Paul says at the end of his letter to the Thessalonians: "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24) Our response is marked by the faithfulness of the Lord, not only because of our responsibility, which is sometimes fragile.

That November 21 I felt moved by the fact in itself; excitement for all the way I had silently done with you for a few years. So, it was something that touched us deep inside. Also, I was moved at knowing that I was doing it in the name and with the authority of the Pope. It was not a thing of mine. Now the Lord wants us to be linked in a very deep, ecclesial way. In me you will always find a poor, simple bishop, who always wants to be simple and a friend, who wants to be a servant: "I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life" (Mt 20: 28).

I am here to do whatever I can to help you on your path of holiness, of incarnation, of presence; in your path of an ever more authentic Church experience, and of Marian transparency and missionary service. It is a great moment!

The road to Emmaus 

A second reflection is on the road to Emmaus. I really like to meditate on that road. I like to share my own reactions to this road. A road of hopelessness that suddenly becomes a road of hope shared and proclaimed. A road of despair for those disciples who are saddened - says the text of Luke - and who are mutually feeding the despair. Then they meet the Lord and they run. The text says that they returned immediately to share hope with the other eleven who had remained in the Cenacle.

May you see that the Resurrection of the Lord is the great explosion of hope, it is the foundation of our hope. However, the disciples of Emmaus walked in despair. Hopeless, contagious, because they were talkingabout these things the two were saddened about, says the evangelist.

Their hope sparked as they recognized Him when He broke the bread. They ran to share that hope. I would like that you may always communicate hope, that you may proclaim it. That contagion of hope that in some moments of our life may not occur. I usually think: How good it is to find someone whose hope is contagious, someone who may embody that mysterious pilgrim who is Christ! Someone who, perhaps without saying it, perhaps without knowing it, rekindles our hope. May we be able to proclaim and spread hope.

When one goes down a road and carries a light or a torch, it may go out. But how good it is if there is always someone by our side who has a match to rekindle that hope that tends to go out. How good it would be if each one of you brings hope- not only within the group you belong to, but to the people you meet on the discouraged and sad road, people in our villages, in our beloved Latin American people who suffer.  May you rekindle not a passive hope or resignation, but true hope: Christ has risen, He lives and is making His way with us.

The mysterious pilgrim

Another point is the story of this mysterious pilgrim. I underline three attitudes He has: the first attitude is simply to approach. The gospel says that He approached them, and they stopped saddened. Then he asks them what is wrong. This is the first attitude. If you want to live a deep spirituality of incarnation, the first attitude is to approach, stop, join the path of others, make your way with others and, perhaps, ask them, make them feel that you understand that something is happening: What is happening to them? What is their suffering about? What is the problem? I say that you do not need to ask, sometimes you do not even know what is happening. The Lord came closer. This is very important. He was interested, he asked.

The second attitude of the Lord is to illumine the cross with His Word. He began to explain the Scriptures, from Moses to the Prophets. It was necessary for Christ to go through it all in order to reach glory. We have to illumine our way with the Word of God and make our people discover, also with the Word of God, light for their path, so difficult and painful, sometimes. I would say that in many cases, they are the ones who teach us to understand the Word of God, they are the ones who evangelize us, they are the ones who explain to us the richness of the Word through their poverty and simplicity.

The third attitude of Jesus is to stay and break bread. Will He break bread? Will the Eucharist be celebrated? .... We only know that they broke bread as a sign of understanding, friendship, and donation; as a sign that He understood them; as a sign that they reaffirmed their friendship; as a sign of donation. That is, as bread delivered: "This is my body given for you, this is my blood shed ..."

Then, they recognized Him when He broke bread. Why? Because 'This one' was the one who surrendered, the one who gave himself up, the one who let His body break with the spear and shed His last drop of blood.

How good it is to find someone who is a friend and who distributes our bread; but how good it is also that we become true friends, that we know how to break the bread of encounter, of friendship, of service. The bread of understanding, friendship and total donation.

I really like the Emmaus passage. I call it the gospel of hope: in the first part they are lost, in its second part they are found, in the third part they communicated. It is interesting to see how hopes are reunited.

They returned, but before they said anything, those in the Cenacle said, "Truly, he rose and appeared to Simon." Only then did the two disciples tell how they had recognized him when He broke bread. It is the moment in which hopes are reunited: those of the Twelve [apostles] and those of the two disciples.

Reflection spoken by Card. Eduado Pironio,
on May 24, 1991, in Poggio Mirteto, Rome, Italy.



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