Br. Philippe Arnal
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.» (1 P 1, 18-19)
As soon as we ask ourselves the question of the meaning, or worse, the value of something, it may be that we find it difficult to define it or that we tend to reduce it to the sole measure of our subjectivity. Indeed, we cannot deny that apostolic congregations in general and the Congregation of the Clerics of Saint Viateur in particular, are going through difficult and sometimes perhaps even trying times! There is an obvious concern for institutional survival and continuity. In the provinces, there is a progressive aging, a lack of new vocations, of vitality and enthusiasm! However, it is not that we do not pray for vocations, that we do not work or think about them, but apparently we seem to be getting rather little.
We could of course console ourselves by contemplating the beautiful fruits that the young and dynamic branches of our foundations are bearing. It is true that the international perspectives and the support of the young confreres to the old provinces are a balm and a breath of fresh air. However, Western societies are traversed by a flagrant paradox:
– The first movement could be summed up by this sentence of the French writer Georges Bernanos: “One understands absolutely nothing about modern civilization if one does not first admit that it is a universal conspiracy against all manner of spiritual life”.
– The second movement that seems to respond to the nihilistic groundswell, in a fragile and tenuous but real way, is a certain return to spirituality, meditation and prayer under certain aspects.
Thus, as Paul Ricoeur observed: “Today man suffers above all from a lack of meaning”. More than 20 years ago, through a Cleric of Saint Viator, when I was looking for a meaning to give to my life, I wanted to respond to my desire for the absolute, by joining the congregation. If I had to risk an image, I would say that I then took God for a grocer who would finally deliver to me “the” answer for my whole life! The Provincial at the time answered me in these words: “What do you come to do in a community of old people? Go and see elsewhere if you don’t find more life! »
I’ve been there! That is how I joined Catholic Teaching as a teacher and educator and that is how I got involved in politics, because I already believed that it is by setting out on the road that we can participate in making the Kingdom of God become a reality in our own small measure. It was a time of joyful and sometimes difficult sowing! It allowed me, I believe, to leave behind some false images of God and to accept to deepen myself every day a little more so as to be able to leave his entire place to the “Host of my heart.”
It is a testimony of Fr. Étienne Gonnet who came to incite me once again to want to put my life in following Christ in the footsteps of Fr. Louis Querbes: “One day I asked Fr. Querbes why he was keeping in his community some subjects he should have sent away and whose conduct left much to be desired; he answered me: ‘If we send them away they are lost souls, if we keep them, they will perhaps convert. One must not break the half-broken reed, nor extinguish the wick that is still smoking. »
What attracted me was not the ease but the full meaning that this simple testimony of an educator and pastor gave!
Of course, questions remain: how can the Viatorians continue to be witnesses of the absolute, of fraternity and availability, witnesses of Gospel values? How can we unite Viatorians around evangelical projects that respond to the urgent needs of our time?
God is at work! We are only maneuvering! Saint Paul states in the Second Letter to the Corinthians in chapter 4 verse 7: “We carry this treasure (the light of Christ) as if it were in clay vessels…. “So that we may let the light pass through, should we not accept our frailties and cracks?
“Blessed are the cracked ones, for they will let the light through” (Michel Audiard).