Reflections on Our Journey

Blog Post by Brother Rupert O’Sullivan fpm

I am celebrating Easter time here in Rome where the Presentation Brothers are holding their 28th Chapter Assembly. It is taking place in Villa Palazzola, a restored 13th century monastery nestling high up on the shores of a natural volcanic lake, Albano. Come evening time it is majestic to watch the sun setting across the still lake waters of Lake Albano with Castle Gandolfo in view. As far as the eye can see, the domes of the Papal Palace are visible in the fading evening light, drawing the eye to the Eternal City of Rome and onwards to the glistening Mediterranean in the distance. In the silence of evening the only sound is bird song rising from the tree lined shores of the lake. Villa Palazzola truly is an ideal setting for our Chapter deliberations, prayer and reflection.

Tuesday was gathering day for Brothers and guests and Wednesday was the official opening of the Chapter with the opening address from Br. Martin, Congregation Leader. This was followed by opening mass at which invited guests from around Rome attended. There followed a reception and a lovely meal.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday were two wonderful days, with input from Sisters Gemma Symonds C.J. and Pat Murray IBRM. At the beginning of her presentation, Sister Gemma said that the Church, no less than many societies has been adversely affected by patriarchy. It would be naive to think that the modern world has eliminated this characteristic. Even in contemporary TV, electronic games and films, we see a glorification of violence, abuse of women and vulnerable people and portrayal of sex as misuse of power.

Those women writers, including religious women who have spearheaded a campaign against patriarchy have been at times vilified, at least sometimes unfairly. Even religious leaders have been shamefully slow in permitting women to use their gifts and talents in leadership positions in the Church. Yet many of the qualities that characterised the Ministry of Jesus, such as gentleness, tenderness and sympathy are arguably more readily encountered in women than men.

The purpose of presentations such as that of Sr. Gemma was to provide the Brothers at the Chapter with a wider perspective on consecrated life today. They would then relate this to their own lived experience as Presentation Brothers.

On Good Friday, Sr. Pat Murray, General Secretary of the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) who is based in Rome, addressed the Chapter. At the beginning of her presentation she reminded us Brothers, of recent letters of Pope Francis on aspects of religious life. She then went on to speak on the theme of Pilgrim Brothers in an Evolving World.

She made striking use of images and pointed out that images can sometimes convey much more than words. This is partly because images are generative i.e. they evoke not only memories and thoughts but also other images that have already deeply affected us.

Some of the striking images used by Sr. Pat included the great modern wall separating Israelis from Palestinians; the great crowds of refugees trecking from Italy towards Northern Europe; the crowded boat loads of refugees entering Italian waters; the corpse of a dead child at the water’s edge.

She emphasised some of Pope Francis’ recent requests to religions “Go to the Frontiers;” “Leave your Nests;” “Journey towards unknown lands;” “You must choose something new.”

Sr. Pat noted that new initiatives can be very small and may involve listening and being present to people rather than helping them materially. She ended with the appealing image of “the unpredictable arrival of a little cloud”, the harbinger of welcome rain to a parched land.

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