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A Pastoral Letter by H.L. Mons. Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2011.
A FOUNTAIN OF RUNNING WATER
My Dear Brethren,
“Some time ago I met a man who intimated to me his great wish to meet someone who would talk to him about God. At the same time, with a sad facial expression he told me how difficult it has become nowadays to find someone who marvels at the beauty, the goodness and the holiness of God! Have we become so detached from God? Is it not a matter for concern that God’s absence from our minds and hearts deadened our need to refer to Him? Have we so much lost our thirst for God that we have become unable to refer to Him?
Indeed that man’s comment has captured our current reality in a snapshot. Spiritual poverty is much in evidence. Equally crass is our ignorance of God. The absence of God has drained our life especially with regard to human rights – such as the right to life – in the family, in the workplace, and in the economy. Indifference to God is the reason why the society of the third millennium is at once so knowledgeable, yet shockingly short-sighted! With God in the sidelines, the solutions on offer are hatching more serious problems. Many have been hurt because they were ignored and shunned. The result of a Godless universe is an impoverished humankind without any regard for each individual’s worth. With God’s eclipse, alienation and disorientation have always been likely to follow. These days it is not only hard to find anyone with whom to engage in a constructive discussion about God, but it has become difficult to articulate what is true, good and just!
Spiritual aridity is felt also in our Church, at times the resistance to institutional renewal is tangible. Whoever wants the Church to remain a showcase of religious traditions does not truly love the Church. We are far too complacent with the Church and within the Church – how we celebrate the sacraments, the respect towards the teaching of the Church… Excessive familiarity breeds abuses, even in holy matters!
There are various reasons why God is no longer a priority. Spiritual “exhaustion” is rife among Christians. Others are pastorally extinguished. For many, Christianity was a superficial gloss washed away by the first rains! Others are becoming enticed by diverse faiths with the risk of apostatising from Catholicism and joining some other church, another religion or a sect. There are also those who have lost their faith and courted worldly dogmas, which often exclude God – with secularism and laicism taking over as the “civil religions.”
God does not distance Himself from Man
That man can turn away from God is possible; that God can abandon man is not. God reaches out to one and all, even before man stops seeking Him! History is replete with God’s initiatives to make contact with man. In this sense the best example happend in Nazareth, where the Son of God was conceived in Mary’s womb: “When the time was ripe, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
The Poor Clare Nuns
It is with great joy that we shall have in our Diocese another “Nazareth.” This is the Monastery of the Poor Clare Nuns that we shall inaugurate in a few days’ time. While attesting from their cloister to God’s unremitting love and summoning us to persevere in our search, these nuns are a living reminder of the invaluable grace which has been bestowed on our small island.
According to St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, monastic persons seek God, but God has sought and found them out first. Likewise, in the tradition of St. Basil the search for God means that nothing will give us rest or fill our hearts if not God. In this quest, the human being unburdens his heart and allows God to respond through His Word in the Scripture as expounded in the ecclesial community. No answer is completely satisfying: the final answer is God Himself. In the words of St. Augustine, “the heart of man will find no rest if not in You, O God.”
In the Psalms we find: “take heart you who seek God” (Psalm 69,31), and ” let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength, tirelessly seek his presence!” (Psalm 105, 3-4). Monastic people, in our case the Poor Clare nuns, are those whom the Holy Scripture calls “the people that seek him, that seek your presence, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24,6). With this monastery located next door to Manresa Retreat House, this space is confirmed as “holy land.” It is hoped that, as happened in the past, priests, religious and lay persons continue to frequent this oasis of spirituality, where in calm and silence they seek the presence of God.
A Sign of God’s Presence in our midst May
The chimes of the monastery’s bell echo in our hearts, in our families and in our parochial communities to revive our spirit, that we may continue to cherish our spiritual treasures. I believe that the Church in Gozo has a lot to offer to Maltese society; now, backed by the invigorating presence of contemplative life, it could carry out its spiritual mission with greater resolution.
From the depths of their hearts, these nuns sing praise to God. The joy of these contemplatives is the presence of Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist. To ensure that their gift to God is complete, they have chosen to restrain themselves to a penitential life and by choosing to be poor Franciscans they corroborate their strong belief in Providence. Their silence deafens, but it disposes hearts towards the voice of God. These are among other strong stimuli that remind us that although we are in the world we are not of the world, but “His,” that is, the Lord’s.
We shall give these nuns a task on our behalf – not to appear as proxy on a contract, but to “stand” in the Divine presence of God and intercede for us. This monastery will provide our diocese a privileged enclave for solace during rough times, but also for a peaceful and silent recess in the presence of the Lord, away from the hectic life.
I hope that the presence of the Poor Clare nuns among us is the timely heavenly medicine we require in these particular times. With the world intent on proclaiming the passing away of God, this monastery will be a penetrating beacon of light reaching far and wide, attesting that God is so Holy that people like these nuns are ready to give their whole lives to Him. As a “fountain of running water that leads to eternal life” (see John 4,14) this monastery is a renewed call to re-instate God in modern reality. In this way without shame or hesitation each person will vouchsafe for his hope (see 1Pt 3,15) and would be empowered to act as God’s herald, speaking the language of love (see 1 John 4,16).
The inauguration of the monastery will be held on Thursday, 25th of this month. I invite you to the prayer vigil on 24th August and to the Holy Mass the next day.
On the feast of her Assumption into Heaven, we can say with Mary, mother and model of consecrated life, that in sending His emissaries in our midst the Almighty has done great things for us. They came among us to stay. In appealing to your generosity I am sure that we can help them in every possible way.
As the Spiritual Shepherd of this small church that makes its home in Gozo, I wish to entrust this new experience of the spirit in monastic enclosure under the protection of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu.
I give you my Pastoral blessing.”
+ Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo
Mgr Saviour Debrincat, Chancellor