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You are here:Home / Family News / NEF 2016 / Family News - May 14th, 2016 / Practicing the Rule
May 12, 2016

Practicing the Rule

The richness of praying together

In the chapter on The Betharramite Life of Prayer, Article 91 of the Rule of Life opens up two perspectives that could be summed up with two words: education and communion. Right from the beginning, Fr. Giancarlo Monzani, scj, reveals us what he has chosen to tell us about the different aspects of his experience and offers us a testimony where emotion has in store nice surprises.

Articolo 91
In the same way that Christ taught his Apostles to pray, we are educators in prayer of the faithful by praying with them.“Celebrate the Lord with all your heart through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, always giving thanks for all to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Ep. 5.19-20)

I acknowledge with joy that I never went to meet lay people to teach them to pray. I just tried to support them in prayer. In fact, I often ask myself this question: is it that I am the one teaching or the one learning? When I am with lay people, my heart beats excitedly, attentive to their sharing. The laity have a simple and loving heart, their hands full of life, they have a long journey in this world, and with their sense of reality, they do not add unnecessary words, they are not preaching.

In community, we have a habit of repeating the same prayers. Our liturgies have been through the mill of the centuries. Sometimes they are dusty or are prayers led by actions which are difficult to understand or that don’t mean much. However, they have a richness which puts us in communion with all the saints and with the universal Church. These are prayers which sanctified Michael Garicoits, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified and our holy fathers of Bétharram who preceded us. They make us a church set on a path singing to the glory of God, a church which admits its mistakes and forgives. A Church like a people sometimes walking in the desert, sometimes fighting against the enemy and sometimes enjoying peace and abundance through the presence of the Most High.

I like praying with the psalms. Some time ago now, a Spanish nun, Aleixandre Dolores, taught me to enter into the heart of Jesus, of the church and of people today in these prayers. This applies to the Gospel as well, because here I draw inspiration for the Sunday homily.

I have had occasion to live a variety of prayer experiences with people of all ages. I still like praying today with nursery children. I am surprised by their ability to make contact with God, to enter into the mystery of God who is close and merciful, who embraces and gives joy. Children do not stick to logic, they are quick to turn off the brain in order to turn on the heart. Just a few gestures, a kiss, a hug, or hand on heart, eyes half closed, a short silence, and everything is emotion, joy. With them, I simply feel peace, the simplicity of the very young seeps in; thanks to them, I too feel small, like them, before God.

With First Holy Communion children too, it is easy to catch a glimpse of heaven. There is more movement, song and dance. We move, we wave, we put the Gospel into practice ... We talk about creation in all its forms and with all its colours. We offer to God what he has given to us, and with these things, we offer ourselves. Even small acts of service and coming close to others become prayer.

In parishes I visit, I take care of engaged couples and young married couples. I visit them in their homes, I bless them, I remind them of the celebrated sacrament, I invite them to gather in small communities of friends. In small groups, prayer is a sharing of life, the joys and sacrifices of every day. Everything is new, everything feels good, everything has the scent of love. The pages of the Gospel guide prayer, illuminate life, encourage us to make new commitments in society. The Gospel breaks down like an ear of wheat: it speaks and provides nourishing wealth. I remember the birth of new friendships within groups, holidays celebrated together, baptisms of newcomers, whose godfathers and godmothers were chosen from among the group. How much do I thank God for the gift of these friendships that persist despite the distance!

San Roque, in Santiago del Estero, is a blessing from the Most High. I remember those years fondly. Perhaps the best years of my priesthood. In this hinterland, people are straight forward and human relationships easy going. In this land burned by the sun, life is a celebration and this celebration results in “asado” (grilled food eaten outdoors), wine and song, it’s a family spirit. Those values ​​cannot be absent from prayer. Mass is punctuated by songs: at the beginning, at the penitential rite, at the time of the psalm, etc.

Before beginning the celebration, it seems good to me to make way for the singing. This predisposes the soul to the encounter with God the friend. It is certain that it reduces suffering, it aerates the mind, it makes us brothers and sisters, helping us come together in God. Time is not golden; it is just time, a space that we offer to meet with each other and to meet the Most High. The gesture of peace can never fail. It multiplies the desire of forgiveness and a life in fraternity, in communion. The humble daily life becomes present in common prayer: joy and pain are given to the Lord as an offering of people travelling along the path. Christmas and Easter are special celebrations. The parish is divided into eight communities and each community meets for dinner in the street. (This reminds me of my childhood meals taken in the courtyard of the building). After the midnight mass (celebrated at eight in the evening), I take part in dinner with one of them, and after midnight, I visit the other communities by bike. Sharing a glass of wine and a piece of cake is also a way to celebrate God with those I hardly ever see at church.

In Buenos Aires, they asked me to lead the group FA.LA.BE. Falabe is not just an acronym which stands for the Family of Betharramite Laity. It is also a group of friends, close to the religious community, working or spiritually supporting the mission of the Vicariate. Praying with them means awakening the desire for God in the heart, as animated in St. Michael, giving the whole person over to serving others as God asks of us. We keep in touch through the internet, during days of spirituality, and during the retreat in October.

I thank God for the joy of sharing my faith with my brothers. With them I meet You, Lord. With them, prayer becomes life and life becomes prayer. With them, life is a celebration.

Giancarlo Monzani scj

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