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Dear Brothers and friends of the Alliance,
This December we will enter into the 175th anniversary year of the foundation of our Assumptionist Congregation. I would like to see this year marked by joy and especially by the joy of living out our vocation as religious and as heirs of Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon. A year during which we will be able to manifest our attachment to Christ in fidelity to our beloved founder. A year to commemorate all those individuals who have contributed to make Assumption what it is today. A year to give thanks to God for having called us to serve him.
Even though we may have many reasons to feel gloomy, even to feel afflicted, I believe that joy is the best witness we can give to our world today. I do not recommend some kind of forced act of the will, nor some flight from reality, but I am simply proposing a return to our commitment to follow the Lord until the end, as good and faithful servants.
Joy is the fruit of the passion that drives us to work for the coming of the Kingdom. Without this passion there is nothing but an activism without limit. The Kingdom of God that we are called to proclaim is already here and is the source of endless happiness. Joy is also an expression of our gratitude. Gratitude to have a founder whose fully recognized holiness, we hope, will soon be acknowledged. Proud to be descendants of Emmanuel d’Alzon who was an ardent apostle of the Gospel in a time of acute crisis. Joy of belonging to his spiritual heritage and of being able to share it with our brothers and sisters of the lay-religious Alliance. We have a charism, a tradition and a history characterized by an attachment to Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Church. We can be certain, if we continue to live from this Assumptionist spirit, that the forces of evil will not have the final word and that the Assumption, for its part, will be able to pursue its way, assured that God will not abandon it.
Joy also to have a Rule of Life, a way of living out the Gospel among ourselves and for the world in an unbounded fraternity. Our joy gains depth as well in our apostolic mission. Assumption is an apostolic and missionary congregation. Our energies, with God’s help, are deployed in many sectors: parishes, education, the media, foreign missions, solidarity with the poor, studies, etc. In each one of our undertakings, we intend to be joyful witnesses of the Kingdom of God.
The jubilee year will not be uniquely consecrated to remembering, but it will also invite us to open our horizons more broadly so that we may be evermore bold and zealous. It is urgent that we mobilize ourselves even more and better yet in proclaiming the Gospel. Mediocrity and monotony are poisons that hinder the growth of the Kingdom. Jesus calls us to announce the Beatitudes. Might it be that we ourselves should put their spirit into practice better in order to be credible? I am convinced that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be more relevant in our consecration. Let us return to our first love, as God demands of the Church of Ephesus! (Rev 2:4) It is a question of truly being men consecrated to the Lord, that is to say entirely given over to him and serving him with sincere hearts and without reserve. Let us be attentive to our commitments. We have chosen Christ and this choice commits us to serving him in everything and everywhere. Too often we are inclined to give preference to our natural bonds: our families, our country, our culture and we forget that Christ has set out requirements so that we might be with Him.
The Assumption will not settle for celebrating the proud pages of the past; it must prepare itself to write new ones as it demonstrates its openness to God’s invitations. In a world that has its doubts, and that hopes in spite of everything, will we be up to the challenge? I sincerely believe so.
We can approach the future with confidence if we surrender ourselves completely into the hands of him who can do all things. We may not have significant financial means; we do not have a reputation that ranks us among the high profile ones of this world or even in the Church. We have our weaknesses and our deficiencies but our wealth is in Jesus Christ who is our real treasure. And that fills us with joy. Neither gold nor silver, but what we have is the name of Jesus…..
Celebrating a jubilee is at one and the same time to look at the past with gratitude and to enter the future with hope. With St. Paul we can say, « Therefore, if someone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old world has passed away; a new world is already coming to birth. » (II Cor 5:17) This new world, the presence of which Paul announces, is that which we announce by our daily life and our religious consecration. We must pass from the death of sin to the newness of the Gospel. We can be proud to belong to the Assumption. A small religious family founded in France in the 19th century, our congregation has lived through many trials and has managed to move forward step by step in its desire to follow Jesus Christ. We are no wistful wishers for some bygone past, but adventurers facing new times. The newness can be found in Jesus Christ and in him alone.
For the jubilee year several opportunities will be organized in the various provinces. I invite everyone to take part in these and to organize, in local communities, other initiatives with our brothers and sisters of the lay-religious Alliance. The latter themselves are encouraged to plan opportunities as well. I hope that each community organize a day of recollection on the theme of « new times ». Together with Pope Francis we are aware that the Church is experiencing a profound crisis. We are to consider this as a time of truth and of purification necessary if we are to lead the way forward. Joy, not fear, must guide us.
We might listen again to what John Paul II said in his apostolic exhortation, Vita consecrata (#110): « You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things. »
If Assumptionist religious and the lay members of the Alliance are dedicated to the Son of Man, then, as I like to say, the Assumption has not yet spoken its final word.
With Emmanuel d’Alzon we are ready to undertake the great causes of God and of man. May this 175th anniversary of the foundation of the Augustinians of the Assumption be a time of grace for all of us!
Very Rev. Benoît GRIÈRE, A.A.
Feast of All Saints