On November 12, 2015, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Pilgrimage of the spiritual family of St. Louis Guanella on the occasion of the first centenary of Fr. Guanella’s death. Perhaps the enthusiasm, the celebrations, the traveling, the lodging, the souvenirs and other concerns placed the Holy Father’s words on the back burner. A year later is the best time to go back and meditate again on the message given to us by the Holy Father.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You have just celebrated the first centenary of his birth in Heaven. I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. He would certainly do so with his sincere and genuine simplicity; and then I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry.
To trust. Fr. Guanella’s life had at the center the certainty that God is a merciful and provident Father. This was the heart of the faith for him: to know himself as an always loved son, whom the Father takes care of and, therefore, brother of all, called to infuse trust. God is Father and is unable not to love us, nor is He capable of being far from His children. If we are far from Him, we are awaited; when we come close to Him, we are embraced; if we fall, He lifts us up; if we are repentant, He forgives us. And He always desires to encounter us. Fr. Guanella so believed in this concrete and provident love of the Father, that he often had the courage to surmount the limits of human prudence, to put the Gospel into practice. Providence, for him, was not “poetry” but reality. God takes care of us and wants us to trust Him.
I think the heavenly Father is very displeased when He sees that His children do not trust Him completely: perhaps they believe in a distant God more than in the merciful God. The doubt can arise in many that God, although Father, is also a master. Then it seems better not to trust Him completely, because He could ask for something that is too demanding or even send a trial. But this is a great deceit: it is the ancient deceit of the enemy of God and of man, who camouflages the reality and disguises evil as a good. It is the first temptation: to distance oneself from God, intimidated by the suspicion that His paternity is not truly provident and good. Instead, God is only love, pure provident love. He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows what our true good is. Therefore He desires that in the course of life we become what we are at the moment of Baptism: loved children, who are able to overcome fear and not fall into lament, because the Father takes care of us.
The second verb is to look. The Creator Father also arouses creativity in those who live as His children. So they learn to look at the world with new eyes, made more luminous by love and hope. They are eyes that enable one to look within oneself with truth and to see far in charity. With these eyes, others do not seem like obstacles to surmount, but brothers and sisters to welcome. Thus, as Fr. Guanella said, one discovers that “love of neighbor is the comfort of life.”
Problems are never lacking in the world and, unfortunately, our time witnesses new poverties and many injustices. However, the greatest lack is that of charity: useful above all are persons with eyes renewed by love and looks that infuse hope. Because “love will enable one to find ways and discourses to comfort those that are weak,” said your Founder. Sometimes our spiritual sight is myopic, because we are unable to look beyond our ‘I.’ At other times we are long-sighted: we want to help someone who is far away, but we are not capable of helping someone who is beside us. Sometimes, instead, we prefer to close our eyes, because we are tired, overwhelmed by pessimism
And, finally, to hurry. “The poor are the favorite children” of the Father, said Fr. Guanella, “one who gives to the poor, loans to God.” As the Father is delicate and concrete in regard to His littlest and weakest children, so we also cannot have brothers and sisters in difficulty waiting, because according to Fr. Guanella, “misery cannot wait. And we cannot stop while there are poor to be helped!” Our Lady hurried to reach her cousin Elizabeth. We also hear the Spirit’s invitation to go in haste to meet those in need of our care and our affection because, as Fr. Guanella taught, “a Christian heart that believes and feels cannot pass before the indigence of the poor without helping them.”
Your Family springs from trust in the Father, under the gaze of Jesus and in the maternal hands of Mary. I thank you for the good you do and I encourage you to continue, without tiring. I bless you all affectionately and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Don’t forget!
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC