Log-book: July 2005
Getting away from the crowd A place for fraternity Death of a friend The theology of liberation
Getting away from the crowd
As I do every year, I go to a Benedictine abbey for a time of silence and prayer. Leaving the crowd to go in solitude. It is said that if Jesus had not gone so far in solitude, he would not have gone so far in his meetings with the crowds. Jesus did not exempt himself from going to the desert. It was a necessity for him to get away and to pray.
I feel the same need and each day I take long walks in the forest surrounding the monastery.
I appreciate being part of a community in prayer. The monks greet me as one of their own. I share their life punctuated at the rhythm of the services, except for the vigils, which are at 2 am.
The Father Abbot invites me to preside the Eucharist and to speak in front of the chapter. The monks are fond of hearing the facts of the present life. They still remember details of previous years. They listen with attention to my narration of the situation of those who have no official papers or that of the families that don't have decent housing.
One of them asks me: " At the monastery, I have all I need to live. I have security for the future. How can I be poor? "
A place for fraternity
I was invited to speak before a Masonic Lodge. The Grand Master came to greet me at the station at the end of the afternoon and drove me to the place of the meeting.
" There will be lots of people tonight, he told me. Masons from other lodges and some women will be present. It is curious that when I invite a man of the church, the place is packed. Last time, I had invited an important man: the director of communications on television. There were few people at the meeting. But any thing related to the Church attracts."
The house of the free masons is a large building with many levels. First I visited the kitchen in the basement where " apprentice masons" were actively preparing the meal for 110 persons! But I had to go to the temple to speak on the topic assigned to me : " Laïcité * and the Catholic Church."
The participants put aside " laïcité" to focus on the Church. Is the Church not filled with symbols, rites, mysteries and spirituality? All things that masons like.
Despite their critics on the dogma and on the lack of freedom for the Christians, they cannot stay indifferent to the Church.
After serious matters, it is time for an aperitif and a meal. Joy was in the air. I took great pleasure to see how masons enjoy meeting. They take time to rejoice together. " It is important to me to have a place for fraternity, one of them told me: Here I feel in confidence and I am being listened to.."
It is almost the time for the monks to go to their vigil (2 am) when a mason drove me back to sleep in his home.
* The law of separation of the State and religions in France
Death of a friend
I have three images of Olivier who left us at the age of 48 years.
At the celebration of his wedding, when it was time for him to give his consent, I remember tears preventing him to speak. Shaken by his emotions, he showed his fragility. I was surprised because this did not resemble him. He let his humanity show during the celebration.
Olivier had invested much of himself in the Partenia Association, which at that time was in a large building where people with no official papers had taken refuge.
Often he came at the end of the afternoon to meet them. He took out his pipe and started long discussions with them. I felt his happiness to be there. Olivier allowed people with no official papers come into his life. This had changed his life and his faith.
Finally there was the celebration of his funeral that took place in an atmosphere of peace and hope. The words of Jesus fell on the assembly like seeds in the good earth: " I was a stranger and you have welcomed Me."
Many students from the school of journalism had come to pay their last homage to their teacher. Olivier loved to speak. Now that he had entered the great silence of death, it was one of his students who stood up to speak. Somebody else was there to take over.
The theology of liberation
In Bern, The Social Christians Movement organized a meeting to think about the theology of liberation of which the starting point was the world of the poor and the oppressed. They are the main actors of their own liberation. How can events going on in Latin America and in other countries influence our own practices?
I was in front of a marvellous audience. For years, these men and women have been engaged and committed to work with those people who are neglected by our society: the jobless, people infected by AIDS, drug addicts and people with no official papers... They are taking risks to help those that are in danger. Protestants and Catholics work hand in hand with only one thing in mind that is to work with the excluded from society.
I was listening to these accounts with admiration. It was not just words, they were talking of the struggles they had fought together. The Gospel inspired the actions of these men and women.
In the audience there was a minister of the Reformed Church who also gave a marvellous account. Confronted with laws that are tougher and tougher, he was not afraid to take a stand.
I remember with gratitude how he had greeted me in Bern a few years ago. It was the celebration of the Sunday of the Reformation. He had invited me to give a talk and to celebrate with him. People with no official papers had taken refuge in the temple. This minister had been courageous to offer them hospitality and to defend them.