As we celebrate the feast of Francisco Palau OCD, let us stop for a while and consider to what palautian charism may be calling us here and now, in the complicated reality of our world. Guided by Psalm 15, let us discover anew as family our call for justice.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
We talk about charism of palautian family, of what our Founder, Francisco Palau, has dreamt us like. We ask ourselves what our world, here and now, has to tell us about our way of understanding and living our consecration through religious vows, or our life of committed lay with our family and mission. One of the characteristics of palautian way of living today is CREATION OF NEW RELATIONSHIPS with persons, things, nature, power. Those relationships has one common denominator called JUSTICE.
Psalm 15 has as its subtitle “The guest of God” or, in other translations, “What God expects from a man”. Who is the just one in the eyes of God? Who is a man and a woman loved by God and invited to stay at his? Translated into the language of our charism: who is a palautian who considers him/herself a living part of the Body of Christ, the Church?
The Psalm 15 begins with a question: “Who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” The tend and the mountain are two symbols of the presence and close relationship with God. But they are two different symbols that evokes two different kinds of presence. A tend belongs to a nomad style of life. It evoke an image of the people of Israel walking through desert guided by the presence of God in a cloud and in the column of fire (Ex 40:36-38). Israel, attentive in every moment to the movement of God, his will, walks when and where God walks, rests when and where God rests. A tent signifies a provisional life, without securities, without big installations that make it difficult to change in signed time. At the end, a tend symbolizes a life of a prophet who, attentive to the murmuring voice of God is always ready to continue walking, wherever it may take him, called by the glory of God. It palautian words, “I will go where the glory of God calls me” (Letter 39,5).
This is the first symbol of justice to which we are called as palautian family. Our life is only provisional, always “outdoor”, without big installations and attachments that might weaken our availability. We are prophets who listen the voice of God in the signs that surround us, never losing of our sight a place where our God has “migrated”, a place where his Body is. May it not happen to us like it happened to Mary who got lost and was crying that “someone took her Lord and she didn’t know where he was put”… (J 20:13). The Lord whom we love lives in a tent, he is not satisfied with big palaces; who had no place to rest his head (Lc 9:58). Therefore, what other lodging can we demand for ourselves? We are called to live in a tent where God dwells, and to make it bigger and bigger to welcome all those who need its shelter.
God also dwells on the holy mountain. A mountain is a symbol of inaccessibility, also of an effort that one has to make to achieve it. In Bible many meaningful encounters between God and his chosen ones have their place on the mountain (Abraham, Moses, Elijah, just to mention some of them). It was on the mountain where Jesus pronounced the beatitudes, on the mountain he was transfigured, finally on the mountain he was crucified and died. In spiritual tradition, a mountain is a symbol of mystics: a man who makes an effort to achieve its top (en ascetic effort reflected, for example, by Saint John of the Cross in so called passive night of a spirit) and God who freely gives himself to those who search for him (gifted union described by Saint Therese of Jesus in 5th Mansion). It is also the experience of Francisco Palau of his encounters with the Church. God is a mystery per excellence and a mountain safeguards this mystery.
As palautians, we are called to climb the mountain of God. We are people who fight, make effort, not people of commodity. A comfortable life is not our style of life. Also Palau lived far from all what comfortable, easy and “light” life might suppose. But this effort has its meaning, its profound reason: to tear the cloth of encounter, see God/Church face to face. To see God not only on the peak of a mountain, but above all in the highs and lows of life, scrutinize his mystery reflected in concrete faces of so many persons who surround us. This other kind of encounter with the mystery of the hidden God cost even more effort. It means to remove from the others all the covers that may cover the true image of God in them. It is a daily effort of removing people from shelves and corners in which they find themselves and restoring their dignity. We are mystics: we discover God in places where noone else can perceive him and we fight to give him back a place, but our God is not the one who dwells only in heaven, but the one who dwells in his creatures.
It is beautiful and necessary to stay with God in his tent or on the peak of a mountain. Beautiful and dangerous. These two places can become enclosed spaces, evasive, intimist, accessible only for the “chosen ones”. For us there are other spaces, more sacred and impregnated withe the presence of God: a street, a community, nature, a person herself, particularly in moments of being disfigured and deprived of their dignity. Let us leave a mountain. Let us pack our tent. The Church is calling us to go, to announce, to restore, because it is there, in real life of real people, where our justice can be verified, our aptitude of being admitted in the presence of God.
What follows in Psalm 15 can be called “Decalogue of the just” or “7 commandments of new relationships”, a manual of conduct for those who desire to be called just in the eyes of God. It is a list of indications, simple and concrete, that generally can be resumed in two: pureness of tongue and pureness of hands.
- Integral and righteous conduct.
- Sincerity in thoughts.
- No slandering with tongue, no harm to known persons or neighbor.
- Reproach for a reprobate.
- Honor those who fear the Lord.
- No retracting from promise, even if one may lose.
- No lending money for own benefit nor accepting bribe against the innocent.
This Decalogue touches the depths of our existence, because it touches the essence of our relationships, fundamental for palautians.
First above all: INTEGRITY. According to specialists, an integral person is the one who always does what is correct; and we say “do what is correct” we mean all what we consider as good for ourselves and what doesn’t affect interests of others. Integrity can be translated as honor, honesty, respect for others, directness, appropriateness, responsibility, congruence and firmness in actions. In general, it is someone trustworthy. Integrity means to take a road of our truth, do what is right, for right reasons, in right way. In ultimate instance, integrity that we are asked for can be defined as a quality of a persons that qualifies her to take decision about her conduct by herself.
In the world that lives of lies, that is nourished with false self-images, we are called to give testimony that the most important of each person dwells in her interior. It is there where the most important decisions in life are taken. Our world needs persons that are convinced of their decisions and live congruently with them, that act with firmness and responsibility that benefits others. It needs persons that would make their option for high values of truth ad respect, and they would do it with their whole life.
In the second place, as a requirement for justice, there is SINCERITY. Sincerity is an attitude characterized by honesty and use of truth in all ambiences of daily life. It is based in being and acting the way we are, we feel, we think, leaving apart all types of pretending or hypocrisy. Sincerity is normally attributed to children and the “crazy”: two social figures who has no fear to say what they really think. Sincerity is without any doubt a most loable and noble characteristic that a person can possess. It supposes to assume oneself the way we are living in any conditions of social space. Persons who are not sincere use to suffer, because they cannot show themselves the way they are in public, what can generate anxiety, wrath, annoyance. In many cases, lack of sincerity can be fruit of timidity of a person, of fear of saying anything that might not be accepted in peer group. In other cases, hypocrisy or lack of sincerity are searched for on purpose to obtain determined results, but in any case it generates a kind of interior conflict in a persons who cannot show herself the way she is.
We, palautians, have been created for liberty. We live in society, we have to respect its laws. But we cannot allow ourselves to sell our values with the only purpose of being accepted socially or receiving benefits from people of high society. Sometimes we can feel timid, and even with fear of manifesting our belongingness to the Church, specially in countries when to be Christian is not so well seen. These can ba a source of our anxiety and wrath, because we are not showing who we are. We are the Church, the beautiful young woman always loved by the Father, Spouse of Jesus, his Body… let us respect ourselves, let us not allow anyone to put us down in our dignity, let us stop begging for some crumbs of love when we can have it in abundance from the hands of our Father.
The following requirement of justice in our world is NO SLANDERING. To slander means to accuse falsely someone with intention of causing harm. Father Palau in his life many time passed though situations when, because of jealousy of other priests or because of need for a scapegoat (like in the case of the School of Virtue), was accused falsely and he bore in extreme the consequences of these accusations. He suffered a lot. All palautians, called to build new relationships in the world marked by lies and egoism, we have to say “no” to this kind of practices. Our natural sometimes doesn’t help, specially those who are prone to gossip, to seek mistakes of others making them bigger than in reality and telling it to others. With the only purpose of gaining social acceptance, we are capable of harming others. But this is very far from the truth of our vocation that is a call to humility, to “walk in truth”, to acknowledge others, to restore their dignity and not to steal it with our tongue, that can kill more efficiently than any firearm.
Who is the REPROBATE to whom we are invited to despise? It’s a person punished socially for having broken some rule; a person of bad nature because of her reproachable acts that break some social norms, those who are socially reproached, marginalized. I believe that in this point we can find a call for active implication in topics of social and political life. In our world, reprobate can be considered all those who break the rules of social justice, social equality, equal division of natural goods, norms of dignity and equality of opportunities for everyone. The word reprobus in Latin means someone or somethings rejected, condemned for reason of not being able to pass an exam of value or honesty. The palautians are called, as prophets that we are by baptism and vocation, to denounce all forms of dishonesty in social ambience. We cannot be indifferent to the cry of the poor that live deprived of basic human rights. It is not always enough to help them, to cover their immediate necessities. We are asked to participate actively in the change of social system, living ourselves already now the alternative values of a just world, as if this world were already reality.
TO HONOR THOSE WHO FEAR THE LORD, for me, is to make a sincere and determined option for the poor. In biblical concept of „anawim”, the poor of Yahweh are those who fear the Lord, meaning, those who are faithful to him, those who follow his commandments. Of them Jesus spoke in the sermon of the mountain. These are all the saints of our times who with courage, opposed to injustice and fought side by side with people for their rights. But „to honor” doesn’t mean to adore, contemplate from afar. It means to stay with them, manifest that it is our honor to serve them. To honor them means to proclaim their dignity, restore their beauty, give them back a place that is theirs in society. Our actual society lives the reverted scale of values. Our world honors those who shout louder, have more, famous for their scandals. If we open TV and listen the news, we can easily know all evil that is happening, but very rarely we can learn about good things, about persons who live honestly. The palautians need to make an option for those persons, to put them on elevated place (not hidden under the bush), so the world may see that not all is lost, that there are still people who have courage to live basic human values of solidarity, honesty, truth.
About KEEPING OUR WORD… We profess, in one way or another, our commitment to the Church, to Christ-Head of this Body. Normally we begin with great illusion, we believe that with it we express our desire to fulfill the will of God, to give it all and give ourselves to Him alone, leaving it all because of Him. But as time goes by, we realize that our gift wasn’t as generous and total as we wished. We experience all real exigencies of this style of life, and we realize that we are not always doing well. We pass through crisis. We can „win”, finish it converted, more confident if God’s mercy in spite of our infidelities, ready to continue making this option of life. Other times we make an option for other kind of life, life of self-affirmation, for possessing things and positions, for deciding over my own life. We do so because it seems that to live according to the Gospel and palautian charism is harmful for us, it doesn’t allow us to develop fully our potential. What we have promised seems to work against us, not for our benefit. It is true that God always desire our heart in honesty, he wants us to serve him joyfully and convinced that he is the best that could happen to us. But many times we are people of little faith; it seems to us that walking with God, serving the Church, something important will be taken from us, that this style of life can’t bring us to the fullness of life. Fr. Palau says: „I did not hesitate even for a moment to assume obligations that I was sure I could faithfully fulfil until death” (Solitary Life 11). He was a person of faith; he knew that God would never abandon him, that the Church, his Beloved, would always accompany him and guide him where he should go. Don’t allow ourselves, his children, to be less. Let us trust in the Church who joyfully receives our promises and let us make effort for growing in this journey to become completely committed and consecrated to the Church. It won’t harm us.
The last part if Psalm 15 speaks about MONEY. What is our relationship with possessions, and with power that possession generates? Father Palau gives us a clear example: „Everything that is not of God and his love, I consider it very cheap and its possession disgusts me” (Letter 32,4). The „lending money to the poor without interest and accepting a bribe against the innocent” is a message for us: may we not look for any benefit, of any kind, when we decide to do something for others. It is a question that we should make constantly: what benefits am I looking for in relationships with others? what do I obtain from becoming a friend of this concrete person? who are truly my friends: the poor and dispossessed or, contrary, the powerful who can „help” me in financing of my apostolates? how do I treat those who look for my help: as objects that mak me feel good or as subjects worthy of my unconditional and disinterested love…? As palautians we have in our hands power compared with divine: the power to love and give abundant life. Don’t stay in little details, in egoistic interests. Let us dream together with the poor on the new world of new relationships.
JUSTICE means to give everyone who is theirs. For palautians it means to give our love to the Church: to love God above all and with the same love to love our brothers and sisters, specially the marginalized and deprived of their dignity. Love God begins in low places, in the roads of people who search for a better future. Only those who know to walk with them can be admitted in the presence of God, as Psalm 15 indicates.
Aleksandra Nawrocka CMT