August 15th, 2023
From the Philippines, where I’m on a visa issue to move to Rome, I’d just like to wish you a happy Assumption Day. This feast for the whole Church has a special meaning for us Assumptionists. I’m not telling you anything new here. But it is important to remind ourselves of it, because this feast has a double memory: historical and spiritual.
When I visited Nîmes for the first time, I was delighted to see above the front door of the former “Collège de Nîmes” these words: “B. MARIAE V. IN CIELOS ASSUMPTAE”. They were engraved there long before this school became the cradle of our religious family. Here’s how our founder, Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon, interprets this fact: “It could be said that it was not we who chose Mary triumphant in heaven as our protector; it was Mary, from heaven, who seems to have said: ‘This house has been given to me, and I, in turn, give it to you'”. (E.S 1025).
I know that right now, in some Provinces, preparations are underway for the second part of the provincial chapters. What a wonderful opportunity for us! Fr. d’Alzon has always asked us to see Mary as a Mother and a model to follow. Why not place the celebrations of these provincial chapters under the protection of our Mother the Virgin Mary, and imitate her virtues in applying the recommendations of the last general chapter?
The call to holiness, the renewal of apostolic zeal, the fraternity we want to live, the missionary character of our congregation, the life and proclamation of the hope of the Kingdom of God can and should find in the mystery of the Assumption their starting point. Certain realities and situations can set themselves up as obstacles on our way, but the feast of Mary’s Assumption rekindles in us the Hope of triumph.
The Magnificat in today’s Gospel is a song of hope. It is, according to Pope Francis, the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song of so many saints, some well-known, others – many, in fact – unknown, but whom God knows well: mothers, fathers, catechists, missionaries, priests, nuns, young people, grandfathers, grandmothers, and all those who face the challenges for life by carrying in their hearts the hope of the little ones and the humble. This is also the idea behind his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate. In renewing the call to holiness in the world, the Holy Father speaks of “holiness ‘from next door'”.
Pope Francis asks us to allow ourselves to be encouraged by these signs of holiness that the Lord offers us through the humblest members of this people who “also share in Christ’s prophetic mission”. During the General Chapter, I was particularly impressed by the various testimonies of our lay brothers and sisters who are in alliance with us for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Some of them, in difficult conditions and with very limited resources, are still nourished by the Hope of the Gospel. As we continue along this path together, in a synodal spirit, let us be humble and learn from one another.
The purpose of this brief message is to wish you a happy Assumption Day. It’s our feast day. I am particularly united with the pilgrims in Lourdes who are celebrating the 150th anniversary of this pilgrimage of Hope. I am therefore in union with you, lay and religious, and also in union of prayer with our sisters of the Assumption family. We continue, in faith and hope, to pray for our congregation, for the Assumption family and for the whole Church. We do not forget our brothers and sisters who suffer because of disease or war. May God himself give us the grace to be witnesses of heaven here on earth. Happy feast day to all!
Ngoa Ya Tshihemba, aa