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The painful silence

· Consecrated ‘per evangelica consilia’ ·

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour”, Mark notes in his Gospel…. The darkness spills over, streams forth, veils and obscures. It is the victory of the clouding over of every reason that seeks the ratio of the ancient question: quid est veritas?

We as a Church are passing through a storm which might frighten us. To me it seems instead to be an opportunity which is given to us, a present for us to live as participation in the mystery of the God made man, tortured by human sin, by disbelief, by the hypocrisies of religion: the humiliated God, with no face, a stake driven into the heart of the earth, asks our reason for being a Church. The weakness of the Cross, the crest of human history, continues to pass through the world and meets us today too, opening us to the need of future times

Mark’s narration continues: “Those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads”, so also “the chief priests, mocked him to one another with the scribes”. Then “those who were crucified with him also reviled him”. This is the mystery of the evil which nails to the cross, which sneers and taunts, which justifies itself. Today we are not facing a scene that happened 2,000 years ago, we are living, in a live shot, a time which participates in Christ’s Passion: “It is not religious rites that make a Christian”, Bonhoeffer reflects, “but rather sharing in God’s suffering”. Pope Francis is not satisfied with acknowledging that the Church has been brought to her knees by circumstances. In fidelity to his ministry he asks all the faithful, as the holy people of God who know that they are not a more or less perfect society but the body of Christ, to kneel spontaneously in order to recognize their errors. In the humility and truth of Christ the Church sprinkles her forehead with ashes to ensure that the suffering inflicted is transformed into a call to conversion.

John the witness writes: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”. The women on Calvary look and wonder: intelligence and compassion are combined, caritas est sapientia et passio in that attitude continuously adopted by the Mother who, according to Luke’s account, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”.

And we consecrated women, where are we “standing” at this hour of the Church?

It is not a question of sharing the whining intoxication of cunning and superficial words and judgements, it is a question of awakening within us, consecrated women at the heart of the Church, the capacity for judging ourselves for the negligences that have often become and continue to be the burden of human and ecclesial omission. We have frequently chosen a silence that has protected us but has also crushed us in false and second-hand security.

We have relegated ourselves to the diaconal image, which, albeit generous and necessary to the life of the Church, has slowed down that fertile maturation which brings the intellect and conscience to ask themselves quid est veritas? and to give them a voice for the common edification of the ecclesial community. We have often nurtured the vision of Medea, preferring to stoke resentment and fears in the face of the abuses of power suffered and sometimes shared, muddying the pure waters of ecclesial relations, avoiding processes of conversion and purification, of preparation for truth and transparency.

The women consecrate per evangelica consilia have a human, evangelical-charismatic potential of considerable value in the ecclesial community, but in the positive processes we also glimpse our possible omissions which could inure us to an infertile silence, lacking in truth. A silence as mere respect for authority, a mask which hides the face which is opportunism and the preserving of our security has nothing of the voice of the Gospels.

More and more often the Magisterium of the Church – at least in the words of the documents – has invited consecrated women to enter decisively into a process of thought, self-criticism and discernment, that is, it has urged them to be active subjects in reciprocity, to inhabit with awareness times, events, the human and cultures; to scrutinize the horizons with wisdom and parrhesia: “women’s new self-awareness also helps men to reconsider their way of looking at things, the way they understand themselves” (Vita consecrate 57a). This is no small statement and continues: it is necessary to “encourage within the Church the reciprocity which is needed”, for “much can be expected from the genius of women”, both in the field of faith, and in the human experience of the value of life (Vita consecrata 58c). In the time it has been granted us to live through, the Church asks us for intelligence of vision and for fertile thought and solidarity; she asks us to be a sincere and loving voice which calls people to seek beyond the usual horizons; she asks us to try our hand with good practices, in synergy with all the members of the Church, in accordance with the Gospel.

We are all wading across the ford and we need to cross it together, without Pharisaic masks: the fertile decision suggests to us that we begin by ourselves, individuals and institutes, choosing to be awake watching in the night, so that we may walk in search of the true: silence, word.

It is likewise the time of the prayerful statio. As Church we are aware of our limitations and our finitude, while we cross the desert and the consolation of the search for God and for the signs of his grace, darkness and light. In this prayerful statio what is at stake is the rebellious obedience of the prophecy of consecrated life in the Church which makes itself a voice of ecclesial passion for humanity. Fullness and emptiness, as a profound perception of the mystery of God, of sin and of the grace of the human.

In this time of conflict and condemnation it is time to speak the words of Mary, the Woman, as an aware presence in the events that occur “During that wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. It happened that there was not enough wine and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, pointed this out to her Son. He answered her that his hour had not yet come; but then acquiesced to Mary’s request and, having had the six large jars filled with water, he transformed the water into wine, an excellent wine, better than the previous one”. (Benedict xvi, Angelus, 22 January 2013).

Let us train in the vigil both our gaze and our soul, let us train to be a voice that whispers or cries, if need be, that they have no more wine, giving the assurance that the best wine is yet to come (Francis, Homily, Guayaquil, 6 July 2015).

Even if it is night.

Nicla Spezzati




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 29, 2020