Like a luxuriant vine: the joy of the Custody for its jubilee friars | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Like a luxuriant vine: the joy of the Custody for its jubilee friars

Jerusalem, Church of St. Saviour, 2nd October 2011

The Holy Mass for the Jubilee of Religious Life of 16 friars, who celebrated between 25 and 80 years of consecration, was a moment of joy for the whole of the Franciscan family and in particular, the community of the Custody of the Holy Land. Surrounded by the affection of many brothers and friends, the jubilees were celebrated on Sunday, October 2nd, in the parish Church of St. Saviour, with a beautiful and moving service presided by Father Frédéric Manns, Professor of New Testament exegesis and Judaism at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem. Alongside him as con celebrants were Father Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar, and several other priests who took part in this joyous occasion. At the end of Holy Mass, the participants were able to congratulate the jubilarians in the parlor of St. Saviour’s Convent.

The homily, delivered by Father Manns, was truly intense and evocative. He took as his starting point one of the most splendid Biblical allegories offered by the liturgy, the song of love for the vine, which exalts the love of the groom for his bride as a luxuriant vine (Isaiah 5,1-7) and celebrates the work of God in the stories of each one of us, especially those who have spent many years in religious life and can retrace their path as a deep and passionate “love story” with God. In the image offered by Isaiah, God appears as a lover driven by passion and an ardent desire towards Israel, his bride, with whom he forms a profound alliance. In this extraordinary relationship, God gives all of himself, but in exchange asks for his will to be accepted and observed. Israel is the symbol of the whole of humanity and, despite its shortcomings and infidelity, is summoned to a full and direct experience with God and to live in its history the divine plan of love and salvation. God therefore loves the whole of humanity, all peoples and calls them to universal justice. This is a quest that each person is invited to make and which is never concluded on this earth.

Through a moving historical review, Father Man masterfully outlined the cultural contexts in which the jubilarians pronounced their religious professions: 1931, when Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical In the Fortieth Year (Quadragesimo Anno), one of the finest social encyclicals, Charlie Chaplin presented his film City Lights in London, the Empire State Building was build in the United States, then the highest skyscraper in the world; 1951, when Pope Pius XII had recently proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the young Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest, the Korean War was devastating Asia, the King of Jordan, Abd Allah I was assassinated by an activist, Lebanon opened its first university; 1961, when Pope John XXIII signed the apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis (25th December), with which he officially called the Second Vatican Council, Major Yuri Gagarin made the first flight into space, in Berlin the wall separating East and West was built, the Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was condemned to death in Jerusalem, Amnesty International was founded to defend human rights; 1986, when Pope John Paul II organized the first meeting of inter-religious dialogue in Assisi, the explosion of Chernobyl made a deep impression on the world, the first transplant of an artificial heart opened up new scenarios of hope and the advent of electronics and bioethics inaugurated a new epoch.

Amongst these major events that have contributed to changing the recent face of humanity, the Second Vatican Council and the meeting of inter-religious dialogue in Assisi stand out. The Council, forcefully recalling the Church to its evangelical roots, aroused a renewed spiritual fervor which gave rise to new religious families, but it also inaugurated a leading role for lay people, who with their ministries are the people of God on the road. The Assisi meeting gave a new impetus to the path of dialogue and reminds all that, while respecting the diversities of the various religions, we are called to work for peace and make an active commitment to promoting reconciliation between peoples. In a world lacerated by countless conflicts, the genuine spirit of Assisi firmly opposes the abuse of religion as a pretext for the use of violence. This represents a particular vocation and challenge for all those who live in a multi-religious and complex context like Jerusalem. It is precisely on this aspect, so very much in line with the Franciscan spirit, Father Manns recalled, that special praise is due to the work undertaken by Father Armando Pierucci, composer and director of the Magnificat Institute, the music school of the Custody of the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, for that intelligent and effective dialogue carried on through music: in a context of unrest like the Middle East, music really heals wounds and is the language that can unite all the children of Abraham.

All our most sincere wishes then, to these jubilee friars who today are the joy of the whole community and who become special witnesses of passion, fidelity, sacrifice and responsibility in sharing a path that is translated into the mission of life and into life as mission. A special thought on this day of celebration as well for the representative of these friars, Father Frédéric Manns, who on October 3rd, also celebrates his birthday, on such a significant day for the Franciscan family, which solemnly commemorates on this date the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marco Gavasso

The jubilary friars:
25 years
Brother Anthony SEJDA
Brother Sebastiano LAIRD H.
Brother Amjad SABBARA
Brother Mamdouh CHEHAB B.
Brother Sami FHAMI
Brother Narciso KLIMAS

50 years
Brother Luis GARCÍA
Brother Teodoro LÓPEZ
Brother Callistus WELCH
Brother Frédéric MANNS
Brother Geraldo VAN BULL

60 years
Brother Anthony PELOQUIN
Brother Xavier GEISER
Brother Jeremy HARRINGTON
Brother Armando PIERUCCI

80 years
Brother Basilio TALATINIAN