4. Pedagogy of St. Leonard Murialdo: nternationalism – interculturalism

We must rethink of ourselves in a world and a church who do not more reason from a local perspective (language, country, culture, history…), but from a global one and in it seek to understand themselves, discuss and participate.
Intercultural dialogue does not erase our identity rather on the one hand purifies it because it asks the question of what is essential and on the other hand enhances it because it helps us understand what we can offer.
Let us go beyond prejudices, lack of culture, clichés, but let us know each other better and more deeply.
In this globalized world the charism of Murialdo offers: attention to and valorisation of every person, attention to the poorest, openness to the whole world, since… the Spirit moves us where there are young.

Fr. Mario Parati

If you want to deepen

4. Pedagogy of St. Leonard Murialdo: internationalism – interculturalism
(Fr. Mario Parati)

First of all, greetings from India to all members and friends of the Family of St. Leonard Murialdo!

In the world, in the Church, and also in our Family of St. Leonard Murialdo, people are discussing a lot about internationalism and interculturalism; yet a quick research revealed to me that the bibliography and the intellectual elaboration on this topic are still quite limited, due to its novelty or to the fact that it is not easy to come up with new ideas, to write about it or to charter new common grounds. It is unquestionable that it is a challenge and a journey already undertaken, with some contradiction, but also with so many new innovative and encouraging indications. Considering the reduced space allowed for this text, and that it is meant as tool to deepen our Pedagogy of Love, I have left aside more general issues (biblical, theological, ecclesial, social) so as to focus on some aspect related more directly to ourselves and to our charismatic style. I do so also in consideration of what was already said or written about the same and which, maybe, is still little known. I offer here some considerations which I entrust to your personal reflection and to communitarian dialogue. You will find some question throughout the text.

1) We are challenged to take a fresh look at what the Spirit is creating in both the world and the Church. Today, many aspects of our lives are to be seen in an intercultural context, aiming at a more thorough acceptance of differences. The internationalism must be looked at in constant connection with the ever present aspect of the universality of the Church and of the mystery of ecclesial communion. Internationalism is today one of the greatest challenges we are facing. We are, therefore, going through an unavoidable process, almost an irreversible direction, with enormous challenges both in the world and in the Church: globalization, migrations, enculturation, integration, interculturalism, …What’s going on in your community, in your institution or in the milieu surrounding you, concerning all of the above?

2) The last General Chapters of the Josephites spoke of “a charism which thinks big in order to act positively in smallness, and that embraces the world in an ongoing process of interculturalism and internationalism, (…) open beyond all borders (…) We educate the mind and the heart to altruism, and we foster awareness and serene acceptance of differences to facilitate greater integration.” In a world marked by fears and intolerance, divisions and widespread social inequalities, we would expect from the members of the Family of St. Leonard Murialdo a “prophetic and challenging” role. We dream of a world where borders are irrelevant (precisely those borders which, on the contrary, disturb us so much with documents and visas!), where the colours of the skins and of cultures create a rainbow of fraternity. We want to go from the fear of diversity to the welcoming of the diverse ones; to take differences not as a threat but as a resource and an opportunity; to approach people after having freed ourselves from arrogance or presumption concerning self, our own culture or personal affiliations; free from prejudices or concealed feeling of superiority. We don’t want to look at the world from our own personal territory, which is too frequently just a small, selfishness filled corner; on the contrary, we want to look at, and to understand our own territory from the perspective of the world.

3) What about our own identity? This is not being lost, but strengthened! Besides, living in a multicultural milieu demands a robust identity. Internationalism enhances values, since it requires, among others, sensitivity, availability, readiness to learn; sometimes it will go with renunciation to powers and privileges; it will demand openness, dialogue, tolerance, acceptance of differences, involvement, readiness to reciprocal forgiveness and to walking along those who are different from us but who are brothers and companions in vocation and life. It is, therefore, a new plan, a new way of looking at reality, a new way of encountering people, and, therefore, a path to conversion. A new vision of Christianity arises (though this perspective is well rooted in the Gospel!): one is a Christian for the Lord, for his Kingdom, for the universal Church and for its mission in the world. It enhances the charism and shows the way of living it out in fullness. It is a call to a more comprehensive vision of our pluralistic and ever changing world. It prompts us to keep going towards the youth in need of our charism, whoever they are and wherever they might be.

4) This rediscovery of our identity in dialogue with so diverse cultures and peoples brings us to distinguish what is essential in our charism from what is contingent, changeable or subject to variations from culture to culture. What do you think about it?

5) It goes without saying that internationalism, in the Church as well as in our charismatic family, is not a recent fact; yet we could say that the geographic and cultural centre of the world is changing, and that the geography itself has expanded. This could be seen as a challenge, but it also makes us grateful to God and it fills us with joy. Obviously, not only individual Christians and members of our charismatic family, but also communities, institutions, groups, movements, parishes, schools, etc. must not locked themselves in with their small or big problems. They must open themselves up courageously to this vision of internationalism. As a matter of fact, every time we hear of a new development and presence of the charism of our Founder with his pedagogical style in a new country, we feel joy in our heart: why?

6) When young volunteers bound for Africa or Asia or America asked me what they can do once they are back, I used to reply: “Get informed!”. Ignorance concerning cultures, peoples, Church life in the various parts of this world is just enormous. Only prejudices and bad news selected by the media remain. A certain amount of ignorance, sometimes innocent, and a misguided sense of superiority, confused with the simple diversity, lead many to consider peoples and cultures of the world according to the latest news heard from the TV, to entirely unfounded prejudices or to identify certain behaviours, certainly despicable but absolutely minority , as the main feature of a nation. Thereby negating all the good lay principles on equality, equal dignity, human rights and, even worse for Christians like us, forgetting the biblical foundation that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. On the contrary interculturalism and internationalism mean awareness and respect. And also the members of the Family of St. Leonard Murialdo must be reminded of this!

7) Many times in recent times we talked about Pedagogy of Love and Education of Heart. Frankly speaking I think that our apostolic charism has still a lot to say in today’s world. There is a huge need to meet people, and especially young people, trough warm and welcoming relationships. As our founder used to say, education is matter of heart and not just activities, or teaching, or doing something. True education is a relationship before any other thing to do. More than doing something we must be someone for the youths we approach. Internationalism and interculturalism can help so much this attitude, because the meeting of cultures and nationalities is a matter of heart and love. In spite of the many prejudices still present in our societies we are called to show a new face of the world, more colourful, more open, living unity in diversity.

8) It’s time to say loud and clear that we friends of St. Leonard Murialdo are on the side of Isaiah when he prophesies: If you stop oppressing others, to despise, to speak ill of him, then your light shall break forth like the dawn! (cf. Is 58,9-10). On the side of S. Peter, who says, “God is no treating persons in different ways, for he loves all those who believe in him and live according to his will, without looking at what people belong” (cf. Act 10,34-35) or S. Paul, who wrote: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for we are all one in Christ Jesus, because He Himself is the Lord of all” (cf. Gal 3,28). We obey and believe in Jesus who said: “Go into all the world … I will be with you.” (cf. Mt 28,19-20). We let ourselves be inspired by the words of St. Leonard Murialdo, who urged his spiritual children: “Look at the beautiful and the good that everyone has.”
9) “Internationalism and interculturalism are a matter of both the mind and the heart – wrote the General Superior in the circular letter n° 6 §2 of March 2008, which I invite everyone to re-read – . They originate in the God in whom we believe and whom we love, He too is One and Multiple: therefore they are in accordance with his Spirit as decisions and paths leading towards unity with respect for differences. It is the devil who divides instead of creating unity. (…) There is a path of cultural and mental growth which no one can avoid. The wind of change is blowing. When it blows, some look for hiding places and havens, others erect windmills so as to exploit its energy ” or raise sails so as to sail faster or open wings so as to fly far away!

Fr. Mario Parati

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