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22 December 2021

Father General’s sermon for the commemoration of Blessed Francis Palau (07/11/2021)

Dearest Sisters, I am happy to be here with you and with my confreres: this is my home, our home. We are walking along the path of communion in Carmel, in the ardent footsteps of Francis Palau and many others who have spent their lives in the service of Teresian Missionary Carmel and of the Church, and who have gone before us. But now they watch over us and encourage us. We are here to say THANK YOU, to say our Magnificat with Mary, Our Lady of Virtues, and with the Church: thank you for what is given to us today, in the midst of this difficult time, accepting the inheritance received (we have received so much) and facing the adventure that lies ahead of us. Everything about Francesco Palau is very familiar to me and a source of joy: Livron, Aitona, El Montsant, Perpignan, Ibiza, el Vedrá, Tarragona… I prayed and slept in some of his caves, to receive from them the strength that animated him and to thank him for the fire he carried within himself. I ask him to inflame us in this decisive and unprecedented time.

We live in difficult times: pandemics, volcanoes that awaken and carry everything away, climate change, ecological threats, uncertainty, mass exoduses and boats in search of promised lands where they do not always arrive, silenced wars, etc..

Francis Palau’s life unfolded in a land full of dangers and changes of direction, without a secure GPS, recalculating his path with every tiny spark of hope for a new beginning. And every time blocked roads, and every time new paths discovered outside the ways, discovered outside where he was forbidden to pass. «From the year 1843 to 1855 I traversed a pathless mountain in the dark night amidst the storms. I had to suffer and to endure the severest attacks and trials everywhere, and […] (hoping) that for one moment or another a light would come out from that darkness, and will show you the way» (letter of 1 June 1855). Each time, he shows with his life that one runs more and better when one is in the intimacy of the Body of Christ: the Beloved Thing. Francis Palau’s life is a precious combination of difficulties and possibilities, of opposition and enthusiasm, of failure and trust. It is an eventful and deep life, bare and rooted, contested and lucid, imprisoned and free. Francis Palau is a true master of recycling, of resilience.

He is also a brave explorer of the inner paths. He nourishes the fruitfulness of his Mission in the CAVE of contemplation. There, pastoral dynamism knows no limits, no fear, because it does not seek itself, it is not afraid of getting lost.  He seeks only what he loves, what he calls «my Beloved». He does not realize himself, but allows himself to be realized and transformed into an instrument. Francesco Palau is a tireless missionary. He seemed to have been silenced and isolated, yet rises from his ashes more lucid, more humble, more rebellious, more obedient, more ecclesial. He was in love with the Church, a personification of the Love of Jesus: she is his Mystical Body. His ecclesial experience is extraordinary. The Church is the Thing Loved. The very one who had wounded and suspected him was the object of his love. What admirable fidelity!

There are many things in us and in our time upon which Francesco Palau sheds light. He is very much a person for these times. In him there is for us a great wisdom of life. It does not stop us from becoming lost and running risks, but it lights up our night.

The 19th century is a land of opportunity for the better, even if it seems to be the worst: war (the French invasions); exclaustration (the ‘Confiscation‘); uprooting (exile in France); plague, contagion and death. These events mark the century in which Francisco Palau lived and made him the man and the saint he is: the fire of Elijah; love for the Church of Teresa of Jesus; transformation in exile; imprisonment in intimate caves; missionary creativity. He has a mysterious fecundity in the midst of failure and conflict.

In his CAVE, Francis found a decisive and crucial mission: not doing in order to be done; not worrying about your own destiny, but forgetting yourselves so that God may carry out his plan and his project; take on the challenge of the SOUL’S STRUGGLE WITH GOD and surrender to his plan. Here we hear the word of God, his voice, like Elijah, who obeyed the Angel, and let himself be led through the Desert, going back along the path, to Horeb. There, to listen again to the WHISPER of God’s silence.

Today the Word of God is beautiful and just, let us listen to it with the heart of Francesco Palau:

ANNOINTED, sent to announce liberation and a year of grace to the poor;

GUIDED in this mission, in dark valleys, you walk with me, my Shepherd;

BUILT UP, UNITED in Christ, our Head, for the building up of the whole Body;

– SENT to the whole world: proclaim… Cast out the demons… Speak in a language that everyone understands, the language of genuine and free love, heal.

I ask Francesco Palau to enlighten us, to give us a little of his contemplative and missionary ardour, of his creativity and of his ability to get going. May he challenge us, cast out our demons and make us courageous and humble children of the Church.

I ask you, Francesco Palau, to help us rediscover our mission:

– There is a mission in the cave of contemplation, a struggle of the soul with God, either for life or for death. We must let God send us on a mission, let him win us back again. This seems to me to be a most beautiful plan, the best strategy: to fall in love with Jesus.

– There is a mission towards our less close neighbours, who are an unexplored land, and a mission also towards the more closer, of listening and understanding, of accompaniment.

There is a mission in failure, in emptiness and in the night, a new story of which God is the protagonist, a new book about My Relations with Jesus, the Church, the Loved Thing.

– There is a mission in decreasing, weakness and fragility of our humble army that has to face Goliath, and this is better than being many and strong.

– There is a mission in the heart of the elderly sister who moves with difficulty; in the one who is depressed; in the one who has to take care of her parents and devote all or part of her time to them; in the superior and in the one who is not, who feels tired or overwhelmed. Today there is a new mission to discover. And it is beautiful that we are brothers and sisters to discover it together and to help us serve united.

«I was at prayer in my cave, and I heard the loving voice of the Father who said: “Come, my Daughter, come.” And of the Son: “Come, my Spouse, come.” And the Daughter of the Eternal Father, who was at my side, went up to the clouds which were covering the mountain, and said to me: “Come with me,”and I went up to the peak of this mountain» (MY RELATIONS WITH THE CHURCH,’ evening of May 11, 1865).

March 20, 1872: Next year will be the 150th anniversary of his death, and we are beginning to celebrate it. At the end of his days, Francis Palau confirmed his life, his silences and his words, his catechesis and his work of foundation with the gift of his life. Infected, wounded, defeated by his neighbors in order to save them, without himself ever being safe. This is the seal of authenticity: giving life. But to give it, we must take care of it, take care of ourselves and allow ourselves to cure, in the cave of silence and in fraternity. Thank you all for taking care of so many people, for taking care of yourselves and for allowing yourselves be healed.

 

Miguel Márquez Calle, ocd

Feast of Blessed Francis Palau y Quer

7th November 2021