Monsignor Luis Alberto Fernández

Argentina: Reality, the cross and the fullness of the human

Carrón’s ebook is at the center of a dialogue with Archbishop Luis Alberto Fernández, in video-link from Rafaela, Argentina: "We cannot find an answer without looking at the Incarnation.”
Veronica Pando

"Look at what is happening…in the vicissitudes of reality, and where the Church and the world can learn a new way of living, awakening our humanity.” Julián Carrón’s new ebook, Reawakening Our Humanity, that was presented in the city of Rafaela, in the province of Santa Fe, can thus help us. The meeting took place on zoom on May 16, broadcast throughout Argentina, in the form of an open dialogue with the Archbishop of the Diocese, Monsignor Luis Alberto Fernández, and his friend Alejandro Bonet.
"We are in a dizzying period, we have experienced shaking like an earthquake, an existential vibration", Bonet began, presenting the Bishop of Rafaela, to whom he then posed a series of questions.

Monsignor, how are you living this time?
In these difficult circumstances, Carrón's reflection expresses very well the situation in which the whole world finds itself, and each one of us, who would like to get rid of it as soon as possible... I believe that a reflection of Pope Francis might be useful to us: "Time is greater than space.” When space is about to prevail, to give a total answer, I think it is good to remember this principle. When Francis tells us that time is greater, he urges us to work in the long term, without being obsessed with immediate results. It is an invitation to embrace the tension between fullness and limit. Because the reality of the limit is true, in the space in which we are living, but it is also true that time has priority. One of the sins that is sometimes felt in socio-political activity is to privilege spaces of power, rather than time and circumstances. Prioritizing space leads to losing reason, to putting all our energies into the present, to conquering power, to trying to take possession of all spaces. In recent times, we have lived as if locked in a bubble, where everything seemed to be already given. But the truth is that, alongside what we are seeing now, everything has shrunk enormously. There is something much deeper, and we must not go mad about this virus that, in space, wants to give an ultimate answer. Time is much greater than space. Time is present memory, but it is also future…

Carrón speaks of a "powerful irruption of reality, like a tidal wave, a volcanic explosion, which found us defenceless" and invites us to understand what is properly human. How do reason and the heart react to the "new"?
What defines man, and which in these times is becoming clearer, are not concepts or reasoning. I believe that the beauty of recovering reality is of fundamental importance, because we used to wrap it in a series of comparisons or interpretations. But where is the reason to get to the bottom of reality? Man did not dialogue with it, and at times reality seemed to be dominated either by conceptualism, or by a reason that escaped from its function, which is to dialogue and wonder at reality. Carrón makes us put reality in its rightful place: it is the first thing we have in front of us, otherwise we will live in a kind of bubble, saying "it does not matter" to one thing or another.

Regarding the consequence of using reason and the heart in a deeper way, what is revealed to reason in the present situation?
Starting from our being believers, if we look to Christ, with His frailties, He has shown us the highest level of His trust. I was struck in these days, as we were celebrating Easter, the great and unique experience of seeing images of him alone, in Saint Peter's Square which, throughout history, has always hosted so many crowds: but what is happening? During this period, he gave two Urbi et Orbi blessings, and in one of them he said: "The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities…Now, that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: «Wake up, Lord!»

It is the experience of fear. When reality emerges with all its mystery, it raises fear. A fear that we always notice and that nevertheless explodes when our reality exposes our essential impotence.
Fear or terror paralyze; they can lead us to isolate ourselves, or sometimes try to blame someone. Fear is something that lies within reality, and this reality makes us realize that there may be a way out to face it as a challenge. It is here, then, that using reason and reality, and the perception that time is greater than space, we can give an outlet to reality to turn it into a challenge. The Pope also offers examples of this fear: "For weeks now it has been evening…We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” But right there we still hear those words of Jesus: "Do not be afraid."

And here we come to the title of the book: How is our humanity reawakened?
It is fundamental that we have the ability to turn quarantine into a challenge, especially when we enter into this interiority and man reaches his deepest dimension, which is his conscience, but also in the dialogue that we are obliged to establish with reality, so that it never ceases to surprise us, to amaze us. Above all, to find ourselves and realize that we can help each other in turning these fears into challenges. The point is not that this happens to one or the other. Rather, in feeling community, people, humanity, we go with reason to dialogue with reality, and this can turn this fear into a challenge, starting from a spirituality from which no one is excluded.

What can sustain us in this dizziness, in the face of the provocation of reality?
Reality is what awakens vocation. That is, it calls to that self-awareness, it awakens that call so that everyone can truly respond from that unique place in the world, and face circumstances. We cannot find an answer to the question without looking at the Incarnation. Jesus did not come to teach, but he fundamentally came! He is the presence of God in our midst.

As a possibility of verification, the book speaks of "people whose lives, here and now, show the signs of God’s victory, of his true and contemporaneous presence,” witnesses “who embody the experience of this victory.” What is it like for you?
The Pope, for example, spoke of the one hundred and fifty priests who died giving testimony. Witnesses or fellow travellers, as he calls them, who invite us to seize this time of trial as "a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people…doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers …and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves.”

Many of us ask ourselves whether those who are confined to the walls of their house are called to the same experience as those who are on the front line.
In the book, among others, Julián gives the example of a granddaughter with her sick grandfather who asked God: "Why can’t I keep him company now?” And Carrón uses a word: "Mystery". In our life, mystery is not something tragic that escapes our domain, but, for believers, mystery is where words and gestures end; only that abyss remains, which ends in the hands of love, of trust. The one who taught us more about this is Jesus himself on the cross. When there are no more miracles, no more powers, nothing else, He is doing the greatest work: to surrender Himself to the cross. For those who do not pass through this mystery, it is very difficult to obtain the fullness of the human. Man is called to an existence that is forever, for the infinite.

Read also – Richard Cabral: “Everything comes down to presence”

When the emergency is over, what will be left of what we are experiencing?
We must not waste this circumstance that we are given to live, this new relationship with reality. Without forcing it, or even as if one thing is equivalent to another. With reason and discernment comes the dialogue that makes us enlighten and enter deeply into reality, looking at the circumstances. All this is a conversion. It is something that happens every day that can convert our heart and make it a presence. It is to look at and discern more clearly those next door, who perhaps do not even share our faith, but are nevertheless "saints" next door. It is to look at wars and what humiliates man, with the desire that they no longer exist. It is a humanity that must change in a perspective of conversion: there is a planet that we are destroying, where future generations will not be able to live because of what is happening. If God wills it, all this will help us to initiate something totally new. To convert our hearts with the simplicity of recognizing that each of us has the possibility to do good.