The proposed reflection for this year’s magazine on the words ad gestures applied to Pope Francis brings out one of his characteristic traits that people of every faith and culture today catch immediately: closeness, that extraordinary capacity to make oneself felt at the side of every person. Countless persons see in Pope Francis a friendly presence, and consider him almost a member of their families. They want to be near to him, hear him, and meet him even if only for a brief time, such as the Sunday appointment of the Angelus. It is a profound experience that touches especially those who are simple, poor, and the people who come from the outskirts.
The General Chapter that will be celebrated soon invites the participants gathered in Rome, representing the whole Institute, to begin precisely from this dimension of human experience, a place of closeness and proximity. In the Working Document guiding the Chapter journey, one of the basic proposals begins with the focus: “Hope comes from the outskirts”. The outskirts are not a geographic place, but rather one that is existential, where one lives profound human experiences of suffering and injustice, ignorance and religious indifference, every form of limitation, even of thought. As in the experience of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, our communities also, in different and complementary ways, are inserted into the geographic and existential “outskirts”. There it is possible to listen to the cry and yearning for hope and joy, by being in the midst of the people, on the playgrounds, and in the classrooms with the students, with the young people in cities or on the “highways of the digital world”, with young women wherever they are building evangelical citizenship (Cf nn 8.17). It will be the outskirts that become the privileged places of evangelization!
Taking up the significance of this insight the DMA dossier helps us to see that the marginalized, the useless, those who do not produce , but require attention, care, acceptance that are put aside-young and old, migrants and invalids, minorities and those in precarious situations-pay a price each day, the high price of the right to their own dignity. “They are the secret pillars of the world and of history!”
Which way will we know how to travel to be at the side of these, the least, and live closeness in our communities? Which attitudes must we assume so as not to “reject” anyone, or to be indifferent even in our own settings? Which journey shall we take so that our lives and those of our communities are a living Gospel?
We are always challenged to question ourselves on these questions, and especially, to measure our coherence and our witness in daily choices.