Pope Francis' Letter to Argentinian Episcopal Conference
Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 1966 hits
Here is a translation of the Letter that the Holy Father Francis sent to the president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Santa Fe, Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo, on the occasion of the ceremony of beatification of Father Jose Gabriel Bochero (the gaucho priest) (1840-1914), which took place today at Villa Cura Biochero, in Argentina, presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
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Most Excellent Monsignor Jose Maria Arancedo
Archbishop of Santa Fe
President of the Argentine Episcopal Conference
That Father Bochero is finally among the Blessed is a very great joy and blessing for Argentines and devotees of this great shepherd with the scent of sheep, who made himself poor among the poor, who struggled always to be close to God and to the people, who did and continues to do so much good as God’s caress to our suffering people.
It does me good today to imagine parish priest Bochero with his long-faced mule going through the long arid and desolate roads of the 200 square kilometers of his parish, seeking, house by house, your great grandparents and great great grandparents, to ask them if they needed something and to invite them to do Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. He knew all the corners of his parish. He did not stay in the sacristy combing sheep.
Father Bochero was a visit of Jesus himself to each family. He took the image of the Virgin, the book of prayers with the Word of God, and the things to celebrate daily Mass. They invited him to have mate, they chatted and Bochero spoke to them about the faith and the love he had for Jesus in a way they all understood because it came from his heart.
Jose Gabriel Bochero centered his pastoral action on prayer. No sooner he arrived at this parish, he began to take men and women to Cordoba to do the Spiritual Exercises with the Jesuit Fathers. With how much sacrifice they crossed first the Great Highlands, covered in snow in winter, to pray in Cordoba, the capital! Then, how much he worked to set up the Holy House of Exercises in the parish headquarters! There, he spent long time in prayer before the crucifix to know, feel and relish the great love of the heart of Jesus, and everything culminated with God’s forgiveness in confession, with a priest full of charity and mercy, very much mercy!
Bochero’s apostolic courage full of missionary zeal, that courage of his compassionate heart like Jesus’ which made him say: “Woe, should the devil rob me of one soul” – which moved him to win for God persons of evil life and difficult fellow countrymen. There were thousands of men and women who, with Bochero’s priestly work, left vice and quarrels. All received the sacraments during the Spiritual Exercises and, with them, the strength and light of the faith to be good children of God, good brothers, good fathers and mothers of families, in a great community of friends committed to the good of all, who respected and helped one another.
Very important in a beatification is its pastoral timeliness. Father Bochero had the timeliness of the Gospel. He was a pioneer in going to the geographic and existential fringes to take to all the love and mercy of God. He did not stay in his parish office, but spent himself on his mule, and ended by getting sick with leprosy, from going out to seek the people as a street priest of the faith. This is what Jesus wants today, missionary disciples, street walkers of the faith!
Brochero was a normal, fragile man like any one of us, but he knew the love of Jesus; he allowed his heart to be kneaded by the mercy of God. He was able to come out of the cave of the “I-me-with me-for me” of the mean egoism we all have, overcoming himself, surmounting with God’s help those interior forces of which the devil makes use to chain us in comfort, to seek to enjoy ourselves in the moment, and to find the easy way out of work. Brochero heard God’s call and chose the sacrifice to work for His Kingdom, for the common good that the great dignity of every person deserves as child of God, and he was faithful to the end: he continued to pray and to celebrate Mass even when he was blind and leprous.
Let us allow Father Bochero to enter today, with his mule and everything, into the house of our heart and invite us to prayer, to an encounter with Jesus, who frees us from ties to go out into the street to look for our brother, to touch Christ’s flesh in those who suffer and need the love of God. Only in this way will we experience the joy that Father Bochero had, anticipation of the happiness which he enjoys now as Blessed in Heaven.
I pray to the Lord that he grant you this grace, that he bless you and I pray to the Holy Virgin that she take care of you.
Vatican, September 14, 2013
[Original text: Spanish]
[Translation by ZENIT]