By Anita Bourdin

The “Writings” of Father Fiorito “distill spiritual mercy,” explained Pope Francis. This great work of spiritual mercy, which consists of teaching and discernment.” “Discernment heals us of spiritual blindness, a sad illness that impedes us from recognizing the time of God, the time of His visit.”

The Holy Father wrote the Preface of the five volumes — more than 2000 pages — which bring together the writings of Father Miguel Angel Fiorito (1916-2005), published by La Civilta Cattolica” and edited by a nephew of the Pope, Jesuit Father Jose Luis Narvaja: one discovers there a “teacher of prayer and discernment,” he said.

The Pope summarized him thus: “He was a man of combat against only one enemy: the evil spirit, Satan, the demon, the tempter, the accuser, the enemy of our human nature.”

Moreover, the Pontiff himself presented this edition at 6:30 pm on Friday, December 13, 2019, at the headquarters of the Jesuits’ General Curia, two steps from the Vatican, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priesthood.

Father Arturo Sosa, the Father General, and the publisher, Father Antonio Spadaro, Director of the Italian Jesuits’ Review La Civilta Cattolica, welcomed the Pope.

Father Spadaro stressed that thanks to this edition, the “spiritual paternity” of Father Fiorito “reaches today the universal Church.” He quoted the Pope’s Preface: “this will do good to the whole Church,” and announced that Father Fiorito’s commentary on Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises will be published next year by the Ancora Italian publishers.

Father Jose Luis Narvaja, who brought together Father Fiorito’s writings, then attested to the fruit of this work also at the personal level. He also spoke of his emotion when, as a child, 50 years ago, he attended the priestly Ordination of his Uncle Bergoglio!

For his part, the Holy Father didn’t read the whole of his prepared address (eight pages), but emphasized certain qualities of his Spiritual Father of whom he himself was “Superior” in as much as the Provincial of the Argentine Province of the Society of Jesus. He stressed in particular that he spoke little but had a “great capacity to listen,” a capacity of “discernment,” the basis of dialogue. And in this dialogue, he left the other completely “free.” He stressed his “patience” and his absence of “judgment.”

He also stressed his “gift of tears” at the end of his life, a gift of “consolation,” he no longer spoke but cried, peacefully. The Pope saw him for the last time on the day of his death, Sunday, August 9, 2005.

In “Francis the Reformer” (Emmanuel Publishers, 2017), Austen Ivereigh dedicates a number of pages to Father Fiorito, in whom he sees a “spiritual guide” of the Jesuit Province, a “great pioneer of the Jesuit spiritual renewal” in Argentina, who put the accent on “a return to the Ignatian sources, to the primitive charism,” with great influence thanks, notably, to the “Bulletin of Spirituality,” which the Pope quoted several times.

Here is Virginia Forrester’s translation of the Preface published in Italian by L’Osservatore Romano on November 9-10, 2019.

Pope Francis’ Preface

The publication of the “Writings” of Father Miguel Angel Fiorito, SJ, is a reason of consolation for us who, during numerous years, were nourished by his teachings. These writings will do much good to the whole Church.

Teacher Fiorito — this is how we called him familiarly, we the Jesuits of Argentina and of Uruguay — had the habit of recalling often a spiritual consideration of Saint Peter Favre on the importance of being able to communicate the things of God — a gift, a charism, the Gospel itself — with a spirit as good as that with which they were received (Cf. note 223 of J.H. Amadeo and M.A. Fiorito at No. 52 of Father Favre, Memorial, Bilbao, 2014). To be able to receive and know how to communicate are two different things and each one requires a grace. Therefore, it’s necessary to ask the Lord expressly for the second, that of communicating with a right spirit the good received. I think that this edition of Father Fiorito’s ”Writings,” done with care by Father Jose Luis Narvaja, SJ, assume this task fully.

It’s necessary to recall that the edition was directed by one of his disciples. It is a testimony of the vitality of a thought that was able to create a school. A characteristic of the School is that the thought is common and that the disciples can develop it following the spirit of their teacher — not just the letter — with freedom and creativity. Moreover, the publication of the principal “corpus” of Fiorito’s writings, woven chronologically, has a particular force: it makes it possible to recompose the whole of an existence in the light of what God did in it (Cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, n. 171), discovering the meaning of the time in each fragment.

I believe that it’s right that a thought — which was able to diminish itself and even consume itself on being published, commenting with notes and making others “feel and taste” it –, be presented now in its coherent simplicity and with a proper name. Not by vainglory but in the evangelical sense with which the Lord indicates the publicity that we must give to good works: “. . . “ (Matthew 5:16). Fiorito’s “Writings” distill spiritual mercy — teachings for those who don’t know, good advice for those that need it, a correction for those that are mistaken, a consolation for one who is sad and aids to have patience in desolation “without changing one’s resolutions,” as Saint Ignatius says — all these graces are conformed and synthesized in this great work of spiritual mercy, which consists of teaching and discerning. Discernment heals us from spiritual blindness, a sad illness that impedes us from recognizing the time of God, the time of His visit.

Father Fiorito published an immense quantity of articles, notes, and commentaries, but only two books. For the second, which he entitled “Discernimiento y Lucha Espiritual” [“Discernment and Spiritual Combat’], he asked me to write the Prologue, give or take in 1985. I take up an affirmation he expressed then: “Spiritual discernment is to have the courage to see in our human traces the imprints of God.

Fiorito left an imprint in a great number and hoped that these “Writings” would help to be imprinted on many others. He has left us the divine imprint that the Lord Jesus imprinted in his life: that of the passion for the Spiritual Exercises, which are an instrument to be able to “feel and taste” the Lord’s imprint in our soul and a help to prune all ambiguity, so that we can follow, especially in situations where the evil spirit invents all colors to confuse us.

Fiorito had a particular to “smell” the evil spirit; he was able to distinguish his actin, recognize his tics, unmask him for his evil fruits, for the disagreeable aftertaste and the trail of desolation that he leaves on his passage. In this sense, one can say that he was a man of combat against only one enemy: the evil spirit, Satan, the demon, the tempter, the accuser, the enemy of our human nature. Between Christ’s standard and that of Satan, he made his personal choice for Our Lord. In all the rest, he sought to discern “as much as” he could and he was with each one a father full of love, a patient teacher and a firm adversary — if necessary — but always respectful and loyal — never an enemy.

His other book, which he entitled “Buscar y Hallar la Voluntad de Dios” [“Seek and Find the Will of God], he speaks to us of the journey and adventure of following Jesus Christ Our Lord, in seeking to do what pleases Him most, “His very holy will,” as Ignatius says. For us, who knew him in his work environment, this book has the dimensions of his personal library. Fiorito’s library had a particularity: beyond the common part, with the shelves and the books, he had another that occupied a whole wall of six meters by four of height, made up of small drawers in each of which he deposited, classified his “folios,” his study sheets, prayer and action, each one with a unique theme of the “Exercises” or the “Constitutions” of the Society, which he himself went to look for, climbing, sometimes dangerously on a ladder, to put it back without adding a great thing to the student, in response to some anxiety that the latter had confided to him, or of which he himself had the intuition on hearing him speak of his affairs.

As Narvaja says, Miguel Angel Fiorito was fundamentally a man of dialogue and listening. He taught many how to pray — to dialogue in friendship with God — and to discern “the signs of the times” — dialoguing with men and with the reality of all cultures. His school of spirituality is a school of dialogue and listening, open to listen and to dialogue with all, “with a good spirit,” experiencing all and retaining what is good.

In one of his writings, Fiorito recounts that, in the second half of his life, he had the experience with a much greater intensity of the spiritual force of the “Exercises” and he dedicated himself to them, preferring them to other engagements. The Teacher gave and recommended the “Exercises” in all their forms: the “Exercises of a month in absolute solitude, the “Exercises” in daily life, according to annotation 19, and the “lighter” ones, then the retreats of a few days and in the framework of the missions or of popular novenas.

In so far as Jesuit, the image of Psalm 1, that of the tree planted at the edge of a stream, which bore fruit, corresponded to him. As that tree of Scripture, Fiorito was able to let himself be contained in the smallest space of his room of the Colegio Maximo de San Jose, at San Miguel in Argentina, and he planted his roots and bore fruit and flowers — as his name expresses well — , who are disciples of the “School of Exercises.” I hope that now, thanks to this beautiful edition of his “Writings,” which have the span of a great dream, he will plant roots, bear flowers and fruits in the life of numerous persons who nourish themselves of this same grace, which he received and was able to communicate with discretion, on giving and commenting the “Spiritual Exercises.”

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