Interview with Mauro Giuseppe LeporiThe Abbot who inspired the title of the Meeting 2003
The Abbot of Hauterive is a man who measures very well the words, one of those men that force their interlocutors to an unusual depth in looking even at the simplest things.
Mauro Giuseppe Lepori has been elected abbot in 1994, when he was only 35 years old, after he studied philosophy and theology at the Catholic University of Friburg, in French Switzerland.
Lepori has already been a guest at the Meeting in 1998, in occasion of the ninth centenary celebration of the Cistercian architecture in Italy.
There he told about the mysterious and fascinating origin of the Monastery of Hauterive, founded in 1138 by a Clairvaux sister abbey, the Monastery of St Bernard.
The idea of this year’s Meeting theme came from him: “Is there a man who longs for life and desires happy days?”
We have met him to discuss where this title came from and to better understand why the theme is so actual and so interesting.
Where does the idea of the next Meeting come from?
It is inspired by the Rule of St Benedict that poses psalm 33 to the man who presents himself to a monastery to become a monk:
“Is there a man who longs for life and desires happy days?”
If the man answers “me”, then the rest of the Rule is proposed to him, the whole walk to the sequence of Christ in the monastic community.
To me it is a very actual title because it resumes the base of every path of true humanity in the liberty of the heart that is desire.
In your opinion, does this man who wants and struggles for his happiness exist today?
What is important is that the answer to that question is “me”, that everyone of us wants to be that man; this is the real problem, because if I’m not that man who longs for life and desires happy days, it doesn’t mean much then for the Pope to be so great, it wouldn’t even mean much for Christ to have come and be crucified and then be resurrected.
It is important to understand that the answer is “me”: ”me”, but not alone, that I assume that desire and I live it for the truth of my humanity and consequently for the truth of the humanity of the whole world.
It depends on me that the world is different, it depends on the question of everyone of us.
When we will understand that the truth of life is asking, because salvation comes from the “Other”, we will understand how important it is the question, the desire of everyone of us.
In fact, the Pope asks everybody to pray, he doesn’t ask it only to the monks or to the catholic, but to everyone of us; he proposes praying as the truth for the salvation of the world, as the truth within the world and truth in front of the world.
In your own experience, when did you answer ”me” to that question?
Every day, every moment. There are moments in life when this “me” is stronger and might determine a change of life.
When my vocation to the monastery was born, I remember very well that I was deeply absorbed by the XV chapter of St. John’s Gospel:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
That was a crucial point for me, prepared by several experiences during many years, perceived a thousand times, but it really determined a change of life.
It is a real revolution in one’s life to realise that without Him we can’t do nothing: you come to understand that life happens thanks to the Other, so being with him, asking of him becomes the essential task of existence.
I think the monasteries and monks are a sign that this is true for everybody: you cannot live a marriage, you cannot live the mission without this awareness.
What keeps this clarity of judgement and experience alive in every day’s life and in more arid situations?
Even routine is an experience of the limit as well as aridity is an experience of the limit.
Searching deeply in one’s own humanity one asks: it is life itself, the human reality that is master of truth in life’s position.
If we take our daily life seriously, with the people we meet, with the experiences we have, we see that the truth is asking, it is begging.
The problem is that often we need to have a bad experience before we start begging, instead sanctity is living humbly as a positive-ness of life, as a breath of life, not only as medicine, salvation, but as truth and fullness of life.
Saints pray because they love life, fullness, because they desire happiness, not only because they experience the limit, sadness and sin.
Why do you quote Jacob as an example of man who struggles for his own happiness? What makes him so paradigmatic?
I think that Jacob is great because he lives the relationship with Mystery within his own humanity.
It’s the walk to look for a wife, not to go to Mount Sinai…
Also the dispute with Esau comes from his desire to dominate.
He meets the Mystery in the flesh, - this life in the flesh, as St. Paul would say -.
This makes him great and paradigmatic to everyone of us: it is exemplary of Christianity, it is a prophecy of Christianity because Jesus Christ is met in the concreteness of life, in the life of the flesh, this life made by all our humanity.
Every person who meets the Mystery and welcomes it in his life becomes a sign to everybody because each man was conceived for this, to complete his own humanity in the meeting with Mystery.
Jacob as Abraham is a sign of the truth of our humanity.
When you talk about the struggle of Jacob with God, you say that God harshly strikes Jacob with a wound that he will carry his whole life.
What does this wound mean?
The wound is the symbol of the need of health, salvation, recovery.
In Jacob’s case it is the wound to determine his way of walking, at every footstep he is reminded to recognize in himself the limit that the Other has to complete.
The wound that every one of us carries within himself is a memory of the being of a structural need, it is the thorn in St Paul’s body that God does not remove because he says : ”My grace is enough”.
Therefore is it an education to live for the grace of an Other, because my life is not completed by my strength or my power, but because there is the other who gives me his grace, recovers me, carries me and helps me standing.