A Capuchin Friar
Brother Tacisio is running 75 now. He is a Capuchin Brother from Sardegna serving at our General Curia as Vice General Secretary. Being a calm person he transmits that serenity to the brothers there. Despite his age, he is very open to new technologies. He also has a profile on Facebook and, through his page, communicates his wisdom to many people. Giving a helping hand to our communication office, he in his capacity took care of the reporting part as a faithful Chronicler of the proceedings in the recently concluded General Chapter of the Order.
Even in the past he has been engaged in this field of communication within his province. In fact, for 30 years he was editor of the monthly magazine "Voce Serafica della Sardegna". During his stay in Bastia, in Corsica, he directed "Radio Salve Regina" and subsequently in Cagliari he edited the "Cappuccini TV" web television.
He published volumes for the Editions of the Voce Serafica: "Parole d'annata" (2017) and "I Cappuccini sardi from suppression to rebirth" (2018).
Just starting from this his recent work, we asked Fra Tarcisio some reflections on the subject (the history) and on the content of this book. Here below you will find his reflections on that.
Why to read a book on history?
Some time ago I wrote and published a book (the one indicated above). This is not a novel or something easy to read. It is a history book, that is a matter that many people do not like because it looks at the past and not at the present, because it is made of dates and events and characters that we cannot remember ... it is the fatigue of memory , of remembering. Yet we cannot understand the present if we do not know the past, because the present has its origin in the past. Someone has said that history is the teacher of life (Cervantes) because from the past you can learn many useful things for the present. Of course everyone can read the events from different perspectives and taking advantage of this or that topic: we can pick and choose events, wars, great men, etc. (this is the so-called "histoire événementielle") or the role of the people, even the simple one, the ones we meet every day on the street (the history of everyday life or the depth), theorized by the historian Ferdinand Braudel. These few observations are enough to make us understand the importance of history for our life. Also for the life of the friars.
The history of the Friars of Sardinia
The book I wrote and published few months ago (in Italian) (I Cappuccini Sardi from the abolition to the rebirth, 1866-1946 - Cagliari 2018) accompanies us in the revisiting of a stretch of history, that were eighty years, which was decisive for the survival of the Sardinian Capuchins.
It all began with the law of suppression/abolition in 1866, which declared as outlaws all "regular and secular orders, societies and religious congregations etc.," and therefore no longer recognized in the Italian State. That law was the cause of death of all religious institutions and determined the closure of convents, the loss of all property, the seizure of archives and convent libraries, the loss of many works of art, in short the loss of civil rights and the dispersion of all the religious. They found refuge here and there with their relatives or had to leave the Order to incardinate themselves in the diocesan clergy and engage in pastoral duties in the parishes.
Many of those convents, once confiscated by state property, were used to host social works (nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, barracks, etc.). Some of them were auctioned and sold to private individuals.
One who tried to recover back the lost was Fr Luigi da Ghilarza, provincial of the Calaritan Province, who on one hand tried to gather the friars dispersed in a house bought for this purpose and on the other hand tried to reacquire some of the lost convents. It was the beginning of a new history.
Struggle to be faithful
How did the friars respond to the new situation? Undoubtedly they were baffled by the events and only slowly, the survivors succeeded in accepting the new situation and saving the salvable. The Superiors, generals and provincials, tried to respond to the exigence by issuing directives through circular letters, which insisted above all that the friars in the new premises in which they had taken refuge resumed the "regular observance", considered as the polar star of religious life.
Rereading those letters, reported in the section of the book "Documents", we can get an idea of the difficulties, living standards, work and activities of the friars in that period. Some of them played a decisive role that allowed to overcome the initial difficulties and gradually resume the interrupted path.
To reorganize the events of these eighty years, I tried to reconstruct, in the second part of the book, the history of events. Only in this way can we establish a first and an afterwards of the events narrated. Not only that, but I tried to group events in periods that allow an easier orientation: the dispersion (1866-1890), the recomposition (1890-1908), the Genovese period (1908-1920), the Lucca period (1920- 1930), the Roman period (1930-1946). In 1946 the Commissariat of Sardinia was reborn.
Collaboration, an ever-present challenge
For a recovery of the Order in Sardinia to be possible, the Superiors General thought it appropriate to involve some provinces of the peninsula in the enterprise: Genoa, Lucca, Rome. Above all, the formation of young people was entrusted to them. This involvement was not always easy, indeed it was sometimes the cause of mutual misunderstandings. The change from one province to another was determined above all by the intolerance of the Sardinian friars towards the "continental", who thought had unjustly come to command in their home, since the responsibility of administration was entrusted to them and not to the Sardinians.
When today we speak of fraternal collaboration among the provinces of the Order it would not be bad to treasure the experiences of the past, such as those narrated in the book.
In those years, marked by the collaboration with the provinces of the continent, many beautiful initiatives were born: think of the birth of the magazine "Voce Serafica", the encouragement that was given to the cause of beatification of the venerable brother of Ignazio da Laconi, birth of the Seraphic Seminary and the construction of the new Friary of Cagliari, the reopening of some friaries, etc.
The birth of the Commissariat of Sardinia in 1946 marks the realization of a long-cherished dream. And it happened with the end of the war, in a time when we thought only of the reconstruction of the destroyed Italy. The new Superiors of the Order were able to interpret the desire that was in the hearts of all the friars of the Island.
History continues today also
My dear brothers, what I have written here is enough to give you an idea of my book. The story told not only allows us to retrace a section of history of our Province of Sardinia, but also to understand certain dynamics that accompanied that history. Our present sinks its roots here.
With fraternal regards.
Fra Tarcisio Mascia
Those who like to have his book can contact him in this address:
Fra Tarcisio Mascia, Via Piemonte 70 – 00187 ROMA
E-mail: [email protected]