Homily: Centenary of death of Divo Barsotti, 2014

Community of Sons and Daughters Centenary of death of Divo Barsotti

Acts 4:1-12; Ps 118:1-27; Ps 118:24; John 21:1-14 (Readings from Feast of St Mark) Today we celebrate the centenary of the death of Divo Barsotti who died at the age of 92 on February 15, 2006, at his hermitage of Saint Sergius in Settignano, north of Florence. He was a priest, a theologian, the founder of the Community of the Children of God, and an extraordinary mystic and spiritual master. In fact, he has been described as the last mystic of the twentieth century.

He was self-taught, with no theology degree. Although he did not produce any systematic work, Father Barsotti wrote 160 books and countless articles and scattered papers. His written and oral production bears witness to a depth, a consistency, a foresight, a critical acumen, a freedom of spirit that stand out today as absolutely out of the ordinary.

The Community of the Sons and Daughters of God was initially guided by priests of the Dominican and Carmelite Orders and whilst there was a move to associate the comunità with those charisms it never eventuated: the comunità was seen to be independent from these, and it was not until the young movement was offered the direction of Don Divo Barsotti in 1946 that its true charism evolved.

Barsotti was a convinced admirer of John Paul II, and he enjoyed the silent respect even of the progressive Catholics, but not because he expressed the same expectations. On the contrary! In the life of the Church in Italy and the world, he represented the resistance to post-conciliar tendencies, in the name of the "fundamentals" of the Christian faith. He saw few prominent churchmen who were equally decisive in placing the emphasis on the essential, on the newness of Christ. However, in 1990 he indicated two such churchmen, Joseph Ratzinger and Giacomo Biffi.   When the first of the two really did become pope, in 2005, what took place was a sort of passing of the torch. While Barsotti, now over ninety years old, gradually stopped writing and speaking, the pontificate of Benedict XVI affirmed "urbi et orbi" – with the authority of the successor of Peter – precisely those theses that the Tuscan priest had maintained throughout his entire life. We are told that there is a very strong resemblance between the diagnosis of the Council and the period following it formulated by Barsotti, and the one made by Ratzinger both before and after his election as pope.

The "Christian mystery" is Jesus crucified and risen, who is seated at the right hand of the Father but at the same time comes to us in the Eucharist. The events of the mystery are made real in the Mass. Here, too, there seems extraordinary agreement between Barsotti's book "The Christian Mystery in the Liturgical Year" and the later reflections and homilies of Benedict XVI in the pontifical Masses.

The Christian Mystery of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is prominent in today’s readings. In psalm 118, the psalmist praises God, and calls upon all about him to give thanks to God for the glad tidings of great joy to all people, that there is a Redeemer, Christ the Lord. Then we are reminded that the Jewish rulers and leaders, who had been the builders of the Synagogue, were also called to be the builders of the spiritual house of God; but they rejected Christ, who was to be the very foundation of that spiritual edifice. And now God has made this rejected Christ the central stone on which He will build His Church. Furthermore, this mention in our first reading from The Acts of the Apostles is a direct quotation from today’s Psalm.

In life, we hear that Divo Barsotti often found himself alone and misunderstood. When he was a young priest, isolated in his diocese of San Miniato and when he arrived in Florence, he was understood and supported by only a few. He again remained alone, for years, in his hermitage in Settignano, abandoned by his first followers. It is also said that his life and work was ignored and undervalued until the end of his life. So there is an interesting link in that today, April 25th, also is the feast of St Mark, the evangelist, and writer of the second of the four Gospels.  The central interest in Mark’s Gospel is how Jesus, while remaining misunderstood and rejected by men, was at the same time God’s triumphant envoy. St Mark puts great emphasis on Jesus’ frustration at the hands of men; the mockery of the public and the lack of understanding, even on the part of the disciples.

Then in today’s Gospel, John tells us that Jesus went out of his way to offer his disciples various proofs of his resurrection. In his third appearance to the apostles, after Jesus performed the miraculous catch of fish, he prepared a breakfast and ate with them. Peter’s prompt recognition of the Master and exclamation: It is the Lord! is in sharp contrast to his previous denial of his Master during the night of arrest. The Lord Jesus reveals himself to each of us as we open our hearts to receive his word.

As a community of Sons and Daughters of God, on this day of remembrance and celebration of the centenary of Father Divo Barsotti’s death, we pray that we will always recognize the Lord's presence in our lives and will receive his word with faith.  God wants to demonstrate His love to us as our heavenly Father. Why not ask Him to show you how to continue to live in the footsteps of Divo Barsotti as a true son or daughter of God? For, St Paul reminds us of the Lord’s words: I will welcome you and be your Father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Almighty Lord (2 Cor. 6:18).



Bishop Leslie Tomlinson