Beware of the signs of the times

We always keep the door of our Arsenals open to communicate hope to the traveler.

by Rosanna Tabasso


The City of Turin named the garden in front of the Arsenale della Pace after Michele Pellegrino - archbishop of the city from '65 to '77 - on the 25th of his death. The first building of the Arsenale della Pace had already been named after him in 1986, the year he died. The memory of the "father" - as we called him - is always alive. We feel we are children of his spirituality which somehow inspired the pages of our Rule. "Beware of the signs of the times" is an example. This expression was a gift from the Council: “It is the permanent duty of the Church to scrutinize the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel. […] In fact, we need to know and understand the world in which we live, its expectations, its inspirations and its often dramatic character" (Gaudium et spes, n. 4). Father Pellegrino with his pastoral letter "Walking Together" published in 1972, made us understand what it means to listen to the signs of the times. His was a reading of our time made in the light of the Gospel. The workers' protests, the injustices towards the poor and the voiceless, the divisions within society were signs to be grasped and interpreted, signs of an indispensable necessity to live the Gospel. The person, his story, his problems were the starting point of a question and the Scripture, the Gospel, the answer. The here and now became a sign of God's passage through history. It was the first time that we enjoyed an evangelical reflection that started from reality. Generally the gospel was announced in itself and had to be adapted in some way. This way of reading history in the light of the Gospel and of reading the Word in history has entered into it. Not that the Gospel changes according to needs, the Word is always the same, but the signs of the times highlight it, underline the priority more clearly, push strongly to live some of them with greater vigor. This method has become our lifestyle, one of our priorities.

Those who listen to the signs of the times acquire a prophetic gaze. Become a sentinel who anticipates what's coming. He is not a fortune teller who sees what is not there, but a sentinel attentive, alert, used to scrutinizing the horizon, trained to spot an imminent danger and prepare to face it or to anticipate a news to welcome it. He does not bother to please anyone, he says what he sees in truth, he does not say what his audience likes to hear, but what he sees as he sees it. Precisely for this reason, anyone who has a careful look at the signs of the times is often not understood by everyone, is not listened to, sometimes even turns out to be unpopular. On the other hand, it is not his job to create consensus, perhaps with demagogic choices or by watering down the truth.

We try to live listening to the signs of the times by keeping the door of our houses always open on the road to be attentive to the urgencies of our time, to the needs of the people and with the awareness that new needs do not challenge us as problems, but as opportunities of change for all and of seeking new solutions, because there are always people behind a problem and in each person there is the germ of the life of God. A person who enters our home, whatever its history, preserves within itself the dignity of a child of God and we are offered the opportunity to help restore this dignity to everyone.

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