Vatican City — When Pope Francis chose one of the Little Brothers of Jesus to be rector of the Diocese of Rome's main seminary, members of the order founded by Blessed Charles de Foucauld were stunned.
"The explicit request of Pope Francis" that Fr. Gabriele Faraghini, 51, be released for service as the seminary rector "was, for our little fraternity, a bolt out of the blue, a novelty that literally floored everyone," said a note posted on the brothers' website. But the order's general chapter confirmed the nomination, which was announced July 31.
Most of the brothers live in small communities with a home life revolving around eucharistic adoration and prayer. Many of them, the priests included, are manual laborers, who strive simply to be a presence of friendship and solidarity with their co-workers and neighbors. Service in diocesan institutions and offices is not a normal part of their ministry, although it is not explicitly excluded.
Faraghini studied at the Rome diocesan seminary and was ordained for the Diocese of Rome in 1992, although he already had begun exploring the teachings of Blessed Charles and life with the Little Brothers of Jesus, according to the order's announcement of his appointment. Superiors at the seminary had encouraged him to continue toward ordination while discerning his "call within the call" to priesthood and religious life.
He spent five years in parish ministry in Rome before beginning his formal formation with the Little Brothers in Foligno, Italy. He did his novitiate in Nazareth before returning to Italy and making his profession as a member of the order.
As a Little Brother, he served at Italian parishes in Limiti and in Foligno and, at the recent general chapter of the order, presented a report on what it means to be a Little Brother of Jesus in a parish.
Quoting part of the report, the order's website focused on Faraghini's reflection on "presence," on "just being there."
"To imitate Jesus in his daily life in Nazareth is to be in a place and share the life of those who are there," he wrote.
The ministry of Blessed Charles, who lived among the Tuareg in the Sahara desert of Algeria, was simply to make friends with the local people, he continued. "Humanly speaking, it was a waste of time and pastorally, according to our criteria of evaluation, a failure. After all, even Jesus was not a great pastor, if we consider the results: his 12 pupils betrayed him before the cross, the crowd that sang 'Hosanna' wanted him condemned to death. But if we look on the side of love, Jesus was the shepherd who gave his life for the sheep."
The Little Brothers' website announcement said Faraghini "is not an extraordinary priest, but is one who always tries to do his best. He doesn't love social networks because he prefers one-on-one encounters with people, whether great or small, close to or far from the church."
"He is a not a big fan of 'pastoral plans' because Charles de Foucauld held that 'you must let yourself be guided by the circumstances and the help of God.' Pope Francis knows all of this," the order said, "but he didn't bat an eye, saying that a priest must know how to live in brotherhood, pray and love people. The rest will follow."