The following piece is a lecture from the March 24, 2023 conference, “The Life and Work of Fernando Rielo- In Celebration of the Centennial of His Birth.” Fernando Rielo founded the religious congregation the Idente Missionaries of Christ the Redeemer. In this conference hosted by the Institute for International Communications, we honor his vast contributions to philosophy, metaphysics, and literature.
Author: Marie-Lise Gazarian Gautier
Director, Graduate Program in Spanish
St. John’s University
Vice President for the Northeast, Sigma Delta Pi, the National Honor Society
FERNANDO RIELO FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH
I have known Fernando Rielo since 1980 when I invited him to give a televised lecture at St. John´s University. My first contact with him was by chance, but it was meant to be. I was walking in the hall in the Department of Languages and Literatures at St. John’s University, where I teach and direct the Graduate Program in Spanish, when, suddenly, I heard the telephone ring in the secretary’s office. I had never answered her telephone, yet, for some unknown reason, perhaps an unknown mission, I rushed into her office. It was a call from two IDENTE sisters, María del Carmen García Viyuela, today Superior General Honoris Causa, and Rosa B. Calabretta, consecrated missionary of the Women´s Branch of the IDENTE Missionaries. We met in my office, and, when they saw a portrait of Christ on the wall, facing the door, they knew that we would understand one another. And we became friends, with the Founder as a guiding spirit.
The Founder, as he is referred to, lived, at the time, in Forest Hills Gardens. He would often invite me to dinner with my mother and they both recited poetry to each other. Nathalie, my mother, recited in French, the Founder, in Spanish. Language was no obstacle to either one of them as the language they shared and felt close to was that of the spirit. Yet, they would say to MariCarmen, who was present at each of the gathering, “Traduzca”/ “Traduisez.”
Fernando Rielo and my mother saw in Death a door that opened the way to Eternity. “Llévame ahora mismo contigo”/ “Take me right away to You,” he expressed in Fernando Rielo, Un diálogo a tres voces, the book I was writing with him and about him, first published in 1995, with a second edition in 2000. My mother wrote in her diary, “J’ai rejoint la source de la vie sans murmurer. J’ai vu la porte de la vérité. J´ai compris que je triomphais sur la mort. Vous, travaillez!”
In Briarwood, where the IDENTE now reside and where Fernando Rielo spent the last years of his life, I sat with him, one session after another, with José María López Sevillano, President of the IDENTE School, on my left, and Thunder, his dog, at his feet. Fernando Rielo, Un diálogo a tres voces, a long dialogue between the interviewer –myself– and the Founder, slowly began to take shape. Written in the form of an interview, between questions and answers, it is divided into three parts: His life, his poetry, and his philosophy/metaphysics.
The book, now translated into several languages, including English and German in 2000, Italian in 2004, and French in 2019, is a memoir, where God’s presence radiates. Fernando Rielo describes God’s luminosity as brighter than the sun itself. As we listened to him, during the making of the book, the room, where we gathered, seemed to partake of the divine light.
“Yo soy mutatis mutandis mística voz de la divina voz,” Fernando Rielo confided. He reflected upon his closeness to the Lord since before his birth, when he was still in his mother’s womb. God would play with him while he was a baby in his crib. He had two fathers, the Divine and Don Enrique, the human biological one. Both took him by the hand and taught him how to draw.
With a voice, as gentle as that of an angel, Fernando Rielo shared with us his love of life as well as his yearning for death in search of Eternity. We felt joy and pain all at once. He was a being in transit. Like an unfinished poem, he awaited God to write the last stanza. “Soy un pequeño verso del gran poema que es El.
In Dolor entre cristales, God borrows the Founder’s own voice and says:
Tú eres, Fernando, el ángel que me falta. Podrás decir entonces que eres mío porque nuestras locuras hilvanadas por nuestro amor beso único forjaron.
A man of contrast, he sought death, in search of eternal life, but he also sought beauty to enhance the world we lived in. An artist, he embellished every house or apartment he lived in through the magic of his hands and his mystic spirit.
Five cities evoke in me the unique figure of Fernando Rielo:
- New York, the city where we met and where I wrote Fernando Rielo, Un diálogo a tres voces, first published in 1995, it is also the city where he died on December 6, 2004;
- Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where the IDENTE Missionaries came to be known in 1959, and where I was invited by Fernando Rielo himself to lecture on Gabriela Mistral;
- Madrid, where he was born on August 28, 1923;
- Loja, where the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja appointed me “Honorary Professor” and where I spoke about Fernando Rielo on October 2, 2018;
- Paris where Fernando Rielo, Un diálogo a tres voces, translated into French as Fernando Rielo, un dialogue à trois voix, with a preface by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, was presented on December 6, 2019, on the 15 anniversary of the Founder’s death.
As part of my tribute to Fernando Rielo, I would like to include three acrostic poems I have written on different occasions and at difference times (August 15, 2005, December 6, 2019, and April 24, 2023). These poems, written in Spanish, French, and English, celebrate his intimate relationship with God, the Father.
During his life and work, the Founder of the IDENTE Missionaries has brought the Heavens closer to the Earth, erasing the distance through a love of God. When a child, he saw in God a playmate, as an adult, God was his Lover and Master.
F ERNANDO RIELO, Fundador nuestro, E spíritu puro de paz y pasión, R esplandor N ítido y noble que nos alumbra y protege. A ngel fuiste en la tierra, ya lo eres en el cielo, te N ombramos con nostalgia. Descansas en D ios en unas nupcias eternas; fue tu compañero antes de que nacieras a este mundo. O rar y obrar bien enseñaste a tus hijos misioneros. Hombre R enacentista y moderno en tu sed mística I nsaciable, en tu incansable diálogo con la Santa Trinidad y la Virgen María, E xhortaste en vida a tus discípulos, los IDENTES. L uz que nos brindaste, loa con la que te celebramos, O ración que brota de nuestro corazón. Amén. 15 de agosto de 2005
Fernando Rielo, en évoquant ta mémoire
F ERNANDO RIELO, Fondateur bien-aimé, E sprit pure de paix et de passion, R esplandeur N itide et noble qui illumine et protège. A nge tu fus sur terre, comme tu l’es au ciel, nous t’évoquons ce soir à Paris, 6 décembre, avec N ostalgie. En noces éternelles, uni en D ieu, ton Compagnon de jeux dans le sein de ta mère, tu enseignas à O euvrer et prier dans la joie à ta famille missionnaire. Homme de la R enaissance et d’esprit moderne, dans ta soif mystique, I nsatiable et infatigable fut ton dialogue avec la Sainte Trinité et la Vierge Marie. Tu E xhortais en vie tes disciples, les IDENTES, à percevoir la terre depuis le ciel. L umière tu nous offrais par ton exemple, tout en semant en nous un O céan d’amour qui jaillit de nos coeurs. P rières A mour R espect D ans le Divin A insi s’élèvent vers toi nos L audes et larmes de bonheur. Ainsi soit-il. 15 ans après sa mort (6 décembre 2019)
Fernando Rielo, IN THE CENTENary OF HIS BIRTH
F ERNANDO RIELO, Founder and Father of the IDENTE Family, with E xtasy we seek the spirit of peace and R adiance so N otable in you. Born one hundred years ago, you were an A ngel on earth, as you are now an angel in heaven. With N ostalgia we invoke you every day of our lives. Your nuptial with the D ivine -- God was your playmate in your mother’s womb. We O bey and praise Him and, as missionaries, we seek guidance in you. A R enaissance man, yet a man of the future, I nsatiable, you held a dialogue with the holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary. You E ncouraged your disciples, the IDENTES, to perceive the earth from heaven. Your L ife was a labor of love, an O cean of generosity. P raying in an A ffirmation of the Almighty, we R evere, adore, and respect the D ivine from dawn to dusk A s we praise you, Fernando Rielo, blessed are you, in the spirit of L ove and Holy Light. Amen. 18 years after his death (March 24, 2023)
Marie-Lise Gazarian was born in Paris, but has lived in New York for most of her life. A graduate of Columbia University, where she received her PhD, she studied under such famous writers as Francisco García Lorca, and Angel del Río. A Professor at St John’s University, she directs the Graduate Program in Spanish. Founder with Mónica Sánchez Christopher of the literary journal Entre Rascacielos in 2001, she is also a member of PEN.
Author of numerous articles, and 16 books, among them:
Gabriela Mistral, la maestra de Elqui, 1973, 1992; Gabriela Mistral, The Teacher from the Valley of Elqui, 1975; Interviews with Latin American Writers, 1989, 1992
Interviews with Latin American Writers, 1989
Carmen Conde, de viva voz, with Zenaida Gutiérrez Vega, 1992
Interviews with Spanish Writers, 1991, 1992
Fernando Rielo, Un diálogo a tres voces, first published in 1995
Ana María Matute: La voz del silencio, 1997;
Retratos en palabras. Entrevistas con 25 escritores del mundo hispánico, 2003;
Fernando Arrabal: Oráculo entre cielo y tierra, 2019;
El rescate del baúl de los recuerdos: Diálogo en torno a Gabriela Mistral, 2022. With Gastón von dem Bussche, Jaime Quezada and Pedro Pablo Zegers as co-editors.
A recipient of many distinctions, among them:
La Encomienda de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio, from the King of Spain (2003)
La Orden al Mérito “Gabriela Mistral”, from the Chilean Government (2003)
A la Trayectoria de Vida en Excelencia Educativa, from the Republic of Ecuador, Ministerio de Cultura y Patrimonio, 2018
El Premio Jorge Luis Borges from SigmaDelta Pi, the National Hispanic Honor Society (2019)
Premio Festivales de Poesía del Biobío, Chile, for volume 24 of Entre Rascacielos (2020)
Special Recognition from St. John’s University for her 60 Years of Teaching (2022)