charismatic vision of Pallotti
revisited in Porta Fidei
Charisms are special divine gifts God gives to individuals and groups to build up the Church and to carry on its mission in different times and places. Once Vincent was no longer with them the phrase “revival of faith and rekindling of charity” became the heartbeat of his followers. It has become the core of our Pallottine charism.
Was it an accident that Pope Benedict’s 2012 Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), initiating the Year of Faith, announced that the ongoing need of today’s Church is “the revival of faith and rekindling of charity”?
Vincent’s time was one of crisis, an age marked with revolutions, suppression of religious orders, decadence of faith and charity within the Church. Disorder and confusion prevailed across Italy, labelled by historians as an age of ‘democratic revolution’ because of its quest for freedom. It led to the Christian flock being scattered. Pallotti saw people’s faith dwindling, many on the verge of losing it. Rome itself became a mission arena where the urgent need to revive faith and charity, especially among Catholics, cried out for a response. He did not become disquieted or perplexed but rather sought ways to emancipate the Church. He lived and worked by the motto: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).
Pallotti believed that all are called “to revive faith and rekindle charity and be apostles.” This vocation pertains to every Christian. Each is called to practice sanctity within one’s sphere of life irrespective of caste, creed, social imperative or cultural ethos. This is precisely because the love of Christ urges us on.
The world today faces challenges in all walks of life that can profoundly affect one’s perception of self, world and God. A ‘faith atmosphere’ is again absent. So there is disorientation leading to distrust, and loss of the meaning of life. We not only see doctrinal divisions among both laity and clergy, but a pervasive “institutionalism” that treats the Church more as a business or a social club than the Body of Christ with a mission. This is a victory of secularism within the Church itself, and the result is a shallow sense of faith, no deeper than mere loyalty to the institution, or to one’s cultural heritage. To confront this radical secularism a Year of Faith was announced, to ‘contribute to restoring God’s presence in this world, and to giving men access to the faith, enabling them to trust in God who, in Jesus Christ, loved us to the end’. Benedict XVI, exploring the implications of this insight, took up the Pauline dictum: “Caritas Christi urget nos”. It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize.
The Holy Father goes on to emphasize that every believer is called to profess his or her faith in its fullness, with renewed conviction and with confidence and hope moved by the love of Christ. So the object of the Year of Faith is for every believer to make his own the task of re-discovering the content of faith – and to live it. In short, one must become totally renewed as a true follower of Jesus.
taking flesh in action:
Faith and love have to take flesh in action. For Pallotti the community and its members are sent into the world to respond to every human person in need. This must be done spontaneously – he strongly believed if the members were really motivated by love, they would not need any obligation. The spirit of love must animate towards action. He urged everyone to give love, either through material charity or through spiritual charity. Genuine charity witnesses God’s love for humanity, and itself becomes a proclamation of the Gospel.
In Porta Fidei Pope Benedict XVI likewise indicates that the Year of Faith is an opportunity to intensify the witness of charity besides rediscovering and renewing our faith. It is faith that must guide the vision and actions of Christians. “Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other; in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path.” (PF 14).
Mary, the image of faith:
Pallotti often repeats, “If we give our heart to Mary, she will help to make it similar to that of her Son.” He stresses her vital role. Our Mother must have a function in our desire to renew faith and charity. She taught the disciples how to accept and treasure the Word which converts, heals, teaches and saves. According to him, she is the ever relevant example of one who accepts the Kingdom of Christ and all its inherent values existentially.
For Pope Benedict XVI, a deep understanding of the faith requires knowing and admiring those witnesses – men and women, priests, religious, lay people – who have provided an example of discipleship over 2000 years of Christian history. The first among these is Mary, the Virgin Mother and believer in the one necessary Being. Mary, the Star of Faith, is the disciple-mentor whom the Church joyfully and gratefully offers to all of us. She can teach us the difficult, but inspiring, art of discipleship – true and faithful friendship with the Lord. She is the perfect example of true universal zeal and perfect charity because she labored tirelessly in the works of salvation for the greater glory of God.
Mary, Queen of apostles and our patroness, is the perfect model of our spiritual and apostolic life as we realise Pallotti’s charismatic vision.
Zephyrin Kirubagar sac [ ] – Mysore – INDIA