I have to make a confession – as a Pallottine, I struggle with the spirituality of our Founder St. Vincent Pallotti. There are many times when I read something about his life and it just doesn’t do it for me. He doesn’t fire me up like some of the other Saints do. Yet, I know Vincent Pallotti works closer to me, then I collaborate with him.
There is something humbling of not being sure of what you are about, even the spirituality of one’s founder, being unsure keeps you on your toes and it keeps you searching. That’s the mystery of life. It’s like if you have an area of weakness in your life causing you to sin, and you can’t get the better of it, you can do one of two things, you can either throw in the towel or you can keep on going back to the source of love and mercy seeking His grace and pardon. Pallotti writes some lovely stuff on the area of mercy. “My Jesus, just because I am the greatest of sinners who has ever been or ever will be, you wish to grant me and you are granting me the greatest mercy that you have ever granted or will ever grant”. OOCC X 227
Today, so many people need to hear that they are loved by the Lord. People are weary and are struggling and what are we doing to help them. The reason I ask that question is, because we as friends of the Pallottines, members of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate sometimes don’t know what direction we should be taking in terms of our apostolic activities. There is something inside us saying we can do more. Many people today have no relationship with the sacramental church; they are looking in, instead of looking out. They feel they don’t belong or they are made not to belong.
As members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, as friends of the Pallottine Family and more importantly as followers of Jesus Christ what can we offer? Sometimes we feel we have to do big and extraordinary things to be effective, to make Pallotti’s message known. My advice today is to keep it simple. If we are on fire with God’s love, with the message of Pallotti, then we will win souls for the Lord. After the Murphy report on child sexual abuse came out, the coverage of it got me down and I felt like throwing in the towel, but I felt the Lord saying to me one day, Emmet what’s going on in the church at present is my problem. Your job is to win souls for me. That goes for us all; we are all called to look after our neighbour. In Pallotti’s time there was the need for spiritual revival. He saw in people a deep yearning for something and that something was God’s love. The challenges Pallotti faced in his day, we too face them as well. There is a spiritual hunger out there and it is our duty to feed our neighbour with God’s love and we can do that through the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti. In one of his reflections he writes: “We have an obligation to support each other on the road to our final destination. Nobody can be indifferent towards the death of a neighbour. Indeed, everybody must try to prevent the eternal loss of their neighbour and must use every means for their salvation”. OOCC IV 131
Who is my neighbour? My neighbour is all those around me, my work colleagues, the people I live with, the people I socialise with, the people on the street where I live, the bereaved, the addict, the separated, and the non-believers. Pallotti reached out to everyone. He didn’t put a limit on what Christ could do. If we limit Christ, then we limit what he can do with us.
If Pallotti was alive today, he would love the challenges the church is faced with today. He wouldn’t cow away. The love of Christ drove him on and he shared his vision, his dream with those around him. We have to do the same, share his vision, his dream with all the baptised. And it is happening, in our parishes, in our Pallottine communities, within our families and you being here today is a testimony to the fact that Pallotti is alive in you. And yet we can do more.
Today the church in Ireland is facing up to a lot of home truths from its past sins, in the face of this tribulation we the church has to stand firm with Mary at the foot of the cross. To ‘stand’ in Hebrew means to be strong. We have to pause, reflect and to endure, take in what’s going on around us, to pray silently, the situation can make one depressed, it can bring you down but eventually we have to move on and let healing take place. This will take time.
Yet, the Risen Lord will always remain alive in our hearts if we stay close to him. He promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we celebrate that arrival with Pentecost Sunday. We have to allow that outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit touch our hearts and transform us, we have to lose the mantle of fear and anxiety and replace it with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us in giving witness to the Gospel message, its values, its promises. As followers and disciples of Jesus, it is now our time to give witness to our faith in him. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are to reach out to all people sharing the Gospel with them. If we keep the message of Jesus to ourselves, we have not really understood it at all. Open your hearts to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and when you have received them use those gifts in bearing fruit. The Pallottine Charism comes from this same Spirit. Our mission is to enliven faith and rekindle charity among all the believers, so that all may know and love the one Lord.
Last week in Fatima Pope Benedict encouraging the faithful to cultivate an interior watchfulness so as to see God with the “eyes of the heart.” We have to allow ourselves be transformed each day into God’s image and likeness. Pallotti spirituality gives us a licence to do that.
We can’t do it on our own; we do it together in union with Mary Queen of Apostles. We come here every year to honour Mary and the role she plays in our lives. Today on this Feast of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, we come to Knock a very special place of prayer and intercession, the message is one of simplicity. Mary has appeared in different parts of the world, but for me Knock is probably the most authentic. In the different places in which Mary has appeared she came with a message that was already given to us by Christ during his life on earth. In the vision of Knock Mary nothing was said, yet the vision even though given to poor and humble people, has a deep theology. The vision at Knock brings together the Old and New Testaments.
We have the Lamb, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist and Our Blessed Mother. What’s the significance of this coming together? The Blood of the Pascal Lamb saved the chosen people from the hands of the Egyptians and delivered them from slavery. The Lamb was their food for their journey to the Promised Land. Over one thousand years later, St. Paul could cry out “Christ our Pasch is sacrificed”. Here is our food for the journey; we are saved through his blood on the cross. Our Pascal Lamb Jesus Christ saves us from our slavery, sin. In the vision we have John symbolising love, “Think of the love the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are”. Jn 3: 1. We have Joseph, head of the family, symbolising the carer of family life. Finally we have Our Lady, the mother of the Lamb, the wife of Joseph the protector and John who was given the glorious privilege of looking after Mary by Jesus as he hung upon the Cross, saying: ‘woman this is your son’. To the disciple he said, ‘this is your mother’. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home and that made us Her sons and daughters as well.
The whole vision symbolises ‘the family’, the extended family if you include St. John. It includes the entire spiritual family which includes us. This vision inspires faith and love. The revival of faith and love were the virtues that inspired Pallotti to form the Union of the Catholic Apostolate and ask all to become involved to ensure the success of this movement. To quote Fr. Ned O’Brien SCA who would love to be standing here giving this sermon, “together we journey, and together we serve”.
We have been given a great spirituality through Saint Vincent Pallotti, the message of Knock echo’s that. What we have to do, is to respond to the gift of faith given to us at our baptism, we were given the gift of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Pallotti was greatly devoted to the method which St. Francis de Sales used for making the Sign of the Cross and I am going to end with this: “Of myself I can do nothing. With God I can do everything. I will do everything for love of God. To God the glory, to me contempt”. These words sum up Vincent Pallotti’s spirituality. “Anybody who, by repeating the words of this prayer, arms themselves with the sign of the Cross can be sure of doing everything that will lead to the greater glory of God and will be for the benefit of their own soul and that of their neighbour”. OOCC III 449-450
On the Eve of Pentecost Sunday, may the Lord fill each of your chosen hearts with the joy, peace and love of His Holy Spirit.