STEWARDS OF THE LIGHT – Liam O’Donovan sac

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Gospel of Luke 16:1-8

It gives me great encouragement that Jesus uses the example of a “chancer” to teach us a lesson about the kingdom of God!

It’s a difficult parable because the dishonest steward seems to be commended for pulling a fast one. But what he is actually being praised for is his shrewdness or astuteness.

A shrewd person grasps a critical situation and displays foresight to bring about a favourable resolution.

And this steward certainly managed to do this; he pulled a stroke to bring a good out of a potentially disastrous situation.

Of course this parable has a lot to tell us about the proper use of material wealth. The Lord expects us to be astute, while honest and responsible in their use and to put them at his service and the service of others.

As Christians all that we have beyond what we need belongs to the poor. And that’s a huge challenge!

But I think there is more to this parable. The key to the parable I think is the reference to the “children of light.”

That is what we are sons and daughters of light; our light is our faith—not in some abstract idea or set of propositions—but faith in a person, Jesus Christ.

The light of Christ brings meaning and hope into our lives; it is our real treasure, a most precious relationship that must be fostered.

Each one of us, having received such a gift, is expected to be astute in its use. We are stewards, not a worldly treasure, but of the light and responsible for sharing it with others.

This reminds me of Pope Francis call for all Christian to be in a “permanent state of mission.”
He says, “In fidelity to the example of Christ, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear…Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (Evangelii Gaudium)

As disciple of Christ, as stewards of the light, we need to be astute using every opportunity, and even where it seems pointless and difficult to try, to share the gift that we have received—the gift that is the light of our faith.t’s a difficult parable because the dishonest steward seems to be commended for pulling a fast one. But what he is actually being praised for is his shrewdness or astuteness.

Painting ‘Children of the Light’ by Cornelis Monsma inspired by Colossians 1:9-14 http://www.pinterest.com/pin/173810866839241579/

PALLOTTINE HISTORY

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Frs Derry Murphy SAC, Provincial and Fr Donal McCarthy SAC with Fr. Donal’s first volume of the history of the Irish Province of the Mother of Divine Love, entitled ‘A Patchwork Quilt – Pallottines in the U.S.A.’

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The book, A Patchwork Quilt, Pallottines in the U.S.A., Volume I and II, by Fr. Donal McCarthy, S.C.A., can now be ordered and paid for on-line through the printer/publisher’s books website: http://www.eprint.ie/. The book (two volumes) is being offered for Euro 28 with the cost of postage and packaging to be added. As the book weighs 1.4 Kilos approximately the cost of postage within Ireland is Euro 8.25; to the U.K. Euro 11.55; and to the U.S.A. Euro 17.80. The cost of packaging will be determined by the publisher but should not be more than one or two Euro. A full name and address must be furnished with the order.

 

Read Fr. Anthony Gaughan’s REVIEW of A Patchwork Quilt – Pallottines in the U.S.A.

UAC NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2014

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Dear sisters and brothers in the Union,

       we are happy to present to you in this newsletter a sharing on the experience of an Indian Pallottine of the Prabhu Prakash (Nagpur) Province, Fr. Emmanuel Joshi SAC, working with Union groups, along with other news from the Union.

  1. AN EXPERIENCE OF ESTABLISHING AND ACCOMPANYING UNION GROUPS IN INDIA – FR. EMMANUEL JOSHI SAC

       I have been actively involved with Union of Catholic Apostolate (UAC) groups for almost four years. The many meetings and symposiums in my Province to create awareness of our charism sparked a deeper interest within me, and I felt an urge to do something practical as a Pallottine to bring our Founder’s vision for the Church to life. So I contacted a few active parishioners of the parishes in which I was working, expressing my wish to begin formation of lay people in the spirit and charism of St. Vincent, which led to a first meeting in Trivandrum on January 24, 2010, attended by nine lay people. During the meeting an introduction was given to the spirituality of Pallotti, the structure of the UAC and its unique position in the life of the Church. We decided to meet on the 2nd Saturday of every month for prayer, study and discussion, the number of participants gradually growing to 24.

       After two years of formation, 14 lay faithful made their commitment in the UAC on the feast of St. Vincent. In his address to the gathering, Msgr. Eugine Pereira, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Trivandrum, said, “The new members of the UAC have made the Church proud, and it is a sign of laity emerging in the Church as an effective missionary force”. One of the new UAC members expressed his feelings as follows: “I am extremely happy to be a Pallottine, with the vision that gives space for everyone in the Church to be an apostle according to the state and condition of one’s life. I love Pallotti and his charism, because he makes me really feel that I am a missionary despite living with family and running my business”.

       Eight of the 14 new members were from the neighbouring diocese of Neyyattinkara, so that they had to travel a long distance in heavy traffic to attend the Trivandrum UAC meeting. It was therefore decided to start a UAC group at Neyyattinkara, also to facilitate the enrolment of others from their locality for formation in the Union. Together we visited St. Elizabeth’s Pallottine Parish in this diocese, conducting a seminar on the life and charism of St. Vincent. Through the efforts of the parish priest, about 250 lay people attended, many of whom openly expressed their willingness to join the UAC. Consequently a new UAC group was formed there.

       Presently, I am formator and spiritual adviser to these two UAC groups, which comprise 44 committed members. All are actively involved in their parishes as catechism teachers, Small Christian Community leaders, members of parish pastoral councils, of religious associations, participants in education, social and other ministries. Monthly meetings and study sessions are organized for each group on a regular basis.

       The following are the principal activities undertaken by the lay UAC members during this year:

  • UAC members twice gathered the inmates of the Rehabilitation Centre for Woman Prisoners for prayer and a shared meal with them
  • A 700 sq. feet house was built for a poor family in the parish by collecting contributions from parishioners, the Vincent DePaul Society, the social service wing of the diocese and the Prabhu Prakash Pallottine Province of the Society, and blessed on January 17th 2014 by the Archbishop of Trivandrum.
  • Every first Sunday of the month a woman suffering from cancer is given Rs. 1,000 as a small support.
  • The UAC members collected Rs. 130, 000 from generous local people and met the expense a poor girl’s marriage which was solemnized on September 2nd 2014

       The members also come together for a Christmas celebration, the cultural festival of Onam, and two recollections each year. Events like birthdays and wedding anniversaries of lay UAC members are celebrated during the monthly UAC meetings. The children of UAC members are also specially honoured for their achievements in any field such as study, arts, sports or religion. Since family bonds are very strong here we try to ensure that the whole family and not just the individual alone journeys with the UAC.

       The selfless and generous involvement of the lay members in various UAC activities is a source of great pastoral satisfaction and spiritual enrichment. Their walls at home are decorated with pictures, among others, of St. Vincent and of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. The UAC groups are self-reliant and collect monthly subscriptions from the members to meet various expenses. One thing that has struck me after working with UAC groups is the lack of a fixed model of how they should be organised. Groups differ from each other depending on their contexts. Every group is in the process of learning and growth, and so, every group has something to tell and inspire, making it quite enriching for a UAC group to know what is happening in other groups.

       My earnest desire is that more of our confreres be empowered, encouraged and exposed to the ‘UAC-in-practice’. I am optimistic about the UAC because I trust in the words of our dear dying Founder, ‘‘The Society will live and be blessed by God”; I believe that this includes the entire Union, comprising laity, religious and clergy, as co-responsible in the mission of the Church.

  1. Celebration of the Feast of the Union in Spirito Santo dei Napoletani:

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       The 11th Anniversary of the erection of the Union as a public international association of the faithful of pontifical right was celebrated in the church of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani on October 25th 2014, the Saturday closest to the date of the actual anniversary, October 28th. The response for the Mass of the day was taken as the overall theme of the celebration: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord”. The celebration began at 3.30 pm with a time of Eucharistic Adoration in the spirit of the Cenacle, which consisted mostly of silent prayer periodically interspersed with prayers or short hymns, led by Fr. Gilberto Orsolin SAC with the collaboration of Sr. Bożena Olszewska SAC. This was followed by a concelebrated Eucharist, led by the General Secretary, Fr. Rory Hanly SAC, which was attended by many members of the Pallottine family from the Rome area and enriched greatly by the UAC choir. Fr. Nicola Gallucci SAC, Provincial of the Italian Regina Apostolorum Province, preached the homily during which, among many other things, he said: “[Jesus] himself calls his disciples to put out into the deep, “Duc in altum” (Lk 5: 4). This is the call of Jesus to the whole Union of Catholic Apostolate, that it may take up with courage, with a new dynamism, its responsibility to the Gospel and to humanity. We are asked to be prepared to evangelise, not to stand idly by locked up in the protective shell of an association which is turned in on itself, but to lift our gaze out to the deep, to the vast sea of the world, to cast our nets so that all may encounter the person of Jesus who makes all things new”. The Rector General and Ecclesiastical Assistant, Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, introduced the renewal of the Act of Apostolic Commitment by all present, during which he emphasised “passion” as a key element mentioned in Fr. Nicola’s homily which should characterise our lives as members of the Union – we are called to be people of “passion” – passion for Christ, passion for the Gospel, passion for prayer, passion for the Church, passion for St. Vincent Pallotti, passion for service, passion for those who are poor and broken. After the communal renewal of the Act of Apostolic Commitment, Fr. Rebwar Audish Basa, an Iraqi priest of the Antonian Order of St. Ormizda of the Chaldeans, gave a moving testimony about the suffering of our Iraqi Chaldean Christian brothers and sisters and others, particularly with the spread of IS, and spoke particularly about the history and the current needs of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Alqosh, Nineveh, Iraq for which a collection was subsequently taken up during the offertory. As a postscript to the celebration, by an extraordinary twist of Divine Providence, the orphanage turns out to be situated in the very town of birth of Thomas Alkusci, one of St. Vincent’s earliest collaborators and among those whose names featured on the first list of members of the Union; he was official representative of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See, professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Propaganda Fide and had Vincent Pallotti as his spiritual director (cf. UAC Newsletter – August-September 2012 for a synthesis of his life).

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT – Maria Domke

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 “Give them something to eat” – Spiritual Preparation for the General Congress of the Union in July 2015 

If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our conscience, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat (Mk 6:37)”. (Evangelii Gaudium 49)

      In this month of November, as we continue our ongoing process of spiritual preparation for the General Congress guided by the overall theme ‘Jesus, a joy ever new, a joy that is shared’, we are invited to take up the challenge expressed by Pope Francis above: “Give them something to eat”.

      People are hungry. They search for ‘food’ in many places, among people they may or may not know, using many methods and means to find themselves; they look for the reason of their existence, and sometimes, they are even aware that they are searching for God, but they have simply had no one tell them about Christ.

      These are the people Pope Francis encourages us, the People of God, the Church, to reach out to, to give them that reason to live and thrive, that ultimate goal to work for. And how are we to do this? Through evangelization: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28: 19a, 20a). Evangelization may be as complex as preparing talks and retreats to enrich others or as simple as talking with someone, letting them know about God’s love for them or introducing them to the basics of the faith and the Church. The Church needs (we need) to be open to all who are searching, regardless of their past choices and their present circumstances.

      We have a very special gift to share with the world – the person of Jesus Christ. He is the message we are to bring to all those with whom we come into contact. This has been the message the Church has been entrusted to carry to the ends of the earth. Not our message, but Jesus’ message. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. (EG 36)

      In earlier times, this may have meant going to faraway lands as missionaries. Today, we don’t have to travel far to find those who are hungry and thirsty. We have only to look around us, in our own families, our own neighbourhoods, maybe even in our own parishes, to find those who do not know Jesus and his message of love or have let that message become stale in their lives.

      And who is to evangelize? We are. As St. Vincent believed and the Pope says: All are called (EG 20), by virtue of our Baptism. WE are the ones who are to take up the mission entrusted to the Apostles and through them to us ‘to go forth’. At the end of every Eucharistic celebration we are sent to bear witness to Christ by our lives.

      Though these efforts may take us out of our comfort zones, there is a joy which comes from knowing we have sown the seeds of the Gospel. And that joy is celebrated again in the Eucharist. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving (EG 24). Best of all, Jesus tells us, ‘and know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!’ (Mt. 28:20b)

      Although Pope Francis wants us to focus on the message, he also realizes that some structure is needed to enable the message to be brought to others. Just as for the UAC the local coordination councils are centres which animate gatherings, prayer, formation and collaboration in order to sustain the spirituality common to the members and to foster diverse apostolic initiatives (General Statutes 60), so the parish, as part of the particular Church to which it belongs, is the Church incarnate in a certain place, equipped with all the means of salvation bestowed by Christ, but with local features (EG 30). The UAC as an association is a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors and we are asked to not lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular church (EG 29). St. Vincent Pallotti founded the Union to serve the Church… Therefore, the members of the Union are committed to remaining in communion with the Pope and the Bishops. (GSt 21)

      We are not asked to evangelize alone or without preparation. It is in the parish that we are fed at the table, by Christ in the Eucharist and in the Word of the Gospels, through prayer and preaching, and by the community itself. We are blessed to be members of the UAC, where we learn more about Jesus the Apostle of the Eternal Father (formation), where we share our faith journey with others, where we pray and celebrate Eucharist together and from where we are further encouraged and supported in our evangelization efforts. And although today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness (EG 41), we need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness. (EG 42) When we strive to imitate Christ’s love for the Father and for all persons, seeking to live his life-style and apostolate as perfectly as possible (GSt 19) and we give ourselves to a life of service and to fulfilling His will which is revealed to us above all through the Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Church and the signs of the times (GSt 18), we are living evangelization for all to see.

      But just as it takes us time to grow in our faith and we expect mercy and patience from God and others for our doubts and failings, we must also allow others the time they need to grow. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings. (EG 44) We are called to live forgiveness and reconciliation as a pathway to permanent conversion (GSt 23e).

      Evangelization is a ‘going out’ but it is also a journeying together, through our trials and tribulations, our fears and our great joys. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. (EG 24) Great joy will be our reward.

 Reflection Questions

  • Whom have I encountered in the last month who was in need of my witness to God’s love for them?
  • In what ways am I feeding the ‘hungry’?

Concrete Action:

          We do not have all the answers to the needs and questions of those who come to us seeking help. Let us make time this month to learn of the agencies in our local dioceses which can be of assistance to us and to which we might be of assistance.

                                                                 Maria Domke,

                                                                              National Formation Promoter,

                                                                              Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

WISDOM

Wisdom 7:15-30 May God grant me to speak as he would wish and express thoughts worthy of his gifts, since he himself is the guide of Wisdom, since he directs the sages. We are indeed in his hand, we ourselves Continue reading WISDOM

WHEN ONE COMES TO VISIT LOVE

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EMPTYSitting at the back of an empty church on a dark evening, I look up the distance to the tabernacle and think of Judith Hearne (from the novel by Brian Moore). I had intended meditating, taking up the usual posture, when something within suggested that postures are not necessary when one comes to visit Love. So, I took to gazing and thinking.

Judith Hearne was a woman lost in alcoholism and absolutely lonely at 40-something. She had prayed all her life and had gotten a raw deal and she comes in the end to a similar church demanding some answer from Jesus in the tabernacle but He remains silent and her faith is weakening rapidly. The sacristan and later the priest come out into the sanctuary and their attitude in front of the tabernacle suggests to her that they don’t believe either that there’s anyone there. We who are familiar with the sacred can become so casual that we forget the Presence and maybe stop believing in reality, without ever thinking about it.

Now in this church where I sit, the sacristan comes out to prepare the altar for Mass. She waddles around the sanctuary without seeming to have any interest in the tabernacle. Instead she repeatedly peers down towards the shadow in which I am sitting. Does she notice the stranger that I am? It is good to be here.

After a while a young woman comes through the side door, walking briskly across in front of the altar, without so much as a pause or a glance. She has NO idea that He’s there; she takes no notice. “Does it bother you” I ask Him “that people ignore you like this?” But He remains silent. It bothers me!

A young father with his teenage boy and girl arrives. They’re dressed for an occasion and in the absence of wife and mother I take it that she’s dead and that this Mass is being offered for her – in the event it wasn’t for her. I feel a pang of grief and might even cry. There’s an air of grief about him, while they (the children) seem quite happy. He genuflects passing the altar. They do not. “Do you not mind Lord?” I ask again.

Soon they are joined by other families, similarly dressed with the same mixture of knowledge and ignorance of the Presence. They take up two pews between them.

The Mass is rattled through with a frightening speed. It pleases a lot of people. The only part that’s taken slowly is the homily and that is simply a drag! At the consecration at least I want him to please, please slow down and give us a chance to savour. But no!

PRIEST monastery icons.com 902Faith in the Real Presence of Jesus! Saint Faustina had a vision in prayer of looking at the Blessed Sacrament and seeing the face of Jesus in all its glory and He tells her that He is pleased with those who see Him by faith and not by vision. “Oh, how pleasing to me is their great faith! You see, although there appears to be no trace of life in Me, in reality it is present in its fullness in each and every Host. But for me to be able to act upon a soul, the soul must have faith. Oh, how pleasing to me is living faith!”  (Divine Mercy In My Soul: Diary, N.1420).

We tend to think of faith in terms of vision and consolation but the reality is that faith is exercised and lives in desolation. It is a labour a lot of the time, a labour of love.

Faustina had her experiences of desolation. “I feel such desolation in my soul that I do not know how to explain it even to myself. No one understands a heart wounded by love, and when such a heart feels itself abandoned interiorly, no one can comfort it.” (Diary N. 943).

No comfort! At times there is no comfort, a sense that God is standing back in silence, doing nothing. The abandonment of Jesus on the Cross is the abandonment of us all. WHY have you forsaken me? And the Father says absolutely nothing in that moment. Faith is moulded, carved into shape in this desolate and dark abandonment.

“Patience, silence and prayer – these are what give strength to the soul.” We might easily run away from desolation. We  DO run away sometimes. And the Hound of Heaven chases us down until we face it. Then faith grows like a seed in the dark soil, like a piece of china that comes shining out of the burning kiln. It is a lovely thing that comes out of the fire and the dark earth.

http://emonson.blogspot.ie/2014/10/when-one-comes-to-visit-love-real.html

100 YEARS OF SCHOENSTATT – Archbishop Robert Zollitsch

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„She is the great missionary“

Holy Mass, international, Church of the Theology College of the Pallottines

Vallendar, October 19, 2014

schoenstatt-2Before I got to know Schoenstatt, Vincent Pallotti was familiar to me. His passionate drive to lead people to the Kingdom of God, and correspondingly to be apostolically active with all the fibers of his life, impressed me as soon as I heard about him. All of us surely agree on this: Without [seeing] his forceful urge toward the apostolate and his efforts to motivate as many people as possible toward it, this saint cannot be understood. And the more I then opened myself to him and occupied myself with him, the clearer a second thought became to me. A hardly less central aspect of his life and work is his love for Mary and his attachment to her.

The image of the disciples gathered around Mary in the Cenacle awaiting the Holy Spirit remained for Vincent Pallotti the epitome of apostolic readiness and mission. Thus he chose this image to be the symbol, the guiding image of his community. He may consider himself confirmed in this by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”: “With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization” (EG 284). For, as our Holy Father continues, “Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that ‘all was now finished’ (John 19:28). At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary” (EG 285). Thus the Pope also places her before our eyes as the “Mother of the living Gospel” (EG 287), as the “missionary” (EG 286) who stands for “a Marian style to the Church’s work of evangelization” (EG 288). Mary is the woman who “sets out from her town” (EG 288) in order to bring Jesus, even before she has given birth to him, “in haste” (cf. Luke 1:39) to the people. She instructs missionaries and accompanies them.

What Pope Francis says about Mary „as the Mother of the Church which evangelizes” (EG 284) and as the “Star of the New Evangelization” (EG 288), leads us on a straight line to that which Pallotti firmly maintains as a program and guiding star when he chooses Mary [under the title] “Queen of Apostles” as the patroness of his work. Vincent Pallotti lives and works in close connection with Mary. For, according to Vincent Pallotti, Divine Love “gave us everything in Jesus”: his whole mystical body, and with it, Mary, its heart. And Pallotti, as Father Ansgar Faller SAC writes, “places it brilliantly clear before our eyes that together with his only-begotten Son, God has also given us his Mother as a personal possession. Thus he must say: How could he have but one meditation without thinking of Mary!” [1]. For Pallotti, Mary is the apostolic figure who pushes toward the people as the Woman of Departure (cf Luke 1:39 ff) and from whom he reads the missionary possibilities of Christian involvement as well as the chances of a missionary life without exterior activity[2].  Personal attachment to the Blessed Mother and Marian piety led to apostolic enthusiasm, which burned as a raging fire in Pallotti and gave untiring strength to his work. He always kept with himself a little reliquary with a picture of the Madonna[3].Thus he also wanted to know that she accompanied him in his hour of death, and [so] had the statue of the Queen of Apostles placed at his bedside. For, according to his conviction and his legacy to his community, his legacy to us: “She (Mary) is the great missionary. She will work miracles.”

4cb6109cc1bb989f57bf5281f0a02e2a_f159Through Schoenstatt I became more familiar with this legacy of Pallotti. Father Kentenich repeatedly quoted this sentence. With his Marian piety and Marian devotion he considered himself in accord with his “reverend founder,” in the language usage of one hundred years ago. When he spoke about zeal for souls and service of Mary as the driving forces of Pallotti’s apostolic heart and idealism, one senses his inner accord with him[4]. With St. Vincent Pallotti and Pope Francis, Schoenstatt emphasizes the Blessed Mother as the missionary who not only “made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost” (EG 284), but who also today “as a true mother … walks at our side, … shares our struggles and … constantly surrounds us with God’s love” (EG 286). Whoever recognizes Mary, together with Vincent Pallotti, Schoenstatt, and Pope Francis, as the missionary woman and Queen of Apostles, cannot do away with her as a soft figure and image of an outdated tradition. She is the woman who is constantly on the way to us and with us as a missionary. A missionary Church is a Church that is setting out, a dynamic Church, moved and led by the Holy Spirit as Mary was. The more I take in the wonderful exhortation of our Holy Father, “Evangelii Gaudium,” the happier it makes me [to see] the tremendous harmony of his depiction of the Blessed Mother’s task with Pallotti’s and Schoenstatt’s image of Mary and her missionary task. We can read this from the image of the pilgrim MTA that is here with us today. Deacon John Luis Pozzobon from Brazil carried her, the great Missionary, on pilgrimage by foot to the people for thirty-five years and thus began an unexpected chain reaction. Today the pilgrim MTA is on the way to the people with 200,000 pilgrim shrines in almost 100 countries.

The „Caritas Christi urget nos“ of St. Vincent Pallotti and his “Societas Apostolatus Catholici,” dear sisters, dear brothers, is the expression of a downright irrepressible longing to lead all people to Christ and to motivate as many Christians as possible for this task. For “mission,” as Pope Francis says, “is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” (EG 268). God’s challenge “to those who believe in him ‘to go forth’” (EG 20) belongs to the essence of the Church. And “the Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step” (EG 24).

This holds true for all the faithful. “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (EG 120). What Pope Francis calls a new understanding of “personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized” (EG 120) was Pallotti’s main intention already 150 years ago and has been Schoenstatt’s [main intention] for 100 years. What our Holy Father calls the “Marian style to the Church’s work of evangelization” (EG 288) goes hand in hand with it. Mary, “Mother of the Church which evangelizes,” is “in the midst of the people” (EG 284) and instructs us how to walk the way of Church renewal in a missionary spirit and in humility. And this leads to a new dynamic. For “whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (EG 288). What our Holy Father states about “the community of missionary disciples” (EG 24) could almost be a combined re-wording of the “Societas Apostolatus Catholici” and Schoenstatt. For what Pallotti carried within himself was far ahead of his time and so revolutionary for his time that his concern had to retreat [into the background] for a long time. And what is revolutionary about a markedly Marian renewal includes, according to Pope Francis, tenderness that knows no limits and love that mercifully turns toward all people in a covenant of love with all and for all.

70507776When we celebrate the hundredth jubilee of Schoenstatt in these days, esteemed guests, dear sisters, dear brothers, then it includes not only looking back and looking ahead, but also gratitude. Our thanks goes to the Triune God – and to Mary, by whom we know we are led and protected. And it goes to you, dear confreres of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate. Schoenstatt came about, grew, and became great within the Pallottine Family and under its protection. There is so much that connects Schoenstatt with St. Vincent Pallotti and his Society of the Catholic Apostolate. Not only is there the main concern of apostolate and evangelization, connected with the mobilization of Christians. Not only is there the outstanding Marian spirituality of Pallotti and Schoenstatt. There is also the common history and the close connection that have lasted for many years. For that I thank you, dear confreres of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, with my whole heart. When we look back into history, we have to confess – and I do so gladly and with conviction: Schoenstatt would not have come about with you, dear Pallottines. Schoenstatt owes unendingly much to you.

Of course we all know that Schoenstatt’s process of growth and autonomy was also connected with tensions, sorrow, and challenges, and that not yet all the wounds have become scarred or even healed. But according to my feeling, what we have in common, what connects us and what has been given to us together is far greater than that which moves us apart or could even keep us apart.

Today, dear sisters, dear brothers, we stand before totally new challenges. Pope Francis identifies the present moment as “a turning-point in history” and speaks of an “epochal change” in which we find ourselves (EG 52). And the present “process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal” (EG 64). Thus, as the Pope states, [evangelization] “must reach the places where new narratives and paradigms are being formed” (EG 74), and place itself at the service of the necessary dialogue (cf. EG 74). With regard to Mary we believe “in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (EG 288). For the Gospel is a revolution of love.

You, dear brother Pallottines, have realized a heroic deed of love and set forth a great sign: You have given the Schoenstatt Family the shrine of the Blessed Mother in the valley, the Original Shrine. With that you have ignited a powerful fire for a new cooperation for the future. For that I thank you with all my heart. And I am privileged to quote Reverend Father Rheinbay with the sentence he formulated regarding “spirits of fire,” and apply it to us here: “Where people treat each other with a spirit of faith, society also changes.” [5] I invite you: Let us look forward together, carried „by the inner fire of renewal“! “This fire hardens the mind and not the heart.” Yes, the present “epochal change” challenges us and obliges us “to get (newly) involved with our all strength (that is love!) in the divine game of life.” [6]

For this I personally trust in the help and guidance of the Blessed Mother. It is not only the picture of the “Mother Thrice Admirable” that came from Freiburg to Schoenstatt that accompanies me on my way. For many years the picture of “Mary, Untier of Knots” has also accompanied me. She has already untied many complicated knots in my life and became for me the woman who builds bridges and leads together, the one who binds together in an alliance, in the covenant. I cannot whatsoever imagine it otherwise than that Mary wants to continue to accompany us and lead us together anew. To her we are privileged to entrust the continuing way into the future. Amen.

[1] Ansgar Faller SAC, Vinzenz Pallotti, Gott, die unendliche Liebe, Friedberg 1981, S. 46

[2] cf. Karl Stetter, Vinzenz Pallotti, Friedberg 1975, S. 98

[3] ibid. S. 93

[4] cf. Sermon on February 2,1913, in: Peter Wolf (Ed.), His Mission, Our Mission,
Vallendar 2012, p. 29)

[5] Fr. Paul Rheinbay SAC, Wir alle sind berufen – Pallottis Zukunftsbild für heute, in: P. Ulrich Scherer
SAC (Ed.), Unio – unsere Art, Kirche zu sein, Friedberg, 2013, S. 265 – 277, hier: S. 277

[6] ibid.

Jesus Christ, a joy ever new, a joy which is shared – Frank Donio sac

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Introductory Reflection – Spiritual Preparation for the General Congress of the Union in July 2015

 “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” (Evangelii Gaudium 3)

      Pope Francis offers us a simple yet profound invitation to constant revival of faith in our lives. Through our continual encounter with Jesus, we are renewed and our hearts filled with the joy of the Gospel (cf. EG 1). This joy, which comes from our encounter with the love of God, moves us outward, beyond ourselves, our cares, our concerns, our needs. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG 8). The love that we have received stirs joy within us that moves us out into the world on mission as evangelisers who do not proselytise, but attract through our witness. (cf. EG 14). Through this way of attraction, we members of the Union, through reviving faith and rekindling charity, help others experience “Jesus Christ, a joy ever new, a joy which is shared (cf. EG 2, section title).”

      For the General Congress of the Union of Catholic Apostolate in Brazil in July 2015, we have taken as our theme, “Jesus Christ, a joy ever new, a joy which is shared”. As a way of preparation for the entire Union, the reflections in Apostles for Today until that time will be based on the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. This inspiring and challenging work of Pope Francis calls all the baptised to greater engagement in the life of faith, particularly through our care of the poor and of those on the peripheries. The invitation to engagement is also an invitation to evangelise. “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelisation, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment” (EG 10). This “source” is Jesus Christ.

      As members of the Union, we “promote the co-responsibility of all the baptised to revive faith and rekindle charity in the Church and in the world, and to bring all to unity in Christ” (General Statutes, 1). We, in “accordance with the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti,” are called to draw all into an encounter with the “source of authentic personal fulfilment,” Jesus Christ. Today, the place of greatest need for this encounter to occur is within the “domestic Church”, the family. Pope Francis summarises the contemporary situation of the family.

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children (EG 66).

      As the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral Concerns of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation” begins this month, we as members of the Union have already recognised the need to assist the family in deepening its encounter with Jesus who will bring true joy and fulfilment. The General Coordination Council of the Union in 2013 offered a common project for the Union this past year that focused on the second spiritual work of mercy, “instructing those lacking knowledge.” The project was called “Know God and Make God Known.” It is important to continue the effort begun in this project in light of this and next years’ Synods of Bishops focusing on the family and in our preparation for the General Congress of the Union. The letter announcing the project gave a sound process that leads to encounter with the love of Jesus Christ who will give us a joy that must be shared.

The project, “Know God and Make God Known” is:

– a spiritual project – to ‘know God’ – to commit ourselves more fully to come to know God more deeply since those who wish to evangelise must always first and continually seek to be evangelised themselves;

– an apostolic project – to ‘make God known’ – to instruct those whose knowledge of God has not yet reached the depths of their being. It involves engaging in the work of evangelisation, transmitting to others our own lived experience and knowledge of God, whether to members of our own family, our friends, our neighbours, our work colleagues.

      Using the method of the project can also bring deeper renewal to our family of the Union and greater unity among us and with Jesus Christ. All of it must be done in a spirit of love which transforms us and moves us outward in joyful sharing of the Gospel. As St. Vincent Pallotti teaches us, “if we are really animated by the spirit of love, we will always treat all with love, we will look on all with love, we will think of all with love and we will speak of all with love” (OOCC III, 338). We members of the Union are called to live a love that bears joyful witness to love of Christ. Pope Francis calls into question any hesitation on our part to live joy born out of the experience of God’s love in our lives.

Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”. I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (EG 7).

      The renewal that Pope Francis calls us to is not something that can be done alone or in a short time. Such renewal of self, others, Church, and world is done most effectively together with one another and with the Holy Spirit. Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Union and Rector General of the Society, in a letter to the Pallottine Family in India this past June offers some further insight and invites us to prayer through the words of Pope Francis:

Spiritual renewal is a work of the Holy Spirit and not the fruits of our human efforts alone. Therefore, we wish to pray with Pope Francis: “Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love…Star of the new evangelisation, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illumining even the fringes of the world. Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia” (EG 288).

Reflection Questions

Ø What are the ways in which I daily encounter Jesus Christ, deepen my relationship with him, and share the joy of the Gospel?

Ø Can I think of one or more people with whom I could share something more of my ‘knowledge’ of God, of my relationship with him?

Ø What apostolic initiatives can we as NCCs, LCCs, groups and members and collaborators of the Union organise to concretely evangelise families, to help families come to a more profound living experience and knowledge of the love of Christ and to choose to live a deeper and more authentic Christian witness?

Ø How can we support families in the Union in an ongoing way in their path to grow and be transformed more deeply in the love of Christ in daily life?

                                            Fr. Frank Donio SAC,

                                            Washington, D.C., USA

____________________________________________________

Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Chickens Beaten By The Rain – Mission Sunday Reflection

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Too Tired for the Challenges of Evangelii Gaudium?

Talk presented at the IMU Mission Sunday Celebration, 16th Oct. 2014, Marianella

Kathleen McGarvey OLA

1)   Introduction

Since returning from Nigeria to work in Ireland just a year ago, November 2013, I have been struck by the general air of fatigue, tiredness, lack of purpose, lack of relevance that seems to dominate the missionary and religious circle in Ireland today. Somebody said to me that missionaries in Ireland no longer are joyful, we have allowed a cloud to overwhelm us and we are just like chickens beaten by rain. In fact, I have recently heard missionaries in this country referred to as ‘dead ducks’. This was of course used in an analogical sense but it very aptly and very strongly expresses the heaviness and tiredness that is in the air, both within our individual missionary organizations and at the level of national structures. This tiredness is in very striking contrast to the enthusiasm and energy and purpose which bounce from the Pope’s encyclical Evangelii Gaudium and from the Pope’s Message for this year’s Mission Sunday.IMG_1210Near the end of his Message the Pope says: “let us not be robbed of the joy of evangelization”. I think this Mission Sunday is indeed a good opportunity for us missionaries in Ireland to ask ourselves: Have we been robbed of the joy of evangelization, and if so, what are we going to do about it? I am very grateful to Fr Hugh and all in the IMU for inviting me to say a few words here today during this Mission celebration and I have decided to use the occasion to reflect on this contrast and the challenge to reconcile the two: our ‘tiredness’ with the joy of evangelization, the joy of the Gospel, spoken off continuously by the Pope.

I will first look briefly at why we are (or say we are) tired. In fact, we might conclude after hearing my examination that really we are not tired at all but we have much more energy within us than we are prepared to imagine or admit. If we do, that admittance in itself could be energizing! Secondly, I will present, in the light of the Popes advice, ways in which we might overcome that tiredness, and thirdly I will look at how we might be called to transmit our buoyed up energy, our hidden joy, to others in Ireland and beyond today. I don’t intend to offer any conclusive strategic plan, as it were, but my hope is to generate some discussion and help to rekindle our fire as an Irish Missionary Church.

2)   Why we are (or say we are) tired?

The first question then is why do we feel we are tired? From my own experience, I believe it has a lot to do with the realities we are facing. I speak not so much to the reality of lay missionary groups as to that of missionary religious and priests: Our time and energy are taken up with jubilees and funerals as we remember yesteryears and sing the glories of the past; Few if any ‘young’ blood has entered our missionary congregations in the last twenty years; We have the responsibility of ensuring our very great number of elderly and infirm members are adequately accompanied and cared for; We are far too often under the attack and ridicule of the media; Our once-glorious reputations have been seriously tarnished; Stark and painful truths have been revealed about the sins committed within our structures by many of our own personnel; We have a moral obligation to compensate the hurts inflicted by our members or the structures we represent and to show compassion to the victims as also to the perpetrators; We must deal carefully and pastorally with those criminals who seek to avail of our vulnerability and compassion for their personal gain; We have to carefully negotiate the heavy weight of the financial and legal issues which crop up daily so as to ensure that as registered charities we are legally compliant, our investments are intact, and our future welfare is secure. What little energy remains is consumed by our efforts to maintain the few apostolates we have under our responsibility, whether in Ireland or beyond.

The tiredness may also result from a greatly reduced conviction in what we believe, what we stand for, and what we represent. Two basic motivations of the past were that there was no salvation outside the Church, so it was urgent that the Church be firmly established everywhere, and the West was best for all the Rest so we had to go out to save the people of underdeveloped nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, primarily through education and health services. Nowadays these convictions are no more: the Church is more vibrant in many of these nations than it is in Ireland; the authoritarian patriarchal clerical and sacramentalised church represents an institution we are not particularly proud to have helped to spread; salvation of the ‘soul’ is not the monopoly of the church or indeed a major concern for many of us; and the local governments or other aid agencies are better able to provide for the needs of underdevelopment in these nations. Hence, many Irish missionaries feel the era of mission has passed. We no longer, with any real enthusiasm, invite young people to assume this life commitment for themselves. We seem to have lost conviction both in missionary life and in religious life. If we feel we have anything worth offering to young people it is simply the possibility of voluntary work overseas for some months or years in the area of development.

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis acknowledges the real and constant challenges of pastoral work: “Along this journey of evangelization we will have our moments of aridity, darkness and even fatigue.” (EG 287). He dedicates the second half of Chapter two, (from par. 76 – 109) to an examination of why so many ‘pastoral workers’, including missionaries, have lost the sense of joy associated with evangelization. Much of what I have mentioned can be found there as well as other reasons such as a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity, a cooling of fervour, a neglect of the poor and of the Gospel, a spiritual desertification. The biggest threat of all, the Pope says, is “when faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness… Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate” (EG 83)! He warns us against becoming “querulous, disillusioned pessimists, sourpusses.” (EG 85) and repeats: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization! (EG 83).

I don’t believe Pope Francis is naïve; he knows what we face and he faces it and much more himself. He does not live in a utopian cloud and has not allowed himself to be sheltered in the ecclesial ivory tower. He has been described as a man of faith-filled prayer and justice-filled action. Joy for him is not a superficial emotion but is a vital tool in his evangelizing mission.

I read somewhere that it is unrealistic to be in a constant state of joy. I imagine even Pope Francis has his moments! There is a concept called the “Romance, Disillusionment, True Joy cycle” which is often used during marriage counselling. The Romance stage is one of high energy, glorious visions of the future – I reckon this was the stage of the Irish Church of the 1900s to c. 1980 when many of today’s missionaries (most of who are aged 50 – 90) entered this way of life. Then the Disillusionment stage of anger, disappointment, fatigue, soul-searching, re-grounding… I believe that is where we are now, a stage where we look beyond the chaff to focus on the wheat, to rediscover the who and why of our work and our life. Then, if we persevere, comes the True Joy stage, of deeper love, deeper faith, more realistic outlook, a joy that has been tried and tested: we pray that stage is around the corner waiting for us to “awake from our slumber, arise from our sleep”.  How then can we shake of the tiredness which we feel today and get to that third stage of True Joy?

3)   Ways in which we might overcome that tiredness

To answer this question I refer to just five pieces of advice drawn from the Pope. It could all be summed up of course in one piece of advice: Be joyful! But that is so simple it doesn’t seem realistic! When we get bogged down with all our concerns, it is not easy to maintain good humour! So, what advice does he give us on how to be joyful:

       i.          Return to the source of our joy.

bangkok-thailand-chicken-hen-chicksThe first is very simple: Return to the source of our joy. In Evangelii Gaudium, in the Message for Mission Sunday, and in basically all his homilies and addresses since his election as Pope, he emphasises Joy as a gift from God, a gift that fills us from within and which flows through us to others. The first advice then is very simply to believe in and be open to the gift of joy. This boils down to our faith and our relationship with Christ. Recognising that many Christians, including missionaries, no longer feel the quiet joy of God’s love, Pope Francis says: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this, unfailingly, every day” (EG 3). Pope Francis adds: “Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love…we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption…Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization.  For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG 7-8)

     ii.          Do only what we can do and what we find purpose in doing:

The second is also simple and it is more pragmatic: Do only what we can do and what we find purpose in doing: The Pope tells us “The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable.” (EG 82). A consequence of the decreasing numbers in missionary congregations in Ireland is that members may feel obliged to accept appointments they would rather not do. In the words of the Pope: “As a result, work becomes more tiring than necessary, even leading at times to illness. Far from a content and happy tiredness, this is a tense, burdensome, dissatisfying and, in the end, unbearable fatigue” (EG 82). The challenge here is for maturity in discerning whether or not an apostolate asked of us corresponds to Gods will for us at this time in our lives; if we feel it does not, then we should not accept the task. While personnel may be few, nobody is indispensable and there is nothing more stagnating than members holding posts which they then refuse to fulfil. Either somebody else will be found who will do the task better or another manner will be found to fulfil the need which must be met. God does not want unhappy workers in the vineyard.

Other ways in which we allow ourselves fall into the trap of fatigue, mentioned by Pope Francis, is that as missionary organizations, we sometimes “throw [our] selves into unrealistic projects and are not satisfied simply to do what [we] reasonably can”. Or we “have lost real contact with people and so depersonalize [our] work that [we] are more concerned with the road map than with the journey itself.” (EG 83)

   iii.          Get beyond our habriaqueísmo

The third piece of advice is to actually do what we feel called to do, rather than simply talking about what has to be done. In the words of the Pope: “How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals!” He reminds us that our history as a Church was a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work. Instead of working today, “we waste time talking about ‘what needs to be done’ (in Spanish we call this the sin of ‘habriaqueísmo’)… We indulge in endless fantasies and we lose contact with the real lives and difficulties of our people” (EG 96).

I believe these words are indeed apt for us here at this moment in our history. Chapters at congregational level, study commissions, think tanks, meetings at one level and the other…. Plans, Minutes, Reports… Of course it is important to plan and to be strategic. But do we go beyond the necessary? How much more energizing it would be for all of us to actually go out to meet our neighbours face to face, get involved in people’s real lives, and truly meet Christ who is moving among us and speaking to us through one another, especially the poor.

   iv.          Move beyond self-preservation

A fourth advice is to free ourselves from the obsession of self-preservation. Francis says: “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (EG 27). The aim of our activities, then, is evangelization, that is the transmission of the love of God, the joy of the Gospel. It is not the continuation of our missionary institute or of any historical structure.

I often find a sense of hopelessness among my OLA Sisters because there is not an army of young people coming up behind us! Is the continuation, the preservation, of our institute or our networks or any other structure, the aim of our missionary endeavours? It cannot be! Structures are temporary and of use only in so far as they help in the transmission of God’s love and God’s Reign in the world.  I find these words of the Pope, calling us to a new impulse channelled towards the evangelization of the world we live in today rather than our own self-preservation, are indeed challenging, reminding all of us of why we exist and encouraging us to live that mission until the end, in whatever way we can.

     v.          Sing of the glories and the beauty of our life

IMG_0527The fifth is to recognise with praise and thanks the gift of our life now, not just the past. It is certainly energizing to feel that one’s life is worthwhile and is attractive to others. In the past, missionary institutes did not have to put a lot of creativity into finding ways to promote their way of life: young people saw what they did and how they did it and found it attractive. Today, this does not seem to be the case. We celebrate our past glories as missionaries, taking great pride in the hospitals and schools we established in Africa and elsewhere, but we find little to celebrate in what we are doing today. According to Pope Francis, the lack of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life is often “due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract… Wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise” (Message 2014). I believe there is something for all of us to learn from this: Are we sufficiently convinced of the value of our way of life, so that our fervour will be contagious and others will be drawn to it? Vocation recruitment is not our aim, as I have said, but it is life-giving for ourselves to believe in our way of life as a very valid and beautiful one, a gift from God which we are called to share, a gift which has helped and still helps us find meaning and fulfilment and has made it possible for us to transmit God’s love to others in very meaningful and life-giving ways.  Only then will it be ‘attractive’ to others and in turn will give more energy to ourselves.

4)   Ways to transmit our buoyed up energy, our hidden joy, today

Having examined why we are tired and had some advice on how we might overcome that tiredness, I want to briefly mention a few areas in which I believe we as missionaries are called to transmit our buoyed up energy, our hidden joy, to others in Ireland today.

       i.          Promote and facilitate missionary vocations

Firstly, there is still and there will always be need for Irish missionaries abroad just as there is need for missionaries from other countries to come on mission to Ireland. Whether clergy, religious or lay, Irish missionaries who go abroad as well as missionaries who come to Ireland from abroad, give a very concrete witness to the universal love of God and the selfless going out ad extra beyond our frontiers on mission ad gentes. Mission cannot be understood in a one-way sense as it once was. Mutuality in mission is necessary since mission is an expression of the universality and selfless unconditional self-emptying all-embracing love of God and the all-inclusive communion of God’s kingdom. It is important to continue to promote Irish missionary vocations abroad and to facilitate the integration of missionaries who come to work here in Ireland. In his Message for today, Pope Francis emphasises the occasion as one in which we rekindle the desire and moral obligation of all the baptised to take joyful part in the mission ad gentes – including through prayer and monetary contributions (cf. EG 40, 51, 120).

     ii.          Become involved in the local Church

One of the things I find most striking about our presence as missionary institutes in Ireland is our quasi separate existence to that of the local Church. I believe this situation has evolved over the years as a result of the pre-Vatican II practice whereby mission was understood as a very marginal practice in the Church, used solely to describe the work of those who went abroad, to the developing countries, to ‘spread the faith’. This has of course changed today with an emphasis on the call of all baptised as agents of evangelization (EG 120). Some local congregations here are very much part of the local Church but specifically missionary congregations live almost on another planet, known only for their mission appeals. I believe we are greatly challenged to seek to overcome that dichotomy and find ways to integrate into the life of our local church communities so as to be mutually enriched spiritually and by way of life experience.

There are also many people in Ireland, living around us, who have lost faith in the Church and no longer feel drawn to its institutional structures. We are challenged to try to find ways to open to them our spaces for quiet, prayer, faith sharing, reflection, to help satisfy the spiritual emptiness and sense of loneliness and meaninglessness felt by so many in Ireland today.

   iii.          Ministry to the Poor

A central part of the present Pope’s pontificate is his emphasis on ministry to and with the poor. He himself has adopted a simpler lifestyle, dress, living quarters. He continuously reminds us that we must let ourselves be evangelized by the poor. In the Message for Mission Sunday he says “The joy of the Gospel is born of the encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor”. He reminds us that God revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom to the little ones, “the humble, the simple, the poor, the marginalised, those without voice, those weary and burdened” and we are invited to embrace the mysterious wisdom God wishes to share with us through them. With our traditional focus on helping the ‘poor’ abroad, we missionaries are certainly challenged to find relevant and concrete ways of being more actively engaged with the great number of poor, marginalised and vulnerable in our society here today. Witness speaks louder than words and is always the most credible form of proclamation. Somehow, the tables have turned in Ireland and religious missionary congregations seem to be more comfortable and secure than many of our neighbours. What radical choices must we make to authentically allow ourselves be evangelized by the poor and give a credible witness of evangelical poverty and our trust in providence? How can we do this while also responsibly caring for our members? This is a question I don’t know how to answer but which I believe we must ask. I also believe that asking this question and finding a response to it, as radical and demanding as that response may need to be, is key to our discovering again the joy of the Gospel, the joy of evangelization.

   iv.           Interreligious and Intercultural dialogue

Among the ways in which we are called to transmit our buoyed up energy and hidden joy as missionaries is openness to the great diversity of cultures and religions in Irish society today. Welcoming the stranger, facilitating exchange, inviting our parishes and local communities to become involved in the enriching experience of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, are very necessary activities and are ways in which missionaries can witness to the universal communion which is at the core of all mission. Indeed, in our present global circumstances this is particularly important. It is not when conflict arises that dialogue should be sought. It is now that relationships can be established and avenues for sincere and life-giving dialogue must be explored.

     v.          Other fields of missionary outreach in Ireland

Reaching out to refugees and asylum seekers, advocating for international justice, working for the prevention of trafficking and offering succour to its victims, are also very necessary ways in which missionaries are called to take a leading role in Ireland today.

We are weighed down by the many responsibilities of our institutes. I would suggest that shared collaborative projects of members of diverse missionary institutes could be initiated, similar to the shared project in Sudan, so as to facilitate the engagement of available members in specific missionary projects in Ireland.

I believe that it is through being engaged, in whatever small or great way that we can,  in these ‘new worlds’ which exist in Ireland today that we are likely to discover the joy that is within us and which comes fully alive when we allow it to flow through us to others.

5)   Conclusion

This time about fifty two years ago the Church was gathered in Rome for Vatican II. In the Pope’s Opening Speech on October 11th, 1962, John XXIII noted that in the daily exercise of his pastoral office, he sometimes had to listen to “prophets of gloom” who insisted “that our era, in contrast with past eras, is getting worse”. Such doomageers, he lamented, “are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand”. He himself, by contrast, saw Divine Providence “leading us to a new order of things.” Today we would seem to be living a somewhat similar experience. Pope Francis is insisting on joy, the joy which is centered on a clear faith in the merciful all-inclusive love of God who is always with us; others are insisting on preservation of the law and of the structures. We are living in a time of change as we know too well from our realities as Irish missionary institutes.

IMG_0619-001In the book of Joel, a book full of old men’s visions and young men’s dreams, we hear: “Listen to this you elders; everybody in the country attend! Has anything like this ever happened in your day, or in your ancestors’ days? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation”(Joel 1: 2-3). Today is the time for new visions and new dreams. We want to be relevant today, not yesterday. With vision this is achievable. It is a time for hope. The Lord is asking us to trust that God is in this time, and that we do not allow the circumstances of the present to disillusion us or rob us of the joy of evangelization.

I believe it is appropriate to conclude with the invitation extended to us by the Pope in his Message for Mission Sunday: “I invite you to immerse yourself in the joy of the Gospel and nurture a love that can light up your vocation and your mission. I urge each of you to recall, as if you were making an interior pilgrimage, that ’first love’ with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not for the sake of nostalgia but in order to persevere in joy.”

May the Lord give us that grace.