Sunday, October 11, 2020

Apostles for Today - Oct. 2020


The Catholic Church 
– a moral point of reference for humanity 

    I want to begin this article with an invitation to focus our attention on these words of Jesus: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
     Simeon reminds us that Jesus isa light to enlighten the nations” (Luke 2:32); for his part Zechariah refers to the Lord as “the Rising Sun who has come from on high to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79). And so, He who is “light” and “the Rising Sun” appoints us as “light of this world”, calling us to a mission that requires courage, consistency and fidelity. 
    The darkness of despair, moral relativism and sloth are covering the whole world and all of humankind is experiencing the effects of their presence among us.
   In the course of history we have “evolved” in different areas: we organize ourselves as societies, we define the principles of law and of justice, and thanks to scientific progress we have learned how to combat diseases. However, at the same time we have distanced ourselves from God and bit by bit we “discover” that faith is merely superstition, and that religion is of no use if one really wants to find happiness. 
    This supposed evolutionary journey has led to a negligent neglect of what is essential. We forget what is really and truly important, losing sight of the moral principles that govern our existence. 
    Saint Ignatius of Loyola tells us: “Man is created” (Ignatian Exercises 23); if we take these words in a non-religious context we can reach the following conclusions: 
    I am a being: I exist, I am a reality and my existence changes the existence of my environment. 
    My being does not come from myself: I did not take the decision to exist; I did not choose the moment of my existence; I am not aware of how the world was prior to my existence. 
    My being comes from a superior being: There has to be a being that made the essential decisions of “my being”; that is someone who will make the vital decisions for my existence, decisions that were not made by me. 
    When we subject these truths to a deeper analysis, we discover that the journey of progress is taking us towards our own destruction: wars and hatred are clear proof of what it means to live without God.         The Catholic Church has the responsibility to open the doors of paradise to the millions of souls that have lost their way in this world; the Lord has given to us the grace to be called and He gives us everything we need to be able to respond to that call. This is a time of grace in which Jesus purifies His Church and He invites us to work together; it is time to unite the diverse charisms that the Holy Spirit has bestowed both individually and as community, and to put into action all of our good intentions. 
        We have to turn our attention to the poor, to those who are sad, to the oppressed, to the defenseless, because Our Lord lives in them. In the same way it is time to raise our voices, to proclaim the truth with courage, but above all, it is time to bring joy once more, a joy that seems to have been lost in the midst of much confusion. Finally, I want to invite you to pray sincerely, to perfect our relationship with Christ, from whom all good comes. 
    To Him be honor and glory forever and ever. 
Mr. Gilson Freddy Roncon
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
___________________________________________________

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uacgensec@gmail.com

Monday, September 14, 2020

Apostles for Today Sept


 


  Apostles for Today         
Prayer and reflection 

for Sept 2020

 “The earth is also like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to  embrace us” (Laudato Si, n. 1).    

The encyclical “Laudato Si” has revitalized awareness toward our common home that is our mother earth. The earth has a dignity, it is not simply a material object to be exploited for our needs but it has to be respected because it was created by God to be a place to live in, the home of humanity both in the present and in the future.

Today the earth is abused and plundered, one can lament; this lament unites us to all those who are poor and all ‘the rejected' of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one, individuals, families, groups, communities, parishes, religious institutes, local societies, nations and international communities to an “ecological conversion”, according to the expression of Saint John Paul II, that is, to “change course” assuming the responsibility and the loveliness of a commitment to the care of our common home. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew has also given a strong warning: “That the human race destroys the biological diversity [...] they contribute to climate change [...] they pollute the waters, the ground, the air: all of these are sins.”

The European Christian Movements among whom the Pallottine Family is also represented by means of the involvement of my community, the Fifth Dimension (Quinta Dimensione) dedicated May 9th of this year to celebrate Europe Day precisely with the following theme:

“An Integral Ecology: a sustainable utopia for Europe”: this was the title of the event on which the focus is “Yes to creation defending nature and the environment, gifts of God to be defended with the utmost respectful commitment for future generations.”

I had the pleasure of collaborating in the preparation of the event and I was one of the moderators. Many experts from this sector took part, they demonstrated the very heart of the theme, first of all in a scientific way, exploring the theme from the point of view of Christian re-discovery and then with a more reflective moment: an occasion of ecumenical prayer with representatives of the various Churches, each one of them gifted us with a moment of grace and reflection in a unique manner. This event in respecting the regulations governing the present Covid-19 emergency, was carried out online and is available on YouTube.

A strong spirit of co-operation saw approximately 500 entries on live channels, and in each of these accounts there were at least two participants - drawn together from the north and south of Italy in order to solemnize together the aforementioned Europe Solidarity Day.

As always this special day gathers the diverse expression of all the Christian churches, in this case in a common project of respect for creation.

The interventions placed great emphasis on the health of the Earth and on how we can act, cooperating together for the Common Good, caring with respect for our common Home, choosing a lifestyle that is sober and which can be shared, which is ethical and ecological. They helped us understand how much this theme is felt by all. It unites us all; it brings us to uniting our efforts and our wills for a better and more humane world, and not just for Europe.

The message of the encyclical and of the speakers is that “only an integral ecology that encompasses the environment, the economy and society, culture and daily life, orientated towards the Common Good and to justice between the generations” is the future.

All of us can observe that there is an environmental crisis and a crisis of society that has never been seen before now. Our mother earth is gravely sick; it is on the danger list. In various parts of the world awareness of the importance of the environment has spread, as well as the preoccupation for the damage that the earth is suffering.

God entrusted to humankind the task of working for and caring for the earth. The moment has arrived for us to reflect on how much we have promised and never carried through with regard to the safeguarding of creation. Let us take cognisance today the cry of pain that comes from our blue planet, which is the home of every living species and not just humankind. Humankind has, through egoism, exhausted all the resources of the planet in a most inconsiderate way. The time for words is finished; now we need to begin the process of entering into a new relationship with creation. We need to show a greater respect in how we use the resources which the earth offers to us because on this depends the very future of humanity.

We men and women are special in the position occupied within creation and how we are integrated within creation. If we take upon ourselves the care of the earth, she, for her part, will take care of us like a mother takes care of her children.

In the world there exists a harmonious ecosystem in which the streams, the seas, the hills and all the living beings are interconnected. No single element can exist without the other. ALL (God) is in all. St. Vincent reminds us to seek God in all things because we will find Him in all things, to seek Him always in order to find Him always. We human beings need to learn to contemplate creation and to appreciate its inbuilt harmony.

In order to build a better world we need a sustainable utopia and the clarion call of the Pope to an integral ecology can help us to achieve it, but we cannot promote an integral development if there is no healthy environment. Creation needs the contribution of each and every one of us.

We have an obligation to do something to change our attitude to these issues confronting creation, our behavior coupled with our sincere repentance and conversion will better prove that humankind's end and true happiness do not reside in economic interests and in selfishness but in love for our fellow human beings and a love of nature. In this way the world will transfigure itself and become a terrestrial paradise.

Let us ask God to increase within us the courage to use our scientific abilities to protect and to safeguard nature and the environment which He has given to us by living new lifestyles in respect for future generations.

Pope Francis, on April 22nd last, on the occasion of the 50th Earth Day, said the following, among other things in his message: “Because of our selfishness we have failed in our responsibility to be guardians and stewards of the earth. We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious dis-repair. We have polluted it, we have despoiled it, endangering our very lives (...) a Spanish saying (...) states as follows: God always forgives, we humans sometimes forgive, sometimes not; the earth never forgives.”

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents for having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. - Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 13

Mr. Giuseppe Del Coiro

___________________________________________________
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Apostles for Today - July 2020

Apostles for Today 

July 2020

Prayer and Reflection


QUESTIONS IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC

The pandemic has forced us to remain at home. No journeys, no shopping centres, consuming only what is necessary. From one day to another we realized that all those things that we considered essential were not essential at all, and all those things that were out there on the periphery of our lives and to which we had not dedicated much time or effort, thee have become fundamental: to embrace our children, to walk with our friends, to visit our grandparents, to read a good book, to enjoy nature and the open-air spaces, to listen to good music, to celebrate the faith in community in our churches, etc. We can say that we have been forced to stop and to contemplate how we are living our lives.

First and foremost, in the modern world we live in and with the growth of technical and scientific power we have embarked upon the adventure of conquering the entire universe. We must be very thankful for the technological and scientific progress that have been made and which have advanced the quality of life in general and particularly in the fields of health and of medicine.

But somewhere along the road we lost some things. Like Ulysses in the Odyssey on the way to permanent conquest, all the mysteries have to be worked out and all have to be known and understood by humankind. 

There is no place for mysticism and for contemplation.
The objective: to dominate, to produce, to exploit everything possible in order to reach a high level of
development (a development that is distributed unequally, obviously because at the centre one does not find the human person, rather one finds the pursuit of power for power’s sake). Nature, the entire earth and even humanity itself have become a means to an end: to dominate and to produce at all costs. Every activity that does not “produce” for this system is considered insignificant, a waste of time: art, philosophy and theology are obviously to be disregarded, relegated to the cellar where the objects that have lost their value are to be found.

But the pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves some questions:
where are we going? What is the objective of wanting to dominate everything and everybody at every moment? What sense has the acquisition of so much knowledge and power if in the end we are no happier? As a human species, does it make sense for humanity to live in a system in which the majority of the world’s population do not have their basic needs satisfied? Does it make sense to continue to live in such a way as if the natural resources were infinite,when in reality they are not?

Five years before this pandemic, Pope Francis told us in the encyclical Laudato Si:

“Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that ‘less is more’ (n. 222).
“Understanding the quality of life”, that short affirmation is essential! What do we understand by quality of life’? Our present lifestyle makes us believe that a good quality of life is that which grows in extensions, that is, acquiring things, expanding our property and possessions, knowledge, resources, clothing, houses, cars, titles, etc. But Jesus and, naturally, Vincent Pallotti, have taught us that an authentic human life is that which grows in depth. Depth enriched with the capacity to love, with values, with the capacity of rejoicing in the act of giving, of being happy, of enjoying the simple things of life. 

We hope that this hard/difficult situation of pandemic will help us to become better persons and more aware of how many things we have no need of in order to live. We hope that we will be wiser and concentrate on the essential and not confuse extension with depth. We also need to be aware that our Common Home and the human person can never be a means, rather he/she are ends in themselves.
We have transferred the economic paradigm and commercial relationships to human bonds and this is a big mistake. The person can never be a means for satisfying my selfishness but the person has to always be an end in themselves. People, just like creation should not always be contributing to an economic advantage at all costs.

We must really and truly call on God to make us more aware, in such a way that the constant thirst for
domination is transformed into a hunger and thirst for service. May our Christian communities become alternative spaces to the culture of domination, that they may be spaces where everybody is included and protected. Communities that are schools of moderation and spaces of gratuitousness:
“Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures” (n. 222).

Through the intercession of Saint Vincent Pallotti, we ask God, that after this pandemic we may have learned the lesson that we depend upon each other, that we all live in the one Common Home and that we are all in the same boat together.

Some questions for reflection and for personal and community prayer:During self-isolation at home, did you think about how you live? What are the most important things for you?Do you think that in your life you are more preoccupied with growth in extension or growth in depth?Does everybody in your Christian community feel accepted and welcomed?Do you treat others as a means or as an end?Do you feel that you live in Christian moderation?Do you have a true awareness of care for our Common Home?What activities could you promote in your community in order to take better care of our Common
Home? 

Fr. Lic. José Luis Gulpio SAC
Licentiate in Philosophy Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome
Postgraduate in Educational Management – Catholic University of Uruguay


Thursday, June 4, 2020

apostles for today JUNE 2020


Monthly Reflection,
June 2020 

-

Laudato Sì and Pallottine Spirituality

Laudato Sì – Our Common Home

The communities that do not generate vocations are sad expressions of sterility. The encyclical of Pope Francis interrogates us on those things that distance us from the Gospel and that prevent us from being witnesses to the infinite love of God. Without the witness of healthy relationships our houses will inevitably remain empty.
We can see some points of contact between Pallottine spirituality and “Laudato Sì”. For Pallotti, the spiritual dimension is centred on the relationship between the person and God. The person is limited, sinful and fragile in the face of the greatness of God, who is full of mercy and infinite. Because of this, it seems that the human being is insignificant, nothing and this leaves him/her almost in existential conflict. This is because we are like rough stones that have to be restored and polished in such a way that the best in us can appear in the merciful light of His love.
For that reason, purification will take place only until there is fraternal co-existence with the necessary adjustments in such a way that motivated and stimulated, each person achieves their own personal growth.
Therefore, detachment and openness without prejudices are essential in creating a respectful environment in communities which in turn leads each individual to take an interest in the other so that the outcome is living together in mutual respect that considers the natural, cultural, spiritual and psychological environment.
Pope Francis, in “Laudato Sì” suggests to us an integral ecology, which involves taking care of nature but also taking care of each other, without excluding anyone. The preoccupation with the natural world also involves the life of society. Pallotti, during the course of his life, occupied himself with defining the outlines of the relationship between the person and God. Furthermore, such a relationship involves the inclusion of the other and of the environment in which we live.
Pallotti, because of his physical fragility, was not able to become a Franciscan, but he lived intensely the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi. He also lived profoundly Francis’ total surrender to God, blessing the created world in his relationship as a finite, limited man with the infinitely merciful Creator. In all things Pallotti revealed God as One who loved him to infinity notwithstanding his insignificance, misery and sin. He lived profoundly his total surrender to God, as Francis of Assisi did in his admiration, praise and glory of God for all that exists in nature.
The relationship between Pallottine spirituality and “Laudato Sì” can be seen in the emphasis given by Pallotti regarding his limitation and fragility, but always raised up by the infinite love of God for mankind and for all of nature.
The care that we have to take of the world created by God obliges us to act with responsibility, love and respect. In this way we will be custodians of creation, God’s gift to us. God, in His infinite love, never tires of exhorting us and inviting us to be united, altruistic and generous with our common home.

Sr. Terezinha Barbosa CSAC
São João do Paraíso/Mascote – Brazil

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Apostles for Today - May 2020


Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
May 2020

 “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature
cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.” (Laudato Si’, 91)  

On 24 May of this month, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si ’. This month also marks the 185th anniversary of St. Vincent Pallotti’s “Appeal to anyone who has zeal for the glory of God  and charity and compassion for the spiritual salvation of his neighbor.” (OOCC IV, 119) In the Appeal of the Month of May as it is commonly called, Pallotti offers an invitation to all to collaborate in the work he calls Catholic Apostolate. A summary of this work is in number 14 of the Appeal :   

“In a few words, therefore, in order to associate with the Catholic Apostolate, it is important to commit oneself to reviving Holy Faith  and piety  in one’s native country, and to spreading it to the remotest  areas  of the two hemispheres.” (OOCC IV, 137-38)  

The Catholic Apostolate called  forth  “all Catholics”  into  the  apostolic work.  (OOCC, 124) Pope Francis in Laudato Si’  speaks in a similar way and even calls it an “appeal”. (14) He says: “All  of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” (14). Both appeals are calls to co-responsibility which is also at the heart of the way of the Union of Catholic Apostolate as number 1 of the General Statutes states clearly:  
  
“The Union of Catholic Apostolate, a gift of the Holy Spirit, is a communion of the faithful who, united with God and with one another in accordance with the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti, promote co-responsibility of all the baptized to revive faith and rekindle charity in the Church and in the world, and to bring all to unity in Christ.”  
  
We are called to be in communion with God, with neighbor, and with all of creation. As Pope Francis points  
out, if we “lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” then we cannot be in “deep communion”. (LS, 91) Compassion is to “suffer with” as Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross out of love. The love of Christ impels us  forth to care for each other. St. Vincent Pallotti expresses this type of compassion in the form of an aspiration for himself:  
  
“I would like to become food to feed the hungry, clothing to cover the naked, drink to quench the thirst of the thirsty, a soothing potion for the stomachs of the weak, a soft bed for the repose of the tired limbs of the weary, medicine and health for the sick, light for the blind, life to raise the dead, so that if they could return to live on this earth they might do great things, which they would certainly do for the glory of my God, of my Father, of my Creator, of my Good, of my All.” (OOCC X, 115)  
  
When there is not an integral ecology rooted in faith and science, then an imbalance will occur, communion  
will be lost, and compassion and tenderness for the needs of human beings and the natural environment will not be cared for well. A person with a self-centered attitude has little concern for God or creation. It is simply about self, an inflated pride that makes oneself the center of the universe, rather than placing God in the center of all things and recognizing the beauty of God’s creation, human beings and nature. When the human person is not seen as in the image and likeness of God, then it is easy to dispose of them. We become a “throwaway culture”  as Pope Francis often mentions. (LS, 16) Some may be quick to say that they do not act in this way. Pope Francis  offer us an examination of conscience with this analysis:  
“Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel  
busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment. An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us, whose presence ‘must not be contrived but found, uncovered’.” (LS, 225)  
  
Serenity which is true and lasting peace is found most profoundly through life in Jesus Christ. Nothing else will give us the peace that comes from him. We are in the Easter season. The Risen One is not only our hope, but also our peace, our serenity. He is compassionate and infinitely loving with us. His Mother, who we particularly venerate during the month of May, offers us the way to live the fullness of our humanity, not in pursuit of selfish  
desire, but in love of God and neighbor. Pope Francis reminds us that “an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” (LS, 11)  
  
Our “common home” created by God, the Infinite Love, requires our co-responsibility. Our care needs to extend beyond self-interest, or certain causes, to communion with all creation. We cannot leave these concerns simply to someone else. St. Vincent Pallotti and Pope Francis appeal to us to be co-responsible, to collaborate, to be in communion. It is our free choice.  God provides the grace so that we can be in “holy cooperation” with one another. Let us take up these appeals of Pallotti and the Pope and go forth as apostles of Christ into the world assisting all in loving God and all Creation more fully and deeply in true communion.   
  
What  are  ways  in  which  each  of  us  can  assist  others  in  living  more  fully  their  communion  with  God  and Creation?  
  
How can greater co-responsibility, collaboration, and communion be fosters in the life of the Union of Catholic Apostolate in a way that leads to going forth as apostles of Christ more fully and freely?  
   
Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C.  

The Director, Catholic Apostolate Center, USA 
_________________________
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uacgensec@gmail.com


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Apostles for Today - April 2020


Apostles for Today


April - 2020

Starting Over: An Invitation to take care of our “Common Home”  

 
 In re-reading the Encyclical “Laudato Si” I found a text that touched me and inspired me to propose this reflection.  Pope Francis refers to the Earth Charter: “The Earth Charter calls on all of us to leave behind a phase of self-destruction and to begin anew, but we have not yet developed a universal consciousness that makes this possible.  This is why I propose once again that special challenge: “As never before in history, our common destiny obliges us to search for a new beginning […].  May our era be remembered for the re-awakening of a new reverence for life, for the resolve to attain sustainability, for the acceleration of the struggle for justice and for peace, and for the joyful celebration of life” (1).” 
 In the light of this text, I propose to make a comparison, based on a reflection of Leonardo Boff, between the two documents of global relevance on the ethics of the care of our Common Home.  This concerns the affinities between the encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato Si on the care of our Common Home and the Earth Charter. 
  
The encyclical “the care of our Common Home” and “the Earth Charter” are perhaps the only two documents of world importance that have so many common affinities.  They concern themselves with the degraded state of the Earth and of life in its various dimensions outside of the conventional vision which is limited to environmentalism.  These are two documents that can give us hope. 
  
As we can see, from the passage cited above, the encyclical knows the Earth Charter and cites it in one of the encyclical’s fundamental points: to search for a new beginning (n. 207).  This concept of a new beginning is taken on board by Pope Francis and proposed to all of humanity.  According to Leonardo Boff, there are many affinities between the two documents.  In order to facilitate our understanding, let us list some of these affinities, among others. 
  
First, it is the same spirit that pervades both texts: an analytic approach, bringing together the most secure scientific data; a critical approach, denouncing the current system that has produced the imbalance of the Earth; and a hopeful approach, indicating ways to save the earth.  It does not give up in the face of criticism and dismissal, rather it trusts in the capacity of humanity to forge a new lifestyle as well as in the innovative action of the Creator “the Sovereign Lover of life” (Wisdom 11:26) 
  
They both have the same starting point.  The Charter affirms: “the dominant models of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the reduction of resources and a massive extinction of species (Preamble 2).  The encyclical repeats this: “We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair (…) the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view” (n. 61). 
  
There is the same proposal.  The Charter affirms: “Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions and lifestyles” (Preamble 3).  The encyclical underlines: “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in ‘lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies” (n. 5). 
  
The declaration of the Charter is innovative, and proposes a new cosmological and ecological model.  “Our environmental, economic, political, social and spiritual challenges are interconnected and together we can forge inclusive solutions” (Preamble 3).  There is an echo of this affirmation in the encyclical that there are “a number of themes which will reappear as the Encyclical unfolds … the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the call to seek other ways of understanding the 
economy and progress, the value proper to every creature, the human meaning of ecology, … and the proposal of a new lifestyle” (n. 16).  What is important here is the solidarity between everybody, the shared moderation and “to replace greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing” (n. 9). 
  
The Charter affirms that “there is a spirit of kinship with all life” (Preamble 4).  The Encyclical emphasises the same point: “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection to brother sum, sister moon, to brother river and to mother earth” (n. 92).  It is Franciscan universal fraternity. 
 
The Earth Charter underlines that it is our duty “to have respect for and to take care of the community of life (…), to respect the earth in all of its diversity” (I, 1).  Every encyclical, starting with the title “to care for our Common Home”, makes this imperative a type of refrain.  It seeks “to motivate us to a more compassionate concern for the protection of our world” (n. 216) and “a culture of care that permeates all of society” (n. 231).  Here the concept of “care” emerges not just as a mere attitude of benevolence, but as a new model, being loving and being a friend of life and of all that exists and lives. 
 
 Another important affinity is the value given to social justice: the Charter maintains a strong relationship between ecology and “social and economic justice” that “protects the vulnerable and serves” those who suffer (III, 9c).  The encyclical reaches one of its central points when it affirms that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (n. 49:53). 
 
  Both the Earth Charter and the encyclical underline the current sense that “every form of life has value, regardless of its use to mankind” (I, 1a).  The Pope re-iterates that “all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another” (n. 42).  In the name of this understanding the Pope makes a vigorous criticism of anthropocentrism (nn. 115-120), since this only sees the relationship between human beings and nature in terms of using it and devastating it and not vice-versa, forgetting that humanity is part of nature and mankind’s mission is to be nature’s guardian. 
 
 The Earth Charter formulated a definition of peace that is one of the best ever reached by human reflection: (peace is) “the fullness that results from correct relations with oneself, with other people, with other cultures, with other life-forms, with the earth and with the Whole which we are part of” (16, f).  If, according to Pope Paul VI, peace is “the balance of movement” then the way is “to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God”(n. 210).  The end result of such a process is perpetual peace. 
 
 These two documents are like lighthouses that guide us in these dark times, giving back to us the necessary hope by which we can save both ourselves and our Common Home (2). 
 
 Brothers and Sisters of the UAC, it is my wish that, by reading and developing an awareness of these texts as well as the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Beloved Amazonia of the Holy Father Pope Francis, they can push us towards the construction of a universal brotherhood where there is “life in abundance for all” (John 10:10), according to the programme put forward by Jesus Christ. 
 
Fr. Gilberto Antonio Orsolin SAC 
 
FOOTNOTES 
 
th
1. The Earth Charter, Haia (June 29 2000) 
 
 
 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Apostles for Today - March 2020


Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
March 2020


“Imaging God by taking care 
of our common house”

The Holy Scripture teaches us that God created heaven and earth and all that it contains. God’s work of creation reached its climax with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1, 1-28). Every time God concluded each day of creation, as the biblical author narrates, he saw that it was good, and even very good. That goodness is what God entrusted to humankind with the duty to perpetuate it: “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1, 28). The Psalmist was so overwhelmed at God’s empowerment of humankind that he exclaimed: “What is man that you should care for him…you made him a little like a god, crowning him with glory and splendor…you made him rule over the work of your hands…” (Ps 8, 5-9). It means then that ruling over the work of God’s hand should always reflect the godliness that indwells in human beings and sustain the goodness that creation contains originally.

Jesus Christ, the Apostle of the Eternal Father, has always understood his mission as the continuation of the Father’s work: “My Father is at work and so do I” (John 5, 17). And this work is of salvation, of redeeming the world and reconciling it with the Father, that is, re-imaging human beings to God and bringing the whole of creation back to its original goodness. St. Paul, on his part, understands Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God in whom the work of creation was accomplished and reconciled with the Father. Jesus Christ is the recapitulation of creation, therefore the architect of the New creation in the Holy Spirit (Col 1, 15-20): “Behold I make all things new” (Rev 21, 1-5).

The commitment of the Church to the caring of the earth and all that it contains is inscribed within her evangelizing mission in fidelity to the commission of her Lord and Master: “As the Father sent me, so I also send you” (John 20, 21). This has been the driving force of different Pope’s commitment to the caring of our common home. Pope Francis inscribes his call to the awareness of our common call to protect the earth within the tradition of the Church. The Church cannot carry out her evangelizing mission while remaining indifferent to the state of the earth, the environment within which evangelization takes place. The reason behind this as Pope Benedict XVI said, is that there is an interconnectedness of creatures to the extent that anything that happens to one affects the others. The African vision of the world looks at the universe as a vital connection that exists between the cosmos, the divine and humankind. A traditional proverb states: “You cannot cut a branch of the tree on which you are seated”. It implies that by cutting that branch, you are most likely to fall down with it. This interconnection explains why Africans consider the universe and humankind as sacred, due to their origin in the divine. Any offense directed to one aspect of creation provokes a disorder in the others. Consequently, any good that affects one aspect of creation accrues and reinforces life in the others as well. Human beings have the responsibility to care for the harmony that the Creator put in creation in order to enjoy the benefits of creation.

The awareness of the interconnection among the elements of creation not only prompts in human beings the responsibility of caring for the mother earth but also of the “global ecological conversion” when people realize that they “are sinning by contributing to the disfigurement of creation”. The degradation of the ecosystem is a sin in the sense that our actions against mother earth disconnect us from the Creator and bring about disharmony within creation. We are no longer imaging God who entrusted to us the care of creation because we have become disobedient to the will and order of God. And this justifies the call to conversion; that is, a renewed attitude towards creation rooted in God. The renewal of the ecosystem is tied up to the renewal of attitude. It is a belief that things can change when human beings correspond to God’s image imprinted in them and come together “to dialogue and converse,” to honestly look for ways that uphold the common good as Pope Francis urges. 

St. Vincent Pallotti, our Founder and Father, like the Psalmist, was captured by the nobility of human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God. That is the expression of God’s infinite love and mercy. Being created in the image of God, Father, Son and Hoy Spirit entrusts to humanity a corresponding responsibility of reflecting God’s behavior, that is, “creating” and “preserving”. Caring for “our common home” is constitutive of what it means to be humans. It translates the gift of the free will that God has bestowed on humankind. St. Vincent Pallotti is convinced that the gift of the free will should be used to always grow in resembling more and more the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Although sin had disconnected human beings from God, Jesus Christ has come to reestablish that connection and redeem in humanity the capacity to mirror God. This mystery is channeled through the sacraments of Baptism and confirmation whereby humanity is configured to God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to correspond to God. Unfortunately, as Pallotti decries, it happens that human beings use their free will and the gifts of creation to offend God. Scores of the offenses against God through the negative attitude of humankind towards mother earth demonstrate how human beings have become destructive of God’s creation. The environmental degradation Pope Francis points out, extends also to the deforestation of the Amazon, the plastic bags in oceans and on the Himalayas, the melting of glaciers and the deforestation of tropical forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, rightly termed as “the second largest tropical rain-forest area on earth” after the Amazon. 

Recently, in January 2020, there happened two major events: the 50th anniversary of the Davos World Economic Forum and the opening of the Australian Open, a major tennis tournament. Both events happened while the Australian bush was on fire, with several people losing their lives and property and large parts of the bush destroyed. In Australia, tennis stars organized functions to combat bushfire, while in Davos, debates evolved around climate change. Gretta Thunberg, a Norwegian teenager together with her peers not only strongly called on world leaders to act now and not to wait until 2030, but also were committed not to give up the fight, even when the leaders did not. Their claim points to the fact that “our common home is burning now” and that they as the children, “will be the ones to suffer the “irresponsibility” of those who have power and influence to act, yet do not”. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations’ General Secretary denounced at Davos 2020 the lack of political will to effectively implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and warned that “humankind has declared war on nature and nature is striking back in every violent way”. 

These voices respond, one might say, to Pope Francis’ call for everyone to come together, and never tire to protect and care for mother earth and the sisters and brothers that live in, whether nature or humans. It raises hope that progressively people are more and more aware of their call to mirror God through their responsibility towards our common house.

 - Do I understand my commitment to the care of our common home as a cooperator/collaborator
   in the evangelizing mission of Jesus Christ and the Church?
 - As members of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate, what concrete action (s) can we undertake
    locally or globally to respond to Pope Francis’ call for dialogue and conversation in order to shape
    together the future of our planet?

Fr. Désiré Bakangana, sac.
Saint Vincent Pallotti Parish/Bukavu (D.R. Congo)
Holy Family Province (Central Africa)