Sunday, October 17, 2021

Apostles for Today -October 2021


Apostles For Today
October 2021

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14, 27-28)

     The chapter "Paths of a new meeting" is about building peace and about beginning with truth through social friendship, through forgiveness and overcoming inevitable conflict. 
   Jesus gave his daily words a new sacred meaning. Such as "peace" or "forgiveness."    In the above words of Jesus there is the awaited peace of the Messiah. Each of us is the architect of such a peace on the way to God. There is also a harbinger of a conflict because it is related to the struggle for the Truth. Peace without Jesus is an earthly peace that keeps us captive. The room of the Tower of Babel is built for a superficial earthly unity because it is based on the status quo. Meanwhile, Jesus teaches us that we unite in Him and not in our earthly world, transforming and growing for Him, remaining different people, culturally and socially different. 

    Earthly peace is based on collective forgiveness, thus freeing the individual from change, from talking about conversion. There is some madness of the mind that resorts to elevating the reflection to the level of large numbers, countries, national and social agreements, earthly boundaries. The more human tragedies are hidden under the name of war or national and social conflicts, the more they appear to be complex, foreign and independent phenomena. The easier it is for us to escape from a reflection on ourselves and the specific interpersonal relationships surrounding us.

    "Give each other the sign of peace" is, however, an invitation to individual action. So what about this one particular person, my neighbor, my colleague at work and the daily forgiveness of anger, jealousy, humiliation, violence. What language, what kind of conversation should I use?

       I am a foreigner living in Denmark for over 30 years and I think I know a lot about the complications of evangelistic communication that creates the peace of Jesus. It's not just finding a common language, but everything behind it. What is the word peace, mercy and forgiveness for me, a Catholic, and what is it for my Muslim or atheistic neighbor? Mercy and forgiveness in Islam have various interpretations, but it is the prerogative of Allah in the work of Judgment Day’s justice and can also mean punishment (Quran 6: 147ff; 49:29). The way for forgiveness is the Koran (27:77, 81). For an atheist, "love" and "peace" have only earthly value, and forgiveness is based on a cause--effect relationship. "Truth" is relative - as for Pilate. Furthermore, it should even be hidden and erased from reality in the way forgiveness works for cancel culture and relates to ideologies of political correctness - even having an element of revenge (Fratelli tutti 226- 227) 

    For a Christian, on the other hand, God is infinite love. "I understand and I forgive" for me is reaching to the very source of sin, transformation, conversion and absolute love that lifts me to God who is the Truth.

     We are all children of God, but in the confused map of languages, we build peace and forgive ourselves in completely different ways. Scandinavian countries rank first in surveys on happiness. Positive thinking dominates here, enjoying the instantaneous and fleeting moment and the small things in life. Hygge has become a known word worldwide as a relaxed way of life. However, it is obvious to a foreigner that this positive mentality feeds on silence. Silence about crises, problems and reactions to evil. Forgiveness in the Christian mentality is not forgetting (Fratelli tutti 250). These are the dilemmas that Jesus talks about, to which the rich young man approaches, presenting himself as a good, humanitarian and merciful person, asking if there is anything else he can do (Mt 19:20). Jesus' answer is total dedication to God. It is not a conversation in which two people exchange opinions, but a dialogue that serves the purpose of proclaiming the Good News and waiting for conversion. 

I am looking for a sign of Jesus' peace in "dialogue, in quiet conversation or in heated discussion" (Possiamo cercare insieme la verità nel dialogo, nella conversazione pacata o nella discussione appassionata) (Fratelli tutti, 50). 

Originally, Latin "conversatio" meant a targeted interaction with the world with a built-in transformation, a change in the way oflife, in relation to meeting other people. So, a conversation for a Christian does not have to be a normal, relaxed social interaction, but a part of a conversion (the verb "versare").

    In the language of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Benedict's "conversatio" refers to sacrum and perhaps it is a sign of our times that the meaning of the word has faded into a casual conversation. Sacrum is pushed out of the tongue and yet it is the architect of Jesus' peace and the expected conversion. Just as the removal of God from the word "peace" pushes us to the paths of noncommittal, eternal negotiations and aimless conversations, because it just confirms the obvious fact that we are different. Even the Platonic word "dialogue" contains "logos" in the original, which for us may refer to the work of Creation. St. Pallotti teaches us the transcendental meaning of Jesus' words by adding an absolute dimension to the most important ones. So "love" is infinite! "Dio dell'Amore infinito e della Misericordia infinita". As Jesus
formulated it in the original Greek of the Gospels: agape (ἀγάπη).

    I chose the story of the young man because it fits the country where our little Pallotti community lives. Denmark is one of the richest countries and a society that  anticipates excessively in humanitarian programs around the world. But at the same time, it is a spiritual desert in which, in all spheres, it avoids discussions on religious and even spiritual topics in general. So there comes a time when, by being rich, and by devoting your time and resources to helping others, you get to the point where you ask, "Is there anything else?", "What's next?" The quickest answer these days seems to be… fitness and yoga. These two spheres of life are expanding astronomically, especially among young people.

     And here it is - a young man who has just returned from the morning fitness and is trying to fill the day with some meaning. We do not speak the same language, because the sacrum does not exist for my interlocutor, and he will not understand that sacrum is as real as the bread that is eaten for breakfast. In conversation and dialogue, there is always a conflict, that is, a clash of two worlds. Jesus says about it (Mt 10, 34-11, 1): "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword. " But he adds in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:10): "Blessed are the meek." The contradiction is apparent but can be understood in the original meaning of the words. First, the Greek word "machaira (μάχαιρα)" is not a traditional sword
that we associate with the image of medieval battles. It is a single-blade knife with which we separate good from evil.

    The Greek word "meek" (οἱ πραεῖς) connects us with the adjective "praos", that is, gentle, tamed. It refers to a force that is restrained. For example, a wild horse that becomes obedient. Thus, by combining these two statements, we are to reflect the pattern of Jesus, who has unlimited power, but is able to "tame" his divine powers by keeping the sword in its scabbard. It changes the world with the Good News.
As Christians, we are extremely strong with love and support in God. We are not small and helpless. On the contrary, by carrying a sword hidden in a scabbard, we are heading towards God's love and peace. Dialogue is just a means of transport.

    This is my conversation with my neighbor, colleague in need, brother and sister who asks "is there anything else?"

Mr. Caesar Szwebs, Denmark

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Apostles for Today Sept.2021

 

Apostles for Today

September 2021

“God is love; whoever remains in love remains in God and God remains in him.” (1 Jn4:16)


Pope Frances introduces his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”, on Fraternity and Social Friendship, by talking about the writing of St. Francis of Assisi where he “invites a love that goes beyond the barriers of geography and space.” St. Francis

“declares blessed the one who loves the other ‘when he was as far away from him as if he were next to him.’ St. Vincent Pallotti, teaches this same universal love when he says, “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 338

We may ask ourselves, where is this fraternity present in the world? Where is this universal love? Never more so than now can we see a world divided, a world where people are more concerned with their own needs, their own rights, their own desires rather than those of others; rather than the common good. Where is this spirit of love? Although we live in a world made smaller through the wonders of modern travel and technology, we live in a fragmented world in which at times there seem great chasms of divide and perhaps even callous disregard or indifference for our fellow human beings.

Pope Frances calls us to move beyond ourselves, “From the depths of each heart, love creates bonds and enlarges existence when it brings the person out of himself toward the other.” “...love makes us tend towards universal communion. No one matures or reaches their fullness by isolating themselves...love requires progressive openness, a greater capacity to welcome others...” says Pope Frances. “You are all brothers.” (Mt. 23,8)

St. Vincent Pallotti also writes, “Members of the Society must control and animate all their thoughts, words and deeds, even indifferent ones, such as those directed towards their self-preservation with a fervent and humble spirit of faith, hope and charity towards God and their neighbour. And this spirit of faith, of hope and of charity, in its turn, will ensure that the object of all our thoughts, words and deeds is always God, from whom all good things come.” OOCC II 62-63

During this pandemic, in an effort to maintain our own safety or the safety of others, many of us have perhaps found ourselves cocooning in a state of isolation. It can be extremely difficult to maintain close relationships from afar without physical presence. As each new wave of the Covid -19 pandemic comes and goes we find windows of opportunity to connect with others in person, when it is safer to do so. There is a feeling of great freedom and joy when these opportunities arise. Just as we expand our personal little world to include others during this time, is it not also possible to expand our minds and our hearts to think and care for others who are not in our immediate periphery? Our brothers and sisters who do not fall within the boundaries of our “little world”.

Recently, a young couple invited people to attend their wedding in person or virtually, in an effort to not only provide safety but at the same time be inclusive to those who were at different stages of opening their small world to others. The couple also let their invited guests know that they did not wish to receive any wedding presents; that they had everything they needed. Instead, if people wished, they could donate to an organization whose vision is that every child in the world receives one daily meal in their place of education and that all those who have more than they need, share with those who lack even the most basic things. What more perfect and selfless gift than to celebrate their sacred union and their love for each other by inviting their guests to open their eyes and they hearts to those in need around the world. What a beautiful portrait of love!

In Chapter three of his encyclical, Pope Frances says, “...no one can experience the value of life without concrete faces to love. Here lies a secret of authentic human existence, because “life exists where there is a bond, communion, brotherhood; and it is a life stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of faithfulness. On the contrary, there is no life where one pretends to belong only to oneself and to live as islands: in these attitudes death prevails.”

We have seen time and time again during this pandemic the segregation of people into groups, in a sense on their own islands, especially those interested in self-preservation above and to the exclusion of their brothers and sisters in the world.

We are called to open our hearts and our minds to those who are not in our physical proximity, who are beyond our small “island”. We are called to strive to be perfect in our love for every person, not just those who are near and dear to us. We are called to a love that extends beyond borders; one that is genuine and makes it possible for a true universal openness.

“Whoever looks at his people with contempt establishes in his society first and second-class categories of people with more or less dignity and rights. In doing so it denies that there is room for everyone,” writes Pope Francis.


St. Vincent Pallotti urges us to use all possible means, talents, knowledge, associations, professions, occupations, human relationships, material things and prayers to renew faith in Jesus Christ and to increase love all over the world. He tells us that “...God judges the perfection and value of the work of his creatures according to the intentions of their hearts according to the abilities of each.”    OOCC III 145f

Pallotti also tells us that “God, in his very essence, is love. He loves us and unceasingly seeks what is for our benefit. He did this in the most perfect manner possible by sending his only begotten Son to redeem us by his death on the cross.

Since all human beings, as creatures, are living images of this love, they must strive to be perfect in their love for every person...” OOCC IV 308

Pope Francis ends his introduction to “Fratelli Tutti” “...with the desire that in this time that we are given to live, recognizing the dignity of every human person, we can revive among all a worldwide aspiration to fraternity.” He describes it as a beautiful dream and goes on to say that “Nobody can face life in isolation [...]. We need a community that supports us, that helps us and in which we help each other to look forward. How important it is to dream together!

      [...] Alone you risk having mirages, so you see what is not there; dreams are built together.” We, as individuals and as a Pallottine community must work together to recognize the dignity of every human person and to create an open world, a fraternity. We are not meant to live as islands. Our God is a God of infinite love and mercy. If we are made in his image, are we not then called to strive towards this perfect love for our brothers and sisters? Perhaps we too can be like the good Samaritan who interrupted his journey to help the wounded man in need. We can open our eyes and hearts to those in need and interrupt our journey to stop and help those who are suffering, abandoned or ignored by others. At times, the task might seem rather daunting in a world that appears to be so fragmented and chaotic. Cardinal Francis X. Nguyen Thuan was imprisoned for thirteen years - nine of which he spent in solitary confinement. Even though he was isolated in the cruellest of ways, he wrote often of hope. In his words, “The road of hope is paved with small acts of hope along life’s way. A life of hope is born of every minute of hope in that lifetime. “

Reflection:

  • How do I move beyond my “small” world to reach out in love to others?
  • How do I consciously cultivate fraternity with those I encounter?
  • Have I ever felt abandoned, ignored or isolated from others? Am I able to empathize with others who may be feeling this way? How do I reach out to them?
  • How do I recognize Christ in every human being?
  • Pope Francis ends his encyclical with the following prayer: 


Our God, Trinity of love,
from the powerful communion of your divine intimacy
pour out the river of brotherly love among us.
Give us the love that transpired in the gestures of Jesus,
In his family of Nazareth and in the first Christian community.
Grant us Christians to live the Gospel
and to recognize Christ in every human being,
to see him crucified in the anguish of the abandoned
and forgotten of this world
and risen in every brother who stands up.
Come, Holy Spirit! Show us your beauty reflected in all the peoples of the earth, to discover that all are important, that all are necessary, that they are different faces of the same humanity loved by God. Amen.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Apostles of today July 2021


 Apostles of today: Fraternity in action, Pallotti for action.

The third social encyclical of Pope Francis “Fratelli Tutti” comes in a world in full mutation where in many places and corners over the world, social fraternity and solidarity are so threatened. And as usual, the Holy Father comes once again to invite humanity to re-discover the value of human being, and to rekindle charity and fraternity among the people, nations and to revive the awareness of the fact that we are all equal.

What is therefore important for us to spread as apostles from every strata and vocation? It’s just to be aware that the Lord has loaned every one with gifts, talents, and treasures to help others and to manifest solidarity. We have been created to be good stewards and channel of love towards everyone God put on our way. It is then in giving to those in need, that we meet God in them and we show that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our Founder Vincent Pallotti lived in a very intimacy with God and that led him practice and live charity in action. He had the passion of humankind.  For him every baptized is called to be apostles. As the heart of Jesus was touched by the sufferance of people, Pallotti was also touched by the misery of the people in his time.  His spirituality remains alive in the Church the heritage of the Union. Pallotti was overwhelmed and wondered by the infinite love of God for us. 

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 25-37) is for all the members of the Union a call. The Holy Father describes the world situation where there are wars, violence, victims of wars, the problems of migration, refugees… He calls all to manifest solidarity and compassion where need should arise. We need then to grow toward a universe where people are joyful to live together with others, no matter their origin, religion, race and culture. The spirit of togetherness is really dying in our countries and between cultures because of economic interests.  It’s a big challenge we need to face by active ministries, by prayers, or any other contributions we could make for the greater glory of God.

In Cameroon for example, today we are facing an endless never known before the Anglophone’s crisis. It means the 2 parts of English part of Cameroon do not anymore want to live with French people part. They demand the division of the country, no more unity. This same and kind of situation can be found in many other parts in the world. The Pope calls us to have good relationships with others that help all to grow as humankind. Opening the heart to others is to open his heart to God.

Pallotti calls to collaborate. A collaborator is not a stranger to us, he is a brother of mine, a sister of mine. The real spirit of collaboration Pallotti invites us to live begins by considering the other person as a brother or a sister, no matter where he comes from, his origin, his entity, his background. In the Union we are all brothers and sisters. We share the same vocation and we are called to pursue the same mission.

The Pope joins the thinking of Pallotti about the apostolate of all the baptized: “the commandment of love bids us to glorify God above all and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore, we are obliged to care for own eternal salvation and that of our neighbor in every way possible. …we imitate Jesus Christ, who is the Apostle of the Eternal Father. Hence the apostolic life of Jesus Christ ought to be the example of our apostolate”. (OOCC III 142f)

Jesus is the model of fraternity, fraternity in action. The encyclical letter of Pope Francis invites us members of the Union to build together communities where the charism of Vincent is visible and where fraternity and solidarity are in action. There are many challenges, but Pallotti says: “our model is the life our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Who is then the Good Samaritan? He is the one who caries all our sins. He suffered for us. He is the one who said “Come to me all who are and overburdened; and I will give you rest…” Mt 11, 28.  He is the who showed fraternity in action towards the poor, the needy, uneducated, all the victims of tragic circumstances. Saint Paul calls us to be his imitators in showing compassion. Pallotti did it. This is his admonition: “Remember of that those who seriously fail to help their neighbor in their material needs are guilty of serious sin, so those who seriously fail to help their neighbor in the need of the soul are likewise guilty”.

We can conclude that today’s world, environment, and context, not only with Covid 19 is a vast apostolic field to make ourselves a neighbor of everyone, no matter who they are. Jesus says whatsoever you do to the less of my bother/sister you do it to me. Let’s do it.

Questions for personal reflection:

  1. Is there be a real love of neighbor, solidarity and fraternity among us in the Union? In the nations, communities, apostolate fields?

  2. How the encyclical letter of Pope Francis “Fratelli Tutti” goes with faith – love and mission?

  3. After reading the Parable of Good Samaritan, take time to reflect where you were helped or loved as “neighbor” or you helped or loved someone as “neighbor”. Remember the person, place and the circumstance. And thank God for that.


                                                                                                   

                                                                                         Fr Florent Eloundou SAC

                                                                                                   NCC of Cam


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Apostles for Today March 2021


        - 
Apostles for Today
         

         March 2021

         
                                            
  

 “THE BODY IS ONE AND HAS MANY MEMBERS, BUT ALL THE MEMBERS, MANY THOUGH THEY ARE,  
                                  ARE ONE BODY; AND SO IT IS WITH CHRIST.”  (1Cor.12:12)  

                                                                              

No man is an  island nor  any one person self-sufficient in his or herself.  God created a world of plurality of  beings each with their own culture, gifts, treasures in their land, uniqueness in their environment, and richness  in their earth.  What a great God to create such a world for each of its unique culture.  

All this beauty could never be known or appreciated if we did not share with one another, through tourism,  technology, dialogue, activities and cultural participation in a country.  Therefore how important it is for us to  acknowledge the diverse cultures that live in our land.  In Central America the Maya culture has an everlasting  impact in our land.  (The creole –African) fill us with dynamic music and folklore.  The Mestizo sprinkle their  exotic dances to the sound of the marimba and in a land of many more cultures the music, the songs the dance  and the language, the creative activities of each culture offer a kaleidoscope of brilliant stars in our land.  In the  midst of all this beauty the infinite love of God draws all together in the uniqueness of the friendliest people In  Central America.  What a good God we have.  

In true dialogue we develop our views as well as contribute to the views of others.  In true dialogue we grow in  respect and appreciation of our own culture and also the diverse cultures that surround us.  In true sharing we  stand in awe at the beauty of others culture. What a great cultural world God created for his children.  Nature  develops, the environment colourfully burst out, and the people of the land become the greatest resources of the  world.  What a great God we serve.  

In true dialogue we develop our confidence and also respect for others ideas.  This allows all cultures to feel  free and realize that there is beauty in all cultures.  If we are not pressured to share or feel less then our inhibition  falls to the ground.  A new life is born, new joy, new activities that help us to continue to love, appreciate and  stand in awe at the beauty of others culture.  

All cultures are unique, special and one of a kind.  Therefore, the solution is not relative to any particular culture  through free discussion and respect one comes to a consensus that is benefial to all.  There is no need for power  struggles whether political or spiritual, whether holistic or egoistic. No one culture,  leader, political  activist,  religious self-righteousness, holds the truth in their power.  The community villages, nation, through discussion  open and sincere come to the realization of truth, love and honesty for their people.  

The world is no longer inhabited by one set of people.  The smallest  countries in the world boast  a variety of  culture that colors the beauty of that country.  In the same manner the diverse cultures create an infinite level of  thinking power, openness, focuses and a high level of reasoning that may not have come from book knowledge  but from survival experiences.  It is to our benefit to cash in on the deep wealth of knowledge that the diverse  cultures bring to our negotiating table discussion, or dialogue.  Let us remember that no one’s, pre mediated  reasoning is automatically correct.  In the midst of open discussion there are certain acceptable values that may  not be accepted by all but in the midst of open discussion even these values will be discussed and  at times  accepted.  In the midst of all this openness let us not forget that the hand of God lead where we cannot see

.  
The dream of a new society where all cultures complement each other and add to the level of government,  education, social gathering, sports, and all other aspects of development of community develop to the point that  we accept and complement each other to the building of a new society of respectable, diverse and cross-cultural  union.  It may take long but in certain small pockets of our historical society the Maya Indian teacher is principal  of their elementary school in their village but why not principal of the leading high school in the main city of  our country?  

In looking at culture let us realize that culture flows through our life like the blood stream in the human person. It colors their way of life, their thinking, their food and in short runs through their whole life and makes them  who they are.  What a beauty it would be if each man and woman would feel culturally accepted, culturally  efficient to dialogue with other cultures, culturally uninhibited   to speak with confidence and boldness in open  discussion.    When  the  cream  of  the  crops  are  melted  and  molded  in  God  a  new  culture  is  created  but  the uniqueness of each person co–exist with each other.  

This new world can only become a reality when we acknowledge, accept and interact with different cultures.  Only when we genuinely interact with acceptance and realization of our differences can we begin to accept and  appreciate one another.  We, then, will begin to accept one another as companions in a journey.  When we work and dialogue together we begin to acknowledge the giftedness of each culture.  When I begin to acknowledge  them, I begin to accept them as my true friends.  

QUESTIONS:  

     1.    Why is it that in certain countries there are certain areas that are provided for the less socially accepted   cultures to settle and build their homes, while others of the upper class are provided more scenic or more  acceptable areas?  
     2.   Can we  honestly say that we accept children of all cultural groups in leading parts of school play or   sports?  
     3.   Do we have open discussion or do we choose who will participate in the discussion?  
     4.   What efforts do we make in offering open discussion in church, or country when important questions  arise?   

PRAYER  
God, Father of each of us and all of us in one you did not hesitate nor   Measure your gifts in the diverse cultures of this world.  Help us to  Manifest and continue to create the manifestation of every culture  
                                 
In the 21st century.  Let us as we each bring our gifts to the service of others.   Touch each one of our cultures as you melt and mold them into the  Kingdom of your love.  AMEN  

  
                                                                                                             Sr. Consuelo Burgos, Belize  
  

  

Friday, February 5, 2021

Apostles for Today -Feb 2021

 

Apostels for Today

Prayer and Reflection

February 2021


To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Lk 1,78-79)

In the first chapter of the Encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Holy Father makes an insightful assessment of the reality in which we live today. He mentions very specific phenomena that have become firmly established in our existential everyday life. These include the lack of historical awareness, globalization, social inequality, exploitation, privileged social groups, the destruction of a sense of human value in order to control someone, the tendency to homogenize the world, where the interests of the authorities are emerging, where they benefit from someone's low self-esteem and where, through the media and networks, attempts are being made to create a new culture at the service of the most powerful. Finally, the apparent freedom, the promotion of a consumer lifestyle and the support of a mentality of fear and mistrust, which leads to a weakening of the sense of community and the inability to engage with everyone. Of course, these are not all the phenomena of the present world mentioned by the Holy Father.

Nor is it a question of listing them all at this point. However, reading the first chapter of the Encyclical, one can get the impression that it is an analysis of phenomena, signs of the times, which our founder, St Vincent Pallotti, also observed closely. For example, the first point of the May Appeal you can read: Anyone who closely observes the current state of the world and its attitude to religion is well aware that, despite all the horrors that our unhappy age has witnessed and is constantly witnessing, there is a great need for faith everywhere, and even non-Christian nations seem to show a tendency to adopt a Catholic religion (OOCC IV, p. 120).

Of course, someone would say that it was at other times. However, they were marked by a rather complex political and social situation. After all, it was a period of the French Revolution, later the Roman Revolution, whose supporters took up the fight against the Church in a very concrete way. Vincent Pallotti wrote in May Appeal a programme to everyone to show how important way of life and evangelization proposed by the United of Catholic Apostolate is. Nowadays, the temptation to create a culture of walls is becoming more and more visible,' writes the Holy Father in his encyclical, walls in the heart, walls in people's contacts, walls that ultimately surround people and take away horizons (FT 27). Saint Vincent Pallotti, together with the work he created, fits even more clearly into the current global context. Fraternity, community, caring for the individual person being together in diversity for the common goal of salvation of souls - these are the values that sound even more resound today. As a result, the charism left to us is still very relevant. Saint Vincent Pallotti, in the May Appeal mentioned above, places cooperation as a means to carry out the apostolate. At a time when attitudes of closure and intolerance are growing, isolating themselves from others and, on the other hand, when digital communication seeks to show everything - as the Pope wrote, Pallotti reminds the whole Pallottine Family that working together for the salvation of souls is very important. Cooperation itself presupposes good communication, building relationships, and this cannot be achieved without direct contact. There is a need, wrote the Holy Father, for physical gestures, facial expressions, silence, body language, and even smell, shaking hands, blush, because all this belongs to interpersonal communication (FT 43). Of course, you can now hide behind the limitations of direct contact and appreciate online contact. But, on the other hand, these digital ones can only be for a while, they can be a form of continuation of the work we have started, but they can never replace direct involvement. Meeting is a very important language of love. It can be short, lasting only a few minutes, but in full attention given to the other person. This short moment is a gift given - valuable, because it will never come back. Our holy Founder made it very clear to us that communication and relationships are to lead to building a community of faith. He did this himself by engaging with others in various tasks. He did so with full respect for each person. We are partners in adult life. There is no place for dominant attitudes here. If I need something, I ask, then I recognize both the skills and the value of the other person. By asking, I show that the other person has something to offer, something that is important to me and represents value. Cooperation, which is quite a difficult art, can transform, improve and sensitize everyone. On the one hand, it has an auto-formational dimension, on the other hand, the value of the tasks discussed is much greater and the way they are carried out is more experienced by others. The good that is revealed is mutual help, support, mobilization, encouragement… Listening also plays an important role in cooperation. Jesus in the Gospel according to St. Mark (12:29) says: Listen, O Israel…. The ability to listen in collaboration is important. When I speak, I am conveying what I already know, what I have learned. When I start to listen, I open up to what is new and I can learn something.

It may seem that listening is easy, but in fact it is a difficult task. We risk changing our thinking, our perception of ourselves, of others and even the world. Sitting down and listening to the other person is a behaviour typical of meeting between people, wrote the Holy Father in his encyclical. It is a model of the open-minded attitude of those who overcome their narcissism and accept the other, pay attention to them and accept them into their own circle (FT48). We can look together for the truth, we can look for new engagements in dialogue, in silent conversation or in heated discussion. This is an arduous process, Pope Francis wrote. This process consists of silence, suffering, the ability to gather patiently the vast experience of people and nations. Cooperation is therefore given to us and is our task.

The Pope also refers to the global tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has awakened the awareness for some time that we are a global community, sailing on the same boat, where the misfortune of somebody hurts everyone (FT 32). It took away the illusions that we are the ones creating reality and that our intentions, certainties and plans became nothing in one moment. The pandemic unveiled a blessed membership of one human family. In Pallottine family we also felt a taste of brotherhood, belonging and solidarity. May St Vincent Pallotti show us the paths of authentic apostolic commitment for God's infinite glory, for the destruction of sin and for the salvation of souls at this time.

Reflection:

• Which of the signs of the times, in my opinion, does Holy Father mention in his enciclical, affect my country most?

• Which of the essential elements of building a community of faith are important to me at this moment: cooperation, listening, talking?

• Am I a person open to God's calls and looking for inspiration from the Holy Spirit?

• Am I living the mission, the mission to which I have been called?

- Sr. Monika Jagiello SAC, Poland 


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

January 2021 Apostles for Today

 


Monthly Reflection, January 2021
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The Pallottine Charism in the Encyclical
Fratelli Tutti

Pope Francis published the social encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”, his third encyclical, on October 3rd, 2020 on the occasion of the vespers of the liturgical memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, in his city, in order to demonstrate his intention to connect the social doctrine of the Church with the universal person of Francis. Let us remember that St. Vincent Pallotti also was a universal person and was profoundly connected to both apostolic and social work as well as to Franciscan spirituality. In this way we can find the presence of the Pallottine charism in the new encyclical, in dialogue with all people, in view of fraternity and of social friendship in belonging to the human family because we are all children of the one Father.

The first chapter of the encyclical, “Dark Clouds over a Closed World” seeks to look at reality in the actual context and it identifies the necessity of the historical awareness of every race and of the tendency of all of humanity to fall into the falsehood of political proposals that lead to violence. It is fundamental to open oneself to a common project in respect of the innate rights of the human person. Globalization means that human dignity is without borders and progress has to have a common circle in order to face up to the present pandemic as well as the other scourges of humanity. St Vincent Pallotti was particularly interested in the reality of his time: the cholera epidemic in Rome in 1836, the Napoleonic Invasion, the elections of the Popes, the cultural and political events, etc. Similarly the members of the Pallottine family cannot live closed in on themselves, but by means of dialogue seek to know the reality.
The second chapter “A Stranger on the Road” is an exegesis on the question of a doctor of the law who asked Jesus, “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). The observance of the law, as Jesus indicates, is to do good, respecting especially the stranger and the poor. In any case, the parable of the Good Samaritan is the biblical guide for the encyclical in which all of us are called to an awareness, without borders, of the needy. The life of St. Vincent Pallotti was an offering to the poor. Let us recall to mind that the cause of his death was the giving of his cloak to a poor man and that gesture brought about pneumonia.
The third chapter is “Envisaging and Engendering an Open World” by means of charity in order to integrate everybody. In that sense Pope Francis presents some inadequate understandings of a universal charity that would be a model of globalization, that pretend to make everybody the same, destroying the uniqueness of each person and of each people. In reality, universal charity promotes people, the moral good as well as solidarity, and it highlights that with the right to private property there corresponds also a social function. From charity it moves on to the concept of universal rights. For St. Vincent Pallotti, based on biblical theology, every human being is an image and likeness of the God of Love. Therefore, to love is part of human nature and happiness does not exist if not by means of charity.
The fourth chapter “A Heart Open to the Whole World” and deals directly with migration which calls for concrete actions in the countries of origin of the migrants; but at the same time the right of every person to seek a better life in another country has to be respected. In that sense it is necessary to have a just balance in the destination countries between protecting the rights of the citizens of those countries and the guarantee of welcome and assistance to migrants.
Nevertheless, what are called for are always concrete actions like the provision of humanitarian corridors, the guarantee of accommodation, the possibility of work and education, favouring the re-unification of families, the protection of minors, religious freedom and social integration. One must consider the human family and international collaboration.
St. Vincent Pallotti paid great attention to migrants and as a concrete example he made a collection for the building of the Italian Church in London, assisting spiritually and materially the poor migrant labourers.
The fifth chapter “A Better Kind of Politics” recognizes the importance of the people, as distinct from the concept of populism that signifies the structuring of the people to remain as they are or to take power. The preferred ecclesiology of Pope Francis is the Church as the People of God that has its biblical and patristic roots and was a fundamental concept during the Second Vatican Council. The best politics is that which protects work so as to develop its capacity as an authentic social service to the poor. To offer money is only a temporary solution, but a genuine anti-poverty strategy seeks to promote work as a means of solidarity and assistance/support. Politics must also legislate against corruption, inefficiency, the wicked abuse of power and the lack of respect for the law. In reality, politics is centred on human dignity.
The encyclical, moreover, highlights the relevance of popular movements and of the necessary reform of the United Nations organization. The General Statutes of the UAC underline the common priesthood of the People of God for the realization of the apostolic mission as an association that is open to welcoming all (G. Statutes 7 and 13) The sixth chapter “Dialogue and Friendship in Society” presents the concept of life as an act of encounter between people, especially with those who live on the economic peripheries. Dialogue respects human dignity, it is not relativism without universal principles, neither is it moral norms that prohibit intrinsic evil, rather it promotes the human family. In a world marked by violence and darkness Francis calls for the miracle of kindness to build bridges and not construct walls between peoples. St Vincent Pallotti was a person open to dialogue and he had a kindness that everybody admired. His way of acting, of praying, of exhorting was not arrogant; rather he showed a respectful refinement towards every human being, an image and likeness of God.
The seventh chapter “Paths of Renewed Encounter” is a call to all of humanity to make, as a craftsman would, a society based on truth, on justice and on mercy. A social encounter calls for social forgiveness, especially by means of justice, without however renouncing the memory of the facts. It is not possible to simply forget the terrible events of the past, like the Shoah, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the persecutions and massacres of ethnic cleansing. Reconciliation does not mean to forget because the nuclear threat and governments who do not respect human rights are still present with us. St Vincent Pallotti was a just man and, at the same time, merciful. We do not find in his life-story any sign of seeking revenge, rather he always promoted pardon. A clear sign of this characteristic was his dedication to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both as a confessor and as a penitent.
In the eighth chapter “Religions at the Service of Fraternity in our World” Pope Francis affirms that violence has no foundation in religious convictions and that terrorism is an erroneous interpretation of religious texts. Therefore, it is necessary to guarantee religious freedom as a fundamental human right. For its part the mission of the Church in the world also has a political dimension, because one cannot live “enclosed in the sacristy”; the Church has a social role to play. At the end of the encyclical Pope Francis presents to us Blessed Charles de Foucauld as a model of universal brother, who identified himself with the lowest. The idea of St. Vincent Pallotti, when he founded the UAC was to call all to the apostolate, involving the social and cultural reality that the Church would not be able to live far from the daily life of the people.
Therefore, the new encyclical is fully connected with the Pallottine charism in which the fundamental concept is that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. That concept distances us from any form of religious and political fanaticism, thereby opening us to a world without borders. All are called to contribute to the social good and to the salvation of one’s neighbor. The apostolic practice of St. Vincent, evidenced in being very close to the poor, to young people with no opportunities for scholastic formation, as well as long hours in the confessional allows us to view him as universal, but also a person who did not neglect his daily life in the Church of Rome.

Some questions for personal reflection or in groups:
1. Do we consider that the fundamental rights of every human being are without borders?
2. Are we aware that the apostolic work of the Church is also to be understood as a social involvement?
3. Do we recognize that ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is a dimension of our Christian Faith?
4. Do we carry out concrete actions in favour of our migrant brothers and sisters?

Fr. Denilson Geraldo SAC 


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Apostles for Today Dec 2020


                JOY AND PEACE TO THE WORLD!

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on EARTH to those with whom He is pleased!’ (Lk 2: 14) 

The message of Christmas echoed by the angels on Jesus’s birth is very clear: it is to give glory to God and to let peace reign on Earth: our common home! Throughout the year 2020, Apostles for Today, has been reflecting on the care of our common home. More than ever, the Earth today which we commonly call our home has been filled with loss, uncertainty and fear. An invisible virus has made our common home quite a scary place to live in with all its psychological and economical scars that continue to haunt us every day. In these gloomy times, we all have two choices to make, one to be fearful and die in despair or live in eternal hope believing that the Earth, we commonly call home is a divine gift to us. Genesis 1: 31 says, ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…’ Hence, as Christians, we all have every reason to be hopeful that the Earth is in safe hands of our eternal God, the Lord of the entire universe. And more so, Christmas is just another extra-ordinary event and a reminder to reassure this humanity that God loves this home. Each year, God visits this home during the Christmas season with a powerful message of peace, joy, love and hope. As Christians therefore, this Christmas is unique and special as it calls for our commitment to be great witnesses of peace and hope to this world that is gripped with fear and despair. How can then we live and be the true messengers of hope, peace and joy during this Christmas? 

True peace and joy come with the conviction of being satisfied with what we have and just like the Holy Family believing that, the less they had, the more they were blessed with: God Himself! ‘…It is the conviction that ‘less is more’. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little…’ (Laudato Si’, 222). To be happy and serene with what we have and with our present reality is the secret to true joy. There is a popular saying; ‘there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. In many parts of the world, a lot of natural places are being turned into concrete jungles. A great portion of natural resources are being destroyed in the name of development. The time of peaceful living with a satisfaction of being happy with what we have, is being substituted by greed and wants by the consumerist society. As during this time of the pandemic, time has slowed down our bustling life, it’s a time given for us too, to stop and reflect and then make wise choices, like the wise men from the East of what gift can I give to the Jesus for His birthday? 

Apparently, our gift to God this Christmas would be to live and spread the message of God’s peace, joy and hope. To make this possible and to understand this concept who can give us more insight than the life of the saints itself who lived on this very earth to make us realize that ‘less is more’. Let’s look at the life of our dear founder, St. Vincent Pallotti itself, who says: “It is necessary to find himself in a poor habitation, in an abject place…to do everything to keep the flesh mortified, the heart detached from pomp and vanities of the earth. (OOCC II, pg. 36). To achieve this one must seek grace to let go of unnecessary attachments and vanities and be happy with what we have, thus the lesser we have the more inner peace, the more interior joy and more fulfillment we will find in our lives. On the other hand, no one can cultivate a sober and satisfying life without being at peace with him or herself…inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good…Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid noise, interminable and nerve- wracking distractions?... (Laudato Si’ 225) St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 14: 17- 19 tells us: For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 

Therefore, one way to be messengers of hope and peace is to embrace the values of ‘less is more’ and live with total joy and mutual edification. While the whole world reluctantly now accepts to live in discomfort and sacrifice, Christians have a great opportunity to embrace and live the message of Christmas, a message ‘less is more’ an ultimate path to true joy and peace. It’s time we think globally and act locally. ‘Less is more’- are we ready for a change? Mahatma Gandhi, says, ‘Be the Change, you wish to see in this world’. 

Questions to ponder: 

1) What measures can I take personally, as a community/ family to conserve natural resources of the Earth for the future generations? 

2) What steps can I personally take to use and accumulate less and strive after things which bring more inner peace and joy? 3) How can we, as a community/ family and society make this Christmas different by sharing what we have to the less fortunate and bringing hope to their live, thus creating a better world around us? 

Sr. Alda Isa Paes SAC

India