Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Friday, February 5, 2021
Prayer and Reflection
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.
• 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
Monthly Reflection, January 2021
The Pallottine Charism in the Encyclical
Wednesday, December 2, 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?
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Many Rooms in the House ...
Since several months a Muslim woman lives in our household.
I know that Islam – just as any other religion – has many different faces and tendencies, not different from Christianity either. As a Christian it is fascinating and enriching for me living together in one household with a Muslim. We often talk about our comprehension of God and of faith. It is a process of learning. Her regular prayers remind me of the rhythm of monastic tradition lived by monks and nuns. Mohammed himself has drawn an inspiration out of monasticism. Of course, I am aware of the differences between the traditions of our religions. I do not belong to those who believe that respect for family life and high morality is more to be found with Muslims, whereas Christians, at least in the western world, had supposedly lost ethic and religious values ... This topic is rather complex, but one thing is clear: Living together is a way of learning. It means giving and receiving, it is a process of mutuality. The fundament is a high esteem of each other. The Declaration of the 2nd Vatican Council Nostra Aetate says: The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth...). Mission is first of all searching and finding traces of God ´s presence in the other person, in other cultures and religions.
I can very well accomplish how impressed Francis of Assisi must have been, when he, on the occasion of the crusade in 1219, was guest of Sultan Malek Al-Kamil in the camp in Egypt from the end of August until the midst of September; he then lived among the Muslims. His first intention was not to convert them but to set a sign that all men take part in the holiness of creation. In the Christian world of that time regular praying was only done in monasteries, it had become a privilege of monks and nuns. The biblical call to pray addressing all had been forgotten. Not so the Muslims: All of them would respond to the call of the Muezzin and pray five times a day. The Franciscan historian Michel Cusato has published interesting results of his research on the encounter between Francis of Assisi and the Muslims in Damiette in Egypt. He describes the wide effects of this encounter, of the meeting of Francis of Assisi with the Muslims. One consequence was the “democratization of prayer”. Cusato writes: „ In the West, for the most part, prayer was typically viewed as the prerogative of a spiritual elite, a duty and an honor for priests and canons, nuns and religious, even though it was during this same period that some forms of lay participation in the prayer of the Church were beginning to be developed... The Poverello was moved and impressed by the prayer of Muslims. All men and women, young and old – prayed. Prayer was not reserved to nor the special prerogative of a spiritual elite as it was in the West. Rather, at regular intervals, every member of the society was called into prayer. It is my contention that Francis reflected on this phenomenon and came to the simple conclusion that prayer was indeed constitutive of every single creature of God: in other words, to be a creature was to be a praying creature. ... Francis, in short, could not have been but favorably impressed with a society that takes time out, five times a day, to render praise and glory to God. And if the allegedly ‘infidel’ (faith-less) Muslim, why not the allegedly faith-filled Christian? This vision of the religious implications for the nature of creature-hood is the “democratization of prayer” (compare Michael Cusato: Francis from Assisi (1182-1226) – How lonely he stayed as a witness of Islam piety in the Occident, in: Bsteh/Proksch: Pacemaker of the interreligious dialogue, volume III, Vienna 2020). This impulse he passed on into his religious surroundings, and this is the beginning of the noon prayer („Angelus“) and of the rosary. The little towers with a bell to be found on the roofs of the farmers ´ houses in Austria, that served to call the field workers to prayer, are the precious historical memory of this. Since that time the whole church prayed.
When in February 2019 Pope Francis signed a document on ‚Human Fraternity’ together with the Imam Ahmad Mohammed Al Tayyeb of the Al-Azhar in Kairo at Abu Dhabi, that was a reminiscence of Francis of Assisi ´s stay with Sultan Malek Al-Kamil 800 years ago. This fraternal belonging together, that is spoken of here, rooted in the conviction that all humans are God ‘s beings and his images. – Eight billion of people, eight billion of different images, none is like the other.
Also, Pallotti was fascinated by this vision. Again, and again he speaks of the fact that one should see the image of God in anybody, the image of the Trinity and the image of the Crucified. That is why he was open to learn from everybody and to embody everyone into his engagement. In his spirituality there is a remarkably openness to universality that was not really standard in his time.
Sisters and brothers living together in the global world at the one house, that is the frame of the text of the Encyclical „Laudato Si” published five years ago. The image of a house is of Jewish origin (e.g. 1 Henoch 39); John ‘s gospel takes it up again (Joh 14,2): „There are many rooms in the house of my father ...”, that is how it is formulated in the farewell speeches. This metaphor beautifully expresses unity and variety. The many rooms in the citadel or in the house (or castle) play an important part in the history of Christian and Muslim (especially Sufi) spirituality. But – humanity does not really experience itself as a joint household. The various selfish interests of the different countries, societies, politicians, economies and also individuals are too manifold. Does the one house remain an eschatological image? The experiences of the Corona crisis have given evidence of the contrary. The connection of all humans, the interdependence of all beings has become evidently clear. We cannot escape the globalisation any more. It has its good sides as well as its bad sides.
Consequently, it is important to look at the common house as a whole and to organise the household in it so that brothers and sisters will arise from the many inhabitants. The encyclical “Laudato Si” puts its hopes on the traditional principles of the Catholic Social Doctrine, on an education of an understanding of public welfare, that forwards the integral human development. Love as ethical principle is needed for that approach. Political and social action have to be influenced by love – a high demand!
The conviction of all men being images of God is in Christian view the fundament of the same dignity of all, and subsequently, of the same rights. In spite of that the experience of diversity can be dramatic. I have been working at an international institute in Vienna for 19 years, and therefore travelled a lot, especially in Africa and Asia. Besides fascinating similarities of the human abilities, I often experienced the enormous differences of cultures. I asked myself again and again whether there is more that unites us or more that separates us from each other. Humans are so diverse in many aspects that probably only the conviction of equal dignity and equal rights is that which unites us and not even this is a point to which everybody would tend to agree. Christian mission – according to Pallotti – is to study all the different images of the Crucified in the many people, to “contemplate” them, as he says, in order to learn and to become a grateful person...
A final hint: In these days a volume on the spirituality of Vincent Pallotti is printed. Title: „ Spread wide the Place of your Tent - Vincent Pallotti’s Inspiration for a Church of Greater Participation, Diversity and Dialogue” (available in the German/Austrian Provincialate).
Brigitte Maria Proksch
many other countries worldwide. – The author lives in Vienna, the old multicultural capital of the country, where 45% of the population are Catholics. Also, many Muslims and Orthodox and Lutheran Christians are living there, also a small Jewish community and many others. One third of the 2 Million inhabitants have migration background.