Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Apostles for Today - August 2017


Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
August 2017

DIALOGUE IN THE FAMILY

The family consists of and is based on dialogue, made up of a thousand small things, all of which are important and significant: the simplest gestures, considerateness, kindnesses, outdoing one another in serving each another, but above all, nurturing harmony between people without ever tiring.
We believe that two things are particularly important: reciprocity and perseverance. But who can give us these gifts if not grace?
The Holy Family is the example which Jesus offers to us. He at the centre of the family, not as a baby who attracts attention as such, another object of some “vice”, benevolently granted by the parents, but rather as the “holy one” among them.
Around Jesus there was a first mystery which involved his parents, from the moment of the Annunciation: the dialogue between Mary and Joseph was supported by faith in God who sustained everything and who always accompanied them. God was the “guarantor” of that family.
The moment of birth was also unusual, but the simple and the strangers were there to welcome the baby and his parents.
How much Joseph and Mary must have talked among themselves. How many questions must have been asked about the events and about their future. Jesus certainly did not create the basis for a simple and predictable future … perhaps they weren’t even thinking about it … Providence was the lamp that led them forward.
Providence is working also today, but do we make room for it? Do we question ourselves in our family to understand why unexpected things happen and what Jesus might be wanting to say to us in this way? Contemplation, when it is shared, is a different way of dialoguing … contemplation is the response to the sacred.
A friend whom we know was struck by a very serious and rare illness; her husband, a doctor, was obviously very worried. After her initial treatment we went to visit them and they told us that they had encountered a lot of suffering and had been struck by the gentleness and serenity of other families who were facing the same painful situations, simply speaking together and being affectionate. They simply said to us: “this was the greatest learning experience for us”. In this way, having the eyes to sense Jesus who is speaking to you in different situations and to contemplate him together is a very deep level of dialogue, perhaps even a gift.
Life today is very often frenetic and it seems that there is never enough time. This is partly true, but dialogue between a couple is something which is built up over the years … it is a basic way of being which is acquired through grace and which must be nourished every day, with creativity in every situation.
We parents, it could be said all adults in general, also have the opportunity to form even the youngest in profound contemplation and communication. To involve them in an environment where people live in this way, without presuming that everything must be perfect. In fact, our entire humanity accompanies us and our children, but we know that our limits are overcome by the love of Jesus.
It is not easy to keep the dialogue with our children alive, above all in the years of growth, but we have tried to, without becoming discouraged over silences or conflicts. They formed part of the “package”, so to speak, but then, once they had gone through adolescence, recognised our firmness and understood the importance of dialogue particularly in the most difficult moments.
We understood in our family life within the Pallottine Family the importance of loving the other through opening ourselves to listening, to authentic dialogue, free from prejudices and unselfish. To understand the other’s reasons whoever they might be in order to be able to live our differences as a richness; this is something which we can do wherever we find ourselves and in any situation.
FROM SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI:

 “… each one, imagining themselves to be in the House of Nazareth as if part of the Holy Family of the Man-God, is to commit themselves with that humility, respect, simplicity, and spirit of benefitting as much as can be imagined that they would have practised and promoted as if they really had found themselves living with Jesus, Mary and Joseph” (OOCC II, 104).

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:


-        Do we feel the need and the joy of sharing our experiences?
-        How much time do we dedicate to dialogue in the family/community? 
-        When we confront one another, do we try to convince others, or do we try to understand them and their reasons and experiences?
-        Does our outward attitude put others at their ease, creating a climate of trust and reassurance, or do we inadvertently raise a dividing wall when faced with someone who has a different view?
- How do we react when faced with someone sharing their pain? Is it easier to rejoice together or to face a difficulty?

                                Rosa Colucci and Giuseppe del Coiro,
                                Rome.

____________________________________________________
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Apostles for Today - July 2017


Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection

July 2017

DIALOGUE BETWEEN CHARISMS IN THE CHURCH

The opening of dialogue between various realities in the Church and world is welcome and appreciated, being today not only useful, but urgent, demanding loyalty, transparency and a search for what is true and good by the dialogue partners.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God; Christ, God the Son, sent to human beings, clothed in flesh (Cf. Jn 1) to free us and bring us back to the Father. And Christ, revealer of the Father, gives us his Spirit and enters into dialogue with us.
At Pentecost, Jesus pours out the Spirit, revealing the Most Blessed Trinity as a communion of divine Persons. The mission of Christ and of the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church, sent to proclaim and spread the mystery of the Trinitarian communion. And it is the Spirit who gives the baptised charisms for the many different functions, so that they may live in communion in the Church and in the world and bear the fruits of the Spirit (cf. CCC 144; 148).
It is only the Lord himself who can enable a fruitful dialogue between charisms, these these supernatural realities given for the building up of the mystical body of Christ. He alone can help us harmonise them in a practical way which leads to unity in charity, allowing us to appreciate the richness given by such a multiform variety of gifts. It is Christ himself who desires such unity: that they may be one. The greatest charism is charity which leads to unity.
Today simple human relationships and dialogue can seem very difficult. We need to start afresh from Christ, to look at Jesus in the Eucharist. From the Eucharist springs that spirituality of communion which is so necessary for establishing the dialogue of charity of which the world of today has such great need. Relationships, dialogue, fraternity are fruits of the love received from the Father and shared with our sisters and brothers.
The Christian community urgently seeks to present itself as a sign of an ever-possible dialogue, of a communion of charisms capable of harmonising differences. This involves welcoming the various charismatic realities, bearing witness to the value of Christian fraternity and to the transforming power of the Gospel, recognising ourselves as children of the one Father, and impelling us to a self-sacrificing love towards all, especially towards the least ones.
The gift of the charism always carries within itself a call expressed in various forms or different ways of following Jesus and of serving the Church. Each Church community has the task of making the spirituality of communion grow, firstly within the ecclesial community itself and also beyond its confines, constantly practicing dialogue in charity, above all where the world of today is torn apart by ethnic hatred and murderous violence.
The charism is also living memory which is open to the future. Keeping the memory alive, we open ourselves to the great challenges of today. Living with these challenges, we feel the dynamism and prophetic force of the charisms, making us sense their providential up-to-dateness and the possibilities to which they open us. More than something to try to define, the charism is a gift to be followed and to be responded to, which no one can claim exclusively as their own because it is a gift for others.
Often, the dimension of charity is expressed through meals. It was often during meals that Jesus gave sublime lessons of forgiveness, of friendship, of welcoming all, He who ultimately made himself into “food” for us in the Eucharist. The meal becomes the place in which a sense of gratuitousness in communion is expressed and, in a certain way, the climate for a free and peaceful dialogue is created. Humankind was not in a position to create true communion until Pentecost when, with the grace of the Spirit, it received gifts and charisms and combined them in order to become the ecclesial Body of Christ which unites His scattered members in one new Person.
What is referred to as consecrated life lived in community is one of the “places” in which it is almost natural that the charisms be united and collaborate. The document Mutuae Relationes (MR 11) says that the “very charism of the Founders (Evangelica Testificatio 11) appears as an “experience of the Spirit,” transmitted to their disciples to be lived, safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by them, in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth”.
The Christian community with the variety of charisms and institutions, working in synergy in the Church and with society, especially with its multinational, multiethnic communities, offers precious experiences of dialogue, communion and collaboration. For a long time, the opening of individual institutions and creating dialogue between them was not always easy. They kept themselves somewhat closed and separate, even though they may have been apostolically active and effective. Vatican II offers repeated invitations to create openness, dialogue and a more conscious communion between the Institutes of Consecrated Life, without however obscuring the originality and identity of each charism. It also called them to organise together in Conferences of Major Superiors at the national, continental and global levels. In this way relationships of dialogue between institutes were progressively opened up with notable results, particularly through joint study, reflection, research and the exchange of experiences.
This dialogue subsequently opened up to also include charisms given to new ecclesial realities: movements, associations, communities, … which include lay people animated by the fire of the Spirit, eager for sharing, for spiritual communion, for dialogue, gradually leading even to collaboration in organising very worthwhile ecclesial and social works.
These developments, certainly inspired by the Spirit of charity, unity, dialogue and sincere communion, have made visible in the Church and to the world that “Springtime of the Spirit” so greatly desired by the founders of religious orders and the pastors of the Church, but no less so by the entire people of God, eager to live in a Church and a society in which communion, fraternity, sharing are not a utopia, but a gift from above and also an achievement of people of good will.
The Spirit blows where and as it wills. It is working at all times and involves people who are open to its breath for a renewed and regenerated ecclesiology of communion. We need to work through dialogue which is profoundly open to welcoming and gathering the “seeds of the Word” present in every culture, precious values which are also human and cultural, translating them into true worship of God, giver of every gift and perfecter of all things.
It is the Spirit which unites us in communion and unity. The charism, therefore, as gift of the Spirit, equips the person chosen by God to carry out a particular mission, and to work in communion with others who, by vocation, share the same mission. It is the love of Christ in the Spirit which has gathered us to make us one.
And now with great pleasure I come specifically to the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti.
God gave St. Vincent the gift of a profound experience of his infinite love and mercy. Vincent contemplated this love in action in the creation of the world and particularly in the human being created in God’s image and likeness; as also in the redemption of sinful human beings, brought about by Jesus. Following the impulse of the Spirit, he felt moved to found an institution of universal apostolate in order to revive faith and rekindle charity among Catholics and spread them throughout the world. This in summary is the charism given to St. Vincent by the Spirit, with Christ the Apostle as his model, ideal, guide and the source from which he drew continually, but also the goal towards which he tended, because he wanted to be transformed into Christ and to continue His very apostolic mission.
Vincent was very clear that, in the Church, we all have the anointing of the Spirit with equal dignity, are all incorporated into Christ by baptism, participating in his prophetic and royal priesthood, and so we all are apostles and continuers of his mission. And it is through the Son sent by the Father that we receive the gift of the Spirit who enables all believers to proclaim the gospel of salvation to all creation. Therefore, the Church, with the multiplicity of charisms, is equipped for every work of evangelisation and of charity. The individual charisms allow us represent one of the infinite faces of Christ, his sentiments, operations and missions. The followers of the Founder take on the project which becomes shared with other people and lived together in community, in a religious family.
St. Vincent writes: ”I would like to possess that spirit which each Founder had in founding his or her religious institution, but since such a most perfect spirit is found in Jesus Christ Crucified, in this way through divine grace I will learn it from Jesus, in whom is found Love, Humility, Charity, Poverty … and all the prerogatives of Christ the Apostle” (OOCC X, 126-7). In Christ the Apostle Vincent finds all charisms.
Vincent not only was in dialogue with the charisms of his day, but also joined
many confraternities of his time, participating in and sharing in their gifts of grace and charity. He also knew how to welcome into the Christian communion people of every class, condition of life and situation, promoting them and urging them to be apostles according to their own conditions.
Jesus said: “I have come to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already ablaze! (Jn 12:47); this is the Gospel Word that Vincent incarnated and from which he set out to kindle in many hearts the passion that sprang from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to unite in spiritual communion those who were open to the grace and mission of Jesus Christ. In fact, Vincent acted always with the sole  intention of obtaining the infinite glory of the Father and the salvation of all.
Vincent always seeks to unite all; encounter, dialogue, communion are indispensable steps to create true Union and lead all peoples to become one flock under one shepherd. Dialogue is the door, unity is the goal of this demanding and fascinating journey. The Gospel of salvation is directed to all; all are sent to collaborate in this “holy and divine work”, which Christ will continue in us until the end of time.
Mary is present in the Church and in the work entrusted to St. Vincent as Queen of Apostles, but is also the mother of the Church and of all peoples. Recorded as having spoken few words, yet her dialogue with God and with humankind is enduring, effective and co-redemptive; she invites us, inspired by our distinctive charisms, into this transforming dialogue, through which we are made ever more capable of engaging in that Christ-like dialogue which opens the hearts of people to experience the infinite love and mercy that only the Gospel can give.

                                                                                Sr. Lilia Capretti, CSAC.
                                                                                Rome
Questions for reflection:
1.       “More than something to try to define, the charism is a gift to be followed and to be responded to”. How have we experienced the power of the charism of St. Vincent in our personal and community lives? Let us ask the Holy Spirit, giver of all charisms, in insistent prayer, to grant us - members, friends and collaborators of the Union - a deeper and more dynamic spiritual experience of this wonderful gift so that it may be ever-increasingly a real driving force in our personal and community lives.
2.       Where have we experienced fruitful dialogue, communion and collaboration with charisms of other religious families? How, as followers of Christ inspired by the charism of St. Vincent, can we help to promote such experiences for the building up of the Body of Christ and to give a more united, effective and fruitful apostolic response to the manifold challenges and needs of our time?

____________________________________________________
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Friday, June 9, 2017

Apostles for Today - June 2017


Apostles for Today

June 2017

Prayer and Reflection

DIALOGUE IN MISSION

In order to speak of dialogue in mission, it is necessary to consider several aspects of the missionary process. The first is dialogue with ourselves and with God: the two being inseparable. The second, connected with the first, is dialogue with culture, with the people who live that same culture and its implications. The third is the aspect of interreligious dialogue; consequently some writings of Pallotti and of Pope Francis on charity in the process of dialogue itself.
Every mission is born of a passion for Jesus which is translated into a desire to serve Him in serving others. Mission, above all, is being where God wants us and doing what he asks of us. In this sense we can say that mission is a long journey towards the heart of God who takes full care of our life and leads us in his ways.
Mission is to set off, to journey, to leave everything, to go out of ourselves, to open ourselves and allow ourselves to be led, to allow the Heart of God to lead us to greater service. This requires of the missionary maturity, constant dialogue with oneself, in order to understand the process. It demands an intense review of oneself in a new reality, in order to discover the new Creator God and grow in the spiritual life.
The true missionary walks with the Lord, speaks with Him, works with Him, perceives Him independently of his or her own activity.
Being a missionary means allowing “the life of our Lord Jesus Christ to be my life”. It means opening myself without fear to the action of the Spirit and my very life becoming a living proclamation of transfiguration in Christ, alive and risen. The human being is essentially “sent”, that is, someone who has received a mission. Transformation in Jesus Christ leads necessarily to participation in his redemptive mission.
A second aspect of fundamental importance is knowing that the missionary is a guest, a stranger who makes his or her dwelling in another’s home. This requires the capacity to constantly give and receive. One moves as a pilgrim and lives permanently as a stranger, bearing witness to impermanence and to the continual search for an abiding dwelling place. The missionary is invited to carry only one tunic, that is, to be clothed in Christ. He or she is someone who seeks a treasure hidden among peoples and cultures, who at the same time bears the treasure of God’s compassion, in a process of mutual help and of seeking the Absolute.
Being a guest means living a situation of dependence; one’s home is that of another, it is a sacred home, holy ground on which it is necessary to “remove one’s sandals” in order to enter into a new culture. And in this situation, new relationships are established and spaces made available are occupied.
Mission moves us, disturbs us, takes away our structures and pushes us to go beyond where we are and who we are. It allows us to overcome the habit which leads us to close ourselves within our own identity and prevents us from recognising the gift of otherness. Faith in the  Trinity and living mission as a fundamental attitude, manifests the joy of knowing ourselves to be in communion with God and with others, allowing us to celebrate the feast of love with others, especially with the poor and the excluded (cf. Paleari, Giorgio, Espiritualidade e Missão (Spirituality and Mission), pp. 61-62. Paulinas, 2005).
The first attitude which accompanies the missionary is silence and listening in the face of mystery, because that land is sacred. It is the land of the revelation of God which at the same time gives rise to both anxiety and joy over what is new. One seeks to know the people, their customs, their histories and their difficulties. Mission is the place of revelation of one’s identity.
Dialogue and contact with people deepens the possibility of plumbing the most intimate depths of one’s being, of uncovering the roots, of living a profound experience of God. The missionary is always a disciple in search of the treasure and of the face of God.
The missionary is one who is always learning with the Other and with others and, at the same time, the teacher who shares the gift received from God. Teaching and learning at the same time. Advising and receiving advice. Sharing what he or she knows and sharing the other’s knowledge. Recognising that every person is worthy of his or her commitment (cf. EG 274).
Learning from each other consists in gathering the gifts which the Spirit has given through them. Dialogue implies giving and receiving, speaking and listening, teaching and learning. It is the word in the gestation phase, the word which becomes flesh in the dwelling of the life of every person. Sharing what overflows from the heart, of the experience of God. Discovering the seed of the Word: “to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them” (EG. 198).
Dialogue with culture implies hearing the cry, paying attention to the fragilities, recognising the suffering Christ and caring for the dignity of the person. It is taking upon oneself human sufferings, anxieties and limitations. It is being in solidarity with the poor and excluded and at the same time committing ourselves to their cause, becoming a prophetic voice when necessary.
The missionary is one who is profoundly committed against injustice and contributes to the development of projects for redeeming human lives. Who lives out the ideal of the Kingdom in closeness and solidarity, with a personal, silent compassion, in hope that the world will be transformed and become more fraternal, always pointing towards a kingdom of justice and fraternity for all.
Like Pallotti we can say that: “We are all called to observe the precept of charity since all are, according to the reality of creation, true images of love in essence. This is why God has ordained that all be concerned for their neighbour, just as God himself is (cf. OOCC IV, 132, 310, 451).
Before being an activity, dialogue is an encounter and a Christian imperative. It is profoundly rooted in the Trinitarian mystery, in a God who is love and communion. As St. Augustine said: His mission has its origin in love, is sustained by love and communicates love, thereby creating communion.
Love of God becomes love of neighbour. “Caritas Christi urget nos” – is the soul of our apostolate. Love must be lived in such a way that it fulfils the mandate of Christ when he invites us to love as He has loved (cf. OOCC I, 8).
In addition to a dialogue with him- or herself, with God and with the culture encountered as a stranger and pilgrim, the missionary comes into contact with peoples of other confessions; this requires a clear religious identity, and a firm conviction that God desires the salvation of all (cf. I Tm 2:4); that His grace goes beyond the visible limits of the Church; and that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of all humanity, the Church being the place in which are found the fulness of the means of salvation. Dialogue is always associated with the proclamation; both are connected by the desire to clearly know who we are encountering.
The missionary is a person of compassion, of solidarity, capable of seeing what is different not as a threat but with respect. Salvation is always a great gift of God, offered to all, according to the Lord’s own criteria and methods. Therefore, openness to other religions and the respect which ought to accompany our drawing closer, requires a constant openness to the action of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rm 8:29).
In religious experience, dialogue is achieved when people of different confessions communicate their own path towards God; when peace is sought in a common effort to build unity and overcome conflicts; when there are theological exchanges, in which the adherents of the various religions reflect and compare the data of their own faiths. The experience of listening to and communicating with the other can be said to transform the missionary, because from this is born the deep desire to search for unity in God and to respect diversity profoundly.
Interreligious dialogue is sustained and enlivened through a spirituality based on a living faith in a creator God who is Father of all humanity; in a convinced and open hope that does not look for immediate results and in an effective and dialoguing love as a free gift of God.
The missionary both lives on and goes beyond frontiers, with a spirituality rooted in universality which finds its space in an openness beyond frontiers. The principal objective of missionary action is to arrive at a communion of persons with God and with one another.
The dynamism of a communion of life leads to charity, to solidarity, to encountering and listening to the other, to missionary cooperation, to ecumenical, interreligious and social dialogue, to working on what unites us, in this way promoting reconciliation and universal communion. “Let there be unity in what is necessary; freedom in what is unsettled, and charity in any case” (GS, 92).
Communion is one of the most important objectives of mission; and at the same time one of the most effective means of witnessing for evangelisation: "so that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, let them also be one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21). The Church in communion (Koinonia) becomes a sign and an instrument of union with God and of the unity of the whole human race (cf. GS 92).
Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities or programmes of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all an attentiveness which considers the other “in a certain sense as one with ourselves”. This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good. This entails appreciating the poor in their goodness, in their experience of life, in their culture, and in their ways of living the faith. True love is always contemplative, and permits us to serve the other not out of necessity or vanity, but rather because he or she is beautiful above and beyond mere appearances” (EG 199).
Love for our brothers and sisters is authentic, it commits us to act in order that Jesus be loved and “known” (cfr. OOCC I).
Foreign missions were always a concern for Saint Vincent Pallotti; it could be said that it was the beginning of the UAC, its reason for existing and its goal.
  1. What do I do individually and as in community in order to help overseas (“ad gentes”) missionary activity?
  2. We find ourselves in a constantly changing culture. What do I do to promote dialogue in the concrete reality, with the many challenges of means of communication which lead to a cultural, religious, social and individualistic indifference?
  3. In what way, as UAC, can we collaborate for peace, in a world which continually promotes violence?

                                                                       Suor Maria Neide Sibim, CSAC
                                                                       Bolivia.
 
____________________________________________________
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Message from the GCC


Unione Dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piaza San Vincenzo Pallotti, 204 – 0186 Roma, Italia
tel. (+39 06.6819469 – fax: (+39) 06.6876827 – e-mail: uac@uniopal.Org

__________________________
Rome,
May 23th, 2017. 

MESSAGE FROM THE GENERAL COORDINATION COUNCIL


 To all of the Union of Catholic Apostolate
 on the conclusion of its annual meeting

 

   Heartfelt greetings to all of the members, collaborators and friends of our Union of Catholic Apostolate. 
   We thank you for accompanying us in prayer over these days; you to have been in our prayers. 
   We have been in communion in the Cenacle, accompanied by the Word of God as we await he coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the celebration of Mary, Queen of Apostles. 
   We believe that he Holy Spirit, the Spirit of infinite abundance and Giver of life, draws us nearer to God and helps us to live in unity with each other. 
   The topics which we have discussed and the reports presented by the GCC members and the various commissions indicate that he charism of Saint Vincent is a living and growing reality in our world. 
    We recognize that he ongoing development of the Union, ensuring a life of deepening communion and co-responsibility between all - members, collaborators and friends - brings with it many joys and challenges, along with a growing awareness of our fundamental identity.
    When looking at these issues, we saw that - through our witness, our missionary outreach, a recognition of our equality, our participating in ongoing formation, our loving and patient listening to each other - we ensure that he charism of our Founder, Saint Vincent, is a positive energy in the Church and in the world.
   The invited speaker, Mons. Sergio La Pegna, deepened our knowledge and provided a clear overview of the Charismatic Families and of our specific cal to evangelization.
   This year we celebrate the Bicentenary of the priestly ordination of St. Vincent Pallotti. The apostolate, as articulated by our Founder, is a gift which we have received from God and which has ben aproved by the Church for the benefit of al humanity.
    Within the Union, we have expressions of all vocations: Ordained, Consecrated, Lay. These vocations complement each other, and make us co-responsible for bearing the Pallottine charism. We
respect he vocation of each one and the role each vocation has to play. Together we go forth and offer the Church our spiritual patrimony.
    May the gifts of the Holy Spirit give us inner strength in proclaiming the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and in unconditional service.

United in communion,
Your sisters and brothers of the GCC.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Apostles for Today May 2017

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection
May 2017

INTER RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE


An Experience in Airport Chaplaincy


    Today’s apostle, as well as his or her apostolate, have to be quite flexible. We, members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, have to approach our fellow human beings fearlessly, even if they are strange to us, even if they come from cultural environments unknown to us, even if they belong to other religions. We have to be open to dialogue, to talking with all. Our founder Vincent Pallotti would be pleased with this. “To be up to date” holds true in general, but especially for our apostolate. It does not mean falling into an unhealthy freneticism, but rather to live the apostolate calmly, prudently, and above all in permanent connection with God, in spite of all the new challenges.
   For our pastoral work at the airport in Frankfurt we had a wonderful model for this, St. Mother Theresa. Each time she came to us, she had always an abundance of tasks to fulfil. But before she began, she first withdrew to silence, in our chapel, before the tabernacle. There she stayed in deep absorption. Then she came and expressed her matters in a calm voice. In the course of this, she never put down the rosary and at the end everything was settled. This would also please Vincent Pallotti.
    Now to the airport chaplaincy. In 1972 the Bishop of Limburg/Lahn and our then Provincial Rector asked me if I would be willing to build up the first airport chaplaincy of Germany in Frankfurt/Main. No one had a clear idea of this. I moved to Frankfurt and from then worked on at the airport for 31 years. We had two rented rooms there. In one team-room, with a common telephone number, my Protestant colleague and I, plus two female employees, one Protestant and the other Catholic, worked together. In the course of time, about 30 volunteers joined us.
The second room was available for our airport chapel, having about 50 seats.
   We called ourselves the “Ecumenical Airport Chaplaincy”, but from the beginning we were an interreligious chaplaincy, an interreligious ecclesial ministry, for our doors were open to everyone, be it Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist. And all were coming, and we wanted the dialogue with all. Unprejudiced acceptance of the other, also of the stranger, is in general an important precondition for an effective apostolate, yet it is indispensable at a major international airport. It was important for us to talk to one another ad intra, but also and perhaps especially ad extra.
Our founder Vincent Pallotti would also have asked for this.
On the first day of my work as airport chaplain, I stood in the big halls of this international airport as if in a modern temple, a big cathedral. First I had to learn what an airport is. Major parts of the business are underground, others on earth and the most important part is in the air, on its way. In all the three parts, there are numerous people, passengers, employees and also numerous visitors, who drop off or collect others, or just want to get to know the airport. (At Frankfurt Airport, daily about 150 000 passengers arrive and depart. About 80 000 people are working for them locally at the airport, plus about 120 000 persons with suppliers in the localities close by. “A major city without inhabitants”, since out of the many who belonged to it, no one was living at the airport itself.
The first target group were the employees, who would also be able to support us effectively and help us to come in contact with the passengers.
   For my personal work, this meant concretely that initially, if possible, I had to be on the go in the airport all day, in order to visit the employees at the workstations, to get to know them and to become familiar with them. In this way I won many friends. Among those, were some who understood themselves to be apostles of Christ and who considered it as their task to take on responsibility for the people at the airport, especially for those in need.
Since our door was always wide open, we also frequently had curious guests who, as they told us, would otherwise not have dropped in. Thus it came about that at our round table, as we called our reception, the manager, who had been a bishop, sat together in dialogue with homeless people, whether living in hostels or sleeping rough, and thus got their problems directly.
And we let all of them feel that we are present, to be in solidarity with them in good times and bad. On our part, we did not ask about personal details. Those who wanted to share about theirselves personally could do so. The only questions we raised were if and how we could help. And we tried to do this as far as possible.
   Many came who were not Christians, especially Muslims. They too readily entered into dialogue. Often there were informative topics which were of interest for the others present as well. During this it became clear, that we knew rather little about one another and that we had to come to know each other better. As early as beginning our work at the airport, I had placed a prayer mat in the entrance area of our chapel for religious Muslims. This possibility was at once accepted gladly. (Today for Muslims there are about 20-25 prayer rooms and niches close to workstations at Frankfurt Airport.)
   One day an Iranian businessman came to our chapel in order to pray. Then he thanked us very courteously. When I remarked that it would be beautiful if we Christians were offered such a possibility for prayer in his homeland, he said that he personally would welcome this, but that the constitution of this country does not recognise freedom of religion. The example shows that it is necessary that we talk much more to one another and that we come to know each other better.
In the area of workplace chaplaincy, there were also many possibilities to show the employees that the Church is present for people and not the other way round. We were delighted that this also led some people to find their way back into the community of the Church. People expect us to take them seriously as mature citizens. If they sense this, then they become open to dialogue.
   During these many years at the airport, I never experienced rejection and never received an unfriendly reply. On the contrary. Frankly, many people admitted not sharing our conviction, but respected it as long as we also respected their opinion. Then they were also ready to dialogue. This bears good fruit.
   Another example regarding this is imprinted on my memory. For years, I had many good conversations with one employee about religion when I was walking around. One day I heard that he had died quite suddenly. When I tried to learn more about the place of his funeral, I heard to my amazement, that this man was a Muslim. During our many religious talks I had never become aware of this. Of course, also in this case, I had never asked him about his religious affiliation.
   For us as Catholics, of course, our chapel with the tabernacle was the centre of our day, and daily Eucharist at 9.00 a.m. was the only fixed point in our very flexible schedule. For us it was our spiritual source of strength. For me, personally, these hours of spiritual nourishment are among my most beautiful memories. There one could calmly bring everything before God. This chapel also brought us very gratifying encounters. I think for example of Frère Roger Schutz, the Prior of the monastic community of Taizé. Many young people always came to welcome him. After that he always asked me to celebrate Mass with him and the young people and to give him Holy Communion, for – he said – he believed in the real presence of Christ in both the bread and wine, and could see no objection to him receiving it. One day he wanted to give me pleasure at the end of Mass. He showed me his Catholic breviary, it was the breviary of the late John XXIII, which he had given him as a present shortly before his death.
   A special problem that occupied us during almost all of these past years, is the encounter with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, airport chaplaincy has become standard at all airports in Germany, also thanks to our cooperation and our “know how”.
   For the future, we need even more closely intertwined networks for the apostolate in general, and especially for our apostolate according to the charism of the Union founded by Vincent Pallotti. For the future, it needs to be directed and practised more globally.
Airport chaplaincy is a meaningful area of apostolate, with growing importance generally and with a future. It is therefore very necessary to accompany these apostolic efforts in the field with the apostolate of prayer, with much prayer.

Some Questions for Reflection:
Ø While we all agree that apostolate is worthwhile, what am I actually doing concretely?
Ø Am I really unprejudiced and open to dialogue with all – as equal partners?
Ø Do I pray intensively enough for the success of the apostolate of the Union?
Ø Do I have real conviction regarding my membership of the Union?
Ø As an apostle, how do I deal with setbacks, rejections and doubts?
Ø Do I have enough trust in God and enough patience?

                                             Fr. Walter Maader SAC and Irmgard Mader UAC
                                             Frankfurt – Germany
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Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org

Friday, March 31, 2017

Apostles for Today - April 2017


Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection

April 2017


DIALOGUE WITH THE POOR

The Union of Catholic Apostolate and the primacy of the poor

1. There are already many well-written works on this issue. I by no means claim to propose something particularly striking or new. It is simply a reflection that comes from the heart of a person in constant contact with men and women, children and the poor who seek to live in communities in Sao Paulo in Brazil, a big city that was built precisely through the work of the poorest.
2. The primacy of the poor represents the foundational core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also refers to the basis of the functioning of society: Who makes a shopping center work? Who makes the banks work? Who operates the means of transportation? The churches? Who builds the houses and roads? Who maintains the state institutions? It is the workers and the poorest. But they are undermined, ignored, not being allowed access to the goods they produce, whether material or symbolic. I am writing, therefore, from the poorest peripheral regions of this enormous city.
3. A first task of the Union is precisely to listen to the poor who cry out to God. It is to the poor that Luke 4 refers. Here poverty is understood in the negative sense of the kind of poverty and wealth which should not exist. This poverty must be abolished because it is contrary to the Kingdom of God. Oppression is the result of a structural injustice and therefore produces a corresponding sin. It causes social (Muniz Bandeira), moral, economic, political, religious and environmental disorder. The Gospel is the good news communicated to the poor and the Union can and must contribute in the spreading of this good news.
There are also the poor according to the categories of Matthew’s Gospel (ch. 5). Here the poor are those animated by the Spirit of God the Father and of Jesus the Son. They are blessed. They are the poor gathered in communities scattered in many places throughout the city and the countryside. They are fragile, but know about the Good News and have hope. They form the churches of the Christian communities. They are free through the word of the Gospel which they have heard. The primacy of the poor in this context is because they have heard the Word of God and seek to live it. They in turn are bearers and apostles of the word. They live in groups or in communities where they share their sufferings, crises, hopes and lives. They nourish compassion towards each other. The bible is their book. At present, they are suffering from the advance of other religious groups that produce a total inversion of the word of God, interpreting life and the world in the fear, fantasy and illusion of a God manufactured by the current market, which makes even faith a product to be bought and sold. This fear divides, dominates and deceives. As an example of this it is enough to look at the lyrics and melodies of “songs” played in the various worship services and celebrations. Their preaching would make you shiver.
4. The evangelized poor live their faith in a more intense and extensive way. They communicate it even if they have no officially recognized roles. When the poor lose community they enter into a crisis, a tragedy, losing their sense of belonging. Here is another function of the Union in service of restoring the Word to the poor throughout the world, forming a community which evangelizes.
5. From these communities built on the gospel of Jesus arise the specific vocations of apostle and missionary. The poor are willing to collaborate with the Church in many areas: in catechesis, administration, pastoral care, especially those services which take care of the weakest, such as the sick, the unemployed and pilgrims of all races and languages. The latter become citizens of the city. In general, they leave no written trace, filed in an office; but they do transmit the one important thing: attitude, action and the practice of compassion towards others. They are the lay apostles valued by St. Vincent Pallotti and reinvigorated by the Second Vatican Council, as well as by the guidelines of Pope Francis. The world will be evangelized by those who first hear the gospel and then translate the teaching of Jesus into daily life. It is also their task to direct themselves towards those who are passive among the people, individuals who see no meaning in things. They try to survive and easily become prey to the many ‘wolves’ who cross their path. The Union is also called to open itself to this great challenge, helping lay people to overcome this weakness and become the active subjects of their own lives. Turning in on oneself means blocking the apostolate in its most original form: in the Union, “two by two”. Walking through the streets of the outskirts of São Paulo, one sees many poor victims of the cruelty of the model of the globalized society. Among them, however, there is an effort to take care of family, health and work, and to have a decent home. They are not recognized by the consumer market. The number of the impoverished is growing and therefore it is urgent to out to them. Modern coldness and insensitivity make them appear to be simply a detail, to be ignored, excluded, separated and distanced. Therefore, this movement must be initiated by taking steps towards them and breaking through existing barriers. This requires personal and long-term contact. It is not a matter of speaking about the poor. It means being with them. It takes a lot of humility. In this movement of encounter there will be insecurities, fear, doubts, but we must persevere. It is love (1 Cor 13) that is capable of awakening apostolic action. Love of neighbor is a gift of God in action following the example of St. Vincent Pallotti and many others. The Union of Catholic Apostolate is therefore an Appeal. It is necessary to prepare the way through a realistic Pallottine formation. Society is going through uncertain moments, impasses, general crisis and a growing inhumanity. We are called and summoned to go to meet this world which is torn apart. The mission is clear: Look at those who are fallen and left behind in the streets, squares and peripheries. The certainty is that God walks with us. He will be with us to the end. (Mt 25 and 28). To remain in the love of Jesus is to apply his commandment. This commandment is the love of human beings, one towards one another (Jn 15:12): “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home in him. (Jn 14:23). The love of God in Christ is a reality that surpasses everything. It transforms religions, social practices and even civil institutions into apostolate; we have access to a superior reality which can be touched in our daily lives. Love for the Lord and for our neighbor is truly the synthesis of the will of God.

ALL FOR THE INFINITE GLORY OF GOD

For reflection:

We are called to “solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters[, which] demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers” (Laudato Si’, 158).
Only on the basis of [a] real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation” (Evangelii Gaudium, 199).
  1. In what ways are we living this call already as individuals or as a group?
  2. Where is there room for growth in making the Church’s option for the poor a central part of our concrete Pallottine life?
  3. What attitudes, practices and structures might be in need of pastoral conversion in order to better respond to this fundamental call?
Fr. Antonio Ferreira Naves, SAC
São Paulo - Brazil

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Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org