Thursday, January 19, 2023

Apostles for Today - January 2023

Apostles for Today - January 2023

Prayer and Reflection 



Announcers of the Word like St. Vincent Pallotti

This year, 2023, the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God coincides with January 22. For us, it is a day of great feast, the feast of the Founder's birth into heaven, St. Vincent Pallotti. The Church draws The theme of this Day from the First Letter of John: "We proclaim to you what we have seen" (1 John 1:3); hence the title of the day itself: "Announcers of the Word!" And so, thanking the UAC General Secretariat for the invitation to write and following its outline for this month of January, I will try in this contribution to make the words of St. Vincent Pallotti and the Word of God, which is Jesus, speak to each other, to put them in dialogue with each other. It does not seem difficult to make this connection, because, fortunately, we have an infinite heritage of the Founder's words: the Complete Works, the Letters, the testimonies of those who knew him. So I said to myself, "I'll take a little bit from here and a little bit from there, and that's it: Jesus and St. Vincent said the same words."

But then, once again, I realized that just as with the Gospel, it is not enough just to read it or say it to call ourselves Christians, disciples of Jesus - Mary, Joseph, the apostles and all (men and women) who followed Christ understood it well -; in the same way, the words that St. Vincent wrote, said are - also for me, for us today - a mirror of what the lived Gospel matured in him and made him discover that the life of God, of the Trinity, is possible to welcome it in everyday life and in communion with every brother, sister.

"Remember that you are in the presence of God and say in faith - The Father who created me stands here - the Son, who redeemed me stands here - the Holy Spirit, who sanctified me stands here. I stand in the company of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity - Oh what a company!" (OOCC XI, 236).

Yes precisely this always strikes and shocks me about the Founder: his relationship with Christ was vital and he lived it not as ethical or functional behavior but as active adherence, as participation in living Christ in all and with all.

"God is charity by essence; he is always solicitous for the benefit of every person, and he was solicitous even to the point of sending his Only Begotten Son to redeem humanity by his death on the cross. Since therefore all persons, as creatures, are living images of divine charity, so all must in their possibilities love God by loving their neighbor." (OOCC IV, 308)

And even more it strikes and shocks me that this life of his was not his alone, but he shared and broke it with everyone. As if to say that the life of Jesus in me does not separate me from others, but is to be lived with others, because Jesus is all in all.

"God, with infinite Love, and with His infinite Mercy created us in His image and likeness to come to be like Him in glory for all eternity. Out of the same infinite loving Mercy He called disobedient Adam, and as in love with man so ungrateful, and miserable, He promised him the Redeemer, and for Redeemer His own unique divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ true God, and true Man in soul, body, and divinity is ours, and the whole life of Jesus Christ, his infinite merits, his most perfect virtues are all ours" (God, Infinite Love, Med. XXII)

Many are the words of St. Vincent that touch us deeply and even if we repeat them many times, even when we happen to use them abstractly, we realize that they are our compass for loving God and loving our brothers and sisters.

"The pious Union has no new object, but the eternal Law of Charity" (OOCC IV, 317).

I believe that the greatest gift we can give the Founder on the occasion of January 22 is that we also commit ourselves, with God's grace, to re-practice among ourselves and with everyone the life of Jesus Christ as our fundamental rule. Thus, daily Practical Memory will gain more and more flavor as an experience to be lived.

Of course, sometimes it seems to me that it would be easier for me to think of Pallottine spirituality as a form of devotion, certainly there is that aspect as well; but in my dealings with members all over the world, I realize that it is a concrete way of ongoing conversion to the Good News of Jesus.

"Before beginning daily works, we must consider what the thoughts of the most holy mind of our Lord Jesus Christ would be in that case ... in a word, in everything we must imagine that we see our Lord Jesus Christ ... our model" (OOCC III, 36).

Might this not also be the deeper meaning of this other famous word of the Founder: reviving faith and rekindling charity?
I would like to conclude this contribution with the first prayer of the faithful during the Mass of the Epiphany of the Lord, and I think it is of value for the whole work of St. Vincent Pallotti, the Union of the Catholic Apostolate:
For the Church and her unity: may she walk in peace to manifest to the world the plan of communion that God wants for all peoples. Amen

Happy Feast and in communion with all,

Donatella Acerbi

Monday, December 5, 2022

Apostles for Today December 2022


 Apostles For Today

December 2022

Synodality in the Vision of St. Vincent Pallotti

   -In the Vademecum (1.3) sent out by the Synod of Bishops, we read “...synodality is not so much an event or a slogan as a style and a way of being by which the Church lives out her mission in the world. The mission of the Church requires the entire People of God to be on a journey together, with each member playing his or her crucial role, united with one another. A Synodal Church walks
forward in communion to pursue a common mission through the participation of each and every one of her members.”

   St. Vincent’s vision has invited us to be a Synodal Church. Through his life and work, we recognize all the elements mentioned above and realize that this has been our calling as members of the Union
of Catholic Apostolate. This is what we are called to live and have been living to a greater degree since our erection as an International Public Association of the Faithful on October 28, 2008. Many of us are acquainted with the picture of St. Vincent holding the crucifix and pointing to Christ on the cross. This is the basis for his vision. He was totally aware of the infinite and incomprehensible love God has for us all, whose Word became flesh and died on the cross to redeem
us. St. Vincent’s desire/vision was that everyone would come to know this great love and respond in kind to Him.

   Every journey must have a goal or destination to which it moves. We do not wander aimlessly, not knowing where we are going or why. The goal for our journey in the Union, and in the Church, is – to live in all eternity with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is what we have been created for and Jesus showed us how we are to accomplish this – “Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10, 27) As Jesus, and St. Vincent, we are to put God at the center of our lives because He is the goal we strive for, our destination. 

    For St. Vincent, this starts and builds with prayer. He spent many hours in prayer, listening to the Lord, to aid him in his vocation and in the work he was to accomplish. “The humble, continuous and trustful practice of prayer (vocal and mental) is the greatest infallible means to obtain graces and divine blessings for our greater sanctification, for the greater progress of the glorification of God
and the greater sanctification of our neighbour. All, therefore, should be diligent in prayer.” (OOCC II,63)

   It is our obligation but also our privilege to be people of prayer in the UAC by means of our Prayer Book “UAC - Community Prayers”, the recitation of the rosary, lectio divina and other forms of meditation with scripture, all prayed individually or with others. St. Vincent also encourages us to
pray frequently during the day, using short ejaculations that will help us to keep God in mind and present for us. Prayer and the Eucharist are means for us to build community and become a family. In this family, we all have equal rights and responsibilities, though differing roles. This family offers us continued education in the faith, support in our joint efforts for the mission, encouragement when times are difficult and a place where we are welcomed. As St. Paul says, “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor. 5, 14) “These words are meant to say that the motto of the Union is Love of Christ impelling and that the soul of the Union of Catholic
Apostolate is and should be “Love”. Love should be practiced in such a manner as to fulfill the precept of the Lord Jesus and to fulfill his commandment, “love one another, as I have loved you.” (OOCC I,8)

   We are to act, not just to bask in the love God showers on us through prayer. We are to act together, because “Reason and experience prove that individual efforts for good are ordinarily small, inconsistent and short-lived and that a man’s most generous efforts cannot achieve any great success even in the moral or religious order unless they are united together and directed to a common goal.”
(OOCC IV,122).

   St. Vincent may have been the one to provide incentive and leadership for his Union, but he did not undertake everything alone. He included and invited the laity, priests, brothers and sisters to make things happen – collecting monies for the missions, running the house for orphan girls, visiting those in prison and in hospitals, caring for the sick and the poor, helping during the epidemic, teaching the youth. He knew that he could not do all this alone and achieve much success. Part of the charism he left for us is also to show our love for neighbour through charitable works of mercy. “Jesus came to serve and not to be served: so who can refuse to live with this spirit of mutual service?” (OOCC VIII,405) “In the Christian and religious life there is more to do than to say. So, few words and many works, and good works done well.” (UAC – Community Prayers, p. 265, #23)

   All the faithful, by right of their baptism, are called to be part of the Apostolate of the Church, reviving faith and rekindling charity, using all the gifts God has bestowed on each one for the greater glory of God and for our salvation and that of our neighbour. In the UAC, members working together, priests, brothers, sisters and the laity, walking in unity, help bring the mission of the Church to life. “Everyone, then, who, according to his state in life and his talents, trusts in the divine grace and tries to do as much as he can for the Propagation of Faith, can merit the name ‘Apostle’, and what he does for that purpose can be characterized as his ‘Apostolate’.” (OOCC III,142) “’Catholic Apostolate’ or ‘Universal Apostolate’ means that it is Universal to every class or persons and also means to do everything possible for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.” (OOCC III,143)

   Returning to the definition of synodality given above, we can see that St. Vincent was a man with a vision that was ahead of his time. The UAC members, united by the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti, form one body of people who pray, plan and work together for the greater glory of God. They are formed in the charism so that they may go out into the world of their daily lives to bring Christ to others through their example, dedication, commitment and conviction that reviving faith and rekindling charity will bring others to belief and life in Christ, which is also the mission given us by the Church.

Maria Domke


Friday, October 28, 2022

Apostles for Today October 2022

 

Prayer & Reflection
Apostles for Today

Monthly Reflection, October 2022

- Synodality in the Vision of the Pallottine Charism
Discernment and Decision

A fellow sister in Brazil sometimes says: "somos um grupo de almas vibrantes! (We are a group of vibrant souls!) I think she has hit on what Pallotti wanted the members of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate to be - journeying together alongside the mission of Jesus, moved by the love of God. How can we, the Pallottine Family, contribute today through our discernment processes and with our decisions to a fraternal communion in the Church journey?

The recently deceased Bishop Fr Seamus Freeman SAC and Fr Hubert Socha SAC both, in their specific function and competence, together with many others, elaborated the General Statutes of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, which had required much knowledge of Pallotti's intentions as well as many discernment processes that led to the result that our charism is now recognized in the Church and can contribute as a "synodal ferment". Let us thank them!

What criteria should guide us in our search processes and decisions today? - Although I am not an expert, I would like to respond to the question as I share my thoughts with you on this topic.

1. Pallotti's Yes to Synodality in the Church
The Church was of great concern to Pallotti - he saw it, ahead of the 2nd Vatican Council, as an instrument of God's love for people, continuing the mission of Jesus. All the baptised should recognize and actively participate in their apostolic vocation. "Shared responsibility for the Gospel!". Pallotti would certainly have participated wholeheartedly in the synodal preparatory process, out of conviction that the Church needs to convert, open up and, while doing so, always strive for unity, so that the message of Jesus be credible and contagious for the people. To this end, the signs and needs of the times in which people live must be recognised and responded to.
We are therefore called by our Founder to an active collaboration in the renewal process of the Church. Living our apostolic commitment, we should contribute in our places, family, community, at work with our abilities and possibilities, so that the Church becomes a togetherness of "almas vibrantes", moved by Jesus, moved by the Gospel. We are mission.
A few years ago, twelve young people in Germany joined the Union after having spent a year of volunteer missionary work in different countries. They chose a creative name for their group: "MitMission". In German it is a play on words with 2 meanings: Together in Mission and to be on it. They want to get involved in church and society as young Christians, and they also prepare other young people for voluntary missionary work in other countries.

2. Asking about people today 
Technology, informatics, globalization have profoundly changed people and social coexistence. We are living in an epochal change in which the coordinates that have until now provided stability for common life no longer apply universally. Relativism, "fluid values", mixing fact and fiction can be just a few keywords. This demands from people they determine their own values, truth, and sense of life. Today many (at least in our part of the world) feel alone, despite media networking, and depression is spreading. The Corona pandemic has intensified this. However, the "Corona experience" has also made many people rethink, reconsider solidarity and the care for creation. In the last few months, the Russian attack on Ukraine and its consequences have cast a dark cloud over everyone. Fortunately, there is great openness and commitment to refugees on the one hand, but on the other hand there is increasing egocentrism, indifference/disinterest in the lives and suffering of others. One woman has put it this way: in the past, people used to apologise if - while watering flowers -they wet someone passing underneath their balcony. Today you can hear instead: Why do you have to pass below my balcony when I'm watering the flowers!
The cultural and social reality also affects people in the church. Many in our country are turning away in indifference or indignation at the inconceivable numbers of abuse scandals and at what they see as unsatisfactory answers on the part of the Church to questions regarding sexual morality. An unprecedented wave of church withdrawals is calling for a response - especially in Germany. Some Christians are switching to strict traditionalist circles. In many places, however, there are also parishes and groups that strive to keep the faith alive and reach out to others.
Pallotti encourages us not to close our eyes but to look for ways in which people, we as well, can find each other and experience the fraternal community of believers.
3. Breathing God in – reaching out to people 
In his time Pallotti felt the need to encourage all the baptized to rekindle faith and love among themselves and to assume co-responsibility for the transmission of the faith and in works of charity. Apostles all! What can we do in our time, when God has become distant for many people and church life has become alien? Pallotti went among the people, met them on the streets, at the bedside of the sick, in their fraternities, and with the theology students at university. In him, people could feel the presence of God. Pallotti put his own person in the background, Jesus' in the center. " May my life be Jesus' life" In such a "quality of encounter" God can work. There may be someone in our own family, community who is alone and ultimately a stranger to us. There is much to do. "Make wide the space of your tent" says Isaiah (54:2) "stretch out your tent cloths without sparing!" Pallotti spoke of the friendly face with which we can "speak" of God to others. A nod on the street, a gesture on the bus can create community for a brief moment. - And here’s a short story of an encounter one day in Rome:
A common initiative for encounter was the weekly "Night of Nicodemus" at the church of San Salvatore in Onda in Rome. Some Pallottine priests and women would stand in front of the church on Friday evenings and try to make contact with the people passing by in the evening and also invite them for a short visit in the church. I remember a man who was walking his dog. Jokingly I said, "If you want to say a quick hello to the good Lord and you trust me, I'll stay outside with your dog in the meantime." He replied that he was an atheist, not interested. "That doesn't matter," I said. We got into dialogue talking about our different attitudes. I remember that during our conversation I asked God to "speak along" in His way. The man suddenly said, " Oh, you're in love with God!" I was, frankly, embarrassed. "I hoped it was so" I replied. The doors of the church had long been closed when we parted - just like friends.

4. Cooperating with others in Pallotti's style Pallotti was convinced that collaboration brings richer and more lasting results than "individual performance". He must have experienced, as we do, that cooperation is not always easier. However, he saw it as "the greatest gift": because it is God who invites us to cooperate in his work of salvation. The opening of the Pia Casa di Carità and especially the Octave of the Epiphany may serve as examples from Pallotti's time. Many were involved. Pallotti had a universal understanding of cooperation:

spiritually, the association should be linked to others through mutual membership. Financially, the various initiatives had to be supported by donors, nobles, well-to-do and simple private individuals and groups. In carrying out the works, a narrower circle of priests, religious and individual lay people was then involved in each case.
With the 2nd Vatican Council, many networks also began within the Church: Bishops' Conferences, lay associations, cooperation of religious and spiritual families like the Union, common commitment to ecumenism, care of creation, fight of human trafficking, etc. As the Union, we should see ourselves as a ferment in the Church and society. Our contribution to synodality is not to be focused on ourselves but on the common mission, unpretentiously offering "the color" of our charism together with the competences of others.

5. Recognizing the mission/intention of Jesus today Pallotti envisaged Jesus as the Apostle of the Father, and His "food was" to fulfil the will of his Father. Like Paul who said of himself "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" Gal 2:20, Pallotti aspired to a complete imitation of Jesus' life and mission: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" Jn 10:10b. In the Our Father, Jesus breaks down for us what life in fullness means: communion with God the Father and fraternal/solidarity communion with one another.
The Union of Catholic Apostolate, which Pallotti founded in response to the "Enlightenment" on 9 January 1835 with a small missionary group that existed at that time, was to become a universal apostolic community, "urged by the love of Christ" to make His mission its own. Pallotti therefore advises members to ask themselves again and again as a "daily practical memory": "What would Jesus feel, think, do in this situation?" - Ignatius of Loyola recommends to imagine the Gospel periscopes and enter into the scene. Pallotti gave us the Gospel as a basic rule for our decisions and actions. Looking at the life of Jesus in the Gospels helps us to know Jesus more deeply - so that we can hear his voice in our situations today, especially when it comes to important apostolic or other decisions.
In the disputes on difficult issues that divide different thinking groups even in the Church, in the face of human need that surrounds us - where is our "Pallottine place" - our contribution? We have to find it again and again from our continuous search for Jesus’ mission and intention, today.
Pope Francis has not shied away from admonishing Patriarch Cyril of Moscow: we must speak with the language of Jesus! 
6. Love - the spirit that should animate all According to Pallotti, the love of Christ - Caritas - is the constitutive of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. The Apostle Paul, a master of Christian discernment, spells out love/charity for us in his hymn 1 Corinthians 13. This is how Jesus lived. He was the love of God Incarnate, meek and humble of heart. He came to seek what was lost and to heal what was wounded. We can also replace "love" in 1 Cor 13 with the name "Jesus". From what Paul lists, it follows per se what love cannot be and what Jesus is not: domineering and self-centered.
The "spirit of love" is not about us all having to like each other and be on the "same wavelength", as nice as that would be. However, Pallotti expects us in the Catholic apostolate to appreciate each other in our differences and to keep our eyes on Jesus, travelling together in His cause. Where there is a persistent poisoned atmosphere and mutual recrimination, without readiness for a new beginning, Pallotti says: Without love, the Catholic Apostolate does not exist! And here we are "out"!
The 1st reading of the liturgy on Pallotti’s feast day - Isaiah (58, 7-8. 10-11) -, describes the works of mercy as the "right fasting" - and says: your light will break forth like the dawn! To the extent that we engage together in the many needs of people, our charism shines forth in the Church. - We all certainly have good examples to tell, here is a small one from our community:
Near our guesthouse "Procura" in Rome is the children's hospital Bambino Gesù. While the children, often with serious illnesses, are being treated in the clinic, their parents need accommodation. Every year the requests increase at the Procura, also because the sisters offer them a special price that barely covers the costs of our house. Together with the General Administration, it was decided to give priority to these families. So the apostolate of the guesthouse has been extended. The sisters are there to share when the parents come home from the hospital, often in despair, and pray together for their children. Sometimes a Pallottine priest friend comes to say healing prayers and blesses the parents.... A Polish family with two children suffering from multiple sclerosis lived with the community for many months, sharing the kitchen with the sisters and becoming one family with them. This was possible because the sisters cooperated all together.
7. „Place“ of discernment and decision: the Cenacle The Cenacle is a place of crisis (Greek: krisis = decision, decisive turn). After the death and resurrection of the Lord, the disciples did not know how to move on. In the darkness of not seeing, the early church - the archetype of every Christian community - gathered in prayer. Certainly there were also confrontations, anxious struggles. With the gift of the Spirit, the apostles, disciples of Jesus could go and reach out to the people as missionary community. Pallotti understood the Cenacle as a universal, wide space in which the whole creation is groaning in labor pains, in crisis (Rom 8:22). Our questions and needs today are part of these travails. The Spirit is the protagonist of new life, of life in Christ, the power of our mission today. Just as Jesus was moved by the Spirit, one with the Father and able to stand firm in love even up to the cross, so today the Spirit gives us light in our discernment and steadfast love for our decisions and actions. Pallotti gave us as patroness and intercessor Mary, the "virgo potens", our Queen of the Apostles. Together with Pallotti and all the saints, she is our companion.
The Fathers and Brothers of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, gathered in Poland in Assembly, have elected their new General Animation Team. With our prayers we support them and believe that where one part of the family is again thinking about its mission, we will all be enriched for a new departure. Questions for reflection In the Union we have many groups, communities, councils (organs of synodality). How do our discernment and decision-making processes work? What should we pay more attention to?

What should be at the center of our commitment/effort/outreach to realize our charism?

S. Maria Landsberger SAC

Monday, September 26, 2022

Apostles for Today - September 2022

 

                Prayer and Reflection

                Apostles for  Today
                    September 2022


Authority and Participation


First of all, I would like to thank all those who have written before me here on Apostles Today, and put myself in the same path as them to present these reflections on the theme that has been proposed to me. In communion therefore with all the writers and readers, I introduce myself: I am Corrado Montaldo, an Italian and a member of the Community of the Fifth Dimension, in the Union.

I am convinced that the synodal path we are all walking is a decisive step for the implementation of the Second Vatican Council and, more generally, for the life of the entire Christian community. This path, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is in simple terms the will of God; therefore we are all striving to achieve it, each in our own sphere, with our own characteristics, with our own will and with the grace with which the Lord assists us. We have also become aware that the synodal path is not an invention of modernity, not someone's brilliant idea today, but is a life already undertaken by Jesus with his disciples gathered with him and then continued in the first communities.

We are thus impelled to live a new and ancient experience, sometimes not lived in its fullness, but always present. I am convinced that there is no other way for us than to live this 'journey together' (synod): we know that this 'togetherness' is not just occasional, it is not just being all in the same room, it is not just being members of the same association, it is not just all signing the same document. It is much more: to make us understand this, Pope Francis was very clear: the Synod is not just an event, it is a process; I would say an experience that is prolonged over time, certainly made up of words, but above all of listening. The word 'together' seems to dominate over everything. What value do we want to give to it? How can this journey, in which everyone is involved, overcome differences and distances; how can it be a true service to unity? When we say 'together' we immediately have the image of a community Church, gathered in the Name of Jesus, where everyone finds a place. This is the People of God, the people of the baptized, which is also open to the unbaptized, to the distant; here there are all vocations, conditions of life, ministries, responsibilities, charisms. In this people there is no contradiction between participation and authority. I remember as if it were today, 13 March 2013, in the evening, when the announcement was made in St Peter's Square of the election of Pope Francis. There were many people there, mostly Romans. The new bishop of Rome said: “And now, let us begin this journey: bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of brotherhood, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for each other. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great brotherhood”. The highest expression of authority was addressing us all, proposing a path, made of brotherhood and mutual prayer. It cannot escape us from these words that Charity is what allows us to preside over the Churches. St Vincent had written the same in his 1835 Appeal. For him, charity was the only substantial constitutive that allows us to walk together and stay together. For charity is God himself.

When the first steps on the road of the Gospel were being taken, when the journey of the community to which I belonged began, we always heard this exhortation repeated: we are all different, we have different characters, often different opinions and even different life experiences among us: everything can fall but charity never falls... we renounce everything but never charity; with charity we always start again, let us ask the Lord for it and practise it concretely among ourselves. We understood that this had to be translated into concrete facts, into gestures, into life, and not remain a beautiful superficial reflection. We discovered that we were little capable of being faithful and so we asked God, because everything came from Him. We thus seemed to sense, just a little, what St Vincent had experienced in his life. For this I must always give thanks. In this fundamental relationship that was based on the New Commandment of Jesus:

"This is my commandment:
that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:12), among other things, there were also reference figures, group leaders, both for individuals and for the various activities. At the centre was the priest, for it was he who had initiated our experience. Were these figures at odds with being communion? Certainly not, if everything was lived in the New Commandment of Christ. It was understood that charity, concretely, translated into listening, into patience, ultimately also into obedience, knowing how to lose one's own opinion or desire. It was a school, a gymnasium, not to learn to be perfect but to learn to love. All this is based on a convergence of all towards a common path, in which authority also has its place. The synodal path helps us to distinguish authority from power: indeed if we understand power as the possibility to act, this is very good because it gives the tools to try to do a lot of good. But it could be a negative, self-centered power, which does not produce life but pain, which imposes its own will, its own tastes and thoughts, without asking what God's will is. Authority is a great possibility to work for good and help everyone to do the same. This is why it is necessary to always remember that every authority, every ministry, every role, only makes sense within a people in which we recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, and this not only in theory. I would also add that this is also a remedy for the loneliness of those who exercise any ministry: alone one does not go far, one often loses one's way; in the Christian community one helps one another towards the goal, one is saved together. Participation in the common journey is also a very serious matter. In fact, participating is certainly a right, but it is above all a necessity; everyone's contribution to the journey cannot be lacking: to be part as a subject, a protagonist, and this applies to every vocation. In my experiences over the past year, within the synodal path, I have seen how the presence of everyone, even the one who never comes to Church or the one who is very critical of Christians, the person who has no interest or the priest who does not feel involved, is always an important presence. In addition, many new relationships have been created between people, born precisely from listening to each other and sharing, always starting from the Word of God and from lived life. There has been fatigue, certainly, a lot of work, but also joy.

We know that in the first phase of consultation the entire people of God (hence all the baptized, all the ministries, everyone!) listens and makes its voice heard. At the end of the process, when all voices have reached the pastors, they will give the final directions and also make decisions. This is their charisma and in this they will be the interpreters of the voice of the Holy Spirit, to which they will have to give the utmost attention. We will all pray for them and be in communion.

I believe that the synodal path poses a question for us: are we committed to a path of communion? Let us ask ourselves again: was that Jesus whom we met on our way, whom St Vincent loved so much that he wanted everyone to meet Him, communicated to us His life, the life lived with the Father and the Spirit, the life of His family, Love? Have we understood that, even if we are all sinners, the Love of Jesus among us saves us and makes us Church? Outside of this, what else do we have to do? Perhaps to communion we need to form together, because it is like a water that we all need to drink, religious, clergy, laity, families, communities, schools, parishes... Perhaps we should have shared formation experiences where we humbly learn communion, learn to walk together, all needing to learn, from the smallest to the largest. "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28)". Was it not one of St. Vincent's greatest desires that all, all without distinction, work together to awaken in everyone the presence of Jesus Christ? How can we achieve this? Only by organizing ourselves well, only by giving ourselves regulations, only in a hierarchical structure? All these things are important but not decisive, they do not guarantee that we walk together. Vincent knew this and placed Charity as the constitutive element of his work.
Today the Church walks in communion, in synodality: do we want to learn among ourselves and with everyone how to ask for, receive and live the gift of communion? I think this is a great need, as well as a great desire.
I would like to thank all of you, members and friends of the Union, for your testimony and for this common journey. I would like to extend to everyone what Pope John Paul II said, in Roman dialect, in an audience to the priests of Rome (he was already very ill): Let us give ourselves, let us love each other, let us be Romans! (in dialect it was: 'Damose da fa' e volemose bene, semo romani!'). I could say now: we are brothers and sisters, on the road, 'together'. Are we naive to desire this? Mary, Queen of Apostles, gather us in unity.


Mr. Corrado Montaldo


 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Apostles For today August 2022


Ecumenism - Towards A Successful Unity as Children of God

 

  1. Ecumenism - Because All are Called


God gave us Jesus Christ so that "He might be our firstborn brother, 'ut sit Ipse primogenitus in multis fratribus' (Rom 8:29) ... In this way He wished to animate more vividly and palpably in us faith in that intimate, true, very close relationship which may be called ... supernatural kinship. Through it we enter into the rights of the children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ."1 These words of St. Vincent Pallotti make it clear that all who profess Christ are united as brothers and sisters and called to follow him into communion with God and with one another.

On the way to this fellowship of churches, the Christian confessions have come a decisive distance in recent decades within the framework of ecumenical encounter and ecumenical dialogue. But in the face of present and future challenges, we need to redefine ecumenism from the center of Christian faith. Experience shows that the ecumenical process must come from the center of Christianity and be sustained by the life and faith practices of Christians as a whole. 2 If ecumenism is to carry its own concerns right into the hearts of people and the movements of life, it needs a spiritual reorientation and a clear change of perspective inspired from the centre of the Christian message, as well as a broadening of horizons.

  1. Building Blocks of a Spiritual Ecumenism


Before the unity of Christian denominations becomes a visible reality, Christians must first become aware once again of the foundation and the goal of unity.3 This foundation can only be religious and at the same time spiritual. The visible unity of the Church is only a concretisation and manifestation of unity in the spirit of faith and the mission of the People of God. Ecumenism cannot be reduced to the level of mere conversation, argument and problematisation, or to diplomacy and human benevolence. It must emerge from the spiritual power of living proclamation and witness to the Gospel from life. It must blossom in lived faith.

It is therefore indispensable that Christians of all denominations first become aware of their mission and calling as Christians. The basic condition of the unity of the Church is the fundamental awareness that there is only one God and one humanity. This fundamental unity precedes all differences and all legitimate diversity. The one God is the Creator of all human beings. All human beings are creatures of the one God, made in his image (cf. Gen 1:26). The Creator of all human beings, according to the Christian faith, is the heavenly Father. Because we have only one Father, we are all children of God and therefore brothers and sisters.4 The desired unity of the Church is nothing other than the unity of humanity already founded in creation, which the Church is called to live. This can only succeed as a spiritual process. Such a spiritual perspective enables us to seek without prejudice that which unites us and to give it form: Are we not united by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our vocation and common mission as Christians, the profession of faith, the call to mercy and holiness of life, and last but not least, our common hope in eternal life? The sacramental bond of Baptism unites us deeply with one another and gives us a spiritual kinship with Christ and in him with our fellow human beings. It is necessary to recognize this deep kinship and to fill it with life.

We must understand ecumenism as a spiritual process encompassing all dimensions of the Christian life. "Because ecumenism, with all its human and moral demands, is so deeply rooted in the mysterious work of the Father's providence through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, it reaches into the depths of Christian spirituality."5 This means penetrating the truth of the faith existentially and appropriating the essence and truth of the Christian message in such a way that it shapes and transforms one's whole life. The common confession of faith that all Christians pray must become an experiential existential reality for life and Christian practice. This confession is, of course, an ongoing task which we hope will be fulfilled.

To realize unity in legitimate diversity of faith traditions and approaches is above all a spiritual task wrought by the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can give the necessary power to reconcile differences. For the intention of the petition for unity in Jesus' high priestly prayer (cf. Jn 17:20-26) has in view a unity that is per-formed in God himself. But it is an eschatological reality that can already be experienced now in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The "already" and "not yet" of the faith founded in the message of the kingdom of God is especially decisive in questions of ecumenism. Ecumenism can only be successful if we look for a theologically-reflective contemporary form of the gospel and the church that comes from the center of the Christian faith and is oriented towards the present ecumenical necessity and the present world situation rather than towards the outdated confessional categories and reasons for separation of the past. We need a great spiritual strength to surrender part of our own history and the narrowness of our own confessional limiting identity and to attain a larger and more comprehensive common Christian identity.

Ecumenism as a spiritual process demands from everyone a spiritual breadth of heart and an inner spiritual strength to respect and love not only individual brothers and sisters in other churches, but entire denominations as such, without rashly giving up one's own self-understanding. This is, of course, the more difficult and uncomfortable way, but in the long run it is fruitful. For true fidelity to the Lord and his Church and openness to the various challenges of the reality of others are not mutually exclusive. To the extent that we live in communion with Christ, abiding in his love that accepts and purifies us all, to the extent that we share in Christ's community, we too can be faithful to the Gospel and to our own journey of faith while at the same time being open to other journeys of faith. We are all united in the spiritual search for the all-surpassing truth of the Christian faith in its depth and fullness.

  1. Theocentric Orientation


In our common confession of faith, first and foremost is the confession of the one God who is the Creator of all people. In this confession we are given a great vision of unity. When God is at the center of ecumenism, we are on a sure spiritual path. The point is to refocus all our ecumenical efforts on God and to understand the whole process of ecumenism as a journey of deeper knowledge of God and relationship with God. All our ecumenical efforts should be about grasping more deeply God's one plan of salvation for all humanity and drawing strength from it for our actions.

What we need today is a God-centeredness in the life of the churches and the ecclesial communities.6 When we look together to God, we have the strength to perceive from a new perspective the reality of human life and all that belongs to the human condition. All ecumenical movements must start from God and lead more and more to him. For the vocation of all Christians and of the Church is to be witnesses for God in the world. Since this witness is obscured by the division of Christians, the abiding goal of ecumenism is to be together "convincing" witnesses to God. If we succeed in a new departure towards God, we will also succeed in ecumenism. If we are on this spiritual journey, we will discover more deeply our common calling as Christians. When we put God at the centre, we will all have a common direction of vision to guide individual Christians and the church as a community.

The necessary theocentric orientation in ecumenism becomes concrete and real for us in a lived Christocentricity.7 Jesus Christ is at the center of the Christian faith and the confession of him makes us what we are: Christians. In Christ we recognize who God is. In him and through him, God becomes Immanuel, the God with us. The concretisation of the experience of God in Christ is only possible if we are willing to enter into friendship with him. This friendly relationship with Jesus is the central theme of a spiritual ecumenism. Through the knowledge of Christ we become new people. In him we live in a new way in the awareness of the unity given in him to all who follow him and have become brothers and sisters in him and through him.

Jesus Christ is the common foundation of the Church. If we want to build ecumenism not on sand but on solid rocky ground, and if we want to come closer to the goal of the unity of all Christians, then we must first turn our gaze to him and to the salvation given in him.

We must return to Jesus Christ and his saving message: Jesus Christ is always the same, yesterday, today and forever (cf. Heb 13:8). Christians confess together about him: Jesus Christ is true God and true man. This confession is the common foundation of all churches and the common heritage of undivided Christianity in the first century. An ecumenism built on this foundation can be purposeful.

  1. Ecumenism and Evangelisation


When we recognize that the divisions are obviously contrary to the will of Christ, then for the sake of the cause of Jesus we must make every effort to intensify ecumenism from the mission of the Church and to continue it as a spiritual process of bringing the faith to life and passing it on. For the raison d'être of the visible Church is solely the mediation and realization of the salvation given in Christ, so that people may find their salvation, to the infinite glory of God.8 The source of ecumenism's strength is the awareness of Christians' sacramental union with God, the bond this gives them with one another, and the spiritual community of life and witness that follows from this.9

The Church's mission of evangelization and ecumenism are closely linked. Therefore, we must start at the root. We must once again make the Gospel the center of the Church's life, because the Gospel is the beginning, the permanent foundation and the source of ecclesial life and of all renewal. Of course, by Gospel is meant the living Word of God, Jesus Christ Himself. Thus we must again begin everything anew on the ground of the Gospel and renew everything in Christ. Only on the path of evangelization, which means at the same time a new evangelization and self-evangelisation, can we walk ecumenism as a spiritual path to unity. This is how we realize our apostolate.

One thing is necessary: A new enthusiasm for God that opens and inclines, unites, builds up and completes. If we are close to God, we will also be close to one another and together we will be a sign and witness of human unity. If we succeed in grasping anew the glorification of God as our proper vocation and mission, the ecumenical rendezvous will take on a new quality. Many divisive issues will then appear in a different light and this goal of unity will unite us: "You have called us to stand before you and serve you". This prayer of the Church in the celebration of the Eucharist is the confession of her very raison d'être.

When Christians existentially embrace the spiritual implications of one of the most quoted words of the Bible, ecumenism will appear in a new perspective: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy tribe, a people who have become his special possession, that you may proclaim the great deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) This calling is our mission: When the glorification of God is seen as the unifying center of God's people and is also grasped and lived existentially, then a new horizon opens for ecumenism. The ecumenism of the future can only succeed if we are prepared to join in Jesus' prayer for unity and to live our lives accordingly: "Let all be one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21).


Dr. Fr. George Augustine SAC

1 V. Pallotti, God the Infinite Love, Friedberg 1981, 130.

2 Cf. W. Beinert, Die Rezeption und ihre Bedeutung für das Leben und Lehre der Kirche, in: W. Pannenberg/T. Schneider (Eds.), Verbindliches Zeugnis, Vol. 2, Freiburg - Göttingen 1995, 193-218.

3 On the following cf. G. Augustin, Die Seele der Ökumene. Einheit der Christen als geistlicher Prozess, Ostfildern 2017 and G. Augustin, Geistliche Ökumene. Path to the success of unity, in: Diakonia 48 (2017) 161-166.

4 Cf. in detail Pallotti, God the Infinite Love, 130.

5 Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Execution of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, Rome 1993, 25.

6 Cf. G. Augustin, God First. A Conversation on the Future of Faith, Ostfildern2 2022.

7 Cf. G. Augustin, God unites - Christ separates?, Paderborn 1993.

8 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, 1.

9 Cf. ibid, 12.

 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Apostles For Today --July 2022

 

            Apostles For Today

                    July 2022 

 Dialogue in the Church and in the society

Currently, the synodal process proposed by Pope Francis is an excellent moment to re-examine issues like: community discernment, collaboration in the Church and society; but also - perhaps above all – that of the dialogue we live within our Church, community, or society. I must admit that, especially in recent years I’ve been observing what is happening in the world and I have the overwhelming impression that the word dialogue has become extremely popular in theory, as it sounds well in homilies, reflections, or speeches by politicians or famous          personalities. However, if we take a closer look at this, it turns out that, apart from the façade of beautiful words, for many this topic becomes generally          inconvenient when we see how it is practised in the daily life of a community, family, and society.                   

In the context of the Church, the word dialogue has become particularly popular in relation to the so-called interreligious dialogue, broadly understood as ecumenism. We can see it in the attitude of the Popes ofthe 20th century up to Francis, with whom interreligious dialogue today seems to get a special focus with the world of Islam. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes even farther, with a very strong emphasis on dialogue with those who have not yet accepted the Gospel. We read: The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel (CCC 856). Looking with hope at the reality of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, we see that dialogue and collaboration were at the heart of the life of our Founder, St. Vincent Pallotti. Already during his time at the seminary, Pallotti had tried to promote the missionary and ecumenical activity of the Church; then it culminated in the Celebrations for the Octave of Epiphany, he organized for the first time in Rome in 1836.

Pallotti was a man of dialogue and collaboration, open to anyone and any possibility of doing good together, even with people who showed no interest in God. It should be particularly emphasized here that in Pallotti dialogue primarily began within the Church among those who constituted it on a daily basis, and as a consequence, or perhaps because of this foundation, his dialogue spread all over and beyond, reaching out to the peripheries of the world of his time. It was also the premise for the establishment of the Union, which has in its very name the feature of unity, dialogue, and collaboration from the very beginning. As we read: the Union was called the "Pious Union of the Catholic  Apostolate; to emphasize that its main purpose is to zealously cooperate with works for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls” (cf OOCC I, 192). We can’t collaborate with zeal, if dialogue and openness towards others do not become part of our DNA, because, as our Founder says: Reason and experience demonstrate that the good done individualistically is usually lacking and of limited duration. Even the best efforts of individuals cannot be successful unless they are united and directed to a common goal (OOCC IV, 122). If we want to be effective, if we really and deeply want to be the salt of the earth, we have to remember that this salt can give flavor to every reality of life, including the reality we do not understand or is strange and unknown to us, and which, on the surface, may arouse a natural sense of human fear: fear of the unknown, of a different opinion, or perhaps of a challenging disagreement that shatters our apparent order.

So, we see that, in the depths of our charism, we are invited to be people of dialogue that leads to collaboration. In the first part, I mentioned that dialogue has become a trendy word, but not necessarily a practiced one. This is unfortunately the case. Let us leave for a moment society, which by its very nature “lives its life”, and let us try for a moment to look at our reality in the Church, which by its own very nature should be a place of dialogue. A few simple examples. Today in Poland, in every parish we have Parish Councils, but some of them do not function at all in practice, because everything is decided by the parish priest already. He has the first and the last say. In our communities we have priests or consecrated people who avoid difficult topics. They have no problem voicing unpopular opinions from the pulpit or through the media, but not necessarily they are keen to meet others who are looking for answers to difficult questions that may challenge our thinking or sometimes show the fragility of our testimony. Lay people are no better in this regard, as the pandemic has clearly shown us. For it has turned out that also in our social environments we are not open to dialogue and sometimes we cross out people when they do not fit into our thought pattern.

Perhaps they are unusual, or even their way of living is in opposition to what we believe. Dialogue does not mean that we agree on everything, that we accept whatever the world brings, but dialogue does allow us to remain open to others, to be there for them like the bread when it is needed, and to be ready to accept them with whatever they bring, even with what is inconvenient. Is this not what it is all about? It’s about changing the world, not running away from it and its problems, or building an atmosphere of exclusion.

Fortunately, recent years have also borne in examples of beautifully conducted dialogue full of respect and love. The number of parishes where laity and priests are together, listen to each other, and where they sometimes disagree but in a healthy way, is constantly growing. Yes- they can disagree. In our Pallottine spirituality we speak of our diversity, of the variety of vocations, sometimes also of our different opinions, and although this can be difficult sometimes, if used well, it allows us to serve better, live better and be more humble. Dialogue requires humility and a deep awareness that I am not perfect, that I have flaws and also that I am often wrong. Pope Francis, in the Evangelii Gaudium, made it very clear: Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way” (Evangelii Gaudium 33). Doesn't dialogue make us open our horizons to new forms also in the field of evangelize? In our communities, let us answer the question: how do we live? Are we able to give up our habits and routines? Do we, like Jesus, do not exclude those who are different, but open ourselves to their voice? Do we have the courage to live a pure Gospel which shows that it is possible to be so close to
Him, and yet so distant from Him? Or apparently so distant, and yet close - like the tax collector in the Gospel. In the following part of Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis, writing about the Christian ideal, says: The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated  equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their
pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness
(Evangelii Gaudium 88).

I invite you and myself to take the risk of meeting others, to be open to dialogue and to constantly listen to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who blows as he wills, and not as we will.

Michał Grzeca