Thursday, December 6, 2018

Apostles for Today - December

 Apostles for Today


Holiness, A Journey Made Together

 “Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness” (GE 82)
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them (Mt 5:7)
By saying “blessed”, Jesus proclaims the happiness of the person which this beatitude describes. At the heart of Jesus’ life, of his message and his gestures, is the human person who, for him, comes first, before the law, before institutions: the person is sacred. The beatitudes are understood only from this center which is the person.
The happiness proclaimed in the beatitudes comes from a certainty: that the person is the beneficiary of the loving presence of God. It is a true joy, because it is based on faith, faith in the benevolent accompaniment of God, and on a hope in the full reception of the goods of the heavenly Kingdom.
But, the true and lasting happiness that lives in the depths of our lives (personal) is also the happiness of others (community). The question of my true happiness cannot arise without that of the happiness of others and conversely the question of the happiness of others cannot be posed without that of mine. We must read the beatitudes according to these two keys to find there not external moral principles, but a profound impulse for both personal and social existence.
1.       Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy
What happiness for those who let themselves be touched by the suffering of others: yes, they will themselves be relieved. This beatitude links our happiness with our attitude towards our neighbor. Our relationship with our neighbor is closely bound up with our relationship with God. “What you did to the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Mt 25: 40).
Our world today does not easily leave room for emotions, feelings, active compassion, mercy … To this often hard and merciless world, Jesus, today as yesterday, proclaims: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy (Mt 5:7). This could be understood as: blessed are those whose heart is open to misery (compassionate) because someone in turn will relieve their misery.
2.      The meaning of the word “Mercy”
In the Christian context, the word mercy can refer to God in the midst of the misery of human beings. Misery with a hundred faces. The misery of bruised bodies like many of the victims of genocide, the misery of wounded hearts like those of orphans and widows because of our ethnic and fratricidal wars, the misery of alienated spirits, the misery of the sin of those who killed and continue to kill others, the misery of ... we could continue the list. This beatitude, added by Matthew, translates a teaching of Jesus that refers to a vision of God widely revealed in the Old Testament, a God full of pity (compassion) who teaches mercy and forgiveness.
In Exodus (3:7-8), in the episode of the burning bush, Yahweh first says: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt; I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmaster (so He is not insensitive to their anguished appeals); yes, I know their pains ...” God showed 1. compassion, by seeing the misery of his oppressed people ... he was moved to his depths ... Then He was 2. moved to act in mercy and forgiveness of sins: “I will come to deliver him from the hand of the Egyptians and I will bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey. Thus, mercy is first of all a characteristic of God, which He can give to anyone who desires it.
3.      Compassion, mercy and beneficence (doing good)
Compassion also includes a dimension of beneficence, a habit to do good, God’s active benevolence in response to all kinds of misery and poverty, including its most material forms. For the Old Testament, mercy is a feeling of compassion or pity, inclining God to human beings, to those who are wretched, to give them what they lack. Through compassion, God measures the extent and depth of his children’s need: lack of food (Ps 111, 4-5) or clothing (Ex 22, 25-26 and Gn 3, 21) or need for protection (Ps 86, 14-16). Having experienced poverty in my family and our neighborhood, seeing people going to bed without food, living among people who are naked, daily being with children on our streets without families, there is a great need of concrete compassion today in the sense expressed by St. John Eudes: “one is merciful who carries in his heart, through compassion, the miseries of the miserable” (Œuvres Complètes [Complete Works], volume 8, p. 53)
 “Merciful” compassion starts from an inner attitude which flows out into action. It involves opening our hearts to feel deeply the misery of others and taking action to do all that we can to relieve their distress.
4.      God’s mercy
Jesus in the Gospels practiced these two aspects of mercy also in the forgiveness of sins. Like his Father, he practiced divine forgiveness to those who recognized themselves to be sinners, in need of and open to receiving the forgiveness of the merciful Lord. Jesus bears witness to mercy above all through his predilection for those called sinners who need salvation. Often people are mistaken about God; they think that he is a tyrant who demands sacrifice. Jesus supersedes this process of itemizing faults and condemning: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners; it is mercy that I want and not sacrifice”. (Mt 9: l3)
Looking at Jesus’ behavior we better understand the merciful Father, such as Psalm 86:15-l6-l7: “But you, Lord, God of tenderness and mercy, slow to anger, full of love and fidelity, turn to me, have mercy on me, give your strength to your servant and your saving help to the son of your maidservant, show me a sign of your kindness ...”
There is no true mercy except by reference to and participation in God’s mercy. This was very visible with survivors of the Rwandan genocide who were able, with God’s help, to forgive, to visit in prison, to meet and greet with compassion those who had killed members of their families.
It is also true to say, at the level of being, that Christ is not only merciful by his merciful action, but he is mercy in his very being. Through mercy, he not only shows that poverty touches his heart, but he actually remedies it. Some people have also done like Christ. I remember very well the situation after war and genocide in Rwanda, the Pallottine Father and Brothers were very involved in the reconciliation of people, but they also used to help many abandoned children by giving them hope, by paying their school fees and, according to their possibilities, by building houses for some of them. So it was not only about feeling sensitive but also looking for remedies for concrete distress. This was also my first motivation to join the Pallottines.
Christ’s humanity gives his mercy a quality of love beyond what the Old Testament could suggest. The Old Testament tells us that mercy is possible; God is not resentful... his mercy is untiring: “Can we find a God like you? Cast our sins to the bottom of the sea” (Mi 7: 18). God revealed himself to be the “Holy One”: “I am God and not man. In the midst of you I am the Holy One” (Hosea 11:8). In the New Testament, the Holy one, as we know, took flesh in Jesus Christ: “He is true God and true man”. God’s heart has also become a human heart, his mercy reaching us in the most intimate part of ourselves. This was the wish of Saint Vincent Pallotti. He used to say that the Creator God is Trinitarian and He is full of Love and Mercy: “Oh! Excess of incomprehensible love! Ah! My God, infinite love of my soul, ineffable mercy! Oh! The divine inventions of your infinitely merciful love! » (OOCC, XI, p. 236.)
The Pallottine spirit magnifies the “loving inventions of divine mercy” and perceives that divine justice is infinitely merciful. This divine mercy is brought to its supreme expression through the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of the Word of God.
At the end, merciful compassion is revealed as dynamic happiness; in motion, it is a matter of doing, of performing acts that embody and engender love. What do I do to create love or kill love?
P. Monier in his book
Sermon sur la montagne, p. 45 says: “Take misery into your heart. Love, help not abstract justice, faith, humanity, but your loved ones. A bounty of benevolence is worth more than ten tons of food.” To speak of mercy leads us to speak of another kind of mercy: forgiveness given to others. The request to Jesus: “How many times should I forgive my neighbor? Seven times?” But Jesus answers: “Not seven times but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22).
Mercy is the state of mind of the one who cannot see misery without allowing it into his heart ... The merciful is permeable to the misery of others, is permeable to the generous love of God.
Blessed are you the merciful ... Blessed are you if the misery of others touches your heart. Blessed are you if you do not judge your neighbor and if, like the Good Samaritan, you come down from the mount of your complacency, you lean towards the other, you reach out your hand to heal the wounds of life. Blessed are you the merciful because you will obtain mercy ...
What gesture of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation does the Lord ask of me in the concrete circumstances of my life?           
Blessed are all of you who accept to close your eyes to a mistake, a weakness; who are able to excuse, to understand.
Blessed are you if you know how to take time to soothe and relieve poverty in all its forms.
For Jesus, the effective love of people in poverty is a priority, as is the effective forgiveness of enemies. But is there a more beautiful and effective way to forgive your enemy than to help when he or she is badly caught?
Do we want to be happy? Let us practice mercy ... It is a privileged way to happiness. It is also a path within our reach in everyday life ...

                                                                  Fr. Alphonse Ndagijimana, SAC
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Retreat Talk by Adele Jones

  A Retreat Talk 
by Adele Jones 


Opening Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Song:  Joy, Joy, Joy
Psalm 100
Open with 2 questions - Joy and Happiness
1.      Is there a difference between Joy and Happiness or are they one and the same?
2.     What is the difference between the two?
Answer to #1    Happiness is an emotional state of well-being and is a temporary feeling tied to external circumstances.
Answer to #2 we experience joy when we achieve selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. We feel joy when we are spiritually connected to God.  We can have joy even in our sufferings.  Joy is not tied to external circumstances.  We cultivate joy from the inside out.  Now, here’s something for you trivia buffs.  In the New International Version of the Bible, there are 545 references to joy and merriment and happiness and laughing and rejoicing.  And only 158 verses that talk of sorrow and pain and tears and suffering.  The Bible is a book of joy.
Reading:  John 15:9-11  Barbara Martens
  Jesus clearly wants us to have His joy in us so that our joy may be full.  So how can we experience this fullness of joy?  The Bible reveals that God is a being who has great joy and that everyone who comes to know Him enters into the only true and lasting joy possible.  The Psalms overflow with joy and gladness.  Jesus had God’s joy and gladness because He continually knew God’s presence.  Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ...   When our lives are intertwined with his he will help us walk through adversity no matter how high or low our circumstances.  This is the key to joy and gladness, daily to cultivate a sense of God’s presence.  Then even if we go through sufferings, we will not lose our joy, because God is with us.
St. Vincent Pallotti said, “If cheerfulness and joy are lacking, few will be attracted to follow Jesus!”

 Question - Where can you find this joy?  Discuss at your table.
Joy in the Word
  Continue talk:
     In Galations 5:22 Paul speaks about the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  Joy is one of the fruits in fact it is the second preceded only by love.  If you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.
  First of all you need to read the Word.   We can find this joy in reading the Word of God.  Psalm 19:7 – 8 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”  Jesus quoted the verses from the Bible many times in his life.  He was full of joy.   In Luke 7:34 it says that the Son of Man came enjoying life. He ate, he drank, he danced and yes he laughed a lot.  He wasn’t a killjoy.
 So why is it that throughout history Jesus has been portrayed as sad, serious, and somber?  Why have we flattened Jesus into a one-dimensional character instead of understanding that he was both a man of sorrows and a man of joy?  Down through the centuries the man of sorrows was emphasized more than the man of joy.  (Isaiah 53:3) But in Isaiah 61:9 it also says that he will be anointed with the oil of joy.
 Jesus got invited to a lot of parties, and many of his stories are based on parties.  That makes sense when we remember that Jesus enjoyed life.  He was so fully engaged in these parties that some people accused him of being a glutton and a drunk.  He wasn’t a drunk, He was just a party guy.  Jesus’ attitude toward life showed that he was a man of joy.  Remember Jesus’ first miracle at Cana?  It was a joyous occasion, a wedding.  He could have been dancing when his mother interrupted him about the lack of wine. Maybe that’s why he was a tad rude to his mother. The very idea that Jesus told jokes and went for the laugh lines with his audience might be shocking to some of us.  The problem is that you and I just don’t get his humor.  The chasm of language, culture, and time keeps us from fully understanding Jesus’s intent. 

Question:  Imagine Jesus, a man of joy walking through life with you today.  What would he laugh with you about?  Discuss at table

    Joy in Suffering 
But what was the joy that was set before him?  What joy was so rich, so satisfying, and so deep that he was willing to suffer such terrible abuse?  Some of you might be overwhelmed by your sufferings but some of you could top my story in a heartbeat.  The point is not who suffers the most, or how someone else handles the suffering in his or her life, but how you handle the suffering that comes your way.  Sorrow, hurt, and grief are the most natural reactions to tough trials and testing but from the Book of James 1:2 – 18 we make an exciting discovery.  Read James 1:2- 4.  In the worst of times we can still say, with the help of the Spirit at work in our lives developing joy in all kinds of circumstances that “it is well with my soul!” 
It might be wise to go ahead and start preparing to seek treasures of joy in the darkness now.  Each of us needs to be prepared for dark days.  Let your roots go down deep in Jesus so that your faith becomes rich, intimate, and stable, enabling you to withstand the worst this world can throw at you.  Find the treasures of joy when the darkness is so thick. Believe that even in the darkness you are experiencing God can give you joy.  God wants us well.  He doesn't give us sickness.  He offers help and ways to combat diseases. As He traveled throughout Israel, He stopped numerous times to heal the blind, the deaf, the lepers and the brokenhearted.  He raised the dead.  This tells us that God wants us to be whole.  Ask Him for his help constantly. 
         Read Habakkuk 3:17-19
Song Though the Mountains May Fall
What was the joy set before Jesus?
So what was the joy set before Him?  You were the joy set before him!  He suffered so he could be reconciled with you.  The joy of restoring the broken relationship, of living with you forever, that was the joy set before him that was the joy that kept him nailed to the cross.  What a joy to be able to relate to others who suffer, to say that I know what it’s like. What a joy to live knowing that life is brief and every day counts.  What a joy to look at my family and friends and tell them that they matter and I want to spend time with them.  What a joy to live every day knowing that heaven is a place of healing.  This is a joy that comes not in spite of suffering but because of suffering. Heaven is NOW!  We enjoy heaven when we have joy.  Sarah Young says in her book Jesus Today, “A joyful heart will improve your health – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  So fill your mind with thankful thoughts till your heart overflows with joy.”  Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Joy in creation

   We Christians have been called by Christ to see Him everywhere.  We have been made in His image and likeness, to grasp boldly the Sun in all its brightness, so that we may image His light fully to the world.  We become the creative power of God.  Nothing exists or moves toward perfection except by God’s creative power immanently present in all things.
   We see proof everywhere in God’s creation, birds, singing, animals leaping, flowers, babbling brooks, sun shining, blue skies, and flourishing trees. God gives us richly to enjoy as he is enjoying his creation.  We are constantly evolving.  Look through the eyes of our Cosmic God.  Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Joy is not optional.  The Bible repeatedly commands us to rejoice.  The most emphatic exhortation is in Philippians 4:4 -7.  (Someone reads Phil 4:4 – 7)
Song: Sing to the Mountains
Break – What robs us of our joy?  List at least 6 things.
Answers to what robs us of our joy
   People are looking in wrong directions in response to their thirst for joy.  We have lost our focus; we have lost sight of what is important in maintaining joy and living the joyful life. They’re all moving about determined to satisfy the longings of their heart. 
1.      Looking for love and joy in People
  False source of joy is people: husband, wives, children, friends, companions, and the world.  We consistently look to them to provide joy.  Why is this?  Because we’re expecting the people in our lives to meet needs they cannot meet.  They were never supposed to.
2.      Looking for joy in things
A new house, a new car, cities, towns, or even countries.  How often do you catch yourself dreaming of the next place you’ll live?  Wherever we go one thing stays the same our needs and expectations move with us.  No matter where we live, we are tempted to compare our place to others.  I say to myself there will always be a better place for me.
3.      Looking for joy in possessions

Luke 12:15 says, “Beware!  Guard against every kind of greed.”  Life in not measured by how much you own.  Jesus lays it out in no uncertain terms in Matthew 6:19-21,” Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasure in heaven.” The Bible also tells us that always wanting just a little bit more causes us to become jealous and envious of others.  God is the only true source of our Joy.

4.      Position

Sometimes people think being in the hierarchy will bring us joy.  But sooner or later it gets lonely at the top.  Striving for a different position or title is not wrong.  But joy will not survive in an environment of suspicion, greed, or resentment.  They imply that a new position or greater recognition will bring more joy than what you have now.  And that idea won’t hold water.

5.      Worry – Nothing kills joy faster than worry.  Some of us are fabulous worriers – We’ve elevated worry to an art form.  You can earn money on the side worrying for other people.  Remember our definition of Joy:  Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life.  We cannot have joy and worry at the same time.  When you’re worrying you are not trusting.  A fundamental part of expressing trust in God is learning how to gaze at him and only glance at our problems.

6.      Stay away from negative people.  They can rob you of your joy.  (joke) Spend time with positive thinking people.  Be a positive thinker yourself.

7.     Anger, fear, materialism, greed, jealousy, complaining and pride rob us of our joy.

8.     Arrogance

9.     Unforgiveness

 Joy in Loving Intimacy – John 17:13
First, we spend time often with God in his Word and prayer.  His word is truthful as well as joyful.  Not only is God a God of joy, but God’s word to us is also a word of joy.  The thirst we have for the Living Water is also Jesus’ thirst for us.  In John 4:22 – 24 Jesus says to the Samaritans, The hour is coming when you will worship neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…True worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.  What a revelation!  “The hour is coming when you will worship out of who you are”, says Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB in her book “A Tree Full of Angels.”  The hour is coming when you will realize that the spirit and the truth live within you.  As Macrina says, “You are a portable chapel.”  I like to say we are portable tabernacles, because Jesus is just as present within you as He is in the tabernacle of your church.
 Second, relate everything even little events in your day to God’s providence. 
Thirdly, practice some kind of meditation and/or centering prayer.  Treat Jesus as your friend and tell him everything that’s on your mind.  Then listen to what he has to say to you.
 Fourth, another good practice is Lectio Divina. Reading or, more exactly, listening to the book we believe to be divinely inspired; the most ancient method of developing the friendship of Christ, using Scripture texts as topics of conversation with Jesus.
 God desires that you be full of joy and gladness.  You will find it only in Him.  As you grow in God’s joy and gladness he will be glorified through your life.  God is most glorified in us when we are most intimate with him.
 Joy in All Things – Let us look at some things that bring us joy.  List at least five things that bring us joy.

1.      Gratitude – those who are joyful will thank God.  Joy and gratitude always go together.
2.     Associate with joyful people not negative ones.
3.     Celebrate daily – find a reason to celebrate something good daily.
4.     Bring joy to others – Hebrews: 13 -16 “Don’t forget to do good and to share with others.”  
5.     Make time for yourself.  Joy withers in our life when we are too busy.  The antidote of busyness is balance.
6.     Forgiveness – forgive others and be reconciled

Psalm 149
Intercessory prayers
Concluding prayer
Song: Blest Be the Lord

Friday, November 2, 2018

Apostles for Today -November

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection
November 2018

Holiness, A Journey Made Together

“Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness” (GE 79).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6)
I think I have been hungering and thirsting for righteousness since I was a small child growing up in the fifties as the middle child with four brothers. My dad was on the basic wage and didn't want my mother to work. Mum struggled to make ends meet. The boys would play outside while I would help mum with the housework. I was told that the money would have to be spent on the boys’ education rather than mine as they would be the bread-winners for their families. Fortunately, I won scholarships and was able to go through to University level and postgraduate studies. Lots of experiences though made me hunger and thirst for women not to be pushed into the background or abused but rather for all people to be treated with equal dignity and respect. I believed that God loved all of us equally.
No matter how poor our family was, my mother would help out others and my father was a member of the local St Vincent de Paul conference. As I grew I became aware of the neighborhood, the society, and the world and the injustices that abound.
I started teaching primary school at nineteen and four years later was Principal of a Catholic primary school with some pupils who came from the local area and others who came from a very large Migrant Hostel. In the nineteen-seventies, they came from Argentina, Chile, East Timor, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, Hungary, Iran, and other troubled parts of the world.
As a staff we worked hard to ensure that these children could get as good a start in their new home as possible. They arrived not speaking English and most had experienced trauma. Some had parents who had been killed or that they had been separated from.
They missed friends, grandparents and extended family members. In such a situation how could I not hunger and thirst for righteousness and do whatever I could to try and bring it about for these children and their families.
There are so many things that make me angry in this world because they are not in accord with what I believe is the will of God. For me, righteousness is about trying to discern what God wants for people and for all of creation. This means, first of all, being in right relationship with our God of infinite love. How I live and the choices I make matter. I also need to work at being in right relationship with myself and with others. I was older when I came to know Pallotti’s charism and with it so many things fell into place and were inspirational.
St Vincent Pallotti was an apostle in the way he lived his spiritual, priestly and corporal life. He worked at bringing about change to correct some of the injustices of his time. He saw boys who needed education and set up evening schools for them. He found women to care for orphaned girls. He had his eyes open to the society around him and found ways to make a difference. He gathered people from various states of life to help him to carry out the works that would transform the lives of those who were cared for. His actions showed that he hungered and thirsted after justice and did something about bringing it about, not just as an individual but as a member of a growing community.
This very much followed the way Jesus lived as an Apostle of the Father. There are so many stories in the Gospel of Jesus challenging people to live in right relationship with their God.
The story of the cleansing of the temple is the one that first springs to mind of Jesus acting with righteous anger.
Before the destruction of the temple Judaism was a cultic religion were people needed to bring offerings of animals and birds to be sacrificed by the priests. The problem was that the sellers and money-changers had moved onto the forecourt of the temple which was part of the religious precinct. This meant that profane Roman coins, such as the denarius were being exchanged for acceptable Jewish shekels and so defiling this sacred space. As a Jew, Jesus could see that this way of acting was not in accord with Jewish teaching, with being in right relationship with God and so he did something about it. Arguably this was the final straw that led to his crucifixion.
In today’s world standing for a viewpoint that differs from the popular one takes courage too. Standing up for and welcoming migrants and refugees can take courage. Confidence in a God of infinite love can give us courage to take a stand when some groups of people, such as the indigenous, the homeless, the aged, those with mental illness or those with drug addictions, are treated as less worthwhile or of lesser dignity while the pockets of the wealthy are further filled. As an individual, I can make a small difference but as individuals working together we can make big differences.
In his recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, which is on the call to holiness in today’s world, in Chapter 3, Pope Francis draws on the Beatitudes. He tells us: “Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness” (GE 79). Try and get hold of a copy and read it. It is available on the Holy See website in a number of languages.

For personal and communal reflection and prayer:
1.     What is your story of becoming aware of injustice in your world? Are you ever unjust in the ways you treat others? Or yourself?
2.     Are you aware of the injustices in this world, in your community or social context? What can you do to bring about difference or do you lack the courage?
3.     Have you ever considered, or prayed for, the varying gifts that people, those who are not ordained, including the married, single and consecrated, and those ordained, have that could be used together to foster the cause of Justice?

                                                 Anne Dowling,
                                                 Mariana Community, Australia.

Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
October 2018

After a break for the last few months, this reflection begins a new series of Apostles for Today which has as its general theme, ‘Holiness, a journey made together’, a perspective which reflects something fundamental of our Pallottine charism. The author of each reflection has been invited to begin with a brief testimony about a time when they encountered St. Vincent Pallotti and the Pallottine charism in a way that deeply touched their heart and their life. The series will take particular inspiration from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, a document which has a particular resonance with members of the Pallottine Family, being rich in so many themes close to our Founder’s heart and to our own hearts.
United in prayer, 
Sr. Lali and Fr. Rory

Holiness, A Journey Made Together

St. Thérèse of Lisieux recommends that we periodically call to mind in prayer times when we felt the grace of God touching us deeply, particularly when we are going through periods of dryness or darkness, so that we can draw life and inspiration anew from such experiences to help carry us through present difficulties and once again “fan into a flame that gift of God which is in” us (2 Tim 1:6). Towards the beginning of Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis speaks about the importance of the “testimonies that encourage us” (GE 3), including “the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members” of His people (GE 8).
When I was a Pallottine seminarian in Dublin, the then newly-elected Rector General, Fr. Seamus Freeman SAC, came to speak to us about the Pallottine charism. I don’t remember all the details of what he said, but I do remember having the sense of a fire being kindled in me, of feeling that ‘this is something to which and for which I could happily give my life’. He presented a wonderful vision of Christian life and community, of all being called as apostles, sisters and brothers in different vocations yet equal in dignity, to contribute our particular talents and gifts in communion and practical collaboration with others to help build the kingdom of God. A vision even reaching beyond the community of followers of Christ, also seeking to build collaboration with people of good will of all faiths and none.
While that mysterious fire has varied in intensity over the years, at times even resembling more a “dimly burning wick” (Is 42:3), it has never really left me. And it has been and continues to be nourished and rekindled by that initial experience and by other experiences, including the simple yet profound witness of word and of life of so many other people of all vocations, both within and beyond the Pallottine family, who seek to live their lives with deep faith, humanity, integrity and solidarity in a spirit of communion and corresponsibility, in generous and humble service particularly of the most needy and vulnerable.
The Union has so much to offer our Church and our world. Like life itself, it is fundamentally rooted in and built upon healthy relationships.
The most fundamental relationship for each of us is of course our relationship with God. We are each drawn mysteriously into a relationship of love with Christ and, through him, with the Father and the Spirit. In these fundamental relationships, we are invited to ‘taste’ the infinite love which is God, to let that love increasingly penetrate and transform every dimension of our being and every aspect of our person and humanity, becoming the driving force of all that we are and do, even if it can be a long and sometimes painful process, each in his or her own way seeking to discern the path which the Lord is calling us to follow (GE 11).
This unique individual path, if it is to be truly human and Christian, cannot be individualistic, but is always situated within a wider web of human relationships, since “growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others” (GE 141). Just as “no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual”, so also no one is sanctified alone. “Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community” (GE 6).
As members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, this is true for us in a very particular way. Our human relationships are to be permeated concretely by the love which is the very life and being of the Trinity (cf. GSt 18), as we become more and more the embodiment of the love described by St. Paul in his wonderful hymn: patient, kind, forgiving; free from jealousy, arrogance, self-importance, rudeness, self-seeking, irritability and resentfulness. This love is so essential that, where it is lacking, the Union ceases to exist, no matter what external structures or works might be in place (cf. OOCC III, 137-138).
The General Statutes of our Union and the basic structures outlined in them aim to guide the functioning of a community which in a very real sense gives concrete expression to these characteristics of love: humility, openness and dialogue; deep  respect for and graciousness towards others; full participation of all as apostles in their own right; patience and generosity of spirit; simplicity, transparency and integrity; collaboration from the beginning and co-responsibility; shared discernment and passion for mission, tenderness and faithfulness. A community which recognises, embodies and promotes the fundamental dignity and equality of all the members (GSt 7, cf. GSt 70), irrespective of vocation or state of life, not ignoring  the distinctions between them but, properly understood and lived, placing each in a broad, healthy, stable and fruitful context of mutual openness and service which calls each to a new way of relating to the others.
 “Corresponsibility demands a change in mindset … in the Church”, so that no one is seen as a mere collaborator carrying out plans decided by others, but rather all are regarded “as people who are really “co-responsible” for the Church’s being and acting” (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Message, 10 August 2012). 

A fundamental aspect of our very charism and mission is to actively work for such a change in mindset in the Church by promoting the co-responsibility of all the baptised (GSt 1).
We are challenged as a Pallottine family at all levels to learn to embrace and live this consistently and profoundly between ourselves in all of our relationships: between individuals of similar and of different vocations and states of life, in the coordination councils of the Union at all levels, and within the many different communities of the Union. It is part of our DNA as Pallottines.
The temptation to treat others in a manner which does not reflect such a spirit of communion and co-responsibility is one that can be faced by any member of the Union. This is true, whether or not we are entrusted with a particular position of responsibility and service. As a member of one of the communities founded by St. Vincent, I think we need to take special care regarding how we understand our specific responsibility in the Union. It is humbling to remember that the first ‘community’ founded by St. Vincent is the entire Union itself, to which all of its members belong, with the particular communities founded by him subsequently. This is to take nothing away from the specific role of these latter in the Union, but does invite us to appreciate and exercise it with a greater sense of common belonging to one original family with all other members of that same family, in which the different vocations are “so interrelated that each helps the other to be solicitous for continuous growth and to offer its own specific service” (GSt 7).
“The members of the entire foundation are, despite their variety, not hierarchically subordinate or superior to one another, but are immediately oriented toward the aim of the Union as its equally entitled bearers. The ordained and the non-ordained, individual members and those incorporated into communities have the same fundamental responsibility in regards to the mission of the Union (GSt. 6, 37) … In [its] structures, the members of the communities founded by Pallotti fundamentally have no claim to a leading position, but are equals among equals (GSt. 29a, 31, 49, 58)” (The Charism of St. Vincent Pallotti. Origin, Development, Identity, pp. 47-49).
This reflects an essential element of the truth about our charism as recognised by the Church. In and through Pope Francis, the Church itself is being called to understand herself in terms that are not so different: “It does us good to remember that the Church is not an elite of priests, of consecrated people, of bishops, but that everyone forms the faithful Holy People of God. The faithful Holy People of God is anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and thus, as we reflect, think, evaluate, discern, we must be very attentive to this anointing”. Those who have a particular responsibility are called always to discern with others and never for or without them (cf. Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, March 19, 2016).
If the Church had been marked by such a profound shared sense of discernment and responsibility, surely more Christ-like responses would have been found to situations which we are seeing once again in these times have resulted in such terrible damage being done, often to the most vulnerable. Pope Francis has invited the entire Church to make reparation and to exercise an authority of service and of love for the good of all. It is clear that the Union has its own important contribution to make in building a healthy Christ-centered Church and a better world. Let us ask God, through the intercession of Mary Queen of Apostles, and St. Vincent, to enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we can see what hope his call, as Union, holds for us and for the Church and the world. May the fire of the charism entrusted to us through St. Vincent be kindled in us and burn brightly, so that united as one family we may bear witness to the God of infinite love and together commit ourselves to bringing that love in every way, particularly to those who are lost and broken and suffering. May we be delivered from everything in us that undermines love, mutual respect and affection, and that causes division, so that our energies may be freed to work wholeheartedly as individuals and as a family for nothing else but the building up and spreading of God’s Kingdom of goodness and holiness, of mercy and justice and solidarity.

For personal and communal reflection and prayer:
1.      When have you been particularly touched by a sense of the charism? Pray for the spirit of the charism, which is a gift of God’s Spirit, to be renewed and deepened in you and in your community and in the Union as a whole.
2.      “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). What weakens this witness between us and how can we it be deepened and strengthened in practice?
3.      In what ways do I understand and follow my path to holiness in overly individualistic terms? In what ways have I experienced the richness which comes from journeying together with others towards holiness?
                                                                         Fr. Rory Hanly SAC,

Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia

Monday, October 8, 2018

Donatella's Talk at the Congress

Communion, Collaboration, and Co-Responsibility

within the Union and outside

June 23, 2018

Dear Participants in the 2nd US National UAC Congress, brothers and sisters!
First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and joy to the NCC and its President, Fr. Greg Serwa, who wished, in their goodness, to invite me here and share a few thoughts on communion, collaboration, and co-responsibility within the Union and outside.
Also a special word of thanks to Duke and the Organizing Committee.
It’s an honor for me to be present on behalf of the global Pallottine Family. I see it as a sign that bears witness to the growth of communion among us, an enduring fruit that only the Spirit of God, through the intercession of St. Vincent Pallotti, can give.
And the awareness that in our Pallottine Family all its vocations, congregations, institutes, groups, individuals, communities and activities constitute a richness and are not a reason for fear or division, can become a sign of joyful hope for the universal Church.
Therefore I am also grateful to all those here in the States who worked and have been working for promoting the communion of all Pallottines in the charism of our Founder. In a special way we all here want to remember with gratitude Fr. Noel for being such a precious witness to Pallotti’s spirit.
Those people were and are being urged on by the conviction that it’s in unity that we can see more clearly our responsibility in facing the challenges of humanity, since - quoting Pope Francis’ words -  “the Union of the Catholic Apostolate, is the bearer of the charism of Saint Vincent Pallotti” and this charism “opens new horizons for participation in the mission of the Church” [1] . 
In recent months, since the General Assembly in January, the GCC in April and after various meetings and dialogues I’ve had with members of the Union in Rome and worldwide and also with the 3 Superior Generals, I reflected on what communion and co-responsibility really demands from me and from us, when it comes to communicate a lived-out experience.
Here are some aspects that stand out for me, and that I’d like to share with you:
1.         Pallottine spirituality - that is the experience of the Holy Spirit in Pallotti – is our peculiar way of translating Christian faith into life, our peculiar way of living Christian life: all can be apostles/disciples, witnesses of Christ, all are called and are calling others to sanctity. And sanctity is to live our call to the full.
Pallottine spirituality puts vocations (married life, religious life, priesthood, lay consecration) in the right place. In fact our ideal is not to get married, not to be a priest, not to be a religious or a lay-consecrated.
Our ideal is God, and God is Love. We must be love as God is love. Vincent Pallotti did this: "My God I am without charity: You are charity in essence ... My Jesus destroy all of my Life. Give me your Charity, and make me live, and be transformed into your Charity"[2].
If - in who I am and what I do - I give too much importance to my own vocation, if my Ideal is being a consecrated lay-woman, I will clothe myself with something that can deviate others from recognizing Christ as the Life of my and anyone else’s life.
So, at the center of Pallotti’s charism there is always Love, infinite love and mercy, and it incarnates in every vocation.
In particular, when I met with the pallottine spirituality in 1974, I was fascinated by those words of his that can be read as the synthesis of all of his actions: the practical exercise of charity.
As an Italian, I grew up in a Catholic setting; I knew that the Gospel was read and meditated on in church, but this saint suggested that I put it into practice. I tried it out and, like you, made a discovery: living the Gospel meant to exercise charity practically, to let Jesus live within me. (in my case, I wanted to change society but the first surprise was that the Gospel was changing me.)

2.                  The second aspect concerns our fundamental attitude. We must make a distinction between God’s gift – which is the charism – and ourselves. We all know that the charism per se is God’s, it belongs to Him. It’s not ours, not even St. Vincent’s. He and we, his children, are its bearers.
Last July I was in Canada. While visiting the Museum in Calgary of the well-known Canadian Mounted Police with Maria Domke and Fr. Rosenbaum, I was struck by the words with which the Indian Chief, Little Crowfoot, opposed the colonizers who wanted his tribe to barter their pastures in exchange of alcohol and weapons.
He said: no, the land does not belong to us; we belong to the land.
We can say that too when speaking of the Pallottine charism. It belongs completely to everyone. So no one can say, “This part does not belong to me”, nor “This part belongs to me”. It belongs completely to everyone. The UAC is all just one heart, there are not two or more hearts. In Pope Francis’ language, those who are at the center and those who are at the peripheries, form this one heart.
I think this is something really beautiful that pushes us with more courage to find the joy of going forth into the world, fully trusting in God, and be creative in the face of every present and future challenge. For love, in the words of Saint Vincent, is infinitely creative: “The pious Union does not have a new objective, but the eternal law of charity”[3].
This is very healthy because it enables communion amongst us and helps us to build up relationships grounded on mutual respect and recognition of each other’s gifts and dignity; it also helps us not to be discouraged when we see that we are not at the level of the charism.
It is very important to set off again with new trust in God’s gift. We will never reach it, but, nonetheless, God - through our Founder - has called us, and gave the charism to us.
This is the first idea, which is also important for all works in the Church after the death of their founder, because the dazzling light that came from the founder is absent and we see who we are. Personally my conviction is that as members of the Union we should be focusing on our responsibility to draw always on the “source” of the charism, which is Pallotti, his life, his words and all he did as founder of the UAC.
And also to be attentive to the issues of the world that require new understanding and new responses from us, with the courage to express that which is in the charism that has not yet been expressed.
 3.                  A third aspect concerns our service to the Church and society. As you all know, from 2015 to today I’ve been to many countries where the Pallottine Family is present: Brazil and the Amazons, Poland, Ireland, Germany, Congo, Rwanda, Italy and London, India, USA, Ukraine, Canada, Australia.
Everywhere I’ve met persons (priests, brothers, sisters, laity, seminarians and candidates, sick, elderly) who live in an intense way their conviction and commitment to follow Jesus and attract others to Him, calling all and uniting the efforts of all in service of the Church, in service of humanity.
And they are not super-talented, nor are they born perfect. Imitating their Founder, St. Vincent Pallotti, they have recognized God’s infinite love and they have been following it and serving others ever since.
From them I’ve learned that there is no other path for following Christ than living alongside the brother or sister that the Lord places beside us. Simply put, discipleship/evangelization is first and foremost about the other, not about the disciple/evangelizer.
This is ultimately what St. Vincent meant with the expression “being a co-founder” of his work. I gratefully acknowledge that the gift of the Holy Spirit is still at work here and today.
In all of those places, among many wonderful things, I’ve seen a much wounded humanity because of:
- war: in Ukraine, in Congo and in Rwanda;
- injustice and poverty: in the Amazons and in the Brazilian favelas;
- marginalization or abuses on minors: in Congo and in Italy; on the sick and disabled: in Poland and in the leprosarium in India;
- exploitation of indigenous populations: in Canada and in Australia;
- denial of quality life to refugees and asylum seekers: in Germany, USA, Australia, Italy.
This has meant to me to get to know the history of a people through the light of truth, to get to know from within the true causes of all unjustifiable suffering.
 For example, on my first day in Keshero, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fr. Eugène took me to the orphanage “La Flamme d’Amour” (“The Flame of Love). I can never forget the innumerable children that had found love in that extremely poor shelter. They welcomed me with their smiles, kisses, hugs, dances, songs and highly improbable musical instruments. When I saw them, I thought of a famous passage in a book describing a man in Auschwitz who had taken his life by hanging himself and had on him a piece of wood with these words written on it: where is God?
 Looking in those children’s eyes I realized that question didn’t fit the scene I had before my eyes. It had to be rephrased. God was here and had made home at the Flame of Love and wherever there be an individual or a people that suffers as a living image of the crucifix.
 The question therefore cannot be Where is God?, but: where is Man? where are we? where am I? Why does man - who is created in the image and likeness of God - make other human beings – them too, living images of God – live a life of poverty, injustice, starvation, despair?
 Most certainly I’ve learnt that the true causes of every unjustifiable suffering are not habitually communicated through the official media. When listening to and seeing how the members of UAC are involved in these “peripheries” serving their neighbours, I realized two things:
a. Serving the needy, those who suffer means to serve the truth and “unveil” through the practical exercise of love the lies of the rich and powerful. This is the revolutionary courage of unselfish love;
b. Being an apostle/disciple means to become one with every neighbour’s suffering unreservedly, for their sake and for God’s sake.
 4.                  Then the subject of co-responsibility in communion and for communion. What kind of co-responsibility today, or how to understand co responsibility anew? We know that Pope Francis speaks frequently about the model of the Church as a polyhedron, where all the faces of the polyhedron have their own role and there is not a dogmatic uniformity imposed by central management.
 I believe and I am convinced that reading st. Vincent Pallotti’s writings and seeing what he did, everything ... we are a Public Association particularly suited to this model. Because the model of communion is just that, as Pallotti always said. It is a trinitarian model, where every part is important. It is not that there is no leadership, or no center, but it is not a center that makes everything uniform.
 And Pallotti did a great many things of this kind, which were polyhedral. The plurality of missions, vocations and commitments in our Union often brings a rich and unexpected new understanding of particular aspects of our charism.
5.                  The centrality of collaboration from the beginning. This is certainly a priority of our Founder and one of the key words in his writings. For our Founder, all are called to collaboration, not just like-minded people.
On 9 April 1835, he made the first list of members of the new Foundation. From the beginning, the composition of the list itself gives us an interesting insight into the context of collaboration. There were 10 priests (diocesan and religious) and 6 lay faithful. Altogether there were 12 Italians, 1 English, 1 French, 1 from Iraq, 1 Basilian Abbot from Armenia; there were three rites - a universal group that could only function in the spirit of collaboration and co-responsibility.
 One can say that Pallotti's primary idea was God's call to all to collaborate with Him and with each other. His secondary idea was to apply this ideal to any concrete apostolate. He did not mean us to cling to structures. In Novo Millennio Ineunte - At the Beginning of the New Millennium - (2001) St. John Paul II concludes n. 43 with a relevant warning: “Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, ‘masks ’ of communion rather than its means of expression and growth”.
 There are clear echoes of our Founder here: “, and if love is missing, the entire moral body, which was founded through divine mercy for the good of people and for the greater glory of God, will collapse” (OOCC VI, 438).
 Furthermore, collaboration is a cardinal point we need in order to offset a long history of the separate development of Institutes, communities, vocations in the UAC. In the General Statutes, collaboration is set out as one of the key priorities of the Local, National and General Coordination Councils.
 In this regard the General Statutes encompass a unifying vision of all the faces of our polyhedral Union and enable us to discover new insights on our charism. No one Institute, community, or person, can fully define our charism. This in turn leads us to think of all others, and of our entities “as integral part of me”.
 6. Two final aspects: one on formation and the other on creative faithfulness.
- Regarding formation, it is important to form and be formed to use the three languages of the mind, of the heart and of the hands together. It is necessary to learn to think well, to listen well and to work well. Work too, because work is not only a means of living, but is something inherent to our being human persons, and therefore also a means for knowing reality, understanding life.
From the Enlightenment we have inherited this unhealthy idea that formation means filling the head with concepts. And the more you know, the better you will be. No, formation must touch the mind, the heart and the hands.
 Forming ourselves and others to think well, not just to learn concepts, but to think well; forming ourselves and others to empathize well; forming ourselves and others to do good. In such a way that these three languages are interconnected.
- Creative faithfulness entails the challenge of being faithful to the original inspiration and together being open to the breath of the Holy Spirit and setting out on the new paths that he inspires. And this requires humility, openness, a synodal attitude (as Pope Francis would say), a capacity to risk.
But how can we meet and follow the Holy Spirit as Union at the local, national, international level? By practicing discernment as a community. That is, by gathering in the spirit of the Cenacle to hear what the Spirit tells us today as a Christian community (cf. Rev 2:7)[4] and to discover together, in this atmosphere, the call that God lets us hear in the historical situation in which we are living the Gospel.
Francis invites us today to become artisans of community discernment. It is not easy to do this, but we must do so if we wish to have this creative faithfulness to Pallotti’s charism and if we wish to be docile to the Spirit for the service of the Church and of society.
We, Pallottine Family, are still at the beginning of our journey, at the start of everything. This being at the start means that we must look ahead, that we must do something to move forward.
We must get together to beat the challenge of this world which needs the Gospel, which is in extreme need of seeds of Gospel life that then grow and transform it. And we can do it by handing on to others our experience of communion.
Our charism is a powerful help and encouragement for us. The charism is a gift of God, so we mustn't feel proud about having received this charism, but with humility we must be aware of the charism and do all we can to hand it on to the Church and the society around us.
I think that for the Union at this time the irreversible path to faithfully follow Pallotti’s experience of the Spirit is to renew our personal and communal commitment to be united as brothers and sisters, and to love one another as Jesus loved us to the end.
Mary will intercede for us and accompany us on the journey to be united with God and among us so that we may find Him always in our brothers and sisters.
Thank you for listening.

[1] cf. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the General Chapter of the SAC, 10 October 2016
[2]  OOCC X, 674-5
[3] OOCC IV, 317
[4]Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches”