Monday, May 8, 2017

Apostles for Today May 2017

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection
May 2017


An Experience in Airport Chaplaincy

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Apostles for Today - April 2017

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection

April 2017


The Union of Catholic Apostolate and the primacy of the poor

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


For reflection:

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

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Apostles for Today - March 2017

Apostles for Today

Prayer and ReflectionMarch 2017


Encounter, Dialogue, Missioning – across generations – an experience of temporary missionaries in Kloster Marienborn, Limburg
Each year for 27 years, a group of about 12 young women and some young men from all over Germany, came to Kloster Marienborn, the Provincial house of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters in Limburg, Germany, five times a year, to prepare themselves as “Temporary Missionaries” for a one-year missionary experience and then to be sent out to different parts of the world.
More than 50 of these have remained involved as part of the MaZ coordinating team, helping to prepare new volunteers. Two such former temporary missionaries, Barbara Leyendecker and Roswitha Breu, now direct the project under the sponsorship of the German Pallottine Missionary Sisters. Since last year, the house of the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers in Friedberg hosts these seminars, with continued accompaniment by Fr. Jochen Ruiner SAC and occasional input from one of the Sisters in certain units. In their one year missionary experience, in Brazil, Rwanda, India …, the young people live, pray and work together with Pallottine Sisters or Fathers/Brothers, or with other religious. Coming to experience first-hand life in a religious community before their placement, therefore, is an integral part of their preparation, alongside the more formal content received. Team member Annamaria writes: “For some of us it was something almost unimaginable at the beginning of our time of preparation to live for some days with Sisters in a convent. Getting up early in the morning for prayer, keeping silence on the corridors in order not to disturb the Sisters … But at the same time, whenever we came we experienced the warmth with which the Sisters welcomed us, their interest in our lives and in our individual mission project and in our reports on mission experiences abroad when we returned”.
Here is a description of the preparation as it was when at Marienborn: there were 4 (week and weekend) meetings before a placement and one seminar after returning. During these meetings, besides the study units, the different encounters with the mainly elderly Sisters took place in a variety of settings: the refectory, the chapel, helping in the infirmary and in the varied fields of work. Particularly special were the personal exchanges with the accompanying Sister. Each young person, during her/his commitment was specially accompanied by one sister with prayer, and if possible, also correspondence. Part of the programme of the MaZ week was a coffee time with this Sister - which allowed a vivid exchange to take place, especially during the post-placement seminar.
The motivation of the young people is to come to know the life of the less-privileged and of the Church in another country, in order to become fully engaged there. During the meetings, they encountered Sisters who lived their mission either in Germany (working within their own communities or, for example, in hospitals, schools, in a prison) or abroad: (in South Africa, Belize, Brazil …). There was great mutual interest. The young people’s questions reawakened the missionary enthusiasm of the Sisters, questions such as: Why did you become a Pallottine Missionary Sister? Was it your own decision to remain in Germany, or to go to South Africa? Would you enter again today? On the other hand, the Sisters’ questions stimulated the young people: What do your parents think of your decision to go abroad? How do other young people view your being engaged in the Church?
The young people livened up the house. For some Sisters this was not always easy, while others found it a joy. For the young people, this regulated life, with the daily timetable, the rhythm of prayer, was something new. They tried to adapt to a slower rhythm and, for instance, to speak more clearly with those who had hearing difficulties. The communication between young and old was a mutual learning process.
Pope Francis said: “Communication is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practiced in moments of difficulty” (Amoris Laetitia, n. 234). – “Our elderly are men and women... who came before us on our own road [...] Indeed, ‘how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old!’” (Amoris Laetitia, n. 191, citing his Catechesis from 11 March 2015)
Pallotti lived with a consciousness that we are made in the image of God, and that we are people who are sent - and remain so even until our last breath. The evangelizing activity, prayer and all contributions are to be united for the reviving and spreading of faith (cf. V. Pallotti, May Appeal n. 6). Pallotti was convinced that ALL, who in any way take part in the apostolate, need each other to be able to effectively fulfill the mission of the Church.
Referring to the generations in the Church, Pope Francis said: “it is good for us to take the dream of those who came before us in order to be able to speak in a prophetic way today … Dream and Prophecy together. The memory of how our fathers and mothers dreamt, and the courage to go ahead in a prophetic way with this dream!” (02.02.2017)
To go ahead in a prophetic way with this dream! Here Annamaria, who lived her missionary commitment in Brazil in 2012/13, shares: “The exchange with the Sisters, praying for each other and thinking of each other, marked us during our time of commitment and afterwards.
Through our missioning by the Provincial Superior, Sr. Helga Weidemann SAC, we were sent out into the world. This trust in having been sent by God moved me very deeply. Learning about the spirituality of St. Vincent Pallotti was part of our time of preparation. His thought that each one of us is wished by God as we are, and accepted by God with our strengths and weaknesses, and that we are each sent according to our own abilities and condition of life to work for a better world and for the realisation of the Kingdom of God on earth, inspires and strengthens me in my life.
Some of the former temporary missionaries, who continue to be involved with MaZ and collaborate in the preparation of new young missionaries, felt similarly to me, and had the idea of officially becoming part of the Union, the large family of St. Vincent Pallotti. It was a very natural step for us, since we had already seen ourselves for a long time as part of the community. In November 2016, we made our formal commitment as the MitMission Group. We wish to engage in the Catholic Church and take on an active role in shaping the Church.
Faith in a God who loves without limits, who accepts me as I am, exactly as Pallotti says, touches me much more than the image of a punishing God which I encountered at times in the generation of my grandparents and also during my missionary experience in Brazil. As a young voice in the Church, I hope that her teaching everywhere in the world will come closer to the lived reality of the faithful, and to my own lived reality, and that hierarchical thinking will be overcome. A Church in which each person sees themselves as a disciple of Jesus. I hope that I, in and with the Church, can bear witness to this marvellous love of God.
Our Union group MitMission continues to feel very close to Kloster Marienborn, where we felt at home for a long time, and coming to Limburg is still a homecoming for us”.
From the Pallotti-MaZ Mission Statement:
Mission means setting out, getting on the road, leaving everything behind, to go out from oneself, breaking the shell of egoism, that imprisons us in our own ego. Mission means, first of all, to open oneself to others, to discover and encounter them as brothers and sisters.
Some questions for our reflection:
? What image do I have of old/young people? How do I think of them?
Do I feel close to them? What can I learn from them?
? What opportunities do we find to strengthen or awaken the call to the
apostolate in persons of other generations?
? To what kind of prophecy are we called together today?
Annamaria Stahl, UAC and Sr. Maria Landsberger, SAC

The beginnings of the MaZ Project
In 1986, as a young Pallottine Missionary Sister, Sr. Irene Weber SAC was sent from Germany to northeastern Brazil for a six-month experience to work with the poor. Due to poor health and in order to continue her studies, she returned to Germany, but enthused by her missionary experience and wanting to offer young lay people a similar opportunity, she began, with the consent of her Provincial and in collaboration with a Pallottine priest, the volunteer project MaZ (temporary missionaries). The joys and struggles of her own experience, in her dialogue with the Lord, brought forth this fruit of a much broader dialogue and collaboration, in which more than 500 young people have gone out so far to many different countries! Last May, just a few months before her death at just 56 years of age, Sr. Irene had the great joy that 11 members of the MaZ coordinating team, including Barbara, Roswitha and Annamaria, applied to become and were accepted as a community of the Union, the “MitMission” Group, and they made their Act of Apostolic Commitment on November 6 th 2016.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Apostles for Today - Feb 2017

Apostles for Today
 Prayer and Reflection

February 2017

General Introduction
      With this edition, we are beginning a series of reflections over the coming months around the theme of dialogue in the light of the charism given to the Pallottine Family through St. Vincent Pallotti.
      Communion is at the very heart of our charism, and St. Vincent is rightly described as a prophet of a spirituality of communion. Dialogue is an expression of communion and a means to create it; a means to deepen it where it already exists and also to repair it where it has been damaged.
      It is a means of entering into relationship with others, to share deeply the truth of our experience of life and faith, while opening ourselves to listen deeply to the experience of others and to being touched and changed by this experience.
      It is a means to constructing and deepening relationships of love and mutual respect and justice among ourselves as a Pallottine Family and with the wider Church and society.
      Dialogue is also a particular characteristic of the wider Church today and is Pope Francis constant invitation. We are called in a special way through our charism to play our part in creating a culture of dialogue in the many and varied dimensions of our lives and world.

                                                            The General Secretariat


  [The Union of Catholic Apostolate] is like an evangelical trumpet,
perpetually calling everyone … and awakening the zeal and charity
of all the faithful of every class, rank and condition (OOCC, I, pp. 4-5).

      It is vital that we continue to grow in our awareness that the Union of Catholic Apostolate is made up of “all the faithful of every class, rank and condition.” Such a composition requires an ongoing dialogue among the vocations because the approach to the apostolate –and therefore to the imitation of Jesus Christ in our lives – will vary from vocation to vocation.
      Obviously the life of a layperson compared to that of a priest will have different challenges as well as differences in lifestyles. Similarly, the single and married person will approach life itself from a different view depending on the structure and duties that are present. The contemplative and active form of religious life differ from one another. When we look at the “universality” of the membership, It becomes clear that in order to strengthen the relationships among the members there is indeed a need for dialogue. This dialogue is not only necessary among the vocations for a strengthening of our understanding of one another but also for greater effectiveness in our basic calling within the Union.

Every Catholic … should rejoice because, if with their talents, knowledge, learning, studies, strength, nobility, profession, skills, earthly goods, riches, service and prayers … they do all they can to revive faith and rekindle charity … , they can acquire the merit of the apostolate (cf. OOCC, IV, p. 326).

      As we study the foundation of the charism that was given to our Founder, St. Vincent Pallotti, in terms of the broad vision of membership in the Body of Christ, we are reminded that the daily activities of each person can be a source of the apostolate – the life of Jesus Christ, Apostle of the Father – that continues through the power of the Spirit at work in our own lives.
      This calls for a deeper understanding of one another and of our role in this most basic involvement in evangelization: to give new life to faith, a new spark to love and a new thrust to unity. How else can we come to this essential knowledge of the “Body” unless we dialogue?
      What better way is there to “connect” each part to the body that is working as a unit in this apostolic response to which God is calling the Union of Catholic Apostolate?

The idea of apostolate and the name apostle, according to the scriptures, is not such that it cannot be separated from ecclesiastical jurisdiction … Therefore, one who is not a priest can be honoured with the name “apostle” and the work can rightly be called an “apostolate”. (OOCC, III, p. 140)

      Dialogue and effective collaboration are intertwined. When Vincent Pallotti lists the vocations, talents and activities of individuals, he is doing so with a vision that embraces the one body and its many parts. He sees the work of each one as a part of the whole. It is therefore not in isolation that we respond to the call of God, but in communion with one another. If every person is a part of the one body, then every activity becomes a part of universal outreach for the salvation of the world. This is the charism that we have inherited and it is up to us to develop it effectively for our own times through dialogue and collaboration.
      Jesus has sent the Spirit to teach us how to do this. It is up to us to communicate with each other so that we can put on the mind of Christ to move forward as the one Body of Christ.

Questions for our reflection:
1.      How can we grow as one body in the Union of Catholic Apostolate and in the understanding of our different vocations through the use of dialogue?
2.       How are dialogue and collaboration associated with each other as assets to the development of the Union of Catholic Apostolate?
3.      In what ways will dialogue assist us to acknowledge and better understand the essential role of the layperson in the Union and in the Church?
4.      What can we do to deepen our experience of ourselves as the Body of Christ and to broaden our knowledge of the different vocations within the Union – to use everyday actions as a means to a more effective apostolate?

                                           Sr. Carmel Therese Favazzo CSAC

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Apostles for Today Jan 2017


 Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
January 2017

Saint Vincent Pallotti: an enlightening and inspiring beacon in the Church

During the XXIst General Assembly of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, on October 10th, 2016, the participants had the joy of meeting Pope Francis. On that occasion, the Pope did  not address only the Pallottine priests and brothers, but the entire Union of Catholic Apostolate (UAC). Francis said that Saint Vincent “has become an enlightening and inspiring beacon in the Church. His charism is a precious gift of the Holy Spirit, because it has given rise to and continues to call forth various forms of apostolic life and urges the faithful to engage actively in Gospel witness”.
The theme of light reminds us of the Encyclical Lumen Fidei (the Light of Faith), to which Benedict XVI also contributed in its structuring and the drafting of its content. Let us try to understand what it means to look at Saint Vincent as “an enlightening and inspiring beacon in the Church” in the light of faith. In the first place, faith is not illusory, is not a leap in the dark, but rather it objectively illuminates the personal and social history of the person. This aspect of light is necessary to faith and is rediscovered in the encounter with truth, because believing does not offend reason, but opens it to the light. The witness of faith that the UAC is called to give presupposes that it involves a faith which rather than living in superstition, bears witness to the truth. In this sense we recognise the importance of ongoing formation in order to give reasons for our faith.
The first part of the Encyclical poses the question of the means to knowledge of faith. If we want to understand what faith is, we consider the story of those who have guided their lives by faith, who have believed in the promises of God and have received what they expected from the faithfulness of God himself. This way of knowing faith as light distinguishes us from intellectualism and brings us the witness of those who have gone before us on the path to be followed as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. On the abovementioned occasion, Francis said that we are called “with renewed vigour to reawaken faith and rekindle charity, especially among the most vulnerable segments of the population, that are spiritually and materially poor. In this, you are sustained by the example of so many of your confreres, authentic witnesses of the Gospel, who have dedicated their lives to serving others. I too got to know them during my pastoral service in Argentina and have fond memories of them”. In fact, 40 years have passed since the death of five Pallottines who were assassinated in St. Patrick’s parish, during the military dictatorship. They were true witnesses of Christ.
The second part of the Encyclical presents the relationship between faith and truth. The difficulty in dealing with this issue is the crisis around truth, and this theme is always looked at with suspicion of totalitarianism and fanaticism. We have witnessed terrible violence and deaths because of certain conceptions of faith.. However, it is reasonable to have faith since God keeps his promises and we can place all of our security in Him. This is because authentic faith is an expression of truth; it is not a fairy tale, a dream, but is capable of offering new light to the human realities in which God is present.
Thus, beyond being related to truth, faith also pertains to love, and love is not alone, since it would otherwise be solitude and egoism. In this way, it opens out to the encounter with the Other (God) and with others (others). This is why Christianity contributes to the common good: faith relates to truth and to love, for the building of the human community.
At this point, there is no danger of religious fanaticism because love is possessed as a fruit of faith, which is not imposed, is not violent and does not crush the person, but reaches the heart of every human being. This is the biblical concept of faith, presented as a listening to the voice of God in the depths of conscience (heart), so that one day we may see God face to face. The UAC has the mission of developing dialogue with contemporary society, of contributing to the building of a new social order, motivated by faith which enlightens the life of families and the world of work for the building of the civilisation of love.
The third part of the Encyclical presents the transmission of what has been received. Those who have opened themselves to love (God) and welcomed his voice, receive his light, and cannot keep this gift to themselves. This transmission comes about in contact, person to person, like a flame which kindles another flame. Therefore, it is impossible to believe alone; faith does not occur in an isolated relationship between the self and the divine, but by its nature opens out to a “we”, which means opening oneself to the community of the disciples of Jesus, the Church. Thus we have the unity of faith which finds its origin in one Lord, and is shared with all of the members of the community like a body. From here comes the importance of a profound ecclesial experience of belonging, capable of understanding the dramas and tensions of community life, not isolating oneself, but placing oneself on the path and in the footsteps of Jesus, even if the cross is heavy.
This same faith contributes to the common good, teaching that the light of the face of God illumines the face of our brothers and sisters. Through faith, nature which has been given by God is welcomed with respect and responsibility, we are always open to forgiveness which often requires time, patience and effort, because goodness is always more original and stronger than evil. Faith is also light for those who are suffering, since weakness and even death are illumined and can be lived as the ultimate experience of faith. The Church believes that everything which is human is illumined by faith in the Incarnation of the Word of God.
In conclusion, the model par excellence of faith is Mary, she who believed in God and in the fulfilment of his promises. The members of the UAC, in the footsteps of the Founder, cannot be but devoted to the Madonna. In the presence of Mary we feel at home, in the home of our mother who welcomes her children in their needs. Pope Francis said: “The Union of the Catholic Apostolate, the bearer of the charism of Saint Vincent Pallotti, offers so many opportunities and opens new horizons for participation in the mission of the Church”. Let us learn from Saint Vincent Pallotti to be an enlightening and inspiring beacon in the Church.

From the writings of Saint Vincent Pallotti:
Through this association, therefore, no one is excluded from taking part in the Catholic Apostolate, and of sharing in its merit, its undertakings and its rewards. Now what could be conceived of that is more pleasing to God than this purpose, or end, which the pious association proposes, that is, to work for, contribute to and pray for the conversion of souls? God has not created us in time except to bring us happy to eternity. His desire is to see all saved, illuminated by the light of his Divine Truth. To this end are directed the spreading of His graces and the exercising of his Providence (OOCC IV 124-125).

Questions for personal and community reflection:
1.    Faith becomes light for actions. Do we know and practise the social doctrine of the Church?
2.    The UAC is an association recognised by the Church. Do we work as an association or simply individually?
                                                       Fr. Denilson Geraldo SAC

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