Sunday, March 3, 2019

Apostles for Today

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection for February 2019

Holiness: A Path Traveled Together

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
Who are the peacemakers of which Jesus speaks? Each of us can imagine who might be modern peacemakers. We all know well those soldiers who are well-armed, wearing bullet-proof vests and blue helmets. In fact, soldiers who have the mission to restore peace are to be found in many countries of the world where the fire of armed conflict breaks out.
But who were the peacemakers of Jesus time? The Lord speaks precisely of their mission in his preaching, since their task is not easy and is certainly very important not only for humanity, but also for the Kingdom of God; it is for this reason that they will be called sons and daughters of God. On the one hand, Jesus is conscious of the context of the Roman Empire which tended to reduce conflicts to the minimum and to proudly affirm the so-called Pax Romana. Nonetheless, it must be noted that this peace was guaranteed by the numerous legions deployed at the borders of the Empire. Therefore, Jesus could not have failed to see the many military garrisons overseeing keeping the peace in restless Judea.
The question arises however: Is Jesus speaking of these peacemakers? Or does he mean another type of peacemaker, of a different peace? The Lord addresses his disciples with the words: “Peace I leave you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (Jn 14:27).
From the experience of the Church, we know that the peace which Christ gives is experienced in the “purity of heart” mentioned in the previous beatitude. Every peace which does not spring from forgiveness and which does not lead to love is artificial, like that which we know by the name Pax Romana, or by whatever other name we intend to give it. True peace is profoundly rooted in the human heart. Peace can be learned. True peace is given by God, because only He is the source of love and also of forgiveness. Every person has need of this kind of peace, and in a special way, those who find themselves in conflict zones, where hatred, lack of forgiveness and hostility are generated. For peace to reign in human beings, the Lord who is Love must dwell in their hearts. So that the Lord may dwell in our hearts, it is necessary for us to go out of ourselves to encounter Him. This is why the mission to preach the Gospel is extremely important in conflict zones. Therefore, the peacemakers about which Jesus speaks are those who carry the Good News, who show by their own life how to live.
A good example of a true mission to keep peace is that of the married couple Mrs. And Mr. Zavadsky, who went to western Ukraine where the military conflict persists with the consequent daily bloodshed. Deeply concerned and with great pain in their hearts because of the war in their own country, and as deeply believing people, they went to a conflict zone to proclaim the Gospel. The beginnings of their mission were extremely difficult, because they were accepted neither by the inhabitants of the place nor the military. Living in the basement of an abandoned house, they prayed every day and went from house to house to help people in small matters, asking permission to pray with them for their intentions. Over time, other volunteers arrived: priests, nuns and lay people who supported them in their efforts to help the needy, to bring humanitarian aid and to proclaim the Word of God. And so, day after day, this initiative has taken off. Today the couple coordinates the work of many volunteers. Their main mission remains the proclamation of the Word of God. The mission they initiated has brought Christ into the hearts of tens or even hundreds of people, thanks to that peace which was present in the hearts of those two people who brought hope, encouraging others to do the same. The inhabitants of that region, as well as the young soldiers, are a living testimony of how the life of every person can change from the moment he or she hears the Gospel and understands the importance of forgiveness. What these people found most important was, as they themselves say, the peace experienced in their hearts thanks to the Word of the Lord preached by the volunteers in their daily reading with their families. Then, over time, people also went to Mass, receiving the Word become flesh in their hearts. “The Lord gave me hope and taught me to forgive and love and this brought peace to my heart. Now I am more calm and happy. I try to love those who have caused the bloodshed in my land. Today I understand: they have not yet met Christ, as I did a few years ago” - says Ms. Lyudmila, who recently approached the sacrament of reconciliation. The peacemakers of Christ continually expose themselves to the dangers of stray bullets, or even those intentionally aimed at them, shot in hatred and hostility. But despite the difficulties, these peace-keepers fulfil their mission step by step, bringing true peace to people's hearts.
Peacemakers are those who bring Christ, those who live for Him.

Questions for personal and communal reflection:
  1. Are you at peace with yourself, with God, with others? Where is your heart in need of healing, of being freed from bitterness, from stubbornness, from a lack of forgiveness, from closed-heartedness towards others?
  2. Do you manage to forgive, at least to pray for, those who have done harm to you or to those who are dear to you? How might a proper balance be found between an authentic passion for justice and forgiveness, in order to serve true peace, especially when there may be some who do not recognize or admit the evil they continue to do?

From the Writings of St. Vincent Pallotti:
“Now, tell me, O child, will you have the courage to lose the infinite treasures of the Divinity by not giving peace to your neighbor, by not suppressing the first movements of resentment and of revenge, by not doing any violence to the rebellious passions of rage? Learn to be peaceful from your Brother (Jesus): he is your divine exemplar of peace, he proclaims and gives peace to all, and instead of brandishing the deserved arrows of revenge against his enemies, he implored peace and pardon even in his agonies. Remember… that in Jesus you not only have the divine exemplar to stimulate you to be peaceful, but you also find the grace, the power necessary to imitate him perfectly” (OOCC XIII, 590).
-Fr. Jurij Sicinski, SAC

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

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Apostles for Today January 2019

Apostles for Today
Prayer and Reflection
January 2019


Holiness: A Path Traveled Together

As Founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, St. Vincent Pallotti received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to invite EVERYONE “who has zeal for the glory of God and has love and compassion for the spiritual salvation of his neighbor.” It is with deep gratitude to Pope St. John XXIII that religious congregations and other institutes of consecrated life were called to return to their original charism, and therefore to the inspiration of their founders, to renew within themselves the gift of the Holy Spirit that had been given to them through their founders. For me, Vincent Pallotti became alive with a message that moved into the very heart of humanity as it restored the spirit of the first Christians, all of whom were called to make Jesus known by the very fact that they accepted him as Lord and Saviour.

This was a time when the priests, sisters and brothers worked together to delve into the original inspiration that Pallotti had received. It was a period of study and of sharing to come to a better understanding of what had been passed on to us. It was a time of renewal that we entered into with one another with a deep desire to learn more about the charism that St. Vincent had received. This was a moment in our history that fostered mutual understanding and sharing, a period that restored the place of the laity within the vision of our Founder, a time when we were called to embrace the whole Body of Christ as a part of the Union. As a result of this study and interaction with one another and with the laity, we received the grace to know and love Vincent Pallotti and to be inspired by his vision not as something of the past but as a very real personal call in the present.

In the Appeal of May 1835, St. Vincent invites EVERYONE who has zeal for the glory of God and has love and compassion for the spiritual salvation of his neighbor. Such an invitation does appeal in fact to those whose hearts have already been touched by God’s grace. It invites the people of Rome to come together to respond to God’s loving call. They are to do this regardless of the specific calling of their vocation.

This association proposes to unite the evangelical action, the prayers and the offerings, not only of the members but also of all those who would cooperate with it, even once, for the reawakening of faith and piety among Christians and the multiplying of the means necessary to maintain and propagate the Catholic religion.

We find that from its inception in the vision of Pallotti everyone is included. And to emphasize this inclusion of the ALL, St. Vincent clarifies what he means.
Therefore, the association is formed in such a way that all Catholics may belong to it. They can be either clerics or laypersons, men or women, learned or illiterate, wealthy or indigent, nobles or commoners and persons of whatever vocation, state or fortune. Hence, those who cannot exercise the sacred ministry personally directly can still offer their support with their personal works, trade, profession, job, voluntary offerings and by opportunely utilizing their influence. Of course, all can cooperate with the efficacious means of prayer. Through this association then no one is excluded from cooperating in the Catholic Apostolate or from participating in its undertakings, merits and rewards.

In this lengthy and detailed appeal to the people of Rome, Pallotti, in quoting Pope St. Gregory the Great, reminds them that there is no sacrifice more acceptable to almighty God than the sacrifice of a heart filled with a zeal for the salvation of one’s neighbor. And so he appeals to their love for God that is present within them to be able to reach out to others for the salvation of their souls. He is aware that this love of God has been placed in the hearts of all of God’s people for a communion with God and neighbor.

This inspiration brings him to perceive the call of God to the ALL. Throughout the invitation to the people of Rome, Pallotti appeals to the heart and to the capacity of the individual to respond in love to reach out to one’s neighbor. “We are rather convinced that all truly Catholic hearts, all the truly zealous persons, who have at heart the salvation of their neighbor, the glory of God and the holy name of Jesus Christ, will answer with equal generosity and readiness the appeal which we make to their religious sensitivity and charity” (Appeal of May 1835). It is an appeal to come together for the glory of God and the name of Jesus. It is Vincent’s vision of the Body of Christ united in action as well as joined in prayer. It is the heart of the Union of Catholic Apostolate to travel together in holiness and in apostolic action.

Throughout the Appeal of 1835 and the writings of St. Vincent Pallotti, there is emphasis on the Christian heart and its intentions. Undoubtedly, he gathers much of that from scripture itself as he refers to “all the truly Catholic hearts, all the truly zealous persons” who will answer the call. He would be in agreement with Pope Francis in the Encyclical “Rejoice and Be Glad” and would apply that scripture to the Union members: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

For Pallotti, there is no separation between love of God and love of neighbor and in both cases that love must come from the heart. This is the foundation of the Union where the members come together through the grace of God and do God’s work as a body. And he goes beyond the members themselves to include anyone who would cooperate with them even once for the reawakening of faith and piety. For Pope Francis, the beatitude speaks of those whose hearts that are simple, pure and undefiled and for a heart capable of love that does nothing that might harm, weaken or endanger that love. He points out that the bible uses the heart to describe our real intentions, the things we truly seek and desire, apart from all appearances. Pallotti would agree for our times that a heart that loves God and neighbor genuinely is a pure heart; it can see God.

He connects love of God and love of neighbor continuously in his writings and especially in his Appeal of May in 1835. We too are called to reach out in our own times to invite others to the love of God and neighbor for the Kingdom of God which is a Kingdom of God’s Love. With Vincent Pallotti who commissioned us as the ongoing founders of the Union, we are to appeal to the people of our own times with the same conviction that he had, to “everyone who has zeal for the glory of God and has compassion for the spiritual salvation of one’s neighbor.”

Our reasoning for this zeal on our part is similar to that of our Founder in his own perception of the world of his own time. We could apply his words to our local, national and global condition. “Whoever considers carefully the present state of the world regarding religion comes to the conclusion that, because there is much evil in our age, we have a great need of faith” (Appeal of May 1835). We are therefore urged by the love of Christ to come together and evangelize together with “pure hearts” that are fashioned by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus Christ and to walk together for the Reign of God.

Questions for personal and community reflection:

1. How would you describe “pure of heart” to the people in our society, particularly to our young people? 
2. Following the lead of St. Vincent Pallotti, how would you word an invitation to join the Union? 
3. What steps would you take to help our youth to understand the Pallottine charism and to put it into action? 
4. How are you as a cenacle and as a national body working together for the Reign of God?

Sr. Carmel Therese Favazzo CSAC

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

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