Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Apostles for today

December 2014

“Overcome every temptation through the joy of the Gospel” Spiritual Preparation for the General Congress of the Union in July 2015

I am aware that we need to create spaces where pastoral workers can be helped and healed, “places where faith itself in the crucified and risen Jesus is renewed, where the most profound questions and daily concerns are shared, where deeper discernment about our experiences and life itself is undertaken in the light of the Gospel, for the purpose of directing individual and social decisions towards the good and beautiful”. (Evangelii Gaudium 77)

       Pope Francis invites us to create spaces for renewal, in order to motivate and to heal. During our monthly spiritual reflection, I think that it is worthwhile for each one of us to reflect on our own spaces for renewal where we draw the strength and determination for apostolic action, where we are renewed and discern our own path in life, in life in and with the Church for which we are responsible through our baptism. This space for renewal for each one of us is Jesus, who is with us every time we meet in his name. For this reason our General Statutes speaks of being in communion with God in art. 23. “The members of the Union, in order to deepen and preserve communion with God and with each other in following Jesus Christ as St. Vincent Pallotti did: study, meditate on and share Sacred Scripture as their source of inspiration; make the celebration of the Eucharist the centre of their lives; are assiduous in personal and community prayer; share reciprocally their experiences of life and of faith; live forgiveness and reconciliation as a pathway to permanent conversion”.
Without doubt, there are many wonderful apostolic activities which we share in the Church and about which we can boast. Nevertheless, we need to stop and think about the temptations to which we are exposed (EG 17 b).
We all well remember what beautiful ideals accompanied Saint Vincent Pallotti in his foundation of the Union (cf. OOCC IV, pp.17-23), and with sorrow we must admit that the temptations of which Pope Francis speaks in Evangelii Gaudium also affect our Union.
The first temptation is an inordinate concern for personal freedom and relaxation, which leads us to see our apostolic work as a mere appendage to our life, as if it were not part of the very identity of those involved in pastoral ministry; which leads to a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour. These are three evils which fuel one another. Also, a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. In this way, the task of evangelisation is lived without enthusiasm, with only a minimum of effort limited in time.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm! (EG 78-80)
Saint Vincent yearned to fulfil the commandment of love which is without limits and desired that all might know and love Christ. For this reason, our love for Jesus cannot remain simply our own private secret, hidden from the eyes of the world, not allowing it to be shared with those who do not know him.
Sometimes we are afraid that someone will invite us to carry out an apostolic action; and thus we try to distance ourselves from every commitment which could deprive us of our free time which we guard obsessively … as if the task of evangelisation were a danger rather than a joyful response to the love of God which calls us to mission and makes us fully realised and fruitful. The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable. Today’s obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross. The biggest threat of all is “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization! (EG 81-83)
The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. We can also become a spiritual desert. Our family or workplace can also be a parched place where faith nonetheless has to be preserved and communicated. In the desert people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive”.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope! (EG 85-86)
Today, when the networks and means of human communication have made unprecedented advances, we sense the challenge of finding and sharing the depths of a life of communion. We experience being together with our differences, initially perhaps a little chaotically, which however can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. To go out of ourselves and to join others is healthy for us. To be self-enclosed is to taste the bitter poison of isolation. The Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, in a community of faith. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness. In some parts of our society, we see the growing attraction to various forms of a “spirituality of well-being” divorced from any community life, or to a “theology of prosperity” detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters. The solution to our problems will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. It happens today in our parishes that as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds. This is a false remedy which can cause spiritual sickness. It is far better to learn to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas. There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others which truly heals us is a mystical, contemplative fraternal love, capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community! (EG 87-92)
We must also beware of spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church. It consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. This leads us to replace evangelical fervour with complacency and self-indulgence. Those who have fallen into this worldliness look on from above and afar, they reject the prophecy of their brothers and sisters, they discredit those who raise questions, they constantly point out the mistakes of others, they neither learn from their sins nor are they genuinely open to forgiveness. This stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit, who frees us from concentration on ourselves and opens us to the presence of God.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel! (EG 93-97)
Spiritual worldliness leads some Christians to war with other Christians who stand in the way of their quest for power, prestige, pleasure and economic security. Beware of the temptation of jealousy! We are all in the same boat and headed to the same port! Let us ask for the grace to rejoice in the gifts of each, which belong to all. Saint Paul’s exhortation is directed to each of us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). And again: “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right” (Gal 6:9).
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love! (EG 98-101)
We should recognize that despite the present crisis of commitment and communal relationships, many young people are making common cause before the problems of our world and are taking up various forms of activism and volunteer work. How beautiful it is to see that young people are “street preachers” (callejeros de la fe), joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth! A lack of contagious apostolic fervour in our communities results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment!
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour! (EG 106-109)


Joy is truly a great strength, because it is a sign that the Lord is truly with us. This is why Saint Vincent, speaking of the members of the Union, desired that joy and spiritual happiness would radiate from their faces, in their modest gaze, in all of their activity, behaviour, in the reciprocal encounter in community, and in particular with people coming from outside, encountered in pastoral ministry  (cf. OOCC VII, 171).
The Gospel, hope, community, the ideal of fraternal love, the missions … all of this is a way of being Church. It is for this that we meet together, that we strengthen each other, so that the Union may be always ready to bring Jesus, the joy which is ever new, the joy to be shared... .

Questions for personal and/or community reflection:

• How do I nourish my faith and my being in communion with God?
• What temptations do I experience as a cause of paralysis in my apostolate?
• What apostolic initiatives can we take as a National Coordination Council, as Local Coordination Councils, as members of communities and groups of the Union, in order to create a space for encounter with families to help them to discover and/or deepen evangelical joy and hope in their lives?

Fr. Vladimir Peklansky SAC
 Promotore Nazionale della Formazione,

Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

UAC News Letter

UAC News Letter

October - November


Dear sisters and brothers in the Union,
       We are happy to present to you in this newsletter a sharing on the experience of an Indian Pallottine of the Prabhu Prakash (Nagpur) Province, Fr. Emmanuel Joshi SAC, working with Union groups, along with other news from the Union.


       I have been actively involved with Union of Catholic Apostolate (UAC) groups for almost four years. The many meetings and symposiums in my Province to create awareness of our charism sparked a deeper interest within me, and I felt an urge to do something practical as a Pallottine to bring our Founder’s vision for the Church to life. So I contacted a few active parishioners of the parishes in which I was working, expressing my wish to begin formation of lay people in the spirit and charism of St. Vincent, which led to a first meeting in Trivandrum on January 24, 2010, attended by nine lay people. During the meeting an introduction was given to the spirituality of Pallotti, the structure of the UAC and its unique position in the life of the Church. We decided to meet on the 2nd Saturday of every month for prayer, study and discussion, the number of participants gradually growing to 24.
       After two years of formation, 14 lay faithful made their commitment in the UAC on the feast of St. Vincent. In his address to the gathering, Msgr. Eugine Pereira, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Trivandrum, said, “The new members of the UAC have made the Church proud, and it is a sign of laity emerging in the Church as an effective missionary force”. One of the new UAC members expressed his feelings as follows: “I am extremely happy to be a Pallottine, with the vision that gives space for everyone in the Church to be an apostle according to the state and condition of one’s life. I love Pallotti and his charism, because he makes me really feel that I am a missionary despite living with family and running my business”.
       Eight of the 14 new members were from the neighbouring diocese of Neyyattinkara, so that they had to travel a long distance in heavy traffic to attend the Trivandrum UAC meeting. It was therefore decided to start a UAC group at Neyyattinkara, also to facilitate the enrolment of others from their locality for formation in the Union. Together we visited St. Elizabeth’s Pallottine Parish in this diocese, conducting a seminar on the life and charism of St. Vincent. Through the efforts of the parish priest, about 250 lay people attended, many of whom openly expressed their willingness to join the UAC. Consequently a new UAC group was formed there.
       Presently, I am formator and spiritual adviser to these two UAC groups, which comprise 44 committed members. All are actively involved in their parishes as catechism teachers, Small Christian Community leaders, members of parish pastoral councils, of religious associations, participants in education, social and other ministries. Monthly meetings and study sessions are organized for each group on a regular basis.
       The following are the principal activities undertaken by the lay UAC members during this year:
·         UAC members twice gathered the inmates of the Rehabilitation Centre for Woman Prisoners for prayer and a shared meal with them
·         A 700 sq. feet house was built for a poor family in the parish by collecting contributions from parishioners, the Vincent DePaul Society, the social service wing of the diocese and the Prabhu Prakash Pallottine Province of the Society, and blessed on January 17th 2014 by the Archbishop of Trivandrum.
·         Every first Sunday of the month a woman suffering from cancer is given Rs. 1,000 as a small support.
·         The UAC members collected Rs. 130, 000 from generous local people and met the expense a poor girl’s marriage which was solemnized on September 2nd 2014
       The members also come together for a Christmas celebration, the cultural festival of Onam, and two recollections each year. Events like birthdays and wedding anniversaries of lay UAC members are celebrated during the monthly UAC meetings. The children of UAC members are also specially honoured for their achievements in any field such as study, arts, sports or religion. Since family bonds are very strong here we try to ensure that the whole family and not just the individual alone journeys with the UAC.
       The selfless and generous involvement of the lay members in various UAC activities is a source of great pastoral satisfaction and spiritual enrichment. Their walls at home are decorated with pictures, among others, of St. Vincent and of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. The UAC groups are self-reliant and collect monthly subscriptions from the members to meet various expenses. One thing that has struck me after working with UAC groups is the lack of a fixed model of how they should be organised. Groups differ from each other depending on their contexts. Every group is in the process of learning and growth, and so, every group has something to tell and inspire, making it quite enriching for a UAC group to know what is happening in other groups.
       My earnest desire is that more of our confreres be empowered, encouraged and exposed to the ‘UAC-in-practice’. I am optimistic about the UAC because I trust in the words of our dear dying Founder, ‘‘The Society will live and be blessed by God”; I believe that this includes the entire Union, comprising laity, religious and clergy, as co-responsible in the mission of the Church.

2. Celebration of the Feast of the Union in Spirito Santo dei Napoletani:

       The 11th Anniversary of the erection of the Union as a public international association of the faithful of pontifical right was celebrated in the church of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani on October 25th 2014, the Saturday closest to the date of the actual anniversary, October 28th. The response for the Mass of the day was taken as the overall theme of the celebration: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord”. The celebration began at 3.30 pm with a time of Eucharistic Adoration in the spirit of the Cenacle, which consisted mostly of silent prayer periodically interspersed with prayers or short hymns, led by Fr. Gilberto Orsolin SAC with the collaboration of Sr. Bożena Olszewska SAC. This was followed by a concelebrated Eucharist, led by the General Secretary, Fr. Rory Hanly SAC, which was attended by many members of the Pallottine family from the Rome area and enriched greatly by the UAC choir. Fr. Nicola Gallucci SAC, Provincial of the Italian Regina Apostolorum Province, preached the homily during which, among many other things, he said: “[Jesus] himself calls his disciples to put out into the deep, "Duc in altum" (Lk 5: 4). This is the call of Jesus to the whole Union of Catholic Apostolate, that it may take up with courage, with a new dynamism, its responsibility to the Gospel and to humanity. We are asked to be prepared to evangelise, not to stand idly by locked up in the protective shell of an association which is turned in on itself, but to lift our gaze out to the deep, to the vast sea of the world, to cast our nets so that all may encounter the person of Jesus who makes all things new”. The Rector General and Ecclesiastical Assistant, Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, introduced the renewal of the Act of Apostolic Commitment by all present, during which he emphasised “passion” as a key element mentioned in Fr. Nicola’s homily which should characterise our lives as members of the Union - we are called to be people of “passion” - passion for Christ, passion for the Gospel, passion for prayer, passion for the Church, passion for St. Vincent Pallotti, passion for service, passion for those who are poor and broken. After the communal renewal of the Act of Apostolic Commitment, Fr. Rebwar Audish Basa, an Iraqi priest of the Antonian Order of St. Ormizda of the Chaldeans, gave a moving testimony about the suffering of our Iraqi Chaldean Christian brothers and sisters and others, particularly with the spread of IS, and spoke particularly about the history and the current needs of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Alqosh, Nineveh, Iraq for which a collection was subsequently taken up during the offertory. As a postscript to the celebration, by an extraordinary twist of Divine Providence, the orphanage turns out to be situated in the very town of birth of Thomas Alkusci, one of St. Vincent’s earliest collaborators and among those whose names featured on the first list of members of the Union; he was official representative of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See, professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Propaganda Fide and had Vincent Pallotti as his spiritual director (cf. UAC Newsletter - August-September 2012 for a synthesis of his life).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Apostles for Today
November 2014

“Give them something to eat” - Spiritual Preparation for the General Congress of the Union in July 2015

If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our conscience, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat (Mk 6:37)”. (Evangelii Gaudium 49)
      In this month of November, as we continue our ongoing process of spiritual preparation for the General Congress guided by the overall theme ‘Jesus, a joy ever new, a joy that is shared’, we are invited to take up the challenge expressed by Pope Francis above: “Give them something to eat”.
      People are hungry. They search for ‘food’ in many places, among people they may or may not know, using many methods and means to find themselves; they look for the reason of their existence, and sometimes, they are even aware that they are searching for God, but they have simply had no one tell them about Christ.
      These are the people Pope Francis encourages us, the People of God, the Church, to reach out to, to give them that reason to live and thrive, that ultimate goal to work for. And how are we to do this? Through evangelization: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28: 19a, 20a). Evangelization may be as complex as preparing talks and retreats to enrich others or as simple as talking with someone, letting them know about God’s love for them or introducing them to the basics of the faith and the Church. The Church needs (we need) to be open to all who are searching, regardless of their past choices and their present circumstances.
      We have a very special gift to share with the world – the person of Jesus Christ. He is the message we are to bring to all those with whom we come into contact. This has been the message the Church has been entrusted to carry to the ends of the earth. Not our message, but Jesus’ message. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. (EG 36)
      In earlier times, this may have meant going to faraway lands as missionaries. Today, we don’t have to travel far to find those who are hungry and thirsty. We have only to look around us, in our own families, our own neighborhoods maybe even in our own parishes, to find those who do not know Jesus and his message of love or have let that message become stale in their lives.
      And who is to evangelize? We are. As St. Vincent believed and the Pope says: All are called (EG 20), by virtue of our Baptism. WE are the ones who are to take up the mission entrusted to the Apostles and through them to us ‘to go forth’. At the end of every Eucharistic celebration we are sent to bear witness to Christ by our lives.
      Though these efforts may take us out of our comfort zones, there is a joy which comes from knowing we have sown the seeds of the Gospel. And that joy is celebrated again in the Eucharist. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving (EG 24). Best of all, Jesus tells us, ‘and know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!’ (Mt. 28:20b)
      Although Pope Francis wants us to focus on the message, he also realizes that some structure is needed to enable the message to be brought to others. Just as for the UAC the local coordination councils are centers which animate gatherings, prayer, formation and collaboration in order to sustain the spirituality common to the members and to foster diverse apostolic initiatives (General Statutes 60), so the parish, as part of the particular Church to which it belongs, is the Church incarnate in a certain place, equipped with all the means of salvation bestowed by Christ, but with local features (EG 30). The UAC as an association is a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors and we are asked to not lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular church (EG 29). St. Vincent Pallotti founded the Union to serve the Church... Therefore, the members of the Union are committed to remaining in communion with the Pope and the Bishops. (GSt 21)
      We are not asked to evangelize alone or without preparation. It is in the parish that we are fed at the table, by Christ in the Eucharist and in the Word of the Gospels, through prayer and preaching, and by the community itself. We are blessed to be members of the UAC, where we learn more about Jesus the Apostle of the Eternal Father (formation), where we share our faith journey with others, where we pray and celebrate Eucharist together and from where we are further encouraged and supported in our evangelization efforts. And although today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness (EG 41), we need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness. (EG 42) When we strive to imitate Christ’s love for the Father and for all persons, seeking to live his life-style and apostolate as perfectly as possible (GSt 19) and we give ourselves to a life of service and to fulfilling His will which is revealed to us above all through the Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Church and the signs of the times (GSt 18), we are living evangelization for all to see.
      But just as it takes us time to grow in our faith and we expect mercy and patience from God and others for our doubts and failings, we must also allow others the time they need to grow. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings. (EG 44) We are called to live forgiveness and reconciliation as a pathway to permanent conversion (GSt 23e).
      Evangelization is a ‘going out’ but it is also a journeying together, through our trials and tribulations, our fears and our great joys. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. (EG 24) Great joy will be our reward.

Reflection Questions
Ø   Whom have I encountered in the last month who was in need of my witness to God’s love for them?
Ø   In what ways am I feeding the ‘hungry’?

Concrete Action:
          We do not have all the answers to the needs and questions of those who come to us seeking help. Let us make time this month to learn of the agencies in our local dioceses which can be of assistance to us and to which we might be of assistance.

                                                              Maria Domke,
                                                                     National Formation Promoter,
                                                                     Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apostles for Today
October 2014

Introductory Reflection - Spiritual Preparation for the General Congress of the Union in July 2015
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” (Evangelii Gaudium 3)
Pope Francis offers us a simple yet profound invitation to constant revival of faith in our lives. Through our continual encounter with Jesus, we are renewed and our hearts filled with the joy of the Gospel (cf. EG 1). This joy, which comes from our encounter with the love of God, moves us outward, beyond ourselves, our cares, our concerns, our needs. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG 8). The love that we have received stirs joy within us that moves us out into the world on mission as evangelisers who do not proselytise, but attract through our witness. (cf. EG 14). Through this way of attraction, we members of the Union, through reviving faith and rekindling charity, help others experience “Jesus Christ, a joy ever new, a joy which is shared (cf. EG 2, section title).”
       For the General Congress of the Union of Catholic Apostolate in Brazil in July 2015, we have taken as our theme, “Jesus Christ, a joy ever new, a joy which is shared”. As a way of preparation for the entire Union, the reflections in Apostles for Today until that time will be based on the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. This inspiring and challenging work of Pope Francis calls all the baptised to greater engagement in the life of faith, particularly through our care of the poor and of those on the peripheries. The invitation to engagement is also an invitation to evangelise. “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelisation, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment” (EG 10). This “source” is Jesus Christ.
       As members of the Union, we “promote the co-responsibility of all the baptised to revive faith and rekindle charity in the Church and in the world, and to bring all to unity in Christ” (General Statutes, 1). We, in “accordance with the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti,” are called to draw all into an encounter with the “source of authentic personal fulfilment,” Jesus Christ. Today, the place of greatest need for this encounter to occur is within the “domestic Church”, the family. Pope Francis summarises the contemporary situation of the family.
The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children (EG 66).
       As the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral Concerns of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation” begins this month, we as members of the Union have already recognised the need to assist the family in deepening its encounter with Jesus who will bring true joy and fulfilment. The General Coordination Council of the Union in 2013 offered a common project for the Union this past year that focused on the second spiritual work of mercy, “instructing those lacking knowledge.” The project was called “Know God and Make God Known.” It is important to continue the effort begun in this project in light of this and next years' Synods of Bishops focusing on the family and in our preparation for the General Congress of the Union. The letter announcing the project gave a sound process that leads to encounter with the love of Jesus Christ who will give us a joy that must be shared.

The project, “Know God and Make God Known” is:
- a spiritual project - to 'know God' - to commit ourselves more fully to come to know God more deeply since those who wish to evangelise must always first and continually seek to be evangelised themselves;
- an apostolic project - to 'make God known' - to instruct those whose knowledge of God has not yet reached the depths of their being. It involves engaging in the work of evangelisation, transmitting to others our own lived experience and knowledge of God, whether to members of our own family, our friends, our neighbours, our work colleagues.
       Using the method of the project can also bring deeper renewal to our family of the Union and greater unity among us and with Jesus Christ. All of it must be done in a spirit of love which transforms us and moves us outward in joyful sharing of the Gospel. As St. Vincent Pallotti teaches us, “if we are really animated by the spirit of love, we will always treat all with love, we will look on all with love, we will think of all with love and we will speak of all with love” (OOCC III, 338). We members of the Union are called to live a love that bears joyful witness to love of Christ. Pope Francis calls into question any hesitation on our part to live joy born out of the experience of God’s love in our lives.
Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”. I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (EG 7).
       The renewal that Pope Francis calls us to is not something that can be done alone or in a short time. Such renewal of self, others, Church, and world is done most effectively together with one another and with the Holy Spirit. Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Union and Rector General of the Society, in a letter to the Pallottine Family in India this past June offers some further insight and invites us to prayer through the words of Pope Francis:
Spiritual renewal is a work of the Holy Spirit and not the fruits of our human efforts alone. Therefore, we wish to pray with Pope Francis: “Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love…Star of the new evangelisation, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illumining even the fringes of the world. Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia” (EG 288).

Reflection Questions
Ø  What are the ways in which I daily encounter Jesus Christ, deepen my relationship with him, and share the joy of the Gospel?
Ø  Can I think of one or more people with whom I could share something more of my 'knowledge' of God, of my relationship with him?
Ø  What apostolic initiatives can we as NCCs, LCCs, groups and members and collaborators of the Union organise to concretely evangelise families, to help families come to a more profound living experience and knowledge of the love of Christ and to choose to live a deeper and more authentic Christian witness?
Ø  How can we support families in the Union in an ongoing way in their path to grow and be transformed more deeply in the love of Christ in daily life?
                                                     Fr. Frank Donio SAC,
                                                     Washington, D.C., USA
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

Monday, September 1, 2014

 Apostles for Today

September 2014

New Evangelisation and Vulnerability

       New Evangelization is all the talk in the Church now and I’m a bit tired of it, somewhat suffocated by its relentless demand for new ways of doing things. I’ve tried many things and none of them seem to work in the sense that none of them endure or last for long enough.
       We evangelize by the essence of who and how we are. We evangelize by presence, a presence that is a living, personal experience of Jesus Christ. Sometimes who and how we are is not pleasant at all and would not seem to be very valuable in the work of evangelization. Sometimes even our experience of God is very unpleasant and all the joy of the gospel that is being demanded of us is utterly impossible.
       In a reflection on the authority of Peter, Hans Urs von Balthasar speaks about the position one must occupy in leadership. “The lowest place, which is where the servus servorum (servant of the servants) must stand, the place of final contempt and insult, the rubbish-heap on which one is ‘a worm and not a man’, this place which no man occupies willingly, is precisely the place where the office which he exercises may regain the greatest possible respect and credibility.”
       The leader, the person in authority somehow embodies the whole reality of the community. The leader experiences how the community is and vice versa. We are one body, one spirit in Christ. What is asked of the person in authority is asked of us all.
       How many of us aspire to occupy the place of final contempt, to be on the rubbish-heap of life, to be a worm and no man? Probably no one! Yet it is the place which we are called to occupy because it is the place Jesus occupied.
       I was invited a few years ago to give a talk on ‘The Relevance Of The Church’ and, as I prepared this talk, I fantasized about large numbers of highly energized Catholics gathered in prayer and going out from prayer to enthusiastically transform society in very meaningful ways.
       We have memories of Saint John Paul II filling a stadium; there are smaller but meaningful memories of Spirit-filled prayer meetings that set on fire the hearts of those involved and we thought we could take on the world; many of us come from a past in which Catholicism made a real difference. We desire to make a difference, a difference which we ourselves control.
       Control! To be in control is at the heart of a lot of human desire; we naturally fear losing control, being out of control. So we try to control life – ours and that of others – and sometimes our genuine aspiration to serve gets swallowed up in controlling.
       I look at Jesus in Gethsemane, on Calvary and I see One who occupies the place of final contempt, who has surrendered control, who is a worm and no man. “Not my will but yours be done!” I look at Jesus and I realize again that where He is where I am called to be, where we His Church are called to be.
       In the West it has been done to us. We have been stripped of all glory and power; we are derided and mocked; we are irrelevant. But I suspect that we have not yet understood that this is where we are meant to be. We are still hoping that we will be restored.
       Even those who seek genuine reform in the Church cannot envisage it being irrelevant, on the rubbish heap because we are trying to get ourselves out of the rubbish heap as fast as possible. Yet here we must abide until we have learned to become anawim, truly lowly, until the hour of our deliverance arrives.
       There is a true sense that we have come close to lowliness in Pope Francis. He is pointing us in the direction of a more authentic way of being Christian but what he is offering, what God is offering in him has to become the personal reality of every single one of us.
       The reform and renewal of the Church begins in the interior life of each one of us and it depends on how each of us responds to the reality of being the least of all and the last of all.
       A Pallottine priest died recently. He was 83 years old and had Alzheimer’s or dementia for the past few years. We know that this is a very common reality in these times and it is something many of us fear. The gospel reading at his funeral Mass was from John 21 where Jesus said to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
       End of life experiences have a lot to teach us about surrendering to the mystery of God’s action in our lives when we are most vulnerable and when we lose control over every detail of our lives. It strikes me that in the course of all of life we are being given opportunities, through “rubbish-heap” experiences, to become the little poor who learn to depend on God for everything. As we journey through life we can engage in an ongoing lesson of surrendering and letting go so that when the final surrender comes we are prepared for it.
       An inspiring aspect that I have witnessed in many people with dementia is that, when they have forgotten everything else, they retain a memory of prayer and a lifelong spirituality is somehow carved into the core of their being. Celebrating Mass in a Retirement Home, where most residents have dementia, the vast majority of them pray the Mass out loud with the priest; at the elevation of the sacred host and chalice they whisper “My Lord and my God” which has a particular significance in the history of Christian spirituality in Ireland.
       We have just celebrated the funeral of a former Prime Minister who was a devoted Catholic. He too experienced dementia and one of the memories spoken of at his funeral was of him and his wife sitting on their bed praying the Hail Mary.
       The eyes of the world look on at the reality of dementia and they see a disaster; the eyes of faith perceive the mystery of God’s action and communion with the soul of the faithful that is now in a state of near perfect surrender, one from who all freedom and control has been taken away.
       Theirs is the hand stretched out to take the Hand of the Other who leads them where they do not want but need to go. It isn’t always pleasant or pretty, sometimes it is funny and joyful, but always it is their testament of faith, their act of evangelization in this present age.
       Part of our evangelization is to witness to and honour the loving, awesome presence of God in our present personal moments of brokenness, vulnerability, darkness. Part of our evangelization is to recognize and point to the presence of God in the lives of those who are experiencing dementia and to offer meaning to those who bear the burden of care for them.

For prayer:
Take a moment of stillness. Be attentive to your breathing. Breathe God in and out. Be attentive to what you are feeling as a result of reading or listening to the above reflection. Express your thoughts and feelings privately to God. Share them together in your group. Leave space for spontaneous prayer.
The following poem might be an appropriate conclusion:
Do not ask me to remember.
Don’t try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you’re with me.
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept.
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all costs.
Do not lose your patience with me.
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting.
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone.
Please don’t fail to stand beside me.
Love me ‘til my life is done.
                                                         Fr. Eamonn Monson SAC,
                                                         Dublin, Ireland
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Apostles for Today

August - Prayer and reflection

New Evangelisation and
the Universal Call to Holiness

Ireland, like many other Western countries that once had strong and vibrant Christian communities, is now in need of evangelisation. The Universal Church has put New Evangelisation at the core of her concerns and actions. Pope Francis states, ‘In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded’ (Evangelii Gaudium 23). In stating this, the Pope is giving strong and clear leadership to our Church regarding evangelisation. He is not allowing us to stay in our own comfort zone and leave large sections of society untouched by the Gospel. It is also important to note what the Holy Father said in relation to Church: ‘Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. [...] It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium 114). What a beautiful and wonderful vision is contained in those words. The task of all missionary disciples, but in particular, members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, is to help everyone we encounter to experience and be part of the community that is this Church. However, if this vision is to be realised, a transformation must take place so that authentic humility and contemplation will be the outstanding attributes of God’s people.

It is also important to acknowledge, at all times, that our transformation or conversion can only happen with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is by the grace of God that we respond to the love that God has lavished upon us. We are called to proclaim the Word and to sow seeds, but it is the Spirit who acts once the seed is sown (Mk 4:26-29). To quote Pope Francis, ‘God’s word is unpredictable in its power. [...] The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking’ (Evangelii Gaudium 22). In order to allow God to surprise us and to be open to his work, in ourselves and in others, we need to prepare our own hearts by becoming closer to Jesus and to his Word.

We must not allow the sheer enormity of the task to paralyse us into inaction. Rather, all big ideas are accomplished by a series of small steps right down to the power of one of these. I believe that this is how God’s plan for us is worked out over time. The mission of the Universal Church is also the mission of the local and domestic Church. The task of evangelisation is not confined to bishops, priests and religious. It is the work of the whole church, the whole People of God.

The Universal Call to Holiness

Our God is a good and generous God as we see in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:3-4): “Going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace and said to them ‘You go into my vineyard too’. This call is as vibrant today as it was 2,000 years ago, and was re-echoed by Vatican Council II and again in Christifideles Laici. It is addressed not only to the clergy and religious but to every baptised person. Each one of us receives from God a vocation and a mission to enter into collaboration for the good of the Church and of the whole world. In founding the Union of Catholic Apostolate, St. Vincent Pallotti realised the necessity of a structure to facilitate such collaboration in order to revive faith and re-kindle charity in our Church and in the world.

The first reaction of many lay people, myself included, when asked to become involved in evangelisation is to say, ‘I am not worthy or I am not holy enough to do this work’. But Jesus came to heal sinners and we are all sinners. We are all human; we disappoint ourselves and others in many areas of life; we often fail to reach our potential; yet God always offers us another chance.

Reflecting on the life of St. Peter helps illumine God’s work in us and offers great encouragement to all. Peter was a layman whose first reaction to God’s call was, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man’. But Jesus said ‘Do not be afraid’ (Lk 5:8-10). Peter shows his determination when he attempts to walk on water, but immediately falls back once more into fear (Mt 14:8-32). Later on, Jesus tells him that he is an obstacle to God’s plan of salvation, because he fails to understand that suffering is part of Christ’s mission (Mt 16:23). Peter is also challenged by the infinite mercy of God and the call to imitate him in his boundless forgiveness (Mt 18:21-22) as he tries to get to grips with the far-reaching implications of being a follower of Jesus.

Finally, all of Peter’s human weaknesses and emotions come to the surface in Mt 26: 33-69. His great courage and loyalty are shown during the arrest of Jesus. His failures and weakness are demonstrated by his inability to stay awake and pray in the Garden and above all by his denial of Jesus in order to save himself. These are all very human and natural traits. Yet God used his weakness and past failures to transform Peter. In responding to the Universal Call to Holiness each one of us ought to be inspired by the extraordinary transformation of Peter, through the power of God, into the great leader and martyr that he became.
If new evangelisation is to be realised it will not be through mere words, but by the quality of our witness in our local faith communities and parishes. The process of evangelisation will happen quickly if every person we encounter in our daily lives and work feels welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged as Pope Francis recommends. Our task locally is to help people to become aware or more aware of God’s presence in our world. A world where many people have lost a sense of mystery - where God and religion are being pushed out. A real awakening to a sense of the sacred is necessary if new evangelisation is to succeed. A greater awareness or sense of God’s presence is needed if people are to respond to the universal call to holiness and act on their vocation.

I have often spent time with young people exploring four lines of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

 ‘Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries’

My two and half year old granddaughter’s world is full of mystery and wonder which she has no difficulty in embracing wholeheartedly. What happens to us as we get older? Do we lose our sense of mystery? Do we settle for knowing how things work without ever asking why? Do we lose that sense that there is always ‘more’? If we do, we have become berry-pickers and we are in urgent need of being awakened to a sense of having come from God and of returning to God. Richard Rohr says that we ‘cannot attain the presence of God because we are already totally in the presence of God. What is absent is awareness’ (‘Everything Belongs’). In trying to bring about an awakening to the Spirit or a greater awareness of God’s presence we may discover that actions speak louder than words. How we relate to each other may well hold the key.

This focus on relationships is important because it is through relationships that God’s love, mercy, joy and forgiveness will be encountered and experienced. This is the real challenge that Christ puts before all of his followers. ‘It is easier to immerse ourselves in doing a thousand things or getting involved in various causes, especially if we can connect them to the Gospel, than to attend to relationships; because relating to people demands a certain degree of trust, openness and vulnerability, which can cause some discomfort’ (From a talk given by Rev. Ruth Patterson). Yet this is precisely what we will have to do in order to be missionary disciples. Jesus gave us a perfect template in the way he revealed the Kingdom of God through word, action and table fellowship.

In John 4:5-30, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is a very good example of the Master at work. Jesus is humble and asks for a drink of water. He spends time with her, they discuss her life, he listens and he offers something of great value. It is in the dialogue that she recognises who he is. After the encounter with Jesus, the woman immediately becomes a missionary and, as a result, many Samaritans came to believe in him because of her testimony. If we are to be effective in evangelising our neighbour, we will first of all ourselves need to have encountered the risen Lord in a deeply personal and life-changing way.

If our communities, parishes and homes are truly places where God’s loving presence can be encountered, where his Word is broken open and shared, where his actions are experienced and his table fellowship is offered and real, then we can say we are wholeheartedly engaged with New Evangelisation and beginning to make the vision behind the Universal Call to Holiness a reality.

Questions for personal and/or group reflection:

·       Can you remember a particular time in your life when you experienced God’s call to holiness in a more deeply personal way than before?
·       How has your experience of God’s call changed over the years? And your  response to that call?
·       What communities of faith have helped you to nourish and deepen and respond to that call in relationship with others? Your family? Your parish and diocesan family? The Union of Catholic Apostolate? Other groups? The Universal Church?
·        In what ways are you, in your local UAC group or another faith community, involved in discerning the signs of the times and the needs of those around you and in responding to them as apostles of the Infinite Love of God through concrete practical initiatives?


       Come Holy Spirit, burn away our selfishness and fill us with your love.

Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anxiety and fill us with your peace.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our jealousy and fill us with your generosity.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anger and fill us with your forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our unbelief and fill us with a faith in Christ that transforms our lives.

Come Holy Spirit, burn away all that prevents us from hearing your call in the cry of the poor and from pouring out our lives in generous service of those who yearn for us to be for them living witnesses and missionary disciples of your Word, of your justice and peace, of your mercy and forgiveness, of your tenderness and compassion, of your goodness and truth, of your joy and simplicity, of your love. Amen. 
(Adapted from a prayer given to me by the late Kevin Devlin RIP)

                                                              Pat Maguire,
                                                              Dublin, Ireland
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia