Monday, November 30, 2015

Apostles for Today - December 2015


Prayer and Reflection for December 2015

 The Incarnation of Mercy

We are all waiting in joyful anticipation for the opening of the Holy Door, or rejoicing deeply that it has already taken place, in order to allow ourselves to be drawn by the fascination of the “Misericordiae Vultus”, the face of mercy, of a God whom we will never cease discovering. Of you my heart has spoken: Seek his face. Your face, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me (Ps 26:8-9).
In this way we pray with the psalmist, in this way we pray with the Church. Pope Francis speaks to us as follows: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy”, he is the face who allows us to identify the person of God himself in whom we believe, with complete generosity of heart. The mercy of the Father shines brightly on the face of Jesus Our Lord.
Throughout the course of this holy Year, it will be the Spirit of the Living God who will guide and lead us to the contemplation of this face of mercy, this human face which, in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit formed in the womb of Mary.
In temptation and in the fall, Adam did not trust his Creator.
In the Incarnation, Mary surrenders herself unconditionally: “Here I am”, and gives her full, complete and irrevocable assent to the Father’s plan.
Growing in her womb was the fairest of the children of men, on whose lips are spread grace and mercy, pure and free because offered to those who do not deserve it.
In the Incarnation, the promise of the Protoevangelium restores our trust in our Creator God: “her seed shall bruise your head” (cf. Gn 3, 15). The Son of God crushes the head of the enemy who had struck him - and who continues to strike human hearts with doubt, distrust and lack of confidence in their God.
The Incarnation, for whose celebration we are preparing ourselves during this Advent, is the Incarnation of Mercy, which “is from generation to generation” (Lc 1:50), the Mercy of God which still wants to propose itself to the free choice of each one of us, who so often fall prey to discouragement, to dismay, to guilt feelings, to the temptation to selfishness, to closed-mindedness and to despondency, as if the enemy still had the last word in our lives.
Rejoice Mary, you have found favour in the sight of God. The promise becomes good news: this offspring will crush the head of the enemy, who insidiously continues to say to us: How can God love you, who are so unworthy, so fragile, so inconsistent?
The Incarnation of the Son of God is mercy given freely, which gives me again the certainty that God loves me personally, he loves me precisely because I don’t deserve to be loved. Mercy becomes flesh precisely for me, a sinner; a sinner, but not corrupt, because I recognise my need of mercy! (Pope Francis)
To use the words of St. Vincent: Oh how good God is with me who am unworthy of every good, and deserving of every evil! (cf. OOCC X, 182)
Mercy becomes flesh in Jesus and comes to seek me, to find me; comes to my house to bring salvation, comes to dwell with me.
The angel also says to me: “Do not be afraid, behold I bring you news of great joy, which is for all the people: Today a Saviour is born, who is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:10-11).
Mercy become flesh is the only source of joy for us human beings of every time, language, people and nation.
If mercy comes to dwell with us, we can no longer walk around sad, with our heads bowed down. If mercy has become flesh it is so that we may no longer be closed in upon ourselves in our selfishness, in the narrow walls of our felling good being alone.
“In this Holy Year - Pope Francis reminds us - the sweetness of the countenance of the Mother of Mercy watches over us, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus 24).
Under the gaze of Mary we contemplate the mystery, our hearts filled with gratitude, and say to her, as Saint Vincent taught us: You are our Teacher, Mother and Advocate: as Teacher you invite us to come to you every day to hear the inspirations which you give us to comfort us and sustain us in living the Gospel faithfully; as Mother show pity to us in our miseries; as Advocate you are ready to obtain whatever we need to remedy every lack of correspondence to grace. In every necessity we know who to appeal to with trust. You, Daughter of the Eternal Father, will obtain for us spiritual power to overcome all enemies of our soul, who wish to prevent us from believing in his infinite mercy. You, Mother of the Eternal Word made flesh, will obtain for us light to know the tricks that the enemy uses against us. You, Bride of the Holy Spirit, are always ready, or rather, ardently desire and, through your intercession commit yourself to obtain for us, the grace of living a life of love in the infinite Love (cf. OOCC XIII, 191-192).
In this Holy Year of mercy, let us spend much time with Jesus, Mercy made flesh, let us experience his action in our hearts, let us allow ourselves to be touched by his presence in the very depths of our being: my God, I believe that I would offend your mercy if I dared to think that you who are Infinite Mercy would not be able to triumph over all of my resistance. I would truly offend you, my Infinite mercy, if I dared to doubt. You treat me so mercifully with an abundance of grace even greater than that which you give to those who are upright of heart! (cf. OOCC X, 182). Let us ask the Holy Spirit, who made the Incarnation possible, to make each one of us a channel of mercy, to mould also in us a face of mercy and to communicate to us the same feelings that were in Christ Jesus.
Let us share mercy with concrete actions: let us give attention, a listening ear, time, to those who live alongside us.
Let us share our experience that “mercy will always be greater than any sin”, and that” no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive” (MV 3).
With Saint Vincent let us renew our unshakeable trust:
I believe and hold with certainty that your mercy destroys all my misery and fills me with all your gifts above all the angels and all the saints, of all past, present, future and possible creatures, in such a way that if, in Mary, all ages and all generations will admire the miracle of your grace then, in me, who in misery, ungodliness and ingratitude surpass all of the rebellious angels and all of the human race, they will have to admire the miracle of your Mercy (cf. OOCC X, 303). In this year of Mercy, let each one of us live and “tell of” this marvellous experience!

                                                                             UAC Italy

Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, 00187 Roma, Italia

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apostles for Today

Apostles for Today

Prayer and reflection

November 2015

Original Sin and the need for God’s Mercy

On 13th March 2015, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy. Pope Francis says the Holy Year is “dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy” which God “constantly extends to all of us.” He explained that the year would begin on 8th December to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, which called the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the world in new ways, bringing God’s mercy to everyone.
With this issue of ‘Apostles for Today’ we are beginning a series of reflections on Mercy, Pallotti and the Pallottine Charism using Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, as a starting point. The theme we deal with in the present issue is the fact of original sin and the need of everyone for the mercy of God.
Scripture and Tradition tell us that “God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). The first human being, Adam, was created in the state of original justice, i.e., with intellect and will totally submitted to God through sanctifying grace,[1] and with his imaginative and emotional life submitted to his intellect and will. Because of this profound harmony with God’s plan of love at the level of his moral and spiritual life, his body was under the control and at the service of his soul, his relationships with others were rooted completely in love and respect, and even the external universe was subject to him. This divine ordering of his life in all of its various dimensions was, as it were, the overflow of the subjection of his mind and will to God through sanctifying grace. When this grace was lost through sin, then all of these other dimensions of life no longer remained subject to God’s love. Each faculty now spontaneously sought its own fulfilment without reference to any higher good. This condition of existence, which Adam passed on to his descendants, is not merely a state of simple lacking (negatio), but is a state of privation (privatio)[2] - the privation of original justice through which is taken away the subjection of the human mind to God as a result of no longer possessing that right relationship to God which human beings were meant to have from the beginning. This is the state of original sin.

Original sin is a condition, not something that people do; it is the normal spiritual and psychological condition of human beings, not their bad thoughts and actions. How do we verify the effect of original sin in life today? It is an undisputed fact that there is an inner quest in human beings for more. It is a God-given longing which is behind every comprehension, discovery and progress. Obtaining that which is longed for creates further desire for more and more. The desire for more in itself is not bad when it is oriented positively. However, when it is oriented towards fulfilling some desires that do not produce positive results, it can lead to a loss of freedom, addiction and slavery. Such strong desires can overwhelm those caught up in them, depriving them of self-control and the capacity to think and act rationally. Alcoholism, addiction to drugs and sex, various abuses, etc., are but a few examples of the inordinate yielding to what enslaves a person. Original sin thus becomes the tendency for human beings to ‘give in’ when tempted by the prevailing evils of the society around them, rather than standing up for good, and it helps explain why each individual finds temptation so hard to resist. As St. Paul puts it, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…” (Rom 7:15).
God had created us to enjoy freedom and to make decisions that further our living in freedom. The loss of freedom which one suffers from such inordinate yielding is the effect of original sin. Original sin affects individuals by separating them from God, and bringing dissatisfaction and guilt into their lives. On a world scale, original sin explains such things as genocide, war, cruelty, exploitation and abuse, and the presence and universality of sin in human history. The stain of original sin is inherited by all humans at the moment of conception and brings its effects of ignorance, concupiscence,[3] death and suffering (Gn 3:16-19; CCC 1264). Through original sin, we have lost the hope of receiving the kingdom of God upon natural death. Original sin has separated human beings from God and has weakened our will to prefer good over evil.
In response, God, who has enduring love for all Creation (Ps 136:4-6), offers His divine mercy, comforting us in our suffering and forgiving our sins. God proclaims to Moses that He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:5-6; CCC 210). He “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16; cf. OOCC XIII, 121-122). Contemplating the merciful initiative of God, St. Vincent Pallotti exclaims, “O infinite love! O infinite Mercy, O abyss of ineffable miracle of mercy!” (OOCC X, 479). In a fervent prayer, he adds, “My God, my infinite mercy, by Your infinite mercy … I firmly believe that through the infinite merits of the death of Jesus Christ … my inconceivable unworthiness is destroyed … and the defects of my life are wiped out … to sing for ever as reward the wonders and depth of the Divine mercy and the infinite mercy of God” (OOCC X, 350-352).
Jesus Christ, Son of God, true God and true man, surrendered himself to an undeserved death and became the sacrifice for our sins. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus was offered once and for all for the sins of all humankind, so that we can be saved by the grace of God. “If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all.” (Rm 5:17-18). St. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that by Adam’s sin all were convicted, and now Christ’s obedience and passion redeem all. The redemption of Jesus Christ is God’s act of mercy, a gift to the world for the expiation of original sin and personal sins. “Christ the new Adam...fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his lofty calling,” and does it “in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love.” (GS 22). “Man and man’s lofty calling are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love” (Dives in misericorida 1).
God could have certainly found another way to redeem us. But he chose this way to show how much he loves us. However, the grace offered and the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ at the objective level needs to be appropriated by faith at the personal level by each individual. Faith is openness to God, an attitude of confidence in him and in his saving power. It is basically a gift. God has not only given us this great gift of faith, he has also shown us his forbearance. No matter what our sins may be, he is always eager to show mercy and forgive us. However, we have to make a firm decision to repent and embrace conversion. We are free to welcome God’s mercy and make choices in keeping with this faith-life because God respects human freedom.
God created us perfect to enjoy paradise. But by allowing Adam to use his free will and freedom to sin, God gives us something even better, redemption by the blood of His only Son. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each ones of us, so that, as St. Paul puts it “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rm 5:20). The paradise that God created for human beings was good, but our reward for “fighting the good fight” (1Tim 6:12) is even better. At the Easter vigil, the Church joyfully sings “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

1.     How do I react to the affirmation of St. Paul, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rm 3:23)?
2.    What effects of original sin do I experience in my personal life?
3.    How should I use God’s mercy as a pattern in my life (cf. Mic 6:8: what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God)?

Father in heaven, I know that I am weak; I have yielded myself to the evil inclinations that overwhelm me. I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am sincerely sorry and I ask your forgiveness. I am in need of your mercy. May the blood of Jesus wash away my sins. I submit myself into his hands. From now on may His life be my life and may He become the Lord of my life. Pour out your Spirit into my heart that He may help me to obey you and to do your will.

                                                                                Fr. Joy Palachuvattil SAC,

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

[1] Sanctifying grace is “a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love”, cf. CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) 2000.
[2] Negatio here involves the simple fact of something being absent, whereas privatio involves the want of something that should have been there according to the Divine plan, in this case, the want of perfect union and conformity with God.
[3] An inclination towards sin and evil (cf. CCC 405, 418).

Monday, October 19, 2015

Apostles for Today

Apostles for Today
October 2015

"Let Us be Apostles of Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Order to Create a New World "

The words of an African musician poet inspired us with the idea of ​​a new world which would be the result of the practice and experience of the virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation. Having carefully observed the tumultuous reality of our time, including the various tensions worldwide, fratricidal wars, the degradation of human beings by other human beings and, adding current news, the influx of migrants to Europe; the poet exclaims: “the world is aging”.

   For the poet, in fact, the aging of the world refers to the decline of humanity, characterised by all the atrocities of which human beings are simultaneously author and victim. Hearing news regarding the reality of the present situation of the world, there is nothing to reassure us of a promising future for coming generations. In speaking of the aging of the world, the poet is addressing himself to his fellow human beings. In this way, he questions our behaviour and calls for a realisation, the pledge of a new beginning which requires a change of mentality for a renewal that the world expects of us for our own flourishing. Faced with such a bleak picture which bears witness to the aging or, even more so, the moral decay of which human beings are victim, he asks himself if we have not arrived at the state of which the philosopher Thomas Hobbes spoke, according to which human beings are, by nature, shut up in their own passions and anxious to secure their selfish interests, asserting their animosity towards each other. Hence the phrase “man is wolf to man”. In view of the overall situation of the world today as much in social as in political, in religious as in environmental terms; it is important that human beings examine themselves with a view to building a new world without which such a danger is inevitable.

     Saint John Paul II, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Reconciliatio and Paenitentia” of 2 December 1984, notes the catastrophic situation of the contemporary world, calling for conversion with a view to reconciliation. But there can be no reconciliation without a sincere commitment involving a process of forgiveness for a true healing of wounds caused by painful situations lived through and also suffered. Saint John Paul II speaks of the shattering of the contemporary world. He highlights the real divisions which “are seen in the Apostles for Today Prayer and Reflection ­ October 2015 relationships between individuals and groups, and also at the level of larger groups: nations against nations and blocs of opposing countries in a headlong quest for domination” (cf. § 2). The root cause of these divisions is to be found at the level of human beings who seem to have failed in their original mission received from the Creator according to the book of Genesis (Gen 1:29-30). Human beings, unfortunately, instead of having dominion over nature in order to make a real living space for themselves and all other creatures, destroyed it by their aggression. Hence the cry of alarm that is heard today concerning the dangers of self-destruction due to mismanagement of the environment.

   From the social and political perspectives, Saint John Paul II finds destructive imbalances that impair social harmony and thus cause conflicts with disastrous consequences for human society. In this regard, he points to the existence of “the growing disproportion between groups, social classes and countries, to ideological rivalries that are far from dead; from the opposition between economic interests to political polarization; from tribal differences to discrimination for social and religious reasons” (cf. § 2). Given this situation, it is urgent that the men and women of our time discover the need for the virtue of forgiveness required for a reconciliation that can transform human hearts. The effectiveness of this renewal process must take into account two dimensions without which one cannot speak of successful reconciliation. If we believe that forgiveness and reconciliation are two intimately related Christian virtues, then it is necessary to know in this case that only those who have already pardoned each other can be mutually reconciled.

   From the Christian viewpoint, the first dimension to be considered is the vertical relationship between human beings and God. The Christian recognizes that forgiveness is a gift of God and is the fruit of love. In fact, God has loved us first and also wants to forgive us in his Son Jesus Christ, God become man, to save us from sin and death (Jn 3: 16). Therefore, faith being the answer to the infinite love of God, it allows us to gain the strength to forgive our brothers and sisters.

   The second dimension for the revival of the harmonious world which we want involves a horizontal movement that engages human beings with each other. If the search for personal fulfilment and other ambitions have blinded us to the point of making us hostile to one another, the coming of a new world requires on our part a conversion to healthy relationships based on love of neighbour (Lk 10:29 -38).

    If a simple analysis of the verb “forgive” allows us to grasp that it involves “giving something”, we will then be in a position to consider that forgiveness leads us to reconstruct a link that no longer exists after a fracturing or rupture of relationships between brothers and sisters.

     Forgiveness therefore always places two parties before each other: the offended and the offender, the victim and the aggressor. This double dimension of forgiveness sometimes makes it difficult because it requires that both parties recognise each other in their role or condition (of offender and offended) as well as in the facts that divide or set them against each other. That is why, from the purely social and human perspective, in order to achieve true reconciliation, forgiveness demands that the offender recognise the harm or injury done to the other and express regret. In so doing, the person responsible enters into a process of reconciliation that solicits from the other a getting over of the offense which is expressed through forgiveness. Only forgiveness given and received (because desired) embodies genuine reconciliation.

    In the Ivory Coast, for example, after the electoral crisis that the country experienced in 2010, to reconcile the Ivorian people, the new government established the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR). It could be said that it has done its best to reach the victims in order to help them to understand what they have experienced. And in order to facilitate, even so slightly, the restoration of national cohesion in the particular circumstances, this Commission has had to initiate a dialogue between victims and their tormentors. It can be said that the results of such meetings have not always been exceptional; however, these initiatives have helped each side to express their concerns. As forgiveness is a process that requires willpower, patience and time, it can be humbly recognised without too much pretension, that the efforts made by the said Committee have had some positive impact on calming the tensions prevailing in some parts of the country.

    The effort required for effective reconciliation remains considerable and its achievement is the responsibility of every citizen. The Church, beginning with its hierarchical authorities, the pastors and the other faithful, at all levels, must become aware of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation as a basis for peace and social harmony. For this to happen, the preaching of the word of God must play a key role in the conversion of all. Without a true conversion of hearts, it is impossible to achieve reconciliation between people. And since it is God alone who can arouse in human hearts a true desire for unity and reconciliation, we ask him to inspire in us the words and actions needed for the communion of all in peace and harmony. Indeed, the word of God, the good news of the Gospel, must be at the heart of any undertaking to promote forgiveness and reconciliation between people.

   Giving part of oneself in order to restore the other in his or her dignity as a human being and child of God is the essence of forgiveness. This involves a sacrifice and, even more, a death to self for the sake of the other. Nonetheless, faith in Jesus Christ invites us to this. To the extent that we raise our eyes to Christ crucified granting pardon to his executioners that we will be able to go beyond the human dimension of forgiveness that necessarily wants the repentance of the offender. It is at this level that true forgiveness is a gift from God. God, the first to take the initiative of forgiveness, without any process of reconciliation on our part, paying a high price for this: the gift of his Son.

     That is why we maintain that it is virtually impossible for people to attain true reconciliation between themselves without recourse to the support and assistance of God from whom comes every perfect gift. If forgiveness involves agreeing to make a sacrifice, reconciliation can be said to be the consequence of this sacrifice. It is, in effect, a force born of wounded or offended hearts which have been healed of all the bitterness of the past. Speaking of reconciliation as the restoration of the strength and will to live together, Denis Saint-Pierre said that it “is more than a goodwill gesture. It is a force that triggers admirable effects”.

    Following the example of Christ, who has reconciled us with God by his death and resurrection, let us in our turn, insofar as we are Christians and apostles of Christ, be peacemakers and ask him for the grace to work for communion among our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis reminds us in this regard that “true faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from selfgiving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others” (Evangelii Gaudium, § 88). By our baptismal promises, we have been made children of God and therefore heirs of the kingdom with Christ, our Saviour; we remain conscious of our mission as apostles of forgiveness and reconciliation. Thus, we can, by our way of living and acting, contribute effectively to the advent of a new world where peace and the joy of living together reign.

 Let us pray through the intercession of St. Vincent Pallotti: “You wish us to be always animated by the humility and love and thus to become like Christ. You want us to glorify God through an apostolic life and to obtain both our own salvation and that of our neighbour” (Pallottine Prayers, Section II, Prayers directed to St. Vincent Pallotti, n. 2, p. 238).
UAC Ivory Coast
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
 Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

Monday, August 31, 2015

Apostles for Today

Prayer and Reflection 
for September 2015

General Congress - from the President’s Talk
       Dear friends! A short time ago we finished celebrating the Third General Congress of the Union in Sao Paolo in Brazil (14-18 July, 2015). It was a special time of grace, during which we experienced the joy of sharing the living freshness of our Founder’s charism. Through the faces, stories, testimonies, reflections, conversations and celebrations of those who participated, the Lord became present and impelled us more and more to live in and for the love of Christ. All of you, members and collaborators of the Union, were present in the communion of prayer and love which bridges every distance of time and space. Therefore, it seems good to share with you the main points of my opening talk.

I begin therefore by offering something of the gift I have received, by sharing and presenting what I am and what I have most at heart regarding the Union. It is important to acknowledge immediately that it is thanks to the faithfulness of many people, in the present and also of those who have preceded us, that we are what we are today as a Pallottine Family; faithfulness to God who is known and recognised as Infinite Love and Mercy in the inexhaustible richness of the personal history of each one of us.

Part I - Personal presentation
       It was the same also for me, already many years ago. It was 1973, at the beginning of the story of my community, Quinta Dimensione. I was a young student, rebellious towards the world. I wanted to start a revolution against society’s structures, to change them, overthrow them:  I believed that they were what prevented what was good, solidarity, generosity, justice, fraternity. But during a discussion with other students at a meeting, about how to build a better world, it was me instead who was changed, overwhelmed by an expression; it was Fr. Leonardi, a Pallottine, our religion teacher, who said it to me. The phrase is still a model for everything that I live and experience: for there to be peace, love, tolerance, fraternity, truth, listening, in the world, it no use only to change the structures. It is the human being who creates them, we are the ones who create them. Therefore, it is necessary above all to change ourselves and put the Gospel of Jesus at the centre of our lives. I realised then that change had to begin from myself. In this way I began to experience that the Christian life - Pallottine life - is just very simple and also fully human: live, doing to others what you would like done to you. And the world will certainly be made new, also in its structures.
       In July 2013, Pope Francis said to the Latin American Bishops: “The “change of structures” (from obsolete ones to new ones) will not be the result of reviewing an organizational flow chart, which would lead to a static reorganization; rather it will result from the very dynamics of mission”.
       I make a long jump in time now to March 30th, 2015, Monday of Holy Week, the day on which the General Coordination Council elected me President of the Union. None of us would have thought, imagined, dreamed of such a surprising novelty: a lay person - moreover a woman - as President of the entire Pallottine Family.
       In the long exchange of thoughts and desires between the members of the GCC, at some point my name emerged and everyone looked at me. I did not understand very well; I thought that name was a future, still distant, possibility for the Union. So I got up from my seat and went to the bathroom. At the bathroom door Cheryl Sullivan, another member of the GCC, was waiting for me. I cannot remember well what we said to each other, except that we loved each other and that we would do everything together, in communion. This alone was important, is important.
       Before voting, there was a time of personal spiritual discernment. I went into the chapel and placed myself before Jesus, present in the Tabernacle. It was already clear to me that something was going to happen not only to me but also to each of the other members of the GCC and to the entire Union. I said: “Jesus, my Lord, you know who I am. However, if I am to be the person to be chosen, you must give me two things. The first: if this is to happen, that it may not be a recognition of personal qualities, but of the path travelled with the community, grafted through the charism of Saint Vincent Pallotti into the history of the Union. The second: that I would not be elected as a victory between opposing contenders, but that it would be a sign of a strong consensus, of unity. Jesus gave me what I asked. With much joy and awareness, I can say that there was not only my acceptance, but that of every member of the GCC. All of us - we can say - said yes to God and embraced his surprising and ‘revolutionary’ plan.
       Up to this point I have been telling you about myself. It is important for me to share experiences since they help us to raise our gaze, no longer fixated on the particular, but looking on the Union and accepting it in its complex entirety.. I would now like to proceed with the second part of what I have most at heart regarding the Union, developing three aspects: memory, capacity to see the present, a utopia directed towards the future (Pope Francis to the Argentine newspaper “La Voz del Pueblo”, May 2015).

Parte II
I would like to begin by highlighting some aspects of the General Statutes which constitute its foundation in order to draw out from them the common memory of the life and form of the Union in this decade (a little more than a decade). Memory which is common, that is, involving us all, it belongs to us and gives order to our responsibility towards God and others in keeping it fresh and enriching it.
The General Statutes are a fruit of a long and patient communal work, begun in the 90’s, but with more distant historical roots when the Second Vatican Council invited every Religious Family to return to “the original spirit of the institutes”, to “their special characteristics” (Perfectae Caritatis, 2). And they unite, through a juridical structure, (cf. Parts II – IV) the various parts of the Family (priest and brothers, sisters, lay people), who are already united by a moral bond which comes from the founding charism (cf. Part I).
The General Statutes present this bond through essential spiritual elements: reviving faith and rekindling charity in order to unite all in Christ; calling all - whether religious or lay or clerics - to the apostolate; uniting the efforts of all in service of the Church. And this without interfering with the juridical structure and internal life of the individual parts. In this way the Statutes can be applied to all parts of the Pallottine Family, and each one can be recognised as having equal rights.
The common and essential element of the identity of the charism and of the unity of the Pallottine Family is the Catholic Apostolate. It is the title which characterises its vocation in the Church, the essential element (Cf. OOCC X, 196-201; III, 139). Here is the new work in the Church that, in the memory now shared, opens up to this present.

The capacity to see the present
       “I would like to make another clarification with respect to the charism: we run the risk of considering it only as a "content", but it is not like this. Each founding charism includes a "content", but at the same time, also a particular "way of being", a "way of proceeding". This is important when it comes to the "updating" a founding charism”.[1] Following the Pope’s thinking, we can in fact say that the “content” of the charism of our foundation, the essential element, is the Catholic Apostolate. But, the Pope says, beyond the content, there is something more: the way of being, the way of proceeding, essential for updating the founding charism.
       Much ground has been covered from the approval of the Union to today: the constitution of the GCC, of NCCs and LCCs; the formation programmes; the formation teams with the promoters; the general, continental and national congresses; the admission of new members with the Act of Apostolic Commitment; the Jubilee celebrations; the octaves; the annual action plan; etc. Everything has contributed and contributes, with the grace of God, to give structural stability in the building up of a work as complex and varied as the Union. It is a necessary process in order to incarnate, to concretise, the experience of the Spirit which Saint Vincent Pallotti has left us as a gift, because the following is also true for him:  “For the various founders and foundresses, the Gospel was the absolute rule, whereas every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and a means of living the Gospel to the full.”.[2] Our present certainly shines with lights but - in different places and in different ways - shadows also stand out. It is for us to interpret them in a vital manner because, if on the one hand the human element is always weak, fragile, vulnerable, on the other we recognise that the strength of the Holy Spirit also makes use of shadows in order to carry forward his plan. These shadows, therefore, should not be ignored, kept at a distance or delegated to others, but they are necessary in order to grow, to update the "way of being", the "way of proceeding". And here is my proposal: And here is my proposal: collaboration and communion today require the generating or renewing of a consciousness of the various expressions Union that structural stability is no longer sufficient in order to give meaning to belonging to the Pallottine Family. We understand that it is now necessary to put relationships, direct dialogue between people, at the centre of communion. What would the Church be without the lived experience of the new commandment of mutual love.? What would the UAC be if its members and collaborators did not live among themselves the substantial constituent of charity? “Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another” (cf. EG, 98, 99).

A utopian vision for the future
       The utopia directed towards the future is to commit ourselves - "resolve", the Founder would say - to be in communion with each other, renewing every personal and community strategy to foster unity. In the foundation of St. Vincent Pallotti, in his words, we are all called to be co-founders with him.

       Let us invite and support one another to follow this path with courageous patience and humility, without doubt Marian in its ways, of the ‘care of bonds’, conscious that communion must be and become the first form of evangelisation: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another” (Jn 13:35). What makes the Union is communion. And the Catholic Apostolate is its direct, spontaneous, natural radiation. The future generations are already present in us. And this is a certainty which accompanies our commitment to serve God faithfully and with joy in the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
 “How much good it does us to love one another, in spite of everything. Yes, in spite of everything! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love!” (EG, 101). No, we will not let ourselves be robbed! Our Lady of Aparecida, pray for us. Thank you for listening!

                                                                              Donatella Acerbi,

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

[1] Mons. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in the Synod on Consecrated Life and ist Mission in the Church and World, XVI General Congregation, Roma, 13 October 1994, n. 5
[2] Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter to Consecrated People, 21.11.2014, I,1.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Apostles for Today - July 2015

Apostles for Today

Prayer and reflection

July 2015

Sent to proclaim “Jesus, a joy ever-new, a joy to be shared” – Reflection to spiritually accompany the General Congress of the Union in July 2015
   We, the Pallottine Family present whether physically or in spirit from July 14th-19th at the III General Congress of the Union in the Cenacle with Mary Queen of Apostles, “the great missionary”, open ourselves to welcome “the fullness of the Holy Spirit” (cf. OOCC X, 86-87), to hear the Word and to reflect on the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, “Evangelii Gaudium”. This document is of the greatest importance, since it touches upon the depths of the apostolic spirit of Saint Vincent Pallotti and also of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, born of his missionary zeal which, from the beginning, was put at the service of all of the faithful for the spreading of faith throughout the world. We are conscious that the missionary aspect was crucial from the beginning of St. Vincent’s foundation, and today we feel particularly challenged to rediscover and recover our missionary dimension.
    The mission of each one of us, members and collaborators of the Union, to revive faith and rekindle love, springs from our concrete personal reality as well as from our personal and community prayer, experienced as a living encounter with Jesus, Apostle of the Father. The life of Jesus Christ, the missionary, the one par excellence who was sent (Lk 4:18; Jn 4:34), was what attracted Pallotti. He left us Jesus Christ, missionary and Apostle, as the “Fundamental Rule ... to imitate him with all possible perfection in all works of our private life and our public evangelical ministry” (OOCC III, p. 62 ). This experience can profoundly transform and evangelise the life of all who take up the path, as Pallotti desired: “My Jesus, may my life be destroyed; give me your life with which I wish to live” (OOCC X, pp. 668-669). The experience of God, infinite love and mercy, opened the eyes of the priest Vincent Pallotti to the fundamental needs of the Church and of the social situation of his time, to which he gave a response. Pope Francis reaffirms the following: the new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith, the proclamation of the Gospel today, is only possible when it is born of “an encounter ... with a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (EG, n.7). This is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization”, according to Francis. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG, n. 8). Therefore, whether in its origin or in its development, evangelising action maintains its vigour in this encounter: it is not an “heroic individual undertaking”, but a proclamation which is born of and sustains itself through an encounter with this great “Other” who urges us to go to the women and men of today.
The “Joy of the Gospel”: a Church with a missionary face
Vincent Pallotti’s missionary zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world was an important engine of his apostolic activities in the context of the Union. Above all, Vincent understood that everyone, together with Christ, Apostle of the Father, has the right and obligation to actively participate in the mission of the Church. We have the mission of making Christ known and loved, of awakening the consciousness of every Christian to their vocation to the apostolate, and of promoting active participation in the mission of the Church in every part of the world. A concrete example and pioneering initiative of the Union is the revival of the popular celebration of the Octave of the Epiphany, which Vincent Pallotti originally planned and organised. We can say that the solemn celebration of the Octave was and still is today the missionary celebration of the Union.
In proclaiming Jesus, Francis invites us to ‘attend to the “way of beauty”’: “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties” (EG, n. 167). We are called to be a prophetic presence in today’s world, apostles who heal the wounds, who know how to listen, welcome and visit people and, in the light of the Gospel, to rekindle the hope and joy of following Jesus Christ.
With joy, all of us, members and collaborators of the Union, can unite with Pope Francis in the mission of building a Church which goes forth in missionary and pastoral outreach. Help him to build a Church with a missionary face: close, open, able to go out from itself in new ways towards people, especially to those who live in the geographical and existential “peripheries”. A Church which is free, able to prophetically denounce the injustices of the world.
The Pope seems to indicate certain situations of apostolate/evangelisation which are in need of special attention, which we here would like to underline:
a) The poor, who beyond bread, housing, work, health, need spiritual care. The Pope says that “the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. [...] they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith” (EG, n. 200). Even though we do not always succeed in manifesting the beauty of the Gospel, “there is one sign which we should never lack: the option for those who are least, those whom society discards” (EG, n. 195).
b) Women, who are “doubly poor” when suffering “situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence” (EG, n. 212). On her part, “the Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. [... ] But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence [... ] in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures” (EG, n. 103).
c) Migrants, “the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others” (EG, n. 210).
d) The economic system, “unjust at its root” (EG, n. 59), which creates “an economy of exclusion and inequality [… which] kills” (n. 53). Pallotti was convinced that human beings are created in the “image of God”, while in this system they begin to be treated as “consumer goods to be used and then discarded” (EG, n. 53). In this way begins “a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers” (EG, n. 53).
     In our apostolate/mission, according to the Pope, “mystical notions without a solid social and missionary outreach are of no help to evangelization, nor are dissertations or social or pastoral practices which lack a spirituality which can change hearts” (EG, n. 262). The proclamation of the Gospel brings us “to brotherly love, to humble and generous service, to justice and mercy towards the poor” (EG, n. 194), as Jesus taught us. “To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society” (EG, n. 180).
     From the Cenacle we are sent on a mission to build with joy a Church animated and moved by the spirit of the early Christians. The spirit of the early Christians was an eminently missionary spirit, because they all, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, went out from the Cenacle and scattered throughout the world, bearing witness to Jesus to the Jews and to pagans by word, by their lives and by their own blood. Recapturing the spirit of the early Christians seems to be one of the great contributions which we, the members and collaborators of the UAC, can give to the Church and the world. Revive faith and rekindle charity in the Church: this is the charism of the Union. A charism which is very relevant for our times and which contributes to a new missionary impulse in the entire people of God: bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated, laity.
Read or re-read the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
  •   How can I make the gifts which I have received from God fruitful in service of the community, in the building up of a Church which goes forth in pastoral and missionary outreach?
  •   As a baptised person, do I put engage in an evangelisation which seeks to proclaim Jesus Christ? Is it an evangelisation which leads people to take up the Christian life?
Concrete Action:
As a member of the Union, in what can I engage more fully to bring Jesus, joy of the Gospel, to others, putting myself at the service of the Church with the gifts which I have received from God, especially for those who live “in the geographical and existential peripheries”?

                                           Sr Salete Maristella Cargnin, CSAC
                                           Member of the General Coordination Council,