inside: High hopes for the laity, too? • The Communion of Saints • Mr. Fire
protagonists of a lay path
The early Church: A lay initiative Perfecting the temporal order Making an impact on today’s culture o c to ber 2013 • n o. 271 • VOL X X V • 50 pesos • ISSN 0116-8142
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Fr. Dave Domingues 7885 Segundo Mendoza St. Villa Mendoza Subd., Sucat 1715 Parañaque City, M.M. PHILIPPINES TEL.: (+63-2) 829-0740 FAX: (+63-2) 820-1422 E-MAIL: email@example.com
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Of one heart and soul The Asian Catholic Monthly Magazine
www.worldmission.ph MAILING ADDRESS: 7885 Segundo Mendoza Street Villa Mendoza Subd. - Sucat 1715 Parañaque City, M.M. - PHILIPPINES TEL.: (+63-2) 829-0740/829-7481 FAX: (+63-2) 820-1422 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org OWNER AND PUBLISHER: WORLD MISSION is published monthly by the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus as part of their ministry and program of missionary awareness in Asia. WORLD MISSION magazine is registered at DI–BDT and at the National Library (ISSN 0116-8142). EDITOR: Fr. Dave C. Domingues, MCCJ REDACTION: Corazon A. Uy (secretary), Fr. Jose Rebelo,MCCJ and Fr. Lorenzo Carraro, MCCJ (staff writers) COLLABORATORS: Manuel Giraldes (Portugal), Kris Bayos (Philippines), Fr. Joseph Caramazza (UK) and Arch. Thomas Menamparampil (India) MANAGEMENT: Fr. Raul Tabaranza, MCCJ email@example.com Ma. Corazon P. Molvizar (secretary) Angeles S. de Vera (circulation) PROMOTION: Fr. Dave C. Domingues, MCCJ firstname.lastname@example.org ART & DESIGN DIRECTION: Ric M. Gindap GRAPHICS & DESIGN: Victor Garcia SUBSCRIPTION RATES: (11 issues and Calendar) Regular (Philippines):.........................P500.00/year Six months (Philippines):...........................P300.00 Overseas–Air mail: Asia................................US$35 Rest of the world.............................................US$40 DISTRIBUTION: WORLD MISSION is distributed to subscribers by mail. Entered as Second Class Mail at the Parañaque Central Post Office under Permit No. 214-89 (March 9, 1989; valid until December 31, 2013). Published monthly in Parañaque City, M.M. Composition: World Mission. Printed by Lexmedia Digital Corp. Change of address: Please send both the old and the new addresses. Copyright © World Mission magazine. All rights reserved. Contents are not to be reproduced, republished, sold or otherwise distributed, modified or altered without permission from the editor.
ooking back through the years, I realize that the journey that led me to be an ordained minister of the Church was, in many ways, stimulated, shaped, directed and nurtured by the commitment to the faith of many lay people who were instrumental in my perceiving, accepting and answering God’s call. I believe mine is not an isolated case. Many of the ordained ministers of our Church are the fruits of individuals and communities enlivened by God’s love. This was made clear to me by the special bond that unites the laity and the hierarchy – valuing the different vocations and working together in a shared mission as a community of believers of one heart and soul (Acts 4:32). Pope Francis has stated the danger of clericalizing the laity, “infantilizing” and reducing them to mere servants, auxiliary of the ordained ministry. Such approach has led to the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in many of the faithful. To revitalize the “one Church in mission,” three things are needed: True dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders. In many instances, particularly in a parochialized environment that has been systematically clericalized, the lay have not yet claimed their vocation and mission, living in the shade of sabi ni Father (“the priest said”). On the other hand, the heavy load of sacramentalism has kept, at times, the clergy away from the people, reinforcing an “altar-down” kind of approach. Only through open dialogue, listening and sharing, can the Church, as people of God, embrace its mission of being “salt and leaven” in society. A spirit of co-responsibility that gives room to the laity to live out the vocation they have received from their baptism. It is not about empowering the laity, as we often hear. They have been empowered in their baptism, strengthened by confirmation, and made sharers, in their particular way, in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They have their own part to play in the mission
Dave Domingues EDITOR
It would be foolish to neglect the fact that the lay faithful comprise 99% of the Church. Therefore, formation of the laity is the most effective means of evangelizing society and the world.
of the Church in the world. In valuing the diversity of ministries, we should affirm the oneness of mission in a true spirit of co-responsibility. The priest has an indispensable role as leader and minister and the laity have their own in the frontline of society, permeating social, political and economic arenas with the leaven of the Gospel. As Blessed Pope John Paul II would say, “the ‘world’ thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation” (Christifideles laici, 15). For many people, the only “good news” they will ever hear is certainly not inside the church, where only a few normally go, but outside – in their places of work and leisure or even in their family settings, where the lay faithful are certainly more effective instruments of God. It would be foolish to neglect the fact that the lay faithful comprise 99% of the Church. Therefore, formation of the laity is the most effective means of evangelizing the society and the world. Witnessing together! Unity and true communion, from the beginning, has transformed hearts: “See how they love one another!” (These are the words Tertullian noted (Apology 39.7). Those who kept the Christian faith, and the church going, left us this legacy of putting faith into serious action in a world that was hostile to them. How desperately we need today to discover the beauty of doing mission together, being one in heart and soul. Indeed, Jesus words remain ever true: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
your let ters Write to: The Editor, World Mission Magazine • 7885 Segundo Mendoza Street, Villa Mendoza Subd. − Sucat 1715 Parañaque City, M.M. – Philippines • E-mail: email@example.com JOY & INSPIRATION
I am a lay volunteer and a paralegal worker in the Prison Ministry of our parish in Moonwalk Village, Parañaque City. Last Friday, in our weekly visit to the Parañaque City Jail, and towards the end of our Bible session – I shared with some inmates the July issue of World Mission where an article revealed that isolation, in reality, is a more cruel confinement than congestion. I saw that this simple statement gave them so much hope and consolation in their incarceration that they requested me to leave the magazine for them to read! I first subscribed to your WM magazine five years ago and it has, definitely, given me the joy and inspiration to carry on with this prison work which, I firmly believe, is my God-given mission – until the good Lord 'pulls me out'! (I am 71 yrs. old). I hope and pray that we can help extend to our brethren-inmates the light, hope and joy they direly need and which WM magazine affords its readers. More blessings and more power! « Estienne R. Cardenas, Philippines (Received by e-mail)
AWAKENING THE SOUL
Here is the scanned deposit slip of my donation for the mission of your congregation. I was not able to renew my subscription to World Mission. I sent the amount as donation instead. Recently, I saw one issue of World Mission magazine in a school here in Iloilo. I see that you are now the Editor. Congratulations! Please continue what has been started in your magazine because it really awakens the soul of every person who reads it. Thank you for making us aware of what is happening in the world and to the faith and religion of different peoples. « Jhoanna Haro, Iloilo, Philippines (Received by e-mail)
I just received my WM’s June issue. I haven't started reading it yet but thank you because, I am sure, it will definitely enrich me personally and spiritually again. I am sad I did not receive the April-May issue. It might have been lost somewhere in the office especially now that I'm on a night
shift and can't receive it personally. If a copy is available, can you send it to me? Just advise me how to pay for this extra copy. Also, can I now pay for my subscription renewal? Thank you and regards! « Marie Gratienne Quindara, Makati City, Philippines (Received by e-mail)
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I always look forward to every issue of WM because I learn about many heroic individuals who are trying to make a difference in the world. Your stories oftentimes start off with a dim view of the world, but then, surprisingly, they introduce the reader to new ideas and advocacies of courageous people who give us a strong sense of hope and optimism. They are the stories worth telling to many people, and I certainly narrate some of them to my children over the dinner table. To the publishers and staff behind WM, more power to you all! « Eileen Araneta, Muntinlupa City, (Received by e-mail)
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RENEWING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION Subscribers and friends: For your convenience, you may now remit renewal fees by: • Bank transfer (BDO, Villa Mendoza – Sucat Branch, Acct. No. 005280011577, Acct. Name: Comboni World Mission). If you will use this method, please send us, by fax or ordinary mail, the copy of the deposit slip with your name and address. • Money order in favor of World Mission Magazine. • Crossed cheque payable to World Mission Magazine. • Dial 829-0740/829-7481 for pick up. (In Metro Manila, we will send our messenger to you on a scheduled date.) Note 1: If, by any chance, you are having problems in receiving World Mission Magazine, please let us know soonest so that we can take appropriate action. Note 2: We would like to encourage our valued subscribers who have not updated their record with us to do so as soon as possible. Please help us to provide you the best service you deserve. Thank you!
events to remember in october 01 - Int'l Day of Older Persons 02 - Int'l Day of Non-Violence 10 - Feast of St. Daniel Comboni 16 - World Food Day 17 - Int'l Day for the Eradication of Poverty 18 - Feast of St. Luke , Evangelist 20 - World Mission Sunday 24 - United Nations Day mIssion prayer intention
That the Churches of Latin America may send missionaries to other Churches as a result of the continental mission.
inside REMEMBERING THE LAITY
Jesus’ journey on earth was often portrayed as a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Surrounded not only by those He chose, but also by many lay helpers and friends, including women, who were drawn to support His ministry and share in it in various ways. Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and, certainly many others were instrumental in and part of Jesus’ journey up to Calvary. But the journey did not end there. As witnesses of the Resurrection and, certainly, under the guidance of the Spirit, they bore fervent witness to Jesus and helped shape the first Christian communities that grew as a lay initiative. The members of these communities were admired for their mutual love and charity – “there was no needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). The missionary endeavor of the Apostles was backed by the generous support and collaboration of these lay faithful. Definitely, this should be an important reminder for the Church today. A well-structured and organized Church cannot afford to forget its origins nor neglect the absolute majority of its members – the laity.
WM special | protagonists of a lay path by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, sdb
The American dream By fr. Dave Domingues, mccj
filipino focus | A national portrait
High hopes for the laity, too?
By Asuncion David Maramba
spiritual reflection | Refugees and displaced persons
The Church in the frontline
By Fr. John Converset, mccj
in focus | what we believe in
The Communion of Saints By Arch. Thomas Menamparampil
Missionary vocation | Igino Giordani
By Fr. Lorenzo Carraro, MCCJ
THE LAST WORD
Conversion from the law to the gospel By Fr. SILVANO FAUSTI, sJ
14 The early Church: A lay initiative
Perfecting the temporal order
Making an impact on today’s culture
WORLD MISSION has the exclusive services of the following magazines for Asia: ALÉM-MAR (Portugal); MUNDO NEGRO (Spain); NIGRIZIA (Italy); NEW PEOPLE (Kenya); WORLDWIDE (South Africa), AFRIQUESPOIR (DR of Congo); ESQUILA MISIONAL (Mexico); MISION SIN FRONTERAS (Peru); and IGLESIA SINFRONTERAS (Colombia).
w o r l dto u c h SYRIA
A CHRISTIAN PROTEST AGAINST U.S. INTERVENTION Patriarchs and leaders of religious communities from Baghdad to Jerusalem are opposed to a potential American naval missile attack. Fr. Dall’Oglio’s community in Syria is also opposed to military intervention. All Christian communities in the Middle East are unanimous in their opposition to military action, which the U.S., Britain and France are considering taking against Syria, with the backing of Turkey and the Arab League. The raids would be in response to the use of chemical weapons by President Assad’s army. Churches are adamant that military action would exacerbate problems rather than bring an end to the two-and-a-halfyear war that has been tearing Syria apart. The strongest signs of opposition came from Deir Mar Musa, the Syrian monastery founded by the missing Jesuit priest, Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, and made headlines. Fr. Dall’Oglio was kidnapped about a month ago in Raqqa. The monastery can certainly not be accused of complicity with the Assad regime. “We are in a phase of extreme suffering. We hope that Western countries assume a right position before this tremendous crisis in Syria. The 'right' position is to reject all forms of violence, stop the weapons, not to put one against the other, defending and protecting
human rights,” Fr. Jacques Mourad, head of the monastic community (since Fr. Dall’Oglio’s kidnapping), told Fides news agency. Sister Houda Fadoul, who founded the women's community in Dei Mar Musa, was even more frank in her statement: "We cannot accept or appreciate an armed intervention of foreign powers. We continue in our mission which is to raise to God spiritual worship, especially to educate young people to dialogue and peace.” Syro-Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan’s comment about the possible raid, published on the terrasanta.net website was even tougher: “Instead of helping the various parties in the conflict to find a path to reconciliation, begin reform talks based on a pluralist system of government. These parties have been arming rebels, inciting violence and poisoning relations between Sunnis and Shiites even further. The West thinks that, with a Sunni government, democracy will replace the dictatorship but it is a great illusion. Imposing a regime change by force, without safeguarding secular parties, will lead to a worst conflict than the one in Iraq.” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako in Baghdad, also spoke of a potential “disaster.” The U.S.-led military intervention against Syria would be "a disaster. It would be like a volcano erupt ing with an explosion meant to destroy Iraq, Lebanon, and Palest ine. Maybe someone want s this," he said. The Chaldean Patriarch refer red to his own country as an e x amp l e : "Af t e r 10 years of the soc al led 'coalit ion of the willing' that overthrew Saddam, our country is still battered by bombs,
security problems, by the instability of the economic crisis." The Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Rai, also shared his thoughts a few days ago in an interview with Vatican Radio: “Everything that is going on in the Middle East – be it in Egypt, Syria or Iraq – is a twodimensional war. The war in Iraq and Syria is between Sunnis and Shiites; in Egypt, it’s between fundamentalists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the moderates. These wars are never-ending but – I hate to have to say it – there are countries, Western especially, but also Eastern ones, that are fuelling these conflicts. A solution to all these problems needs to be found,” Patriarch Bechara Rai said. The Custodian of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, also expressed his own deep concerns in an interview with the Franciscan Media Center. He said the images coming from Syria are atrocious and speak for themselves. But knowing the Middle East, it is hard to know who does what. The international political community needs to press for immediate solutions. When violence is used, everyone is to blame, he said. (In the first of September, during the Angelus, Pope Francis condemned vehemently the atrocities perpetrated against his own people by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad – ironically, a doctor by profession - but he condemned also a western intervention. Violence only generates more violence, the Pope said, leaving an appeal: “No more wars!” In St. Peter’s square, Francis asked all the faithful to pray and fast on the 7th of September to ask Our Lady’s intervention to achieve peace in the country, where the rebels are also responsible, according to observers, for a great number of deaths and acts of destruction. (Rejoinder: A report by UNICEF tells that one million children, under eleven, had to join their families in exile, while two million are internally displaced and uncountable hundreds have died. – Ed.) www.vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/Giorgio Bernardelli
Europe's digital dumping ground African countries have demanded action to stem the import of electronic waste, including old computers and mobile telephones from Europe, where stringent environmental laws make exporting used goods cheaper than disposing them at home. In a document recently released, African countries that adopted an international convention on hazardous waste called for uniform action to end the import of discarded electronic goods containing dangerous components. In some cases, the products are sent as donations for re-use, even though they are no longer useful. In response to the trade in e-waste, the E.U. took steps in 2012 to strengthen its export laws to prevent the dumping of electronic goods in Africa. The update to the 2003 waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive followed hard-fought bargaining over how to improve the recovery of computers and other electronic and electrical waste, much of which was either dumped in landfills or shipped abroad for disposal because of the high cost of recycling in Europe. In June, signatories to the Bamako convention on the export of hazardous waste to Africa met in the Malian capital for the first time since the international agreement was formed in 1991. In its final declarations, recently released, the African representatives called for enforcement of the convention and for tougher national laws. The Bamako meeting marked "the
first time African parties have, by themselves, called for rigorous action to prevent e-waste dumping," noted the Basel Action Network, which campaigns against the trade in toxic waste. Under the WEEE legislation, E.U. countries will have to recover 45 tons of e-waste for every 100 tons of electronic goods sold by 2016, rising to 65% of sales by 2019 – or 85% of all e-waste generated. Newer member countries get an extension until 2021. In approving the rules on 7 June 2012, the E.U. Council expanded the directive to include solar panels, fluorescent lighting containing mercury, and equipment containing ozone-depleting substances. E.U. countries have until 14 February 2014 to adopt the directive into their national laws. Barely one-third of such items are recycled at home, researchers say; the bulk goes into landfills. But thousands of tons of electronic goods are exported because secondhand computer components and recycled metals are lucrative commodities for poorer countries. The new WEEE directive requires national governments to provide information on where goods can be recycled, including in-store facilities for smaller electronic goods such as mobile telephones. It also calls on national governments to more rigorously enforce exports of e-waste. The U.N. Environment Program's 2012 report, “Where are WEEE in Africa,” says about 220,000 tons of electrical and elec-
tronic goods were shipped from the E.U. to west Africa in 2009. In Ghana, 30% of imports of allegedly secondhand products were useless, despite E.U.’s efforts calling for electronic goods to have some reusable value. Overall, the U.N. report shows that about 85% of containers arriving in Ghana, with electrical and electronic goods, came from Europe, with 4% from Asia. Authorities say illicit waste is typically hidden in containers carrying legitimate cargo to thwart customs inspections. The U.N. Environment Program has called for better controls in Africa, where the homegrown e-waste problem is also growing. In a related waste export matter, the E.U. is moving to end the practice of "beaching" old ships in foreign countries. www.theguardian.com
“In Ecuador there are about 4.2 million boys, girls and adolescent workers in the age group between 5 and 17 years. Of these 359,597, 8.56%, are exploited in high-risk activities. This is what emerges in the study carried out by the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).” − www.fides.org PHILIPPINES
Bishops in Manila offer slum-dwellers moral support Philippine bishops have heeded Pope Francis' call to spend more time with the poor by visiting slum dwellers in Manila. Bishops Deogracias Iniguez, Elmer Bolocon and Artemio Luwaton were among several religious leaders who visited displaced slum dwellers living along canals in Quezon City. The slum dwellers are resisting government
attempts to tear down their homes and relocate them outside the capital. The prelates said the current practice of demolishing poor urban communities is "gravely inhuman, unfair, unjust and oppressive in the eyes of God and civil society." The bishops called for an urgent moratorium on slum demolitions. "The Church, as
witness to God’s liberating presence in the world, cannot turn away from the disturbing reality of the urban poor whose shacks have been forcibly dismantled, after which they are just left by the side of the road without shelter, money, food or care," said Iniguez. "In the name of the God of Justice, we vehemently
oppose and denounce and demand the government to stop all demolition activities throughout the country," Bolocon said in a statement. The urban poor in the Philippines now number about 20 million, according to U.N. Habitat, the U.N. agency dealing with human settlement. www.ucanews.com
WOLRD MISSION SUNDAY
The obstacles to evangelization according to Francis “Each community is "mature" when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, leaves one’s own to take it to the “peripheries,” especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ,” Francis says in his message for the 87th World Mission Day which will be celebrated next October 20, just after the end of the Year of Faith. “The strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us,” the Pope writes in his message. The way Francis sees it, faith must be a “secure light” that illuminates people’s path at this time of crisis and conflict. He stressed this in Lumen Fidei, the
encyclical he wrote with Benedict XVI. The papal message also takes into account the difficult social situation many countries are going through at the moment: “We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it,” Francis said. In the text dated 19 May, the Pope says human coexistence “is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously, and in every situation, the Gospel of Christ, a
message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God's closeness, His mercy, His salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness,” the Pope writes. So “the men and women of our time need the secure light that illuminates their path that only an encounter with Christ can give…The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love.” “All too of ten, we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the Gospel, and this from within the Church itself,” Francis recalls, referring to Paul VI’s words in the Evangelii Nuntiandi
"The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity." – Pope Francis in an address to the Episcopal Council of CELAM on July 28. www.ncronline.org
“Gender inequality exists in the Catholic Church because men and women forget they cannot be "fully human" without one another.” – Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Religious, during a talk at the triennial meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome last May. www.ncronline.org
"An authority that commands kills. An authority that serves generates life. An obedience that merely copies what the other says infantilizes, makes us less human." – Idem, Ibidem “The billions of pesos taken from the people as tax by the ruling class are shamelessly plundered by politicians and their corruption-crazed cronies. As it was in the past, so it is today, the lawmakers become the law breakers and it is the children who suffer most, and the many victims of endless floods, landslides, and destruction.” – Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC, in a recent article, titled “The plunder and its child victims.” www.preda.org
"The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of pastoral councils is helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility."
– Pope Francis in an address to the Episcopal Council of CELAM on July 28. www.ncronline.org
“We all need to be strong in our belief in the possibility of peace, courageous enough to follow through on our faith in it, and audacious enough to achieve what these two peoples have so long aspired to and deserve." – John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, on the issue of peace in Israel/Palestine, during a recent press conference. www.ncronline.org
to illustrate the fact that faith is a tribute to human freedom: “It would be... an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free op-
tions which it presents... is a tribute to this freedom." Francis points out that “the work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community…Sometimes there is lack of fervor, joy, courage and hope in
proclaiming the message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with Him…We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of His Gospel,” the Pope writes, touching on a topic that is very dear to him. Jesus came among us to show us the way of salvation and He entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. All too often, we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. “The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.” www.vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/ Alessandro Speciale
Fourteen priests have been killed in various parts of the world since the beginning of 2013. The last murder took place in the town of Marano, in the Northern Italian Province of Trento. − www.vaticaninsider.lastampa.it india
Discontent brews among the laity Anger is brewing among the Catholic laity in India, especially those of the Latin Rite. The fresh air that Pope Francis has brought to the Universal Church has fanned a ferment, born of increasing frustration over lay people’s perception that bishops have chosen not to respond to their various appeals over the years. They are now considering a direct appeal to the Pope if the CBCI – the Catholic Bishops Conference of India – does not give them a fair hearing. This appeal was suggested at the annual general meeting of the 93-year-old All India Catholic Union (AICU) which took place in Kolkata. It had been intended as an ambitious “Laity Synod” in the national capital. But the AICU was forced to change its name to “Laity Assembly,” in the face of objections from bishops who maintained that they alone had the canonical right to convene synods. The general consensus at the assembly seemed to point to a continuing, wide communication gap between the people and many of the bishops who govern the country’s 166 dioceses – 129 of them Latin, 29 Syro-
Malabar and 8 Syro-Malankara. There are brilliant examples of great collaboration between the faithful, bishops and clergy. But Catholic Union leaders feel that, in many dioceses, even basic tenets of the Code of Canon Law have not been observed, on issues of transparency, governance and the participation of the people. They are particularly galled by the nonimplementation of canonical provisions on diocesan and parish finance committees; provisions which state that members should include people who have expertise in financial management. It is widely thought that clergy and hierarchy have been known to discourage participation by the laity, whom they see as potential troublemakers or a challenge to vested interests. Except on issues of faith and catechetical literacy, the formation and training of lay people is also seen as less than satisfactory. Yet, this training is desperately required in India’s very diverse Church, with communities of tribals and Dalits and other sharp distinctions based on caste and mother tongue. The laity also feels ag-
grieved that the leadership keeps them at arms length in the management of institutions such as schools, colleges and others. The argument is that in India, the bishops and clergy spend too much time in administrative affairs at the cost of pastoral care to the people. This lack of care is a major reason why Catholics in large numbers are leaving the Church and joining Pentecostal groups, a phenomenon that is also rampant in regions such as Latin America. (By John Dayal, General Secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council). ucanews.com
Only dialogue can break the cycle of violence The end of August marked the 1,000th day from the beginning of the revolution in Egypt on the 25th of January 2011. Up to the present, history will report the downfall of the democratically elected presidents: Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi. Both of them were elected with a dubious majority of votes. Both of them were sent to jail by an overwhelming show of popular protest. If there is something solid in this very volatile democratic weather of the Arab Spring, it is this: people may not know where to go in the future but they know they do not want to go back to the past. This is not what Western media seems to recognize, having repeatedly declared finished the experiment of the Egyptian revolution. Western media has represented the end of Morsi’s government on the 3rd of July 2013 as a “coup d’état” on the part of the Army. On the contrary, the local population, in general, has seen the collapse of his government as liberation from a spiral of self-destruction caused by the Muslim Brotherhood’s inability to fulfill the promises of reforms paraded during the electoral campaign. The dismantlement of the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square occupied by the political arm of the Muslim Brothers, the Justice and Freedom Party, was represented as a brutal massacre of a group with a legitimate right to protest. Local people in the greatest majority of Egypt have seen the violent resistance of the Islamic radicals as a demonstration of their true nature, namely, the crave for power for the sake of the establishment of the Nation of Islam. The growing distance between West and Middle East on the interpretation of the current events, particularly in Egypt and Syria, proposes again to our attention how dialogue is necessary as much as it is complex and arduous. The strategic mistakes and shortsightedness of the past, Iraq and Afghanistan the most striking, seem to have taught little. Any interference in the internal affairs of Arab/Islamic countries backfires on any pedestal from which the West, and the U.S.A., in particular, legitimates its military interventions. In fact, terrorism breeds on the perception of any attack against Arab countries as an attack on Islam while, on the other side, it justifies the stereotype that Islam is
a threat to our cultural and democratic higher standards. One of the dramatic facts that have found late attention from many observers in the West is the retaliation of Morsi’s supporters against Christian churches and businesses in the recent clashes in Egypt. The evident strategy of the extremist leaders of the Brotherhood was to provoke the violent reaction of Coptic Christian in order to shift the frontline from pro and against government to the more “convenient” trench of Muslims against Christians. The wisdom of the latter’s leadership was to refrain from any violent incitement and reprisal. The result was not only the failure of the extremist plan but the consolidation of two groups, not Muslim against Christian but moderate against fanatic. The members of Christian Churches, the Orthodox in particular, is undergoing a most significant and promising evolution from the past. The images of Muslim standing around Christian institutions to protect them from violent thugs demonstrate that prejudice can be overcome and Christian may now claim a new political representation in virtue of the price they have been willing to pay on behalf of democracy and stability. This is a partial fulfillment of the Spring Revolution where often the image of people holding both the Cross and the Koran were heading mass demonstrations. The challenges of the new technical government represented by the acting president, Adly Mansour, is the same as the previous: the urgent need of reforms in the
fields of education, infrastructure, against corruption and privileges. The axiom that poverty and ignorance generates violent extremism more than religion is obvious to anyone who has experienced it. These are some data on the current financial situation of Egypt: It has lost 174 billion pounds (about 29 billion dollars); 4,500 factories have been shut down until now; 15 billion dollars in expected investments have been passed over, the local currency has suffered an 18% devaluation. Will the Egyptian government choose a long range plan of reforms? Will the West be willing to support it in spite of inevitable setbacks? The challenge of the Arab Spring in Egypt remains the same: to transform a protest movement into a proposal that unifies the country in favor of something good for everyone and not just of a part. This universal and inclusive approach to a political program offers the members of the Christian community a unique opportunity not only to make their voices heard but to make sure that everybody’s voice is taken into account. Two are the references for anyone working in the progress of peace in the Middle East: the Arab Spring has made impossible to turn history back and, secondly, the two contenders, moderate and radical Islam, will continue to be the protagonists of this process. The role of the West remains extremely vital. Will it promote walls or dialogue? The Church has already chosen: dialogue is not only the way out from a perennial cycle of violence, it is the only way to make it possible. Fr. Giovanni Esti
f r o n t i e r s
THE AMERICAN DREAM Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, in the depths of the Great Depression in 1933, in New York City, founded the Catholic Worker Movement, grounded on a firm belief in the God-given dignity of every human being. Today, 225 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. The Movement continues to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms. by
asa Juan Diego is one of the Catholic Worker’s welcoming houses, located in Houston, U.S., for undocumented migrants who arrive there, possibly, after many days or even months of torturous journey from their countries. Exposed to the dangers of fake “good Samaritans,” who unscrupulously exploit and abuse them, those who make it to the house arrive weak and hungry. Many are even sick and with very little provision. Founded at the end of 1980 to receive refugees from the wars in Central America, Casa Juan Diego continues, today, the Movement’s welcoming mission, being home to hundreds of men and women who go to the U.S. in search of better lives for their families. Mark and Louise, with their children and a bunch of volunteers, run the welcoming house. They remark: “Over the years, the countries of origin and the situation of immigrants who seek refuge at Casa Juan Diego have varied. Following the first years, when so many teenage boys got here to flee from forced entry into the army and then later the guerrillas, a number of Cubans came from the island of Mariel. Then, other groups started to arrive in great numbers, such as the Hondurans; and the Mexicans, the latter because of NAFTA, the trade agreement that was harmful to Mexican farmers and small businessmen. Refugees from several African countries and China also came. They include the young, the old, the injured, pregnant and/or battered women – all needing a place to stay in. With swollen, sore feet, some with amputated
fr. Dave Domingues | comboni missionary
legs, a new wave of incoming Cubans also reached this Casa, after a difficult journey from Ecuador.” This mission of helping others comes in different fronts: “We receive new immigrants to our houses and
AT THEIR SERVICE. Mark and Louise Zwick.
assist others in the community. We, often, have around one hundred guests in each of the several houses. We have weekly food and clothing distributions, in addition to medical clinics staffed by volunteer doctors. We have two houses for the sick or injured and we also assist the sick and injured immigrants in the community. The hospitals of Houston call us to receive people who are very ill or who are paralyzed due to work accidents, car accidents or strokes. Citizens can receive disability payments to help them live, but undocumented immigrants are not eligible to the benefit. Casa Juan Diego provides assistance in terms of rent and food for the families of the very ill who need constant care. ” Aside from providing a place to stay, meals and medical care to the guests as part of the mission at Casa Juan Diego, “we try to arrange work for the men and get them started on their
own. Women with small children stay much longer because it is more challenging to begin anew. Although they are not here legally, their work is valued, especially when people can only pay them little for a hard work.” This charitable cause has brought some priceless rewards, Mark and Louise acknowledge: “Their hope and faith in the face of so many difficulties, their willingness to work and sacrifice for their families back home are enough inspiration to us. Their journey to get here is like a Way of the Cross. Then, the suffering continues because of job discrimination, exploitation and other hardships. Over the years, and to this day, the authorities, including the Houston police and immigration officers, still bring people, occasionally, to stay with us – a sign that we are doing something good.” Only a vision of hope, nurtured by faith, can sustain a family fully committed to this kind of work where there is no material reward but there is joy in knowing you are doing the right thing. “Our hope is that local economies can be improved and inequalities reduced, so that people can stay home with their families. Pope Francis is working toward this aim, inspiring people to come out of a culture of indifference, and we hope the world will join him,” Mark said. In 1996, for three months, I joined Casa Juan Diego, as a volunteer. With the other servers, who believe that a more humane and just world is possible, we shared the hopes and the joys of hundreds who risked their lives taking long, hard journeys in pursuit of the “American dream.”
filipino focus • A national portrait
High hopes for the laity, too? Pope Francis recently issued one of his strongest and enigmatic statements yet: “I want a mess…. I want trouble in the dioceses! … I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within yourselves…. Because these need to get out!” What exactly did the Pope mean? by
Asuncion David Mar amba* | Contributor
GETTING OUT. Fr. Bob McCahill, in simplicity, walks the streets of Bangladesh to assist the poor, bringing the Church closer to the people.
eyond the Francis-mania, do the laity, making up 99% of the Church, hope to become more than followers and assistants of the hierarchy? Or are they content with the status quo? In our country, the answer is “yes” and “no.” Our laity are a mixed bag. The great majority are urban masses and rural grassroots. It’s all the masses can do to keep body and soul together. The grassroots can be content with the satisfaction of simple needs. Throughout are unknown numbers of nominal Catholics who go to Mass as a matter of habit, keep an icon or two at home, pray to a favorite saint. Vatican II – what’s that? Lay empowerment – what’s that?
Another huge group is made up of spirit-filled charismatics moved by preacher-power like Bo Sanchez and Mike Velarde. It’s part of a staggering number of Pentecostals drawing all economic classes, in and apart from the Church. Next are parish workers all over the country, legions who are shining examples of service, without whose assistance in the whole array of liturgy, charitable works, fund-raising, etc. the parish could collapse. What’s the beef over the “role and status” of the laity? They have it! Then there is the right wing of the Church (reportedly not too happy with the new Pope), a very powerful minor-
ity that will brook no deviation from any Church teaching, eminent “defenders of the faith” who stand by any position the Church takes. How have a serve-and-obey laity become typical? It may be a case of not missing what one never had. A western legacy
In the early Church, the “ministries” were done by lay persons: preaching, teaching, baptizing, engaging in “lay confession,” anointing the sick, “breaking of bread,” picking their bishops, etc. The Church was “people of God” in household communities. Then the hegemonic “Western civilization” swept Europe, including the
Church. A now unspeakably wealthy and powerful ecclesiology replaced the community Church. Ministries were passed on or appropriated by the “ordained priesthood.” The laity were swept aside to serve and obey, to be seen but not heard. Through Spain, such has been the religious culture we inherited. So pervasive are its effects that a lot of the laity still function by mindsets like: “Opo (Yes), Father;” “Ako’y makasalanan" (I’m sinful); “The Church does not make mistakes;” “The clergy are higher than the layman;” “Don’t criticize the Church;” etc. Then, surprising the establishment, Pope John XXIII announced Vatican II: to look back (resourcement) and to move forward and connect with the world (aggiornamento). The Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP) followed with its blueprint for the country. The two Councils name the laity as one of their top priorities. (How things have developed is another tale.) Credit PCP II for recovering the early “people of God” communities, with the basic ecclesial community (BEC) as the structure of choice to revi-
talize the Church. Its spread is stymied or diluted by pre-Vatican II restorations. The real BECs persevere without fanfare, hoping for a more liberal and vibrant ecclesiastical climate. “I want a mess”
There is an even tinier minority which we’ll call “critical mass,” gathering formally or informally. Its members strive toward adult faith, studying the unadorned Church and unlearning “myths” taught them in their innocence. They have breached the formidable façade of the institution and see the crisis of the Church they love. Very seriously do they take the promising words of Vatican II for the laity: “empowerment,” “priesthood of the laity,” “co-responsible,” “of equal dignity,” which they mean to actualize. Extremist perhaps for any status quo, here are some areas seeking tangible reforms and paradigm shifts: 4 Governance: The laity (not handpicked echoes) must be part of planning and policy – or decisionmaking in boards or commissions with a vote – or what’s the use – on
Teaching and theology are no longer the domain of the clergy alone. There are excellent lay teachers and theologians, male and female, not seldom held at bay. Be willing to engage in dialogue-discussiondebate from positions of equality, or it’s the Inquisition all over again.
SPIRIT-FILLED. Bo Sanchez (L) and Mike Velarde (R), two charismatic lay faithful.
organization and structure, and money matters. Isn’t it absurd that an all-male 1% is running the universal Church? 4 Theology: Accept that teaching and theology are no longer the domain of the clergy alone. There are excellent lay teachers and theologians, male and female, not seldom held at bay. Be willing to engage in dialogue-discussion-debate from positions of equality, or it’s the Inquisition all over again. 4 Women: There’s a lot to learn about and from women. The Church is losing half of precious input and expertise by a selective marginalization. 4 Sense of the faithful: Do not be afraid of sensus fidelium (one norm of theological truth), from Church jokes, the folk circulate, to questions by critical laity. They all make statements. What now? Will the clergy share and let go? Will the laity seize the empowerment? Is it progress inch by inch or the rock of Sisyphus? And where are the youth in this scenario? Until a clear signal comes from the new Pope to change gears, local hierarchies will continue the old way: The laity will take the cue from priests who will take the cue from bishops who will take the cue from previous papal policies. Pope Francis recently issued one of his strongest and enigmatic statements yet: “I want a mess…. I want trouble in the dioceses! … I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within yourselves…. Because these need to get out!” What exactly did the Pope mean? (This text was previously published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 23, 2013. *It’s writer, Asuncion David is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.)
wm special • protagonists of a lay path
The early Church:
A lay initiative
The early Church grew as a lay initiative. For, Jesus Himself had relied much on His lay helpers and friends, like Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Mary – the mother of John Mark – and others. That is why we are not able to trace the origins of many of the ancient Churches. For example, we do not know who brought the Faith to Rome. Paul found a group of believers there when he reached the imperial city. In the same way, we do not know how the Church began in Antioch, Alexandria and many other important Christian centers. by
Archbishop Thomas Menampar ampil , sdb | guwahati – india
hristianity is all about sharing the teaching that God loves us human beings and wants us to love each other. In a loveless world it is amazingly Good News. That is why it spread in spite of difficulties. Christian believers shared the message with friends and acquaintances and spoke of their deep convictions, which were centered round a Person called Jesus Christ. Christian merchants and soldiers, who had to keep moving from place to place and who had accepted this teaching, sought opportunities to meet people on the streets, market places, workshops, around public buildings, chatting, visiting homes and inviting others to their homes. This was not a clerical drive, but a lay effort. Thus, we find people like Apollos, probably from Alexandria; Aquila and Priscilla from Rome and Corinth who continually moved round sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. And the number of believers increased. They gathered together in house-churches to pray, as they do in China today. Even persecution turned to Christianity’s favor. The Acts of the Apostles 8:4 tells us that the Christian communities that were scattered after the killing of Stephen went round preaching the Word and introducing people to the Faith. Some of them reached Antioch and launched an amazingly successful mission to the Gentiles. Large numbers of evangelists, prophets and teachers like Paul and Barnabas made it their mission to carry the Good News of Jesus to more and more people in the Roman Empire. There was much of anonymity in this endeavor. That is why we are not able to trace the origins of many of the ancient Churches. For example, we do not know who brought the Faith to Rome. Paul found a group of believers there when he reached the imperial city. In the same way, we do not know how the Church began in Antioch, Alexandria and many other important Christian centers. The glory is attributed to stalwarts like Peter or Mark who organized these Churches
WITNESSES. The early Church grew on lay initiative with many women taking leading roles.
Many women played leading roles in house-churches, at prayer, at prophesying and in missionary ventures. Women “were considered as repositories of community wisdom and insight... Women outstripped men in their eagerness for martyrdom. in later times. Asia Minor and North Africa were tribal areas where people accepted the Faith in large numbers. By the end of the third century, Christians may have been the majority in those regions, says Dale Irvin. Merchants from Asia Minor may have brought the Faith to Lyons, where Irenaeus later became a bishop. Young men or women who were kidnapped and taken into slavery proved to be eminently successful carriers of the Good News to their masters. Aedesius and Frumentius from Lebanon who were taken slaves on a journey, were the ones who converted Ethiopia around the year 400. In the same way, Patrick and Ulfilas were ex-slaves, who returned to their former masters to impart the teaching of Jesus. Prisoners of war evangelized the German marauding chiefs. Thus, the early Church grew on lay initiative. For, Jesus Himself had relied much on His lay helpers and friends, like Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Mary – the mother of John Mark – and others. The Prominent Role of Women
Paul associated women with his work from very early times: e.g. Phoebe was a deaconess at Cenchreae near Corinth;
Junia was of exceptional ability; Priscilla instructed Apollos in the Faith; Lydia, at Thyatria, showed herself to be an outstanding leader. The four prophesying daughters of Philip were respected in their community for the gifts that God had conferred on them. Christian women of the upper classes in Rome organized various works of charity and launched innovative ventures. Many women played leading roles in housechurches, at prayer, at prophesying and in missionary ventures. Women “were considered as repositories of community wisdom and insight,” says Dale Irvin. There were among them outstanding figures like, Melania, Eustochium, Olympias, Macrina who took the vows of asceticism. Single women exercised an enormous measure of autonomy in their activities. Women outstripped men in their eagerness for martyrdom. It was a slave girl called Nina who brought the Georgian royal household and the kingdom to the Christian fold. A Burgundian princess called Clothide played a decisive role in leading the Frankish King Clovis to the Catholic tradition. In the same way, Queen Bertha, from Gaul, succeeded in persuading her husband, Ethelbert of Kent, to opt for the Faith. Their daugh-
ter, Ethelburga, who married King Edwin, was instrumental in bringing Northumbria to Christianity. Similarly, we hear of Queen Olga in Russia, Margaret of Scotland, Elizabeth of Hungary and many other women of exceptional calibre whose contribution to the cause of Christ are written in letters of gold in the history of the Catholic Church. Be Messengers of Christ
These last examples may make one think that the Christian Faith found ready acceptance because it was proposed from royal heights. But, as we have seen, in Roman times, the Faith moved up from the humblest and the most exploited in society to the upper classes and into the imperial court. Generally, it was peer inf luence that made people opt for Christ: among merchants, soldiers, workers, slaves, peasants, even entertainers like dancers and courtesans. Totally, lay initiative. However, the Christian teaching of loving the unlovable is not of easy acceptance. Such a teaching cannot be imposed by political, economic or social coercion. It can be accepted only on its own merit. And only a figure like that of Christ can inspire someone to decide for such a radical message. People have hesitated, doubted and debated before deciding for Christianity; some have offered it nominal loyalty for immediate advantages without taking its challenges seriously, and others have given it up, over the years, from faith-fatigue finding the Christian challenges too demanding. As the figure of Christ is fascinans et tremendum, both fascinating and awe-inspiring, Gospel values too are captivating, on the one hand, and demanding, on the other. A decision is not easy to make. The Roman upper classes found in the early Church the values that they considered signs of â€œtrue philosophyâ€?: egalitarianism and high morality; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22), courage before death. Lower classes like migrants, slaves,
workers and the exploited found an inspiring figure in Jesus on the Cross. Simple people were also impressed by signs and wonders. Even today, we find many in China and Africa opting for Christianity for the healings and miracles associated with it. It will not be the abstract presentation of Christian doctrine or the skilful organization of New Evangelization programs that will inf luence our fast secularizing world. It will rather be a tap on the shoulder, a whisper in the ear and heart-to-heart conversation that will do it. People who swear by modern values will be impressed by the way genuine Christian believers stand by the principles of justice, fairness, participation, mutual concern, sharing, forgiveness and commitment to humanity and to the whole of creation. Here is where convinced Christians can make a difference. Take Leadership in Thought
Luke was possibly the first to perceive that the history of the Christian community must be related to the history of the world. Similarly, Alexandrian Christians were among the first to relate Christian wisdom with the wisdom of the society in which they lived. Being intellectually bent, they felt challenged by the superiority claims of the adherents to Hellenic philosophy. Justin, Origen and Clement wanted to use the categories of Hellenic wisdom to express Christian concepts. That was the only way to make their message intelligible and acceptable to a Hellenized world. And the strategy paid dividends: Christian Faith met with wide acceptance; in the meantime, the Greco-Roman culture itself was renewed, rejuvenated and purified. Bardaisan of Edessa looked eastwards for wisdom and wrote on the ways of the Chinese, Indians, Persians, and Arabs; not, however, ignoring the Greeks, Germans and Britons. This then became a regular missionary practice, to bring the Gospel message into engagement with current thought. Culture was considered important. Patrick
went to the Celts and Boniface to the Germans with loads of books and eagerness to impart knowledge. In Japan, Xavier converted a scholarly Buddhist monk who could introduce missionaries to Japanese culture and explain the Christian Faith in Japanese terms to the Japanese. The strategy worked. This type of intellectual effort was not reserved to monks alone, it remained open to intelligent and committed lay people as well. Gregory of Nyssa reports how people in barber shops and meat markets discussed whether the Son had the same nature as the Father. Gregory of Nazianzus speaks of similar discussions in the salons of the upper class women. In our own days, discussions may not be about such subtleties, but about the rights of the unborn child, the challenge of struggling for justice in peaceful ways, and of intelligently combining economic development with care for creation.
wm special • protagonists of a lay path of a community. Modern society is starved of such symbols that have sunk back into their collective unconsciousness. They can easily be roused by rabble-raisers who wave an archetypical symbol for their political purposes. Can Christians among the different cultural and ethnic groups of Asia make a positive use of their ancient symbols and images, seeking to express human longings and religious sentiments in an inspiring and motivating manner? Lessons for Our Times
INCULTURATION. The worldview and wisdom of the ordinary believer cannot be trivialized.
Catholic symbols, popular devotions, local traditions, simple people’s way of expressing their faith must be taken seriously. They have an archetypical significance; they have power. They need to be rehabilitated where they have been marginalized. The Cultural Expression of the Faith
Let us look at a model. In Cur Deus Homo, Anselm tries to adapt himself more to Frankish mentality than stick to the use of the Bible which was unfamiliar to many of his Frankish friends. He says he visited the markets and talked with ordinary people to know what they thought. He believed in people’s good sense whose foundations were sunk deeply in their everyday conversations. He thought that a theologian and a preacher ought to find out what simple people could understand. This is the true meaning of inculturation. The worldview and the wisdom of the ordinary believer cannot be trivial-
ized. It is in him/her that a culture is vibrant; it is in him/her that the Faith is alive. It is his/her initiative in giving expression to his/her faith in daily devotions, indigenous categories, poetic phrasing, symbolic representation that makes Faith get rooted in a local culture and community. Here is where culturally-sensitive lay people can make a major contribution. The Epistle to Diognetus says Christians followed the customs wherever they lived. In other words, they were culturally inserted. The Nazis made a negative use of the archetypical symbols of the Teutonic race. Many forms of neo-paganism are rising in our days, reviving ancient symbolisms
Rudolf Bultmann taught all religious literature needed to demythologized in the modern era. But his pupil, Hans Jonas, felt that “the ultimate mystery can certainly be presented better in the symbols of myth than in concepts of thought.” Hellenweger insists that the myth does not die; the proposal for demythologizing is a monocultural way of handling myths and cannot be used interculturally. A. Jeremias feels “myth must be reclaimed by Western Christianity in order to protect the dissolution of Western Christianity into myth.” Dante and Milton chose myth, Chaucer and Shakespeare chose folktale and legend, to communicate. Northrop Frye says the entire Bible is made up of clusters of metaphors. We can readily see how effectively Jesus used parables. He was a Master Communicator. Hence, it follows that Catholic symbols, popular devotions, local traditions, simple people’s way of expressing their faith must be taken seriously. They have an archetypical significance; they have power. They need to be rehabilitated where they have been marginalized. Easterners think that mystery is to be experienced and enjoyed, that religious meaning is felt at the level of the unconscious. Hindus, for example, convey their message to the deeper psyche of human persons through symbolisms and observances; that is where Hinduism finds its sustaining power. Mircea Eliade laments that the world has become desacralized. These are entire areas open to the laity to help
translate the average believer’s faith into the local cultural idiom. Leadership in Society
But most of all, the various spheres of civil society remain open for lay persons to take leadership. In this context, by ‘leadership,’ I do not mean occupying the highest post or ordering people about; I mean taking initiative, assuming responsibility for remedying a situation or leading a work to success. Christians in the Roman Empire were a feeble minority, always on the defensive, ever ready to be hunted down and thrown to the lions. But the community preserved its inner sturdiness because it was led by intelligent and committed leaders; the Catholic community in China continues to survive for similar reasons. Constantine did not decide to change the policy of persecution merely because he was moved to compassion for the Christians; there was a change of mood in Roman society after repeated persecutions. The uncomplaining endurance of Christians won the admiration of the Roman elite who admired Stoic models. Even the highly secularized world today looks up to persons who are authentic and who are able to serve society with a measure of detachment. When this happens, people are curious to know the sources of their hidden strength and the ideals
that inspire them. On closer look, they notice Christian convictions. A lay leader, true to genuine values, announces the Gospel by his/her very presence. His contribution should not be measured merely by the proportion of assistance he gives to the institutional Church or by the loyal stand he takes in controversial issues, but more according to the strength of his commitment to the values that Jesus taught. Challenges Ahead
History shows how ‘massified’ communities fall in human standards. When a Christian community in favorable circumstances turns out to be no more than an impersonal ‘mass,’ there is a similar danger. Clovis was baptized with 3000 soldiers; Augustine led 10,000 Saxons into the Faith; Vladimir and his fellow Russians accepted the Christian message together; large numbers came into the Church in Latin America in a particular period of history. While we rejoice at these missionary successes, we are aware of the need of following up communities that have come into the Church with all their strengths and weaknesses. Reform movements in the history of the Church have been about these. Even old Christian communities, as they grow larger and more prosperous, if they develop into a cold, heavy ‘mass’
PASTORAL CARE. Vibrant leadership is needed to overcome impersonal relationships.
in relationship to the pastoral care they receive, difficulties are bound to rise. If, in addition, they feel that the Church structures are heavy upon them and that relationships are impersonal, there is bound to be a fall in fervor and, gradually, in practice. But wherever there is dynamic pastoral service under effective leadership and through the activities of vibrant lay associations, SCC’s and ecclesial movements, a Catholic community ceases to be a mere ‘mass’ even in a large parish and reveals amazing dynamism. We spoke about the power of symbols in communicating a message and inspiring a community. What could be a symbol that is most convincing in modern times? Surprisingly, even a consumerist and comfort-seeking society is touched by ‘concern for others’ that anyone manifests. Even in the most secularized areas of public life, a lay Catholic, no matter at what position or rank, can be a wonderful example of ‘concern for others,’ especially needier and weaker persons and communities. That is, being a leader. And no matter who does this, he/she is not far from the Kingdom of God. The Jews used to call Gentiles, who accepted the values and concepts of their religion, ‘Fearers of God.’ Possibly, there are many persons whom we call atheists or agnostics who are close to being ‘Fearers of God.’ They only need recognition and a little encouragement to take the next step. Ambrose was a person of great reputation in the civil society of Milan, widely known for his uprightness in administration and blameless character. Though he was not even a Christian, he was, at one moment, found to be the best person to occupy the highest position in the Church of Milan. He was baptized, ordained and made a bishop. His human uprightness was judged to be the closest interpretation of the Gospel. Is it not possible for any Christian believer to make a determined effort to walk ahead of others in the values of the Gospel and show the way?
wm special • protagonists of a lay path
Perfecting the temporal order
The document of Vatican II on the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem 7, says: “God’s plan for the world is that men should work together to renew and constantly perfect the temporal order” which includes “the good things of life, prosperity of the family, culture, economic matters, the arts and professions, the laws of the political community,” international relations and development and progress. In this endeavor, the Church’s concern does not limit itself to those of the members alone. On the contrary, Christian believers must join hands together with those of other persuasions and work “for the rightful betterment of this world in which they all alike live” (The Church in the Modern World, (GS 21). They must remain attentive to the diverse views of their times and learn to draw profit even from opposition (GS 44). by
Archbishop Thomas Menampar ampil , sdb | guwahati – india
rofit-Motive vs. Asian Religiosity. The pity today is that these are the very areas that have been drawn into the realm of commercial exploitation. The globalization of business has locked communities into a type of relationships that they keep borrowing from each other cultural elements of the least worth. Profit-making and self-interest provide the strongest motives. The result is the situation that we see: one of violence, corruption, damage to environment, and bad governance dominating the scene. People become incapable of taking a long-term view of life and of human affairs, all too eager to acquire the trinkets and trivi-
alities that the commercial world offers. And yet, a recent study in Delhi revealed that 90% of the Indians were religious, and that 40% were ‘very religious.’ Religiosity is part of the Asian cultural heritage. But how far does the religious sentiment in Asian society come to assist individuals and communities in their decisions with regard to their personal choices, social obligations, moral options, and collective goal-setting? The Gospel and the Temporal Order. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi said that evangelization is concerned with bringing the Gospel to the way people think and make judgments,
values they hold and the manner they live. A convinced believer has a wonderful opportunity to encounter individuals and communities in these very areas of ref lection and offer them a meaningful message. In this way, they give themselves to their mission of “evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel,” witnessing to Christ and acting as leaven in the world (AA 2, 5). It is true that modern society is tired of all types of ‘pious’ preachings and moralizing homiletics. But everyone questions himself/herself seriously when a tsunami has razed his/her
wm special • protagonists of a lay path home to shambles and has carried away his/her loved ones. If a neighbor who shares the same condition, anxiety and pain, invites him/her to ref lection at such serious moments, drawing inspiration from their own cultural resources and proposing a relevant message from the Gospel, he/she is most likely to listen. Such contexts for ref lection can be created in other situations too in order to bring the power of God’s Word to life’s uncertainties and agonies. When the message is interpreted in categories that are intelligible and acceptable within their own cultural world of meanings, light begins to shine again in their minds and hearts. To the Outskirts of Human Existence. If then, this is the challenge that the Church places before the laity in our times, we will readily understand the anxiety that Pope Francis has expressed about ‘ecclesiastical narcissism.’ He wants us to widen our interests and not to imprison ourselves in our own internal concerns. “When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize,” he said, “it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” An inward-looking Church, which does not look at Christ, does not reflect Him; she becomes incapable of offering His light and His love for those walking in darkness. Soon enough, she succumbs to the greatest of evils, which the Pope calls, a “spiritual worldliness … living in itself, of itself, for itself.” He wants the Church to move out of herself and go to those “on the outskirts of human existence.” That sort of pilgrimage is the fundamental conversion that the Church needs today; and, on this pilgrimage, he wants to lead us, not only priests and curial officials, but laypeople as well. Don’t Clericalize the Laity. “It’s key that we Catholics, both clergy and laity, go out to meet the people,” he stressed in a 2010 interview with El Jesuita. This is “not only because the Church’s mission is to announce the Gospel, but because failing to do so harms us. … A Church
that limits herself to administering parish work, that lives enclosed within a community, experiences what someone in prison does: physical and mental atrophy.” A Church that merely protects its small flock, that gives all or most of its attention to its faithful clientele, he believes, “is a Church that is sick.” In a 2011 interview with an Argentinian Catholic news agency, he said this contagious spiritual sickness comes from a clericalism that passes from clergy to laypeople. “We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity – not all, but many – ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap – it is a sinful complicity.” Clericalization means focusing fundamentally on the things of the clergy and, more specifically, the sanctuary, rather than on bringing the Gospel to the world. Clericalism ails the clergy when they become too self-referential rather than missionary. But it afflicts laypeople worse, when they begin to believe that the fundamental service God is asking of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Church rather than to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond. The layperson is a layperson and has to live as a layperson, with the power of baptism, which enables him to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself, to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And, like all of us, the layperson is called to carry his daily cross – the cross of the layperson, not of the priest.” Keep Clear of Hypercriticism. One of the wild grapes that f lows from the vine of clericalism, the Pope said in El Jesuita, is a hypercritical spirit that leads some Catholic priests and faithful to expend most of their energy censuring
CONVERSION. From 'ecclesiastical narcisism,' the Chu
DANGER. Clericalization may divert the Church from i
Clericalism ails the clergy when they b than missionary. But it afflicts laypeop that the fundamental service God is a lectors or extraordinary ministers of H
urch has to move to the outskirts of human existence.
its evangelizing mission, atrophying the role of the lay.
become too self-referential rather ple worse, when they begin to believe asking of them is to become greeters, Holy Communion at Church...
others inside and outside the Church rather than seeking to live and share the joy of the Christian faith. “This is a problem not only for priests,” he said, “but also for laypeople. One isn’t a good Catholic when he is looking only for the negative, for what separates us. This isn’t what Jesus wants.” Such unredeemed behavior “mutilates the message” of the Christian faith and scares people away from it, he said. Firing vitriolic criticism at those with whom one disagrees is not the path of the reform of the laity and the Church. The reform of the laity must involve reforming them to become “missionary disciples in communion.” Those four words define the lay vocation: converted followers of Jesus who, together with others, share Jesus’ life and faithfully seek to spread their joy, life and love to those who have not yet come into that twofold communion. Vatican II says: “Common human values not infrequently call for cooperation between Christians pursuing apostolic aims and those who do not profess Christ’s Name but acknowledge these values” (AA 27). Transform Politics, Society, Neighborhood. It is a community of believers trained and inspired to go out to transform politics, society, education, neighborhoods, family and marriages that transforms the world. It is a brotherhood of Good Samaritans drawing near to neighbors with love and mercy that will give life to human society. It is the faithful who are the salt of the earth and not just salty critics of the Church that will fill the world with joy. It is a body of torchbearers radiating Christ’s light rather than hiding it within the bushel basket of self-referential, spiritually worldly and ultimately “sick” parochial or diocesan structures that will evangelize the world. Pope Francis has set in motion this pilgrimage leading to this reform, taking us by example to the outskirts of human existence. The real work, however, still needs to take place in hearts, homes, parishes, movements and schools across the Catholic world.
Secular Spirituality and Good Human Relations. If this be the mission of the laity, their apostolic formation, says Apostolicam Actuositatem 29, should especially be characterized by the distinctively secular and particular quality of the lay state and its own form of spiritual life. It should be a well-rounded formation. Lay leaders should be wellinformed about the modern world and perfectly at home within their community and with their culture. They should be perceptive of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the world. The courses they do will vary according to the nature of the service they intend to offer in community: theological, spiritual, practical, technical. In conveying the message, they should adapt it to the age, status and competence of the listeners. Most of all, they should know how “to cultivate good human relations; truly human values must be fostered, especially the art of living fraternally and cooperating with others and striking up friendly conversation with them.” It demands maturity of the human person, and “harmony and balance” must be safeguarded (AA 29). Prevent Erosion of Cultures and Values. Such ref lections have acquired enormous importance in the context of the ‘erosion of cultures’ and of ethical values that is taking place right round the globe today. Every religious tradition is under threat. Globalization has led to large-scale de-traditionalization and deinstitutionalization, weakening family bonds, community cohesion and parish togetherness that used to communicate values and provide answers to perennial questions about the meaning of life and nature of truth (Instrumentum Laboris 47). If the Church is eager to come to the rescue of people in their economic and social disabilities, even more does she need to come to the aid of communities whose religious beliefs and values stand threatened. There are people who reduce religion to psychological assistance, therapy, or self-motivation exercises. When faith is weak in those who com-
for justice of God’s Kingdom and engaging themselves in Christian social action (AA 7). That is how they infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which they live (AA 13).
PROTAGONISTS. Often, catechists have been true lay apostles with amazing courage.
municate it, life remains untouched. Meantime, some evangelical preacher with deep conviction carries away the f lock. Laypeople, with deep Christian convictions, turn out to be powerful witnesses in married life, in the field of education of children, in guiding the choice of vocation, defending the indissolubility and sacredness of marriage, in promoting prayerlife, offering hospitality, assisting migrants, affirming the rights of the weaker sections to have a share in the expanding economy (AA 11). Strengthening the Role of Catechists. Speaking to the Episcopal Conferences of the Pacific and New Zealand, Pope Benedict XVI said sometime ago: “I understand from your report that your task of spreading the Gospel often depends on the assistance of lay missionaries and catechists. Continue to ensure that a sound and ongoing formation be afforded them, especially within the context of their associations. In doing so, you will equip them for every good work in the building up of the body of Christ (2 Tim. 3:17; Eph. 4:12). Their zeal for the faith under your continued leadership and support will surely bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.” This precisely is my own experience in the mission during half a century. More depends on the generous work of the laypeople, especially the catechists, than can easily be described. They pioneer into difficult areas, stand
opposition, work out their own solution to problems, explain Christian teaching in the most creative way, and continue to break new grounds year after year. Aside from the service of teaching, there are times when they help in the administration of temporalities of the Church. They have the courage and creativity to approach immigrants and bring together people of different cultural background in the parish and the diocese. They foster a universal outlook and promote keen interest in the missions (AA 10). Risking Lives for Christ. About such courageous Christian workers, the Council says (AA 17), they teach Christian doctrine where there is no freedom with risk to their lives, and manifest “heroic fortitude in the midst of persecutions.” During the recent harassment of Christians in Orissa (India), there were generous catechists who gave their lives for their faith. Lay apostles show amazing courage in areas “where Catholics are few in number and widely dispersed.” They “gather in smaller groups for serious conversation…giving spiritual help to one another through friendship and the communicating of the benefit of their experience,” and overcoming isolation (AA 17). They have no difficulty in cooperating with fellow citizens of other faiths in discussing social problems in the light of higher principles and working
Acting in the Secular Space. The secular space offers opportunities for believers and non-believers to meet on equal terms, and listen and interpret the ‘many voices of our age’ (Instrumentum Laboris 129). The public opinion that emerges is like the people’s parliament, towards the shaping of which everyone has the possibility to contribute in order to build a society that is built on justice and peace (Instrumentum Laboris 73). Intelligent Christian leaders can propose, in the light of their faith, loftier motives of action in their family, professional, cultural and social life and make them known to others when the occasion arises (AA 16). Be Close to Thinking People. Duc in altum (Lk. 5:4), we hear today: meet people at their depths, be close to ‘thinking people’ in every community, reflect with them on the future of society, humanity. Our prophetic mission is not at its best in denouncing and humiliating those who think differently from us, but inviting them to ref lect, and to change when required. God has a plan for Asia. We need to open ourselves to that plan operating mysteriously in the diverse heritages of this continent, so that we can present our own heritage of faith in all its richness (Instrumentum Laboris 67). A ‘depth’ dimension of ref lection and a ‘sense of responsibility’ linked with it, can be brought to every sphere of human life: to the market, to the digital world, scenes of ethnic tensions, areas of corruption, damaged environment and slums, and contexts where life is undervalued. And the indepth search for the Absolute, that is evident in the Asian spirit of inquiry, can help Christians, f loundering in faith, to deepen their own and share it with others.
wm special • protagonists of a lay path
Making an impact on today’s culture
With the erosion of culture and faith, there comes a total collapse of values. It is no more a situation where the lay people are asking for some minor assistance from the clergy. The entire scenario has changed. The clergy will never be able to be effective in society unless lay people go ahead with right ideas and action. It is no more the question of just managing parish affairs but making an evangelical impact on prevalent culture. This is the mission of the ‘believing community’ today. by
Archbishop Thomas Menampar ampil , sdb | guwahati – india
arly Christian history points to the fact that nearly all missionary breakthroughs came from the initiative of the local community. The Apostles were hardly able to keep pace with spontaneous Christian expansion. From this, the centrality of the ‘believing community’ in the cause of evangelization becomes evident. It was the Christian community of Antioch that sent forth Paul and Barnabas, an initiative that was to change the world. The faith that the local community had appropriated was self-communicating. In this era of New Evangelization, this
model of the local community, vibrant with faith, energetic in service, prompt in responding to needs, and full of fresh ideas in communicating the faith, is most inspiring. Every book of the New Testament, including the Letters, was addressed to a specific ‘believing community,’ with theological perspectives formulated to respond to that community’s specific needs. Even in our own days, new theological perspectives have arisen only when local communities have listened to their concrete problems while living out their faith, e.g. the needs of
the poorest of the poor, memories of historic injuries, anxieties caused by social imbalances, damage to culture or environment. It will be the perspective of ordinary Christian believers eager to express their faith in context that will give relevance and direction to the theological thinking. Their agonies present the setting for ref lection and provide the motivation for commitment. Local communities took their own responsibility to respond to challenges and adapt themselves to local compulsions. At the same time, they manifested universal concern, always ready
wm special • protagonists of a lay path to look beyond their own little world. In such situations, lay initiatives arose spontaneously, the clergy offering constant support. Something similar happened again in our own days in East Europe, China, and other places under Communist repression. Lay initiatives were many and most edifying. It is in this manner that the Universal Church becomes real and tangible, through the thinking, planning and initiatives of the local community. The people who took initiative were perfectly aware that it was in their community and through their efforts that the teachings and programs of the Universal Church had to be realized. Of course, they never pretended to be self-sufficient bodies; rather, they were constantly attentive to the stirrings of the Gospel in the Universal Church and sharing their convictions with others. Can such vibrant evangelizing local communities arise in our own times and in our own difficult situations? What can move the believing community to action? A pressing need
of humanity always motivates people. As drought-hit soil cries for rain, as an unfair situation calls for justice, a Gospel-less society pines for the Gospel. As the slums of Calcutta drove Mother Teresa to action, as the alarming conditions in Molokai stirred Damien’s generosity, so did the anxieties of the Christian community under godless regimes make of ordinary believers extremely creative evangelizers. Christian heroism came to life in hard circumstances, whether it was in sharing the Gospel or reaching out in charity. As water rushes to ground levels that are the lowest, so the Gospel message reaches fastest those areas where evangelical values seem least present. Light has direct relationship with darkness; it shines best where darkness is thickest. That is why community leaders should have absolute confidence when they plunge themselves into newly-emerging opportunities for evangelization in spite of every difficulty. The very absence of Gospel values is an invitation.
As the slums of Calcutta drove Mother Teresa to action, as the alarming conditions in Molokai stirred Damien’s generosity, so did the anxieties of the Christian community under godless regimes make of ordinary believers extremely creative evangelizers.
CHRISTIAN HEROISM. Mother Teresa remains a symbol of a true and credible evangelizer.
Keeping close to pain
In this bold venture I will not limit myself to providing answers only to justice issues, important though it is. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner, warns us in his "The Idea of Justice" against a one-sided and hasty interpretation of perceived injustice. Overzeal for ‘perfect’ justice can lead to greater injustice, as history of revolutions has shown. An issue needs to be studied from various angles, Sen insists, and a holistic view developed. Our mission today calls our attention to wider areas. There are many other evils in society: corruption, lack of respect for life, loss of family values, breakup of families, damage to environment, absence of responsibility in society, social imbalances of every sort; erosion of cultures and values; unfairness to the weak, to the lower classes, to minorities, to women and children, to the aged, to the disabled, to questioning youth; increase of slums, use of drugs, degrading of sex, violence in word and deed, elimination of the unwanted. The Gospel has a soft whisper for every context, and it plants courage in the hearts of the prompt. Those who are willing to pay the prize succeed. It was the persecuted Christian community in Judea that f led to Antioch. The freshness of their pain served as a driving force to reach out beyond themselves with a message of hope. Communist persecution in recent years roused even dormant communities to a powerful sense of mission. If we take the pain of humanity into our hearts, we shall find energy, motivation and resources to plunge ourselves without reserve into the service of a message of openness to the future. Problems provoke thought, elicits generosity. Pain motivates. That is why it is educative for evangelizers to keep close to pain. They can bring relief on the one hand, but also to tap the energies associated with pain. That is what Pope Francis seems to be doing when he urges us to move to the “outskirts of human existence.” When
NEARNESS. In the likeness of Jesus, Fr. Peter Geremia, in his simplicity and with a warm smile, is always present to the people in need.
I hear phrases like these, I bend my knee… and praise the Lord! But many members of our communities today are most unwilling to plunge themselves into the middle of events or take trouble in behalf of others. They have settled for milder options, softer lifestyles, and have lost their spirit of daring and venture. And most of all, rising individualism in a urban competitive society has weakened the sense of community in them. Trapped in a consumeristic society, they are happy to become selfcontent atomized individuals. Robert Bellah and Robert Putnam speak of a mighty diminishment of ‘social capital’ in consequence. The breaking of ties
Karl Rahner had foreseen half a century ago that city people could not have the same sense of belonging as the farmers. There is a reduced sense of home, separation of generations, loss of links with culture and faith. What is most lamentable is the commodification and commercial exploitation of youth. With the erosion of culture and faith, there comes a total collapse of values. It is no more a situation where the lay people are asking for some minor assistance from the clergy. The entire scenario has changed. The clergy will never be
The clergy will never be able to be effective in society unless lay people go ahead with right ideas and action. It is no more the question of just managing parish affairs but making an evangelical impact on prevalent culture. able to be effective in society unless lay people go ahead with right ideas and action. It is no more the question of just managing parish affairs but making an evangelical impact on prevalent culture. This is the mission of the ‘believing community’ today. In the present social upheavals, not only Churches have suffered, but human communities of every culture have been receiving severe blows. Continuous mobility of people, ceaseless immigration and emigration, are changing the demographic pattern of a given society; new divisions are coming up along lines of class, ethnicity, culture, religion, languages, and places of origin. There has been a disruption of the cultural bonds, and of social and familial ties. It is using the ‘raw material’ from this ruin will you have to reconstruct the communities of the future. Robert Bellah sees a felt need in society today for intimacy in the face of growing individualism. People are struggling against anonymity and impersonality to regain the lost sense of intimacy once again. That is where it helps to listen to each other in commu-
nity. The priest can take the initiative. A priest’s absorbed attention is most captivating. His respectful and attentive listening will reveal good sense and generate goodwill where there is none. Hidden energies will surface. When there is someone to listen, people will have the courage to come forward and share their dreams, needs, the anxieties of families, stories of generosity and courage in the neighborhood. Ultimately, these may get mixed with prayers, songs and sobs; but they generate energies that can be tapped. Priests who show concern for the poor inspire. Their closeness to pain provides the spark. Their nearness to the average believer makes them down-toearth in matters of living the faith. In his "Habits of the Heart," Bellah says that people look for “personal and accessible priests” and “warmer, more pastoral parishes.” This sounds amazing in an age of individualism and competition. And yet, priests, religious or lay leaders who remain constantly available, respond to the natural longing for intimacy, and are able to prompt purpose-driven activities that are heading for eminent success.
It is through an intense experience of a local community in this manner one can gain a deeper understanding of the Universal Church. When one begins the challenging task of community-building in a place, one should take advantage of every existing bond: familial, cultural, ethnic, national, regional, and neighborhood. The skill consists in tapping the resource of these natural relationships and pooling their energies together. In this way, you transform the anxiety about a divided community into an opportunity. An individual’s loyalty in our times is divided by his/her multiple identities. Gregory Baum refers to an individual’s multiple belonging to several communities at the same time, e.g. religious, residential, work-related, social, recreational. Church leaders should not only allow but encourage diversities, subgroups and multiple loyalties. What is to be safeguarded is a network of interpersonal relationships. Love, discipline, friendship, cohesion and mutuality, generated by such natural groupings can become a resource for the parish community as well. Dynamic Christian denominations and successful Catholic ecclesial movements seem to have an amazing skill for profiting from such untapped energies. Bonds of togetherness
It will be quite impossible for us today to reconstitute the communities of the old days as organic wholes; and yet firm bonds of togetherness can still be built up forming value-based and faith-driven communities. The encouraging reality is that here is a yearning in society today for co-belonging. The small Christian community movement is meant to respond to this desire, assisting our vast parishes to fulfill their mission. The surprising thing is that small communities with an intense sense of belonging can make high demands of its members of serious religious discipline or ardent generosity. While some traditional parishes go through the
ritual of writing lengthy mission statements and listing impressive goals with little result, communities that relate at depth take up activities that shake the world. There can be tension between breadth and depth in relationship. Both are useful, in fact necessary: depth leads to stability, meaning, and openness to God. Breadth ensures inclusiveness. What we are proposing are not inward-looking communities, thriving internally with no openness to others. The Christian community is for all and wants to reach out to all. Similarly, the community we have in mind does not crush out the individual or his/her personal preferences or spiritualities. Nor does the parish community of our vision threaten individual communities from which its membership comes: those linked with ethnicity, nationality, language, neighborhood, friendship, or family connections. All these can be turned to an advantage. The community thus built up will gradually develop new norms, values, traditions, institutions. They may be provisional, yet valid. Tensions are bound to rise, but the natural need for fellowship that humans have will provide answers.
Tensions serve to urge the members of a community toward greater openness to each other. There may be collision of individual interests, theological perspectives; there may be contestation of established traditions and clash of personalities. As confrontation sharpens, the parties concerned seem to move away from the Spirit. Polarizations increase, self-alienation takes place, and evangelical enthusiasm diminishes. Here is where the Gospel is needed most. And, finally, solutions come when the evangelical genuineness in a particular point of view becomes evident to the faith-community. This is the victory of authentic authority. Redemptive intimacy
William Clark in his "A Voice of Their Own" argues that this sort of authority comes from what resonates with true Christian experience within the community. It grows out of depth relationship, community reflection on the Gospel, and loyalty to the convictions shared by all. It is an authority that wins ready acceptance by everyone because it is built on the values vibrant in the community. Some would see in it the collective wisdom of the community, the ‘wisdom capital,’ the ‘good sense;’
Polarizations increase, self-alienation takes place, and evangelical enthusiasm diminishes. Here is where the Gospel is needed most. And, finally, solutions come when the evangelical genuineness in a particular point of view becomes evident to the faith-community.
FELLOWSHIP. A bond of togetherness keeps the community's unity without being exclusive.
wm special • protagonists of a lay path
BELONGING. Brother Roger of Taize offered a spirit-filled and hope-giving message.
The Gosple is an invitation to relationship....The intimacy that Jesus offered, the closeness that the believing community holds out, forgives sins, confers dignity, empowers the demeaned, heals the brokenhearted, uplifts the poor. others the stock of ‘faith assets.’ The wisdom we refer to consists in submitting to the truth, to the better insights of others, and to the promptings of faith. We welcome the helpful role of the Universal Church in this search for truth. For, we know that the Lord has not left us alone, He has promised to be with us when we are gathered. We are His people, the “People of God.” The recognition of this evangelical authority which spontaneously arises within the believing community is the key to its success. It is not conferred by someone else, but earned through ongoing fidelity to the Gospel. It does not express itself in the skill to control and dominate, but in the spiritual energy to inspire and lead. Initiators of religious Congregations and ecclesial movements seem to have had this form of authority to an eminent measure, e.g. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Bro. Roger of Taize. It consists in being true to Jesus. That is why those communities that have been transformed by the message of Jesus, truly ‘evangelized’ communities, have something to
offer to the rest of humanity. They are spiritually charged to communicate a hope-giving message to people in distress. They take leadership in taking the Gospel to where it is needed most, sending forth messengers as did Antioch, Iona, or Loyola. Watching carefully the contemporary situation, we see that small Christian communities and ‘house churches’, within the context of larger parishes, can emerge the closest approximations of communities that we have tried to describe. In them we get a feel of Koinonia, participation, fellowship, communion, solidarity, and the familiarity that prevailed in the primitive Church. That is an intimacy that saves, something that made the Catholic philosopher Dick Westley referred to as “redemptive intimacy.” He insists: “One intimate encounter can deliver us from our loneliness, isolation, and alienation.” Pointing to Jesus
And in truth, the Gospel is not about confrontation about the right theologies or ideologies; it is an invitation to
relationship. “Come and see” (Jn. 1:46), said Jesus, “Come with Me” (Mt. 4:19). The intimacy that Jesus offered, the closeness that the believing community holds out, forgives sins, confers dignity, empowers the demeaned, heals the brokenhearted, uplifts the poor. This is what Pope Francis seems to be doing in an inimitable way. His message of our common belongingness is passed on through warm handshakes, smiles, reassuring looks, intimate sharing, and radical reach-out to the ‘peripheries’ of society. In the context of Asia, people hungering for a sense of belonging are to be found not only in urban slums or in the sub-human conditions of industrial complexes; they are also in the vast interior territories of every country on this continent where rural poverty reigns: on mountaintops, river banks, or wastelands, and most of all among the landless poor. While the urban elite will easily find cultural and social resources for forming communities, the less fortunate ones in impoverished areas will need to be assisted. In these situations, we need to do what Christ Himself did: “I must also go to other villages round here. I have to preach to them also, because that is why I have come” (Mk. 1:38). The old saying used to be: “A house-visiting pastor makes a churchgoing people;” the new one may be, the community that grows in its loyalty to the Gospel in the intimacy of their togetherness, will go out to the world and shape its destinies. I propose empathetic listening within the community as a starting point. But the whisper must grow into a lively conversation and an exploration for what is best for human society. And the news of it must echo to the ends of the earth. What we shared in the upper-chamber (small Christian community, house-church) will have to be heard from housetops, which means, effectively communicated. That then is our mission: evangelized communities evangelizing others, pointing to Jesus.
spiritual reflection • Refugees and displaced persons
The Church in the frontline
Refugees and displaced persons are so many. Their situation, usually related to conflicts and mass exodus, is so dramatic and diverse that sometimes people feel that they are responding to a severe drought with a glass of water. Nevertheless, the Comboni Missionary Fr. Mike Barton, serving in the always problematic area of South Sudan, says: “Yet, my greatest joy was the investment in their children’s education which was the key to their long-term future. Their generosity to me and to each other also inspired me greatly.” by
Fr. John Converset | comboni missionary
hroughout history and in every corner of the globe where the church is present, people in need have turned to church communities for assistance. Religious, clergy and laypeople have often responded with great generosity and in an incredible variety of ways. That is still the case today. This article will be limited to the church’s presence to refugees and displaced persons, giving a few examples of assistance to them. The sad caveat to keep in mind is that no one has been able to give adequate assistance to the tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons in the world. I will begin with assistance to refugees in South Africa, since that is the situation best known to the author. Since the end of apartheid, the Republic of South Africa (RSA) has received wave upon wave of refugees from other African countries. The government grants no financial assistance, but it has established procedures to, eventually, grant them legal recognition. There are no refugee camps in South Africa; refugees must provide for themselves and many need assistance. The churches and many civil society groups have tried to assist in whatever way they can. Diana Beamish, a teacher and a lay member of the Schoenstatt Movement, responded to the first wave of Rwandan refugees that reached RSA after the 1994 massacres. She began arranging emergency shelter for some of them and, eventually, established the Mercy House in Johannesburg. Using her own savings, “Teacher Diana” purchased an ordinary house and, with some as-
sistance from Comboni Missionaries and others, made modifications so that twenty-five people can stay there. Over the nearly two decades of the Mercy House ministry, people of many nationalities have had a chance to begin to rebuild their lives. Diana makes a consistent effort to foster a strong community among the residents so that their loving support for each other can begin to heal the emotional wounds and trauma caused by what they have suffered. Diana and her supporters have been able to help many refugees obtain a decent education and to find work. Temporary shelter
Bienvenu Shelter gives a somewhat different response to the same concerns. It offers temporary shelter to newlyarrived women and children for whom the mean streets of Johannesburg are especially dangerous. The refugees normally remain at Bienvenu for three to six months while learning English and developing job skills. It has a crèche to care for the children while their mothers are studying or looking for jobs. Bienvenu can house 35 to 45 people. It was founded in 2001 by the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters in partnership with the Jesuit Refugee Services. Like the Mercy House, Bienvenu helps refugees to obtain needed medical care, apply for legal documents, etc. The Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), founded by the Society of Jesus in 1980 but now partly autonomous, is at the service of refugees in many countries. JRS offices were established in Johan-
nesburg and Pretoria in 1998 to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS in RSA is “an implementing partner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).” That means it gets some of its funding from the UNHCR, and JRS is able to channel part of that funding to help assist the refugees staying at the Mercy House and Bienvenu, for example, with transport to schools or medical facilities. However, the services offered by JRS are broader than that. JRS also advocates for the legal rights of individual refugees, as well as collectively. JRS can grant a limited number of small business loans to help refugees make a living. In conjunction with the UNHCR, JRS is sometimes able to reunite separated families. The Justice and Peace Department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), established in 1967, addresses a wide range of social justice issues, including some that directly affect the refugees, such as extensive xenophobia in RSA. Although the 2008 riots against foreign Africans have not recurred, extensive criminal violence against refugees continues. The J & P Department fosters diocesan efforts to overcome xenophobia. A common cause
Christian churches of other denominations have not been left behind. After Zimbabwe exploded into violence and collapsed economically in the first decade of this century,
hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans f led to South Africa. Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg converted his church into a shelter for 1,500 Zimbabwean refugees. Needless to say, this action inconvenienced many people and led to considerable tension, both within the church membership and with local businesses. Bishop Verryn persisted and his church became a rallying point for Zimbabwean refugees. The South African Council of Churches has also given active assistance to refugees. Of course, the church’s assistance to refugees is not limited to South Africa. Fr. David Baltz is a Comboni Missionary serving in the West Nile area of Uganda. The period following the collapse of the ruthless dictatorship of Idi Amin Dada was chaotic and sometimes violent. In June 1981, approximately 60 people who had sought refuge in the Mission of Ombaci near Arua were massacred. Survivors f led West into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fr Baltz helped to evacuate staff and patients from the mission hospital of Maracha. Fr. Baltz and Fr. Renzo Salvano then went to live with the refugees in simple mud huts near Bakara
where the UNHCR had established refugee camps. Later, they were joined by a Belgian Jesuit, some religious women from France, another Comboni missionary, and three Comboni Missionary Sisters. Fr. Baltz describes this period of living in solidarity with refugees and serving them as the peak experience of his priestly life and ministry. Later, back in Arua Diocese, he also ministered to refugees from Sudan who had come to Uganda. Fr. Mike Barton, a Comboni Missionary serving in South Sudan, has served refugees and internally displaced persons at three different missions. Fr. Barton was at Kworijik Luri in Central Equatorial State from 1978 to 1987 when Christian and Muslim refugees, mainly Ma’di and Logbara, f led from Uganda and settled in camps near Wundurba. During the drought and famine of 1980, the mission also offered considerable material assistance. Unsung heroes
From 1993 to 2002, Fr. Barton was at Mapourdit in Lakes State where Comboni Missionaries and Religious of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart collaborated with Jesuit Refugee Services to care for people, mainly Dinka and Atuot,
In collaboration with a multitude of both faith-based and secular organizations, countless dedicated lay Christians are also giving years of their lives to assist refugees. For the most part, these are unsung heroes, known only to their own families and to those they serve.
CARE. The creche at Bienvenue Shelter looks after the children while mothers look for jobs.
displaced by the Sudanese civil war. To serve the people, the Comboni Missionaries established and directed a large primary school, a secondary school and an adult education program under very primitive conditions. Fr. Barton states: “Displaced people always made me feel very inadequate as they had so many needs and I had so few means. Yet my greatest joy was the investment in their children’s education which was the key to their long-term future. Their generosity to me and to each other also inspired me greatly.” From 2002 to 2013, Fr. Barton was in Northern Bahr el Gazhal State when Southern Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons were returning to South Sudan from Darfur, Kordofan and Khartoum in Sudan, as well as from Kenya and Uganda. Most of the returnees were without assets and it was difficult to obtain outside assistance for them. Today at Karak, in one of the poorest areas of Jordan, 150 km from Amman, at a small hospital that was established in 1939, Sr. Alessandra Fumagalli and other Comboni Missionary Sisters are serving both the local population and the Syrian refugees who come mainly from Homs. In collaboration with Caritas of Jordan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Sisters have established a program of healthcare for the refugees. However, there are already more than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan and the needs far outstrip the limited capacity of those attempting to assist them. These are but a few examples of what church people are doing to assist refugees. It goes without saying that, in collaboration with a multitude of both faith-based and secular organizations, countless dedicated lay Christians are also giving years of their lives to assist refugees. For the most part, these are unsung heroes, known only to their own families and to those they serve. They give precious witness to the compassion of God for all suffering people.
in focus • What We Believe In
The Communion of Saints
What I would like to emphasize in confessing my faith in the ‘Communion of Saints’ is the truth that we belong together. It is precisely in the Catholic Church that we find the beliefs and values which foster this togetherness, first of all, of Christian believers, then, of the whole of humanity. We have a common Father in heaven; we have Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all humankind; we have the Holy Spirit, the Author of all fellowship. From Paul we learn that “this world, life and death, the present and the future – all these are yours, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:23), and again, “The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:26), and similar expressions (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:1 ; 1 Jn. 4:4-6). This truth of universal togetherness is richly symbolized in the community of believers. by
Archbishop Thomas Menampar ampil , SDB | GUWAHATI – INDIA
e have the compelling example of Jesus who kept His disciples close to Him in great intimacy by the power of His word and the strength of His human warmth. We are told repeatedly of the active presence of His disciples with Him, whether He was visiting a home, preaching by the lake, struggling with the waves, feeding the hungry or having a meal together. Jesus used to have closer sharing with them, from time to time, on matters of greater importance or deeper significance (Mt. 13:10-23; 17:22). The atmosphere of intimacy that Jesus was able to create with His chosen Twelve during the Last Supper is a symbol of the communion that ought to exist among fellow believers (Jn. ch. 13-17) It was when His disciples were together that the Risen Christ appeared to them (Jn. 20:26). Likewise, it was in their presence that He was taken up into heaven (Mt. 28:16). In a similar way, it was when the disciples were together in one place that the Holy Spirit descended on them (Acts 2:1-4). The Master had promised: “Where two or three come together in My Name, I am there with them” (Mt. 18:20). So it was that the early Christians remained faithful to this togetherness: teaching of the apostles, the brotherhood, the breaking of bread and the prayers”; they would share their possessions (Acts 2: 42-44) and their agonies together (Acts 4:24), take part in the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:33), and praise God with one voice (Rom 15:6).
unity among Christians to the organic unity that exists within the human body (1 Cor. 12:27-31; Col 2:19) to a sacred temple built on the apostles and prophets, held together by Christ (Eph. 2:21). That is why they ought to draw closer together (Col. 2:2), and be held together (2:19; 3:14). They should take care to preserve the unity that the Spirit gives (Eph. 4:3) and stand together “with one common purpose” (Phil. 1:27): to settle problems among themselves (1 Cor. 6;5). For, Jesus Himself admitted that there could be serious differences even within a family (Mt. 10: 36) but they must be resolved lest the family falls apart (Mt. 12:25) and the generation gap must be bridged (Lk. 1: 17). Fellow believers have an obligation to help each other in times of need. Paul exhorts his Christians to “do good to everyone, and especially those who belong to our family in faith” (Gal. 6:10) and deal with each other honestly (Eph. 4:25). However, there is to be no exclusiveness, for Jesus died “to bring together into one body all the scattered people of God” (Jn. 11:52). “The Communion of Saints” according to the Catechism of the Catho-
lic Church refers to: i.) the communion of faith received from the Apostles; ii.) the communion of the Sacraments, especially of the Eucharist, binding the faithful to Jesus; iii.) the communion of charisms, different members playing complementary roles within the community; iv.) the communion of material goods, co-believers being generous with each other according to the needs of each person; v.) the communion of charity, which means, the sharing of spiritual assets among all the faithful, both the living and the dead. The faithful living on earth honor the saints in heaven and pray for the dead who stand in need of prayers. And all the departed Christians, who are at peace with God, in their turn, pray for the faithful on earth who are striving in eager earnestness towards their ultimate destiny. In this common belongingness, every good deed done by anyone comes to benefit everyone else. This is the bond that Paul expresses when he says: “You are so dear to us that we are always together, whether we live or die” (2 Cor. 7:3). This is true, because “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom. 14:2).
The faithful living on earth honor the saints in heaven and pray for the dead who stand in need of prayers. And all the departed Christians, who are at peace with God, in their turn, pray for the faithful on earth who are striving in eager earnestness towards their ultimate destiny.
The Family of God
The foundation of this intimacy is the close fellowship the believers had with God Himself. We are told that Enoch lived in fellowship with God (Gen. 5:22), so did Noah (6:9). This fellowship with God is precious. Paul reminds the Christians of their fellowship with God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:11; 16:8; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 13:13; Philip 2:1). He calls them “members of God’s family” (Eph. 2:19). He compares the
GOD'S FAMILY. The intimate fellowship with God binds believers closely together in unity.
Human Interdependence Grows
This common belongingness of all believers is a symbol of that ultimate unity to which God calls the whole of humankind. “There is one God, and there is One who brings God and mankind together, the Man Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 2:5). Today’s divided world seems to be blind to this divine plan but there is a deep longing in all human hearts for this unrealized dream. Such a desire for unity itself is a gift of the Spirit. It continuously points to the cosmic design God formulated long before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:10). Based on the assurance of Jesus Himself, the Fathers of Vatican II were perfectly confident that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood was not hopeless (GS 38), that we shall one day succeed to “unify, under one Spirit, all men of whatever nation, race or culture” (GS 92) by the power of the Gospel. The Council Fathers said: “Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world” (GS 26). Again, “the Church, by her very universality, can be a close bond between diverse human communities and nations, provided these trust her;” she can offer assistance to overcoming strife between nations and races (GS 42). Catholic associations can contribute to the building up of a peaceful and fraternal community of nations, cultivating a “universal outlook” in people, and creating an awareness of “genuine universal solidarity and responsibility” (GS 90). The Church continuously keeps reaching out to “every man of our time, whether he believes in God, or does not explicitly recognize Him” (GS 91). The interactions among peoples that the Church seeks to promote are aimed at the enrichment of all concerned communities, cultures, and civilizations, fully aware that she herself will also be a beneficiary (GS 58). She insists that such exchanges should not weaken or destroy “the wisdom received from ancestors,” or disturb the life of the communities, or
place in danger the character proper to each people (GS 56). Such sensitive expressions of concern about indigenous cultures, undoubtedly, come from very perceptive persons! Even in those days, the Council Fathers had noticed that “many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantage to others” (GS 15). How true! How thought-provoking! For example, the little traditions of Asia, belonging to what are called tribal groups, ‘ethnic minorities,’ or indigenous communities, in their ‘primal’ simplicity, reveal something profound in human nature itself. They have a great stock of humanness in them and have retained a cosmic vision of reality and of nature. They had a communitarian outlook, shared a sense of belonging, were habituated to non-confrontational styles of equalizing power and wealth, and had a sense of the mystery about life. We Christians can play a bridgebuilding role between the old order and the new, between one civilization/ culture and the other. Time has come for the East to meet the West, and the North, the South. Similarly, ancient
wisdom must dialogue with the “many voices of our age” (GS 44). They are of complementary nature, though placed often by their proposers in confrontation. After all, we belong together. We are all in search of genuine solutions to the numerous problems that harass us today (GS 16). In this mighty effort towards building human solidarity, we Christians are eager to come forward with “mounting generosity” (GS 93). Our Destinies are Interlinked
Similarly, one field of human activity must be respectful of other fields as well. Commerce must be attentive to ethical values, and scientific and technological research must draw inspiration from spiritual search. Thus we must promote harmony between the more widely accepted general culture and individual cultures, between different branches of sciences, and, gradually, work out an intelligent synthesis out of them for the sake of developing a holistic view of things and promoting an intelligent contemplation of all reality (GS 56). In the same manner, people at various levels of social life (different castes, classes, leaders of industry and
We Christians can play a bridge-building role between the old order and the new, between one civilization/culture and the other. Time has come for the East to meet the West, and the North, the South. ...ancient wisdom must dialogue with the “many voices of our age."
SOLIDARITY. Angelina Jolie, U.N. goodwill ambassador, reaching out to Tanzanian children.
in focus • What We Believe In
GODLIKE. The Good Samaritan remains an icon of the complementary role we must play.
laborers, simple peasants and fortunemakers) must begin to realize that their long-term destinies are interlinked. They will have to search for a nonconfrontational manner of bringing their ambitions together. We all need to remember, above all, that the painful memories of the past (colonial, international, interethnic, intersocietal, intercaste, interclass, interreligious) need to be healed and collective mental equilibrium restored, in order to construct a future of harmony together. For this, we can take inspiration from nature itself. The material world that we know is made up of an inseparable network of linkages; the human body and nature, as a whole, are made up of self-regulating systems. In a similar way, we belong to each other in an intricately interlinked manner within the human family. Therefore, what we need to make of life is not a competitive struggle, but a cooperative venture, each person and community playing a complementary role with the other, like musicians in a concert. We see that whatever happens in society speaks of connectedness, relationship, interdependence, giving expression to a common, shared spiritual belongingness. That is what makes of things that look like mutually exclusive truly complementary: e.g. individualism and altruism, self-care and social commitment, practical consideration and theoretical wisdom, emphasis on matter and concern for the spirit.
A Communion of Civilizations
A glorious future is not created through a ‘clash of civilizations’ in which the strongest will emerge on top to solve problems, but through a dialogue that will lead to a communion of civilizations. That is the only way that all communities and cultures, all societies and civilizations will be able to make a rightful contribution to human destiny. That is where persons with a Christian sense of mission can play a most helpful role. Recently, the Church has fallen victim to a trend that began in civil society a little earlier. The scandals caused by leading persons in public life had been weakening the credibility of individuals holding offices of responsibility in society. There emerged a feeling that things like public truth telling and ethical business were on the way out. As a result, even the most solemn public statements (including U.N. declarations, reports to the parliament on the financial state of the nation, government accounts with regard to military expenses, or impressive advertisements) were finding few takers. The actual failure of some of these public agencies began damaging the image of others as well. This has led to a general distrust in banks, corporations, news media, the entertainment industry, unions, government and its agencies (Jeffrey Sachs 12), and of public organizations in general... and Church-related
bodies as well. We have been going through hard times as a consequence. Persons with a sense of Christian mission must help humanity to regain balance in its judgment of things and evaluation of situations. People must be helped to look at things in objectivity and put the squabbles of the day before the cultural wisdom and experience of millennial civilizations in order to gain a valid perspective. Even old codes will need to be re-interpreted and made relevant and capable of addressing the problems of our times: e.g. with reference to nuclear arms, abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, exploitation of minorities, regional or international imbalances, destruction of nature. In these times of troubles, we pray that there may emerge from among us persons with a strong sense of mission, revealing the godlike seed in them (GS 3). The pity about modern man is that he/she little realizes the potentiality of the situation, that he/she lives “immersed in a sea of energy.” This energy primarily belongs to the community, and a big portion destined for each person is to be found in the other. It has to be discovered and tapped, not by violent snatching, but by drawing it forth gently from each other: sharing thoughts, evoking emotional support, eliciting collaboration. Neither excessive possessiveness nor supercilious detachment will help. We need continuously to reach out to other insights and heritages, each with its own greatness and depth of wisdom. In other words, our collective wisdom must consult the collective wisdom of the others. It is for this ‘superhuman task’ that we desperately need “great-souled persons” whom the Council longed for (GS 31). Such people will remind us that we belong together and need to look forward to a common destiny. They will explain to the rest of humanity the plan that God formed long ago: “to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as Head. (Eph. 1:10). Could such a person be you?
Missionary vocation • Igino Giordani
uring the time immediately preceding World War II and throughout the length of the war, the Vatican became the safe haven for quite a few Italian politicians who had opposed the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and were escaping harassment and persecution. It was Professor Igino Giordani, a committed Catholic writer working as a librarian at the Vatican Library, who had preceded and opened the way for Alcide De Gasperi, who had come out of prison and was jobless, into the protection of the Vatican. De Gasperi was to become the father of the Italian Democracy and the first Prime Minister of the Italian Republic. Even Pietro Nenni, the historical leader of the Italian Socialist Party, was smuggled inside the Vatican disguised as a priest. The Fascist regime destroyed freedom and human rights, and even Igino Giordani had been persecuted. The Fascist party had organized a populist march into Rome and taken over the Government. Giordani lived the time of the march into Rome as an agony and did not hide his complete opposition to Fascism by means of strong articles in the press and, in 1925, with his book, Catholic Rebellion, in which he dreams of a Unites States of Europe, based on the values of Christian civilization. As a consequence of his courageous stance, he became the object of intense police surveillance and was threatened with internment, but he was protected by the fact that he had been wounded in the war and decorated with the Silver Medal. He, however, lost his teaching post and was subjected to painful cultural isolation. From this, he was rescued by an offer to study Library Technology at Michigan University and then at New York Columbia University. After the specialization course in Bibliography and Library Studies in the United States, in 1928, he was hired as a librarian at the Vatican Library. He was the editor of one of the first organic manuals of cataloguing of its printed works and handwritten manuscripts.
It was during that time that Giordani took special of Alcide De Gasperi who had been recently released from prison, contributing to remove the harassment against him by the police. In his Memoirs, Igino Giordani recalled his intervention with Benito Mussolini himself. He wrote: “I remember that I went to Jesuit Fr. Tacchi Venturi, who enjoyed considerable credit with Il Duce, and begged him to intervene
and, subsequently, De Gasperi was left in peace.” During his long stint in the Vatican, Giordani developed his favorite interests: the study of the Church Fathers and the Social Doctrine of the Church. The successful books he published during this period like The Social Message of Jesus (1935) and Papal Social Encyclicals from Pius IX to Pius XII (1942) witness to this. From there, he
Chiara Lubich nicknamed him â€œMr. Fireâ€? because of his enthusiastic nature. Thinker, writer, editor of magazines, member of the Italian parliament, co-founder of the Focolare Movement, Igino Giordani (1894-1980), a married man and father of four, did not fear to oppose Fascism and paid the consequences of his opposition. He always tried to reconcile the defense of the Church with his independence of spirit and action. Non-violence, brotherhood among peoples and love are some of the topics he developed and fought for during his whole long and saintly life. by
Fr. Lorenzo Carr aro | comboni missionary
also directed the journal, 'Fides,' which was known in Catholic environments throughout the world. It was through them that the re-birth of a post-fascism Catholic political party came about, the Christian Democracy. Out of the Vatican, in 1945, in the first elections after World War II, he was elected to the Italian Parliament and was one of the fathers of the Italian Constitution. Very soon, he would reach
the turning point of his life by meeting Chiara Lubich, the young woman who had started the Focolare Movement at Trent, during the dangerous war years. Shooting in the air
Igino, the first of six children of Mariano Giordani and Ursula Antonelli, was born at Tivoli, near Rome, on September 2, 1894. In 1901, he began elementary school, while he also worked, as a
stone mason, in the footsteps of his father, in order to pay for his education. This is how he wrote about it in his Memoirs of a Naif Christian: "As I entered a new century and elementary school, my father hired me to work with him as a bricklayer in my free time and summer holidays. I remember earning 5 pennies a week, the equivalent of one Italian lira every four weeks. I liked the trade and I strongly desired to become
PACIFIST. Igino lived through war but kept his Christian integrity defending peace.
Although an absolute pacifist by inclination and contrary to Italy entering the war, Giordani could not avoid being called to arms and assigned to the frontline as an infantry officer. He, however, confessed that he never fired a shot against his enemies. autonomous. And I viewed all this from an ethical and heroic point of view." He was twenty and still studying when World War I broke out. Although an absolute pacifist by inclination and contrary to Italy entering the war, Giordani could not avoid being called to arms and assigned to the frontline as an infantry officer. He, however, confessed that he never fired a shot against his enemies, because Christianity forbade murder, but used to discharge his rifle in the air. All the same, in 1916, at the head of his men, he bravely took the extremely risky action of blowing up an enemy barbed wire position and was severely wounded in the leg. He was rushed to several military hospitals in succession and underwent a number of operations before discharge after four years. In the meantime, the war was over and he had taken up again his university studies, gaining his Bachelor in Letters Degree at Rome University. He then started teaching and, at the same time, began the first collaborations and contributions to reviews, magazines and newspapers. He married in 1920. He and his wife, Mya, had four children. He then began working for the newly-
formed Italian Christian political party, founded by Fr. Luigi Sturzo. After his adventure with Fascism and his long permanence at the Vatican Library, about which I have written above, came 1948, the most decisive year of his life. A momentous encounter
Igino Giordani’s meeting with Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, happened in his office at the House of Representatives, Montecitorio, in Rome, in September, 1948. He was 54 and passing through a difficult moment in his spiritual and political life: “I was studying religious topics with passion,” he writes in his Memoirs of a Naif Christian, “but also because I didn’t want to look at my soul whose appearance wasn’t very edifying. It was weighed down by boredom and, in order not to admit to the partial paralysis, I plunged myself into study and wore myself out with activity. I believed there was nothing else to do. To some degree, I possessed all the areas of religious culture: apologetics, ascetics, mysticism, dogma… but I possessed them only as a matter of culture. I didn’t live them within myself.”
That day, in front of his desk, sat a different group, four people including a young woman of 28, Chiara Lubich. Chiara spoke, greeted by some polite skepticism on the part of the parliamentarian. Later, Giordani wrote: “I was prepared to hear a sentimental propaganda about some utopian welfare project. But that was not the case at all. There was an unusual timbre in her voice, the mark of a deep and certain conviction that comes from a life that is supernatural. Suddenly my curiosity was aroused and a fire began to blaze within me.” “When, after thirty minutes, she had finished speaking, I found myself taken up by the enchanted atmosphere: surrounded by a halo of happiness and light. I would have wanted that voice to continue speaking. It was the voice that I, without realizing, was waiting to hear. It put holiness within the reach of all.” “That voice seemed to lead to the removal of the walls interposed between contemplatives and laity, between the consecrated and the common people: walls, behind which the Church had suffered as Christ in Gethsemane. Something happened in me. Love had penetrated and invested those ideas, and its gravitational pull drew me into an orbit of joy.” It was a real and true conversion and to explain the “discovery” he had made, Giordani would often repeat a phrase which he said to so many people during the final years of his life: “I moved away from the library clogged with books, towards the Church inhabited by Christians.” The whole of humanity
On her part, in Igino Giordani, Chiara was offered by God the person who would complete her ideal in an extraordinary way. Igino Giordani was the first married layman to take the promises of consecration to God in the Focolare Movement. He greatly appealed to Chiara with all of his experience in the political and Christian sphere, with his familiarity with the realities of married life, being a family man, as well as an
Missionary vocation • Igino Giordani educator. She says that she "saw in him the whole of humanity.” She regarded him as 'a seed for all the lay vocations’ within the Focolare Movement. She saw in him "this very humanity summed up and renewed by the ideal of unity.” She nicknamed him ‘Foco,’ the ‘Fire' of the Movement for she considered him invested with a real 'charisma' for the Movement. For all this, shortly after the death of Igino, Chiara declared him co-founder of the Movement. Of special note, the deep spiritual relationship with Chiara was the start of an intense mystical period in Giordani’s life. From then onwards, Chiara clearly saw, through Giordani’s life, confirmation that the ideal of unity was made for all, and was a gift for the whole of humanity. Giordani continued his parliamentary activity. Among other things, in 1949, he was one of the authors of the first Bill on Conscientious Objection. But, due to some courageous political decisions (pacifism and unity in spite of the ideological differences, or because of them), in 1953, he was considered as a Christian Democrat out of step and, as a result, was not re-elected. That gave him “the secret joy of dedicating himself completely to the Focolare Movement” as he wrote in his Memoirs. He became the editor of the newly created New City magazine and, from 1961, became the director of Centro Uno, a body within the Focolare Movement working with ecumenism. In 1965, he was nominated president of the international institute Mystici Corporis in Loppiano.
After the death of his wife and with the agreement of his children, he lived the last seven years of his life in the Focolare community. Already over 80 years of age, he wrote two of his most personal books: Journal of Fire (1980) and Memoirs of a Naif Christian which was published after his death. He left this earth on April 18, 1980. A spiritual giant
Igino Giordani was a giant among 20th century Italian religious and civic writers, with over 100 books and some 4,000 published articles. The eminent theologian, Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, acclaimed Giordani as “a master among Italian writers.” Even more important than his theological writings is the story of Giordani’s personal journey to God. Giordani’s true genius is that he imbibed the words of the Scripture and the reflections of the patristic writers, treasured their words in his heart, and endeavored to live them heroically in the ordinary occurrences of daily life: as a soldier on the frontline; as a journalist in Fascist Italy; as a parliamentarian; as a husband and father; and in his work with the Focolare Movement – building unity especially in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Giordani witnessed to the fact that, by loving in each present moment, any lay person can transform their day into a liturgy and their human existence into a divine activity. This is the essence of our baptismal priesthood. “I see Christ in my neighbor; I unite myself with him in the Name of Christ, and Christ
sits in our midst.” He also gave witness with his life and through his books and his various activities as a journalist, he anticipated, in the years before the Second Vatican Council, some topics on the spirituality of the family and the role of the laity in the Church. For this reason, he is often remembered as a precursor of the renewal brought about by the Council. Maria Voce, who succeded Chiara Lubich as President of the Focolare Movement, said: “Politicians can also be saints! Igino Giordani believed it and wanted to become a saint. He said it's not true that one can't be holy while in politics, but that one can become a saint in politics, this is fulfilling his duties as a politician which is what God wanted from him.” He reminded others that all Christians must work to be holy and that politics and holiness don't have to be at odds with each other. As a Chr ist ian, he dec lared: “Before I was searching, now I have found.” He expressed this especially with regard to the fact that the laity could also be Church. As a focolarino, he opened concrete ways for an ecclesiology of communion by proposing the full inclusion of married people into the life of the Focolare, in unity with celibate people and priests. The beatification cause for Giordani opened in June of 2004. Currently, evidence is being collected to prove his heroic values in faith. Giordani isn't the only Italian politician on his way to the altars. Alcide De Gasperi and Giorgio La Pira, a former mayor of Florence, are also being studied for beatification.
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the last word
CONVERSION FROM THE LAW TO THE GOSPEL by
Fr . SILVANO FAUSTI, s.J. | BIBLIST & WRITER
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” – Read Acts 9:1-19a
aul is the best disciple of Gamaliel who was one of the greatest teachers in Israel. Born at Tarsus, land of famous rhetoricians, Paul had a very good human formation , as his letters will testify. “As to the observance of the law, he was blameless” (Philippians 3:6), and he was persecuting the Christians “out of zeal.” He wanted to exterminate them because they were against the law and the tradition of the fathers. In the encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus, Paul sees that all his religiosity is nothing but rubbish if compared with the sublime knowledge of Jesus, his “Lord” (Philippians 3:1-14.8). He discovers the “precious stone”: salvation doesn’t come from the observance of the law, but from accepting God’s love for us. This difficult conversion from the law to the Gospel remains always like a “building site” for every believer of every age. Otherwise, in the name of God’s law, we kill the Human Being who is His Son. This matter is, of course, always – not only during Inquisition times. The Cross of the Son who loves us with the very same Father’s love, discloses the great secret: God is Father/Mother of all. In Jesus, Abraham’s descent, the blessing promised to all peoples (Genesis 12:3b) is fulfilled. Abraham himself is the pattern of whoever has trust in God’s love, the beginning and the end of all. True injustice, origin of every evil, is not to believe in God’s love. Abraham is father of the just, because “he believed the Lord; and God reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Christianity is not a religion: it doesn’t try to conquer God by keeping laws and rites. The law divides good from bad people and supposes a “power of man over man” in order to control, reward and punish. The Gospel, instead, is conscience of being beloved children of God. Hence our freedom to love God and all His children. Love, the “only God’s power,” knocks down every separation and creates communion, in mutual forgiveness and affection. “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). On the Cross, the Son made Himself a curse and sin, in order to reconcile with God every accursed sinner (Galatians
3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Whoever forgets this will never understand why Jesus told us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). This is His law, the law of freedom (Galatians 2:12), ripen fruit of love which is law unto itself. Love, in fact, does good to everybody and doesn’t do evil to anybody: it is “the full realization of the law (Romans 13:10). Jesus’ words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?,” reveal to Paul who is his Lord: He is the Crucified and Risen One who identifies with the people persecuted by Paul because of their impiety. On the Cross, God has revealed Himself: He is all and only love, love which overcomes death and give its life to all. Paul is the model apostle: he will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. His vocation is narrated thrice by Luke in the Acts (9:1-19a; 22:5-16; 26:9-18) and many times remembered by Paul himself (Galatians 1:12-17; Philippians 3:4b-14; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 2 Corinthians 12:2ff ). These repetitions make us revisit, in different circumstances, the meaning of Paul’s call to reveal God’s mystery hidden from eternity. In Paul, the truth of the Gospel shines in all its clarity: we are all children of God and brothers and sisters amongst ourselves. His letter to the Galatians is the great hymn to love’s freedom . It is the Christian identity in specific continuity with Israel. Saul’s conversion is the fruit of Stephen’s martyrdom. The adventure of the persecutor Saul will continue in Paul who is now persecuted because of the One he was persecuting (Cf. Acts 9:23.29). The account of his encounter with the Risen Christ helps to authenticate the throwing open of the Kingdom’s doors to all: God wants to save every human being (1 Timothy 2:4). Even today! In fact, the conversion of the pagan Cornelius will follow, or better Peter’s conversion to the pagans. Only after this conversion can we call ourselves “Christians” (Cf. Acts 11:26). © Popoli – www.popoli.info
REFLECT AND PRAY – God has a plan for each one of us. Have you discovered God’s plan for yourself? – God’s vocation is always on behalf of the community. Do you see your life in this light? – To be called to love is to be called to share Christ’s destiny of suffering. Are you afraid to give way to Christ in your life because you are afraid of suffering?
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- Dr. Edward Mulholland in Protagonists, not Altar Boys: How does Pope Francis view the Laity? www.ncregister.com