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01 The Simplicity of Saint Vincent de Paul

posted Sep 20, 2018, 11:21 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:21 PM ]

St Vincent De Paul's extraordinary life began in 1561 in the village of Pouy, France. He had humble beginnings as the child of peasant farmers. After spending two years as a slave in Tunisia, he returned to France, and became a missionary to prisoners in Paris and Marseilles. He began hospitals, he founded communities where the poor could work to support themselves, and set up homes for orphans. As a result of his devotion to the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, he is the patron of charitable organisations and is called the 'Apostle of Charity'. One might assume, then, that charity was the virtue St Vincent De Paul valued most in his life, but it was not. He often said that simplicity was his "gospel." How can we imitate this virtue of holy simplicity in our own lives? 

The word 'simplicity' has different meanings, and it seems that St Vincent embraced three of them. Each of these meanings is important if we are to understand why St Vincent esteemed simplicity so highly. 

Simplicity as having a single aim or purpose - St Vincent wanted his priests and nuns to be simple in the sense that they did everything out of love of God. He did not want them to do things to impress their superior or out of human respect. He wanted them to be single-minded in their intentions and in their pursuit of God's will. Too often, our intentions are not pure, and we act according to our own will, instead of God's. 

Simplicity in material possessions - St Vincent asked his priests not to have any superfluous things in their rooms, and to avoid owning anything useless. He knew that possessions bring attachment, which hinders us from living for God in complete freedom. St Vincent wanted to imitate Christ in everything. How can we live this kind of simplicity in our lives? Are there unnecessary purchases we could sacrifice, and instead give that money to the poor? Are there items in our homes that we do not use that could be donated to someone who could use them? If we want to imitate Christ the way St Vincent did, we must be willing to go without, in order to help those who are in need. 

Simplicity as sincerity - Above all, simplicity for St Vincent was sincerity in one's words and actions. He tried to always say things as they truly were, to avoid any duplicity or deceit. He said that God speaks to the simple, and that simplicity is the spirit of Jesus. He wanted his communities to practise this virtue, because the world is filled with so much duplicity. Of the three, this may be the most important form of simplicity for us to practise today. 

We live in a society where it is considered normal to present an image of ourselves that is not authentic. Just as in St Vincent's day, this is an obstacle for evangelization and service to the poor. We must have the courage and humility to be seen as we truly are, to speak the truth in love. Then we will be effective in sharing the gospel and in helping the poor, the way St Vincent De Paul was. 

Christ was the source of St Vincent's tenderness with the prisoners on the galleys, living in horrible conditions, when he cleaned their wounds; it was Christ living in St Vincent when he went out into the streets of Paris at night, looking for the children who had been abandoned. Just like the Good Shepherd, St Vincent would pick the children up, wrap them in his cloak to keep them warm, and carry them to his orphanages. If simplicity made it possible for Christ's tenderness and compassion to fill St Vincent's heart, and if it was the spirit of simplicity that allowed Christ to work through him, I hope and pray that each of us can learn to live this beautiful virtue, so that Jesus can do the same for us. 

Sarah Metts is a freelance writer and an aspiring Spanish historian. 
Source: catholicexchange.com

02 Our Lady of Sorrows

posted Sep 13, 2018, 6:00 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:21 PM ]

Every year on Sept. 15, the Church commemorates the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. St Paul told the Corinthians that "we preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor 1:23), and St Clement I, the fourth Pope, urged the Christians of the late first century to "look steadfastly to the blood of Christ" that was shed on the Cross. It was only a matter of time before Christians, in contemplating Christ's Crucifixion, would also turn their attention to those standing near the Cross, especially His sorrowful mother. Prayerful reflection on Sacred Scripture led to the numbering of Mary's sorrows (or dolours) at seven (Mary's seven sorrows). 

In the 13th century, two events occurred that spurred the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows: the founding of the Servite Order and the writing of the Stabat Mater. In 1233, seven cloth merchants left Florence to live a life of prayer and penance. Later, the Blessed Mother appeared to them, and said, "I have chosen you to be my first servants, and under this name, you are to till my Son's vineyard. Here, too, is the habit which you are to wear; its dark colour will recall the pangs which I suffered on the day when I stood by the Cross of my only Son." Their order became known as the Order of Servants of Mary, or Servites; the order grew in numbers; its members spread devotion to Mary's sorrows. 

Features of the devotion included the wearing of the black scapular of the seven sorrows of Mary and the recitation of the Servite Rosary, also known as the Rosary (or chaplet) of the Seven Sorrows. In 1645, Pope Innocent X established the Servites' Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows in its present form. In subsequent centuries, the Servites also promoted the Via Matris (Way of the Mother), a counterpart to the Stations of the Cross, in which the faithful meditate on Mary's seven sorrows. 

Within decades of the founding of the Servite Order, the hymn Stabat Mater was composed, likely by the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306). The most popular English version, often sung in American parishes at Stations of the Cross, begins, "At the Cross, her station keeping." The hymn became popular in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and eventually became part of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the Mass, in which it is an optional sequence before the Gospel. 

As the Stabat Mater grew in popularity, sacred art also increasingly portrayed Mary's sorrows. The image of the Pietà, in which Mary holds the dead body of her son, became increasingly popular from the 14th century; Michelangelo's famous sculpture dates from 1498-99. 

The people of the time were particularly receptive to devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, because "there was great suffering at times among the masses of people, and the plague spared no social class." "As people contemplated this sorrowful Mother with whom they could identify, they saw that while she lamented, she also joined herself to that suffering, and as she said 'yes' at the time of the Annunciation, she said 'yes' to this saving action of Christ and so shared in it." 

Mary's sorrows came to be commemorated liturgically on the Friday before Palm Sunday, and on Sept. 15, the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Lenten commemoration was celebrated throughout the Church from 1727 until 1969; the September commemoration has been part of the Church's calendar since 1815. Source: www.osv.com 

J.J. Ziegler writes from North Carolina in OSV Newsweekly.

03 Mary – Perfect Example of Holiness

posted Sep 6, 2018, 6:03 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:22 PM ]

In September, during the Novena in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, children in parishes are encouraged to come daily to church and express their love for Mary, and be inspired by her life. Many Marian Shrines also celebrate their Annual Feast at this time. As we honour Mary, our Mother, we see in her the perfect example of holiness. 

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, invites us to 'Rejoice and Be Glad' (Mt 5:12). It presents how every member of the Church is called to holiness. The Pope reflects on living the beatitudes today, and seeking holiness in everyday activities. Pope Francis concludes with a paragraph on Mary—"She lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other … Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others." (Gaudete et Exsultate n. 176). 

Mary rejoiced in the presence of God. The Magnificat encapsulates her attitude of finding joy in the Lord as she did His will. Pope Francis describes joy as one of the signs of holiness. He says, "The saints are joyful and full of good humour. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit. The Christian life is 'joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom 14:17)." (n. 122) 

Mary pondered in her heart all the events of her life. In silence and in prayer, she allowed the mystery of God's plan to permeate her whole being. Mary discerned what God was asking of her in each situation. This is another characteristic of holiness—a "habitual openness to the transcendent." The saints discerned what the Spirit was telling them in small and seemingly insignificant choices. They realised that "greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities." Disciples are to listen to the Lord as He challenges them in new ways. "God may be offering us something more, but in our comfortable inadvertence, we do not recognise it." (nn. 147, 169, 172) 

Mary accompanied her Son the whole way, sharing even in His suffering at the foot of the Cross. Mary trusted in God's power to transform the most absurd situation into something meaningful. A shameful event became the deed of salvation by the power of God. Mary reminds her children to be persons of hope, knowing that God will not abandon them. A person who senses the pain and sorrow of another "is capable of touching life's depths and finding authentic happiness" and discovers "the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer." (n. 76) Mary also stands as a sign of solidarity with those in difficulty. She represents those who support others in their anguish when they are deprived of their human dignity or suffer discrimination and humiliation. The Church, taking shape at the foot of the Cross, is meant to be a community that cares and gives hope. Mary stands as a sign of concern and of trust in God's transforming power. Truly, Mary recognised the call to holiness and lived the beatitudes. 

A mother's love brings joy, lifts us up when we are tired and heals our wounds. It encourages and sets free. I have noticed thousands coming to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount to express their devotion to Mary, many of whom are people of other religions. Sometimes, they ask, "Is there a special prayer that we must recite to Mother Mary?" I tell them that while there are specific invocations, we can speak to Mary spontaneously, just as we address our own mother, pouring out our feelings, expressing what is in the depths of our hearts. Surely, Mary knows what lies in the heart of every child of hers. Pope Francis says, "Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: Hail Mary…" (n. 176). We thank God for this wonderful example of holiness that He has given us. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us, and remind each of us of our own calling to holiness in the world today. 

Bp John Rodrigues is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay.

04 Faith and Suffering in Ireland

posted Aug 31, 2018, 1:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:22 PM ]

Pope Francis on August 26, 2018, spoke of the faith in the face of suffering he found in Ireland. “I have found so much faith in Ireland,” Pope Francis said. “The Irish have suffered so much from the scandals, but they know how to distinguish the truth from half-truths.” The Holy Father was in Ireland on August 25-26, 2018, to participate in the World Meeting of Families. He participated in numerous events in Dublin and Knock.

While the planned events were a joyful celebration of family, the issue of the abuse scandal arose on several occasions, with Pope Francis acknowledging the failures of Church leaders, apologising and pledging change. He noted that the healing process continues, but the faith of the Irish people remains solid. “The Irish people have a deeply-rooted and strong faith,” Pope Francis said, “I say that because that’s what I saw, that’s what I heard, that’s what I’ve come to understand over these two days.”

Abuse was front-of-mind among many in Ireland, both because of the recent resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick after the finding of credible abuse allegations, as well as the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on abuse in six dioceses.

The abuse issue received heightened attention by the release of a letter late evening of August 25, 2018, by a former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. In the letter, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò questioned the Holy Father’s response to accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other senior Church officials.

“I say this sincerely: Read it attentively and make your own judgment,” the Pope said in response to reporters’ questions about the Vigano letter. “I will not say a word about this. I believe the document speaks for itself.”

However, the Pope spoke on a number of subjects, including how to try a Bishop accused of abuse. Gently rejecting the wish of Marie Collins (a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors), the Pope said that a standing court such as the one called for in the motu proprio “Come una madreamorevole” is not the best option. Rather, Bishops might be tried by an ad hoc tribunal on a case by case basis. “It functions better that way,” the Pope said, citing the trial of the Archbishop of Guam. He also indicated another trial was proceeding along the same lines.

Asked about how the “People of God” can and should respond to evils perpetrated by priests, Pope Francis urged families to believe their children. “When you see something,” he said, “you must speak out immediately.”

On the other hand, he also criticised irresponsible media outlets for judging people before the facts can be ascertained. He called to mind a case in Granada, where a group of priests had been accused of paedophilia by a student who had written to the Pope. The humiliation the priests suffered proved to be a cruel injustice, because they were later found to be innocent. The Holy Father admitted that the work of journalists is delicate; they must say something, but, he insisted, “always with the presumption of innocence, and not with the presumption of guilt.”

Pope Francis praised the Irish minister who spoke about the tragic case of orphanages run by Irish nuns in Tuam—the subject of an investigation by the authorities into abuses that occurred over many decades. The Holy Father urged caution until the investigation could be completed, and the responsibility of the Church could be determined.

A journalist asked Pope Francis what advice he would give to a father whose child revealed that he or she was homosexual. The Holy Father said he would encourage a parent “to pray, to not condemn, to dialogue, to make room” for their son or daughter—because to ignore them or cast them aside would mean something was missing from their parenthood.

Source: Vatican News

05 SCCs – a call to renewal and revival

posted Aug 23, 2018, 1:32 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:22 PM ]

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in Gaudete et Exsultate, reminds us that growth in holiness is also a journey in community. Living apart makes us vulnerable; living in community, which shares both worship and mission, provides the necessary support and encouragement.

This is the underlying principle of the Small Christian Community, and in this issue of The Examiner dedicated to the SCCs, we reiterate the core values with which they have been established, the success stories and direction for the future. This direction comes, this year, from the SCC Evaluation process (February 2018), the results of which were shared at the July 2018 Clergy Meeting. These will also be released as a printed booklet on September 8, 2018. The Parish SCC Coordinators (priest and layperson) will be sent discussion papers (prepared by Diocesan Commissions, etc.) that can be used at cluster meetings. A creative Steering Committee will probably go beyond the discussion paper and adapt it to local situations. We trust God will direct this process, even as we use the structures that exist, to increase the participation of our people in SCCs.

One of the key elements of the SCC structure at the parish level is the ‘cluster’ - a grouping of families at the local level within each SCC. There are several clusters that meet on a monthly basis; some pray the Rosary daily or weekly, but most of all, clusters are a key to better relationships and stronger bonds among people. As the evaluation results put it: “SCCs are not about meetings of the core group; they are about getting people together, and clusters are the best way to do that!”

The clusters will also be the point where people experience the care of their neighbours, be it to rush someone to hospital in an emergency, or to enquire about the elderly and lonely next door or in the next building. WhatsApp groups have helped share information almost instantaneously, yet the level of loneliness has increased without personal contact. A cluster meeting enables neighbours to become more neighbourly, to find ways to reach out to the homebound, and even to tap the talents of children and youth.

Training is a necessity for us to understand the reasons for SCCs and imbibe the skills required to be good animators of SCCs. Training will be offered more at the parish and deanery level (as expressed by the SCC Evaluation results) and in the vernacular languages to ensure that more people benefit. There will be training offered to priests and seminarians on an ongoing basis, as well as to religious men and women.

Clusters and SCCs require Commitment. One of the articles in this issue outlines some ways to garner commitment. There are no quick-fix answers; what works in one parish may not work in another. Yet, I want to appeal to all sections of the Archdiocese – priests, religious men and women and laypersons to be committed to the task of building SCCs.

I urge all members of Parish Associations and Cells to get involved in building community; participate in the SCCs where you live; offer your expertise and experience (I know of many who do so already), and we shall make the Kingdom of God a reality!

Finally, I want to ask that all of us pray for the efforts of those who work to build SCCs – priests, religious and lay persons – that they may see the value of their work. Prayer is the fuel for all our efforts, and we need to refuel regularly, if we want to renew and revive SCCs in our Archdiocese.

+ Bishop Barthol Barretto, 
Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay

06 Challenges Are Not Lacking!

posted Aug 16, 2018, 5:57 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 11:23 PM ]

We do not need convincing that climate change exists; we have fallen victim to it too many times for that. Each of the last four years has seen record-breaking heat. The decade from 2008 to 2017 was the warmest decade on record in India. This, coupled with mismanagement of water reserves, has led to more drought and water shortages: Shimla, for example, has recently seen its worst-ever water crisis, in turn leading to a 30% drop in flights and hotel bookings compared to last year - bad news for one of India's most popular summer tourist destinations. 

Indeed, the World Bank recently identified climate change as one of the greatest threats to the growth potential of the Indian economy, and predicts a fall in living standards for nearly half of Indians, because of changes in temperature and precipitation. Our country and its people deserve so much better than this torturous future. 

To add insult to injury, the major contributor to climate change – the burning of fossil fuels, and especially coal – provokes a myriad of other problems that cause suffering to Indians, not the least of which is air pollution. In many parts of India today, the irony is that every life-giving breath of air we take also increasingly contributes to our death. This mostly used to be a problem during the winter and around individual weather events – now, in places such as Delhi, toxic air is a threat all year round. More people died of air pollution in India in 2015 –1.81 million – than anywhere else in the world. Closing our eyes to this reality is to avoid the gaze of our conscience. 

So much for the 'empty half of the glass'. The good news is that the solutions to this crisis are still very much in our hands and the hands of our global allies. Solar and wind energy – reliable methods of generating electricity that contribute neither to climate change nor to air pollution – are now cheaper than coal in our country. The argument that coal is the fastest or most sure-shot road to development simply doesn't add up any more, even before taking into account the money needed to treat patients with respiratory problems from harmful power plant emissions, rebuild cities after more intense flooding from climate change, or feed farmers whose crop fails due to more severe droughts – all negative consequences of using fossil fuels. India is already moving from coal to renewable sources of energy, and is becoming renowned as a solar leader globally; the quicker we phase out coal completely, the better. 

At GCAS, Indian businesses and banks are coming to the table with pledges to reduce the emissions associated with their production and investments that prove they are serious about climate change. At COP24, the most important climate summit since the Paris Agreement was signed, India should push hard for a rule book that ensures the Paris Agreement is implemented in a fair and ambitious way by all countries, and prepare to increase the ambition of its own national climate plan to make sure the goals we signed up to in Paris – and on which the lives and livelihoods of large sections of our population depend – are met. 

Pope Francis has appealed for a massive "financial paradigm shift" and "systematic and concerted efforts aimed at an integral ecology" that put human dignity and care of our common home at their heart. The scale of the Pope's call, in his speech, 'Challenges are not lacking' may sound daunting, but opportunities are not lacking, either. And huge challenges are something our country has a proud history of meeting with huge courage. 

Bp Allwyn D'Silva is Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay & Secretary of the FABC Climate Change Desk.

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