Reflections
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Missioners Sharing Their Stories

Editor: Fr. Jack is presently serving as Executive Director of the United States Catholic Mission Association, headquartered in Untitled-1Washington, DC. His article was published in his office’s 2013 Summer Mission Update Newsletter.

One of the most uplifting aspects of my ministry as Executive Director of the USCMA is perusing mission publications sent to us by many member organizations – Columbans, Glenmary, Jesuit, Comboni, Maryknoll, Scarboro, Franciscan, AFJN, CVN, …, to name only a few. Not only do these publications give me a sense of who our member organizations and individual missioners are, but they also give insights into the vast scope of where and how the mission of the Church is vibrant and life-giving today through presence, proclamation and dialogue.

Courage in Adversity

I am continually inspired by their courage in the face of adversity, their ingenuity in unchartered waters, their daring where challenges abound, their graceful hope when obstacles seem overwhelming, and their steadfast vision as they are sometimes compelled to stare into darkness surrounded by isolation, loneliness, scarcity, and uncertainty. Rather than be beaten by the difficulties they encounter, these missioners – be they dedicated laity, consecrated religious or ordained ministers – remain staunch in their faith as they inevitably adapt the Gospel message to countless cultural ambiguities.

Read more: Missioners Sharing Their Stories

Pope to Clergy and Religious

Editor: The is a homily of Pope Francis at a Mass with Bishops, Priests, Religious, and Seminarians at the Cathedral of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013 during World Youth Day celebrations.

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Pope preaching to the clergy and
religious in the Cathedral of St.
Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Seeing this Cathedral full of Bishops, priests, seminarians, and men and women religious from the whole world, I think of the Psalmist’s words from today’s Mass: “Let the peoples praise you, O God” (Ps 66). We are indeed here to praise the Lord, and we do so reaffirming our desire to be his instruments so that not only some peoples may praise God, but all.

With the same (enthusiasm) of Paul and Barnabas, we proclaim the Gospel to our young people, so that they may encounter Christ, the light for our path, and build a more fraternal world. I wish to reflect with you on three aspects of our vocation: we are called by God, called to proclaim the Gospel, and called to promote the culture of encounter.

1. Called by God – It is important to rekindle an awareness of our divine vocation, which we often take for granted in the midst of our many daily responsibilities: as Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). This means returning to the source of our calling.

Read more: Pope to Clergy and Religious

One Encyclical from Two Popes

It perhaps has never happened before, that an encyclical was begun by one pope – Benedict XVI – and completed by another – Pope Francis.

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Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI (left) greets
Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome

In announcing the publication of Lumen Fidei (the Light of Faith), Archbishop Fisichella explained that Benedict XVI was asked to write an encyclical on faith, given that his previous works were on love and hope. Cardinal Marc Ouellet stated: “The light of faith is passed from one pontiff to another like a baton in a relay [race], thanks to the ‘gift of the apostolic succession.’”

An encyclical is usually a circular letter to be distributed to Church Patriarchs and other prelates. However, with Pope Francis talking over the completion of this unfinished task, he has judiciously addresses this letter, “to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, consecrated persons and the lay faithful…”, thereby putting his own unique stamp on this extensive document.

About Faith in the Year of Faith

The appropriateness of this encyclical letter on faith is fairly obvious, since it was designed to be released at the conclusion of the Year of Faith – concluding on the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 24, 2013.

Read more: One Encyclical from Two Popes

Pope Francis on Twitter

Untitled-1For those who may not yet know what “tweeting” is, the Oxford English dictionary has recently added another definition; namely, “to make a posting on the social networking service Twitter,” and “to use Twitter regularly or habitually.”

For the uninitiated, Twitter enables its users to send and read text-based messages on the internet of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". Since its launch, Twitter has become one of the ten most visited websites on the Internet.

Pope Francis has a twitter account with some 2,948,456 English followers (subscribers).

His recent “tweets” on various topics give a good overview of his personal faith and could be useful points for our meditation. They include:

The Gospel:

  • Christians are ready to proclaim the Gospel because they can’t hide the joy that comes from knowing Christ.
  • To live according to the Gospel is to fight against selfishness. The Gospel is forgiveness and peace; it is love that comes from God.

Poverty:

Stop Myanmar Religious Hatred

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The leaders of the major religions in Myanmar launched a strong appeal to the nation to stop religious violence and build together the well-being and "a future of hope for the country": says a joint statement issued at the conclusion of a meeting held in Yangon by the U.S. Ambassador Derek Mitchell and sent to Fides Agency.

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Msgr. Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of
Yangon, stands inside a Vatican City Courtyard
The ambassador and the entire international community had been asked to give a contribution to bring religious harmony in Myanmar - after clashes between Muslims and Buddhists registered in recent months – by His Exc. Mgr. Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, present at the meeting and signatory of the appeal as a representative of the Catholic Church.

"As a nation, we have begun a journey that is a new dawn of hope in our nation," reads the text sent to Fides Agency by Archbishop Bo and signed, among others, also by Muslim leader U Aye Lwin, of the "Islamic Center of Myanmar", and by the Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw. The text urges all the people of Burma "to embark on a journey of friendship that will bring peace and prosperity for all."

The statement recalled that the government has started a process of gradual opening to international relations, launched reforms, reduced censorship, freed political prisoners, praising the efforts to "bring greater peace and harmony."

Read more: Stop Myanmar Religious Hatred

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

Having grown up in a family of poor French-Canadian immigrants, I was always mesmerized by the strength and utter determination of my relatives to “make something of themselves”, as one of my uncles used to say.

As a young man, my maternal grandfather was a true farm boy. He was built like an ox, with his broad shoulders and muscular build. His own family life growing up on the family farm, according to my mother, was filled with work and much love.

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Fr. Fred Julien, M.S.
(1910-2000)
in white cassock, serving
in our Philippine Missions
after his liberation from
the Japanese Prison Camp
In those tough Depression era years in the White Mountains of Berlin, New Hampshire, he married and was a determined breadwinner, having the considerable responsibility of providing for eleven children, along with his frail, loving wife. Yet he managed to maintain a playful nature. As he was wont to do, he would lay on the couch in the parlor of his farmhouse and rest briefly. Whenever he heard one of his children coming in, he would act as if he was asleep. The children would love to sneak over and tickle his big handlebar mustache which he would twitch slightly to the complete delight of his children. He was so strong yet he was a fun-loving, card-playing happy husband and father.

When I was very young, I used to also admire the priests in my parish in Hartford, CT, all La Salette Missionaries. They too were a wonderful mixture of dedication, strength of character yet were just delightful to talk with. My pastor was a somewhat rotund, jolly, red-faced Irishman. Our parish was very large, with a two-track grammar school but he always had time to share a kind word and sometimes even a joke with the children who often gathered around him! He was one of the reasons why I became a La Salette Missionary.

As I entered the La Salette High School Seminary in Hartford, right next to my old grammar school, I felt very much at home in this religious community. I remember being very impressed with the La Salettes who came back from the missions in Burma and Madagascar. They were such wonderful men and their stories were absolutely fascinating.

Read more: When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

A Positive Outlook

Untitled-1From my earliest days, I remember my parents always emphasizing that there is good in everyone and that my parents love me and God loves me as well. As I grew up, challenges came and battles were won or lost but I managed to maintain a positive outlook nevertheless. By the grace of God and with my family’s support, I have been able to become the positive person I am.

In working with groups of people, I have become involved in planning – what we refer to in church circles as “pastoral planning” – what business people would call “management by goals and objectives.” It worked as far as it went but there were always those nagging negative questions that remained to haunt us: Where do we get the money? Where do we find more volunteers? Struggling with these negative areas of concern often seemed to take the air out of my positive attitude and I had to fight to keep a positive approach in planning.

A few years ago, a priest led our religious community in a pastoral planning workshop but used a very different approach, called “Appreciative Inquiry” which he translated in religious terms as “Appreciative Discernment.” It was fascinating and it worked well.

Read more: A Positive Outlook

Mary, Our Pioneer in Aging

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 Icon of Joachim, Anne and the
Virgin Mary in which Mary is
shown appearing from the "tree
of Jesse", indicating her
ancestral lineage

Every day can be for us a new beginning! We grow older, hopefully in wisdom and grace as well as in years. As Christians, throughout the year we celebrate the feasts and humanity of Jesus. He is like us in all things but he never did grow old. How then, can Jesus pioneer for us the joys and sorrows of the aging process?

In reflecting on our own aging process, we might want to learn from Jesus’ grandparents, using our religious imagination as did those in the early church community. How might Anne or Joachim, as they named these parents of Mary, have found God, in their joy with the holy family, and even in their limits and diminishments? In our prayer, we can ask them. And then, be quiet and listen.

Mary too can be our pioneer in aging. Some thirty years after the nativity, …she was filled again with the power of the Holy Spirit and anointed with fire, zeal for the good news her Son had preached and died for.

Pondering Pentecost

We can, using our imaginations in prayer, wonder about Mary’s later life through Ignatian contemplation, setting various scenes with our senses and feelings, joining Mary in her own growing in wisdom and grace. Ponder the upper room in your heart where she gathers with 12 frightened friends. After Pentecost, what gifts of the Spirit impelled her? Where, what, how was her mission? How did she serve the community and witness to those interested in her son? How did she pray? Ask her. Listen.

Read more: Mary, Our Pioneer in Aging

Pope Francis - the People of God

Editor: This is Pope Francis’ address from his weekly General Audience held in St. Peter’s Square on June 12, 2013.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to briefly highlight another term with which the Second Vatican Council has defined the Church, as "the People of God " (cf. Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, 9; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 782). And I do so with some questions, on which everyone can reflect.

1. What does it mean to be “People of God”?

Untitled-1Firstly it means that God does not belong specifically to any people; because it is He who calls us, summons us, invites us to be part of his people, and this call is addressed to us all, without distinction, because God’s mercy “wants salvation for everyone” (1Tm 2,4)… Jesus does not say to the Apostles and to us to form an exclusive group, an elite. Jesus says: go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28,19).

Saint Paul states that in the people of God, in the Church, “there is no longer Jew nor Greek ... since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3,28). I would also say to those who feel far away from God and the Church, the one who is fearful or indifferent, who thinks he can no longer change: the Lord calls you to join his people and does so with great respect and love!

2. How does one become a member of this people?

Read more: Pope Francis - the People of God

Mary, Our Mother

Editor: On May 4, 2013, Pope Francis once again visited St. Mary Major’s Basilica in Rome and delivered a beautiful teaching on Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood, bringing in practical similarities between Mary’s challenges and ours. She understands us well and teaches us many things.

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Pope Francis speaks with enthusiasm to the
crowd in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City
…we are here before Mary. We have prayed under her motherly leadership that she guide us to be ever more united to her Son Jesus. We have brought her our joys and our suffering, our hopes and our struggles; we have invoked her by the beautiful title of Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People) imploring her for us all, for Rome, for the world that she grant us health. Yes, because Mary gives us health, she is our health.

Jesus Christ, by his Passion, Death and Resurrection, has brought us salvation, granting us the grace and the joy of being children of God, to truly call him by the name of Father. Mary is the mother, and a mother worries above all about the health of her children, she knows how to care for them always with great and tender love. Our Lady guards our health. What does this mean: Our Lady guards our health? I think above all of three things: she helps us grow, to confront life, to be free.

1. A mother helps her children grow up and wants them to grow strong; that is why she teaches them not to be lazy — which can also derive from a certain kind of wellbeing — not to sink into a comfortable lifestyle, contenting oneself with possessions. The mother takes care that her children develop better, that they grow strong, capable of accepting responsibilities, of engaging in life, of striving for great ideals.

Read more: Mary, Our Mother

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Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

 

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