No. 452 March2006
Dear Brother Oblates and Oblate Associates,
On February 17, we celebrate the trust the Church has placed in us. Some 180 years ago, with the pope's approving the little congregation of Saint Eugene, this trust was expressed for the first time on the level of the universal Church. Certainly, that was not the last time. We can find a more recent example in the approval of our current Constitutions and Rules of 1982. On that occasion, Cardinal E. Pironio once again reminded the Oblates of “the specific mission entrusted to them by the Church.” (CCRR, p. 14) And then, ten years ago, a new event which greatly enhanced the Church's trust in us was the canonization of our Founder.
Nevertheless, one could say that what is essential had already taken place in 1826. Some weeks ago, while I was chatting with the Superior General of a congregation that is still awaiting the beatification of its founder, he told me that, although they are anxiously looking forward to the beatification, they considered more important the approbation of their institute, something that happened a long time ago. I believe he is correct. In our case too, one could say that the Church recognized the presence of God in a person who is very important for us when it declared our Founder to be a saint; of this we can be proud. But let us not forget that long before that, the Church had recognized the charism present in our entire community, including Saint Eugene, when she approved the institute in 1826.
Therefore, it is good that we continue to celebrate each year the fact that the Church already recognized our charism, ever since the days when the Congregation was setting out to evangelize Southern France. Furthermore, recently we had the blessing of the canonization! But we must not rest on our laurels. Why? Because one must earn and win the trust of the Church again and again!
A year ago, I had an interesting conversation with an Oblate who is bishop in a western country. I reminded him that many congregations, and ours in particular, were founded precisely to help the Church in moments of change and of crisis, similar to what we are living today in a secularized world. Historically, when ordinary pastoral measures were no longer sufficient, there were apostolic congregations to blaze new trails. The bishop acknowledged that to be true, but he revealed to me that among the hierarchy in his country, some are hesitant to ask for this kind of help from religious. According to him, the question of many bishops is this: “Can we trust the religious?”
In our conversation, we did not delve into what could lie behind this question. Could it simply be that they don't know us well? Is it a question of unreliability among religious in diocesan ministries? Are some religious seen as too much driven by ideologies? Sometimes, besides ideological differences, it can also happen that religious, including the Oblates, think more of their own institutes than of the common good of the Church. Of course, besides the bishops, it would be necessary to listen also to ordinary Christians. Would they make similar observations? That's certainly possible. Whatever the case may be, we need to admit that the vote of confidence the Church gave once upon a time, in our case, 180 years ago, is not enough in itself. It is not enough to have pontifical approbation – the trust of the Church must be earned anew.
There could be peaceful coexistence based on the official approbation, but that is not enough in order to work together in times of crisis. That is a thought that is valid in all situations, since there are crises to be found not only in secularized countries. The reality of being part of a minority group, or of living in situations such as a civil war, can be much more dramatic than secularity. The contribution of a congregation such as ours can be crucial, not only for the faithful, but also for civil society itself. But what is one to do when, in the midst of all this, there is the question, “Can we trust them?”
One could turn the question around. There is a proverb that says: “If you want to have friends, you need to be a friend.” If some members of the Church, whether they be bishops or Christian laity, express certain doubts about us, it could worry us and even offend us. But in order to win their friendship, do we ourselves know how to be good friends? Do we ourselves know how to trust other members of the Church, including its leaders, especially if they have a philosophy, a theology or an ecclesiology different from our own? I realize this is a delicate topic. It's true that one cannot impose mutual trust; it can be built only with patience. But one thing is certain: we must do our part.
It does not bother me if someone expresses misgivings about certain trends in the Church, or that we speak out boldly on behalf of the truth denouncing inconsistencies with the Gospel. That can clear the air and level the way for closer cooperation. What bothers me is when our criticism becomes bitter and we no longer expect an improvement in relationships. In the communications media, we hear of many problems and scandals. While objective information is always useful, don't we allow ourselves, at times, to be influenced by the slant with which the information is presented? There is a “worldly” mentality which sees the Church, especially the Catholic Church, as the principal obstacle to freedom and progress. Let us not lose our faith perspective! When there are bitter criticisms among Christians, the question can be asked: would the Founder of the Church want such a climate in the Church?
Saint Eugene loved the Church, even though he was very aware of her weaknesses and had personally suffered because of them. He expressed his belief in this way in 1860: “How is it possible to separate our love for Jesus Christ from that we owe to his Church? These two kinds of love merge: to love the Church is to love Jesus Christ, and vice-versa.” (Selected Texts, # 51) The Church, according to the imagery of Vatican II, is the people of God on the move, under the guidance of the new Moses; it is also the Body of Christ, and makes the Risen One present in the world – and this applies not to some ideal or non-existent Church, but to the real and human Church, holy and sinful at the same time.
One hundred and eighty years after the pontifical approbation, let us continue building trust! The Church needs us today as much as it did in the days when our Founder wrote the preface to our rules: “The Church earnestly appeals to the ministers whom she herself enrolled in the cause of her divine Spouse, to do all in their power, by word and example, to rekindle the flame of faith that has all but died in the hearts of so many of her children.” If there is trust, then we can continue making our contribution.
And how can we build this mutual trust? By way of conclusion, I would like to suggest some ways, in three steps.
First, we need to be convinced that is worthwhile to make an effort to build trust within the Church.
It is worth the effort because in the Church, we are all in the same boat – we either steer together, sails to the wind, or we find ourselves heading for shipwreck. It is worth the effort also because we can show God's love to the world only if this love exists first of all among ourselves. If we cannot achieve trust among believers, how can the power of the Risen One work through us? On the other hand, if we show forth the beautiful side of the Church, many will realize what a wonderful thing our faith really is. This is where one encounters the source of every individual vocation, including missionary, priestly and religious vocations.
Secondly, we must live and act in such as way as to earn trust.
For this, it is sufficient to live our vocation. A generous missionary life speaks for itself and at times convinces even the “bad press.” With even more reason, a well-lived missionary life will build and maintain trust in our Congregation on the part of the People of God and its leaders. It was parish missions and work with youth that convinced Pope Leo XII to approve of us, and not the beautiful Latin found in our documents.
In this present age of profound change, this missionary work includes some exceptional difficulties. We must seek ways to reach people who still believe but who have distanced themselves; ways to open dialogue with believers of other religions; ways to encourage reconciliation among different ethnic groups. Nor should we neglect the dimension of critical reflection, including through higher studies.
In all of this, we must be mindful of the community dimension, not only because “what we dream alone will remain always just a dream, but what we dream with others can become reality,” (WAC #7), but also because community life creates an atmosphere of trust within the Church.
Thirdly, it is important to move forward with the explicit intention of building trust within the Church.
We Oblates are known as men of the Church, and that is an asset with which we can work. Let us learn to be friends with other church groups. Why not be in touch with people who are exploring new models of evangelization and offer our collaboration? Sometimes, we can contribute our own little piece of the picture, for example, by creating “pilot communities” such as mentioned by the last Chapter. (WTH #3)
On February 17, let us celebra te the trust whic h we enjoy on the part of the Church, remembering that 180 years ago, we received papal approbation and 10 years ago, we were able to rejoice at the canonization of our Fonder. Let us nurture that trust of the Church as a treasure that must always continue to grow. Our very name is a reminder of that February 17, since it is only since papal approbation that we call ourselves Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In Mary, the Church is what it should be: “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Eph. 5:27) With the presence and indispensable assistance of Mary, Mother and co-disciple of each one of us, we will be able to contribute our part in increasing the level of trust in the Church and thus help her to achieve her mission. Happy February 17!
Rome, January 22, 2006
Between Aura and Carlos Marighella there is a street that is extremely dangerous because of a famous gang. They are youngsters from several streets and neighbourhoods of Ananindeua who come together to sell drugs and rob people. It is called “ 13 th Street ” or the “Street of Terror.” Several times each week there is crossfire between gangs or between gangs and the police.
Anderson, a dangerous hoodlum aged 14, was murdered by another gang. Pinochio, 18 years old, was tortured and murdered too. They literally cut him to pieces. The next gang leader was Ferdinando, the “blond devil,” 17 years old, at one time in prison in Funcap for assaults and murders. He escaped and I was able to chat with him. He assured me that he would like to move away. But as leader of a gang, he felt connected.
One Sunday when I was out on the street after some visits, he was sitting on the sidewalk. When I passed by, he greeted me. It was the beginning of a friendship. But friendship grows slowly. It's something like that of the Little Prince and the fox.
As soon as I had left, three boys from another gang came along and invited him to take a beer with them in the neighborhood. But they deceived him. They stabbed him in the back. He ran into an Assembly of God church. The pastor helped him to sit down. But the other three ran into the church and stabbed him to death. He died in the church.
I wanted to cry. Is it possible to cultivate a friendship with a “bandit?”
The residents of 13 th Street take their children to sleep on another street to avoid stray bullets. That's when I resolved to do something. Are we Oblates not called to difficult missions? But what was there to do?
I began to visit the families and we organized a celebration. In commenting on the Gospel, I challenged the people to transform the “Street of Terror” into the “Street of Peace.” The mothers asked me to do something for the children who had grown accustomed to violence and drugs. They invited ten children; 45 showed up! Where could we gather?
I decided to rent an abandoned house. The owner of the house had killed his wife in July because of jealousy and he had fled. It has a big yard with trees that give abundant shade. I invited a young Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph to help me, as well as the little choir from the parish in Marambaia. It was their “baptism by fire!” They were frightened to death. But they talked and joked with the children and adolescents and everything turned out fine.
But conquering fear is complicated! My Oblate community does not let me sleep in that house because it is not safe. One day the police paid me a visit. With their usual delicacy, they broke the locks, thinking I was hiding drugs in the house. The neighbors protested and the police left.
The mothers told me that the young drug traffickers have decided to move from the area. The families are bringing their children home to sleep. They are beginning to overcome their fear. Someone suggested that we put a sign on the entry to the street that is so infamous in the whole city: a new name – The Street of Peace. However, the war is not won with a single battle.
BORZAGA, Mario (Italy). Diario di un uomo felice. (Diary of a Happy Man). This is the actual diary of Fr. Mario Borzaga, OMI, from 1956 until his death in Laos in 1960 at the hands of the Pathet Lao. A reprint of the 1985 edition. Vita Trentina Editrice, Trento, 2005. 745pp.
CHOQUE Charles (Lacombe) Ataatatsiaraluk – Journal du Grand Nord (Diary of the Great North). The story of the evangelization efforts of Bishop Arsène TURQUETIL among the Inuit people of northern Canada. Novalis. Ottawa, 2005, 290 pp.
CICCONE, Renato (Italy): Cento anni di vita dei Missionari Oblati nella città di Maddaloni. (One Hundred Years of the Life of the Missionary Oblates in the City of Maddaloni). The story of 100 years of Oblate presence in a town in the southern part of Italy in the province of Caserta. It is also rich in recounting the story of the Oblates as missionaries to the Eskimos, as well as in Laos, Senegal, Uruguay, Indonesia, and Romania. Editrice Missioni OMI, S. Maria a Vico, 2005, 316 pp.
Citarella M. Rosaria and Storella Ada (Italy) Il Carisma Missionario delle COMI nel pensiero del Fondatore P. Gaetano Liuzzo OMI. (The Missionary Charism of COMI in the thought of the Founder, Fr. Gaetano Liuzzo OMI). A small booklet on the charism of the Secular Institute founded by Fr. Liuzzo, the Cooperatrici Oblate Missionarie dell'Immacolata. 138 pp.
Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay : Psalms. Inuit and English translation of the Book of Psalms. Includes translations by Théophile DIDIER and Robert LECHAT. Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, 2005, 172 pp.
FLAVIN, James (USA). St. Stephen's Gate. Calling upon the experience of his over 40 years in ministry, this Oblate author focuses his writing on two principal themes: the Hispanic presence in the Church in the United States and a comparison of religious education in Protestant and Catholic parishes. Unity Street Books, Milton, MA., 2005, 141 pp.
GAUTHIER Roger (N.D.-du-Cap) J'ai fini d'avoir peur de Dieu (I've stopped being afraid of God). The author tells of how he has been freed from the image of a terrifying God, an omnipotent and demanding God, so that he could approach a God who, as a Father, uses his power in service of his love for his child. Éditions Fides. Québec, 2005, 128 pp.
Gheddo, Piero. Marcello Zago, Una vita per la Missione (Marcello Zago, a Life for the Mission). A long-time personal friend of the late Superior General of the Oblates wrote this brief biography of Archbishop Marcello Zago, OMI. He recounts the passion that Marcello had for the mission of the Church, from his entry in to the minor seminary at age 12 until his untimely death in 2001. Editrice Provincia d'Italia dei Missionari OMI: Roma, 2005, 133 pp.
O'DONOVAN, Richard (Anglo-Irish). Mary of Nazareth. Subtitle: Prefigured in Old Testment Times and Post-Figured in New Testament Times. The author goes through the list of women who figure prominently in the Bible, pointing out their important role in the unfolding of sacred history, and leading eventually to the New Eve, Mary of Nazareth. Privately printed. 223pp.
PARRETTA Nicola (Italy) Il Canto delle Nozze di Dio Amore (The Wedding Song of the God who is Love) A series of meditations on the sustaining presence of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. There is also a section of meditations on the motherly presence of Mary. Centro Agape. Messina, 2005, 125 pp.
PEREZ Leopoldo and Davis Kenneth (USA) Preaching the Teaching. A compilation of texts by various authors meant to help the preacher proclaim the social justice teaching of the Church to an Hispanic congregation in such a way as to instruct and motivate. University of Scranton Press. Scranton, 2005, 229 pp.
PIELORZ, Józef (France-Benelux): Martyrologium Polskich Oblatów 1939-1945. (A Polish Oblate Martyrology 1939-1945).The story of the Polish Oblates who, during the Second World War, were deported to concentration camps, killed while under arrest, shot, or who simply died because of the war. Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Theology: Studies and Texts, Poznan, 2005, 435 pp.
VYSHKOVSKYY Pavlo (Ukraine Delegation) La Testimonianza di Fede della Chiesa romano cattolica in Ucraina durante la persecuzione comunista 1917-1991 (The Witness of Faith of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine during the Communist Persecution 1917-1991). The first Ukrainian Oblate of Mary Immaculate describes the brutal yet unsuccessful efforts of the communist regime to wipe out the Catholic faith in Ukraine. Dissertation for the doctorate in spiritual theology submitted to the Pontifical Teresianum Institute of Spirituality. Rome, 2005, 465 pp.
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