Chennai – March 19th is celebrated as Saint Joseph’s Day. This year on this special occasion the Don Guanella Major Seminary community invited the Guanellian family to be nourished spiritually and physically. A special Mass was celebrated by superior Fr. Samson along with all the community fathers and brought the blessings of the Lord amidst us. People who are sponsoring the seminarians were invited as special guests for the event. As a sign of gratitude, they were honored for their benevolence to our community and given a memento for their generous contribution to our congregation. Everyone enjoyed a delicious meal and Fr. Samson concluded the day with a final blessing.
Cuddalore – March 11th was a great day for St. Joseph’s Evening School, the children, teachers, staff and Fr. Arockia Raj went on an outing. The tour began with an amazing boat trip through the canals of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest. The second stop was at Poombuhar where everyone ate lunch and enjoyed taking photos at the sea. But the best part of the day was when they reached Tharangambadi beach: the children were so happy and joyful, playing in the waves and sand, collecting seashells, and running on the seashore. When it came time to leave, it was really hard to get them out of the water. Everyone enjoyed the entire day, every place they visited and playing songs, singing and dancing during the travel. They arrived home that night, tired but happy to have spent a wonderful day out.
Bangalore – Every year to meditate on the passion of Christ, the Guanella Preethi Nivas community ‘climbs the mount.’ A few of the residents and staff took part in the Calvary journey led by Frs. Nevis and Gabriel and Bro. Regent on March 2nd. As a Lenten preparation, parishioners from area villages gathered to take part in the passion of Jesus. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Mass were offered on ‘Mt. Calvary’ which is in the forest near Mudhiyanur. With the protection of forest guards they worshiped safely without disturbance by the wild animals. At the end, lunch was served by the parishioners in the forest.
Anytime the subject of marriage comes up in a conversation, the questions are always the same. Why is the Church so adamantly opposed to “gay marriages” and civil unions? Doesn’t the Church’s stance discriminate against homosexuals? What harm is done if homosexual activity is between consenting adults? How does it affect my marriage and family? Why does the Church care if in fact the Church won’t be required to witness such unions?
These are just some of the questions debated today over gay marriage and civil unions. For the sake of the record, there is no difference between the two: just different terminology for the same thing. It seems however, that some advocates use civil unions as a stepping stone to legitimize gay marriage.
As the debate continues, it’s really important that Catholics understand why this is such a critical moral issue and why the Church is involved. And we begin with a review of the Church’s fundamental teaching about marriage. As Catholics we believe that matrimony is a sacred institution, designed by God and raised to a level of a sacrament by Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly sets forth God’s plan for the human race: “God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gn 1,27-28).
The teaching of the Church explains: the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws. God Himself is the author of marriage.
The two divinely established purposes of marriage are obvious: to promote life and love and to be creative and unifying. “This life giving complementarity between the sexes is natural and normative. Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another.” (Catechism, #1604). A statement of the Pontifical Council for the family explains it this way: “We can also see how incongruous the demand is to grant marital status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God… Marriage cannot be reduced to a condition similar to that of a homosexual relationship: this is contrary to common sense.” (#23).
The statement refers to “common sense and I think that’s important. When we learned about the birds and the bees, it was always male and female; it was always male and female birds and bees, wasn’t it? Some advocates of homosexuality point to the fact that there is evidence of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom, and I suppose that’s true. But it always emerges as an exception to the norm.
Finally, even from a biological standpoint, the “facts of life” are obvious: man and woman are physically designated for union with each other. In short, from the evidence of the Bible, the teaching of the Church, common sense and biology, so called gay marriages and civil unions are contrary to God’s plan, morally objectionable, and an unacceptable substitute for marriage.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
Bangalore – Guanellian Cooperators and Lay Movement members of the Guanella Preethi Nivas community paid a Lenten visit to the GPN residents February 25th-26th. In the evening on the first day all made a pilgrim walk to St. Joseph’s Church, Soosaipuram reciting the Rosary and visiting the mother Mary statue which came from Fatima, Portugal. On the next day, members were so dynamic in doing the mission for our residents: cutting nails, giving them showers, and cooking a variety of delicious food for our residents. At noon the Holy Eucharist was offered for the intentions of the residents and the GLM. The residents thoroughly enjoyed the meal. After lunch everyone gathered for an inspirational, motivational talk by Mr. Rosario, brother of Fr. Ligory, who shared an anecdote of his life.
The resurrection of Jesus creates hope for our present and future existence. We see and recognize God present in each and every creation that has the capacity for complete transformation and fulfillment. We have a partial resurrection in each and every minute of our lives as we exist on earth: child leaving the womb, the adolescent entering the adult life, the adult experiencing middle-age crises and finally the human person leaving this earthly life with his/her death, all these move towards a fuller life. Are we living our lives with a hope of resurrection or minds filled with all the negative elements over self and others? Easter is a call for all of us to see the goodness of each other and avoid finding fault with others because of our disillusionment.
Resurrection is a missional event to enter into new ventures like that of the disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not an event of fear but the event of peace and joy. The very first word that Jesus uttered to the disciples was “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21) or “Fear Not” because they were filled with fear. Our mission, hence, is not to create our own presence but be the presence of the Risen Christ that leads people, structures, systems and cultures. Be ever ready with an open mind and heart to become border crossing persons because the scenario we are living in is impelling us for missionary stations. Instead of saying something like the system is not good or the persons in authority are not very effective, let’s strive to create an impact of the resurrected Jesus by giving hope to others amidst desolation.
In this hope and joy filled season of Easter, may I earnestly make an appeal to all for a personal experience and encounter with the living Christ as we are fast approaching the 20th General Chapter. Please be filled with the presence of the Resurrected Jesus by increasing our prayers and be spiritually united with the delegates of the chapter. May this Easter be an illumining experience of the Risen Christ the light of all nations to move beyond our bindings and borders to become intercultural persons filled with hope and courage to be Servants of Charity to the universe!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
I met Cruz on a sidewalk in Detroit begging for money: she was addicted, hungry and homeless. I convinced her to enter a residential program where she would be treated with dignity and love. She accepted. I drove her with the promise of visiting her as often as I could. Cruz spent three years trying to get around that mandate as she stayed stuck in the disease of addiction. Not until she finally gave up faking it, got honest with herself and got into recovery did she make any progress. The two-word requirement fundamental to sobriety is rigorous honesty.
Cruz grew up in a rough part of East Detroit, MI, where her drug addiction was almost inevitable. She lived in the drug world and she inherited the genetic brain disease. At age 13, her drug was marijuana and she got hooked on cocaine at age 18. By the time she was in her forties she lost everything, including her four children. Cruz moved away to get a new start, but she found out that her disease came with her. Between 2001 and 2007, she spent three years in jail for committing crimes to buy drugs. She wasn’t a good criminal, because she always got caught.
In jail, for the first time, she wanted to be sober. In 2014, she entered Our Hope, the women’s recovery home in the Heritage Hill district of Grand Rapids. That’s when she first tried to get honest. She told her therapist, “I was afraid of my feelings, so I buried them with anger and drugs.” Cruz stayed sober in a Recovery Roadhouse for six months before disaster struck. The father of her children went to prison for dealing drugs, and since she didn’t have custody of them, her four children were given up for adoption. She lost all hope and went on a two year binge. Then her children’s father got out of jail, and Cruz got pregnant. In November 2016, she delivered a healthy baby girl who was taken away from her in the hospital.
When Cruz was discharged, she went straight to a drug clinic, where they gave her a second chance at Our Hope. She said God, too, gave her another chance to be the good mother she always wanted to be. This time at Our Hope the counselors insisted Cruz had to get rigorously honest with her feelings if she wanted to stay sober. Finally Cruz understood that she was the problem. “Before when I was hurt, I used. When I was angry, I used. When I was sad, I used. When I was happy, I used.” Our Hope taught her how to be emotionally honest, the sine qua non of recovery. Our Hope’s program also led her out of the chaotic life her brain disease created into the structured, orderly days she leads now. Cruz has a job, lives in the Catholic Community’s first Step House, has a sponsor, a recovery coach, and best of all, sees her seven month old daughter whose foster mother has cared for her as her own child.
Cruz dreams of having her older children back in her life one day. She prays, “They will want to find me and see me as the good mother I always wanted to be for them. I never thought God would let me be a mother again. Now by God’s grace, I have another chance.”
Cuddalore – The 6th Annual Guanellian Lay Movement Meeting was January 20th-21st. This two-day program allowed office bearers and the delegated members from Andra, Bangalore, Chennai and Cuddalore to gather with great enthusiasm. It was a wonderful journey for the laity to experience and share the Guanellian spirit. Fr. Visuvasam, Provincial Delegate and local Superior, welcomed the group reminding them of the words of Pope Francis about the participation of the Laity and how our Founder encouraged the participation of the Laity in the mission. He spoke of the Guanellian Charism, “Paternity of God,” encouraging the laity to live their vocation, carry their cross and walk the Calvary with Christ as the focus. Fr. Rosario gave the next talk. He spoke of Christian Virtues, quoting from the Bible how Christ Himself showed trust in Abba Father by praying in silence before doing anything. Without God at the center we are only doing social service. We must spend time in prayer to gain strength to do God’s will. In prayer God will reveal and inspire us with a plan, show us the method to execute and fulfill His will.
The second day began with Adoration and Holy Mass. Fr. Francis gave the first talk, speaking about the three Virtues taught by our Founder. He said when we allow evil to be the sower the harvest will be pride, greed and lust. Whereas, when we allow God to be the sower the harvest will be humility, poverty and mortification through which we can overcome evil and do great good. A Guanellian Cooperator shared her journey from being a benefactor, GLM member and finally a Cooperator. Her experience inspired the members and helped them to understand how they too can become Guanellian Cooperators. The members’ spirits were strengthened and renewed to continue their good work.
As we are in the Lenten season, it would be appropriate to reflect upon the greatest testament which our beloved Founder St. Louis Guanella left to us his disciples: Prayer and Suffering. It can be well understood from the words of Bishop Aurelio Bacciarini, the successor of Fr. Guanella. Prayer is the first necessary condition for the stability, progress and success of the Houses of Fr. Guanella. He also differentiates prayer and the spirit of prayer: Prayer is the common and ordinary invocation of God that we raise to Him during the day. Spirit of prayer is something more intense and deeper. Therefore for these extraordinary charitable acts not only mere human hands are needed but also the kind and strong intervention of God. Without the spirit of prayer, we would not receive God’s favors. Hence it is a requirement for every member of a community and whole of the congregation to be soaked in prayer and make the Houses of Charity real tabernacles of constant praise to God. How to make our life prayer? a) from the Altar of the Holy Eucharist, let us draw the treasures of Divine Mercy b) from the reception of Holy Communion, let us unite ourselves with Jesus with the fervor of saints, so that nothing of this world may separate us from Him c) From the Holy Tabernacle – Paradise on Earth – let us sanctify our work, our travelling and our rest by keeping our hearts and minds on the Lord, in conversation with heaven.
Suffering is a word that drips drops of blood. Unless and until one is filled with the spirit of prayer, it is highly difficult to understand the term suffering. From the very life of Jesus, we can perceive that there is no redemption without the cross, suffering. The Church of Jesus Christ floats on the blood of the martyrs. All her triumphs are rooted in suffering. The Houses of Fr. Guanella were born from martyrdom. Fr. Louis Guanella suffered martyrdom in everything: contradictions, accusations, opposition, humiliations, disappointments, hunger, thirst, tiredness, agonies of body and soul. Let us understand that suffering is the key to reach paradise. As imitators of Jesus Christ and followers of Fr. Guanella, let us strive to endure daily suffering, suffer discomforts and privations, endure and carry the crosses that faithfully accompany our daily lives. The very legacy of Prayer and Suffering teaches us a lesson to despise the world and detach ourselves from its allurements. Let us live in God by prayer and suffering as our beloved Father and Founder did.
At the invitation of our Holy Father the season of lent is a favorable time which is offered by God as ‘a sacramental sign of our conversion. Lent summons us and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly, and in every aspect of our lives’. Prompted by Pope Francis, we shall recollect the aspect of prayer and suffering as Guanellians. He says that prayer should become the driving force to enable us to reach out to the poor, marginalized and the victimized. Prayer is the constant response of our hearts to the will of God. The attitude of penance reminds us that we need to suffer with endurance, to say no to our selfishness. Acts of charity should be the constant striving of our hearts to share our time and resources with those who have nothing or nobody.
Added to our own physical, psychological, socio-economic problems, the present religious and political situation impels us to march forward with much courage to face the prejudices and persecutions against us Christians in order to be rooted out from a particular country or territory. Generally this might arouse in us questions like where is God? Why all these to us alone? and make us lose hope in God. On a positive note this happens to us because God wants to communicate with us but we are busy doing our work. Often we are after our minds by being too much indulged in social networks, technology, media which keeps us away from the creator who is behind every sphere. Rather we are called to be after our hearts from where love proceeds and inclines us to care for the anthropological aspect of our existence. It is high time this Lent that we fast from the media, network culture and be rooted in communicating with God in prayer and receive graces to face our trials and tribulations. May this Lenten Season help us to have metanoia and a fruitful celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.
Legazpi – On December 19th the Servants of Charity celebrated Christmas and the end of 2017 in the presence of Fr. Dong, SdC, Fr. David, SdC, and Fr. Sagayaraj, SdC, opened a year-end Christmas Party to give thanks to the staffs who have dedicated themselves to the service of the community. Practically, gifts could not be absent from the party because they are a sign of bringing good luck and joy to others.