Where is God in my Suffering?

By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC

I was ordained on December 21, 1967. The preparations, the emotions and the reality of the priesthood lifted me to another planet. I felt like a jumping robot moving from one event to another, one celebration to another. The Christmas holidays made the days even more crowded.
The New Year brought me back to the reality and the consciousness of having been ordained a priest and all the duties and responsibilities connected to it. I was so happy. I felt so blessed and tried to imagine my future life, duties and assignments. My parents and relatives treated me like an extraterrestrial. The celebrations were over and I was prepared to report to my superior. I was still preparing when I got a letter from my superior. Thirty five words told me to report to the Mother House and prepare myself to move to the United States as soon as possible. I could not believe it! What happened to my dreams, my teaching certificates? My degrees, my languages! I did not know a word of English as opposed to Italian, French and Spanish. These are not my fathers, they are my torturers! Why are they punishing me? What happened to charity, compassion, human understanding? These were my feelings: anger, discouragement and a sense of emptiness.
And so, incapable of understanding my emptiness, I arrived in the United States. I knew no one. I felt lonely and isolated. And where was God in my suffering? In Philadelphia I had the grace to meet Bishop Sheen. I remember his words: “I am glad you are not spiritually comatose. It is normal to question and to doubt when you are hurting and feeling vulnerable. You have to look deeper inside, seek out the place of faith in your heart and re-examine the promises of your ordination and the vows of your religious life. God does not promise you will never suffer; life is joy and sorrow. However God does promise to remain with you in your suffering. Bishop Sheen asked me to reconnect that invisible cord that bonded me to God. I soon found my connection with God. My job was to take care of forty children with intellectual and physical disabilities. They quickly understood that I needed more help than they did. They kindly and gently told me where everything was located. They taught me the English words of items and things. They showed how things were done and what my job was. They became the greatest gift God gave me. I loved them like they were my children. They stopped calling me ‘Father’ but Joe, and I loved it. I learned in this way that God stays with us even when the road gets rocky. When you reach those dark and rough places, doubt can still creep in. God doesn’t abandon us. If we remain open and allow God to enter our pain, we can experience God’s compassionate presence. God touches us through other people.
As I sat with Bishop Sheen, crying and distraught, he suddenly got up from his chair, dropped to one knee in front of me, and just put his arms around me. I held on tightly. That comfort, that healing touch of love, was just what I needed.
I am so grateful to Bishop Sheen and the special children who continued to show me their love. In time I also learned that their love was God’s love. Fifty years later I am so grateful and happy for giving all my life caring for special children. They were God’s messengers who taught me to love and how to love by understanding that God is love and wants us to exchange this love with Him.

Heart of Jesus – A Home of Love!

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the living and vivifying source of eternal life, infinite treasure of divinity, and burning furnace of divine love. It inflames our hearts with the ardent love of the Father, pours into our hearts the graces of His source and grants that our hearts may be so closely united to His; so that His holy will may be done in and through us. The Sacred Heart is the bedrock of Divine Providence. This explains why for so many centuries, most facets of our devotion revolve around the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Even the Eucharistic devotion which has become the source and summit of Catholic worship is predicated on the outpouring of the Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Therefore the Heart of Jesus is truly the home or the sanctuary of Love. To certify this truth, the stories and parables of Jesus in the Bible will guide us well.
One of the most compelling revelations of the Heart of God in Scripture is found in ‘THE FATHER OF THE PRODIGAL SON’. The younger son, returning home, approaches the father completely broken; yet the love in the heart of the father sees only that his son is back and his response was fully an explosion of love! The next evident parable is ‘THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN’. It captures in a very vivid way, love in action. The heart of the Samaritan went out to the victim in love, compassion and total identification. The very essence of his ‘altruism’ was precisely the essence of love – to give, give some more and to keep on giving until one is totally empty.
Another confirming event is THE STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO WAS CAUGHT IN ADULTERY and brought before Jesus Christ for “judgment”. It amply demonstrates His revolutionary love. The woman’s accusers could not see beyond the sin. But Jesus Christ, whose heart is the fountain of love saw it differently. His response was a challenge that eventually silenced the accusers. With love comes the knowledge that all are sinners in need of redemption. With love comes the realization that we are all beneficiaries of God’s abundant mercy that needs to be extended to our brothers and sisters.
Next, on seeing the multitude of people by the lakeside, Jesus felt sorry for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. On that occasion His compassion led Him to FEED FOUR THOUSAND PEOPLE in the same manner as God had fed the Israelites with manna in the desert. Finally, while HANGING ON THE CROSS, JESUS PRAYED: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ prayer amply demonstrates the truth that the very nature and essence of Jesus’ heart is love.
Therefore, the heart of Jesus Christ as the home of love cuts across all boundaries – race, culture, gender, class etc, thereby making all into one family with one history and one destiny. It is so total and unconditional that we are reluctant to accept it. For us it is much easier to accept love that is conditional with the hope that love would be reciprocated, but Jesus’ is different. His love precisely demonstrates a unique and revolutionary form of love which is unconditional, unhurtful and descending upon us. Unlike the limited heart of man and woman, the heart of Jesus is limitless in love. The nature of Jesus’ heart is love par excellence. It is not that Jesus has love and Jesus can love but the essence and nature of Jesus’ Heart is Love for ‘God is Love’.
His love accepts us as we are and completely. We are invited to that LOVE. It sets us free to love as Jesus loves. The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a training in the love of Jesus. As religious ‘the more one is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the more the person is expected to manifest Christian virtues especially LOVE. Let us strive to become the personified witnesses of Christ’s love for it is the Heart of the World.
Hail, Sacred Heart of Jesus!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

Holy Celebrations

Bangalore – St. Guanella Mercy Church celebrated Holy week in a prayerful manner. It was more meaningful that the entire community participated with great joy and enthusiasm throughout the events during Lent. The Way of the Cross was organized and led weekly by each different group. Each day of Holy Week was planned and executed in a way that set a bench mark for us. Both Tamil and English Masses were well attended. Mass of the Lord’s Supper and washing of the feet went well. On Good Friday the confreres, Cooperators, GLM and parishioners enacted the passion of Christ as a live Skit, touching many hearts. The scene at Calvary could be visualized by everyone who participated. Veneration of the Holy Cross followed in a service combining Tamil and English. The Easter Vigil was solemnly celebrated by the presenting of the Resurrection in an imaginative way, with thunder our Lord rose in Glory. The faithful reacted by singing the Gloria. The house was decorated beautifully with lights and flowers for this glorious occasion. After Mass we shared Easter eggs, cake and milk.

Annual Spiritual Exercise

Chennai – Come away to a Deserted Place by yourselves and rest for a while,” Mk: 6:31. According to St. Louis Guanella, “The enrichment of one’s consecrated life is met through diagnosing the health of body, mind and soul through ‘annual spiritual exercises’, and it is a promising Way to Holiness”. Therefore, the Divine Providence Province offered the Annual Spiritual Exercises ‘17 for all priestly confreres in order to enrich their Religious Consecration. So that all confreres could participate, the Retreat was held on two different occasions. It was the choice of the confreres and the decision of superiors to shuffle their members according to the needs and requirements of the community. The preachers were Fr. Jesu, SVD; and Fr. Soosairaj, SJ. The retreat created a suitable ambience to rest in God, renew the soul in the Holy Spirit and project for a better religious life.

Towards Sanctification of the Soul

Bangalore – Recollection is a time to build up our personality and spirituality. Individuality is assembled with all the little pieces collected from the past and through in depth spiritual reflection. Therefore, the past can help us to bring changes in our lives for the spiritual enrichment. The body and soul are inseparably united, the purification of which is essentially demanded of us as Christians. While the inner spirit is revived, both soul and body are cleansed of all stains of sin. To achieve this goal, St. Guanella Mercy Church planned a Recollection on April 2nd for the Guanellian Lay Movement and parishioners. Fr. Benson, SdC, was invited as preacher, motivating the group with his Spiritual sessions by making them realize their journey of life and prompted each to come closer to God. During Eucharistic Adoration in a special way people praised and thanked God. Meanwhile, they were meditating and preparing themselves for Confession, the most important Spiritual activity to prepare them for Holy Week and peaceful participation in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord. The day ended with the solemn Eucharistic Mass celebrated by Fr. Gnanraj, Rector and Superior of the GPN Community. The faithful had a fruitful experience through this Spiritual event.

Study Center Inaugurated

Chennai – The Divine Providence Province in India inaugurated a Structured Guanellian Study Center March 3rd. During the inaugural ceremony Fr. Soosai, Provincial Superior, narrated the significance and benefits of the center in India. He also exhorted the confreres and young scholastics to educate themselves and to infuse their lives with the spirit of the Founder. Fr. Francis, coordinator of the Center, explained the purpose and objectives: to know the Founder, to preserve Guanellian traditions and to live the spirit and charism in our Context today. To memorialize the inauguration, a precious manuscript of our Holy Founder was presented by Fr. Fabio Pallota from Spain to be archived at Guanellian Study Center, India.

Mary, “Memory of the Church”

The month of May is a season of growth, when nature is reborn. It is the time when the earth bursts forth fresh foliage and green grass after the stern frost and snow of winter; the raw atmosphere; the wild wind and rain of the early spring; it is the season when the blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens. It is the time when the days get long, the sun rises early and sets late. With such gladness and joyousness of nature, it is so fitting for our Mother Church to make this month a special and significant season of renewal and rejuvenation for her faithful through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the pure threshold of divine relationship.
God willed both: to reveal Himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome the revelation in faith. The desire to know and love God is a gift. It is a reflection of the mystery of the divine relationship of the Holy Trinity, a divine communion of persons. The uncreated Persons of the Trinity willed to make communion with the human, the created persons of their image and likeness. After countless covenantal promises and break-ups, finally they found a holy threshold, the ‘Blessed Virgin Mary’, to renew and re-erect the imperishable pillar of relationship with humanity through the great event ‘Incarnation’. Mary’s beauty is known in her fiat and total Amen. She is referred to as a “Woman of Assent and the Memory of the Church”.
St. John Paul II so beautifully named Mary the ‘Memory of the Church.’ The Church, as Mary, is Virgin and Mother. She is the model, the mother, and the personal summa of the Church. Mary’s fiat is the nexus whereby all mankind is able to give consent to the influx of the communion of the Trinity. Time and eternity hinged on this maiden’s ‘Yes’ to the communion of grace and holiness, which made her the ‘Woman of Assent.’ She is also the ‘fullness of grace’ that is the plenitude of Trinitarian communion. She is the daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Understanding these divine privileges in the life of blessed mother Mary, St. Louis Guanella surrendered both of his Congregations unto her care and protection. He initiated all his religious ministries upon his strong trust in the Providence of God and unshakable devotion to the Mother of Divine Providence, Blessed Mary. Enjoying her motherly kindness and guidance, St. Louis Guanella has beautifully written a book dedicated to her ‘In the Month of Flowers.’ In his writing he has strongly exhorted his followers ‘to adorn ourselves with the holy virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to embrace her footsteps to enjoy divine communion with the Holy Trinity.
Fr. Guanella had strong affection and disposition towards Mary. Sharing the same family spirit and devotion, we also need to frame our religious life upon the style and surrender of Mary. As we happily prepare to celebrate the priestly ordination anniversary day of our holy Founder, it is more fitting for us to imbibe the spiritual nourishments of our founder for our holy priesthood. Our priestly life based on the virtues of Blessed Virgin Mary would be the most precious gift and honor for him. If our mere life would become a convincing witness and message, than our words as that of our Founder.
May is normally part of the Easter season, the period of fifty days which lasts from Easter to Pentecost. The Easter season is a fitting time to recall Mary’s immense joy over her Son’s Resurrection and to rediscover her role as mother and teacher in our lives. Mary has a unique role in God’s plan of salvation and in the Church. She consented to the coming of the Savior and cooperated in developing His mission. She brought Him into the world, raised Him and lovingly stood by His side during the years of His hidden life. She supported Him during His public ministry in a quiet way, beginning at Cana, where by her intercession Jesus performed His first miracle. She cooperated in His work, even uniting her own suffering with that of her Son, standing at the foot of His cross. Mary was Jesus’ first disciple, humbly following Him during every step of His journey and mission. She trusted in God completely and lived by His grace. She is our model of true discipleship and of complete faith.
The Blessed Virgin Mary offered the disciples her prayers, motherly care, and witness. She continues to offer us her motherly love and intercession. During this month of May, let us rediscover her maternal role in each of our lives. Let us offer our spiritual mother our sincere prayers, that just as she aided the first Apostles with her prayers, she may also guide and intercede for us in our journey of faith. Let us learn from her how to love and trust God completely and how to be faithful witnesses of the Risen Lord.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

Renewed Commitments

Manila – Two Guanellian sisters, Sr. Mich and Sr. Tess, renewed their vows on March 19th during the Mass at Guanella Center. Holy Mass was presided by Fr. Dong Cerbito, and was concelebrated by Fr. Battista and Fr. Charlton. The good children, the whole seminary community and people living nearby were their witnesses. The two Sisters renewed their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience after three years. Sr. Nenita, local superior of the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence, was the one who received their vows. Fr. Charlton preached the homily and afterward had special words urging the sisters to be faithful to their vows.

Amazing Journey in India

Chennai – The Divine Providence Province in India had the joy and privilege to spend quality time with the members of ASCI, the charitable movement from Italy. The representatives were Mr. Eduardo and Ms. Maura. During their trip they visited all the mission stations of our Guanellian family in India. After the fraternal visit, they expressed their sentiments,
“We actually see the inspired Guanellian charism, imitated love of Christ, witnessed Guanellian service amidst the poor and suffering of society such as abandoned children, orphans, disabled “good children”, and the elderly. The image of love and mercy that St. Guanella generated for the poor brethren is represented. In spite of extreme poverty the respect for human life is marvelous. The young Guanellian family in India including priests, sisters, brothers, seminarians, benefactors, beneficiaries and all the other Guanellian members, is really deep rooted in its faith, apostolate and evangelization in accordance with modernity.”
Having expressed this, they expressed gratitude for all the hospitality prepared by the province. They also assured their spiritual and manual assistance of any projects of charity to the poor.

German Generosity Supports the Poor

On March 15th during a meeting at the St.Trudpert Abbey in Münstertal, we celebrated the 80th birthday and 50 years of Religious Profession of the Pious Union Director, Sister Bernita A generous donation for our Good Samaritan Pharmacy has been transferred to Brother Mauro in Manila as a result. With these funds, he’ll be able to purchase more life saving medicine. Just this week a young boy was successfully treated; thanks also to continuous support of the Pious Union and two German doctors he survived the complicated operation.
On March 16th we paid a visit to the bishop’s office in Freiburg to hand over a formal request for financial sponsorship of the 26 Indian and 4 Filipino Theology Students.
Gero Lombardo, German Guanellian Procure.