The Joy of Love

By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
In a landmark document, Pope Francis has called for the Catholic Church to revamp its response to modern family life, striking a delicate balance between a more accepting tone towards homosexual people and the defense of traditional church teachings on issues such as abortion.
In the document entitled The Joy of Love, Pope Francis outlined his vision for the church on family issues, urging priests to respond to their communities without mercilessly enforcing church rules. He wrote, “Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs”.
The apostolic exhortation concludes a two-year consultation that saw bishops gather twice in Rome to debate issues affecting the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
In comments likely to be welcomed by some organizations, Francis urged the church to “reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”
But the pope stopped short of pushing for a change in church doctrine. Same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.
Following lengthy debate about the role in the church for remarried divorcees, who are not allowed to take Holy Communion, Francis did not call for the rules to be changed but said such parishioners must be made to feel part of the church. They should not be confined into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. Divorce was described as an evil that priests should help Catholics avoid, while being understanding towards those whose marriages have broken down.
This document shows something has changed in the church discourse. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the church. In an era of global crisis in which families often suffer, the exhortation takes a positive look at the beauty of married love and the family.
The broader document saw Pope Francis recognize the Catholic Church’s waning appeal to young people, urging churchmen to present a more appealing view of marriage. I think of St. Valentine’s Day. In some countries, commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than the leaders of the church. When I was a kid in Sicily, I used to bring flowers to all the girls of the neighborhood, whether I liked them or not. It was just a sign of respect and admiration
The Pope also dedicated two pages to the erotic dimension of love within marriage, promoting a positive vision of sexuality which must be seen as a gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses.
The Pope voiced the Church’s opposition to abortion in all circumstances. No alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life. He also showed no opening towards fertility treatment, describing creation as something which must be received as a gift and suggested infertile couples to adopt babies or children who need parents.
Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another, listing a string of common complains of family members feeling invisible or uncared for. Technology affects relationships, such as when people stay on their mobile phones during meal times. The fast pace of the online world is impacting people’s approach to relationships. They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly blocked.
Dear Confreres, we were loved even before our parents dreamed of us. This love fills us with joy. The joy of being loved by God, family and friends. The joy of belonging to a Church that accompanies us with the Sacraments from birth to death. The joy of one day being called by God and seeing Him face to face as He is and do the same with our beloved who have gone ahead of us or will join us later on. Sometimes joy is mixed with tears: in this way we imitate Christ who suffered, died and rose from the dead to restore our real joy. In this beautiful month of May, I pray that we all experience the joy of love while pondering how much we love and how much we are loved whether it is human love or divine love.

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Incarnation of Love

Chennai – The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s eternal love and mercy. It assumed the whole of humanity. Jesus especially identified the poor, suffering, and the weaker of society with Him and took the human flesh as One among them and One for them. Today’s world, in the name of newness and constant change exploits these people and further victimizes them. Therefore, to heal broken and exploited humanity, our beloved pope, in his recent apostolic letter “Mercy and Misery,” to close the Year of Mercy, solicits all humanity to the pragmatic aspect of Mercy. He calls on Catholics to work to “restore dignity to people, especially those who do not have work, do not have homes, are marginalized, are hungry, must migrate, are in prison in inhuman conditions or do not have access to education.” To practice human kindness and love Don Guanella Evening School organized a suppose Christmas celebration for all the poor children from the slums and impoverished families. The simple service rendered to those faces of Christ made a greater witness to the surrounding which is filled with people of other faiths and traditions. Everyone irrespective of social boundaries joined as one family of love and fraternity to celebrate the birth of peace, justice and joy. The celebration included cultural programs and gift distribution. The confreres and children made the day a very meaningful preparation to celebrate Christmas.

Year of Mercy Pilgrimage

Ho Chi Minh  – Heeding the words of Pope Francis in his Papal Bull “Misericordiae Vultus”, Our community went on a pilgrimage during this Jubilee Year of  Mercy to Our Lady of Ta Pao Mountain. On June 11th we traveled about 100 km from Ho Chi Minh City for our spiritual retreat. During the pilgrimage we prayed for our sins and for the sins of the whole world and to rededicate our lives to God as Religious. A thanksgiving mass was also offered to God for His miraculous providence we have received over the past seven years in Vietnam. May God continue to help us through the His beloved Mother, Mary.

Building Bridges of Love

July 2016 is both significant and historical for the Divine Providence Province in particular and for our Congregation in general because two of our Guanellian priests with open hands and hearts, will set foot in the Solomon Islands to be our pioneering Guanellian missionaries. Fr. Mathias Lourdusamy and Fr. Arockia Raj, both from India, heeded generously and courageously the invitation to stay, and not just to visit, and become bridges of love to a nation full of hope, beauty and gifts but not without struggles, predicaments and challenges. As religious missionaries, by vocation and mission, we are bridge-builders, bringing together in unity peoples of different origin, culture, mindset and race into the same family of God. We can do this in the measure that we are able to go out of our own comfort zones and enter into the world of others. Love is the name of bridges we build.
Our desire to be present in the Solomon Islands, is just but one of the several humble efforts that our Province would like to accomplish in faithful witness to the original wish of our founder, who pointed out clearly in the 1910 Regulations of Servants of Charity that: “the Institution can be providential for our time namely, by renewing the world with the fire of Charity and being an instrument to help spread Divine Charity throughout the world.”
We recently concluded our 12th Divine Providence Province Plenary Council Meeting and 2016 Assembly of Confreres in the United States and we have ended our meetings with renewed enthusiasm and joy in spreading the works of charity by looking more closely and creatively in engaging ourselves in new projects and “seeking out new poor and new needs for the less protected poor in our society.” (7th General Consultation)
Building bridges of love is what has also been consistently in the heart and mind of our Holy Father. With the theme “Love is our Mission,” Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last year encourages all of us to be missionaries of love: “I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard.” (Speech at Independence Mall, Philadelphia)
Let us continue to dream dreams and see visions. Let us make anew our commitment not to stop as long as there are poor to be assisted and distresses to be relieved. Let us never be tired of giving our best efforts in building bridges of love.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

Be Merciful as Your Father is Merciful

On December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis solemnly opened the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, ushering in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13th, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, was opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of other Papal Basilicas and local cathedral churches in every country will be opened. The Year of Mercy will close with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.
Imagine that as the cascade of church doors open around the world, God is lavishing gifts of mercy and love on all who come to Him. Like the father in the prodigal son parable, God not only waits for us but actually runs to us when we turn and come near.
Receiving God’s love opens the doors of our hearts to our sisters and brothers so that we might share with them the love and mercy we have received in such abundance. This is “a program of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace,” says Pope Francis. It is demanding because yielding to God always entails a process of ongoing conversion. It is joyful and peaceful because we walk together in the work of God in our world.
Pope Francis’ teaching on divine mercy in The Face of Mercy is profound and worthy of contemplation. We are moved to prayer as we consider how God’s mercy both fills us and goes even beyond justice in bringing us to full communion with God. “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the Holy Father added in his surprise announcement of this special time of grace and spiritual renewal for the people of God.
God’s mercy has been certainly a hall mark of Pope Francis’ entire pontificate. He has unceasingly preached and promoted this theme in interviews, homilies, addresses and writing. It is a consistent message that he often references in his almost daily correspondence.
Reading the document The Face of Mercy we come across some beautiful and touching statements. “Mercy is the bridge that connects God and Man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
“Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.
“God’s mercy is the mark of His omnipotence, rather than a sign of weakness.
“In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives His entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return.”
My prayer is that we engage this time of grace to deepen our appreciation of God’s tremendous love for us and that we commit to extend that compassion to those who live in such great need these days.

By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC

In the Shadow of the Papacy

Pforzheim – Yes, we were there! Germany, 23rd charity shelter and last born in the Guanellian family!
With two well established entities: the Guanellian Procure and the Italian Catholic Mission for the Italian, Polish and soon also for Syrian Melchite and Chaldean Iraqi Catholics, joined the 7000 joyful and enthusiastic assembly, around our beloved Holy Father, Francis, who greeted, embraced and even kissed around 500 disabled people sitting in their wheelchairs, crying with emotion for being embraced by a tired and apparently suffering Pope.
In a certain way this pilgrimage to the roots of the Christian faith happens also as physical presence at the conclusion of the Centennial birth into Heaven of our Founder, attended by Guanellians from around the globe but also as final target of my Guanellian life.
Since his visit in August 1912 to Trier, Fr. Guanella’s vision to be present in Germany has become a tangible and fruitful reality. Both German entities celebrated this unique anniversary with many initiatives in seminaries, for interested people at nearby parishes, pilgrimages to Lourdes and Medjugorie but also with the translation and printing of an Italian biography of Fr. Guanella into German. The first edition of 1500 copies was distributed to our strategic meeting point of German visitors like the St. James Path at Santiago/Spain, Grison County at the border of Guanella’s birthplace, in German speaking Switzerland as well as Barza and Como.
Our German pilgrims included 5 nuns of the German Pious Union who have been carrying the Guanellian charism since 1920 in a German speaking area, and a few friends of our procura who wish to become Guanellian Cooperators in the near future.
The highlights of my return to Rome,where my Guanellian life began in August 1949, were the meeting with my former seminarian pupils of Anzano in 1958-60 after 55 years. I taught them French, History and Geography. Ten of them became Guanellian priests with interesting activities in South America, Balkan and Afghanistan. The others remained firmly connected to Guanellian Houses near their homes.
During the 5-day stay in Rome we also attended the special GLM assembly where we met many confreres from the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Guanellian Africa and Latin America. In several brief conversations they explained the basic problem: the need of funding for their projects. The German Procure was conceived initially as a fundraising center for the DPP, but since the beginning of 2015 has been recognized by the General Council as a general office open for all Guanellian structures globally. A new procedure for seeking funds for these projects will be implemented by the General Council with recommendations coming from the Provincial Superiors.
My message to the confreres that I met, “Knock, the door is open. Even though there are new procedures, do not hesitate to contact us for advice! Simply because even in my advanced age I do not want to rest as long as there are hands begging for our love and help. Our inbox is always online to all requests from the DPP or other provinces.” We assure our professional assistance to bring positive results for their requests.
With this message I would like to march with and for you for the Reign of God and for the benefit of the good people entrusted to our sensible heart, open eyes and ears!
May the coming Advent be a source of reflection and healing Grace. Till the next meeting on DPP news all German and Italian friends wish you a Merry Christmas and a Fruitful 2016. Stay blessed, through the intercession of our Mother of Divine Providence and our Saints, Fr. Guanella and Blessed Clare.
Gero Lombardo, Guanellian German Procure

Pope’s Address to Spiritual Family of St. Luigi Guanella

“I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. … I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry”

Today, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Pilgrimage of the spiritual family of St. Luigi Guanella.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I thank you for the words you addressed to me. Not only did you present your work to me, but you also wished to receive me in some way in your Family. Today is an important Solemnity for you: you celebrate the Mother of Divine Providence, who is your Patroness, and above all, she is in fact for you the Mother of the Family, as Saint Luigi Guanella desired.

You have just celebrated the first centenary of his birth in Heaven. I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. He would certainly do so with his sincere and genuine simplicity; and then I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry.

To trust. Don Guanella’s life had at the center the certainty that God is a merciful and provident Father. This was the heart of the faith for him: to know himself as an always loved son, whom the Father takes care of and, therefore, brother of all, called to infuse trust. God is Father and is unable not to love us, nor is He capable of being far from His children. If we are far from Him, we are awaited; when we come close to Him, we are embraced; if we fall, He lifts us up; if we are repentant, He forgives us. And He always desires to encounter us. Saint Luigi so believed in this concrete and provident love of the Father, that he often had the courage to surmount the limits of human prudence, to put the Gospel in practice. Providence, for him, was not “poetry” but reality. God takes care of us and wants us to trust Him.

I think the heavenly Father is very displeased when He sees that His children do not trust Him completely: perhaps they believe in a distant God more than in the merciful God. The doubt can arise in many that God, although Father, is also a master. Then it seems better not to trust Him completely, because He could ask for something that is too demanding or even send a trial. But this is a great deceit: it is the ancient deceit of the enemy of God and of man, who camouflages the reality and disguises evil as a good. It is the first temptation: to distance oneself from God, intimidated by the suspicion that His paternity is not truly provident and good. Instead, God is only love, pure provident love. He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows what our true good is. Therefore He desires that in the course of life we become what we are at the moment of Baptism: loved children, who are able to overcome fear and not fall into lament, because the Father takes care of us. Are you convinced of this?

The second verb is to look. The Creator Father also arouses creativity in those who live as His children. So they learn to look at the world with new eyes, made more luminous by love and hope. They are eyes that enable one to look within oneself with truth and to see far in charity. To this look, others do not seem like obstacles to surmount, but brothers and sisters to welcome. Thus, as Don Guanella said, one discovers that “love of neighbor is the comfort of life.”

Problems are never lacking in the world and, unfortunately, our time witnesses new poverties and many injustices. However, the greatest lack is that of charity: useful above all are persons with eyes renewed by love and looks that infuse hope. Because “love will enable one to find ways and discourses to comfort those that are weak,” said again your Founder. Sometimes our spiritual sight is myopic, because we are unable to look beyond our I. At other times we are long-sighted: we like to help someone who is far away, but we are not capable of bending over someone who is beside us. Sometimes, instead, we prefer to close our eyes, because we are tired, overwhelmed by pessimism. Don Guanella, who recommended that one look at Jesus from His heart, invites us to have the look of the Lord: a look that infuses hope and joy, capable at the same time of experiencing a “lively sense of compassion” in relating to those that suffer.

And, finally, to hurry. “The poor are the favorite children” of the Father, said Saint Luigi, who liked to repeat: “one who gives to the poor, loans to God.” As the Father is delicate and concrete in regard to His littlest and weakest children, so we also cannot have brothers and sister in difficulty waiting, because – these are still Don Guanella’s words – “misery cannot wait. And we cannot stop while there are poor to be helped!” Our Lady hurried to reach her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39). We also hear the Spirit’s invitation to go in haste to meet those in need of our care and our affection because, as Saint Luigi taught, “a Christian heart that believes and feels cannot pass before the indigence of the poor without helping them.”

Your Family springs from trust in the Father, under the gaze of Jesus and in the maternal hands of Mary. I thank you for the good you do and I encourage you to continue, without tiring. I bless you all affectionately and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Don’t forget!

Now I invite you to pray to Our Lady: Ave O Maria …

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

More on Zenit.org

Greeting of Pope Francis

Greeting of Pope Francis-St  Charles 2Springfield – The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) which took place from September 22nd-26th and was the first held in the Americas, brought thousands from the region, the U.S. and from throughout the world to Philadelphia to attend with its theme being Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive. Historically, the reigning popes would attend some part of the WMOF and this proved to be true for the WMOF held in Philadelphia. Joined to Pope Francis’ memorable and inspirational visits to Cuba, Washington, D.C. and New York City, his visit to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was met with great enthusiasm, excitement and warmth.
From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has taught and modeled a “message of mercy” and this was very much in evidence during his stay in Philadelphia. He spoke on the issue of migrants at Independence Hall; he met and spent time with prisoners in one of the city prisons; he blessed a grotto of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, a particular devotion of the Holy Father; and he met with victims of clergy sexual abuse. These were all highly publicized parts of the itinerary of the Holy Father and rightly so representing for us that our pontiff is a “servant” and “martyr” (to bear witness to the faith) of mercy.
One last example of Pope Francis’ witness to the “Gospel of Mercy” was a pre-arranged but little publicized greeting of the Holy Father upon his arrival at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary- his home for his two day visit. Word was received two months before the pope’s arrival to Philadelphia that a group of residents, nine in all, from the programs of Don Guanella Village, Divine Providence Village and St. Edmond’s Home, along with 2 family members each, the administrators of the programs and I would have the blessing and privilege of greeting and meeting the Holy Father as he entered the grand foyer of the seminary. Much anticipation and excitement accompanied this greeting which would take place on Saturday, September 26th. After the Holy Father was met and greeted outside the main entrance of the seminary by Archbishop Chaput, the seminary rector and the 150 seminarians, he entered into the foyer and immediately began to shake hands, embrace and bless the residents and their family members. You could see the warmth, the love and the spirit of encounter that the Holy Father often speaks of present in the demeanor of the Pope. It brought to mind for me the motto Pope Francis has chosen for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “merciful like the Father.” In Pope Francis, we beheld the merciful, compassionate and generous love of the Father and the “face of mercy”, His Son Jesus Christ. An incredible, blessed and grace-filled experience for all who greeted Pope Francis that day!

Another School Year Underway

IMG_7591E. Providence – To open the new school year, Fr. Silvio gave the first graders of Sacred Heart School a blessing during the beginning of the year Mass. He also wanted them to learn about the Pope, so Fr. Silvio gave the class a book about Pope Francis prior to his visit to the US. Their teacher read parts of it to the class throughout his visit. They read that Pope Francis’ favorite part of the day is in the evening when he prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour of Adoration. They were excited to hear that because they go to Adoration in October and May! So they took Flat Francis with them to the church, stopping to take a picture with the St. Louis Guanella statue, too. The first graders participate in a year-long Flat Stanley project so they couldn’t resist introducing Flat Francis to their Flat Stanleys!

Seminarians Outing

Legazpi 3Legazpi  – The seminarians headed to Busay Falls on August 8th. It is located in Malilipot, Albay, about 45 minutes away. The eight seminarians and their formator, took time to relax, enjoy the falls and renew friendships and fraternity. All worries were pushed aside to make the day meaningful for discernment; they even shared their various talents of singing, dancing, playing volleyball and guitar. They had the opportunity to understand and be confident in their vocation. The Busay Falls is a marvel of nature reminiscent of St. Francis, who loved Gods creation and Pope Francis, who invites us to care for the environment in Laudato si. The second part of the journey was a visit to the “Brothers of Charity” congregation in Tabaco. The Superior, Bro. Isidore Kiro, was a gracious host; introducing their novices from Africa, India, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Philippines. It was an opportunity to see both the cultural diversity in their community, as well as their singular spirit of service to the church. The whole day was enriching for all the seminarians.