Roots – A message to the redemptorists “For today”

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Greetings from Rome dear brothers and sisters. It is a real privilege to greet all of you watching this video. And I especially want to express my word of gratitude to the students in Tuchow, who have asked me to give a message for redemptorists today. It is really important that the word Today that they put at the end of this phrase. A message for Redemptorists Today. Because Today we are living in a very special time, and who we are as Redemptorist Missionaries has to be expressed in a way that the world today needs to hear. St Alphonsus who founded us was very very aware of this, when the Redemptorists in Pagani were talking about these two Northerners who joined the congregation, Clement Hoffbauer and Thaddaeus Hobler and that they were going back across the alps. That was 250 years ago, they were wondering what they would do, and Alphonsus said of coarse Clement and Thaddaeus going North of the Alps will have to live the Redemptorist mission according to the reality, the culture and the context in which they find themselves. They won’t be able to do exactly what we do in Southern Italy and this is true in every generation. To be a Redemptorist Missionary today builds in the shoulders and work and example of Redemptorists from every generation, our Charism is the same. How we live it expressly today, has to be adapted to the reality of the world in which we living. St Alphonsus knew that, and he was prophetic and clear sighted about this.

So, what does it mean to be a redemptorist today?

First of all, Redemptorists are missionaries, this is clear from our Constitutions and Statutes. Just look at constitution 55, every one of us is a Missionary; Priests, Brothers, Students, Novices, Lay men and woman who work with us in the Redemptorist mission. We are not preachers we are not formators, we are not parish priests. We are Missionaries. Preaching missions, working in a parish, working in formation, professors. All of these are things that we do to live out our Mission according to the real needs of people and according to the discernment of the community. But we are Missionaries over and above all.

What do we need to remember from St Alphonsus so that we can be true missionaries in the world today where we find ourselves? St Alphonsus put the emphasis on several key elements, key points which must be present in every Redemptorist Missionary.

First of all, we must have a deep growing, personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Redeemer and our Brother. This must be primary in our lives and so he taught us that we need a commitment to prayer every day, at least an hour of personal prayer, so we grow in this friendship, relationship so that God can speak to us as one friend speaks to another, to quote St Alphonsus. So that Jesus Christ can be the centre of our lives and our gaze fixed on him, we can engage in his mission, because it is his mission of redemption to which we called.

Second point which St Alphonsus stressed is absolute fundamental. Is that we must live in close communion and solidarity with the abandoned and the poor. That the Abandoned and poor to which God sent Jesus as Redeemer, must be so close to our hearts, that our relationships with Jesus Christ is also lived out in our communion and solidarity with them.

Thirdly, Alphonsus stressed and this is true in every generation, that we must live in communion and solidarity with one another. We are called to form as constitution 2 says, One Missionary Body. One Missionary body with Christ as the head so that in our community and in our relationships with each other we bare witness to the power and grace and strength of the Holy Spirit who has called us, anointed us and sent us to follow Jesus as he proclaims the good news to the poor. And we do this together with Mary. No Redemptorist could possibly think of living these three qualities the closeness with Jesus, the closeness with the abandoned and poor and the closeness with one another, without invoking the Maternal protection, intercession and presence of Mary our Perpetual Help.

Today how do we evangelise the poor and abandoned? How do we do it in the world in which we live, which is so wounded, so broken, which is coming through this pandemic. Many of our churches are closed and people cannot gather. We do it as missionaries first of all. Let us listen to some of the things that St Pope Paul VI said to us as Redemptorists in 1975, and also said to the whole church is Evangelii Nunciandi, when he came to our general chapter in 1975, he emphasised that as Missionaries that Redemptorists are called to be close to people, to live among them and to know their realities. Especially the reality of the abandoned and the poor. And to be a witness, before preaching explicitly, to be a witness to the Redeemer who is in their midst. It is very powerful, because that reflects what St Alphonsus taught the first missionaries. It actually makes explicit from the lips of the Holy Father, St Paul VI, what is in our constitution, 7, 8 & 9, where we are witnesses in order that our proclamation of the Word may be real and affective. And among the abandoned poor, the witness of communion and solidarity is fundamental. This means that we must be willing to go out, to go forth to leave our place of comfort, that we talk about so often today. And to experience life as the abandoned poor live in this broken world of ours. It means that we have to be willing, available for mission, which will call us forth from our culture, call us forth from sometimes what we have known so that we learn a whole new way of being in the midst of God’s people and those he loves most. This is a challenge for us, yes, and it is even more of a challenge when we look at the great needs in which this wounded world is living today. In the light of this Covid pandemic we have seen so much suffering and death, and so many people have felt isolated and marginalised and left on their own, the elderly, especially those in care homes. The poor especially migrants and the undocumented. Young people, who have had to cope with schools being closed and cannot gather with friends. Into this world, we are called to bring a message of hope, of communion and of solidarity. Of fraternity as the Holy Father, Pope Francis invites us in Fratelli Tutti. And to build a society based on fraternity and social friendship where everyone is included.

Pope Francis offers us four words as we accompany the poor and abandoned world today.

He says the first word is we welcome. We create a space among us and in our hearts to welcome and receive the one to whom we are sent. When we go out, when we go forth from our homes, from our churches, from our sacristies, from our studentate, from our novitiates, and we encounter, our first response must be to welcome to open ourselves to listen to be with.

Secondly, he says the second word to remember is to protect. The abandoned poor are living particular situations of fragility in this wounded world of ours today. And we have seen this play out in the course of the past year in politics, in economics and often they feel crushed. How can we protect them their dignity and rights? and make sure they are honoured as sisters and brothers.

Third word we must promote them, promote them means recognising them as gift in our society and the gifts they bring to building this society based on society and fraternal friendship.

The fourth word is integrate. To call them into community. To invite them to participate. Their voices are important and heard and we are evangelised by them as we also offer them the gift of the gospel.

In 2016, when our 25th General Chapter chose the theme which will guide us through this sixenium and into the future and the process of restructuring. I believe that the chapter was really guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Redemptorist missionaries are called to be authentic and prophetic witness of the redeemer. In solidarity for mission in the wounded world. We did not anticipate that we would be living the reality of these past 9 months. We were not fully aware of the climate crisis affecting the whole world. We were not expecting the collapse of so many economic systems. But the Holy Spirit moved us to open our hearts and minds to the fact that our world is wounded deeply. To recognise in the wounds of our sisters and brothers, the wounds of the risen Redeemer, who continues to live to hope and to walk among us.

May we continue to carry this message forth, in our communion with one another, and our communion with him and our communion with the abandoned and poor. May we make ourselves available with enthusiasm and joy and hope and to go wherever we are called and bare witness to this redeemer. For God so loved the World that he gave his only Son.

May our Mother of Perpetual Help, St Alphonsus, St Clement during this Jubilee year, and all our Saints and Blessed and so many of our ancestors in this vital Redemptorist Charism, guide us, inspire us, strengthen us by their prayers.

God Bless you all. Amen.

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