I’m convinced that God has added to the hosts of angels a new rank: Facebook-aphim. Facebook seems to be the messenger of all things surprising in our time. From births to shocking engagement announcements, I learn most things I know through Facebook. A few days ago, I learned that a wonderful woman who I once worked with died after a very long battle with cancer. She was the receptionist in the front office of the Catholic high school where I was employed after I graduated from college. She was usually the first person who greeted me when I entered the building each morning. Her chipper, “Good morning, David!” was as unrepeatable as she. To say that she was a character and full of life would be an understatement. I look forward to her greeting the next time we meet face-to-face.
While the school in which she and I worked was founded to educate young people, I often found that I was the one being educated. The school was run by the Oblates of St Francis de Sales, and it was there that I met Francis de Sales in the men and women who live his charism of incarnational love, gentleness, and authenticity. They invited me into their lives of faith, which, at that point, fit none of the conventional rules of faith I was used to. In fact, the things they taught me about the Christian life didn’t have any rules to play by at all. They taught me about what a very human life of faith was all about. They invited me on their journey of life, a very Salesian thing to do.
My former coworkers, and those who follow Francis’ way of life, embrace the humanity of our existence (read: the messiness, uncertainty, and hurt) that God came to redeem. They live authentic lives, in all their brokenness, because they live with an awareness of God in the present moment. My coworkers were aware of God’s presence as they dealt with the death of their spouses or parents or our coworkers, students, and friends. They were aware of God’s presence during their divorces or terminal illnesses or their children’s poor decision making, failure in school or struggles with drugs. They were aware of God’s presence when they celebrated their children’s weddings, the birth of their grandchildren, and when that student who had struggled for four years graduated. And when I came to them in my times of need, unsure of God’s presence in my life, they somehow knew enough to speak to me in love, and they made themselves understandable because hearts speak to hearts, lips speak only to ears. It was then that I understood what God’s listening might be like.
In sharing their lives with me, both the successes and failures, they illustrated that the call to discipleship is the call to be who you are and be that perfectly well. For us, we were teachers and staff and administrators, but we were also mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and mentors. Francis reminded us that our vocation was only to be the best of what and where we found ourselves. To be the best child or the best educator was our call. They showed me that the best way to live the Christian life was not necessarily as a monk or religious, but as a person who lived the life that God called him to in the present moment, as well and with as much love as he could. To be who you are and be that perfectly well is much harder than it seems, but attempted in full humility brings the liberation that we enjoy as beloved children of God. How often do we claim that authentic identity and make it our own?
I am forever grateful for having learned of Francis de Sales and his charism of Gospel living. I am indebted to the men and women, those who I now count as friends and those who I wait to see again in eternal life, who showed me how to Live Jesus. I am confident that the friendships taken up in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off. In the Christian life, we are together on a journey to heaven. But it takes a lifetime of patience, generosity, and authenticity with and for each other to get it right.
David Pennington is the Associate Campus Minister for Liturgy and Worship at The Catholic University of America.
Jubilee Message from His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone on behalf of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
At the conclusion of the celebrations (of the aforesaid Religious Community) marking the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, happily joins (you) in thanking and praising God for the numerous spiritual benefits granted in this jubilee year and all through the nearly two centuries of faithful service by the Pallottines. During the past year every spiritual child of Pallotti has been able to draw invaluable lessons from the person and the work of the Founder and from the richness of his Charism inspired in him by the Holy Spirit and the precious teachings still relevant in the Church. St. Vincent recognized that the faith of his time was lukewarm; he committed himself to reviving it so that every believer might witness to the living God. His foundation – the Union of Catholic Apostolate – aimed at enlivening the faith and leading all to Jesus Christ. To that end the Saint also promoted several other concrete initiatives in order to enhance reverence for the ancient institution of the Church, and to animate and propagate sound doctrine. He also sought to multiply spiritual and corporal works of mercy urged on by the precept of charity, because God being love itself there is nothing more effective than works of charity to give a new impetus to the faith. Pallotti also strove to safe-guard the dignity of sacred buildings, propagate a simple explanation of the Gospel and proposed spiritual exercises for people of all walks of life. In short, he encouraged any work which, according to the time and circumstances, would prove opportune for the revival of faith.
Our own times too manifests signs of a profound crisis as is evident in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “the true problem of our moment of history is that God continues to disappear from the life of man, and shutting out the light of God man is increasingly struck by a lack of orientation; its destructive effects are becoming increasingly evident. (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, 10 March 2010).
The Jubilee of the Pallottine family coincides with the Year of Faith declared by the Holy Father “to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows.” At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility” (Porta Fidei, 9). This is the true danger to the faith, that modern and post modern idols could assume the place of God. They enslave us with the yoke of new and subtle idolatry visible to all. In such a context the Holy Father invites every member of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate to a generous commitment to working towards rediscovering the way of the Gospel for the man of today, inspired by the message left by St. Vincent Pallotti: “to revive faith and rekindle charity, and lead all men to Christ”. The spiritual and apostolic journey of every component of the Pallottine Family springs from the contemplation of the life and sanctity of the Founder during this jubilee year. It, thus, becomes a confirmation of the words of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sake and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”.
Living faith and active charity are the two pillars on which Vincent Pallotti built up his luminous life and his generous works. They are the two interior forces that have stirred and sustained the manifold apostolic initiatives of Pallotti. “Charity of Christ urges us” (2 Cor. 5:14) was his motto with which he also motivated his followers. The fruit of his labor matured into the foundation of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. Right from its very beginning it greatly valued the collaboration of all of the faithful in the Church – laity, priests and consecrated – enlivening the faith of each that he/she could become an authentic apostle, a bearer of the fire of God’s love.
Sharing with the Pallottine family these reflections on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Holy Founder, the Successor of Peter entrusts the entire Union of Catholic Apostolate to the heavenly protection of Mary most Holy, Queen of Apostles and model of charity, and to St. Vincent Pallotti, invoking a fresh outpouring of the Divine Spirit for a fruitful ministry at the service of the New Evangelization and cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.
With great esteem, I remain
Most devoted in the Lord
+Tarcisio Card. Bertone
This is an English translation of the Italian original sent to Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, Rector General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate.
As we arrive at a new year, we offer you a name for the Catholic Apostolate Center blog, Ad Infinitum. Where does this name come from? At the beginning of this post there are four letters that were at the top of every letter that the Center’s patron St. Vincent Pallotti would write, A.I.D.G., Ad Infinitam Dei Gloriam, For the Infinite Glory of God. The letters would remind him and also his readers that all that is done is not for our glory, but for God’s. As many will recognize, this usage is an adaptation of Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, For the Greater Glory of God, of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Why infinite? Because of Pallotti’s deep experience of God as Infinite Love, a love which is infinitely communicated to us, and in which we are called to respond. In the writings of Pallotti, the Apostle-Mystic of the Infinite, we witness his experience, one in which we can share,
“Oh the excess of incomprehensible love! Ah my God, infinite love of my soul, ineffable mercy! Oh the divine inventions of your infinitely merciful love…My God, my infinite Mercy, Eternal, Immense, Incomprehensible, one and only Infinite, infinitely Communicable.”
The infinitely communicable God of Infinite Love works in and through us to communicate this love to the world. The logo of the Catholic Apostolate Center, the Infinity Cross, is a meditation on the communication to us of the Infinite Love of the Trinity through the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ, and his great unmerited sacrificially loving gift for us on the cross, a cross that in the logo is opened ended, open to Infinite Love being spread to all points of the world through us.
Since God is working in and through us we are challenged to do all that we do not for our glory, but For the Infinite Glory of God! Of course, that is easier said than done. We like being recognized, appreciated, honored, and maybe even, sometimes, glorified, if we can get it. And yet, does it bring us true joy or just a fleeting sense of happiness? As we begin another year, it is worth our reflecting on who brings us true joy, peace, and love and how we respond in faith and charity as apostles of Christ not for ourselves but Ad Infinitum.
Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center
For a free book of daily meditations for each day of the year based on the writings of St. Vincent Pallotti, click here.
 When used in the phrase“Ad Infinitam Dei Gloriam,” an “a” is used instead of a “u” in “Infinitum” in order to correspond with “gloriam” which it modifies.
Standing between the ornate choir and high altar of Toledo’s medieval cathedral is the statue of La Virgen Blanca, one of my favorite depictions of the Blessed Mother. As Mary cradles Jesus in her arms, as if presenting him to us, Jesus’ hand affectionately clasps the chin of his loving mother. In this tender moment Mary’s face expresses an infectious joy, a joy that is quite appropriate for today’s Solemnity in which the Church celebrates Mary as the Mother of God. As we come to the end of the Christmas Octave and usher in the New Year, may we be filled with the everlasting joy that Christ alone can bring. Let us make Mary’s joy our own!
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."
Brett Garland is the Program Development Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center.