This past weekend I was fortunate to attend my first Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership in Baltimore, Maryland with the Catholic Apostolate Center team. It was the first conference of this kind that I had ever attended, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I spent the weekend with several other members of the Catholic Apostolate Center team, and we met so many people and organizations who are doing incredible work. It was great to connect with new people and reconnect with those whom we already work with. At MAC, the Catholic Apostolate Center sponsored several sessions with opportunities for collaboration and conversation among different groups. Being grounded in the spirituality of St. Vincent Pallotti, collaboration is something the Catholic Apostolate Center are especially focused on. In the few days after we returned home, I found myself wondering how the spirit of collaboration that I saw at MAC could also continue with me on my Lenten journey.
As I was sitting at Mass yesterday for Ash Wednesday, I was reflecting on my time this past weekend. I realized that I often think of the Lenten season as a time for personal growth and reflection, a time where I can examine my own faith. And it is true. Lent is a very individual experience. But as I sat in Church yesterday next to a close friend, I realized that Lent doesn’t just have to be an individual journey. People in our lives can provide valuable support and insight, and sharing our journey with others this Lent can expand on our personal growth. Leaving Mass, I had a conversation with a number of people about the fact that Ash Wednesday Mass is so well attended, despite it not being a holy day of obligation. We talked about the sense of unity we feel as we begin the Lenten season together, all marked with our ashes.
It is unusual to think of Lent as a time of collaboration, but Ash Wednesday is one of the days where our Catholicism is most outwardly on display. A non-Christian friend calls Ash Wednesday “Spot the Catholics Day,” and it makes me laugh, but also makes me feel proud to display my faith so openly. On Ash Wednesday, we walk around and see others with the marks of ashes on their forehead and feel a sense of solidarity with them, even without knowing them. We have this unspoken bond, and the breath of the Universal Church becomes very apparent. Collaboration is about working with others for a common goal. I believe that Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season is a reminder that our own struggles are what unite us as members of the community of faith.
During this Lenten season, I would challenge you to share your personal journey with others in your life: share your joys and also your struggles. Lent is a personal time, but the sense of peace we so often find is much better when shared with others in our lives. We are a community of believers, and Lent is a time to reflect and remind ourselves both of our personal commitment to our faith and to remind us of our place within this community.
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
"Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams. Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well." – St. Vincent Pallotti
Blessings to all on the feast of St. Vincent Pallotti!
Some may ask, “Who is that?” I am glad that you asked. St. Vincent Pallotti and his charism are the reason why the Catholic Apostolate Center exists. He was a priest of the Diocese of Rome in the first half of the nineteenth century. His ministry spanned the poor to popes. It did not matter what a person was, but who the person was, an image and likeness of God, the Infinite Love. He saw all people as gifted by God with talents that were meant to be shared. On January 9, 1835, St. Vincent Pallotti was inspired to found the Union of Catholic Apostolate, a collaborative association of lay people, religious, and clergy, who were called to assist in the missionary efforts of the Church through all apostolic methods and means, “revive, maintain, and increase the faith” of Catholics, and be an “institution of universal charity”. Over time, a community of priests and brothers and communities of sisters developed as well. Members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate are now in over 50 countries around the world. The Catholic Apostolate Center, a ministry of Pallotti’s community of priests and brothers, is a 21st century expression of his charism that works to revive faith, rekindle charity, and form apostles.
Looking the other way when others were in need was not possible for Pallotti and his life calls all, particularly Catholics, to be more than simply passive participants in the Faith. Instead, we are called to be apostles, sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to spread the Gospel and charitably bring healing and consolation in the midst of brokenness and suffering.
In many ways, it is fitting that those who March for Life today in the streets of Washington, D.C. are doing so on his feast day. The marchers not only give witness, but also voice to those who are voiceless, unborn children. The most vulnerable and in need were closest to the heart of St. Vincent Pallotti as he and his companions went into the streets of Rome to care for them day after day and night after night. On January 22, 1850, he died from a respiratory illness because he had braved the elements to continue his work after giving away his cloak to a poor elderly woman on a cold, rainy night.
St. Vincent Pallotti understood well what Pope Francis teaches us today:
“Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person, identifies especially with the little ones (cf. Mt 25:40). This reminds us Christians that we are called to care for the vulnerable of the earth” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 209)
We invite you to learn more about St. Vincent by downloading our Pallotti App or visiting our new Pallotti Portal.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. is the Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center