Message to the entire Union from the members of the General Coordination Council
Annual Meeting of the General Coordination Council of the Union
Rome, May 20th-24th, 2016
Gathered in the Cenacle in Rome, that is, in the International Centre of Pallottine Formation in Via Ferrari, we greet all of you, our brothers and sisters of the Union.
We, the members of the General Coordination Council, conscious of being part of the great charismatic family (cf. Pope Francis, Letter to Consecrated, III, 1, November 21st, 2014) of the Union, in communion with the universal Church, met from the 20th to the 24th of May 2016, and gave priority to dialogue, listening, prayer and sharing in communion. In her report, the President underlined the conviction that the UAC, in the differing textures within the fabric of relationships, is always called more and more to journey towards a deeper communion. There is still a long way to go in the Union because its possibilities are many, even infinite, as the Founder would say. We know however that God guides his work and continues to do so, also building through our limitations.
From the talk of Professor Nunzia Boccia of the Charismatic Family of the Josephites of Murialdo (Saint Leonardo Murialdo) and from the discussion which followed, we highlighted that more than speaking about the charism, we are called today to speak according to the charism. The charism, in fact, before being a content, is a source of life and inspiration and becomes for us a style of family united in the same spirit.
In his report, the Ecclesiastical Assistant highlighted for us that the active involvement of the three Communities founded by Saint Vincent Pallotti will safeguard the unity of the whole family and contribute to the effectiveness of its apostolic projects. The reflection on the Appendix regarding the “Specific Responsibility of the Communities founded by Saint Vincent Pallotti” is a further significant step in the life and work of the Union.
For this reason, its approval is one of the most important fruits of the meeting. We have recognised that the family is not something invented, but rather is something which we need to learn to become. The climate of Family is above all felt, lived, breathed. It is not enough to preach responsibility, is it necessary to seek it, to educate ourselves to live it out, to form ourselves for this. “All of the parts must be so linked, that one maintains the other in vigilance, and continuous movement”, wrote Pallotti (OOCC III, 156). Saint Vincent dreamed of a Church in which there are no spectators, but all would have leading parts, called to live the fullness of their own vocation in service of the Kingdom of God. And also today, this message continues to be proclaimed prophetically by Pope Francis (cf. EG 120).
If we remain only in the security of our houses and institutions, without the desire to face risks and adventures, we will have no future. This is why we do not want to remain closed in the Cenacle, but rather want to and must leave it for a new evangelisation of the world. In fact, mission is an essential part of the Pentecost event. It is also, from the very beginning, written into our Pallottine charism and our history. For this reason, we want to go out into our changing world to play an active role in the change. May our holy Founder who said that he yearned “ardently to cooperate in such a worthy work always, even after my death” (OOCC V, 211), reach out to us and accompany us. He is a saint for all seasons.
In thanking the Lord for Venerable Elisabetta Sanna, the first lay member of the Union to be beatified, we ask Him to help us to open ourselves fully to the graces which He wants to give us in this blessed event which will be celebrated on September 17th, 2016.
United in communion,
Your sisters and brothers of the GCC.
Homily of Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., Vice President of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, for the Closing Mass of the General Coordination Council Meeting 2016, Rome, SS. Salvatore in Onda
“Nothingness and Sin” – How often do we see in his writings St. Vincent Pallotti referring to himself in this way?! It is something that in today’s age of good self-esteem, we seem to move away from. We want to be affirmed for our abilities, our talents, our goodwill, our generosity. If we are not affirmed in these ways, then we may become resentful.
Pallotti believed that he had a struggle with pride as well as with anger. It was something that he said he combatted against over the course of his life. In this and other ways, he saw himself as sin. Seeing himself as nothing, he was able to be grow in compassion, love, and mercy particularly toward his fellow human beings, especially the poor. God is all for Pallotti. The Holy One drew Pallotti toward less focus on self and more focus on neighbor, toward holiness “in every aspect” of his conduct as the Letter of St. Peter tells us today (1 Peter 1:10-16). Pallotti, who called himself “nothingness and sin,” did not see his own holiness. Others saw it in his words and especially in his deeds. His witness was giving up everything and passionately working for the “salvation of souls,” or in other words, assisting all toward greater holiness.
During this Jubilee of Mercy, we are challenged by Pope Francis to “become last” and make others “first” (Mk 10:28-31). Is this not what Pallotti was about as well? When did he try to make himself first? Are we not continually called to the same as members of the Union? Our lives are not about us, they are about Jesus Christ, Apostle of the Eternal Father. Our lives as members of the Union are a call to witness in the way of Pallotti and as envisioned by the General Statutes:
“The Union is inserted into the dynamic process of the merciful love of the Holy Trinity: God gives himself to humankind and to all creatures in order to reconcile all things to himself and all things among themselves, thus bringing all of humanity and the entire creation to salvation and perfection in Christ (cf. Eph 1, 10; Col 1, 20). Like St. Vincent Pallotti the members of the Union wholeheartedly allow themselves to be permeated by God’s infinite love (cf. Mk 12, 30), they give themselves to a life of service and to fulfilling His will which is revealed to them above all through the Sacred Scriptures, the teaching of the Church and the signs of the times (18).”
As disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, may we look beyond ourselves, our concerns, our problems, and give ourselves even more for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. May we recognize that we are “nothingness and sin,” urged on by the charity of Christ to experience the Infinite Love and Mercy of God so that we can live more fully a life of holiness, a life of service to God and neighbor for the Infinite Glory of God.
Pallottine Sisters - "an evangelical trumpet, calling all, inviting all, rekindling zeal and charity"
Homily of Fr. Jacob Nampudakam, S.A.C. for the Anniversary Mass of the Foundation of the Pallottine Sisters, Rome, SS. Salvatore in Onda, May 15, 2016.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On June 8, 2014, Pope Francis said these words during the Regina Coeli on the feast of Pentecost: “The feast of Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles gathered in the Cenacle…” The Book of the Acts of the Apostles describes the signs and fruits of that extraordinary outpouring: the strong wind and the flames of fire; fear disappears and leaves courage in its place; tongues are loosened and all understand the message. Wherever the Spirit of God comes, everything is reborn and transfigured. The Pentecost event marks the birth of the Church and its public manifestation; and two characteristics strike us: it is a Church that surprises and ruffles us.
A fundamental element of Pentecost is surprise. Our God is the God of surprises, as we know. No one expected anything more from the disciples: after the death of Jesus they were an insignificant group of defeated orphans of their Master. Instead there occurs an unexpected event that produces a sense of marvel; the people are confused because each one heard the disciples speak in their own language, speaking of the great works of God (cf. Acts 2:6-7, 11). The Church which is born at Pentecost is a community that evokes wonder because with the strength that comes from God, it announces a new message – the Resurrection of Christ – with a new language – that universal language of love. A new message: Christ is alive, he has risen; a new language: the language of love. The disciples are covered with power from on high and they speak with courage – whereas shortly before they were all cowards, but now they speak courageously and openly, with the freedom of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is called to be thus at all times; capable of surprising as it announces to all that Jesus the Christ has conquered death, that the arms of God are always open, that his patience is always there to care for us in order to heal us, to forgive us. The risen Christ has given his Spirit to the Church for this exact mission.
Some, in Jerusalem, would have preferred that the disciples of Jesus, paralyzed by fear, would have remained closed up in the house so as not to create havoc. Even today people want the same thing from Christians. Instead the risen Lord thrusts them into the world: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). It is a Church that does not hesitate to go forth, to meet the people, in order to announce the message that has been entrusted to it, even when that message disturbs or unnerves the conscience, even if the message may bring problems and even, at times, may bring us martyrdom.
“The feast of Pentecost commemorated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Cenacle” – are significant words for our Pallottine Family. Today, as we celebrate the birth of the Congregations of the Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate and of the Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate, we remember our common responsibility for the life and development of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
The Decree of the Pontifical Council of the Laity (PCL) of October 28, 2003 has recognized definitively that the Union of Catholic Apostolate currently fulfills the fundamental charism given to St. Vincent Pallotti, as a communal entity. The communities founded by Vincent Pallotti, an integral part of the Union, have the task of guaranteeing its unity and efficacy. The central Communities have a special responsibility for the growth, spirituality, unity and apostolic effectiveness of the entire Union.
The three Foundation Communities effectively achieve their special responsibility toward the Union only if they cooperate in a visible and exemplary way. Where at least two of these Communities are present in a country, they are to organize and work together at all levels “from the beginning,” in their initiatives for the Union.
The General Statutes are linked with the autonomous rule of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, the Congregations of the Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate and of the Missionary sisters of the Catholic Apostolate (Cf. GS 10, 40). It connects them, integrates them and enlightens them. .
The role of the Priests and Brothers of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate and of the Sisters of the Pallottine congregations is to be “leaven of unity, apostolic awareness and inspiration” in order to “give a face to the Union and to make it alive.” They can only do this if the fundamental vision of Vincent Pallotti has “entered into their flesh and their blood,” if they are “open to the Union and capable of rediscovery and of cooperating with all the members of the Pallottine family.” But this presupposes that the Society of the Catholic Apostolate and the Congregations of the Pallottine sisters appropriate the General Statutes, study it with intensity, personally and communally, meditating and reflecting on it and on its relationship to their lives.
The special responsibility toward the entire foundation of Vincent Pallotti requires from the members of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate and of the Congregations of the Pallottine Sisters, that in their initial and permanent formation, there be a complete familiarity with the foundational charism of the Founder as it is described in the General Statutes. They must acquire the conviction that the Union is their specific contribution to evangelization and they must be able “to motivate, inspire and accompany the individual members and groups of the UAC.”
Vincent Pallotti founded the Union “…so that it might be an evangelical trumpet, calling all, inviting all, rekindling zeal and charity in all the faithful of every state, situation and condition.” The Church has made the foundational vision of Pallotti its own and desires that the Union accomplishes its mission in the world in a lively and permanent way. The primary task of the Institute of the Priests and Brothers and of the Pallottine Sisters is exactly that of building up, giving it growth and promoting the Union, maintaining its original fidelity.
The members of the communities of foundation began their service to the Union as communities in the National Church of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani, in the Pia Casa di Carità at Borgo S. Agata and in the house of San Salvatore in Onda. Even today, their houses and local communities are “living cells of inspiration and of Pallottine activity” and “dynamic centers” to fulfill their special responsibility to the communities of the Union founded by Pallotti himself.
The Union will receive fruitful suggestions from the local houses and communities in the intentions of Vincent Pallotti when their style of life and their behavior are characteristic of their relationship to the Union. They are challenged to achieve the essential characteristics according to the model of the Cenacle and to strive to become “houses and schools of communion.”
This, for us, members of the communities of foundation, is a favorable moment to reflect, pray and commit ourselves to spread the gift of the charism of our beloved founder, St. Vincent. Unfortunately, at times there is the tendency to see the Union as an external reality, constituted only by groups of laity. All of us together can build up the Union and in this is the beauty of our charism. Let us always remember this great responsibility of the communities founded by Vincent Pallotti for the growth, the spirituality, the unity and apostolic effectiveness of the entire Union.
Jacob Nampudakam, SAC
Rome, SS. Salvatore in Onda, May 15, 2016
The Anniversary Mass of the Foundation of the Pallottine Sisters
Living God’s Mercy with all of creation
The theme of this reflection is very much close to my heart and linked to my cultural roots. I grew up in direct contact with nature and we fed ourselves with thefruits of the earth. I have always admired its diversity and beauty. I remember thatwhen I saw the Atlantic for the first time, I could not hold my emotions back, saying:God made you! I had a similar experience when I found myself, as a missionary,within the planet’s largest “Biodiversity Sanctuary”, the Amazon.
Today I live in the beautiful city of Rome, full of life, history, beauty, culture,tourists and pilgrims, but at the same time, chaotic and polluted, receiving thousandsof brother and sister immigrants and refugees. Having fled from wars oftenprovoked by economic interests and human exploitation. We are also afraid of thethreat of terrorism in its increasingly extreme manifestations throughout the world.
Within this panorama we are called, as Pallottine Family in the Church, to liveGod's mercy and take care of all creation. A theme which is at the centre of PopeFrancis’ reflections, and is also a cause of concern for the UN, for non-governmentalorganizations, for scientists, theologians, churches, families and individuals. It isproper concern for our common home.
The biblical message regarding creation is fundamentally positive. Creation isthe first act of God’s love. Everything flows from this source of life and being whichis God himself, as from the womb of a mother. Seven times we are told that whatGod had done is good and beautiful, the last time concluding with "God saweverything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good" (Gn 1:31) and the firstsong to the Lord’s merciful love was born from contemplating the work of Creation:"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy it is everlasting" (Ps 117).
God created man and woman and has woven a dialogue of friendship withthem. He put all of creation in their hands to be protected and cultivated, and one ofthe most beautiful, joyful and liberating things given to us is to contemplate the workof creation, and ourselves within it. To feel ourselves to be “creatures”, objects of theCreator’s loving and provident concern, situates us in our right place before God, intrue, joyful humility, full of gratitude and able to assume the responsibilities that Heentrusts to us with the gift of life.
The human vocation will, therefore, be understood in terms of the cultivationand safekeeping of a precious reality which is beloved by God. On the other hand,
‘“keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving’ In this sense, everycommunity “can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence,but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for cominggenerations” (Laudato Sì (LS) n. 67).
This, therefore, is a privileged field for the exercise of a merciful dominion overcreation on our part and that of all humankind; for good administration expressed incaring practices; to make concrete that good news which is at the heart of the Gospelfor the earth and for humanity itself.
As image and likeness of God, we are called to be the manifestation of God’sglory in the world and dialogue partners of God on earth before all creation. Only wecan assume a conscious attitude of respect for nature. Only in us can an integral andmerciful ecological conscience emerge.
For the first time, we are facing an ecological crisis of planetary proportionscaused primarily by human activity. In addition, we are convinced that essentialnatural resources for life and human dignity are under a “universal social mortgage”(cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis n. 42): since the earth is ultimately a commonheritage, its fruits are for the benefit of all. The land contains resources that, whilelimited, are still sufficient for all humanity.
Protecting the environment is a challenge for all of us and we are called to listento the cry of the earth and of the poor who are desperate. Technical and scientificadvances can contribute greatly to humanising the world, but can also be instrumentsof destruction and death. If technical progress is not matched by correspondingprogress in human ethical formation and integral growth, it ceases to be progress,and becomes a threat for humanity and for the world. Integral ecology requires a"reconnection" of scientific and technical progress with ethics. When we humanbeings approach the environmental issue, we must assert the primacy of ethics overtechnology, from which comes the need to always safeguard human dignity.
Consumerism and the wasting of resources, which leave much of the humanpopulation in misery, are opposed to any sound ecologically integral ethical option.The elimination of poverty is one of the first steps that human beings can take tosolve ecological problems. An “ecological conversion” of individuals and peoples isrequired this to happen, especially of those who have an abundance of wealth.
The destruction of the environment and ecological problems are rooted to agreat extent in a blurring of people’s ethical awareness. In this way some elements ofthis ecological crisis reveal their moral character.
Thus, the ecological crisis gives us the opportunity for a radical critique of howwe are organising the production of goods and human coexistence. It also indicates anew paradigm in the relationship between nature and humans. It is necessary topoint to a new way of living and thinking, not merely to conceive of nature only as aresource to be exploited. In this respect an ecological conversion is needed, whereby
human beings cease to see themselves simply as isolated individuals, but rather aspart of a whole, capable of natural and social interrelations. This self-understandingleads to an ethical and spiritual conversion which generates behaviour and attitudesof respect, of self-restraint, of just measure, and of solidarity with nature and withother human beings.
From here comes the awareness that solutions must be generated anddeveloped within ourselves, since the best way to respect nature is to promote an“integral human ecology” open to transcendence. Respect for human beings and fornature has a complementary reciprocity. The primary ecology is to defend “humanecology”. If “human ecology” goes well, all creation will benefit. In fact, theecological crisis arises almost always from our spiritual and social deserts.
A full and merciful ecology requires an effective change of mentality whichpropels us to adopt new lifestyles. These lifestyles should be marked by personal andsocial sobriety, temperance and self-discipline. It is necessary to escape from the logicof mere consumption and promote forms of production which respect the order ofcreation and which satisfy the needs of all. Such an attitude encourages a renewedawareness of the interdependence which binds all of the inhabitants of the earthtogether. This invites us to be agents of change of the structural causes whichgenerate such behaviour. In this regard, the formation of conscience and of anintegral spirituality have a fundamental role.
We are called to relinquish an aggressive way of life and instead prize kindness,caring relationships and the value of the dignity of others. Integral human ecologynot only reveals the relationship between the human person and the environment,but also the relationship of each person with him- or her-self and with the Creator.Duties towards the environment flow from those towards the person, considered inhim- or her-self and in relation to others.
All of this also requires a response at the level of spirituality, inspired by thebelief that creation is a gift that God has placed in the responsible hands of humanbeings for their use, recognition, gratitude and loving care. Nature presents itself toour eyes as the imprint of God, as a place in which his creative, providential andredemptive power is revealed. For this to be possible, we need to help one anotherto rediscover our connection with God and the mission given to us to be “shepherdand guardian” of ourselves, of others and of all creation. The new creation in Christand the continuous creation reveal that nothing of what exists in this world isindifferent to the creating and redeeming plan of God.
Certainly, as a family inspired by St. Vincent Pallotti, who makes our beingcreated in the image and likeness of God the foundation of our common vocation,we can help to put in place a new style of life and new missionary perspectives andsing the mercy God with all creatures.
From our Founder, St. Vincent Pallotti:
“Ah my God, faith reminds me that You are infinite Goodness and, as such, are infinitelydiffusive, and with infinite love from all Eternity you have mercifully decreed the ineffable Work of theCreation of the entire Universe to spread in your creatures all of Yourself, eternal, infinite, immense,incomprehensible. [...] Ah my God, faith reminds me that you have carried out the loving Decree ofCreation, and that before creating human beings, you created Heaven and Earth, and in Heaven theAngels, and on earth everything visible [...] in service of human beings, so that everything needed forthe necessities of the present life be provided to be used as much as is needed to attain our final single Blessed End” (OOCC XIII, pp. 30-31).
“Human beings are created, as Holy Faith teaches us, in the image and likeness of God, Godwho is charity in essence, and therefore human beings are living images of divine charity according tothe essence of their creation: and since God, being charity in essence in his external operations isalways attentive towards human beings and was so to the point of sending his Only Begotten Son toredeem the human race by his death on a Cross, so human beings must imitate God according to theirpossibilities through the effectiveness of their works by loving their neighbour, which includes everyone ofevery condition, country, nation etc. capable of knowing God and, therefore, human beings according tothe essence of their creation cannot exempt themselves from the precept of charity” (OOCC IV, pp.172-3).
For personal and community reflection:
“The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibilityof everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we donot, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others. That is whythe New Zealand bishops asked what the commandment “Thou shall not kill” means when“twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nationsand future generations of what they need to survive” (LS n. 95).
• Do we really consider the good things which we have as a gift from God whichwe are called to share and use for the good of all?
• In what ways and to what extent do we live out the consequences of this in ourdaily lives as individuals, as families, as communities?
• What practical steps are we willing to take as individuals, as families, ascommunities, as NCCs and LCCs, to protect the environment and to respondto the cry of the poor?
P. Gilberto Orsolin SAC,
Mary, Mother of Mercy
This blog post is taken from the "Apostles for Today" Prayer and Reflection from May 2016
The human and experience and that of family, the relationship between mother and child, allows us to understand the authenticity of mercy.
Maternal mercy is a natural and special characteristic of a mother’s heart which generates life. For the mother, the child is greatly loved because he or she is part of her life, and the more the latter suffers, the more he or she will be loved.
In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, Pope Francis says to us:
“No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh” (Misericordia Vultus 24).
Mary, Mother of Mercy, beyond the merely human, has cultivated the breadth of maternity through faith and obedience.
If the heart of a mother is a constant offering of love to her children, the heart of Mary is the most evident expression of the maternal heart of God to humanity.
Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, we see that her path as Mother was completely shaped in mercy for all humankind.
Mary, woman of attentive listening to God and to the events of her time. This is not a simple “listening”, a cursory listen, but a “listening with attention, acceptance and availability”.
At the Annunciation, she listens to the Angel Gabriel and with her Let it be done (fiat), accepts to be the mother of the Saviour. It is the ‘yes’ of a faith committed to God.
Mary woman of decision. On hearing that Elizabeth, her elderly cousin, was pregnant, she left in a hurry to serve her.
In the meeting with Elizabeth, the Magnificat proclaimed by Mary anticipated in a certain way the outpouring of the Spirit in the community of Jerusalem.
The prophecy and the mercy, the life and the works of Mary proclaimed in this canticle reveal that she actively practices the merciful dimension of its feminine aspect when she proclaims the mercy of Almighty God and at the same time proclaims a social dimension, calling for justice for the children of God who are disadvantaged and victims of injustice.
Mary, mystical soul, but also prophetic woman with a commitment of justice towards all peoples.
Mary, woman of action. While taking part in the wedding at Cana in Galilee, she notices the embarrassment that the young married couples would have experienced because of the lack of wine. No one needed to ask her: she acted with mercy. Here too we see the realism, humanity and consistency of Mary, attentive to the events of life.
Mary at the foot of the Cross, is a witness of the unbounded forgiveness of the Son of God, who supports in his flesh the dramatic encounter between the sin of the world and the mercy of God.
Pope Francis tells us that Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception.
The Mother of mercy forgives all of the atrocities suffered by her Son.
Saint Vincent Pallotti was a man intoxicated by the mercy of God.
On reading his writings, we find that he lives always as both an object and a subject of love. He sees his whole life and his whole being as a wonderful work of God's Infinite Mercy, which has as the object itself of His love the purpose of making him (Vincent) the perpetual miracle of His mercy in the way that he made of Mary the miracle of His grace.
St. Vincent Pallotti recognizes, as do we all, that Mary is full of grace, mother of mercy, Co-redemptrix of humankind, and invokes her in his prayers and supplications, over and over: to my beloved mother, “my dear mother of mercy”, hail mother of mercy.
Our founder, reflecting on the texts from the Acts of the Apostles which speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit, wanted to create a painting portraying the Pentecost scene. He saw Mary as Queen of the Apostles, giving them strength and courage. For this reason he placed his work under her protection.
Let us pray with Saint Vincent Pallotti, “Hail Mother of the Mercy of God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the heavenly court, mercifully embrace me, the Perpetual Miracle of Mercy, as you made Mary the miracle of grace” (cf. OOCC X, 356).
a) Mary gave her yes for all of her life. How do you live out your yes: in the priesthood, in consecrated life, as an individual, as a couple, in your family, your community and in the apostolate? b) In the Magnificat, we see Mary as a contemplative and with a Christian consciousness of the socio-political situation of her time. To what point do we content ourselves with charitable action of almsgiving and “social work” and flee from the true and proper transforming demanded of a critical Christian conscience? c) What is the experience of the love and mercy of God that I strive to live day by day in my live? d) We are called by our spirituality to reveal through our life and apostolate the Face of the infinite love and mercy of God. How does this happen in my personal and apostolic life?
Dayse da Conceição Barros da Conceição.
Lay member of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
Manaus, Amazonia, Brazil.
An interview with the Postulator of Venerable Elisabetta Sanna's Cause for Canonization, Pallottine Fr. Jan Korycki, S.A.C. March 21, 2016 in Rome.
How was your interest stirred in the future ‘Blessed’?
My great interest in the person of the Servant of God Elisabeth Sanna, began when reading her biography. I noticed that the beatification process began almost immediately after her death, in fact exactly four months from the date of her death! She died on February 17, 1857 and June 15 of that year, the Vicar of Rome appointed the first postulator of the cause [the Prelate of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore].
So I began to investigate, to ask myself ‘why so fast?’ And that led me to discover that Elisabeth Sanna was already regarded by the inhabitants of Rome at that time as a truly holy person. Awareness of her holiness was so diffused that people were attracted to her personality, even although she was illiterate and did not speak Italian well.
How was her holiness manifest?
The greatness of Elisabeth Sanna was visible in her virtues, especially great strength of faith in her everyday life. The centre of that life was the eucharist. Every day she attended Mass, either in Sardinia or later in Rome. At that time there was no concelebration – leading to many celebrations of the Mass every day – so in St Peter’s Basilica, when she could, she walked from one altar to another and knelt down and attended the holy eucharist. She went where there was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, wherever there was adoration for 40 hours; everything in her life happened around the eucharist. It is important to remember what Vat II emphasized when it declared the eucharist to be the centre of Christian life. We see that already mirrored in the personal life of Elisabeth.
Beside the cult of the eucharist, she also had great devotion to Our Lady. When Elisabeth received the image of Our Lady Virgo Potens, she made a small shrine in her tiny apartment. When people came to her to talk, she spoke to them about their lives and prayed for them. Prayer and conversation about spiritual issues were always the subject of her meetings. Devotion to Our Lady was the result of the fact that Mary is the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who was sacrificed for us and therefore she had enormous experience of the passion, especially in Lent. During Holy Week she broke off all contact with people in order to fully capture the devotion, to reflect on the mystery of the martyrdom, death and resurrection of the Lord. This is the source of her spiritual greatness.
This greatness was also evident in her gift of seeing and dealing wisely with other people, showing great personal prudence. On one ocassion, before she decided to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land – influenced by a Lenten retreat preached by the Franciscans in Sardinia – she persuaded a lot of other people to go too, explaining how important it was for their spiritual development to visit the holy places. But as for herself, she talked not only to the preacher but also to her confessor. But even this was not enough. At Codrongianos where she was born, 15 km from Sassari, she also consulted the priest at the Cathedral with whom she used to share spiritual matters, about her desire for the pilgrimage. Such extensive consultation demonstrates her virtue of prudence.
What is the relationship of the Pallottine family with Venerable Elisabeth Sanna?
Elisabeth was very valued by our founder himself. Their first encounter was quite extraordinary. In a strange city she frequently became confused as to the direction she should be walking [e.g. to get to St Peter's Square]. Unable to ask people for directions she could often be seen sitting and crying alongside St Augustine’s Church. On one occasion, according to her own testimony, a priest stared at her intensely and, with that, she suddenly regained courage and, although still not knowing in which direction to walk, she found herself suddenly in St Peter's Square. This priest was St Vincent Pallotti. Shortly after this event, Elisabeth met Pallotti, who agreed to be her spiritual director.
Fr Francesco Vaccari, the first successor of St Vincent as Superior General, reminded his confreres that their Society owed its very existence and development to two people: Elisabeth Sanna and Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini. Why Elisabeth? Through her prayers, suffering, and wisdom she gave invaluable advice to all those who approached her. Witnesses say that Pallotti repeatedly consulted her. Cardinal Giovanni Solgia said that, in his works and even in personal matters, Pallotti often took advice from her. In a letter to Fr Valle he wrote that Elisabeth was ‘progressing on the path of holiness according to God's plan’.
Her close association with Pallotti shows in this particular incident. She went to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and, falling, broke her arm. Elisabeth was hospitalised and when it was reported to Pallotti, since he could not be with her he immediately sent a letter with another woman, asking her to clarify the situation and to tell her he could not come that day but would visit the day after.
Vincent Pallotti introduced her to the Union of Catholic Apostolate and she helped with her prayers, suffering, and advice. When he organized the celebration of the Octave of Epiphany she informed people about it, inviting and encouraging them to participate. Pallotti’s successors also regarded her as a great person, even sending the novices, when they had difficulties, to speak with Elisabeth. Right from the beginning she played an important role in the life of the Pallottine family. She prayed in our church SS Salvatore in Onda and assisted where she could, despite the disease she suffered that did not allow her to raise her arms. She did a variety of things as, for example, taking care of the liturgical vestments. She had much involvement in the early development of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
Why did Elisabeth not return to her family in Sardinia?
In one health crisis Pallotti immediately made contact with Elisabeth's brother, Antonio Luigi, who was a priest and informed him of the situation, confirming he was sending Elisabeth to physicians. She was declared too weak to travel home, since the four-day ship journey from Genova to Porto Torres would have been too strenuous and doctors warned of the fragility of her body. Pallotti, knowing about it, wrote to her brother saying that Elisabeth wanted to go back to Sardinia to her family, but at that time it was impossible because of her health status. When the situation improved, he said, she would embark on a return trip. However her condition continually worsened until one of the doctors issued a statement saying that, if she was ever to travel by ship to Sardinia, she would be risking her life during the journey.
She was blessed in that, despite great difficulties, she was not discouraged. She really wanted to go back to her family. Over the first five years she cried constantly. When doctors told her clearly about the danger of death should she attempt the trip, Pallotti said to her: "apparently God's will is to do something good here in Rome and not to expose yourself to death during the journey." Her family appeared to be comfortable. When they did have problems Fr Vaccari and Fr Melia organized help. Despite the fact that there were many hardships and difficulties, Elisabeth did not give up but accepted the situation. She was convinced of what God wanted and that, in her situation, to serve God was to do good. This kind of attitude fostered her holiness and hence it was easy to start the beatification process quickly.
In the nineteenth century, when the apostolate was reserved for clergy, what made Elisabeth Sanna excel in her faith?
In Sardinia she especially supported girls, teaching them the catechism. She assisted the poor and the suffering. Once, when she met a young girl entangled in an immoral life, she helped her. Although she had only a small apartment she took the girl to live with her, supporting her for a long time until she was convinced a solution was found and that she could lead a modest life.
In Rome she was much appreciated for her help to the poor. What she received from people, she gave to others, or to the two orphanages that Vincent Pallotti founded. One of them was the Casa Pia Carita, which still exists today. She often went to the hospital to visit the terminally ill. At the hospital she could not do much but her presence, counsel and prayer had a positive impact on the sick eagerly waiting for her.
What miracle, through her intercession, hastened the process of her beatification?
In different countries knowledge of Elisabeth’s reputation for holiness and her growing fame were made possible thanks to the commitment of our confreres and sisters. This is especially so in Brazil, where she became very well known among hospital patients and where a miracle happened.
A young woman named Suzanna, when she was 25 years old, fell ill. Cancer occurred in her arm and wrist. Despite surgery and treatment her hand became paralyzed. She could not move her arm, forearm or wrist. Suzanna received a holy picture of Elisabeth Sanna from a Pallottine, Fr Daniel Rocchetti sac, and listened to the preaching of Fr João Pedro Stawicki sac, who spoke about the Union of Catholic Apostolate and about Elisabeth – that this Servant of God had both hands paralyzed to the point that she could not raise them.
Suzanna thought, ‘if Elisabeth, while having both hands paralysed did so much good, then even if I am sick I must also do something good.’ So she began to pray. Fortunately a book on Elisabeth Sanna: "Lay Co-operator of St Vincent Pallotti" had been translated into Portuguese. Suzanna started reading it and, along with several other people, began to pray for her intercession.
In May 2008 at the church of Our Lady of Fatima in Niterói, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and before the meeting of a youth group, Suzanna prayed with a friend. Suzanna approached the tabernacle, put her paralyzed hand on the altar, and after a moment began to shout with joy. She felt her hand straightened up and shouted, “my hand is healed!” She raised her hand up. A young priest came and confirmed that.
This young woman who, for five years had undergone different treatments, had been classified as completely unable to work. She had already been approved for a disability pension. Now she was able to freely move her paralyzed hand. Doctors found this sudden healing, with full and sustained mobility, to be scientifically inexplicable. Three years later in 2011, having concluded an official diocesan investigation, doctors confirmed complete healing. Subsequently a Commission of doctors in Rome and of theologians and cardinals, looking into this sudden cure, agreed that it was a miracle.
Elisabeth Sanna is little known in the world. How do we change that?
Vincent Pallotti recognized Elisabeth Sanna as already a saint. Her beatification is a grace that God is giving to our generation, and it is a challenge to get back to the roots of Pallotti’s vision. Elisabeth was as if a spiritual daughter of St Vincent. Like her we all must learn to trust in God, to meet him in the eucharist, to realise that we are all called to witness to faith, love and Christian hope.
So we need to inform more people about Elisabeth Sanna through disseminating information on her holiness, articles, books, and publications. We need to view her as a lay collaborator of St Vincent, who had a great awareness of the vocation of all to the apostolate and whose personal life was the realization of that vocation.
The Bishop of Sassari, Sardinia, has asked me to prepare short articles on her life. Every week, until the beatification, they will be published in their local press. This will be in Italian, but can be made available also in other countries if people are interested. Books have been published in Poland, Brazil and Germany. If we all develop more interest in holiness and in the vocation to the apostolate as the basis of personal holiness, Elisabeth Sanna will become better known.
Jan Korycki, S.A.C. – Rome – ITALY
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