Mission Is Mercy!
Lebanon-Beirut: Brochero was no ordinary Priest- he was a ‘missionary of mercy’. Though he died more than a hundred years ago (in 1914) this legendary priest (born Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero) from Argentina was today on World Mission Sunday canonized a saint, together with six others, in St Peter’s Square Rome by Pope Francis.
When Brochero was beatified in September 2013, Pope Francis in a letter to the Bishops of Argentina, praised Brochero for having had the “smell of his sheep.” It is a phrase Pope Francis has often used to describe his understanding of ‘priesthood’: a shepherd, a pastor who accompanies his flock, walking with them through life’s ups and downs. Francis wrote, “he never stayed in the parish office. He got on his mule and went out to find people like a priest of the street – to the point of getting leprosy” The life of Brochero is exemplary, very inspirational.
Brochero was a ‘gaucho (cowboy)priest’, who wore a poncho, rode a mule and traveled to the far-flung peripheries, to the most isolated areas, to be in the midst of the poor and minister to them. There are striking parallels between Brochero and Francis: reaching out to the margins, the poor and the excluded and in drinking mate tea. Above all, Brochero’s spirituality was steeped in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius; he popularized the Exercises very much. The Pope uses every possible opportunity to do the same! In his homily at the Canonization, Pope Francis said, “the saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them,”
In a message given earlier for Mission Sunday entitled, Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy , Pope Francis wrote,“together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries, women and families often more adequately understand people’s problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures, and by allocating human and spiritual resources towards the building of good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and fraternity, both among individuals and in social and cultural life, in particular through care for the poor. All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace.” The Holy Father, continues to emphasize the role of the laity: women and families to heal our broken world.
Today is traditionally celebrated as the feast day of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century mystic, a nun in the Visitation Convent in Paray-le-Monial France. Jesus revealed His Most Sacred Heart to her; his unconditional love and compassion for us and the ungrateful response he felt from humankind. The twelve promises made to her by Jesus constitute the substance of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, one of the most practiced devotions universally in the Catholic Church. Thanks to St Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit and the confessor of St Margaret Mary, this devotion to God’s merciful heart has also been closely associated with the Society of Jesus.
A rare coincidence is that its World Food Day today. In a message for the day, Pope Francis said, “those who are engaged in work in the fields, in farming, in small-scale fishing, or in the forests, or those who live in rural areas in direct contact with the effects of climate change, are aware that if the climate changes, their life changes too. Their daily lives are affected by difficult or at times dramatic situations, the future becomes increasingly uncertain and in this way the thought of abandoning homes and loved ones begins to arise. There is a prevalent sense of abandonment, the feeling of being abandoned by institutions, deprived of possible technical contributions or even of just consideration on the part of all those of us who benefit from their work.”More powerful words, that works of mercy, must reach those who need it the most!
Finally, here in Beirut a large congregation of Catholic migrants gathered together for their 23rd Prayer Rally. Most were Filipinos, but there was a fair sprinkling of migrants from Sri Lanka, Ghana, Sudan and from other countries. There was the devotional recitation of the rosary as the procession wound its way to a solemn Eucharistic Celebration. October being the month of the Holy Rosary, the focus of the prayer rally has always been the Rosary. A banner, ‘a family that prays together, stays together’- said it all!
A spiritually absorbing day with clear reminders: prayer is at the root and heart of Christian discipleship; this prayer needs to be translated into concrete acts of mercy; like St. Brochero and the other saints of today, our mission is ultimately mercy!
The Author- Fr Cedric Prakash sj is an Indian Jesuit priest and a human rights activist. He is currently based in Lebanon and engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications.