Thursday, July 10, 2008

What I Did in Guadalajara: Spiritual Exercises for Charities/Caritas Directors

From Roundtable of Diocesan Social Action Directors Newsletter, National Pastoral Life Center

by Brian Corbin
Executive Director, Catholic Charities Services & Health Affairs
Diocese of Youngstown, OH

I gratefully participated as one of approximately 75 US delegates at the "Spiritual Exercises" sponsored by The Pontifical Council, Cor Unum (One Heart). This Vatican dicastery, organized by Pope Paul VI, helps to coordinate the charitable works of the Church on a global level, fosters the catechesis of charity, and operates various development foundations. Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes , in attendance with us, serves as President of the Council.

Over 450 Catholic Charities/Caritas directors from all the countries of North, Central, South America and the Caribbean came to Guadalajara, Mexico from June 1-June 6, 2008 to engage in a first ever hemispheric retreat led by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. Two major aspects moved me during this unique experience: 1) the power of the reflections by Fr. Cantalamessa on the nature and work of "charity/Love" based on the papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est; and, 2) the interactions I had with many directors of Catholic Charities (or Caritas in all other parts of the world except in the US).

Fr. Cantalamessa led us in a series of meditations that helped us as “Caritas” workers to integrate in our agencies and personal lives various aspects of systematic theology, spirituality and Scripture. He called us to meditate on the six strophs/verses of the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost). I gained a much deeper insight into the work and theology of the Trinity through his reflections on the power and gifts of the Spirit. Cantalamessa continued his meditations on four specific "beatitudes" (blessed are the poor, the meek, the hungry, the peacemakers) and challenged us to review in our own lives how these impact us as leaders of Catholic Charities/Caritas agencies. He then led a series of meditations on several well known parables: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Lazarus and Dives, and again called us to better understand how these stories form our spiritual lives and apostolates. Finally, during the daily Eucharistic celebrations, Cantalamessa preached on the various aspects of the Mass (the Word, the Eucharist, Communion) and on Mary. Some very specific themes that impacted me specifically related to the Christian call to holiness, the need to refuse/reject “indifference,” and the radical witness of the call to love God and our Neighbor.

Another aspect that moved me involved the interactions I had with Caritas Directors from many other countries of the American hemisphere. I gained new insights into the work of the Church in various dioceses of the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala to name a few. I grew to appreciate how the Church is a trans-national/global institution with local outreach in almost every neighborhood on earth. I learned that even though I need to focus my work in my own diocese, that there is a need to find ways to connect to our brothers and sisters around the world. I gained an appreciation on how some of our fellow directors are personally at risk for their work. I experienced how all of us share in the work of the Church continuing Jesus’ call to be servants. The mission is universal: be a sign of God’s love in the world.

I left this retreat more committed to living out my faith – both personally and institutionally -- as a director of a Caritas agency in the US. We are called to act --and love-- locally and think globally by practicing some of core insights of our faith: solidarity and communion.

Books by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Preacher of the Papal Household:

  • Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator Liturgical Press (May 2003)
  • Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to the Abundant Christian Life Word Among Us Press (January 15, 2007)
  • The Eucharist, Our Sanctification Liturgical Press (January 1993)

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