receiver
receiver
receiver

Servant of God Joseph De Piro – reflections from his life and writings; 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 127(128); Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16.

 

** Gospel Reading

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

 

** Further Reading

It has been only recently that we shared with you some of our Founder’s material about marriage. Some weeks ago we have also passed on to you a table containing the various aspects of De Piro’s humility. At the same time this Sunday’s Gospel presents together both the married life and the simplicity of children. In fact the Evangelist Mark, in his ch., 10, presents the life of the little ones as a sine qua non to enter the Kingdom. Rightly so, because the life of the little ones or simplicity is nothing more and nothing less than trust in God … complete trust in God.

Fr Martin Cilia has a whole section about our Founder’s complete abandonment in the hands of God. In his book “Found Among Sinners” (pp. 133-135) Fr Martin writes:

God’s providence meant for Joseph De Piro a deep trust in the Lord of history.  He believed in an attitude of active passivity and of trusting the guiding hand of God.  His trust in God “who does not fail in his promises” translated itself in a deep conviction that all will be well.

De Piro’s trust in Divine providence meant a belief and a certainty “that we can say that our work, in its foundation, was moved and lead by Divine providence.”  Whatever happened to him did not happen just by chance but “in his great providence God reserved this work to the society of missionaries.”  All this points to De Piro’s conviction that mission has its origin in the heart of God.  God is the source of this sending love in which he felt privileged to participate and give his share.

The smallness of his Order did not make him loose heart.  On the contrary he saw the humble beginnings in line with the Gospel:

The gospel event of the widow’s mite encourages us, to look upwards and put our hope in him who is our most beloved father because when God is building those who build the walls do not labour in vain… God’s power, which made everything out of nothing and the power of Jesus who fed thousands of people from five loaves has never changed and is still there forever.

De Piro was convinced that mission did not depend on numbers but on people who were in love with the Lord and were drawn by a desire to share this love with others.  Two important images for De Piro stress this thought.

 

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Exemple

107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Pope Francis’ Message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021 is that we ought to work ‘Towards an ever wider “WE”’.

When the men and women of nations feel under threat from forces that seem beyond their control – pandemic, climate change, global economy, terrorism – it is easy to see why they retreat into a stance that is closed and defensive, and which excludes others that makes people self-centred. Yet Jesus has shown us another way; the only way. It is a way that leads us towards an ever wider “we” by helping us see our world and its peoples as God sees us all and loves us all. It is a way that empowers us to reach out and, in the words spoken by Pope Francis in the empty St Peter’s Square all those months ago, “to create spaces where everyone can recognise that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity” .

Prayer for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Holy, beloved Father, your Son Jesus taught us that there is great rejoicing in heaven whenever someone lost is found, whenever someone excluded, rejected or discarded is gathered into our “we”, which thus becomes ever wider. We ask you to grant the followers of Jesus, and all people of good will, the grace to do your will on earth. Bless each act of welcome and outreach that draws those in exile into the “we” of community and of the Church, so that our earth may truly become what you yourself created it to be: the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.

 

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Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 18(19):8.10.12-14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43.45.47-48.

 

** Gospel Reading

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

I cannot refrain from referring you to this Sunday’s first words of the collect: “Father, you show your almighty power in your mercy and forgiveness …” These words are really impressive. It was this belief that moved our Founder to leave the law studies and go for the priesthood. In n. 5 of his first “Reasons in Favour or Against” the Servant of God was quite clear: “My wish to be completely dedicated to God, he who had suffered so much for my sins”. But this does not seem to be one of the main themes of the coming Sunday. Rather, I am seeing that “we are called to be prophets of justice”.

 

Further Reading

Was Joseph De Piro a prophet of justice? If he were to write an autobiography he would have undoubtedly put these words somewhere in the beginning:

“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to:

  • be a father and a mother to the girls and boys of the ecclesiastical charitable institutes;
  • sustain in their various needs the boys and youths of the Birkirkara Oratory;
  • see to it that there is a provision for all the needs of the seminarians at the Mdina Major Seminary;
  • be a real “Padre” to the members of my Missionary religious Institute;
  • help, in their various needs, the families of the girls and boys of the ecclesiastical charitable institutes;
  • follow the old girls and boys of these institutes;
  • create social assistance to the employees of these institutes, of the Mdina Cathedral School and of the Major Seminary;
  • give alms to the many poor and miserable beggars, whether young or old, women or men;
  • help the Maltese workers earn a just wage;
  • help the Maltese families enjoy a decent living;
  • mediate for peace and concord between conflicting individuals or entities;
  • keep strong the faith of the faithful Maltese in Malta, whether young or old, women or men;
  • rejuvenate the faith of the Maltese migrants, whereever they are; and
  • announce God’s love to those who have never heard of it.

The Servant of God was a man whose life was to help others.

 

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Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 53(54):3-6. 8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37.

 

** Gospel Reading

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

 

** Further Reading

As regards this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word one can make several reflections, but for me it seems that humility is central. Our Founder seems to excel in this virtue. In the research “The Incarnational Aspect of the Spirituality of Joseph De Piro” Appendix 3 presents in table form what the witnesses testified at the Maltese and Gozitan Diocesan Tribunals about this virtue of the Servant of God. Having a look at it you may easily make more than one conclusion!

Appendix 3

De Piro’s humility

Aloisio, Aloisius, Priest member of Society, While collecting testimonies.
Aspect/s of humility: In general.

Azzopardi (Fr) Raphael, Religious student – OSA, In the Rabat and Mdina streets, and during liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral.
Approachable by all; In general.

Balzan, John, Young lad, In the Qrendi streets and in the parish church.
Served the celebrant during liturgical celebrations.

Bonnici (Fr) Alexander OfmConv, Religious priest –Ofm Conv, Biographer
No boasting of his own contributions.

Brincat, Joseph, Young lad, In the Qrendi streets and in the parish church.
Did not lord over other priests; In liturgical celebrations; In general.

Borda (Fr) Peter Paul, Religious student – (M)SSP, In the Society’s Houses.
Talked to all and helped all; Always obeyed Archbishop and did what he was asked to do.

Cachia Zammit (Dr) Alexander, Young boy, When with his father, during visits to St Joseph’s, Malta.
In general.

Camilleri (Fr) Alphonse M., Religious student – Ofm, In the Rabat and Mdina streets, and during liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral.
In general; Approachable; In his dealings with children.

Camileri Peter, Young lad, In the everyday life of St Joseph’s, Gozo.
Had same food as boys of Institute.

Caruana (Sr) Pia, Young religious – Jesus of Nazareth, In the everyday life of the Jesus of Nazareth Institute, Zejtun.
Worked for the poor; Ordinary clothes; Used public transport; Did not want to be preferred from others; Was not particular about food.

Ciangura, Michael, Young lad, St Joseph’s, Gozo.
In general.

Coppola (Fr) Dominic Ofm, Religious aspirant – (M)SSP, At the Santa Maria Aspirandate – Oratory, B’Kara, Malta.
Made conferences about it; Had same food as members; Ordinary clothes.

Cremona, Bice, Young niece, In the De Piro family environment
Same food as children of institutes.

De Piro (Sr) Marie, Young niece, In the De Piro family environment and at the Mdina Cathedral
Clothes, rather poor; He was  a beggar for the institutes; Unassuming.

Fenech (Fr) Seraphim OfmConv, Religious student – OFMConv, In the Rabat and Mdina streets, and during liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral.
Had same food as the children of the institutes.

Formosa (Sr) Pauline, Young girl, In the De Piro family environment in Mdina.
In general.

Galea, Biagio, Young lad, In the Rabat streets and during liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral
Never raised his voice.

Galea (Br) Venanz, Young lad at St Joseph’s, Malta and Gozo, and as young religious Brother – (M)SSP, St Joseph’s, Malta and Gozo and in the Houses of the Society.
With the members of the Society; In general.

Gatt (Fr) Louis, Religious student – (M)SSP, In the Society’s Houses in Mdina and Rabat.
He lived in the poor houses of the Society and not in the family palace; In general; Had same food as members.

Gatt (Fr) Ugolino, Religious student – OSA, In the Rabat and Mdina streets, and during liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral.
In general; Not pretentious.

Giordmaina, Catherine, Young lady, In the Mdina streets.
In general.

Grech (Fr) Augustine, Religious student – (M)SSP, In the Society’s Houses in Mdina and Rabat.
In general; Same food as members.

Leopardi, Francoise M., Young niece, In the De Piro family environment.
Same food as relatives; Same food as girls of Jesus of Nazareth; Did not boast of privilages.

Mallia, Carmena, Young lady, Fra Diegu Institute, Malta.
Gentle and kind, Talked about humility to girls.

Muscat, (Br) Felix, Young lad at St Joseph’s, Malta and as young religious Brother – (M)SSP, At St Joseph’s, Malta and in the Society’s Houses in Mdina and Rabat.
In his relations with boys.

Rapa, Loreto, Young lad, At st Joseph’s, Gozo.
The way he treated the boys.

Sammut, Paul, Young lad, In the Rabat and Mdina streets and during catechism classes in first House of the Society.
In general.

Scerri, Anthony, Young lad, In the Rabat and Mdina streets and during catechism classes in first House of the Society.
Did not bother about his status; Torn clothes; Ordinary clothes; In liturgical celebrations; No show off.

Schembri, Angelo, Young lad, In the Qrendi streets and in the parish church.
In his salutations to everyone.

Schembri, Saviour, Young lad, As a catechist at the  Oratory, B’Kara.
Never shouted at the children; Treated everybody with gentleness.

Sciberras, Concetta, Young girl, As a benefactress of St Joseph’s Gozo.
Gentle with all.

Spiteri, (Mgr) Lawrence, Young seminarian, At the Seminary (after De Piro’s rectorship).
In general.

Spiteri, (Br) Paul, Young religious Brother – (M)SSP, In the Society’s first Houses.
Same food as members; In general; In liturgical celebrations; Charitable humility.

Tedesco, Victor, Religious aspirant – (M)SSP, At the Santa Maria Aspirandate – Oratory, B’Kara.
Approachable by all; Not a popularity seeker; In general.

Tonna, Joseph, Young lad, In the Rabat and Mdina streets and during catechism classes in first House of Society.
In general.

Tonna (Fr) Joseph, Diocesan priest, During liturgical celebrations at the Mdina Cathedral.
In general.

Vassallo, Anthony, Young lad, In the Mdina streets.
Aproachable.

Vella (Fr) Arthur, Religious priest – sj, The first priest of the Society was his uncle.
In general; When correcting the members of his Society.

Vella (Sr) Giakkina, Religious Sister – Franciscan, In the everyday life of Fra Diegu Institute.
Same food as girls of Fra Diegu; In appearance; In behaviour in general.

Vella, John, Religious aspirant – (M)SSP, At the Santa Maria Aspirandate – Oratory, B’Kara.
Non pretentious.

Vella Haber, Michael, Religious student – (M)SSP, In the Society’s first Houses.
Same food as members, Serving at table, In his dealings with the members of his Society, Accepted all responsibilities given him by Archbishop.

Wilson, George, Young lad, He was himself from Mdina and was an employee at St Joseph’s, Malta.
The way he talked to boys and employees of Institute; Had same food as the boys of St Joseph’s.

Xuereb, Paul, Religious aspirant and member – (M)SSP, At the Santa Maria Aspirandate – Oratory, B’Kara, and in the first Houses of the Society.
Ordinary clerical clothes, Approachable by members of Society, Same food as members of Society, Talked about it to the members of his Society.

Xuereb (Sr) Pauline, Religious Sister – Franciscan, In the everyday life of Fra Diegu Institute.
In general.

Zammit (Sr) Bibiana, Religious Sister – Franciscan, In the everyday life of Fra Diegu Institute.
Same food as girls of Fra Diegu.

Zammit, (Fr) Loret, A seminarian, During De Piro’s rectorship.
The way he asked something from the seminarians.

 

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Fr Mario has been a fixture at St James Parish over many years assisting and supporting us in our Parish and in our Mission Immersions to the Philippines.

Last Thursday 09 September, Fr Mario left our Australian Province to begin serving in our Philippines Province.  He has served in both the Sydney and Melbourne Archdiocese.  It was encouraging to see the support and affirmation given by the people of God from the various places he has served in emails, zoom parties, text messages and facebook, all expressing their thanks and love for him and his missionary priesthood.  We are already missing him.

May we keep Fr Mario in our prayers as we know that God goes with him.

Here are some of the messages he received:

 

Dear Mario,

Thanks for your email notifying me of your immanent departure from Melbourne as you embark on your next mission in the Philippines. Your contribution to the  Archdiocese and Church of Melbourne over a number of years is greatly appreciated. It is only through the hard work and dedication of our pastors that we are able to serve the Catholic community and provide for the pastoral and spiritual nourishment of the faithful.

I am grateful for your collaboration during your time as Parish Priest of St John’s Heidelberg and for your work at the Austin and Mercy hospitals. In true Paulist style you rolled up your sleeves and made it all happen.

Thank you Mario, personally for your willingness to assist us with parish ministry in the life of the Church here in Melbourne. May the Lord bless you as you embark on this new journey as a Paulist Missionary and I wish you well in the future.

Best wishes and blessings,

Father Joe Caddy AM
Vicar General

 

 

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Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalm 114(115):1-6. 8-9.; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35.

 

** Gospel Reading

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

 

Further Reading

“… the Son of Man was destined to suffer … If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross …” Words, very easy to understand but indeed as much hard to live! Fr Martin Cilia, in his book “Found Among Sinners” (pp. 128-130), tries to explore what was De Piro’s understanding of suffering and the cross and his living of this aspect of our discipleship of Jesus Christ:

The Cross: Power of the Missionary

One cannot speak of a truly Christo centric spirituality without a reference to the cross as the path to new life.  De Piro calls the cross, “the most powerful arm against one’s enemies.”  In line with Pauline theology he knew that the message of the missionary is “Christ and Christ crucified… power of God and the Wisdom of God.”  Here lies the challenge to follow Christ.  De Piro’s faith challenged him to see the cross as a sign of God’s presence.  He held that:

To find his cross the Christian, does not need…to undertake long journeys and strain himself. What he has to find is not a material cross, but a spiritual one, which lies around him and behind him in such a way that if he were to flee from it or avoid it, he would not succeed.

Hans Kung says that, “Faith is challenged to see the cross as a sign of God’s presence in God’s very absence, as a sign of life through death. The following of Christ does not imply simply imitation.  It means to act in a way analogous to and correlative with Christ’s way of acting… the message of Jesus Christ must always be translated.” De Piro, through his union with the Lord, was able to accept in faith the cross in his life.  He was convinced of the Lord’s love: “Who will separate me from the love of God?” Even when caught in the web of meaningless and suffering De Piro never lost hope in the Lord.

This process of being one with Christ in his suffering meant for him absolute dependency on God.  The cross of the Lord meant for him a deep conviction that in his insecurity, anxiety, darkness, loneliness and failure God was always there for him and with him.  This attitude of trust is at its best when De Piro faced the death of some family members. He was well able to unite his humanity with his spirituality: “It is natural for us to weep when our heart is breaking with sorrow, but when God permits that we should suffer, this very grief becomes our treasure.”

The Cross made it possible for De Piro to see meaning in very difficult situations, to hope against all hope and to trust in his dreams and his call: “I thank God for visiting us, in the midst of our rejoicing, with some set-backs.  After all, He is quite capable of using this mishap for the good of the work that is coming to life.”  In the words of Hans Kung the virtue of hope inspired by the crucified Christ made him able not only to act but also to suffer, not merely to live but also to die.

 

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5th September 2021 (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.)

Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 145(146):7-10; Acts 20:36-38; Matthew 14:22-33.

‘Lord, command me to come to you on the water.’

Dear Friends, as the song goes, it is time to say goodbye, but I do hope to also be able to do the Jesus trick and say: I shall ret

urn! All good things come to an end as we venture into new ground. On this my last weekend with you here at Hoppers Crossing and in Australia, I would like to start with thanking my brother Paulists, for their support and friendship, especially Fr Jude, who has been a very good brother during the last twenty three years I have spent here in Australia. Thank

you also to all my many friends especially, but not only, in the parishes of Hoppers Crossing North, Heidelberg and Horsley Park, NSW, where I ministered at some length. I have to admit that at each of these parishes I have been greatly welcomed and I still have very many friends that care for me and that I carry in my heart wherever I go. It is time for me now to take my ministry to a different country.

As we were preparing for today’s liturgy, I took the liberty to replace the readings given to us for this Sunday with other readings that help me to somehow reflect on this moment in my life. For the first reading I proposed to look at Abraham, our father in the faith. He is the first in our history to believe in one God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Abraham was called and invited by God to leave his homeland and his family and travel to an unknown land. Abraham trusted in God and accepted to undertake this journey. I do not pretend to have the faith of Abraham, but, like him, I too feel called to let go of everything I have grown to love over the last twenty-three years, and to move on to a foreign country, with a different language and culture, to a different type of ministry. I wonder what Abraham would have felt like as he settled in the new country that God had shown him. For myself I feel like I am a ten year old boy, looking at things with new eyes and learning everything from the beginning.

The second reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostle Paul farewells the Church of Ephesus as he depart

s and moves on to the next stage of his missionary journey. The feeling of the Ephesian Church was that they might never see him again. Thankfully for us, things have changed greatly, and now we can very easily travel to catch up with each other, and we can also use our social media to keep in touch; the world is now much smaller than it was in Paul’s time. Yet, it is always very difficult for me to farewell people who have loved me, accepted me as a friend, and have shared their life with me. We do not know where and when we will meet again, certain that we will meet again in God’s kingdom! Perhaps one very important moment that brings us all together, even if at a physical distance, is our celebration of the Eucharist. Each time we come together around the table of the Lord, wherever we are, we are all one, sharing in one Eucharistic meal.

In the gospel I chose to meditate on the story of Jesus walking on water and inviting Peter to join him. I wonder what it would feel like to walk on water? It is something beyond our human experience and, for this reason, it is a frightening experience. From this narrative we learn that while Peter kept his faith and was focused squarely on Jesus, he could easily walk

on the rough water, but when he removed his eyes from Jesus and started focusing on the water, he started to sink. For me, as I leave the security of life in Australia behind and move towards my new ministry in the Philippines, like Peter I too feel like leaving the secure boat and walking on water. My life and ministry in the Philippines will be a new experience and I kindly ask you to pray for me that on my missionary journey I continue to always keep my eyes focused only on Christ.

After the homily I will be presented with the missionary cross. As Christians and as missionaries our life is based on and around the cross of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of our congregation our Founder Joseph De Piro wanted us to wear the symbol of the cross of Christ every day tucked in at our waist, almost like a sword. St Paul told the Corinthians “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel” (1Co 9:16), and the good news we proclaim is that of Christ crucified (cf 1Co 1:23) The Servant of God Joseph De Piro wanted us to remember this duty by always carrying the cross with us wherever we go. Apart from the image of the cross, another image that I always carry with me in my heart is the image of Jesus on his knees washing the disciples’ feet. I feel that the minsitry of washing the feet of those I encounter is a mission I have been called to, in the words of Pope Francis, to take on the smell of the sheep (EG 24).

Thank you dear friends for your support, care and concern and I kindly ask you to continue holding me in my prayers.

Mario mssp

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St James The Apostle