SECRETARIUS GENERALIS
DE FORMATIONE
C.SS.R.
BANNER ANIMADO IMAGENES PADRE
 
RECENT DOCUMENTS AND PUBLICATIONS
 
 
Dear Confrere,

Greetings from the General Secretariat for Formation.

In this year dedicated to the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation, as a project in support of formation we have decided to send periodically to the formators, some articles written by various Redemptorist confreres. These confreres have agreed to share their experience in a fraternal way, as a service to the formators and to our Redemptorist formation program.

This first article was written by Fr. Brendan Kelly entitled To Preach the Gospel Ever Anew in the Spirit of St. Alphonsus. The original text is in English, written in straight forward language, well researched with resources cited for your further reading. We will be offering these articles in the three official languages of the Congregation. We take the opportunity here to thank Fr. Brendan Kelly and all those who have assisted in translating and reviewing the texts in Italian and Spanish. We also have a translation available in French.

The article can be used for private reading or for reflection by a group of individuals. Following the article are some questions we hope can be used to stimulate reflection on the main focus of the article. These questions can be used for discussion, workshop, as a guide or sketch for audio visual presentation etc. or whatever way you see fit. You’re limited in their use only by your creativity.
Again we extend our greetings to you the formators and to all who collaborate with you and in a special way we would like to extend a word of encouragement for the journey to all our students/candidates in formation and lay collaborators. We pray it is an exciting one for you.

Yours fraternaly,


General Secretariat for Redemptorist Formation
YEAR FOR THE REDEMPTORIST
MISSIONARY VOCATION


Rome, 2nd February, 2014 SEGF 2014/028
Day of Consecrated Life
New Article for Initial and Ongoing Formation
Preaching the Gospel
Ever Anew in the Spirit
of St. Alphonsus

Brendan J. Kelly, C.Ss.R
Introduction:

I'd like to begin this reflection by returning  to our foundation as a Congregation in the early eighteenth century. It was a complex era, a time of transition. The Protestant Reformation of the previous century had torn the Christian world apart. For more than a century war was the order of the day. In the midst of this chaos, structures that had ensured some level of care for the poor and needy were undermined and, as Roger Charles points out, "The basic solidarity that existed in the medieval village and town, and which ensured that the problems were recognized and social efforts to combat them could be organized, had crumbled.[1]  It was a new era that called for new responses. We, too, live in a complex era, a time of transition. It is a time that calls for new responses. If we look back to our foundation, is there anything from the experience of Alphonsus that can be of help to us as we respond to the realities of today?

1 Charles, R. Christian Social Witness and Teaching, Vol. 1, (Wiltshire, UK., 1998), 247-248
Alphonsus and the "new" world situation:

        Alphonsus lived precisely at the transition from the end of the European medieval worldview to the beginning of modernity, particularly in its philosophical, economic and political manifestations. He was a man of his times, so it is important that we do not make him say things that he did not say. Nevertheless he had a vision of how things could be different and he appreciated much of what was positive in the new era. He valued, for example, the importance of reason in theological argumentation. He struggled for respect and esteem for the person vis-à-vis institutions, traditional practices and norms that enslaved the
2 Rey-Mermet, T., St. Alphonsus Ligouri: Tireless Worker for the Most Abandoned, (Translated by Jehanne-Marie Marchesi - New York: New City Press, 1989), 120
3 J.M. Lasso de la Vega, "Saint Alphonsus: Missionary to the Poor: A Reflection on the Two Hundredth Anniversary of His Death," Communicanda 10 (Rome: General Curia C.Ss.R, 1987) n.5.
4 Ibid.
5 The Incurabili was the name given to the hospital of  Santa Maria del Populo, the refuge of the poor and needy, a name given to similar hospitals in nearly every Italian city at that time. Venice, for example, had its Incurabili where Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola worked side by side. Prior to the loss of his court case, Alphonsus had helped out in this institution for a number of years.
6 F. Jones, Alphonsus de Ligouri: The Saint of Bourbon Naples, 1696-1787 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992), 25.
7 Rey-Mermet, St. Alphonsus Ligouri: Tireless Worker, 122. 
8 Ibid., 152.
9 Ibid., 152.
10 For a very good description of the lifestyle of Neapolitan clergy at the time of Alphonsus, see Jones, Alphonsus de Ligouri, 58-59
11 Lazzaroni, named after the biblical beggar Lazarus. They were a unique band of urban proletariat and even then a legend in Europe. See Jones, Alphonsus de Ligouri, 61-62.
12 Rey-Mermet, St. Alphonsus Ligouri: Tireless Worker, 181.
13 Rey-Mermet, "The Founder", in The History of the Congregation, 99-142 at 105-106.
14 Lasso de la Vega, "St. Alphonsus: Missionary to the Poor," n. 7.
the individual conscience and the person. But perhaps most significant of all, it pained Alphonsus to see so many poor people simply ignored, especially by a Church that did not or could not give them the spiritual assistance to which they had a right and in a way which brought awareness of the love of God directly and effectively into their lives.

        No doubt all of us are familiar with the brilliance Alphonsus displayed in his career as a lawyer. And we are equally familiar with his loss of an important case in 1723 that led Alphonsus, disillusioned with the law, to leave the courtroom never to return, with the words, "Oh world I know you now.[2] This incident can be described as the first important moment in the conversion of Alphonsus. His abandonment of the law courts should not be taken simply as a gesture caused by bitterness over defeat or by crushed ambition. Commenting on this incident, Juan Lasso de la Vega, holds that it is "in this moment he received from God an insight which brought about a disillusionment with a society which promised justice but which would permit injustice to triumph in its very courts of law.[3] He adds:

        "While we cannot expect of Alphonsus a critical analysis of society, we certainly discover in his spirit of detachment a critical sensitivity which shaped his understanding of the social world in which he lived. He perceived an injustice and corruption which went beyond a lost legal case and which penetrated the customs, the norms and the values of the dominant society of his day.[4]

        Leaving the courtroom, Alphonsus changed direction in life and devoted himself to working among the poor of the Incurabili.[5] Here Alphonsus worked tirelessly, making beds, changing linen, washing the sick, feeding the weak and performing other duties as demanded by geriatric and incurable patients. Frederick Jones claims that "it was here that he first experienced the real happiness to be found in God's service and appropriately enough it was here that God finally and unmistakably called him to the priesthood.[6] On the night of August 29, 1723, Alphonsus heard God call him twice: "Leave the world and give yourself to me.[7]

        This was to be the second moment in the conversion of Alphonsus and set him on course for the ordained ministry. But even as a seminarian Alphonsus displayed his attraction to the poor. As a seminarian he attended and helped out in his first parish mission. The choice of the place is of significance. It was not in a wealthy part of the city of Naples. The Church of Sant' Eligio Maggiore was situated in a poverty-stricken area. In the 1720s, its six or seven thousand parishioners comprised some of the most despised and most feared elements living in the capital. T. Rey-Mermet describes the area: "The hungry, idle, boatmen, shopmen, smugglers, and naked children swarmed amidst the hubbub of gambling and fighting … it was unadvisable to penetrate this jungle.[8] 

        Alphonsus was more than just a careful listener during his first mission. Though still a seminarian, he was fully involved, leading the crowds in singing and prayer, visiting the elderly and sick in the hovels they called home and reaching out to the hardhearted and irreligious throughout the area. Rey-Mermet asks: "Might it be a sign from God that he had been sent on his first mission among the poorest, the most despised, the social and moral dregs of his people?[9]

        Alphonsus was ordained priest in 1726. However, he was not just another priest among the surprisingly large number of priests in Naples.[10] As a member of the Apostolic Mission he undertook the work of preaching missions. Despite this, his apostolic zeal was not satisfied. He found a further outlet among the poor of Naples, those referred to as the lazzari or lazzaroni.[11]

        For Alphonsus, the urgent need was for organized instruction in a manner adapted to the special needs and situation of the lazzaroni, as they were naturally suspicious of the clergy. In response, Alphonsus, clearly indicating his ability to immerse himself in the culture of the poor, devised such a programme.

        The movement spread; so numerous were the centres where the lazzaroni gathered that there were insufficient priests or seminarians with apostolic interest to act as chaplains. Lay catechists were the alternative. Alphonsus and a group of like- minded priests trained a group of catechists who took charge of the gatherings when clerics were not available. Historians have given this lay movement the name Capelle Serotine or the 'Evening Chapels.' The Capelle Serotine became a feature of Catholic life throughout the city, catering for the religious formation and general development of the most abandoned and deprived elements of Neapolitan society. Rey-Mermet describes the impact:

        "These groups became a 'grass roots' movement for education; for social improvement and the reformation of morals; for mutual help and sharing with the poor; for control of gambling, carousing, drinking, and debauchery in which the meagre income of households used to be spent; for a new found professional conscience among the thousands of servants, artisans, workers, tradesmen; for working instead of pilfering; for daggers and pistols being handed over to confessors and replaced with rosaries and pamphlets of meditations on the eternal truths or the Passion of Christ.[12]

        Three aspects of the Cappelle Serotine are significant: a) They were aimed at poor people, who though not excluded from parishes, were marginalized from the ministry of the Church; b) Each of the groups became centres of conversion and schools of holiness; and, c) The chapels were the apostolate of the laity, carried out by the laity and with lay leadership. The leader was a worker, a poor person like the rest. The priest was merely an assistant. [13]

        Alphonsus did not have a sociological perspective in organizing these people, but his work in the Cappelle Serotine indicates an important quality, namely, his readiness to experiment and initiate a new form of evangelization at the service of the poor. Alphonsus was able to detach himself from the world of wealth and privilege and enter another world: the world of the spiritually abandoned, abandoned because they were marginalized and counted for nothing in the society in which he lived. For this reason, Lasso de la Vega concludes: "We cannot expect to find in Alphonsus the same understanding of poverty or option for the poor which the Church has in our own day. There is no doubt, however, that he made a real option for the poor in his life.[14]
        Here we find the third moment of Alphonsus' conversion. The poor and abandoned of the countryside became the preoccupation of his life. For two years he prayed and consulted others as to his future. Influenced, among others, by Maria Celeste Crostarosa, the foundress the Redemptoristines, Alphonsus established a congregation whose special vocation would be to proclaim the Word of God to the abandoned people of the rural areas. And so, on November 2, 1732, Alphonsus left Naples, symbolically, on a donkey to return to Scala and take up the task of evangelizing the poor and abandoned of the countryside. He had finally found the people to whom he was called to dedicate his life and to announce the Gospel with all his strength. Rey-Mermet states, Alphonsus "broke with his class and his culture and descended to the planet of the poor who were deprived of any spiritual help.[16]  Following the example of the Redeemer, he began his mission by incarnating himself among the abandoned of his time.

        We can now see the thrust of Alphonsus' detachment. It was part of his exodus-conversion from one world to a life-giving commitment to another world. It moved him from disenchantment with, and total renunciation of, one type of society to the acceptance of another as the place where he was to encounter Christ the Redeemer.

        In the process of his conversion, Alphonsus came to discover how Christ was to become incarnate for him in the world of the abandoned poor. He saw himself called not just to see Christ in the poor, but rather to identify himself with the Redeemer "who became poor that we might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

        For Alphonsus, the poor became a criterion for understanding the redeeming love of God. We see this in so many of his ascetical works. In his Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, for example, he writes:

        "So that everyone could easily receive him, he remained present under the species of bread. If he had remained under the species of some other rare or expensive food, the poor would have been deprived of him. But no, Jesus decided to stay under the species of bread, which costs little and is found all over, so that everyone in every village could find him and receive him.[17]

        The drive to respond to the needs of the abandoned poor led Alphonsus to hone in on the very mystery of redemption as he saw it: in Jesus and his mission we find our identity.

        When Alphonsus discovered those to whom he was called, he placed all his efforts and talents at their service: Alphonsus the writer and musician composed simple meditations and hymns; Alphonsus the theologian devised the 'vita devota' and taught confessors to bring mercy and not judgment to the abandoned; Alphonsus the preacher invented a simple style of preaching and mission renewal; Alphonsus the bishop fed the hungry during time of famine. Everything in him was to be united in order to bring the Gospel to the abandoned poor. And, as Lasso de la Vega points out,

        "It was only for the sake of those who were abandoned because they were poor that he will become Alphonsus the Founder. Precisely for them he will begin his greatest labour; he will develop an apostolic community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.[18]

       It is important to note that rather than any mystical experience, the experience that moved Alphonsus to found his Congregation was his encounter with the most abandoned and his desire to respond to their needs.

        In establishing the Congregation, Alphonsus knew that he had to adopt a new approach and find new structures. Felix Catala tells us that "the Church practice at that time allowed for the founding of new Institutes, but they had to adopt one of the traditional and approved Rules [normally Benedictine or Franciscan]. Alphonsus insisted on a new Rule.[19] Despite having being told that it would not be accepted, he persisted. In the original Rule he drew up, the so-called Trascrizione  Cossali, he states his intention for the new Congregation:

        "The purpose of this Institute is to form a Congregation of secular priests living a community life under the title of the Most Holy Saviour,[20] subject to the jurisdiction of the bishops: its sole purpose will be to follow the example of our Saviour Jesus Christ in preaching the divine word to the poor, as the Lord already said of himself, 'He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor…'" (Luke 4:18) [21] 

        Alphonsus had in mind a specific model of religious life that departed from the monastic model and mentality. His intuition led him to work with structures that made possible the living out of redemption, the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, through the challenge of responding to the needs of the poor. This he consistently emphasized to the members of the new Congregation:

        "He who is called to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer will never be a true follower of Jesus Christ nor will he ever become a saint if he does not tend towards the objective of his vocation and does not have the spirit of the Institute, which consists in saving souls, the souls most destitute of spiritual assistance, such as the poor in countryside.[22]

        Such a love for the poor was nothing more than love for the Redeemer himself, the love that was to ground the vocation of members of the Institute:

        "When he wished to test if Peter loved him, he did not ask but that he dedicate himself to the salvation of souls: 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' (Jn 21:15ff) … He did not ask of him, as St. John Chrysostom says, penances, prayer or any other thing but only that he take care of his sheep. … Jesus Christ proclaimed that he understood as done to himself all the good we did in favour of the least of our neighbours: 'I tell you the truth,: whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers, you did for me.'" (Mt. 25:40). [23]

        In the light of this, Lasso de la Vega concludes it is clear that "to follow the Redeemer and to live for the poor always constituted for Alphonsus a single reality which flowed directly from his lived experience. And it constitutes the single purpose of his Congregation.[24] In the light of the above, can it not be said that Alphonus truly personifies the theme chosen by the XXIV General Chapter to guide the Congregation today as we undertake to restructure ourselves in order to continue this purpose of the Congregation: 'To Preach the Gospel Ever Anew' Renewed Hope, Renewed Hearts, Renewed Structures for Mission?  "To follow the Redeemer and to live for the poor" is the continuing challenge presented not only to Redemptorists but to the universal Church as she continues the mission of that same Redeemer in the radically changed world of today.

Alphonsus the Founder:

        In early 1730, while vacationing with a number of companions, Alphonsus encountered a new class of poor. These were the shepherds, goatherds and other rural inhabitants around the small town of Scala. Struck by their isolation and seeming abandonment, he turned his attention to them, again organizing catechism and various devotional activities. But the time came when he had to return to Naples and his work in the Cappelle  Serotine. However, he was a changed person. Rey-Mermet describes the changed Alphonsus:

        "He had not entirely returned [to Naples]. His heart stayed at Santa Maria dei Monti [as the parish of Scala was known]. He never really left his beloved shepherds and goatherds. The thought of their need made him weep as he prayed God to choose, among the children of Abraham, somebody who would care for their welfare. If no one more worthy than he took up the challenge, might this not be his vocation?[15]


15 Rey-Mermet, St. Alphonsus Ligouri: Tireless Worker, 216.
16 Rey-Mermet, St. Alphonsus Ligouri: Tireless Worker, 216
17 "Pratica di Amar Gesu Cristo" in Opere Ascetiche, Vol. 1 (Rome: 1933) 17, cited in F. Catala, "The Option for the Poor and Its Challenge for Us in the Living of the Sexennial Theme" (unpublished talk given at Redemptorists' Mission Colloquium in Thailand, August 2007) 11.
18 Lasso de la Vega, "Saint Alphonsus: Missionary to the Poor," n.14.
19 Catala, "The Option for the Poor", page 7.
20 The original name of the Congregation was the Congregation of the Most Holy Saviour, later changed by the Holy See to Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
21 C. Hoegerl, (ed.) Founding Texts of Redemptorists' Early Rules and Allied Documents (Rome: Collegio Sant' Alfonso, 1986) 266-267.
22 Sant' Alfonso de Ligouri, Opuscolo III, Considerazione XIII in Opuscoli relative allo stato religioso, (Roma: Tip. Della S.C. De Propaganda Fide, 1868) 94, cited by Catala in "The Option for the Poor," 9.
23 Ibid.
24 Lasso de la Vega, "St. Alphonsus, Missionary to the Poor", 21.

created by the current world financial crisis, the increasing exploitation of women and children in the sex industry, the vast numbers who work on a casual basis with few, if any, benefits and the reality of undocumented migrants which raises serious problems for both the countries they leave and the countries they aspire to live in. New forms of poverty will continue to be created in the wake of increased globalization if the present trends are to be believed. Poverty is always dehumanizing. Hence, whatever its form, it will always pose a challenge to those of us who are committed to a "mission of preaching plentiful redemption."

        At a deeper level we can also say that today more than ever our society is fragmented and divided in various ways by ethnicity, race, caste, gender, culture, religion and the like. Growing individualism is breaking up communities including religious communities. Families are becoming more and more dysfunctional. Since persons are born in particular historical situations which are often broken and fragmented, they grow up with various psychological burdens. Many are victimized due to social evils such as child abuse, rape, prostitution, domestic violence etc. "There are many in today's world who experience a sense of being alone, lack of self-respect and self -acceptance. Many have internalized negative attitudes like anger that is directed against oneself or others. Some people even seek evasion in drugs, alcohol or violence. Amidst all these, there is a growing search by many for interior peace.[25] 

        Looking at the reality of today's world, the word I best think can describe it is the word "complexity." Yet this complex world has a profound theological significance for us as Redemptorists. It is not something to be endured or something to be avoided, but a reality that has to be contemplated through the eyes of God and loved as it is loved by the God. "It is a reality that becomes an opportunity to follow Christ more closely. In this sense we can say that in the reality of man and woman today, following Christ is not something merely optional - even less so for the Religious - but a characterizing ingredient of that discipleship.[26] 

A "new" World Situation:

        That world, the world we live in today, has seen a period of change unlike any other in the history of humankind. In the post Second World War era we witnessed the collapse of colonial empires, the establishment of numerous new independent nation states, rapid innovation in the areas of technology, manufacturing and healthcare, wonderful new ways of travel and communication and so on. All of this has brought tremendous benefits to humanity, making a reality of the term "global village."

        However, along with the positive dimensions of these developments there has been a downside!  While we recognize the good that this phenomenon, latterly termed termed "globalization," has brought us, there is a remarkable downside. While it is true that much wealth has been produced as a result, that wealth is unevenly distributed. This has resulted in an unbridgeable gap between the rich and the poor. The globalization of market economy has given birth to "new victims" like the new poor created
25 Shalini Mulackal, pbvm, "Consecrated Life Today: Trends and Challenges in Society and Church," Paper presented at the National Consultation (India), organized by Streevani, Pune, 24-25 January 2009.
26 José Rodriguez Carballo, ofm., "Formation for Consecrated Life in a <period of Change." Accessed at Vidimus Dominum, www.vidimusdominum.org

31 Julma Neo, DC., "The Witness of Consecrated Life in Asia Today," Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Paper No. 92b, January 2010.
32 Ibid.

27  "Message of the XXIV General Chapter," 9.


A Redemptorist Response in the Spirit of St. Alphonsus

        What then are these new situations of mission which  urgently need evangelization and what are the new structures we need in order to respond to these new situations? In other words, what is the context in which we, as Redemptorists, carry out our mission today? I think it can be generally agreed that our contemporary world has four specific characteristics:

1.    Globalization
2.    Secularization
3.    A widening gap between the rich and
       the poor
4.    The reality of religious pluralism.

        Each of the aforementioned characteristics of the contemporary world has its own particular features which very often will differ from place to place. What I would suggest, however, is that each of these four characteristics
characteristics will be found in any part of the globe in which we as Redemptorists find ourselves living and ministering.  As Fr. Francis Jeyaraj Rasiah, Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Sri Lanka, points out:

        "The Church needs to pay attention to this changed situation and create ministries to respond to the new context to help people cope with this unfamiliar and threatening situation. Our traditional religious practices need to be revised and to be made dynamic to respond to the needs of our youth, broken and displaced people, the poor, children, etc.[28]

        This is precisely what Alphonsus did in Naples and the surrounding countryside in the early eighteenth century when he searched for new and dynamic ways in which to reach out to the people of his time in order to help them cope with a life situation that was both unfamiliar to them and threatening. So how do we respond today? Keeping in mind the four characteristics mentioned above, I believe that as Redemptorists we are challenged to undertake our mission in today's world in very specific ways.

        In relation to Globalization as religious men charged with the task of being prophetic we need to more and more understand our mission as counter-cultural. In particular, we need to examine how we as Redemptorists witness to the truth that we proclaim. Perhaps here we could call to mind the words of Paul VI in Evangelii nuntiandi: "Modern Man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.[29] I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Religious life in general is in a state of crisis. Often the deliberations of our General and Provincial Chapters which reflect a high degree of radicalism and hard options remain so only on paper for many of us. If we are honest with ourselves we would have to agree that many of us are cocooned in comfort zones of security. This has resulted in a lot of cynicism and disillusionment among us. The widespread malaise of individualism, consumerism and careerism has considerably weakened the spirit of commitment and availability among many of us. The words of Chittister may be worth considering. "Francis of Assisi was a scandal; Teresa of Avila was a scandal; Mary Ward was a scandal; Mother McAuley was a scandal; Benedicta Riep was a scandal; Charles de Foucauld was a scandal; Vincent de Paul was a scandal [Alphonsus was a scandal]. We, on the other hand, have become the most proper of the proper. We scandalize few, least of all the mighty.[30] Can we deny this? Can we change this?

28 Francis Jeyaraj Rasiah, S.J., "Consecrated Life Today: Trends and Challenges in Society and Church."  Talk given to Congress of Religious Meeting in the Philippines, accessible at www.aops.org/art/art-jeyarajl.htm
29 Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi(, 1975), 41
30 Shalini Mulackal, pbvm., "Consecrated Life Today."




        Turning to secularization, it has to be said that this has been taking place quietly for many years now. Again, just like globalization, no part of the world escapes its influence. As we see the influence of religion and faith gradually undermined or pushed to the margins nothing emerges to take its place. Whereas in previous generations faith and religious based groups often provided a sense of belonging for many people, today people often find themselves alone, marginalized, on the outside looking in. Oftentimes these people are not the materially poor. They can even be quite wealthy, economically secure yet deeply insecure and frightened. Such people are devoid of any sort of interior peace. This is particularly true of many of our young people. A close examination of youth culture in many parts of the world will reveal numerous young people, feeling excluded, turning to drugs, alcohol and other forms of abuse as a way of dealing with the pressure encountered. All too often this ends in the taking of life itself. Unfortunately, even within the Church, the Community of Believers, many also feel excluded, unwelcome, for one reason or another. These are the people I believe that are referred to in Statute 012 of our Constitutions and Statutes: Those who do not receive the Church's Message as the 'Good News.' In this context, mission for us as Redemptorists demands that we actively search for and reach out to these peoples and groups with the compassion revealed in the person of Jesus, the compassion that led him to reach out to the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan Woman. How do we do this? Clearly each apostolic unit will have to find its own ways of doing so but the fact remains that these people are there and are in need of our presence and support.

        While the process of globalization may have transformed the skyline of some countries, it has not, however, altered the ugly face of poverty in many others. On the contrary, it has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. The globalization of the market economy has given birth to "new victims" (e.g., the "new poor" created by the recent financial crisis, persons with AIDS/HIV, child prostitutes, street children, child laborers, undocumented migrants) and has further endangered the ecological balance in our world. The poor and their life realities have been significantly affecting consecrated life in the Church, especially in the post-Vatican II era. For us, the reality of the poor has become the optic for re-interpreting our charism, provoking a radical review and renewal of life. Often these efforts started with more conscious attempts at greater exposure to and immersion among the poor. Reflected on in the light of the Gospel and our charism in renewal sessions or Chapter deliberations, this experience with the poor has led to revision of works, lifestyle, structures and formation programs. In our ministry, this "re-reading" of the charism through the "optic of the poor" has effected significant shifts: from working for the marginalized to being with, being evangelized by, receiving from, and working with them.

        But the process has not been easy. Like the Church in general, we, too, have to struggle to break away from the burden of being associated for years with the rich - or at least the middle class. "The vow of poverty has no more witnessing value in many countries. Our material possessions alienate us from the poor to whom we are called to announce the Good News [31].  And even those who initially may have succeeded in reorienting themselves towards the poor have experienced difficulty in sustaining this commitment. A kind of "taming of the militant elements" among religious, or a cooling off of the "passion for the poor" that characterized the 70s and the early 80s, have been noted. "The victory of liberal democracy, signaled by the collapse of various socialist regimes, and the idealization of technology as having all the answers to the questions raised by social activists, are said to account for this phenomenon.[32] As already mentioned, new forms of poverty will continue to be created in the wake of increased globalization, if the present trends are to be believed. Whatever its form, it will always pose a challenge to us religious who are committed to a "mission of promoting fullness of life and plentiful redemption." As Redemptorists, today we are asked to continue our tradition by focusing our mission on the poor and most abandoned. This is made very clear to us in Statute 09b: Redemptorists can never be deaf to the cry of the poor and the oppressed,  but have the duty to search for ways of helping them, so that they themselves will be able to  overcome  the evils that oppress them. This essential element of the Gospel must never be lacking in  the  proclamation of the Word of God. In other words,  an essential component of mission for us today  must be a commitment to life-giving solidarity with the poor and deprived. This is underlined for us by Principle 3 of the Guiding Principles of Restructuring: Restructuring for mission should seek out and accompany the most abandoned, especially the poor

        Thirty years ago Hans Kung wrote:  "There can be no peace between the nations without peace between the religions; no peace between the religions without dialogue between the religions; and no dialogue between the religions without research into theological foundations." Today these words seem more relevant and more challenging than ever.  Let us begin with a typical exercise of St. Ignatius Loyola, and imagine ourselves with the Trinity looking down on the earth as the third millennium of Christianity unfolds.  What would we see? Over 6 billion human beings - some male, some female; some rich, some poor; some Asian, some African, some American, some European, some Christian (1.9 billion); some Muslim (1 billion); some Hindu (3/4 billion); some Buddhist (341 million); some followers of new religious movements (128 million); some of traditional religions (c. 200 million); some Jews (14 million); some agnostic or of no religion persuasion (1.1 billion).  We must surely ask ourselves what significance does this rich ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism that characterises God's world today have for our lives and our witness as disciples of Christ?  And how should we respond to the racism, cultural prejudice, religious fundamentalism, naked intolerance and raw hatred that so mark and mar the relationships between people of different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds in today's world? As I write this paper, newspapers and news channels are full of reports of violence worldwide in response to a film/movie (Innocence of Muslims) which portrays Islam in a negative light.  As Redemptorists who live and work in all continents we cannot help but encounter the reality of religious pluralism. We cannot ignore this reality. In my later years working in Asia, the birthplace of all the great world religions and where Christians find themselves in a minority, it never failed to amaze at just how little attention we gave to this reality. Yet if we are to heed the words of Kung it is imperative that we explore how we can respond in our mission to this pressing reality. How do we, in the work we undertake, promote unity in diversity? Principle 6 of the Guiding Principles of Restructuring challenges us here: A vital part of our mission, both historically and in our time, is theological reflection rooted in spiritual and pastoral experience. New deployment of our theological resources is essential to the challenge of restructuring for mission today. Surely the issue of religious pluralism is one of the most burning theological issues of our time and deserves our attention.
Conclusion: Formation for Renewal:

I was asked to write this reflection in the context of formation. In doing so I was guided by one important conviction formation is a journey, but a journey that lasts a lifetime. Formation does not refer only, as the document, Walking from Christ [33] expressly states, to the years in which we prepare for first or final profession. Rather, being formed is something that never ends, or better yet, something that starts with the first call of the Lord and ends with the visit of sister bodily death. This was also affirmed by John Paul II - Precisely because of its purpose of transforming the whole person, the requirements of formation never end. Indeed, it is necessary that Consecrated Persons be provided the opportunity to grow in their commitment to the charism and mission of their Institute. [34]

        The same document, Vita Consecrata, describes formation as a "progressive assimilation of the sentiments of Christ.[35] Formation is simply "being converted[36], transforming the mind and heart according to the mind and heart of Christ. Formation is a dynamic process of growth in which each person opens his heart to the Gospel in daily life, committing oneself to the ongoing conversion to follow Christ with ever greater fidelity to his charism. "Conversion" is clearly the key word here and we are reminded of this by the Decision of the XXIV General Chapter: Restructuring for mission is a call to conversion and to a profound renewal of our Vita apostolica in all its dimensions (1.3) …. Missionary conversion is a challenge to all Redemptorists, irrespective of age. (1.5)

        This missionary conversion, which transforms our minds and hearts according to the mind and heart of Christ, brings us close to the joys and sufferings of our brothers and sisters, the men and women of today. It also allows us to place ourselves in a "reality which changes many times at a frenetic pace.[37] It allows us "to respond not only to a time of changes - like many of those in history where novelty abounded - but also to a time of change, in an historical moment where changes are so complex and accelerated that it is easy to get the sense that we do not know where to step.[38] It should be a conversion full of kindness and empathy toward the world as God loves and criticizes it (cf. Jn 17.9). It should imbue us with an outlook that does not stop from projecting a positive and evangelical outlook regarding the contexts and cultures in which we find ourselves, while discovering the unprecedented opportunities of grace which the Lord offers us. This missionary conversion should help us "set out to sea[39] and delve fearlessly into the new Areopagus.[40] Finally, this missionary conversion will help us "move from the familiar to new and prophetic missionary opportunities [as] we follow the example of St. Alphonsus in his exodus from Naples to the abandoned poor of Scala." (Message of the XXIV General Chapter, 10)

33 Caminando desde Cristo, (Walking from Christ), Rome 2002, 15
34 Vita Consecrata (1996), 65
35 VC, 65
36 VC,  109
37 Caminando desde Cristo, 15
38 José Rodriguez Carballo, Formation for Consecrated Life in a Period of Change
39 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Rome 2000, 1.
40 Vita Consecrata, 96-99

Questions for discussion in Workshop or Debate

        1.    "We, too, live in a complex era, a time of transition. It is a time that calls for new responses. If we look back to our foundation, is there anything from the experience of Alphonsus that can be of help to us as we respond to the realities of today?"

        What, in your Unit/Conference, are the characteristics of the complexity of the era in which we live? In what ways are these characteristics displayed by candidates in formation?

        2.    "Alphonsus did not have a sociological perspective in organizing people, but his work in the Cappelle Serotine indicates an important quality, namely, his readiness to experiment and initiate a new form of evangelization at the service of the poor."

        Alphonsus was clearly a man who had the ability to adapt to the circumstances of situation in which he found himself. As Redemptorists this ability to adapt will become increasingly important for us as we minister in a more and more complex world. How do we prepare those in formation for such adaptability?

        3.    The words of Chittister may be worth considering. "Francis of Assisi was a scandal; Teresa of Avila was a scandal; Mary Ward was a scandal; Mother McAuley was a scandal; Benedicta Riep was a scandal; Charles de Foucauld was a scandal; Vincent de Paul was a scandal [Alphonsus was a scandal]. We, on the other hand, have become the most proper of the proper. We scandalize few, least of all the mighty." Can we deny this? Can we change this? How would our formands respond to this comment?

        4.    As Redemptorists, today we are asked to continue our tradition by focusing our mission on the poor and most abandoned. This is made very clear to us in Statute 09b: Redemptorists can never  be deaf to the cry of the poor and the oppressed, but have the duty to search for ways of helping  them, so that they themselves will be able to overcome the evils that oppress them. This essential  element of the Gospel must never be lacking in the proclamation of the Word of God. In other words,  an essential component of mission for us today must be a commitment to life-giving solidarity with the poor and deprived. This is underlined for us by Principle 3 of the Guiding Principles of  Restructuring: Restructuring for mission should seek out and accompany the most abandoned, especially the poor

        Discuss this in the light of your experience as formator in your Unit/Conference. How do we prepare our candidates for "seeking out and accompanying the most abandoned, especially the poor?


"UNDER CONSTRUCTION"
New Wineskins for New Wine:

        Just like Alphonus, we live today in a period of transition, transition from what has been understood as "modernity" to what, for want of a better name, is referred to as "post-modernity." And just as Alphonsus was inspired to establish the Congregation to respond to the needs of his new era, today we are called to "re-found" ourselves as a Congregation, with "renewed hearts" and "renewed hope" that will enable us to establish "new structures for our mission" in order that we can "preach the Gospel ever anew" to this complex world.
   
        This "call" is evident from a careful reading of recent General Chapters, beginning with the Chapter of 1991. It is clear that there has been a feeling that something more was needed to help us deal with the complexities of modern life and society while at the same time being true to our identity as sons of St. Alphonsus, sent to continue the mission of Jesus by preaching the Good News to the poor, especially the most abandoned. At General Chapters, Regional Gatherings, Secretariat Meetings, one can sense a certain unease with our apostolic
apostolic dynamism as a Congregation. This is best expressed in the words of the Instrumentum  Laboris  of the XXIV General Chapter (2009) …. The question is asked if we have lost our "cutting  edge" in terms of liberation, salvation of the whole human person, the promotion of the fundamental  rights to justice and freedom (Const. 5), etc. Perhaps there is a blurring of our sense of mission and  nervousness in the face of new apostolic challenges (migrants and itinerant people, prejudice,  xenophobia, the "exclusion" of the poor, etc.) For some there is a real concern that the prophetic  aspect of our Redemptorist vocation is either ignored or compromised. Have we largely settled down in  surroundings and with structures in which our work is no longer missionary, not withstanding what is  said in Const. 15? It is asked if we have given up on asking and responding to searching and  uncomfortable questions, such as 'Where does God want us to be?' or 'Who are the abandoned poor?'

    The decision of the XXIV General Chapter of 2009 to undertake a process of re-structuring in the Congregation, as well as the adoption of the theme To Preach The Gospel Ever Anew: Renewed Hope, Renewed Hearts, Renewed Structures for Mission to guide us in this process, is, I believe, the work of the Spirit leading us to answer some of these difficult questions.

        "We share in the mission of the Church by 'evangelization in the strict sense together with the choice in favor of the poor.' (Const. 5) We also want to be faithful to our tradition  to preach the Gospel ever anew. At this time, we are keenly aware of new situations of  mission which urgently need evangelization. … We need new structures in order to preach  the Gospel anew today and respond to the new areas of urgent pastoral need [27].