Presented by Fr. Andrew Torma, M.S.C. on October 21, 2017, for Lay MSC
The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) mission has evolved over the years.
In 1854 when Jules Chevalier founded the Order, the European world was engaged with colonization reaching around the world. The Church followed the entrepreneurs and the armies into each country. These colonizers were restricted by profits and politics. The Church had a more profound inspiration. The Kingdom of God did not have economic goals or political goals. In the words of today, the globalization of the Church has virtual goals. Like the internet, the motivation of the Church is the establishment of the Body of Christ. The Eucharist is the flag that the Church establishes in each boundary.
The body of Christ is incarnated in each baptized person initiated into the Church. The existence and permanent residence is found in the spiritual life of the person. Governments and corporations try to put controllable boundaries on the presence of the Body of Christ but like the invisible network of digital travel, the Spirit of God is established in a reality beyond the corporal and legal.
So as the MSC grew around the world so today we have the obligation to engage the world in the reality of the digital world. We do not have to take a ship across the ocean to fulfill our responsibility. It is up to us to use our imagination and experience to evangelize in the digital culture. Sometimes it is the use of technology and sometimes it is face time. In order to baptize, bring to communion, and reconcile we need to be face to face with the corporal person. The road to that meeting is through the journey of the digital communication living in the digital world with them.
Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern world from the Second Vatican Council in Chapter 4, states:
“Today, the human race is involved in a new stage of history. Profound and rapid changes are spreading by degrees around the whole world. Triggered by the intelligence and creative energies of man, these changes recoil upon him, upon his decisions and desires, both individual and collective, and upon his manner of thinking and acting with respect to things and to people. Hence, we can already speak of a true cultural and social transformation, one which has repercussions on man’s religious life as well.” Gaudium et Spes, par 4
The Council had no experience of the digital world because the computer technology was in the infancy. Yet, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the imagination of the Council Bishops, there was a prophetic voice in this document. The reality is that our world view has changed. Globalization has transformed into a world wide web. Each individual lives with contact in a virtual world. The first step for us is to accept that we live in a “new stage of history.” With courage, we need to imagine a new evangelization with our neighbor, with the next town, with the neighboring country, and with the saints around our world. We live in a virtual reality where the witness of the Gospel is both substantial as well as virtual.
“Influenced by such a variety of complexities, many of our contemporaries are kept from accurately identifying permanent values and adjusting them properly to fresh discoveries. As a result, buffeted between hope and anxiety and pressing one another with questions about the present course of events, they are burdened down with uneasiness. This same course of events leads men to look for answers; indeed, it forces them to do so.” Gaudium et Spes, Preface, par 4
Because we believe that we have answers, the situation compels us to make action plans that engage the minds, hearts, and plans of our neighbor in the world today. There are many opportunities for our labors. Some of us already have the skills to use tools that are there for us. The new tools are in the hands of the generation born and formed in this contemporary era. Others have old skills that can be used in appropriate circumstances. Just as the organization of the total Church made worldwide evangelization possible in the 19th century, so, with the engagement of the laity and their skills, the Church can convert the hearts and minds of the people today. Actions that destroy can be converted to works of grace when together, laity, consecrated religious, and the clergy, appropriately engage the modern world.
In 1965 the Council wrote prophetic words that apply today.
“Through his labors and his native endowments man has ceaselessly striven to better his life. Today, however, especially with the help of science and technology, he has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so. Thanks to increased opportunities for many kinds of social contact among nations, the human family is gradually recognizing that it comprises a single world community and is making itself so. Hence many benefits once looked for, especially from heavenly powers, man has now enterprisingly procured for himself.” Gaudium et Spes Part 1, Chaper 3, par 33
In the past, a religious order had members with many specific skills. Brothers, Sisters, and Priests not only formed their religious life but also created usable skills to develop the Kingdom of God. The Consecrated Person was organized in a community to bring these skills as a corporation. It established communities around the world to use their gifts from God to do works that established grace filled actions for the well-being of the local village, town, or city. Fr. Jules Chevalier proposed the idea that the laity was united with our community of consecrated persons to offer their skills as a lay person engaged in the mission of the Church. This engagement is inspired by the relationship of the specific lay organization for formation and inspiration. United in prayer, we work together to do works that bring the experience of God’s unconditional love to the world in which we live.
How can the gifts of the Lay MSC bring the “experience of God’s unconditional love” into a virtual world?
“Man’s social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person which for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life. Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.” (Gaudium et Spes Part 1, Chaper 2, par 25)
It is our destiny as creatures of a loving God to use our great skills and talents for the benefit of our brother and sister. Since we are inspired by the initiative of Fr. Chevalier, we fulfill our call by working together to bring God’s unconditional love into the world. We are social as the Council has pointed out. We can’t fulfill our call by isolated works. There is no one who has all the talents to reach the person of the digital culture. We need to find a cause and work together. There are many opportunities of labor available to us yet we have to engage the new reality of the digital culture.
The young person and child of the 21st century is hungry for the knowledge and experience of the Love of God. The world is filled with violence and destruction. Our task is to bring the experience and knowledge of life giving works into this digital world. It is up to us to influence the minds and hearts of the child today. The Teenagers are hungry for hope as they step into a world that temps them with self-absorption. The Young adult craves the excitement of new adventures and possibilities for the direction of their life.
“..through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.” This is our inspiration. The Church guides us to be of one mission together. Let us rise to our destiny. We are a Church in the virtual reality of the communion of saints. The traditional view point of the “church triumphant, the church militant, and the church suffering” is only one conception of the structure of the Church. Let us also imagine ourselves as the Communion of Saints. We are all called to holiness and many of us live holy lives. As living saints, we do inspire our neighbor and have the obligation to inspire our neighbor. Now we need to have the vision of ourselves as living saints, holy people, with the ability to form the lives of others to be holy people.