Monday, 30 December 2013

Sermon on St. Francis Xavier and Feast of the Province of Mumbai by Fr. Tony

The “Feast of the province  “in the past chiefly focused on the exemplary life of the patron saint (of Mumbai), St. Francis Xavier ,seen as a missionary model for imitation .Traditionally ,it was also a day of Gratitude and appreciation of the person and performance of the provincial superior and therefore a celebration centered around an individual ,hence ,Provincial Day or at the Local level ,Rectors day .Now that this official annual celebration has been termed “province community day “ is there any shift of emphasis or significant t change in the understanding of this particular festivity in our present Salesian context? I should think so.

I believe the provincial community day more often, a provincial community evening is not a mere social ritual celebration restricted to a devout Eucharistic liturgy and a sumptuous dinner fellowship, in the provincial house or any one community of the province .Rather, in post Vatican terms, it is the theological understanding and experiencing the Call to be and live in community which is rooted in the divine Community of God ,the Holy Trinity . It is in fact first and foremost, a spiritual fellowship.

The Provincial Community day may be a considered an annual “community building exercise “fostering a genuine oneness of heart and mind among the confreres of the province .May I observe that the “Province “is not only a legal term to demarcate territorial boundaries .To be a member of the Salesian congregation , we enter through the canonical doors of a province. Our belonging is always registered through the process of selection, admission and profession in a province .In the congregation we all are members of a provincial community.
It is important to know that we “belong” to any local community of formation or where we exercise our assigned ministry .Our loyalty to the congregation is expressed through our deep sense of belonging to the province .In fact; a confrere needs official permission and motivating reasons to shift from one province to another. This principle is vital to the healthy life of the provincial community and must be clearly explains to novices and young Salesians .Recalling this principle by jour senior Salesian is perhaps even more important .Polarization and disintegration of the provincial community takes place when confreres develops a greater belonging to local community that belongs to the province.

Most important requirement is our initial formation particularly, is to learn to live a happy and committed Religious Salesian life as a good community person. What does that mean: It means:
ü T o have a strong sense of belonging to the province
ü Not as guest , a stranger , a boarder worst still as a prisoner
ü But as one called by God to belong to a religious family /community

To belong means to feel at home:
ü In a  communion with God as mystics of the spirit
ü In a community with leaders who are servants of the young
ü In a community of Prophets of fraternity , I bonded in mission
ü In a vowed commitment to obedience poverty and chastity for the sake of the Salesian Mission                                                                                                                               
To be a community in Mission consecrated to God by the evangelical Counsels means to live:
ü A life of Obedience , not servile but enriched with dialogue and willing cooperation
ü A life of poverty not sunk in penury but lived with joy of sharing our whole life ;
ü A life of chastity not closed in on itself, but steeped in a selfless and unconditional love. 
To be a community of the beatitudes means to be:
ü Acceptable and accepted by others
ü Forgiving and patient with each other
ü Mutually supportive and trustfully loyal to each other in the community 

Celebrating our province day honouring our patron should also make us attentive to the missionary stirrings in our Salesian vocation. Rather than extol the missionary zeal of St.Francis Xavier and describe his evangelical shift from, an eminent professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne University to a wandering proclaimer with unquenchable zeal for the Kingdom, I choose instead to briefly reflect on the criteria for discernment of a Salesian missionary Vocation .

Criteria for discernment of Salesian missionary vocation Ad Gentes, Ad Exteros, Ad Vitam
       I.            Persons involved in the discernment process at (4 )various levels 
1.     The Candidate: evaluation ,accompaniment by a spiritual guide ,of the confessor
2.     The community where the confreres lives : Rector ,formators
3.     The provincial and his council
4.     The general Councilor for the missions   

     II.            General criteria vocational discernment
Three essential aspects :(1)Right intention (2)Free decision (3)necessary qualities according to Vatican ii(Ad Gentes 25)the suitability of the necessary virtues if the missionary ,other than the specific lay , religious or priestly vocation, are the following :
1.      A certain moral strength to overcome difficulties of the mission ;
2.     Patience ,understanding, humility ,charity in order to discover authentic values in other religions :L
3.     Supernatural spirit to make mission more than something merely philanthropic and social  ;
4.     A clear witness and a sign of witness to all non –believers ;
5.     Communion and obedience in the common apostolate, under the guidance of the local bishop.
In our Salesian experience in general, we distinguish four fundamental qualities on order to start a serious discernment of Salesian missionary vocation:
1.     Spirit of faith and rootedness in Christ , because the missionary must proclaim Christ ;
2.     Capacity for community life , because normally on e will be a part of an intercultural community;
3.     Capacity for self-emptying (kenosis)and sacrifice , because his is a ;life of gratuitous service ;
4.     Robust personality, good health, with the capacity to learn languages.

  III.            Counter indications of the missionary vocation ad Gentes
A.    The search for adventure and simple desire to change the pace where one works;
B.     Urged on by third person; parents, confreres, friends…
C.     Escape from one’s own relational, personal and vocational problems…
D.    It is to be absolutely avoided sending a confrere missionary who has problems fitting into the ordinary community life in his province of origin. Once sent to another culture, he will normally find more demanding environment, which would not be helpful in solving his problems.
  IV.            Insufficient elements
1)    It is not enough to be a good confrere and a good Salesian; the missionary vocation is a new call not common to every Salesian in the congregation.
2)    It is not enough to have some vague wish to work for the poor youngsters in the poor setting ….
3)    It is not enough just to be enthusiastic about the missions, since this may not last long if this does not mature by developing concrete attitudes
    V.            Specific criteria for discernment ( for the candidate , rector and th council )
ü Good health , human maturity , and psychological balance
ü Relational capacity , sense of responsibility in th mission , community , community –oriented person
ü Capacity to adapt to adapt to the local and the Salesian culture ,to the culture different from one’s own
ü Personal prayer life a life centered on the Eucharist
ü Respect for others(lay mission partners ,the young ),for the different cultures ,religions
ü Commitment to the new country and culture and culture ad vitam ,leaving everything for the kingdom.

May Jesus Christ missionary of the Father at this Eucharist, through his body and blood nourish our Salesian vocation transforming is into genuine community minded and zealous missionaries and may Mary foster in us a deep sense of belonging to God and the congregation for the greater glory of God and the salvation of youth ,especially the poor       

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