Rev. Fathers, Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To God be the Glory – forever and ever! I am happy that you followed the invitation to celebrate today St Vincent Pallotti. I am grateful to each and everyone here gathered for this occasion. And indeed, we as community are united on this day with all the Pallottines, Priests, Brothers, Sisters and lay-people to thank God Almighty for Saint Vincent Pallotti. From Rom in over 40 countries in the whole world, people are giving thanks to God for the example, the life and work of this humble, pious and active priest who lived from 1795-1850 in Rome, in Italy.
Brothers and Sisters,
It is not easy, I am aware, to present, to characterise a Saint in as long the homely may be. But let us try to enter into the life of Saint Vincent Pallotti.
Often Saints are shown as superhuman beings, as angels from birth to death. This is surely not true. Otherwise their life would never be of any help, example or encouragement to us human beings that in spite of our sinful, weak and restless nature are eager to imitate and to follow our Lord Jesus Christ. If Saints would not have been like you and me, human beings with flesh and blood, struggling and longing for perfection, longing for holiness, their example would not be helpful for us at all.
But Saints are born in a family, they have father and mother, brothers and sisters, they grew up with companions in a given time, circumstance, environment, political, social and economical background that influenced them in a positive or negative way, as we are influenced and conditioned in our own time. Therefore Saints are people with a past and sinners are people with future.
Now, Vincent Pallotti was born on the 21.4.1775 in Rome. His father, Peter Paul Pallotti, and his mother Mary Magdalena born Rossi were traders, business people. They were somehow well situated, people with a certain wealth that gave them security in a difficult time. Vincent was the third of the ten children in his family; some of them died early.
Italy, at this time, was plagued by wars, invasions, and occupations of foreign powers. After the French Revolution, the French army occupied the City of Rome twice, in 1798 and 1800. They abducted Pope Pius VI in 1798 and imprisoned Pius VII in 1809. Vincent lived through this difficult time: he saw the church suffering, the priests persecuted and harmed; he saw the misery of the poor and sick, he became aware of so many young people, uneducated, des-privileged, without orientation, hope and future. He shared as much as he could but he always wanted to do more and better. His parents, religious and pious people, often didn’t understand the way he was acting, giving away his food, his bed or his shoes. Vincent became more and more fascinated by God’s infinite love. Pallotti became a Mystic and an Apostle. Mystic, because he had a deep prayer life, imitating Christ in his passion, in his prayer and fasting; he was rewarded with deep inside in spiritual matters and united with Christ through a mystical union. And this contemplation pushed him more and more to action.
After his initial studies, he was a student at the Sapienza University from 1814-1818, and graduated with Doctorates in Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained a priest in 1818, just 23 years old. As a priest Vincent was involved in a number of apostolic activities. He started a Night School for tradesmen, conducted retreats for youth, public servants and soldiers. He was a Spiritual Director in several Major Seminaries, among them the seminary for foreign students, students from Asia, Africa and America. They helped him to discover the mission ‘ad gentes’… the opening to the world.
Brothers and Sisters,
But all these activities and even more, culminated in the one main idea and plan that became his life-work and major achievement: Pallotti called the lay people to apostolate.
On the 9th of January in 1935 Pallotti had a deep conviction after mass that God wanted him to found a pious society to bring together lay people, priests and religious to collaborate in the revival of faith and charity aimed at apostolic action.
He writes: “Every one, priest, religious, lay men and women, can acquire the rewards of the apostolate, if all possible means, talents, knowledge, association, profession, occupations, human relationships, material things and prayers are used to renew faith in Jesus Christ and to increase love all over the world, even if all that they are able to do is to pray.”
Everybody an Apostle?! Yes, every baptised man or woman, is called to Apostolate. This became Pallotti’s vision and message. Vincent Pallotti, the priest who called the laypeople to be active in the church. It was new in his time and it was not easy to proclaim. Clericalism is an obstacle for the spreading of faith, is an obstacle for evangelisation. For Pallotti it was normal and became more and more clear that created at the image and likeness of God, recreated through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit – each person is responsible not only for his own salvation but as well for the salvation of his neighbour.
Jesus Christ, as Apostle of the Eternal Father (Pallotti valued this title very much – was the one to call all people to be active, to be committed in establishing the kingdom of God.
The Church as Community of brothers and sisters is called to unite all people in the one flock under the one shepherd Jesus Christ. Therefore Pallotti was not only working for the renewal of the Church in Rome, but as well for the missions abroad, to give them good priests and missionaries, to provide religious literature and financial means to support their efforts.
Very important became for him as well his universality and unity of the Church. Especially during the Epiphany Octave he brought together many languages and colourful proclamations in many rites from different parts of the universal Church. Therefore we need as Pallottines, as people of God also work, pray and wait for the day that all Christians may be united under the one Shepard Jesus Christ.
It is a mission entrusted not just to the apostles, bishops and priests; but also to the laity who serve the Church as altar boys, readers, as well as members of the parish council, as teachers, catechists and parents.
Pallotti writes: “God judges the perfection and value of our apostolic effort according to the intentions of our heart and the ability of his creations. Yes, in my opinion, all, important people and simple people, weather rich or poor, priests and lay people, alone or in community, old and young, men and women, the sick and the healthy, in any position of life assigned to them by God in his mercy, will be able to find some way of participation in the apostolic mission of Jesus Christ with the merits due to them.” Therefore Pallotti found in 1835 first the Union of the Catholic Apostolate (UAC) and in 1846 the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (SAC). The Union was meant to gather all the forces, talents, capacities and initiatives coming from individuals and from groups in order to be more effective. Togetherness was very important for Pallotti. To live together, to pray together, to work together, to stay together is already a sign that the Spirit of God is at work, because it is a Spirit of oneness, of unity and love. Teamwork was for Pallotti the key to success in the mission of the Church. The Society of the Catholic Apostolate, the community of the Priests, Brothers and Sisters was meant to animate, to coordinate and to unite all activities for the greater Glory of God and the salvation of mankind.
Lastly Vincent Pallotti had a very special devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. Under the title Queen of the Apostles, he saw in her the model for all Apostolate. Together with Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room, the Church needs to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives the diversity of talents in the one body, the Church. Mary, as Pallotti said, who was neither as Apostle nor a priest, but as lay person did more than all the Apostles and Priests together for the coming of God’s kingdom. She is the great missionary. Following her example let us ask God to show us our place in the Church, to commit ourselves for the saving of souls, for the destruction of sins, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of mankind.
Vincent Pallotti was declared a Saint on the 20th of January 1963 by Pope John XXIII (so 50 years ago) as forerunner of all Catholic Action and became the Saint of the Vatican Council that confirmed his ideas and visions about the laity, the Church and the collaboration for the unity and Universality of the Church. May Saint Vincent Pallotti intercede for us with God.