Advent Reflection: Fr. Jack Melito, C.M.
A PROPHET IN OUR TIME
“A voice crying in the wilderness.” It’s a distinctively Advent chant, associated with John the Baptist, precursor of the Messiah, who used it to identify himself and to deflect the questions of his countrymen about his role as the Promised One. The phrase is borrowed from the Prophet Isaiah (40:3) and was part of the age-old tradition of the prophets who were the heralds that announced the anticipated wonders of the Messianic future. The Liturgy, in turn, adopted this antiphon to enrich the spirit of the season preparatory for the Feast of Christmas.
Israel is not unique in this phenomenon. Many other cultures have prophets of their own to proclaim their distinctive messages. The tone of their delivery has many colors: of good news, of comfort, of promise, of warning, of threats, of frustration in not being heard—all directed at the welfare of their respective audiences.
Over the years our Church has had all kinds of prophets who proclaim a special message: sometimes a solitary, charismatic person speaking on his own will appear, or others of official origin that speak to the general welfare of the Church.
Standing above all of these is the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, who speaks from his authority as the head of the Church, using all forms of communication, spoken and written.
Our current Pontiff, Pope Francis, has recently appeared on the scene and has fascinated the world by his words and his engaging style, illustrating his belief that the authentic minister of the Gospel “can warm the hearts of the people.” He is not a voice crying in the wilderness, but one whose message is heard and accepted. He moves around as a pastoral presence, walking among crowds, touched and being touched, and giving them—and us—a sense of solidarity. He identifies with us in our common and fallible humanity in declaring of himself, “I am a sinner.”
MY DREAM OF KENYA
By Carla Frenzel
Ever since I was a small child I dreamed of going to Kenya to teach. This dream came true for me in 2004 when the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers sponsored me as a full time volunteer. I lived with the Daughters of Charity and worked with the Congregation of the Mission Vincentian community who lived next door.
During my time in Kenya I had the honor of teaching in a variety of school settings, in particular St. Vincent de Paul Nursery School in the Kibera slum. I started my work at St. Vincent’s teaching a short lesson in each of the three classrooms, giving the full time teachers a bit of a break every Tuesday morning. My role there quickly turned into the project manager overseeing the development of a new nursery school several blocks away.
A new Nursery School
As the project manager of the new nursery school, I hired the architect, surveyor, and construction crew. Painting furniture, making curtains, selecting uniforms and school shoes, assembling library books and creating the curricula were also tasks I took on to ensure the school would be ready for our children. The greatest gift to me occurred on the day we dedicated the school and our children were able to walk through the door of their new school.
VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD!
Last September 27, on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Pope Francis offered a simple yet challenging homily. “The risk we run in responding to Jesus is the temptation of spiritual comfort. Do we think we have everything we need: the Church, Jesus Christ, the sacraments and Our Lady, and that we don’t need to look for anything more?” Pope Francis says, “this is not enough. As Christians we must not give in to a culture of comfort. The Christian who does not embrace Jesus’ plan, is only half-way down the road. Tepid. He is good and does good things. Still we must be ready to suffer much, be rejected, be killed and then rise. We need the anointing of the Cross, the anointing of humiliation. The proof of who we are as Christians.”
St. Vincent de Paul gathered around him a little company of followers who embraced this call – to announce the Gospel, that the kingdom of heaven is near, and that this kingdom is destined for the poor. Vincentians are a living witnesses to this.
GIVE US EYES AND A HEART…
One of the striking things about our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, is his humility, and his attention to and respect for those least among us. “Those in need,” he said, “are often the last we think about.” A Vincentian Prayer is the theme for our annual appeal – give us eyes and a heart directed toward the poor. Join those who have already made a gift!