St. Arnold and the Paschal Mystery

Author: Dariusz Stanislaw Pielak SVD
Subject: Easter
Language: English, Spanish

The paschal mystery that was realized through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be realized in the life of Christians. In this brief article we are going to see an example of how this mystery was realized in the life and in the mission of Saint Arnold.

For Saint Arnold, difficulties and suffering did not contradict the love of God. Furthermore, on several occasions the Founder encouraged his spiritual sons and daughters to see in difficulties a gift from God capable of bringing new graces and joys to the world. That is why in his prayers he often gave thanks for the crosses that Divine Providence sent him.

Saint Arnold did not acquire this Paschal mystique through a theoretical study of the great saints and theologians, but through his daily struggles for the sake of his great missionary work. It is not necessary to make detailed studies of his life to realize that our Founder never lacked sufferings and difficulties: he experienced the lack of money, as well, at times, the lack of understanding on the part of the people, the authorities of the Church, and even his closest collaborators.

As an example of Saint Arnold’s experience of the paschal mystery, we can use his words addressed to a young missionary, Father H. Neuenhofen. In the fall of 1893, two young Divine Word Missionaries headed for Ecuador to undertake a new mission there. The beginning of the mission was very promising. Their first task was to help in the diocesan seminary. However, our confreres soon began to search for their own independent field of work. The great success of the missions in China and Argentina gave them the hope that Ecuador would follow the same path. Father Neuenhofen shared his first joyful impressions with Fr. Arnold. However, the Founder’s response was not as enthusiastic as might have been expected. He wrote the following:

“With great joy I have taken note of what you communicated to me from there, and I thank God for having led you there so well. I am especially glad to see that you feel satisfied and happy in your new activities. But of course, you will not always be able to count on those pleasant rays of the sun you were experiencing on the day that you wrote to me the last time. So please prepare for the pain and don’t hesitate when it strikes. All the sorrows sent by the Lord are graces, from which flow ever greater goods. Record it well. I have personally experienced it many times, and you will too. So simply take heart! Pains are always a prelude to greater joys”.

Indeed, the good times did not last long.  Already the following year, a revolution provoked by forces opposed to the Church broke out in Ecuador. The situation around the young missionaries became more and more dangerous. And although over time things became more serene, the health of the other missionary, Fr. H. Pierlo, was so affected that his weakened constitution could not handle it, and the poor man died.

Fr. Arnold tried to solve the problem by offering Fr. Neuenhofen the mission in Buenos Aires. However, he preferred to go to the United States. The Founder had no choice but to try to convince him with words of humble supplication. He wrote to him: “Father, trust me!” However, this young priest, who was only a little over 30 years old, found it difficult to trust. He found himself in a situation of deep crisis. Fr. Neuenhofen wrote:

“In Europe it is difficult for them to understand that in the tropics, with the passage of time, one loses much of his spiritual life, if he does not lose it entirely. Here Christmas is without joy and strength, Easter without hope, Pentecost without grace. In a single word: there is a leaden sky from Advent to Advent”.

Finally, in the year 1898, the situation had reached a point where a decision had to be made. The mission had no chance of development. The following year Fr. Neuenhofen took a ship to Argentina. The mission of the Divine Word Missionaries in Ecuador was canceled until its reactivation in 1962.

Looking at this example of Father Neuenhofen, we can ask: Did the words of Fr. Arnold about the graces and joys that will follow suffering come true? We do not know for sure. We only know that Fr. Neuenhofen was the delegate from Argentina for the General Chapter, which was a sign of trust on the part of the confreres and the Congregation. Among other tasks and occupations, he also held the role of rector of the Salta diocesan seminary, which had been entrusted to the Divine Word Missionaries. He died at the age of 76, which can be considered “a good result”. Without a doubt he passed on his difficult but rich experience and his faith to future priests, and was a source of mature and consistent authority for them. So, it seems that Fr. Arnold did not arouse false hopes in him and that the fruit of suffering came to him in due time.

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Dariusz Pielak, SVD
Dariusz Pielak, SVD

Dariusz Pielak born on 30.03.1965 in Poland. In 1985 he joined the Society of the Divine Word. During the seminary he did the experience of OTP in Argentina in a community of life inserted in popular environments of Greater Buenos Aires. After finishing the seminary he worked in Spain and did a licentiate in biblical theology there. Since 2003 he has been working in Russia teaching at the seminary and attending the parish of St. Olga in Moscow. He also devotes himself to deepen the themes related to the spiritual history of Arnold Janssen.

2 Responses

  1. Excelente trabajo !!! Soy de Esperanza Argentina y adoro la misión de Arnoldo J y todos sus misioneros por el mundo entero.

  2. Admiro las Obras de San Arnold Janssen !!! Y pido oración por todos sus Misioneros y Misioneras en el Mundo !!!! Soy de Esperanza provincia de Santa Fe Argentina

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