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“Missio Dei” and the Mission of Mary in the Church

Author: Saju George Aruvelil, SVD
Subject: Mission, Virgen Mary
Language: English, Spanish

The mission is done in partnership; thus, it is shared and is permanent. It is mystical and practical at the same time. I think it is worthwhile reading again the missionary heart of Saint Arnold, especially from his devotions. He had achieved a well-balanced synthesis of his main devotions: to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to the Virgin Mary, Trinitarian spirituality with special veneration of the Incarnate Word, adoration of the Holy Spirit, etc. Some were common when he started the Mission House in Steyl. Nonetheless he knew how to make the best of them. As per me, he would have understood well that the universal ecclesial mission, from Steyl, for his part, must start from the missionary heart of the Virgin Mary. It is for some of the following reasons:

It is well known that our Founder highly esteemed the missionary importance of the Virgin Mary since she fascinates hearts and makes consecrated life virtuous and attractive. Therefore, he exhorted that the Virgin Mary should be greatly venerated and loved by the members of our congregations since She is an ocean of holiness, purity, grace and dignity (Const. 1898/143). That is why we ask her to help us live our vow of consecrated chastity day by day in the strength and joy of the Holy Spirit. Because she remains on earth as the greatest masterpiece of divine grace.

Arnold was happy to accept the title the Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit. That is why he asked the members to invoke her with this title. An image with this face was placed on the altar by the north wall of the church in the Saint Gabriel Mission House which will later be reproduced by our SSpS sisters. This image with the figure of the Holy Spirit in the Heart of Mary also has another missionary meaning: it expresses our love for God and the world in the shared mission in these dimensions. The Virgen of good Consuel was another favorite devotion of St. Arnold.

The Virgin had a contemplative missionary heart (Lk 1: 19. 48) and active (Lk 1: 39; Jn 2: 1-10). She accepted the invitation to be a motherly missionary. It is an invitation to action and to helpful love. She had this intuition, that is why she committed herself to the shared mission, so that the Word would incarnate in her. This understanding leads her to the first mission with her relative Elizabeth to share the Good News of integral salvation that is expressed in her canticle of the Magnificat (Lk 1:38). She also carried out that mission in the multiple services there. A contemplative listening led her to an active mission, which we see in An Kareen, in Nazareth, in Cana of Galilee, in Jerusalem and in various first communities of the followers of Jesus Christ.

There was a reason behind Mary´s way of proceeding. The same was also for St. Arnold. Being Maria, pupilla Sanctissimae Trinitatis -Arnold´s favourite expression- perfectly understood what the Trinitarian and shared mission is. It is the missio Dei of the Father and the missio Jesu of the Son together with the missio Spiritus of the Holy Spirit in the missio Ecclesiae. That is, the mission has its divine origin. God the Father initiates it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Jesus sends, in turn, his chosen ones for the mission (Mt 28:18-20; Mr 16: 15-18; Lk 10:37). On the day of the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit takes over the baton to continue the missio Ecclesiae. We are called to continue it so that Vivat Deus Unus et Trinus in cordibus nostri.
We already know that an adequate hermeneutical understanding of the reason for the mission is essential to live, witness and even enjoy our Arnoldian ecclesial mission. To explain it, I would like to share a well-known legend. Once a tourist was walking through the city meets three workers who are working on a construction site. He asked the first worker what are you doing? “I’m laying bricks,” says the first. The same question was repeated to the second worker. “I’m building a wall,” is that worker’s simple reply. But the third builder with pride responds the same question “I’m building a cathedral!”… I think this legend will help us reflect on the reason for the missionary heart according to our Arnold´s heritage which is Theo-centric.

If the Virgin Mary was the visible protagonist of the Trinitarian and ecclesial mission, the Holy Spirit was the invisible motor of the innumerable charisms that guide actions (1 Cor 12,7). All the missionary works emphasized love as “the only language that all people understand” as Saint Joseph Freinademetz said from his lived experience enlightened by the Word of God (Jn 13: 35; Rm 5: 5; 1 Co 13). Yes, the love for the mission of the consecrated and the partner members of the shared mission of our communities are and should be our own and perhaps unique insignia. Because as we sing “The world stands in need of your liberation my Lord, it still has to feel…”

The mystical and missionary vision of St. Arnold was already ahead of what the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium [LG] of the Second Vatican Council narrated in chapters VII and VIII (#49-68). It is about the mystery of the Virgin’s participation in the ecclesial mission. That is to say -through the Spirit- the Virgin Mary acts in the world, in the perennial mission being our mother in the order of grace (LG 60.61); with a mother’s love, take care of the christians and especially the missionaries who are in the world. That is why she is invoked as protector, helper and intercessor (LG 62). Her mission encompasses all of the Creation (Laudato Si 238-41).

It is no coincidence that the last chapter of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [EG] dedicated Mary in the dimension of the mission of cordiality (# 284-88). Today’s world is overshadowed by individualism, materialism, multiform violence and injustice. Because “She puts the warmth of home in our search for justice” (EG 288). Mary´s justice is tenderness.

Mary as Mater Verbi Dei is for us the image of the Church in attentive listening to the Word of God and symbolizes openness to God and to others. John Paul II at the XVIII World Youth Day in 2003 said that with Mary, the servant of the Lord, they will discover the joy and fruitfulness of life. With her, the Master’s disciple, they will follow Jesus through the streets of Palestine, becoming witnesses to his preaching and his miracles. With her, the Virgin of hope, they will welcome the joyful announcement of Easter and the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit. This image of Mary as Mater Verbi Dei was used by Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (VD) on September 30, 2010.

In conclusion, there is a need for SVD, SSpS and lay missionaries with gifted vision, magnanimous hearts like Our Lady’s and people of prayer with absolute trust in God, like Saint Arnold. He was a missionary with all his heart and life. From his own experience he was convinced and said that the missionaries as men of prayer who trusted in God, would overcome all difficulties. Mary is our treasure and model of rootedness in the Word. She is the throne of wisdom and channel of grace. In this new period of the post-pandemic mission, She inspires us as a host of maternal love (EG 287) and kindness. Thus, our mission is also the participation in Missio Dei and in Missio Mariae Ecclesiae in special cordiality. Mary always points to Jesus, so it was Fr. Arnold’s wish that his sons and daughters, aware of his name and his purpose, would serve as signs pointing to Jesus as our motto: ‘His life is our life, his mission our mission’.



Saju George Aruvelil, SVD is from India. He is one of the first OTP who has gone to Argentina. He finished his theological studies for the priesthood also there. He then began his service in the education field in our SVD institutions. He obtained a licentiate in Spirituality from Pontifical University of Comillas, Madrid. He also holds a doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Argentina, Buenos Aires. He also helps in the formation of laity and religious candidates. He gives retreats and leads workshops, seminars, etc. He has a radio program and writes in a local newspaper. At present he is a promoter of Laudato Si Movement for caring for the Earth together with his parish priestly pastoral activities.

Saju George Aruvelil, SVD 

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