The mystical experience is fundamental for the mission – Reflection on St. Arnold

Author: Saju George Aruvelil SVD
Subject: Mystical experience
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2023
  1. The importance of a mystical experience in mission.

There is no ecclesial mission without a mystical experience. The Bible points out that it is the personal spiritual (mystical) experience that leads a person to a radical mission. It motivates the realization of a divine plan. In a mission God is always the protagonist and the source of grace, and we are mere participants. In short, the life stories of the following biblical persons affirm this: Abraham (Gen 12:1- 25:18), Joseph (Gen 37:1- 44), Moses (Ex 3:1-), the judges, the prophets, and other chosen ones.

The life and work of St. Arnold and those of the members of the founding generation were marked by their spiritual experiences. This is also the experience of many others, especially the founders and foundresses of Congregations or Orders, such as St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic of Guzman, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Therese of Jesus, or St. Teresa of Calcutta.

  1. The mystical experience in the life of the Founding Generation.

In January we commemorate the missionary saints: Arnold Janssen (January 15th) and Joseph Freinademetz (January 29th).  What were their founding experiences and those of the others of that founding era? What always inspired the Founder was the image of the Infant Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). This verse deeply captivated him. Love for the mission to take Jesus to every corner of the world always inspired those pioneers.

The deepest union with the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God did not leave Father Arnold Janssen tranquil. He wanted to do everything possible so that many would come to know the love of God. His commitment began with his participation in the Apostleship of Prayer and in the writing and propagation of his gazette, The Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Later, he was inspired to found first the Congregation of the Divine Word and then the Missionary Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit and later the Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. Like Arnold, the other members of the founding generation had profound experiences of God’s love and wanted to proclaim it through their missionary lives.

We are missionaries of heart and action. From the beginning of our missionary foundation, we have been marked by these two styles of missionary vocation, namely, to be missionaries ad intra and ad gentes. This means that we first carry out our mission in our home country and then in foreign lands. Arnold, and the Sisters Mary Helen, Josephine, Michaela, etc., remained in the foundation house, several were sent to the mission countries. Thus, from the beginning our Arnoldine family has had both styles.

On March 2, 1879 Joseph Freinademetz and John Baptist Anzer received the missionary cross, and in a few days, they embarked for China. As for the Servants of the Holy Spirit, on November 12, 1895, Sisters Andrea Gertrudis Hegemann, Scholastika Theresia Beckert, Agatha Theresia Niemann and Xaveria Maria Kaup, began their missionary work in the SVD parish of Valle María, Entre Ríos, Argentina.

3.Las raíces bíblicas de la vocación misionera.

Mission is rooted in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God the Father sent the prophets and other chosen ones as missionaries with the message of His love. Their teachings exhorted conversion and called those who had strayed away to return to the Father. With the incarnation of the Word, the Trinitarian mission enters a second stage. Jesus began his mission with the manifestation of the Trinity at his baptism: “And when he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descending upon him, and a voice from heaven said, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’” (Mk 3:10-11). At Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) the Church is sent to continue the trinitarian Mission.

St. Paul is one of the most outstanding missionaries of the New Testament and of all times. Let us revise his letter to the community of Rome. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, an apostle by vocation, chosen for the Gospel of God” (Rom 1:1).  Here we see in a summarised form what a missionary vocation is. It embraces all missionaries ad intra and ad gentes, as well as lay associates of all times in a universal mission and in particular, in our Congregations founded by Arnold.

When we write a letter we usually put our names at the end. Why does Paul write his name first? It seems to me that it is to highlight the great irreversible change that is the change of his name, Saul to Paul. In other words, since our birth what identifies us first and always is our name. Joseph Freinademetz, a missionary in everything, also changes his Christian name to a Chinese name: Fu Shenfu which means priest of happiness. His love for the Chinese, despite the bad times of persecution he experienced, motivates him to become ” a Chinese among the Chinese” to such an extent that, in his own words: “If in heaven there is a corner for the Chinese, I would like to be there with them”.

It is an example par excellence of Chinese adaptation and inculturation with absolute freedom. Many of our missionaries are also inculturated, accepting the style of dress, food and other customs. As St. Paul is the classic example of a missionary life, so is Joseph Freinademetz for the Arnoldine family.

The lives of St. Arnold, St. Joseph Freinademetz, Blessed Mary Helen, Blessed Josephine and Mother Michaela make it clear to us that the founding spiritual (mystical) experience is the secret motor of our life and joyful dedication to the mission. Undoubtedly, we all have the spiritual experience and it is the one that leads us to consecrate ourselves to the service of the Mission in the congregations of our great Arnoldine family.

  1. Keep the fire burning!

In the midst of the difficult situation in which Timothy found himself, the apostle St. Paul exhorts him to keep up the fire of God’s gift that was in him (2 Tim 1:1-7). Therein lies the secret that is the source and opportunity for perseverance. St. Arnold exhorts us to “always pray, it is the key to all graces”. He is clear about this from his own experience.

A few words of a self-criticism. It seems to me that the secret of the success of a life freely given for the mission with joy in the enjoyment and also in the difficult seats in the spiritual (mystical) experience that we always have to enliven. The lackness of it is the Aquila’s heel of many missionaries and the cause of many failures. Sometimes they do not know, neither want to revive the first missionary love; they may dedicate little time or little effort to prayer, so they lack commitment and enthusiasm in inculturation, thus brings their own failures. Many limits themselves to being workers without a dynamic motivation. We have to keep alive this fire which is vital!

Personally, I have just celebrated the silver jubilee of my priestly ministry and in June I will complete thirty-three years of my religious life as an SVD. The vision of St. Arnold always guides me, the passion for mission and inculturation of Joseph Freinademetz inspires me, and the perpetual adoration of our Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit motivates me to spend “one hour with the Lord” (Mt 24:40) daily to enliven the grace I received in my vocation to missionary religious life. They are like a marine lighthouse for me.

The dynamism of Jesus is to reward those who persevere as we read in the three parables (Mt 25:1-20). If we are faithful in our charism, the Lord will entrust more and more to us. St. Arnold, St. Joseph Freinademetz, the missionary Sisters of the founding generation had been faithful to what they had received. God blessed and multiplied in abundance this charism, so that we too are members of our Arnoldine family.

May Saints Arnold, Joseph and Blessed Maria Elena, Josepha, Mother Micaela and others intercede for us and our missionary life!

 

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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
Saju George Aruvelil, SVD 

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