Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ours is a great work, a magnificent work

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October, 2017

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

Now, more than ever, the world needs you! 

We live in a world torn by division. Peace is threatened daily by the prospect of nuclear war. Terrorism claims the lives of scores of innocent men and women as the world waits nervously for the news of the next attack. The great superpowers of the globe draw further apart as conflicting national interests override the dream of world peace and international collaboration. Global warming chips away at the polar ice caps as some turn a blind eye to this clear and present danger.

Division has riven our nation as well. An over two-hundred-year-old wound of racial tension has been opened again and again in Baltimore; in Ferguson, Missouri; and most recently, in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the risk of alienating some of you, I must say that some of our leaders seem more adept at trading insults than building bridges. Congress seems incapable of compromise. Identity politics holds tremendous sway and, in some quarters, obscures the notion of some common good towards which we can all strive, regardless of color or creed, ethnicity or economic background.

In a confirmation hearing for a federal appeals court, one United States Senator implied that Notre Dame Law School Professor Amy Coney Barrett might be unqualified for the bench because of her Catholic faith. “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic,” he warily asked. Another Senator opined, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this county.”

What a sad misunderstanding of the Catholic worldview! The Catholic faith that I learned promotes the unshakeable dignity of every human being, irrespective of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The Catholic faith that I know echoes loudly the beliefs of our Founding Fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The world needs Catholics. Our country needs Catholics – men and women who have an abiding respect for our God-given rights and a profound understanding of our common humanity. Our 
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country desperately needs men and women who see beyond the politics of identity and the economics of entitlement to the politics of inclusion and the economics of self-sacrificing love. Does not every one of you cherish our common humanity because you understand that each of us is made in the imago Dei – the image of God? What more clarion call than that could we issue for healing and harmony in our nation and in our world? 

None, I would suggest. And that is why the world needs you. That is why our country needs you. As graduates of Marianist schools, you understand full well that we are all beloved sons and daughters of God. And what we need now is a revolution – not predicated on political theories or economic systems, but on the simple truth that we are all beloved sons and daughters of God. If we could convince our fellow inhabitants of the planet of this one truth, we would indeed change the world.

You know, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, the founder of the Society of Mary and of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, confronted a similar challenge in his own day. Faced with religious persecution at the hands of French revolutionaries and the religious indifference of so many of his contemporaries, Blessed Chaminade wrote, “This picture of our times, so sadly accurate, is, nevertheless, far from discouraging to us. Mary’s power stands undiminished. . . . Hers will be the glory of saving the faith from the shipwreck with which it is threatened among us.” (Letter to Retreat Masters, August 24, 1839)

In that same Letter to Retreat Masters, Blessed Chaminade penned the following words: “Ours is a 

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great work, a magnificent work. If it is universal, it is because we are missionaries of Mary, who has said to us, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ Yes, all of us are missionaries; each one of us has received from the Blessed Virgin a commission to work at the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world.”

This October 2, we Marianists celebrated the bicentennial of the foundation of the Society of Mary. A year and a half before the foundation of the Marianists, on May 25, 1816, Blessed Chaminade and the Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelléon founded the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. As you can well imagine, we Marianists feel particularly blessed by the two-year celebration of this dual foundation of religious congregations. These are indeed exciting times as we remember our roots and look forward to the future.

I challenge all of you to join with me and my fellow Marianists as we look towards the future. I call upon all of you to remember your Catholic and Marianist roots, to stand tall, and to make a difference. I ask all of you to join with us, under the standard of the Blessed Virgin Mary, working at the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world.

We are missionaries of Mary. The world needs us. The world needs Mary’s missionaries. Will you join us in answering that need?

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

P.S. We are sending the October issue of Magnificat to whatever college mailing address of yours we have on record. If we have no record of your college mailing address, we opted to send this issue of Magnificat to your home. So, if you have a new college mailing address, or if you are a Chaminade or Kellenberg graduate of the Class of 2017 and now know your college mailing address, kindly pass it along by emailing me at SBalletta@chaminade-hs.org. Provide us with your college email address as well, and, if you wish, with your mobile phone number, so that we can text you messages about upcoming events.