The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the month that celebrates the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As these feast days are in this month, June is therefore considered as a month of love. God is love, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus manifests the love of God for us. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) which we celebrate in this month is another expression of God’s love: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most widely practiced and well-known devotions, taking Jesus’ physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.

The devotion especially emphasizes the love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity. From the time of John the Evangelist and Paul, there has always been in the Church something like devotion to the love of God; nevertheless, the devotion remained an individual, or at least a private devotion until 1670. It was in that year that the first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes (1602-1680).

From France, the devotion spread, but the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675 helped the devotion to become universal. We know that many devotional exercises are connected with the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Personal Consecration, Family Consecration, Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The First Fridays, Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, and Twelve Promises of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary.

In biblical language, ‘heart’ indicates the centre of the person where his sentiments and intentions dwell. In the Heart of the Redeemer, we adore God’s love for humanity, his will for universal salvation, his infinite mercy. The call which comes from this feast day is first of all a call to Eucharistic Adoration. To spend time in the Presence of the Eucharistic Lord, to adore Him, is the best expression of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who said to St Margaret Mary: ‘Behold the Heart which so loved mankind and is so little loved in return!’ For many years, Catholics faithfully practised this nine first Fridays devotion, but more recently there seems little effort in this regard.

Schools begin their academic year in June. The mission of Catholic schools is not just to provide a high standard of academic learning for our students but also to help develop a Christ-centred faith relationship with Jesus Christ. Pastoral care reflects the sacredness of each individual, when individuals are encouraged to know, love and respect themselves as children of God and when a culture of excellence is fastened in the heart of the Gospel. We need to remind ourselves that “our institutions do not pursue the narrow goal of academic prestige, with a strong focus on marks and medals, but instead aim to foster human values and spiritual maturity among the students and staff. In fact, if a Catholic institution, excellent as an academic institution, does not find it possible to implement the essential characteristics of our Christian values and is not committed to our Mission, we would consider it a radical failure on our part.” (CBCI All India Catholic
Education Policy 2007).

Let us adhere to All India Catholic Education Policy according to which all Catholics are admitted to our schools, on their essential merit that they are Catholics. “No Catholic child, Dalit/Tribal or otherwise, should be deprived of quality education because of a lack of means. [...] Those disadvantaged, socially, physically or intellectually, will be specially assisted so that they can be integrated into the educational system. We make this preferential option, even if in this process academic results suffer. All Catholic schools whether run by dioceses, the religious, corporate bodies or individuals, are expected to participate in this
project”.

We celebrate the Laity Sunday on 30th June 2019. We reflect on the witness of St Thomas More, the heavenly patron of Lay faithful, who as a lay person had the courage to be faithful to the Gospel. The Laity Sunday brings us a splendid opportunity to reflect on the vocation and role of Laity. Pope Francis has expressed it powerfully in his address to the Laity Council: “We are in need of well-formed laypeople, animated by a pure and fresh faith, whose life has been touched by a personal
and merciful encounter with the love of Jesus Christ. We are in need of laypeople who risk, who soil their hands, who are not afraid of erring, who go forward. We are in need of laypeople with vision of the future, not closed in the little things of life. And I have said it to young people: we are in need of laypeople with the taste of experience of life, who dare to dream”

In our diocese Sunday Catechism Year starts from June. Kindly follow the instructions given by DBCLC, which has also given us adequate material that can be used for the inauguration of catechism year. Every Parish Priest should take personal initiative to plan the classes along with catechetical teachers, schedule meetings, and interact with students and provide inspiration and encouragement. Sunday Catechism is not limited to just teaching the prescribed text, rather it is a process of
moulding the students into mature disciples of Jesus. Hence in addition to classes, other faith formation activities should have a place in the annual programme: regular prayers, confession, spiritual counselling, class wise adoration with their teacher, student retreat, outreach programmes etc are right steps taken in this direction.

The season of priest transfers and assignments is getting over. Transfer time is a season of some anxiety as one hears what Abram heard from God: “get up and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1). A shift in location, residence or assignment produces some discomfort, pain, and uncertainty. For us who have given ourselves totally to the Lord’s service without any conditions, it is part of life. But obedience prompts us to accept the order with trust and brings in blessings as it happened in the case of Abram: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen.12:2). God’s blessing is not limited to one’s own benefit. Its purpose is to enable his people to be a blessing to others.

Transfer time is the ideal moment to bring to your kind attention what I preached on May 2, 2019 at the Mass of Ordination of Priests of our diocese. Some priests have told me that it was ‘an inspiring homily’ and some others ‘a touching / touchy homily’! Bishop Francis Serrao SJ of Shimoga has also expressed similar issue in his diocesan bulletin: “Avoid all unnecessary tensions and misunderstandings among us, we need to transcend every kind of nostalgic attachment to our earlier place and position, and avoid going to the former place unnecessarily and too often, much less, interfering in the internal matters of that place. Any negative criticism of our predecessors and successors is highly damaging to the unity of Presbyterium. If you find something seriously amiss anywhere kindly bring it to my notice but do not gossip about it. Always be positive wherever you go. Get to know the people. Let them know that you care. Visit families, Befriend the youth. Be a real father to all.”

Since 2002, on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. I thank the Lord for the priests serving in this diocese and for their fidelity to the love of Christ. The invitation of the Lord to “remain in his love” (cf. Jn.15:9) is valid for all the baptised, but on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it resounds with a new power in us, his priests. St John Marie Vianney said, “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”. We must never forget that from this heart sprang the gift of the priestly ministry. Let us spend more time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord during the month of June and reflect on the wonderful love of Christ for each and every one of us.

+ Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore

 

 

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