Since the day of Pentecost, the fire of the Holy Spirit has led the Church. From the missioning of Saint Francis Xavier to the Far East to our community in Birmingham, the Society of Jesus has received a command from Saint Ignatius: Ite inflammate omnia (Go, set the world alight). However, this fire fans across the Church. Two weeks ago, we had two different experiences of God’s fire.
The first one was the Second Friday of the month event at St Chad’s Cathedral. (www.facebook.com/groups/2ndFriday1835/members/) This is an initiative led by the diocesan youth. In the context the Year of Faith, this group is having a series of talks about the documents from the Second Vatican Council. It was wonderful! The highlight of the evening was Teresa Kehoe (from the Maryvale Institute) talking about Apostolicam Actuositatem. (the Vatican II decree on the Apostolate of the Laity) She remind us of the crucial role of the laity:
“The apostolate in the social milieu, that is, the effort to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which one lives, is so much the duty and responsibility of the laity that it can never be performed properly by others.” (Apostolicam Actuositatem 8)
Teresa not only gave as great talk but also challenged us to be evangelisers. This is what Christ calls us to: to be a sign of his Kingdom on earth. In that regard, it was consoling to see young people committed and open to the spirit of the Council. By the end of the evening, I thanked God for these stewards of our faith.
The next day (Saturday) we went to the Diocesan Assembly for Justice and Peace. (www.birminghamjandp.org.uk/) This event was very different from Friday. Yet the fire of the Spirit was fanning strong. Even though I discovered a kaleidoscopes of Catholic and Christian organizations involved in social justice, it was the individual stories that made an impression on me. In each of them (priests, religious and lay people) I could hear the Church’s commitment to social justice:
“To satisfy the demands of justice and equity, strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination.” (Gaudium et Spes 66)
The highlight of my day was the workshop about homelessness. This was lead by Alison Gelder from Housing Justice (www.housingjustice.org.uk/) and Alisa Mc William from Depaul UK (www.depauluk.org/). The facts and figures about homelessness in Britain filled me with indignation. (See www.crisis.org.uk/pages/homeless-def-numbers.html)
Alisa and Alison invited us to do something about homelessness. Their approach as was very simple: WE ALL CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. From praying for the homeless to supporting temporary housing initiatives, we can bring God’s kingdom on earth. However, Alisa and Alison did suggest prayer as a vital tool in all this. In a phrase: passion for building God’s kingdom at the borders of the Church.
To conclude, I would like to invite you to think about the fire your life. Whether you are a believer or not, let the the love of your heart irradiate a gentle fire in the world. If we truly want to bring harmony and justice into today’s world, we need to make our hope tangible to the world. As Saint Alberto Hurtado said: un fuego enciende otros fuego (A fire kindles other fires).