Rome (AsiaNews) - On 17 May 2013 Pope Francis, receiving the heads of the Pontifical Mission Societies, spoke of the duty to " keep evangelization, the paradigm of every act of the Church, alive... The Bishop of Rome is called to be a pastor not only of his particular Church, but also all the churches. In this task, the Pontifical Mission Societies are a privileged instrument in the hands of the Pope. " He added: "There are so many people who have not yet known or encountered Christ." To proclaim Christ to these people is a task for all of us who have "received the gift of faith, not to hide it but to spread it so that it might enlighten the path of many brothers and sisters."
At the end of his speech, Pope Francis said, quoting Pope Paul VI, he hoped that the Good News is not proclaimed "from evangelisers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world".
In "Redemptoris Missio" (1990), John Paul II, addressing the young Churches, wrote: "you must be like the first Christians and radiate enthusiasm and courage, in generous devotion to God and neighbor." The missionary experiences the joy of proclaiming the Gospel from being intimately united to Jesus, who, being united to the Father and the Spirit, sends us his joy. In fact, as Saint John says, "Deus Caritas Est," God is Love. When the missionary gives himself totally to Christ, he experiences the promise that the Son of God made to the Apostles: "These things I have said that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full" (John 15: 11). It is a precarious, temporary joy, is a state of mind which supports the messenger of the Gospel in his effort, in suffering, sacrifice, failures, persecution. The joy of being intimately united with Christ makes the proclamation of the Gospel effective, because the missionary transmits this joy, this enthusiasm and peace of heart.
This may all sound rather theoretical or like a utopian dream. But it is not so, indeed, it is confirmed by the life of many missionaries who are fondly remembered long after they have gone him. I base this on my own experience. I have written fifteen specifically requested biographies of missionaries (including those not from PIME). I have thoroughly investigated their characters, through their letters and testimonials and I realized that one of the characteristics common to all was the very joy of being messengers of the Gospel. They differed from each other in every other aspect of their mission: from Msgr. Aristide Pirovano, who founded the diocese of Macapà in the Amazon, 12 years Superior General of PIME, who then he spent his last years in the leprosarium of Marituba, where he took over from Marcello Candia and set up many religious, healthcare and educational projects for the poor, to Father Leopoldo Pastori, that shortly after his ordination to the priesthood in 1969 was hit by a liver cancer. At a little more than thirty years old, he could have become a burden to himself and to others. Instead, he was able to go to Guinea Bissau, where his main job was prayer and spiritual direction. Yet both of them preserved until the very end of their life, the joy and excitement of being missionaries and after death enjoyed a widespread "odor of sanctity." This can only be explained by their intimate union with Christ?
The last biography I wrote is that of the Blessed Father Clemente Vismara ("Fatto per andare lontano," Emi). After four years in the trenches in the First World War and 65 years as a missionary in Burma (pictured), in inhuman situations of extreme poverty and isolation, among tribal people who still lived almost in prehistoric times, he died at age 91 ( 1897-1988) and his brother said, "He died without ever having aged." In fact, when I met him in Burma in 1983 (aged 86), he still had the smile of a child, the liveliness and the desire to joke of a young man and he did not want to talk about his past, but said, "Let's talk about my future. " He realized, in those situations, great works of the Gospel, but never allowed himself to be hardened by the tremendous hardships and difficulties.
A fellow missionary, Father Angelo Campagnoli, testified at the diocesan process for his beatification, "Clemente was a man of practical faith, he had a supernatural vision of life, a profound abandonment to God. Everything about him was guided by faith, which was the basis of his strength and certainties. He was confident that, despite everything, everything would turn out well in the end. Hi faith gave him the strength to persevere, even to start over again on many occasions, even after repeated disappointments. This was real perseverance ... He was enthusiastic about his vocation, and because he believed with such a great passion, he could communicate it .... And I think that joy is another feature, a singular virtue of Father Vismara. Of course it was probably a natural gift, and his spiritual life rested on this, but there was no distinction between the two spheres in him".
Badiali, who was also his companion in mission said: "Father Vismara bore
all his trials with joy, because he said that if we were persecuted it meant
that everything was fine. This was his faith, an enthusiastic, joyful faith,
full of the desire to save souls, Christian life for him was based on facts, on
being one with the will of the Lord ... This was the faith of Father Clement, and
it supported him throughout his life until his death, with a great joy, a great
will to live which he felt for himself and for the children he welcomed
whenever he could. "
A catechist of Father Clement, Anselmo U, said: "We endured many hardships together: we went to visit the remote villages and often had to sleep under the trees and under the stars, because it took a long time to get there. Yet Father Vismara was always serene and smiling. I've never seen him angry. Sometimes I got sick and was very weak: then told me to pray and to make the people of the village where we were pray".
Father Clemente Hla
Shwe, one of his orphans today a priest: "He was certainly a man of
prayer, a man of great faith, I would say a smiling faith, because he always
smiled. He communicated so much joy and enthusiasm to anyone he met. Me too,
when we met, he was always urging me to be a priest zealous in my apostolic
work, but also full of joy and smiles. "
Sister Battistina Sironi of the Sisters of the child Mary, who spent thirty years with Father Clemente in Mongping from 1958 until his death in 1988, in a lengthy interview that I did 17 February 1993 in Kengtung said: "He was always cheerful. When he had problems, he would sing in his home. Then we nuns would call the children and take them to church to pray for Father Clement, who had serious worries".
Sister Battistina was undoubtedly the person who lived closest to Father Clement for the longest stretch of time. At the diocesan process in Kengtung she testified: "I have never met a man of such great faith as Father Clement. He was truly a man of prayer, full of piety and charity towards all, especially the poor and even more for the little ones. When there was nothing to eat, he said to me: 'You stay here with the kids while I go to church.' He would go to the church to pray and certainly shortly after the rice we needed came. Keep in mind that even then there were one hundred orphans who had to be fed every day! He prayed much. especially in the evening saying the Rosary: he never missed a single day. He never missed daily Mass and celebrated it with such great devotion and meditation. "
In the Year of Faith, the example of Blessed Clemente Vismara is challenging first of all for us priests and missionaries, but also for all consecrated persons and all believers in Christ. Faith was the engine of life for him, he was always calm and smiling in spite of all the suffering, difficulties, disease: his was not a perfunctory faith, one that did not disturb his tranquility and daily live, but a living, militant faith, that made him willing to sacrifice and suffer for good and to avoid evil and to always be at the service of his people and of the Church. If there is no enthusiasm and joy in the things we do and we believe in, then there is no joy and serenity of spirit and we risk growing old before our time.