“The Lord will remain faithful” Fr Mark’s message on the Centenary from the Diocesan approval of the MSSP (14th November, 1921)

Eleven years ago, we celebrated the centenary of our foundation as MSSP, on the 30th of June 1910.  It was a heart-warming event in all our regions and an opportunity to become more aware of God’s providence with us as MSSP in these hundred years of existence. It served also as an invitation to look forward. Together with our founder, we shoulder the responsibility of our call as missionaries. Such endeavour is not an easy task, particularly in the present era where so many signposts are shifting.  While the mission to evangelise was always a challenge, today we face particular challenges from various sides:

  • We live in a Church coming to terms with its sins of not so long past;
  • We interact with cultures that lack fixed points, making it next to impossible to hold a decent dialogue with;
  • We experience an era where religious life, like other institutions – ecclesial, social and governmental, is struggling with its own identity.

A word of hope in the midst of all this fluidity is our personal relationship with Christ and our availability to love even the unlovable. I hope that these remain a constant in our point of departure for evangelisation. However, as faith communities, bound together by human structures, we are also called to be evangelisers, and as Church we cannot abscond from our communal call to mission, however ambiguous it may be.

A hundred years ago, our founder Joseph De Piro was facing a similar issue, albeit in a different context. At that time the First World War had just ended and brought with it both havoc and new opportunities. The Maltese environment in which De Piro was living was spiralling down from poverty to misery. The Christian faith, perceived as a stronghold in time of trial and present in all aspects of the Maltese life, was being abandoned by those who set foot offshore in search of better prospects. The situation was dire, and De Piro, a holy man with a sensible heart, felt responsible in front of God, countryman and humanity to do his part. 

Joseph De Piro also knew that he had to do it as Church. His “small community” of young men was what he had and could offer. Yet he knew all too well that goodwill and good intentions were not enough. He needed the approval from his superiors so as to work hand in hand with the Church and in the Church. On the 14th of November, 1921, the Archbishop of Malta Maurus Caruana approved the then called SSP (Society of Saint Paul) on an experimental basis provided that the statutes of the said institute were elaborated and finalised.

Joseph De Piro also knew that he had to do it as Church. His “small community” of young men was what he had and could offer. Yet he knew all too well that good will and good intentions were not enough.

All of us in a way or another live in a chaotic world. This is a given, at least for those who are bold enough not to surround themselves with impenetrable bastions of excuses or comfort. Evangelisers, religious and lay, are those who live in this chaotic environment but who are generous enough to part from their securities and risk bringing some order in the lives of others. Christ, the one who was with the Father when order was brought forth from chaos, is still the only true means and reason for us missionaries to operate. It does not matter where – whether in our own families, sitting with somebody disturbed by life events, distributing food, giving refuge, or sharing one’s own experience of Christ with a community or congregation. What matters is that like Joseph De Piro:

  1. We cherish our communities through which our faith is nurtured and our mission nurtured
  2. We are ready to depend on others, and learn to wait, to learn, to persevere, to even change our perspective on things.
  3. We hold on to our original inspiration and call, even when things go dark and we feel that others are neither dependable nor the imagined and desired companions.
  4. We trust that if our efforts are from God, they will bear fruit, albeit different from our expectations and out of our sight. “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour.” Ps 127:1

What De Piro teaches us is the art of focused waiting. The (M)SSP for him was the most cherished fruit of his saintly life, but it did not flourish neither easily nor immediately. Evangelisation, in all its levels, also requires from us this holy stance of

  1. Clarity in the goals of our life
  2. A trust, backed by prayer, that God will provide in his own time and
  3. Patience in chaos.

May this other centenary that we are celebrating as MSSP serve us to renew our commitment for evangelisation and grow in the right resolve in practicing it. Joseph De Piro is a true and dear guide for us.

Fr Mark Grima mssp
Superior General

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