It is beautiful to reread the following two passages at the beginning of the book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-35) to see how the early Church fostered community. Today, the parish wants to reawaken that early sense of fraternity.
By proposing the intention for this month, Pope Francis is aware of current and future parish challenges. He speaks first of fellowship, as the book of Acts explains: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). Sacramental communion has a double aspect: fraternal and liturgical. One cannot go without the other. This month’s intention directs our vigilance on the first aspect: fraternity and the reception of the most vulnerable. Fraternal communion always requires attention in the parish community. In particular, welcoming the poor is a hallmark of fraternal communion. To do this in faith is to take the path of Jesus who came to bring the Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18). And poor, we are!
The words proposed by Pope Francis this month to look forward to the future of parishes may surprise us. We must remember that the Holy Spirit does not abandon his Church. The decrease in the number of priests and consecrated persons is an opportunity to rediscover aspects of parish life that may have passed into the background. We too are called to be missionaries and need to assist our pastors in their work, helping them to reach out to the vulnerable of our local communities. May we remember the missionary dimension of our baptism, opening ourselves up to the world and reestablish fraternity in parishes around the world.
Daniel Régent, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (France)