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Feast of Saint Arnold - Message of Fr. Paulus Budi Kleden

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15 January 2022
Saint Arnold Janssen's day

Dear confreres, Sisters, Benefactors, Mission Partners, Alumni, and former students, Friends, and Relatives,

On January 19, 1909, four days after the death of Saint Arnold Janssen, his successor, Fr. Nicolaus Blum, wrote a letter to all the members of the congregations founded by Saint Arnold with the requests: To keep Arnold Janssen’s memory alive; to continue and expand his work in his spirit. His life force is well formulated in the prayer he passed on to us as his legacy: “May the Holy Triune God live in our hearts and the hearts of all people” (Vivat Deus unus et trinus in cordibus nostris et in cordibus hominum).

The Triune God is a God of communion, unity in diversity, mutual giving and receiving. May the Triune God live, shape, and transform us along with the people we serve and who collaborate with us. The purpose is that we may be changed to be people of communion, able and willing to open our hearts to accept, respect, and promote others. We may become people, who are not only concerned about their own wellbeing, but live in solidarity with others, realizing that we are all in the same boat, journeying together in this world and history.

This prayer was the source of inspiration, strength, and perseverance for Saint Arnold to start and lead his missionary work amid the many challenges. We remember his famous words: “We live in a time when much is collapsing, and new things must be established in their place.” We can also say the same about our current time and history. So much is collapsing on what was once firm and formidable. The COVID-19 Pandemic only reveals the crisis that has been existing in the world for decades. It demonstrates the brokenness and fragility of the economic, political, and health care systems. It also uncovers the ecological crisis and exposes the lessening credibility of the religions in our time. Amid these challenges, we are asked and empowered to be the signs of hope.

In the memory of Saint Arnold Janssen and keeping his spirit, I want to point at one very urgent and vital issue, ecology. Of course, Arnold Janssen is not a figure with such a radical approach to nature as Saint Francis of Assisi. And yet, he enjoys being in nature and in it he discovers the presence of God. Six months before his death, he was in Saint Rupert, Austria, where he wrote: “Here, surrounded by the beauty of the nature … I am moved to write some verses in honor of the three divine persons….” The 18th SVD General Chapter states clearly: “Creation is a sign of God’s love for us. Therefore, care for the environment is not only part of our mission, it is also part of our heritage. St. Arnold Janssen believed that nature is the temple of God into which God placed us so that it would proclaim to us God’s existence. As transforming missionary disciples, stewardship of Creation is our responsibility in expressing God’s love. This can be manifested in diverse ways—care for Creation, sustainable development, eco-justice, and so forth.”

On October 4, 2021, we launched the Society’s Laudato Si ActionPlatform. We proactively joined the whole Church’s initiative in implementing the seven goals of Laudato Si, the ecological encyclical of Pope Francis. It is encouraging to see that we, the Arnoldus Family, have taken concrete steps to realize this initiative. But much more can and shall be done. Our proactive stance is urgent and necessary. It is an insistent call to our communities, the parishes administered by our members, the educational institutions, the health care centers, and NGOs to take this appeal seriously and be part of this ecological conversion. The earth is our common home, the only one we share with others that we inherit and will pass on. Its sustainability depends on every one of us. Let us make our concrete contribution as daughters and sons of Saint Arnold. Let us open ourselves to embrace the Triune God who forms and transforms us and all people to people who listen to the cry of the earth and respond to the cry of the poor.

On the Feast of Saint Arnold occasion, we also join our SSpS Sisters during their 15th General Chapter. We implore the Holy Spirit to guide them to be attentive to God’s promptings and inspiration and renew their commitment to transforming the world with compassion.

Happy Feast Day of Saint Arnold to all of us!

Paulus Budi Kleden, SVD
and the Leadership Team