100th Anniversary of the death of Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini
Statement Released: Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Some years back I went to a State of Origin game in Sydney with some New South Wales Bishops. It was almost as if we were looking at two different games. What I saw as foul they saw as fair, what I saw as bias of the referee they saw as legitimate, all of which was reversed depending on what team one was watching. This was just a small reminder of the bias we all carry against others whom we believe don’t belong to our “tribe”, whether Queenslanders or New South Welshmen, Australians or New Zealanders, Anglo Saxon Australians or Indigenous Australians, Northern hemisphere people or Southern hemisphere people. It is amazing how narrow our love can be, and this is no more evident when we consider migrants or refugees wanting to come to some country that is not their own. Immediately, we tend to forget we are Christians and revert to some basic tribal antipathy and selfishness. Time and time again Christ condemned narrow love. He kept trying to remind us that we live not in our world but in God’s world, that we belong not to one national family of people, but to the one people of God. On a daily basis we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact lest we cease to be Christians, followers of Christ. Fortunately not everyone is as selfish as we tend to be, and one such person was the remarkable individual we honour tonight, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, and the Scalabrinian Order that, filled with his spirit, continued his mission in the 100 years since his death in 1905. John Baptist Scalabrini in many respects was ahead of his time. Today we hear a great deal about the theology of “communion” – the relationship between ourselves, God, and all people. We are related not just to one group of people, but to all people, because all people are made in the image and likeness of God and all people are children of God, destined to live forever. 100 years ago this great man wrote:
“For while the world is dazzled by its progress………..a much greater, nobler, and more sublime work is developing: the union in God through Jesus Christ of all people of good will”.
Indeed once we accept this fundamental reality described by Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini then we are enormously challenged as Christians. No longer can we treat people who come to our shores as if they are somehow sub-human, nor more importantly can we neglect these families who come to our shores seeking a better life, especially when they bring their children with them.
So deeply did Blessed John feel about all of this that he sent a memorandum to Pope Pius X asking him to see in migration a God given opportunity to show our catholicity. Out of his insight was born the Scalabrinian family with its three Institutes: (1) Missionaries of St Charles; (2) Missionary Sisters of St Charles Borromeo, and the Secular Institute of Scalabrinian Missionary Women.
Today they do an enormous amount of Christian work in the world for the benefit of God’s Kingdom, and we are delighted that today they are present in our Archdiocese as well.
The scripture tonight reinforces the faith of Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini. The Reading from Isaiah teaches the unity of the one family of nations under God when it says:
“They shall proclaim my glory among the nations”
God desired all the nations to live in peace and harmony.
The Letter to the Hebrews very beautifully describes all people as wanderers on earth looking for their ultimate homeland in heaven. Finally the story of the Good Samaritan shows that we are all neighbours to one another. There are no exceptions. We must care for all people who are our brothers and sisters in the one family of God.
Today as we celebrate 100 years since the death of John Baptist Scalabrini let us give thanks for this remarkable saint who reminds us of the Christian vision of our founder Jesus Christ. There can be no such thing as narrow love in our rapidly shrinking world. We are meant to share its resources with all. Selfishness must be banished forever. This lesson needs to be understood by all, but in a special way by the richer nations including Australia, that own so much of the worlds resources. Unless we can live together as one family of God, not selfishly guarding what God has given us, then wars and violence will continue.
Today we gather in our great act of worship the Mass to pledge our determination to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to love our brothers and sisters no matter what their race, colour and creed, to thank God for Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini and the Scalabrinian family especially in this Archdiocese, and to open our minds and hearts to the example of this great, great saint of the Church.