St Peter Mary Chanel

Martyr (entered heaven on this day in 1841)

Dear Pete,

I daresay there is an easy explanation of why your COMPASS group is not growing so quickly as you would like.  As a matter of fact, I can put it in one word: charity. I don’t mean just putting a few coins into the Salvation Army box outside the grocery store, but giving yourself to meet the needs of those around you.  This is “caritas,” real Christian love. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Sometimes we get so caught up in our activities (apostolic or other) that we forget what they are all about – or what they should be about.  A big COMPASS group means nothing; free meals and fun activities will get you that. But a big COMPASS group full of young men and women who are finding meaning through Christ and his Church, now that’s worthwhile – finding meaning. I think that’s the greatest need that people have today.  What is life all about? How do I make sense out of all these personal and social problems I am running up against? What can I do with my life that’s worthwhile? Christian charity reaches out to meet our neighbors’ needs. When we do that, when we really care about our neighbor (and not just our attendance sheet), we become instruments of grace, living “sacraments” of God’s own care and concern.  Then, as a result, we will draw more and more people into Christ’s orbit. St Peter Chanel exemplifies this principle magnificently. From his very first assignment at a parish in France near the Franco-Swiss border, he opened hearts by his kindness and energetic care for this sick. Families that had long since abandoned the faith opened their doors to him when he came to tend them in their sickness, and ended up coming back to God.  When he joined the Marist Missionaries and was sent to the islands off the eastern coast of Australia, he and his companion followed the same pattern. By their sincere attention to the real needs of the natives, they began to gather a crowd of followers. Later, once they had mastered the language, they began to preach to them about Christ and won over a steady stream of converts. Unfortunately, the tribal king got jealous and had a band of warriors murder Peter with clubs and knives (which only increased conversions, by the way, and within a few months the whole island of Futuna was Christian).  So remember, we do everything to glorify Christ and further his Kingdom, not to satisfy our thirst for personal glory.

God bless, Uncle Eddy


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