The missionary’s responsibility is to give his life for the glory of Christ, placing himself in the school of faith: a meditation by Fr. Emmanuele Silanos

Prague. It’s the Night of Open Churches. Once a year, during the summer, all the Catholic churches in the Czech capital open their doors so that the faithful and the curious, tourists and those passing by, can visit them and pray during the hours in which they are usually closed. Even St. Apollinaris, the parish which has been in the care of the Fraternity for the past nine years, is open late tonight. Bit-by-bit, it fills up with parishioners and friends, but also by many who are entering for the first time. There are those who are curious to see the inside of this temple, built in 1360, a distant age in which the faith was still an experience of a people. There are also those who arrive to hear the testimony that my brother priests have asked me to give for the occasion.

While I wait to begin speaking, I look around at our beautiful church, its Gothic structure and the frescoes on the walls, almost completely faded away over the course of time. The story of Antonio Gaudì comes to mind. I’m struck by how he began to build a great cathedral at the end of the 1800s when Europe was already moving away from Christian values. My wonder grows thinking that that construction continues even today, in a society ever more divided, within which the Church seems to be a superfluous or distant presence. It’s said that one day, a few months before the architect died, one of his friends said to him, “Gaudì, you’re building the last of the cathedrals.” Gaudì corrected him: “Not the last of the cathedrals but the first of the contemporary age.”

Sometimes, we are tempted to ask ourselves if it makes sense today to establish Christian works: schools, hospitals, nursing homes. Works that have faith as their origin and evangelization as their objective: isn’t it a bit out-of-date? Then I think of the Sagrada Familia: if there is still someone building a cathedral in today’s world, maybe it still makes sense to establish works that can be defined as Catholic.

What is the Sagrada in the end? A work whose subject was, and is, the people and whose goal is to give glory to God.

It was clear for Gaudì that the cathedral was to be a work of the people. He loved and respected his workers so much that he built, right next to the construction site, a school for their children, so that, while they climbed up on the cranes and steeples, the laborers could look down from above to see their kids studying and playing. And not just that: to complete the Nativity facade, the only part completed during his lifetime, he chose the people living in the neighborhoods near the growing church as models for the figures he was sculpting.

The Sagrada, just like the medieval cathedrals, was also a work of education. Its goal was to educate the same people who were building it. And the first “student” of this education was Gaudì himself, who said: “It wasn’t me who built this work, but the work that built me”.

Then I think about our fraternity, about our missions: we, too, were born from the experience of a people; we, too, desire that our lives give glory to God. We, too, are called, above all, to educate the people we meet to the faith, knowing that in this way we are the first to be educated.

The first way we carry out our mission is by placing ourselves in the school of the works that are given to us, starting from the churches and parishes that we have been entrusted, bringing back to life the faith that gave birth to them in the first place. Only that faith can be the origin of new works and new cathedrals that are still waiting to be built.

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