Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Tuesday, 23 April 2013 16:48
Jules Chevalier was a 'Man with a Mission' and he also wanted his followers to be likewise men and women with a mission, missionaries.
As Bishop Cuskelly points out in his study of the Founder, "Man with a Mission", one cannot really understand Jules Chevalier without understanding how central the idea of 'mission' was to his vision. He focused this vision in the motto he gave to his Congregation: May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
But what did 'mission' mean for him? The answer was to be found in the Heart of Jesus. He did not start with the question "Where are we sent?" or "To whom are we sent?" or "For what are we sent?" Important as such questions may be and as much as they did concern him, his fundamental question remained: "By whom are we sent?" At the origin of his charism is an experience, a profound experience, the fruit of study, prayer, reflection and contemplation. For him the words of Jesus were intensely personal: "As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you" (John 20, 21 – see also 17, 18). Father Chevalier was profoundly moved by the Gospel of John, the Gospel of the Word made flesh. God so loved the world that he sent his Only Son and now the Son sends us, the Son who is closest to the Father's Heart and who has made the love of the Father known (see 1, 18). Jules Chevalier felt compelled to share, with the whole world, the beauty of what God reveals in the Heart of the Word made flesh. He believed that the 'language of the heart' was the best way to present the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation, with all the implications and consequences this has for the world.
Jules Chevalier was deeply impressed and inspired by another aspect of John's Gospel: the message of union with the Lord, as branches with the vine (John 15). It is in this union that we are called to continue the 'language of the heart'. As he wrote in his study on the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
That describes our personal union with Jesus; it surpasses all imagination. Let us say it once again: we are not talking about some simple union of being alike; it is rather a deep and mysterious union of life: Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; branches and vine constitute the plant, in the same way Christ is formed by Jesus and us.
Jules Chevalier had an apocalyptic vision of a new world emerging from the Heart of the Incarnate Word pierced on Calvary – this new world was the Church, the new creation.This 'new world' would overcome the indifference and selfishness of the world he knew, the world of what he called the 'mal moderne', the failures of his time: atheism, materialism, rationalism, liberalism. He found the remedy in the Heart of Christ, God's Word Incarnate. He was aware that in St John's Gospel Jesus is referred to on some forty occasions as the 'one sent by the Father'. Jesus was the first missionary of his own Heart; Jesus defined himself as the one who has been sent. Today he continues to call others to the same mission.
The conviction that the Lord calls me is central to the life of the missionary – God calls me personally and entrusts me with a mission. "As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you." The awareness of being sent, the strong conviction that he had a mission to carry out characterized the life of Jules Chevalier. Without this awareness it is impossible to understand his life or his charism as a founder, his aspirations and ambitions, his courage in the face of great difficulties. He was a man with a mission, with sense of 'mission without limits'. He expressed this in his motto: ubique, 'everywhere'.
This sense of mission which he bequeathed to his followers has at least four dimensions:
1. He always insisted that his MSC Society must remain open to all kinds of ministries and missions in the Church. "
To obtain that end – May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved! – the Society accepts every kind of ministry which the Church may offer, none excepted".
This was the attitude that led him, despite strong opposition, to accept the challenge of the mission to Micronesia and Melanesia in 1881. For Jules Chevalier our identity was not to be found in a particular kind of work, but in our spirituality, a spirituality that inspires us in our mission. And our mission is to continue the mission of Christ: according to his Heart, following the way of the Heart.
2. For Jules Chevalier the emphasis was always on ubique, 'everywhere'. The missio ad gentes (the 'foreign' missions) had a powerful attraction for him.
"Our missions abroad and among unbelievers are of great importance. They are the purest glory of an Institute". Despite the great changes in ecclesiology and missiology this remains the great work of the congregation today: in the developing Churches, among the new 'gentes', the marginalized, the refugees, the voiceless in a globalized world. "We will become all things to all people, by respecting different cultures ... " (MSC Constitutions n. 24).
3. Jules Chevalier wanted to proclaim and continue the mission of Christ in all its dimensions, in its full richness; he did not want to limit it. It is opposed to his spirit to reduce our mission to a social or political mission only – the Lord's mission is much richer, it has a transcendent dimension. However, at the same time, it would also be against the spirit and ideal of the Founder to spiritualize our mission and stress only its transcendent dimension. Chevalier was open to the problems of his time, to the real difficulties of people; open also to new possibilities (particularly for the laity) and to the concrete challenges of his day. He was convinced that you cannot preach the Gospel without taking seriously its social and human consequences. His dream remains for us an invitation to avoid polarization or the negative categorization of people and situations: Good News for all, without discrimination; Good News everywhere, for the whole person. Jules Chevalier would have been open to Pope Paul VI's emphasis on the centrality of dialogue and adaptation in the missionary endeavour of the Church.
4. Finally his 'mission without limits' embraced everyone: laity, priests, religious – everyone. He dreamt of a mission of cooperation in which everyone could be animated by the wealth and strength of a common spirituality.