Contemplate - Launch Out
Many times in recent months I have found myself thinking or writing about the Pope's great Letter at the dawn of the new millennium, Novo Millennio Ineunte. The Letter is so rich and so relevant to our times and concerns that I decided some time ago to launch a more in-depth focus on the Holy Father's words.
From Trinity Sunday this year we will begin a two-year course of prayer, reflection, and action linked to major themes from Novo Millennio Ineunte.
I have called this initiative Contemplate-Launch Out. The title is important. Everything we do begins with contemplation - contemplation of our creation, our salvation, the moral life, and above all, contemplation of the face of Christ who has brought salvation to the world. However, in Catholic tradition contemplation is not simply sitting in an armchair thinking quietly: we contemplate the truth in order to live it. We must pray and study to understand, then we are to 'launch out' in order to change the world.
We call the centrepiece of our spiritual lives 'the Mass', from the Latin words with which the Mass ends, meaning you are 'sent out'. The 'dismissal' at the conclusion of Holy Mass does not round off our religious duties for the week: rather, it sends us out into the world to fulfil our duties. We are a people made for mission, and this too is part of our new pastoral initiative.
In my Pastoral Letter announcing Contemplate-Launch Out I have made some suggestions about priorities over the next few years. First, I have asked for a renewal of prayer in the parishes. We all pray, but sometimes prayer is lonely, or people may be embarrassed to discuss their prayer lives. Our Church has great resources to offer here. We have the great prayer of the Mass; we have the daily prayer of the Church - a whole treasury available in a simple volume; and we have many priests, religious and lay people who are experts in prayer and able to teach many styles and methods of prayer in our tradition.
Next, I would like us all to recall that every person is made for holiness: whoever we are, we are placed in a special place, we are claimed by God. This tells us much about the need to respect others and ourselves and to bring the message of universal holiness - the truth of the Gospel - to all we meet. This can be hard, but with regular sacramental encounters with Christ, especially in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, it is possible.
I have also asked for prayer and new thought on supporting families, vocations to priesthood and religious life, educating our young people in faith, renewing our commitment to justice and charity, and facing the challenges of ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue.
I realise this is much to ask, even in a three year period, but these issues very much go together. They are unified by a single vision, the vision of Novo Millennio Ineunte. Its four brief sections are headed 'Meeting Christ', 'A Face to Contemplate', 'Starting Afresh', and 'Witness to Love'. Together they point to the Pope's Conclusion: launch out! I believe that if we study this Letter together, as individuals and in groups, we will come to know afresh corners of our faith that have been hidden and cob-webby for some time. We should all at least open ourselves to the possibility of being inspired by the Pope's vision.
I have combined my Pastoral Letter with the much-loved image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. The image invites us into the depths of prayer and love as we contemplate the Mother and Child. It also reminds us of the task in hand when we notice the angels overhead carrying the Instruments of the Passion. Let us then join with Mary, our Mother, as we contemplate all that her Son has done for us, and launch out to do something for him.
+Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.