June 30, 2017
Memorial of Blessed Gennaro Sarnelli, C.Ss.R.
WITNESSES OF THE REDEEMER: In Solidarity for Mission to a Wounded World
Dear Confreres, Sisters, Lay Associates, and Friends,
Today we celebrate the memorial of a great witness to the Redeemer: Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli, contemporary and close friend of St. Alphonsus Maria. You know his story already. Fr. Gennaro was a spiritual master and well-known writer who spent himself entirely to bring the Gospel to the abandoned and the poor of the slums around Naples. He especially sought out the women, young boys and young girls who were the victims of human trafficking and exploited as prostitutes, as laborers, and in criminal activity.
As we remember him, and celebrate his memorial, let us also pray for and work with all those who are caught up in the web of human trafficking today – Suriname and Brazil to sub-Saharan Africa, from Thailand to Philippines, and across North America and Europe. We know that this exploitation of our sisters and brothers continues on every continent. It afflicts those fleeing the violence of war and persecution. It traps many trying to escape from the oppression of poverty and famine. Many indigenous peoples, as well as others who are often excluded from or marginalized by the dominant cultures of their societies become easy prey for those who would exploit them.
To understand our brother Gennaro Sarnelli, it is helpful to hear his own words:
“Whoever looks at a neighbor with human eyes judges this other person as unworthy, hateful, proud, bothersome, fickle and resentful – as an enemy, persecutor, an evil-doer. The human heart tends to dislike the ‘other’, to look down on him or her, to speak ill of them, to devalue them…
But when a person is enlivened by faith and contemplates the neighbor with eyes of faith, the other appears totally different from before. One discovers a neighbor worthy of esteem, helpful, deserving of compassion, loved…look at your neighbor with the eyes of faith, and see him or her with the eyes of faith… the image of the Most Blessed Trinity.” (Il Christiane diretto, ‘della Carita’, 1743)
Blessed Gennaro, our confrere, teaches us that work for justice must lead to the transformation of society and its structures. For this ministry of justice and transformation, spirituality – especially that spirituality which is deeply rooted in the Word of God – and social studies are essential. He was a leader in this integration, long before his time. He also understood the fundamental value of education, of dignified work which respects persons, and of collaboration between religious, cultural and civil authorities and all persons of good will.
May Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli assist us with his witness, his words and his writings. May his prayer inspire us to work to end all trafficking of human persons and to respect and esteem all our neighbors.
Your brother in our Redeemer,
Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.
More about Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli: