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Diamonds at Domitilla, by David Kinnear Glenday MCCJ

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 October 7, 2015

REFLECTION - To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Pact of the Catacombs, in the final months of the Year of Consecrated Life, just three weeks before the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy (and, it should be added, the Golden Jubilee of foundation of the UISG) and two weeks after the conclusion of the Synod on the Family: well, at first sight it might all just seem too much, one more case of severe ecclesiastical overload.

Instead, all this can, I feel, be lived as an opportunity, an intense moment of grace: like, perhaps, the chance to take hold of a beautiful and precious diamond, hold it up to the light, and marvel at the glints of many colours it generously throws off.

What is celebrated at the Catacombs of Domitilla on November 16 has indeed many facets, many layers of meaning, many energies to unfold. For my part, I am especially delighted, enriched and challenged by three.

First, there is the warm glow of grateful memory: the catacombs are places where such memory is revered, where we are returned to the roots of our faith, but for us disciples of Jesus remembrance is very much more than our looking-back, and this for two reasons: first, because the One really doing the remembering, the reminding, is God’s Spirit, making present to us now all that really mattered in our past (Jn 14:26), and second and consequently, because this remembering impels us into the future; as the Fathers would say, it is memoria futurorum.

The recalling of the commitment of those pastors at St Domitilla fifty years ago is the work of the Holy Spirit in us here and now, and empowers us, once again, to embrace the future with trust, with renewed energy for the mission to, for and with the poor of which the Pact’s first signatories dreamed.

Second, there is the peaceful but penetrating light of witness. We need to let ourselves be amazed by the simple fact that a place like the Catacombs of Domitilla still speaks to us, and it most certainly does: it speaks with the voice of the lives of our ancestors, their joys, their sorrows, their sacrifices, their hopes, their very being. Witness, shorn of power, is powerful indeed: for as often as this  might have been said, it is still true that what matters is who I am, and who we are: this is what makes a mark and shapes history.

Is not wonderful and beautiful that the witness of those who signed the Pact at Domitilla can move us today, fifty years on? What they did, and the fruit it bears in us now, shows the truth of Pope Francis’ striking turn of phrase in Evangelii Gaudium: I am a mission on this earth. This is a beauty that truly attracts and calls: to simplicity of life, to authenticity of relationships, to courage for the long haul, to a new and deeper commitment to the service of the poorest, the last and the least.

But perhaps the greatest beauty of the diamond of these days is the delightful radiance of the Gospel itself. To borrow again from Pope Francis, “Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

“The freshness of the Gospel”: is this not the music that sounds from the short but powerful pages of the Pact? Is it not a call to live for what really matters, to let what is superfluous and secondary simply fall away? Is it not an invitation to an evangelical freedom, a lightness of step in sharing the Good News? Is it not an invitation to trust that the power of the Gospel is there to be discovered in every event and person, at every periphery of our world?

So, yes indeed, there are diamonds at Domitilla, and they are ours for the taking – and giving.


David Kinnear Glenday MCCJ
Secretary General USG

October 4, 2015





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