of Joseph De Piro
Founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul
Dissertation presented to
Hallows Missionary College
of Arts in Pastoral Leadership
dedicate this work
gratitude for gifting me
life and their love
This study is concerned with the Missionary Spirituality
of Joseph De Piro, founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. It is
a study that retraces the original sources but goes beyond the literal
reading of the texts as it tries to interpret them and apply them to the
current understandings of spirituality. The main object of this study is
not to analyse the original texts as such, but to correlate insights
from the past with present day modes of perceiving and living missionary
spirituality. It does so by exploring the meaning of spirituality in
general and missionary spirituality in particular and how these were
lived and assimilated by Joseph De Piro throughout his life. Attention
is given to the particular culture and Christian tradition, in which De
Piro grew. The study proceeds on how De Piro lived the missionary
charism by integrating contemplation and action within his life of
prayer and his spirituality of ministry. Finally there is a pastoral
focus on how the Missionary Society of St. Paul can live out this
This research is the result of years of reflection and
study. As a member of the MSSP it has always been my dream to study the
spirituality of its founder. The aim behind my study was not to write a
hagiography but to show the relevance of De Piro’s thought and charism
in today’s culture. I acknowledge that this study is the result of a
scholarly analysis of the original sources and documents that were
available in the archives of the Missionary Society of St. Paul.
However, it bears my imprint, highly influenced by my way of seeing
reality and my personal questions. My wish is that all who read this
study will develop a deep respect for a man who made God the centre of
his life with the hope that those who come to admire him will follow
This work would not have been possible without the help
and encouragement of many people. First of all, I would like to thank
the members of the Missionary Society of St. Paul who made my studies
possible and from whom I always received great support and
I would also like to thank Miss Una O’Connor, for her
help in tutoring my work.
A special word of thanks goes to Brian Gauci for his
proof reading of the text and for his constant support and friendship
during the writing of this dissertation.
For their English translations of the original Italian
texts I am deeply grateful to Mr. Gerald Bugeja and Miss Riene Lucia. I
would also like to thank my sister Joanne for typing the quotations: her
work is deeply appreciated.
I am grateful to Fr. Norbert Bonavia mssp for his help
with the translations and to Mr. Frank Smyth and his family for
providing me with a pleasant and supportive environment in which to
complete my work. Thanks goes also to the Salesian community in Sean Mac
Dermot Street, Dublin, with whom I stayed during this last year and who
supported me throughout.
Finally, I would like to thank God for blessing me with
all these people whose support, guidance and encouragement made my dream
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Context in which a Missionary Charism is
Charism: A gift from God
1.2 Creative Fidelity
1.3 In the MSSP context
1.4 The life of Joseph De Piro
1.5 The Missionary Spirit of the time
Chapter 2: Missionary Spirituality
2.1 Spirituality Defined
2.1.1 A cloud of witnesses
2.2 De Piro’s understanding of Spirituality
Listening in Faith
2.2.2 Mary, a path to God
2.3 A Missionary Spirituality
2.3.1 Pauline Inspiration
2.3.2 Spirituality of Hope, Trust and Authenticity
Chapter 3: A life rooted and transformed by prayer
3.1 Jesus the Model and the Way
3.2 Incarnation: the heart of God revealed
3.3 God’s will
3.4 Surrender in Love
3.5 Characteristics of De Piro’s prayer life
3.5.1 God within
3.5.2 Faith as a gift
3.6 Transformed in the image of the son
3.6.1 Solidarity with humanity
Chapter 4: "Your Kingdom Come" A Spirituality of Ministry
Called to love
Discernment: as a way of life
4.2 Availability: ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’
4.3 Solidarity with all
Living with orphans
Working for justice
4.4 Missionary involvement
4.4.1 Missionary Awareness
4.4.2 Help and support to Missionaries
4.4.3 Missionary Vocations
4.5 The Cross: Power the of missionaries
4.5.1 Members leaving the Order
4.6 God’s Providence
4.6.1 Bethlehem Image
4.6.2 The ship in the sea
4.7 Unity: ‘May they be one’
4.7.1 Unity in the Church
4.7.2 Unity in the Missionary Order
Chapter 5: Pastoral implications: A spirituality that
5.1 Vatican II’s understanding of charisim renewal
5.2 God bestowed special love on the MSSP
5.3 A fire that needs to be rekindled
5.4 The Originality of the Founder
5.5 Making the original inspiration our own
1 - The context in which a missionary charism is born
di ogni Santo non e’ che
pagina nuova nella storia
dell’amore verso Dio."
Throughout the history of the Church the Holy Spirit
inspires and calls different people in different cultures at different
times to be prophets in their own world. It was a call to live the
Gospel in a way that inspired others to follow their footsteps. Each
founder or foundress received a special charism from God to be
specifically given to the Church at that particular time in history. As
Joseph De Piro puts it: It was a new page and a new insight in one’s
response to God’s love and call.
Charism, a gift from God
A missionary charism within the Church is a special gift
that enriches the whole Church. It is rooted in God’s call and inspired
by the Holy Spirit:
the human race the light and the strength to respond to its highest
calling…The Spirit’s presence and activity affects not only individuals
but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions. Indeed
the Spirit is the origin of the noble ideas and undertakings that
benefit humanity on its journey through history…leads us to broaden our
vision in order to ponder his activity in every time and place.
Charisms are gifts by the Spirit for the benefit of the
Church; the Orders are the bearers of these gifts. Each charism
received, lived out and transmitted is given to the Church and humanity
at a specific moment in history. This intuition has neither boundaries
nor precise direction; time and space do not limit it. Yet, this new and
pressing experience of the Holy Spirit energises founders to transform
This transformation in the life of founders is
characterised by a greater awareness towards the poor and a decision to
be in solidarity with them, resulting in the gradual emergence of the
need for a specific type of presence in the pursuit of a work or a
multiplicity of works. At each turn, confusion and risk mark this
re-orientation but the sense of urgency prevails over the uncertainty.
The keen evangelical insight becomes a force and a power that move the
person beyond his/her imagination and leads him/her to live life
in a prophetic and evangelical way.
The mission of particular orders differs according to the
originality of the founding charism. Fidelity to the order’s distinctive
character demands of the entire community a continuous discernment of
the original inspiration so as to deepen its roots and identify new ways
how to implement itself to the evolving, changing times. There is a need
to re-create the freshness of novelty but at the same time to be
faithful to God’s calling. Hence we need Creative Fidelity.
At the closing of the Synod on Consecrated Life, Pope
John Paul II specifically invited the orders to reclaim the enterprising
initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses,
and to develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, adapting forms to
new situations and different needs. Such discernment leads to a radical
conversion and fidelity in accomplishing the founding evangelical
Special attention is required to re-focus, inculturate
and communicate the original vision. The destiny of these precious
traditions is in the hands of those who inherit them today, but it is
the same Spirit who grants the wisdom to revise and incarnate the
charism in a relevant and significant way for each era. One must study
the past, reflect and make choices, in order to meet the future more
effectively. To speak about charism necessarily means to, "courageously
propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of our
founders and foundresses."
The challenge of creative fidelity demands above all the
knowledge and study of the original gift given by the Spirit to the
founder/foundress. Charism gives the order its identity, and the
spirituality of a founder/foundress gives the order a means that helps
members to follow. Spirituality is the fire of that originating energy
and if it is lost or not discovered the evangelical intuition will no
longer inspire others.
The charism bequeathed by the founder/foundress is never
static. It summons the followers to new frontiers; it demands the
courage to go beyond its incarnation in a particular context from which
it sprang and be applied for today. This compels, not only to see and to
live differently, but also to consider new ways of living the vision. It
is a time that invites for "dynamic fidelity" for recreating rather than
repeating. It is a time to:
with courage and audacity the creativity and the holiness of Founders as
a response to the signs of the times that arise in the world of today.
Religious orders undertook with insight and courage, the
Church’s post-conciliar invitation to carry out the renewal of their
orders. The renewal was not simply to adjust to the demands of the world
but in fidelity to redefine the meaning of religious life. Such creative
fidelity calls for new responses to the way of living and translating
the charism of the founders. Such endeavours prompt the need to
re-discover and revive the genius and impulses of the heart, the zeal
and boldness that characterised the founders.
the MSSP context
To look with creativity is to look with hope. It is the
look of the sentinel who is not weary to scan the horizons for a
possible new incarnation of charism, convinced that each twilight
harbours a new beginning, a glimmer of Resurrection. Rediscovering
Joseph De Piro missionary spirituality can be for all the members of the
Missionary Society of St. Paul an opportunity to go back to the well
that sustained Joseph De Piro. It can help the Missionary Society to
allow the same Holy Spirit that inspired him to breath in our sails, and
to give the Society the necessary power and strength to trust in the One
who is sending them to the ends of the earth.
This dissertation is an attempt to search in the depths
of the heart of Joseph De Piro a man who was called by God to serve the
Church in a particular culture and with a particular vision. Studying
his spirituality helps not only to know better Joseph De Piro but also
the source from which he drank each and every day, Christ the Lord.
Spirituality is not an ideology that one can discover and possesses but
it is more of a call to become, under the influence of the Holy Spirit,
an icon of Christ who calls all to be transformed in his image and
likeness. This is why discovering the spirituality of Joseph De Piro can
help the Missionary Society of St. Paul to understand and own the
original grace, welcome the signs of the times, and undertake with
courage new missionary endeavours.
Discovering the missionary spirituality of Joseph De Piro
is by no means a question of repeating in an identical way the works of
the founder. It is more a question of letting his spirit inspire us to
live our Missionary Charism today in view of the future but never
unrooted from the past with its tradition and richness. We must be
rooted in evangelical values, planted in the fertile soil of the church
and open to the world.
life of Joseph De Piro
Joseph De Piro was born in Malta on November 2nd,
1877 into a wealthy and influential family to the Noble Alessandro dei
Marchesi De Piro and Ursola, neé Agius, the seventh of nine children.
He excelled in the art of painting during his primary and
secondary education. He entered the Royal University of Malta as a
student in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Between 1897 and 1898 he
started reading law. While still at the University he also served in the
Royal Malta Militia.
At the age of 21, he felt the call to the priesthood and
on May 8th, 1898 while praying to our Lady of Pompei, decided
that he should follow the vocation. In 1898 he enrolled as a student at
the Carpranica College, beginning his studies in Philosophy and Theology
at the Georgian University in Rome. He was ordained priest at St. John
Lateran on the 15th of March 1902.
He was involved in different ministries within the
Church, but his main concerns were the missions and work amongst the
poor. Between 1902 and 1904, he convalesced from a sickness at Davos in
Switzerland. He returned to Malta in 1904 and spent three years of
pastoral work in the Parish of Qrendi. In 1907 he was appointed Director
of Fra Diegu's Orphanage for Girls in Hamrun. In 1911 he was nominated
canon of the Cathedral of Malta. In 1915, the then new Archbishop of
Malta appointed De Piro as his secretary. De Piro served as Rector of
the Major Seminary of Malta in Mdina between 1918 and 1920. During that
same period, De Piro was one of the Maltese leaders during the Sette
Giugno disturbances of 1919. In 1920, he was nominated dean of the
Cathedral Chapter. During this period, De Piro was a member of the
National Assembly. In 1921 the National Assembly was able to bring a new
Constitution to the Maltese islands.
During 1922 De Piro served as a substitute parish priest
for seven months in Gudja. De Piro also served as director of various
orphanages, St. Joseph's Home, Hamrun; Jesus of Nazareth Institute,
Zejtun; St. Joseph's Home, Ghajnsielem, Gozo; The Home for Little
Children, St. Venera; St. Francis de Paule Institute, B’Kara.
In 1930 he served as intermediary between the Church and
Lord Strickland in a political religious conflict. Continuing his
involvement in Maltese politics, a common practice by church members in
the early history of Malta, De Piro served as a Senator in the third
As a young priest he began to work towards bringing to
fruition his long cherished dream of establishing an order of priests
and brothers committed to the spreading of the Good News. June 30th,
1910 was the foundation day of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. He
started the society with two members and called the order the small
society of St. Paul. To its first members he passed on his missionary
zeal and his love for those in need.
In 1927 he sent his first missionary, Br. Joseph Caruana,
to Ethiopia. Br. Joseph spent 48 years in this country without returning
to Malta. Six years later he himself with two other members was going
there to help consolidate this new mission and to realise the dream of
his life that of being a missionary. But on September 17th,
1933, he died unexpectedly at the age of 56 when he collapsed during a
He left behind a small group of priests and brothers with
no leadership. The small Society went through difficult time since "with
his death the society seemed to have lost its soul."
The life and work of Fr. Joseph De Piro can be
synthesised in his deep spiritual life which was reflected in his social
action and pastoral love and in his missionary spirit to make the
Kingdom of God present everywhere.
Missionary Spirit of the time
It is clear that Joseph De Piro personal call and Charism
was prompted by the missionary consciousness that characterised the
context in which he grew. He was open to the signs of his time and knew
that: "the conversion of pagans has never been in such large numbers as
in this century of ours."
nineteenth century brought a new missionary consciousness to the
Christian world, a revitalisation to the mission spirit heretofore
unknown, that effected Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, the clergy,
religious and laity alike.
In fact many missiologists refer to this century as the
Great Century. When studying the missionary projects and endeavours
happening in this period, one cannot but emphasise the role played by
missionary societies: "the nineteenth century is in fact sometimes
referred to as the century of missionary societies." Among the pioneers
of this missionary zeal were the old religious orders such as the
Jesuits and Franciscans. However new male and female religious orders
were emerging into the world; specifically founded for missionary work.
Such spirit was fully backed by the Church and by
encyclicals published on missionary theology and action Popes such as
Gregory XVI and Leo XIII and Benedict XV were all very enthusiastic
about these new missionary endeavours and did their best to help and
support all new initiatives, De Piro writes:
the Holy Spirit these last three popes did their best to advance always
the evangelisation of the infidels. Although they are pressed by the
troubles of the whole world, they put this matter of the missions at the
top of their apostolic ministry.
De Piro was deeply influenced and caught into the
missionary enthusiasm of his time. In his diary we find "I feel that God
wants to start in Malta a congregation of priests called after the name
of St. Paul." It is in these early years of his studies that the dream
of forming a missionary order in Malta is born.
The above presentation of the context in which Joseph De
Piro grew and lived, gives us a picture of the many factors that helped
give birth to his missionary charism. Such endeavour helps us not only
contextualize the missionary charism, but also to understand it in order
to extract its core essence. The present understanding of religious life
calls for faithfulness to the core essence of the original charism but
with a creative openness to the signs of the time. So as to grasp De
Piro understanding of spirituality and missionary call we must first
define the parameters of both terms. This is the aim of the next
2 - Missionary Spirituality
interiore deve essere l’anima
nostre azioni esterne,
opere di Missione."
An introduction to Missionary Spirituality must begin
with defining the terms themselves. I use the term spirituality with
some hesitation. Spirituality has been defined in innumerable ways and
it can be approached from different points of view. Such variety about
the definition of spirituality shows that there are various ways how one
can view the subject. For the sake of clarity I will develop the
theological aspects of Missionary Spirituality, by defining the terms as
used in my work and as understood by Joseph De Piro.
Spirituality is a broad term and there are different
points of views about the very meaning of the word. In defining it we
are limiting the terms itself to a definition that best suites our
purpose. In Sandra Schneiders’ words, "spirituality is the experience of
consciously striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation
and self absorption but of self transcendence towards the ultimate
values one perceives." Schneiders highlights the problem in defining
been challenged by theologians who think that spirituality, like
brushing one’s teeth, is absolutely necessary but should be done in
private; by historians who think that spirituality, like happiness is a
term that should not be applied until its subject is quite dead; by
psychologists who think that spirituality is the word pious type use for
what normal people would call good mental health; and by scholars of
religion who maintain that the competent study of any religion will
include an objective account of whatever the terms spirituality covers.
I narrow down my options to define spirituality as a gift
from God’s spirit that helps by adopting and developing certain
attitudes and that shape one’s inner being. It implies a vision of life
itself, which is not reflected primarily in actions but rather in a
stance towards the world.
Christian Spirituality involved the human capacity of
self-transcending knowledge, love and commitment, as it is actualised
through the experience of God, in Jesus, the Christ, by the gift of the
Spirit. Because God’s Spirit comes to us only through experience and
symbols inseparable from human community, Christian Spirituality
includes every human dimension of human life.
Christian spirituality includes one’s whole reality as
rooted in God with a deep sense that one belongs to community, which
expresses its sense of the sacred through words, gestures, actions,
events, tradition and community. Christian spirituality then is not a
push from below but a gift from above. Hence, spiritual experience
becomes the focus and the centre of spirituality. It demands choices to
be made in consistency with the upheld ultimate values. As Wilkie Au
puts it "the word signifies our whole interior and spiritual life, and
it includes mind and will, knowledge and love. It is not primarily head,
action oriented, or moralistic, but rather, it is a matter of being
caught up in a dynamic loving relationship with the Lord and others."
cloud of witnesses
Spirituality in history is the story of flesh and blood
people who lived lives that only later generations came to see as smooth
sailing down an easy street called the spiritual life.
A "cloud of witnesses" marks the story of spirituality,
people who tried their best to seek appropriate ways to live the
fullness of life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. So even if
there is only one Way, who is Christ, the Spirit works in different
cultures and at different times, calling forth expressions of the
Christian life appropriate to the respective cultures and times.
Christian spirituality is not one dimension of Christian living but it
is Christian life itself. The way in which Therese of Lisieux lived the
integration of her contemplative and missionary call is all together
different from the way Ignatius of Loyola lived them and Joseph De Piro
saw them both as models and light in his path to God.
Piro’s understanding of Spirituality
De Piro was convinced that Christian spirituality must be
rooted in the affirmation of a personal God, who is active in the
history of humanity and who is active in his personal life; "every thing
that we have, indeed all that we are, every thing is a gift that God has
bestowed on us." From an early age his desire was to be in tune with God
and to do God’s will by developing an intimate relationship with the
Lord of life. "A good thought is a seed that Our Saviour throws in our
soul." This was quite unusual for his time as spirituality then tended
to be more theoretical rather than experiential. Little awareness
existed that experience can be the point of entry into the spiritual
This characteristic is what Karl Rahner years later
articulated so well when he "recognised human experience as a locus of
God’s revealing self disclosure." For Rahner human life and activities,
events and history, are capable of disclosing the presence and action of
God. Thomas Merton in his book Contemplative Prayer writes:
We are a
word spoken by God, and God does not speak words without meaning.
Therefore our true identity is hidden in God's call to us and our
response. All of us need a certain amount of interior silence and
discipline to maintain our human and Christian identity…There is no
magical system. What counts are faith, openness, attention, reverence,
expectation, supplication, trust and Joy…. Having a contemplative
attitude is more important than the way or the number of times we pray.
Joseph De Piro saw his story as a gift from God, "for
those who love God, all things help them to be of good to others." He
felt that God speaks in many ways but surely God shouts in his story. To
see his reality and all that happened to him in the light of faith was
the most basic notion of De Piro’s Christian spirituality; "God's visits
are those movements in our heart which help us to follow truth." God
spoke to the people in their story, in their very slavery and heard
their cry by sending them a Saviour. De Piro was convinced that God
speaks in history and in the person of his Son God became one of us in
order to save us. In the same way God enters our own personal history.
De Piro’s spirituality can be defined as learning to read his story and
events in the light of God’s story. When he accepted his reality as a
gift from God he started living with the conviction that God turns
everything into good for those who love God. He believed "that which to
us appears wrong will not be other than a wise disposition of Him who is
protecting us and we are to turn to Him." This attitude can be traced
back early in his life. When all the family was bereaving the death of
his brother De Piro wrote to his mother:
I think I
am the last of all my brothers that can give you any consolation. It is
clear that God and the Blessed Virgin have not forgotten us once they
often present to us incidents through which we show always our trust in
them. As regards Berti we can say that he is better off than we are and
that he finds himself with the other good souls who left before
him…After the accident that happened to us, it is also a clear and
doubtless fact that Our Lady had accepted the supplica he had addressed
to her on the 8th of May so much so that he had not yet had
the time to thank her with the usual novena of thanksgiving as she had
already taken him with her to Heaven. Last year the same Virgin made me
offer myself to her son on this earth, while this year, my dear mother,
she gave Bertie to Him in Heaven. So I say to all at home, who like me
are very sad about this, to thank Mary for having permitted things to
happen in the best way possible and let us declare to her that this
circumstance in the future will be another golden link that keeps us
united to her. This is the only comfort that helped me and I cannot find
better words than "Let God's will be done."
In reading his story De Piro had to listen in faith to
God: "Those who do not believe think that everything happens by chance,
but to us who have faith we quickly perceive the hand of God." So deeply
rooted in Him was this attitude that:
sorrow and disappointments, even in the face of death itself, I try to
raise my mind and heart towards the heavenly father and tell him "Thy
Listening in Faith:
To read his story in the light of God, and to be in tune
with the One who loved him and called him, De Piro was more than aware
of the need to listen to the voice of God who speaks in the silence of
the heart. "Do you know what is the most important thing?" he writes "It
is to listen and follow God's word that is much more worthy than the
whole world with all that it can offer." He founded his spiritual life
on: "the duty to stay always near God to listen to his voice." This was
the beginning of his radical commitment to others and his steadfast
perseverance in his vision and dream, "the ear of your soul should be
always ready to hear His voice." On the contrary deafness to this voice
is, "the terrible consequence of sin."
Mary, a path to God
De Piro chose Mary as the model of one who listened to
the voice of God. We cannot but notice his Christo-centric Mariology.
Mary was for him a model of discipleship. He reflects on the gospel
passage when a woman praised Mary with the words: "Blessed is she who
begot you and who suckled you" and on Jesus’ response "Blessed are those
who listen to the word of God and keep it." About Mary’s faith De Piro
her son in the cattle shed of Betlehem and believed He was the creator
of the world. She saw him fleeing Herod, and yet she believed he was the
King of kings. She saw Him being born and she believed He was eternal.
She saw His poverty and believed He was omnipotent. She noticed that He
did not talk and believed He was infinite Wisdom. She heard Him cry and
believed He was the joy of Heaven…Mary saw him crucified, and at the
same time she believed He was God. And…after the Ascension, it was Mary
who, as a torch, kept alive the faith in the heart of the Apostles.
De Piro was grateful for the gift of faith freely given
by God. "We must be careful that we never fail to give thanks to God for
the gift of faith that He deigned to give us without any merit on our
part, and we try to keep in us the fervent wish to attract the
unbelievers and make them come and share with us this great gift."
Gratitude permeated his life and was the starting point of his
missionary zeal "Jesus, help me to spend the rest of my days thanking
you". Listening to the voice of God, having faith and doing God’s will
were pure gift of the Spirit:
God's grace all that we have said now would be only a dream, an
illusion. Man's strength and energy, if they are not controlled by faith
and given direction by grace, ceases to be a protective force, but
becomes an oppressive tyranny.
A Missionary Spirituality
The mission of the Church is essentially a spiritual
activity, the real agent of all missionary work is the Holy Spirit. The
effectiveness and true success in mission cannot be measured except in
terms of the supernatural. Behind every human effort there must be the
free power and the free gift of God. Missionary spirituality is founded
on the truth that without the power of God one can do nothing at all,
Jesus Said: "without me you can do nothing". Without the Holy Spirit the
Church would be a lifeless body. Paul VI writes, "There can be no
evangelisation without the co-operation of the Holy Spirit." Behind
every missionary activity there should be the guiding hand of the spirit
of God. Louis J. Luzbetak says:
role of the Spirit is so important as we say it is, it must follow that
the effectiveness of mission and the solution to its problems must first
and foremost be sought not in humans cleverness, no, not even in
anthropology but elsewhere. The most important and most desirable
ingredient in a person engaged in mission is a genuine and deep
De Piro insisted that, "the missionaries should remember
that once God had chosen them He expects to have their hearts all to
Himself. This thought echoes Benedict XV’s writings, a pope whose work
De Piro quotes often in his Almanac for the Missions.
who enter upon the apostolic life there is one attribute that is
indispensable. It is of critical importance… that they have sanctity of
life. For the one who urges others to despise sin must despise it
himself… give the missionary if you will the most extensive learning and
the most brilliant culture. Unless these qualities are accompanied by
moral integrity they will be of little or no value in the apostolate…
Accordingly the heart of missionary spirituality is:
communicate to others by entering ourselves first of all into the centre
of our existence and become familiar with the complexities of our inner
lives. As soon as we feel at home in our house, discover the dark
corners as well as the light spots, the close doors as well as the
drafty rooms, our confusion will evaporate, our anxiety will diminish,
and we become capable of creative work. The key word is articulation.
The man who can articulate the movements of his inner life, who can give
names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself
but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that
prevented the spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him
whose heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose
hands can heal more than his.
Penetrating the inner self therefore becomes the soil in
which missionary activity can grow and be effective. Neuwen summarises
this very well:
articulation, I believe, is the basis for a spiritual leadership,
because only he who is able to articulate his own experience can offer
himself to others as a source of clarification. The Christian leader is,
first of all, a man who is willing to put his own articulated faith at
the disposal of those who ask his help. In this sense he is a servant
because he is the first to enter the promised but dangerous land.
De Piro believed this to be the only way in which the
Word of God can be accepted by people; "Every member of the Society
should do his very best to be able to deliver the Word of God as
worthily as possible. His way of life should be in conformity to what he
is preaching." In fact, Thomas Merton deepens this thought and go as far
as to say that:
attempts to act and do for others or for the world, without deepening
his own self understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love,
will have nothing to give to others. He will communicate to them nothing
but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressively, his
ego-centred ambition and his own delusions about means and ends.
A real missionary spirituality then must be grafted in a
deep relationship with the Lord who loves us, who calls us and who
commissions us. Convinced of the importance of such relationship De Piro
wrote: "missionaries must be careful not to neglect the advance of their
own soul by thinking of saving that of others." He was more than
convinced that only those who have a personal experience of God can
preach the truth; one can only transmit truth fully if in the process
one has made it one’s own. This is very much in line and in anticipation
of the thought developed in Evangelii Nuntiandi: "More than ever before,
the witness of our lives has become an essential requirement if our
preaching is to be effective." In the Rule De Piro writes that the
spiritual life must be the aim of all external actions, otherwise little
or nothing will be obtained from missionary work. In fact De Piro
earth the missionary enjoys the real peace and calmness in his heart as
a reward for all his struggles, pains and persecutions. This gift of
peace which only God can give and which the world can never offer
because it is a gift reserved only for the followers of Jesus Christ.
One cannot speak of missionary spirituality, especially
as understood by De Piro without reference to Pauline spirituality.
Paul’s question and deep search inspired De Piro, "Lord who are you?"
and "Lord what do you want me to do?" To know and to deepen the
knowledge of and the relationship with Christ were for Paul his very
life "life for me of course is Christ" and the very essence of his
mission. The second question was a logical consequence of the first for
Paul: his missionary endeavours were for Paul the result of his
relationship with Christ. There was no dichotomy between his
spirituality and his ministry.
Joseph De Piro’s motto was to give to others what Paul
gave to us (Maltese). "God" he said "had been greatly loving to us
Maltese when he permitted St. Paul, as the first missionary, to come
over to our island and convert us from the darkness of paganism and give
us the light of the Christian belief." This gratefulness for the gift of
faith was the source of his inspiration to form an Order of missionaries
under the guidance and patronage of the missionary Paul.
De Piro saw in Paul not only the hand of divine
providence but an example of a true spirituality for missionaries.
"Paul’s heart" he writes "is the heart of Christ." "Paul was always
ready to do all that God asked him to do." Such openness and willingness
was De Piro’s wish and desire for each member of his Order. He defined
Paul as "a heart burning for the love of God" and nothing and nobody
could quench that fire. Paul knew himself well and was aware that Christ
was his life and his message: "if you read my words you will have some
idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ."
At the heart of Paul’s spirituality and his missionary
activities was Jesus Christ. This total conviction in the centrality of
Christ led him to a total commitment. He knew that he was only a servant
of the message that he was proclaiming:
always saw himself as an authentic messenger entrusted with an authentic
message. The message he brings is not some human concoction. It is
simply, God’s message to man. Paul is its bearer, not its author.
This reality lead Joseph De Piro to pray with all his
heart; "Let us pray to Paul to give us more Missionary vocations and
install in their hearts the desire for suffering, the fervour to be of
help to others, and to love the Divine Master with the same love which
he felt burning in his heart and which made him often suffer for his
Spirituality of Hope, Trust and Authenticity
Hope is an important Christian virtue and is an essential
virtue in a missionary spirituality. To hope is to be nurtured and
sustained by a great faith, based upon a promise made by a power beyond
one’s own, that of God. Hope is believing in the promise of God and that
God has the power to fulfil that promise. To hope is to let the ideals
of the gospel lead and shape one’s life in such a way that even when
everything seems impossible one holds firm to the promise, since the one
who made the promise is faithful, as Edward Walsh puts it:
of a missionary is to go to places where he is not wanted, to sell a
pearl whose value, although of a great price, is not recognised, to
people who are determined not to accept it as a gift… to accomplish this
he need not be a saint but he must come close to passing one. And in
order to achieve this hoax, he must do so many things that a saint does,
that it becomes for him a serious question if the easiest way is not
simply to be a saint in the first place and be done with it.
A missionary spirituality must be hopeful. Joseph De Piro
believed in "the Divine words ‘If God does not build the house it is of
no use any struggle made by the builders." These words reflected his
trust in God’s help. When thinking about founding the Missionary Society
of St. Paul he felt it was nearly an impossible task. In his diary he
wrote: "knowing that the Maltese priests love their native country very
much, it must be through some miracle that my ideas would become
realities." But nevertheless he was firm in hoping in the One who made
the promise. In Henry Nouwen words:
are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it
will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic,
convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being
offensive gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses
without being manipulative. Therefore to be a fruitful Christian leader
one needs to move from the moral to the mystical.
Such hope beyond rationality becomes the characteristic
of the missionary. To take steps beyond what is purely secure and
reliable, out of full trust in the One who made the promise. Cardinal
I am what
I am meant to be in the measure in which I follow that tendency to trust
in hope. It is from man’s innate tendency to move beyond himself, to
make an act of faith in an other person, that society is born, as are
friendships, love and brotherhood. If no one ever takes a risk, nothing
happens. It is this trust in the promise of Jesus the Word, which makes
salvation possible, it is a very special kind of trust that makes
evangelisation possible. The evangelist is formed as he learns to
surrender himself at Jesus Word.
Surrendering in faith and hope in the hands of the One
who calls becomes the foundation stone of a spirituality of hope and
trust. To hope is to believe that there is something holy and something
hidden in the most ordinary situations. Faith ministry is therefore the
greatest possible service that one can render to society. If it is true
that humans have different needs, their deepest need is surely for
faith, hope, and ultimately love.
The missionary must be ready to understand people’s most
hidden needs, the most subtle needs, emerging from their innermost. But
if one wishes to preach the gospel to others with compassion and
conviction one must open one’s heart to experience the unlimited
compassion of the Lord: "it is essential that our eager zeal for
evangelisation should have its source in a true sanctity of life…this
world is looking for preachers of the gospel to speak to it of God whom
they know as being close to them, as though seeing him who is
invisible." As Paul VI comments: "The men of our day are more impressed
by witness than by teachers and if they listen to teachers it is because
they also bear witness." Joseph De Piro gives advice that: "each one is
to be very careful to avoid even the least idea of giving a bad
A spirituality of hope and trust when lived to the full
is a witness that the gospel is above all is Good News, and that Jesus
is not a moral reformer of humanity but a manifestation of the unlimited
and boundless love of God. A spirituality of hope is a conviction that
in any human situation there is a profound thirst for truth, justice and
brotherhood, and that at the bottom of all, there is a sincere thirst
A true missionary spirituality according to Joseph De
Piro holds the conviction that those engaged in missionary work and in
any ministry must be above all individuals of deep living faith. God
must be the very heart and centre of their lives and they must sincerely
believe what they preach. De Piro was aware of what Evangelii Nuntiandi
articulates so well; "our age is thirsting for sincerity and honesty.
Young people in particular are said to have a horror of falsity and
hypocrisy." This meant to take to heart the words of Paul, "to put on
the mind of Christ" to such extent that De Piro could say "for me life
means Christ." "It is not we who are living, but Jesus Christ who lives
In this chapter I tried to highlight the interconnection
between spirituality in general and missionary spirituality in
particular. De Piro’s spirituality in fact calls for a balance between
the busy hands and the praying hands. This brings us to the next chapter
on prayer and prayer is the intentional opening of one’s self to God and
is enormously significant within an understanding of a spirituality
which centred so much on the experience of God.
3 - A life rooted in and transformed by prayer
lontano dal mio paese…
restava altro che la preghiera
pregato, pregato, pregato."
In this chapter I shall elaborate on prayer in the life
of Joseph De Piro. Prayer forms the backbone of his spirituality; it is
the energy and the power that transformed his whole life and formed the
very pulse of his work. In the midst of everything that he was engaged
in, prayer was his constant source of strength. In studying De Piro’s
writings I realised that for him prayer was not just a duty or a private
devotion but a friend and a life long companion. Prayer and
contemplation were for him a means and a source behind his entire
pastoral ministry. Prayer lead him to ministry and ministry created in
him the need for prayers. It was for him a process of letting go of his
old self and surrender to God’s will in trust and love.
Jesus, the model and the Way
The model and the way for Joseph De Piro’s prayer life
was Jesus himself: "all our religion" he said, "consists in the idea
that God is present in our midst." De Piro was fascinated by the
apostles’ question "Lord teach us to pray." It is a simple, profound and
direct question. The apostles do not ask Jesus how to work miracles, how
to preach and teach, or how to lead the Church, Lord teach us to pray is
the one and only necessary thing on which all other things depend. They
ask the Lord to help them be in touch with their inner reality that
brings them closer to the Father. The apostles realise that prayer is
the secret behind Jesus' personality, De Piro writes:
Holy Gospel almost in every page attention is drawn on the need to pray.
This Truth is also taught by the example of Jesus Christ who used to
spend nights praying…We see him pray before he begins some important
action, before he chooses the Apostles, before Lazarus' resurrection. We
see him pray in the Garden before his passion. Now, if the need to pray
is so big, it is as much difficult to know how to pray well. By himself
man would have never succeeded in finding the way to pray. When we
remember the foundation of the Church, we find the Apostles, who are
certain of the real need to pray but who do not manage to pray, and so
they go near Jesus and ask Him to teach them how to pray.
De Piro’s prayer life was centred on Christ; "a
characteristic of the catholic cult is to offer oneself to God and pray
to Him through Jesus Christ." Prayer consists of listening to the voice
of God who speaks through his Word; "The ear of our soul should always
be ready to hear His voice."
the very Sacred Heart of Jesus there is no need to go up to Heaven, to
go up to the right of the Father, because Jesus is still here with us.
Jesus still lives on earth, among us, and we can go near Him any time
that we want. And He is always ready to welcome us and open to us His
Heart to live in it…Enter this heart and you will find your safety.
If Jesus is the Word of God, then those who decide to
follow him must be ready to listen to his voice. It is a shift from
talking to listening, a difficult but necessary shift for someone who
was so involved and so busy in everyday. Silence spoke to him more than
words; it allowed him the space to be with his own reality and be with
Incarnation: the heart of God revealed
De Piro believed that Christianity does not consist of
abstract notions about God, but of faith in a person, a God with us.
Jesus became "the image of an invisible God". Through prayer De Piro
developed a relationship which touched on a basic fundamental need;
"Man's heart is intended for God. The primary need of the human soul is
to move towards God, to go near Him, to unite with Him. Man's heart in
God alone finds its life, peace and happiness." De Piro writes: "In the
Incarnation the divine nature is united to the human nature." The
incarnation of Jesus plays a central role in his writings. In this
mystery he finds a source and a meeting point for his interior life and
his missionary and apostolic life.
generosity Jesus has abandoned everything. As the Word he left Heavens,
and all that he enjoyed in the presence of his Father; the peace of
eternal joy. As a man he left everything to embrace a life of suffering
In line with the spirituality of his time De Piro
developed a spirituality of the heart through devotion to the Heart of
Jesus. Such devotion grew in response to his ever-growing awareness of
God’s love for him. The image of the heart was a favourite one:
is the most important part of the human body. In fact, with a
never-ending effort, it preserves our life and our health. And when in
the evening after a day's work, one's arms are tired, one's eyes are
shut and the mind is paralysed by sleepiness, the heart keeps operating;
it continues to beat and to see that life is preserved, because this is
its grave responsibility.
This image helped De Piro to articulate that the love of
God is always present: "He never sleeps nor slumbers Israel guard." He
contemplates, "This heart with all its light, all its love, all its
treasures of His Grace, comes and lives in us." Such devotion allowed De
Piro to go deeper in the love of God and find safety and shelter in it.
Discerning and doing God’s will was for De Piro his very
life. In a letter to his sister he writes: "There is only one good wish
I accept with all my heart: that I may be able to recognise God’s will
and follow it faithfully. This is enough for me." It is a must for
someone who wants to be a missionary:
be ready to follow God's Will with a real generous heart convinced in
our motto "We follow you whenever you go".
In fact this was a daily prayer; "After communion the
grace that I ask for is that the Lord will help me to discern his will."
Many authors describe spiritual life as a struggle, a battle of wills
and a moulding of beings. For De Piro Mary is an excellent example of
this struggle and surrender in faith: "I shall mention to you her
obedience, and the manner in which her will was always and only the will
of God." Such trust emerged out of her faith in God’s love for her. Mary
was a model for De Piro:
devotion towards Mary consists in obeying her. She herself says to us,
‘do what my son, Jesus orders you to do’…In Mary you have found a
treasure of holiness, grace and glory."
Surrender in Love
into your inner room means that you enter the room that is within you,
where your thoughts are shut up, the place that contains your feelings.
This room of prayer is within you at all times. Wherever you go, it is a
secret place and what happens there is witnessed by God alone.
This quotation is a good summary of De Piro’s life. In a
culture where to do was very important and where the value of the person
was tied to one’s work, the call to enter the inner room of his feelings
was quite an important and at the same time difficult task for De Piro.
With a busy programme as his was, De Piro was convinced of the need and
the necessity to take time to explore his inner reality and know the
spirit that gives strength to what he is doing.
the means that makes us receive treasures of graces from God… and such
wonderful treasures such as faith, heaven, the love of God and neighbour
are not deprived of a key, and this key can be found by any baptised
person through prayer.
Wilter J. Burghardt defines contemplation as, "a pure
intuition of being, born of love. It is experiential awareness of
reality and a way of entering into immediate communion with reality."
Thus to be contemplative and have a contemplative stance is to see life
as the fruit of love and all that happens as the result of this story of
love between oneself and God. Out of this experience of love that
transcended the level of thought, De Piro was able to integrate the
emotional side with his rational side and live by this force of inner
De Piro compares contemplation with falling in love: "Why
does the Lord order us to love him with all our heart, our soul and
strength? Because he wants us to be happy, and we cannot be happy unless
we love Him." He felt born out of love, his life experiences were a
window into that love given freely to all, he prayed; "Accept our prayer
as a hymn of gratitude for many blessings we have received… fully untied
to you, we may forever sing the hymn of love." Only after falling in
love could he be ready to proclaim that same love to others, "He who
loves Jesus Christ will do his best to make all people of all nations
love him." In love De Piro found the reason not only to exist but also
to live a fully human life: "We are tied not by iron chains, by moral
duty, sin, or fear of hell, but by the sweet chain of love of our Lord."
To be in love with God and with creation is not just a
romantic sensation; "Even our souls has to undertake a long journey
through the desert of this life, and it needs to maintain its own
forces." Both Scripture and Christian mystical tradition speak about the
desert or the dark night of the soul in this process of union with God.
Contemplation does not always summon up in delight. The desert, in
biblical tradition, is the place where one has to face one’s inner
demons. De Piro had to face his own self but he was able to acknowledge
the hand of God in every difficult moment.
works bear contrariety as a sign…For the span of about fourteen years,
there were so many difficulties one after the other, that they could
have tired everyone. But since it was God who set to work at the task,
His servants never lacked courage. Moreover, like a firm and sweet
breeze God’s Spirit that always accompanied the difficulties blew in the
sails of our poor boat troubled so much by the waves.
Contemplation for De Piro is knowing the one who loved
him even in the most difficult situations. He let this love so penetrate
his being that it strengthened to love in return, De Piro believed in
the transformation that such love could bring. Francis of Assisi and
Therese of Lisieux were living examples of such personal change they
allowed God to change them and give them a vision, which they passed on
to the world they lived in. "Therese and Jesus weren't two anymore, but
Therese had disappeared, as a drop of water in the sea, and Jesus
remained alone." What De Piro writes about Therese, very well describes
his own life. Walter J. Burghard says "to touch men and women like these
and you will touch the stars, will touch God."
To enter in the place of his feelings meant for De Piro
to experience fully the love of God. Such love helped him to experience
his weakness as well as the need for the one who loved him. Tasting that
love was for him an experience that transformed his work into prayer and
his whole being into a dwelling place for God.
Characteristics of his Prayer life
Joseph De Piro believed that prayer is a relationship,
and as all human relationships, it was prone to change. He changed and
matured in his understanding of God and of his own self: "As physical
life grows in stages, so the spiritual one…wait with patience and trust
in the help of the Lord wait for his mercy."
In studying his writings there’s a difficulty in
understanding De Piro’s soul. Where the need for prayer is well
articulated, we find little about the way, what happened in these secret
moments prayer lead to a certain way of knowing that is hard to express
in words. Inspite of this personal nature of prayer I will attempt to
read between the lines, and bring out different characteristics of De
Piro’s prayer life.
The first characteristic is the shift in belief from a
God who is above to a God that is within him. It is the realisation that
God dwells in his heart and in his life and it is through these that God
speaks to him.
It is for
our sake that God can be found everywhere; He has not chosen a
particular city or sanctuary, but one can find Him in every corner of
the city, in the country, on the mountains, in the valleys. He wants to
stay among those dear to Him.
The relational aspect of prayer is very clear: "Prayer
removes our distance and unites us with God. It is the noblest vocation;
it gives us strength, comfort, joy and life. It is grace, indeed a
source of grace." It calls one to go deeper in the room of the heart and
meet God there, in secret
soul always as the temple of God should be; and when you cannot do
meditation, when the short time of your communion has passed, don't get
discouraged but shut yourselves for a moment with God inside your soul,
and talk and pray with Him continuously.
Faith as a gift
Lord, through his spirit, enable you to grow firm in strength with
regards to your inner self, so that Christ may live in your hearts
through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, to all God's
De Piro was convinced that, like all human relationships,
there is a particular paradox about prayer. It is a gift from God but at
the same time it depends on one’s openness to it, "if the need to pray
is deep, it is as much difficult to know how to pray well. By himself
man would have never succeeded in finding the way to pray." He knew by
experience that he had to relax into the reality of being loved by God
and at the same time he struggled to let go of his own defences in an
act of self-surrender. He developed a very simple child-like attitude
but it took him a life long journey to achieve it.
De Piro was very much in touch with his own weakness, and
that he shared in the weakness of all humanity. Humans by nature are
weak, they are slaves of evil, so they need to unite themselves to God.
Weakness for De Piro was not only moral but also physical to the bishop
he writes, "as you know, last year I was hit by a breakdown, that has
weakened me, I lost energy and strength to keep up with my activities."
Such weakness was never a source of discouragement but, to the contrary,
it drew him more and more to root his strength in God:
to it that my heart be similar to yours, so that the saying ‘the priest
is another Christ’ ever assimilated in me’. My heart is poor, but you
enrich it with your heavenly gifts; my heat is weak, but you give it
life with you love; my heart is restless but you strengthen it with your
blessings, my heart is blind, but you shine with your divine light.
Basic to De Piro’s prayer life was to learn to be in tune
with the voice that was calling him in his story and to "judge
everything with the eyes of faith." In order to develop such attitude
one needed to be near the Lord, "as water is necessary for the tree so
is prayer for the soul that believes, as long as we go on praying we get
stronger in virtue and in the grace of God."
Transformed in the image of the Son
The spirituality of Joseph De Piro centres on the fact
that spiritual life finds its fulfilment in bringing one’s entire life
into a transforming, loving communion with the ineffable God "who in the
most intimate union with us transform us in Himself." This communion is
the raison d’etre and the fruition of De Piro deeper self: "The one who
loves finds himself similar, or strives to become similar to the loved
Many mystics developed a spirituality based on the
mystical union with Christ. John of the Cross defines prayer as a
meeting with the one who loves us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks of Christ
as the one in whom we can find all that we have a right to expect from
God. In Christ we find everything we need if we are open enough to
listen to his voice.
For De Piro Jesus was the way to the Father, and so he
had to be grafted in Him. He was called to live the life of Christ;
"indeed" echoing the words of Paul, "it is Christ who lives in me."
Christianity was much more than an expression of brotherly love, more
than philanthropy. Rather it is a call to be transformed; "that all live
the life of Christ is not just an idea suggested by mystical exaltation,
but it is the real sense of the Christian life." He realised that to be
a Christian implies a life rooted in the Risen Christ.
Joseph De Piro leads us along a journey of inner self
transformation by the grace of God. James Finley puts it:
that begins the journey is not the self that arrives. The self that
begins is the self that we thought ourselves to be. It is the self that
dies along the way until in the end ‘no one’ is left. This ‘no one’ is
our true self… It is the self in God, the self bigger than death yet
born of death, it is the self the Father forever loves.
John of the Cross defines contemplation as: "El amado con
el amada, el amada en amado transformada." Contemplation defined De
Piro’s life "We tend towards union, and the more the union is near, the
more love grows." It echoes the theology of the Eastern Fathers who
believed that our vocation is divination…to become like God: He became
human so that humanity can become God. De Piro explains this
transformation in metaphors and images:
himself as a Father who gives Himself as a gift to his own children.
Then the final and highest stage of love lies in the union between the
lover and the loved object. As iron changes into fire, so the soul,
which receives Holy Communion, becomes Jesus.
De Piro was aware of a link between his humanity and his
spiritual process: the two were never divorced one from the other but
had a mutual influence on each other. By being open to prayer he was
also open to receive God’s gift of love in his weakness and every day
reality. About Francis of Assisi he writes:
words of St. Paul synthesise the story of the soul of Francis of Assisi.
They express the life of the man transfigured by means of grace,
transformed in another Jesus Christ… Indeed, he has the mission to do
reform, according to Christ's teachings, to make Christ live in the
middle of society, and he himself had to be full of this divine life.
And he, more than others, could repeat the words of Saint Paul: "vivi
vero in me Christus.
saw Francis as a model and a friend in this process of inner
solitude of Ravena, one day while Francis was lost in contemplation of
the suffering of Christ, he felt such a deep love that he himself
changed into Christ.
Transformation in Christ is the aim and the result of his
prayer life; "the most intimate union with us is to transform us in
Himself." One would not expect such a depth in De Piro’s spirituality
being the kind of person so active in pastoral ministry. But "Christ
lives in me" was for him the membership card to enter heaven.
Furthermore it was the proof of his love for Christ, "one cannot give a
bigger proof of one’s love than when he is prepared to give his own life
for him whom he loves." The result of this love that overflows from his
encounter with God was the deep conviction that: "Everything that
happens during the day, whether it is to our liking or not, let us
always be ready to repeat the words of our heavenly Father, your will be
done on earth as it is in heaven." This was articulated so well by John
Paul II when he said:
who wishes to understand himself thoroughly and not just in accordance
with immediate, partial, often superficial and even illusory standards
and measures must…draw near Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with
all his own self, he must ‘appropriate’ and assimilate the whole of the
reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If
this profound process takes place within him, he then bears the fruit
not only of adoration of God but also of deeper wonder of himself.
Solidarity with humanity
speech is the mark of community, silence is what characterises
solitude…We should be silent at the opening of the day so that God have
the first word, and be silent at the end of the day so that God will
have the last word. True silence is the consequence of spiritual
stillness. After we have been silent for a time we meet the world and
other people in a new and fresh way.
Bonhoeffer’s words echo De Piro’s thought. Prayer is not
an end in itself but a means; "God’s love should be the cause of the
love of our neighbour." Here lies the roots of a radical commitment
towards others, as prayer resulted in service:
have Christian blood in their veins will naturally feel in their heart
the desire to help their neighbour, which is the same desire of the
heart that would like to follow the Divine Master Jesus Christ.
This marks the move from prayers as a personal private
affair to solidarity with other human beings. Being alone with God leads
to being aware of and getting involved with the struggles of others.
Thus prayer becomes radical: "one can be exempted from praying, fasting
and doing common acts, but never from loving one’s neighbour."
De Piro realised that prayer leads to love otherwise it
is not real Christian prayer; "the treasure of all treasures is love, it
is the king of all virtues, the fullness of perfection, God himself."
From his writings it is evident that ministry was intimately related to
De Piro’s spiritual life as a minister. His spirituality and life of
prayer were never by any means an escape from the hot issues of his
time. In Joseph De Piro we have a model of a minister whose ministry and
spirituality were never separated; both ministry and spirituality were a
way of life, his life.
Prayer for Joseph De Piro was a growth in faith through
which he developed a vision that guided all his life. He learned that
God will work all things for the good of those who love him. So prayer
becomes a way to meet God the Father through His Son. The path, once
taken, becomes less and less the focus of the journey; the goal becomes
the all pervading concern. Thomas Merton writes that: "Jesus is not the
goal but only the way to it." To be one with Christ is to be fully in
the path as Jesus "the way, the Truth and the Life" and no one can go to
the Father expect through Him.
In prayer Joseph De Piro learnt to love, forgive, serve,
follow and let himself be moulded by the hands that created him, in an
act of total self surrender. Prayer was path to seek the face of God, in
his story, in his brothers and sisters, and above all in his own soul
and deep inspirations. Prayer enlarged his vision of reality and helped
him to enter in the inner room of his heart, and to feel safe in the
hands of God.
4 - "Your Kingdom come" - A Spirituality of Ministry
di Dio e’
The Christian message is by its very nature a message of
hope, love and service. The Word of God is "Spirit and Life" and in the
spirituality of Joseph De Piro these two realities go hand in hand so
much so that one is the logical consequence of the other. Jesus’
incarnation calls for a faith that implies involvement in the world
through values such as solidarity, availability and hope. This way of
living out faith is in itself evangelisation. Nouwen writes:
have met our Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer, then we will
also meet him in the campo, in the market, and in the town square. But
when we have not met him in the centre of our hearts, we cannot expect
to meet him in the busyness of our lives… This viewpoint explains why
true ministers, true missionaries, are also contemplative. Seeing God in
the world and making him visible to each other is the core of ministry
as well as the core of the contemplative life.
In this chapter I would like to go deeper in the
spirituality of ministry as understood by Joseph De Piro. I will link
his spirituality of prayer with his missionary spirituality by
highlighting some fundamental characteristics of the way he lived his
Called to love
Louis J. Luzbetak says that "a spirituality of mission
presupposes a deep but humble and obedient sense of personal mission, a
conviction tied to an unshakeable trust in God." De Piro’s spirituality
of mission starts with the basic notion that he felt called by God.
Defining one’s calling is difficult but in the words of Whitehead and
Christian vocation is a gradual revelation - of me to myself by God. …
In this vision, a vocation is not some external role visited upon us. It
is our own religious identity; it is who we are, trying to happen.
In this light we can understand the importance that De
Piro attaches to his vocation. He recalls the experience on the 8th
of May, 1898, as the moment when he made the decision to follow this
inner voice: "Last year it was the same Madonna who offered me to her
divine son on this earth." He felt a strong desire to become a priest.
This was to have big consequences on De Piro’s life. Coming from a very
rich family he had all possibilities open in front of him. He had to
give up his studies in law. But he saw God’s providential hand in
everything, even the unexpected death of his father who had objected to
the idea of his son going for the priesthood. In a letter to his mother
De Piro wrote:
to our judgement, this year has been a year of misfortune. This is our
way of looking at it, because God does nothing that is not perfect, and
his works cannot be but good. On this occasion I can say without fear
that the consolations we have experienced has been greater than the
grief caused through our great loss.
De Piro’s calling was rooted in the awareness that "Jesus
prefers those who wish to remain hidden. When He chose me to be one of
his ministers, He found me among sinners." He understood his vocation as
the answer and a deep desire to be near the One who called him. De Piro
deeply believed that, "we have been created just to love him," and that
"God will give himself completely to those who leave everything for his
This deep awareness of being called played a central role
in De Piro’s life. The Lord Jesus was his life and his model; "Jesus'
life on earth has been an act of self giving. And he wants his followers
to be perfectly follow his steps." The uniqueness of Christ lies in the
fact that he followed the voice of the Father fully with all its
consequences, even unto death. De Piro pondered on Augustine’s words
that, He who gave him all he had, wanted him to give him all he was. De
Piro reflects and prays:
never liked sacrifices and holocausts. You have given me a body. Indeed,
you have given me a body, a heart, a soul. Behold I offer them to you, I
consecrate them to the souls' glory.
After having said all this, we still fall short of
picturing the depth of De Piro’s calling. In his own words, "It is
fitting that some secrets of the heart are left only to Jesus." On the
other hand, his writings show clearly that for him to follow Jesus meant
first and foremost to know and chose in daily life God’s unique calling
for him. De Piro made his own the question of the young man in the
gospel, "O good Master, what should I do to obtain eternal life? Follow
me. Behold, in this consists our calling!" The idea of regarding his own
vocation as a valuable starting point for his spirituality developed. De
Piro’s only wish was to "remain a priest without honours; for me the
priesthood is the highest honour."
Discernment as a way of life
One cannot speak of vocation to ministry without
referring to discernment. De Piro was formed in the Jesuit tradition and
through such influence he adopted discernment as a way of life. In the
most important and crucial moments of his life we cannot but notice that
discernment was at the top of his agenda. Richard Hauser provides this
Discernment is the art of listening to our inner selves and learning to
recognize (discern) movements that arise from the Holy Spirit (our true
selves) from those which do not.
Discernment was as natural to De Piro as breathing when
he was discerning his vocation he wrote on a piece of paper what drew
him to follow the priesthood and what were his deepest fears. Discerning
where to live he discerned "if I live with my family, I shall be tempted
to grow attached to worldly goods. Even if I do not get attached, money
and wealth will take up much of my time and make me think of these
matters frequently." On this basis he had chosen to live with the
orphans, the poor of his time. De Piro was very much in tune with the
fruits of discernment. To feel peace of heart was for him a sure sign
that he was doing God’s will, "everybody desires peace of heart and will
remain unhappy if he does not succeed to find it even though he might be
occupying high places in society. Man finds his calmness when his heart
is at peace with God even though he might be the most looked down being
Another important aspect in his discernment was the
inspirations of his heart. He trusted these inspirations and saw in them
a window that opened into God. "God," he writes "shows us his will not
only by things external to us but also by means of inspirations...We
should pay great attention to our internal inspirations." Such was his
belief in inspiration that in the Rule for his Order he wished the
members to, " make others share the holy inspirations, which the Lord
will have inspired them. In doing so value was given to what is human
and ordinary in every day life. In the Rule De Piro seals this reality;
"one must not fail to notice that all his natural and human gifts
received from God are helping greatly for the welfare of the Order."
"Outward appearance is the reflection of the inner self; as the
fragrance of a vase of flowers, so virtue cannot hide itself."
Discernment led De Piro to an integration of his whole life. He was
Christian, in any action one should imitate the example of Jesus Christ.
One should imitate His innocence, and so try to remove any dishonest
action, while being loyal to God's commandments always and everywhere.
One should imitate His humility and so avoid self-praise. Moreover one
should not pride on one’s social position, nor on the praise received
Availability: ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’
Robert Wicks defines availability as "an opportunity to
be spiritual, to be open to relationships in the most deepest and most
elegant sense of the term…without a sense of availability to self,
others and God, life loses its spirituality." Joseph De Piro lived his
vocation open to others and with a strong involvement in the world he
lived in. It was not just generosity or kindness but a deep personal and
religious conviction. Through obedience he saw the possibility of
offering himself in total availability to God in response to the
availability of God’s love for him:
being the Society's characteristic virtue it is clear that its members
should not be satisfied to obey only when the matter is serious. They
should try to be perfect in such excellent virtue, thus imitating Jesus
Christ, a real perfect example, and His Apostle and our Father, St.
Paul, who with those words and meaningful words "Lord what do you want
me to do?" offered himself as a sacrifice to God, putting in practice
the Christian obedience.
However, De Piro tried to live out this primarily in his
own life. His decision to live in St Joseph’s orphanage was based
precisely on this attitude of availability towards God. "In St. Joseph’s
Home it will be easy for me to get trained in the virtue of obedience,
without binding myself with the vow." He developed an attitude of
allowing himself to be accessible and available to all. Such attitude
involved the risk of the unknown, the loss of control and the loss of
the ability to predetermine his life. It was an attitude that led him to
give this control freely to God. It meant an attempt to move to the
unknown guided only by the light of his faith. Such availability
involved a sense of emptiness which led to active receptivity. The
prayer of Thomas Merton articulates well the importance of availability
for De Piro:
that the desire to please you does in fact please you. I hope that I
will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do
this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about
Solidarity with all
Christianity is first of all a way of life, rather than a
way of thought. Merely to study Christian truths and gain intellectual
understanding of them is not enough… It is only by living the Christian
life that we come to understand the full meaning of the Christian
Letting go and letting God be inevitably led De Piro to
social involvement. In a world in which poverty was the norm De Piro
could not but get involved and give his share to be there for people who
needed help. Karol Wojtyla defined solidarity as:
consequence of the act that a human being exists and acts together with
others. Solidarity is also the foundation of a community in which the
common good conditions and liberates participation, and participation
serves the common good, supports it, and implements it.
Jesus was the inspiring force behind De Piro solidarity
with all. In Jesus he saw a missionary who redeemed people by being with
them and by showing them the Father’s love. He writes:
tell Jesus that he did not have to be born in a stable in the cold
winter; you can tell him he did not have to suffer for us; you can tell
him he did not have to shed his precious blood for us. He will answer
that he could not help doing all this for us. His heart could not but
love us; and he could not help trying to make us understand his infinite
love for us. This heart that has loved human beings so greatly.
It was this conviction and desire to be one with the Lord
that opened him to "a selfless dedication to the needs of others."
Solidarity was not an option but a basic constitution of De Piro’s
spirituality. Paul writes to the Corinthians "I will gladly spend
myself…for your sakes." Spending oneself for others is an important
dimension of a true missionary spirituality. As John puts it: "the way
we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too
must lay dawn our lives for our brothers." This implied for De Piro a
daily self-giving. As Luzbetak puts it: "the most painful and most
important but generally unrecognised form of self immolation is the call
to small but real and continuous daily sacrifices."
It was such deep solidarity with all what prompted De
Piro to write his canticle of love in the Rule. He makes Paul’s words
his own and proposes them as a way of achieving this attitude of
solidarity in daily living:
and enjoy such a way of living one must be ready to bear the miseries
and weaknesses of others, and help in carrying each other’s crosses…One
must not have at heart his own interest but that of others following
Paul's advice "love is patient." One must bear patiently any harm caused
to him, and return by good actions. Envy is to be avoided and one should
not be proud if possessing earthly things, should not be bad,
double-faced or proud but the thought that he possess God should must
fill his life and one must not consider anything belonging to him except
that of having God and God alone. If someone is offended in any way, he
must not have any resentment and must not pay back, but try to think
well of others. Meanwhile everyone should be cautious and prudent when
speaking of himself and of others. In the case of his brothers in
religion, one must keep such high opinion of them, even to consider them
as his own superiors and show them the respect due to them and be
careful not to order or scold anybody… In trying to satisfy the desires
of others, one should not do it to the detriment of one's strength, but
be always ready to help whether asked or otherwise knowing that the
action done is well received by the brother. When speaking to each other
of one's own defends, missionaries must be careful they are acting
These words reflect the heart and attitudes of De Piro.
Solidarity meant for him loving others. Service was the expression of
his search for God and not just the desire to bring about social change.
His writings show clearly that solidarity called for community, and
In reading the signs of his times De Piro felt that he
could live out his solidarity in society by being involved in various
fields. I will only focus on two main areas; his involvement with
orphans and his involvement in politics.
Living with Orphans
The founding of St. Joseph’s Home caught the imagination
of De Piro; "the desire to live with the priests in St. Joseph’s Home
had been constantly present in De Piro’s mind and heart even while he
was a student in Rome." Reflecting on what he wanted to do after his
ordination he wrote: "I kept on thinking constantly whether I should go
and live in St. Joseph’s Home." Living in this house with more than two
hundred boys De Piro could live out his solidarity. Compassion was
evident in his life he could be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the
vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion meant for him
full immersion in the condition of the poor and the weak of his time.
Working with the orphans was dear to De Piro’s heart and
his sense of availability and obedience led him to accept the direction
of not less than six different Homes for boys and girls.
Working for justice
De Piro held that "Faith will bring freedom with it."
Solidarity moved him to be seriously involved in politics. His
spirituality was not lived in a storm free zone but in the reality of
life; hence, his spirituality implied social involvement and action. As
the representative of the Maltese clergy in the National Assembly he
felt duty bound to give his share.
De Piro proclaimed forcefully that "man's heart is
intended for God. The primary need of the human soul is to move towards
God, to go near Him, to unite with Him. Man's heart finds its life, its
peace, its happiness only in God." When speaking about education he
said: "In the schools not only intellectual culture is necessary but
also careful training of the heart is essential." In the discussion
about the health problem De Piro insisted that: "In hospitals the sick
need not only material solace but also spiritual uplift." De Piro never
refrained from speaking on behave of social justice he was aware that
even in the Church people can become slaves of public opinion, and would
not speak because of fear of what others might think. This was even more
so because of the socio-political conflict of his time however: "if the
Holy Spirit descends upon you, you shall confess your faith courageously
in Jesus Christ. You should not take heed of respect for public opinion:
acknowledge God's commandments, do not be ashamed to say no."
De Piro believed that this was part of his priestly
vocation; "the priest should cry out and raise his voice as a trumpet,
and keep alive the flame of the Catholic faith. When selfishness
triumphs and the poor are ill-treated, the priest who preaches the
commandment of evangelical charity with apostolic courage should remind
all of justice." He was conscious of this prophetic calling: "the priest
reminds you that the surplus of wealth does not belong to you, it is the
patrimony of the poor. Help the poor, love him because he is your
In order to respond to this inner call without any fear,
De Piro knew that he needed the strength and the inspiration from the
Lord who called him. He shares with his fellow priests:
you will not be surprised if I tell you that I really felt God was
guiding me to speak that evening in the Senate… By the grace of God I
did not utter a word which could offend anyone, which later I would have
regretted saying… allow me first of all to thank God for his help.
De Piro entire pastoral ministry, reflections, prayers
and writings reveal a man inspired by missionary zeal. Kosuke Koyama
defines a missionary as " anyone who increases by participation the
concretization of the love of God in history." De Piro was aware that
this concretization of God’s love was a gift that God wanted to give to
the Church through him "The future of the missions lies in the hands of
His missiology was Christo-centric, and the more he tried
to assimilate the vision of Christ the more this missionary zeal grew in
him: "The Lord Jesus Christ taught us to embrace the whole world."
Reflecting on the purpose of missionary endeavours he came to the
conclusion that "the Church sends its missionaries all over the world to
extend more and more the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus present in
the Eucharist. This heart does not know limits: it wants to include all
peoples, all men, no one excluded." This attitude of openness to the
entire world was inclusive of all races and people, "According to divine
institution there can be no difference of race in the Catholic Church."
Another important truth central for De Piro was that
missionary work is above all the work of the Holy Spirit. The
missionaries are only instruments, depending on the power of the Holy
Spirit: "The Holy Spirit has descended not only to fill the apostles
with love, but also that they might rouse others with the fire of their
own tongue." Such mission prompts the heart of ministers to embrace the
entire world. His belief was that for Catholic ministers their ministry
includes the whole world:
priest, apostle of Jesus Christ, does not limit his mission to one
single country, one single city, to his motherland, and his country.
Indeed since for him distances do not count, he leaves his fatherland,
says goodbye to his friends, his relatives, his father and mother with
only the power of speech as his weapon.
De Piro’s desire that he himself would go one day to the
missions was never realised. He had everything planned to go and visit
Br. Joseph, the first missionary of the order working in Ethiopia. De
Piro was eagerly waiting this day but unfortunately, due to his
unexpected death in September 1933, his wish never came true. However,
the more we explore the heart and attitudes of this man the more we
realise that he was more than a missionary, even though he never set
foot on a missionary land. His zeal and eagerness make him not only
missionary at heart but founder of a missionary order. De Piro’s great
desire is being realised each and every day when members of his order,
inspired by his charism, fulfil the ministry that he wished so much to
Joseph De Piro believed that the first step to missionary
involvement was missionary awareness. He felt the need to create in the
Maltese people a sense of what mission, missionaries and missionary work
is all about. For him loving and working for missions meant having the
love of the redeemer who, "leaves the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek
the one which withdrew from the bosom of the flock of the church." He
knew that missionary awareness had to reach as many people as possible
and that he had to work and pray hard so that the "light of Christ
shined everywhere." As a means and an effective tool to achieve this he
he used the printed material:
printed material is one of the best servants to proclaim the missionary
thought, to form the mind and heart of youth, to raise up and gather
missionary vocations, and also to ask for temporal help.
The outcome was a newsletter ‘St. Paul: Almanac for
Missionary Institute’, "almost every article published in the Almanac
was written by De Piro." The aim was two fold. He wished to create
awareness of missionary work and to make available documents and
reflections about missionary endeavours in the world. In this way he
showed different ways of how one can be a missionary. "If we cannot give
our work because we have not been called for it," he wrote, "if we
cannot give temporal wealth because we lack it, let us at least not
leave undone what we can do, that is to pray for missionaries." The
other reason was to make known his missionary Order and to invite young
people to consider the missionary vocation.
Help and support to Missionaries
De Piro was conscious that "It is not enough to send a
missionary and leave him on his own. One must support him and give him
the help which he needs." De Piro was a very down to earth person and
knew that various types of help were needed if missionaries were to
achieve their aim. Br. Joseph’s letters manifest the great care that De
Piro had for this first missionary. Br. Joseph found in De Piro a father
and a person who really supported him. Expressing his sincere gratitude
he writes: "Dear Father, even though so far away, you help me in my
spiritual duties. I thank you Father and hope that Jesus will repay you
for all you do for me." With all the different works he was responsible
for De Piro felt called to support the missionaries in many ways:
will not forget you; we will be with you in our thoughts, during our
work, when we are helping you. You pray for us and we will pray for you.
In this way our heart, immersed in that of precious heart of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, will keep beating for you although far away from each
Another field into which De Piro put energy was
vocational work: "one of the best efforts of missionary work is to help
to promote other missionary vocations." Besides promoting and supporting
missionary vocations at home in Malta, De Piro had a prophetic vision of
promoting indigenous vocations.
The very foundation of the Missionary Society of St. Paul
was a clear answer to missionary vocations. With the deep conviction
that "instilling a Missionary vocation is a very precious thing in God's
eyes," Joseph De Piro tried his best to create the right environment
where such a vocation could become a reality. He expresses great
happiness when one of his members was ordained priest:
birth of a new member in a family brings great joy…the same thing
happens in our religious family at the sight of a new priest joining the
life of the society. The joy is even greater for us in our beginnings,
when priests are so badly needed to work in the vineyard of Christ.
His need and wish for missionary vocations were always
accompanied the awareness that such vocation was not easy, and that it
demanded by its very nature great sacrifice. He made it clear to anyone
who aspired to join his order that:
missionary vocation is a great honour and the sacrifice it demands is
also great. The missionary has to be separated from the world, his
native land and his family. Those who are called walk happily on the way
of the cross, and with a generous heart make their sacrifice in
abandoning all for Jesus, a step rewarded with great happiness. It is a
wonderful and admirable call and we must help all concerned.
Furthermore, De Piro gave importance to the formation of
what he called the indigenous clergy. He realised that only by forming
leaders from the local cultures would the gospel really be implanted in
the roots and hearts of these people.
formation of the indigenous clergy is one of the best means to announce
the gospel of Christ. In fact when the people see a priest from the same
country in front of them they feel more confident and accept his word
more willingly. Likewise it is much easier for the indigenous priest to
divulge the doctrine of Christ because he recognises better the
character of his people.
The Cross: Power of the Missionary
One cannot speak of a truly Christo-centric spirituality
without a reference to the cross as the path to new life. De Piro calls
the cross, "the most powerful arm against one’s enemies." In line with
Pauline theology he knew that the message of the missionary is "Christ
and Christ crucified… power of God and the Wisdom of God." Here lies the
challenge to follow Christ. De Piro’s faith challenged him to see the
cross as a sign of God’s presence. He held that:
his cross the Christian, does not need…to undertake long journeys and
strain himself. What he has to find is not a material cross, but a
spiritual one, which lies around him and behind him in such a way that
if he were to flee from it or avoid it, he would not succeed.
Hans Kung says that, "Faith is challenged to see the
cross as a sign of God’s presence in God’s very absence, as a sign of
life through death. The following of Christ does not imply simply
imitation. It means to act in a way analogous to and correlative with
Christ’s way of acting… the message of Jesus Christ must always be
translated." De Piro, through his union with the Lord, was able to
accept in faith the cross in his life. He was convinced of the Lord’s
love: "Who will separate me from the love of God?" Even when caught in
the web of meaningless and suffering De Piro never lost hope in the
This process of being one with Christ in his suffering
meant for him absolute dependency on God. The cross of the Lord meant
for him a deep conviction that in his insecurity, anxiety, darkness,
loneliness and failure God was always there for him and with him. This
attitude of trust is at its best when De Piro faced the death of some
family members. He was well able to unite his humanity with his
spirituality: "It is natural for us to weep when our heart is breaking
with sorrow, but when God permits that we should suffer, this very grief
becomes our treasure."
The Cross made it possible for De Piro to see meaning in
very difficult situations, to hope against all hope and to trust in his
dreams and his call: "I thank God for visiting us, in the midst of our
rejoicing, with some set-backs. After all, He is quite capable of using
this mishap for the good of the work that is coming to life." In the
words of Hans Kung the virtue of hope inspired by the crucified Christ
made him able not only to act but also to suffer, not merely to live but
also to die.
I shall go into two main features from De Piro’s life
that show how he lived this attitude; when some of first members left
his order and his deep faith in the providence of God.
Members leaving the Order
A constant matter for disappointment was some members
were leaving the Order. He writes:
beginnings to this very day, each day has had its heavy burden. I have
had disappointments and suffered humiliations. Three students, in whom I
had placed my faith, left, and this hurt me, for they had been
considered very promising at the institute. On the other hand, Divine
Providence has never failed to lighten my burdens. I do not wish these
events to overshadow others which have given me great happiness.
The above quotation shows clearly an ability to feel the
hurt and to unite his suffering with the Crucified Lord in full trust of
divine providence. De Piro’s reaction and his deep compassion for those
who left the Order is impressive. He was so united with Christ that the
attitude of Christ was his guidance in such situations:
One day a
priest of deep spirituality… said to him: ‘Don’t you see people are
fooling you, and robbing you.’ De Piro calmly answered with his typical
kindness of heart, so much a part of his nature: ‘no… never mind if they
get free schooling and then leave me. What they have learnt will not be
lost, and for me, it is enough that I have done some good. In time to
come they will remember the benefits they received. Jesus never
compelled the Apostles to remain with Him, so how can I compel these
young boys to do so…Good may come from the very fact that they joined
the Society and then left it.
De Piro knew that true love leads to freedom and not
domination. "When an action is done for God's glory, there is to be no
fear of any frustration." In face of all difficulties he could not but
feel that "this hope of ours seemed to be thwarted by mysterious
adversity, as if we would never be able to realise it. However, whatever
God wills nobody and nothing can impede." Faith in the crucified Lord
permitted him to experience internal freedom in belief that: "when we
work for God’s glory obstacles abound, but our heavenly Father’s loving
hand has been extended to aid his faithful servants." He was more than
convinced that he was the steward and not the owner; the dream was God’s
and not his. This helped him never to despair. When caught in situations
where success was totally absent he persevered and prayed:
May we be
strengthened in the truth that God started this work and that our hope
in God’s help, which is so necessary will be strengthened.
Such deep spirituality of acknowledging one’s limits and
limitations and believing in what was humanly speaking impossible, lead
De Piro to a deep belief in the providence of God.
God’s providence meant for Joseph De Piro a deep trust in
the Lord of history. He believed in an attitude of active passivity and
of trusting the guiding hand of God. His trust in God "who does not fail
in his promises" translated itself in a deep conviction that all will be
De Piro’s trust in Divine providence meant a belief and a
certainty "that we can say that our work, in its foundation, was moved
and lead by Divine providence." Whatever happened to him did not happen
just by chance but "in his great providence God reserved this work to
the society of missionaries." All this points to De Piro’s conviction
that mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is the source of
this sending love in which he felt privileged to participate and give
The smallness of his Order did not make him loose heart.
On the contrary he saw the humble beginnings in line with the Gospel:
gospel event of the widow’s mite encourages us, to look upwards and put
our hope in him who is our most beloved father because when God is
building those who build the walls do not labour in vain… God’s power,
which made everything out of nothing and the power of Jesus who fed
thousands of people from five loaves has never changed and is still
De Piro was convinced that mission did not depend on
numbers but on people who were in love with the Lord and were drawn by a
desire to share this love with others. Two important images for De Piro
stress this thought.
Images help us more than words because they catch our
imagination and leave open the doors of interpretation. The image of the
stable in Bethlehem was for De Piro an icon, a window into a greater
reality. It is an image, which links in a profound way, a vision, a
theology and spirituality. In the opening of the first house of the
Order, De Piro recalled this image while addressing the bishop: "we feel
a certain reluctance in presenting to your grace such a poor and humble
beginning, but the mystery of Bethlehem fills us with courage." Cardinal
Piero La Fontaine was impressed by the Grotto image and elaborated on it
bless you even more because you compare the beginning of your work to
His coming into our world. Bethlehem is full of enchantment. It is
impossible that the modest House of St. Paul, in its humility, will not
grow. Who knows perhaps there might be the flight into Egypt…or even
Calvary…But in these circumstances the hand of God is obvious and faith
will yield its fruit.
Once again the spirituality of De Piro proves to be
Christo-centric and biblical in nature. The incarnation, as we have
elaborated earlier, was central in his understanding of missionary
spirituality, and smallness, failure, and disappointments were for De
Piro signs that he was on the right path following the foot prints of
The ship in the sea
Another important and strong image that De Piro used to
articulate his thoughts and his vision was that of a ship in the sea. He
understood this image as a mysterious call from God saying "one can find
God’s call in a mysterious dream." He recalled this dream just few days
before his death:
myself in a ship and as we were sailing along, suddenly there was damage
in the propeller. I went down wanting to repair it myself but I was not
in time, because I found a young lady beside me who said: ‘Leave it to
me. Now I will carry on guiding it’.
The image of the small boat in the sea helped him see the
Order as totally dependent on the Spirit of God. He writes: "Like a firm
and sweet breeze God’s Spirit always accompanied the difficulties and
blew in the sails of our poor boat troubled by the waves."
These images show how De Piro’s faith was based on the
conviction that God chooses the weak, the poor and the small to show His
strength in weaknesses. Trust in God’s providence led him to entrust
himself in the guiding hand of God whom he saw as the real founder of
Unity: ‘May they be one’
De Piro’s missionary spirituality was sealed with a great
desire for unity, both in the Church and in particular in his Order. In
his life he worked towards this goal. He knew that without a united
community witnessing to the one whose wish is to unite would not have
the desired effect. This vision for unity was prophetic in De Piro’s
time; there could be no real ministry if it did not have at its core and
aim unity with God, with others and within the Christian churches.
Unity in the Church
De Piro believed in God’s dream that unity is a must in
order for the world to believe. He writes: "I must gather them! One
cannot but rejoice at the consoling prophecy which pleased the Divine
heart of our Lord…and they will hear my voice and there will be one
flock and one shepherd." A missionary work should fulfil such wish of
the master with responsibility. De Piro made his own the vision of the
and the lamb meet together; they eat from the same grass and drink from
the same valleys to unite their forces so that hand in hand they try
anew to befriend other animals. Yes, diverse races join together; the
black mixes with the white, the savage with the gentle; the deprived
with the virtuous, the poor with the rich, the old with the young,
without considering their diverse nature they unite together in one
thing and one force. They eat from the eucharistic bread which makes
them one nature, one body, one blood, one soul under one Lord who do not
wish anything except unity, belief, justice and mercy."
Unity in the Missionary Order
De Piro’s dream of a missionary order was based on the
conviction that where unity resides there is strength. "Every member
should be convinced of the need to love each other. In fact the more the
members of the society will be of one heart and soul between them, the
better the society will be."
This dream for unity was based on another important
value, the need for reconciliation. De Piro knew from experience that a
real missionary spirituality must be based on the Johannine principle
"he must increase and I must decrease," a principle that De Piro adopted
as a way of life for him and proposed it for his Order. Koyama calls
this principle "the secret of the dynamic identity of the Christian
missionary." De Piro held that in order for unity to be achieved one
must be moulded in the gospel values and in the Pauline idea that "love
does not insist on its own way." His practical advice is that:
someone has been offended or he himself has suffered an offence, every
effort should be quickly made to ask forgiveness for any harm caused and
one should be proud to be the first to humble himself in doing so…
Following St. Paul's advise no one should go to sleep before having
This spirituality of unity was so much part of De Piro’s
missionary spirituality that in his spiritual testament he wished:
members of the Missionary Society, without any distinction superiors and
subjects alike I earnestly request that they do their utmost to love one
another in Christ. They must be certain that nothing will glorify God
and benefit the Society and be of spiritual advantage to them and their
ministry more than love, according to the words of our father St. Paul:
"it is love which leads us.
Joseph De Piro’s spirituality of ministry reveals a man
who chooses to allow the mysterious and all pervading presence of God to
give meaning and purpose to his life, his choices, his work and his
vision. The continual discovery of the mystery of the Incarnation allows
De Piro to meet God in human reality and in others. For De Piro his
ministry and active commitment were not peripheral to his Christian
living but his spiritual journey became incarnated in reality and his
spiritual insights were rooted in concrete human experiences. To be in
solidarity meant to love people and to wait for others in their
becoming. His understanding of justice was more than just proclaiming
what is just; he had to be just. His motivation and deep desire was that
people see him: "a priest according to the heart of God."
This chapter highlighted some of the basic
characteristics of De Piro’s pastoral spirituality. What follows is a
chapter on the implications of this missionary spirituality on the
Missionary Society of St. Paul.
Chapter 5 -
A Spirituality that inspires all.
loro il lume della verita’.
fino agli estremi confini della terra
loro la mia vita."
Vatican II documents and post-Vatican II theology of the
consecrated life all stress the essential and continuing role of
founders in religious Orders. This role is not limited only to research
in archives; on the contrary, it is a continuing ever founding activity
of the Holy Spirit within an Order… the same Spirit that moved the
founder/foundress of that particular Order in the first place. There is
an intimate interplay between the past, present and future. In this
chapter I will elaborate on the pastoral implication of the missionary
spirituality of Joseph De Piro on the MSSP.
Vatican II’s understanding of charism renewal
Vatican Council II, in its Decree Perfectae Caritatis,
mentions the return to a founder/foundress as one of the essential
elements in the revitalisation of a religious life. This must be
accompanied by a return to the gospel because it is Jesus who calls. In
sharing in the life and mission of the Church today the members of an
order be aware of the world in which they live and discernment how best
they can answer to the emerging needs in line with the original charism.
Top priority must be given to spiritual renewal, especially to the
living of the vows, as the irreplaceable basis for the mission of an
If the return to the founder/foundress is not done
through this wider perspective it could easily be misleading. However,
it would be equally misleading to concentrate on any of the above points
without referring to the founders of the orders. The return to the past
must help to rediscover more the spiritual heritage, at the same time
such return to the sources is an act of faith in the active presence of
God in the founding and the history story of the order. Therefore the
charism is more than a past happening; it is a dynamic ever-presence of
the creative Spirit. Thus the purpose of our return as MSSP to the
founder is to deepen our awareness of our missionary identity so that we
may see how best we can be formed in it and help form others. The
integration of fidelity and creativity is probably one of the greatest
challenges that religious life is facing today.
bestowed special love on the MSSP
Vatican II’s understanding of renewing a particular
charism implies certain consequences. To reduce renewal to a purely
natural or sociological study is not only an impoverishment but also a
serious misunderstanding of the original inspiration. De Piro was more
than convinced that what gives us identity is not what we do but who we
are. Secondly, an increased spirit of prayer and reflection is an
essential ingredient for renewal. In order to build on sure foundations.
Such contemplative attitude must influence the ministry itself. If
change is to occur within the mssp order it must leave its mark on
ministry. A missionary spirituality cannot separate the two; both are
essential and both enrich each other.
Sociology and strict historical research are needed if
one is to understand the Joseph De Piro properly. It would be short
sightedness to underestimate them. At the same time, it would dangerous
to neglect the importance of faith in God’s Providence. To reduce
everything to a purely human level does not do justice to all the facts.
Faith in God’s Providence is a vital aspect in De Piro’s spirituality.
Throughout his life he had to face what seemed like insurmountable
obstacles. With every obstacle overcome, the more he became convinced
that God was with him. If such belief in Providence is neglected what is
left is a view of the world and the Order that is completely out of
harmony with that of De Piro.
fire to be rekindled
One piece of historical evidence does perhaps call for
reflection. In the past the most effective and vital reforms in
religious life took place as a result of returning to the original
"rule" of the founder/foundress. This involved more than a return to a
radical way of life. It was a determined, radical, enthusiastic return
to the founder/foundress original concept of the order. It involved a
return to what was clearly an alternative way of life; alternative not
only to the world, but also, very often, to the main body of the order
in need of reform. The return to the original inspiration of the
founder/foundress, therefore, is a challenge to re-light the original
fire that moved the founders and their followers. The re-lighting of
that fire is a grace freely given by God, just as the original fire was,
and one can only pray for it humbly and with courage because it will not
come merely from human efforts and inevitably it involve sacrifice.
One is tempted to think of some original golden age to be
imitated. Studying the order’s story keeps us in touch with reality as
we realise that there was no golden age; the first years were difficult
and were no better than our own. However a difference exists in that in
the founding beginnings there was a sense of freshness, of novelty, of
adventure, of relevance. A fire was burning and in order for the MSSP
order to be renewed this original fire need to be rekindled. Without
this renewal in fidelity all new endeavours of the order and all
pastoral ministry will become a heavy burden, rather than a source of
This calls forth for discipleship. True renewal must be
sown in the soil of prayer. The practice of genuine prayer should
involve fearless listening to the Word of God. Prayer involves openness
to the Spirit of God; an openness to the same Spirit that set fire and
inspired the vision of Joseph De Piro himself. In the words of Paul,
this Spirit "moves us to pray" and "pours God's love into our hearts"
leading us to active compassion for others.
Joseph De Piro clearly intended the Order to be
essentially missionary and its members to be available to be sent and
evangelise both as communities, and as individuals. The missionary
charism is to be embodied in the spirit, in every structure, in every
work because the very essence of the MSSP is to be missionary and
evangeliser. A return to the founder, therefore, calls for openness, to
the world and to the culture in the spirit of the Gospel. One cannot be
in harmony with De Piro unless one is trying to be missionary today as
De Piro was in his time. To follow his spirit and footsteps is to feel
moved to go to the areas where Christ is not effectively present. That
is, to those who do not know him; to those who are disenchanted with
religion or indifferent to it or even hostile to it; to the oppressed
and marginalized, the poor; to those who have lost their meaning in
life; to those who thirst to deepen their love of the Lord.
Although the spirituality of Joseph De Piro is clear, it
still allows for a variety of emphases. As a result, different people at
different times will bring to the fore their own legitimate interests,
preconceptions and needs; they will look at the same reality from a
different perspective. However, Joseph De Piro must be kept alive lest
facts are changed to suit our own likes and dislikes. But the way we put
these facts together, the emphasis we give them and the conclusions we
draw will vary according to the sorts of questions we ask. A genuine
return to the founder does not result in stereotypes. The return is
rather an attempt to re-awaken the inspiration and dynamism that
characterised him; to make his basic concerns our concerns.
But if a return to the Founder is to be creative in our
time, the values need to be continuously discerned and re-evaluated.
There are values that transcend all times and must be upheld whereas
other values are only applicable to a particular time. We cannot take
everything that the Founder said or did as absolutes otherwise all
present sorts of choices and actions have to be justified accordingly
and no creative freedom is left. However we are likewise misled if we
put the needs of our own time as absolute. Therefore, a continuous
dialogue must be kept between De Piro original inspiration, the gospel,
and the signs of the time.
Originality of the Founder
There is very little, if anything, in our Founder's works
that is original with regards to religious life. He used material that
was already existing. De Piro explicitly mentions the Society of Jesus:
"the society bases itself on the book of the spiritual exercises of
Ignatius of Loyola and takes from it the rules and constitutions." In
other words, he followed the commonly accepted views of his time.
But we should not underestimate Joseph’s De Piro in this
regard. He selected his sources only after much deliberation, and made
them his own and adopted them for the order he was founding. However by
founding his own Order, De Piro wanted his followers to have their own
special identity and mission, even if he was highly influenced by other
sources in implementing his dream. De Piro main motivating force was a
deep personal call from God to share with others what he had experienced
Making the original inspiration our own
Joseph De Piro’s founding experience has three
inseparable aspects. First, there is a deep personal conviction of God’s
love for humanity and the world. Secondly, there is an awareness of the
need and that urgency that the good news be proclaimed to all those who
never experienced it. Thirdly there is a conviction that such mission
could only be undertaken if the ones being commissioned are in
community, with a common vision and a common spirit.
Joseph De Piro did not only experience God love and the
needs of the world. He understood that he had to give his share. He felt
sent by God into the world with the deep conviction that "if the Lord
does not build the house in vain the builders work." His experience of
God was essentially missionary, he was as a result missionary at heart.
What makes a missionary is not the fact of being in a missionary land
but the readiness to answer to God’s calling in our own personal story.
Consequently everything centres on De Piro’s experience
of being called and being sent to share Christ's own mission into the
world. This was achieved by his surrender in the loving hands of God and
by letting himself be transformed by the very love that he was called to
Joseph De Piro’s intuition is that mission has its origin
in the heart of God. God is the source of all commissioning love. There
is a strong correlation between finding God and understanding mission.
To be missionary, according to De Piro by its very nature calls for an
attitude of faith that is open to the novelty and to the mystery of God.
Outside this ongoing Christian journey, mission loses its meaning.
This implies that the missionary Order founded by De Piro
was not founded just to teach, preach, run parishes and go to foreign
lands to proclaim the Good News. The main mission was to make people
aware of the love of God that De Piro himself freely received and
experienced. De Piro believed that ministry should point always to the
presence of Christ.
De Piro lived this spirituality in ordinariness, in
simplicity and in lack of pretentiousness. His trust in God’s providence
lead him to find God in the bits and pieces of everyday life and saw his
vocation as being the yeast that causes the dough to rise. His life
reveals that an authentic proclamation of the Gospel must always be
marked by an attitude of humility and service. The mission and the
message is God’s and not his own. He was a faithful servant who answered
with generosity to God’s call, "God in whom I placed my trust, wanted to
use me to found this Society." His conviction was that the Holy Spirit
is the real founder and an experience of the Spirit must precede any
reflection or proclamation of the message. This reality permeated De
Piro’s life and was a well spring in his journey. Gustavo Gutierrez
offers a contemporary paraphrasing:
respond creatively to the new demand of the gospel… we need a vital
attitude, all embracing and synthesising, informing the totality as well
as every detail of our lives; we need spirituality… Spirituality is a
concrete manner, inspired by the Spirit, of living the Gospel… It arises
from an intense spiritual experience… Spirituality means a reordering of
the great axes of the Christian life in terms of contemporary
experience… This reordering brings about a conversion into life, prayer,
commitment and action.
De Piro shows clearly that mission is an attitude rather
than a geographical place; "to know if we have God’s love in our heart
need only look within us and see whether we have the wish that his name
be known everywhere." He had cultivated the missionary ideal ever since
his youth. He had a true missionary vocation that he was able to realise
through his spirituality, his life, and through the missionary Order
that he founded.
De Piro’s spirituality is rooted in the continual
rediscovering of the mystery of the Incarnation, which allowed him to
meet God in all of human reality, especially in his story and that of
others. His spiritual journey was not a means of alienation from
reality, but an experience lived in daily life. He understood that the
missionary task is to discern and discover God’s presence in each
encounter and to make known the new faces of the Pascal mystery that are
constantly being revealed. In hope De Piro committed himself to seek and
do God’s will and set his vision on the broader horizons that a faith
perspective offers. For De Piro hope is not wishful thinking but an
option based on faith.
De Piro’s missionary spirituality is founded on the
experience and the intuition that everyone is deeply loved by God on
discovering such a basic reality one’s life completely changes. When one
discovers what one is, what one should do follows naturally.
Missionaries must help people discern the signs of God’s love present in
them and in the world in which they live, and their mission is to work
for a world more reflective of that love. Jose Comblin writes: "Truth is
not a doctrine, a teaching, a series of concepts. Truth is a force that
denounces and destroys the lie. Truth is the birth of a new reality. By
their activities, the communities give birth to a new reality: the
reality of humanity."
My conclusion from this research is that the Missionary
Society of St. Paul must be faithful to its origins but at the same
time, be courageous and open to the new and to change. The Order is at a
stage of needing a re-founding experience. Fidelity to the founder
cannot but be dynamic, and this requires above all a documented
research, an attentive study and a profound assimilation. Dynamic
fidelity to the spirituality inherited from the founder requires an
actualisation in the present. It must be faithful first of all to the
Gospel. De Piro always points to Christ and asks of all members of his
Order to undertake the journey of being disciples before being
The re-founding should be done by initiatives that seek a
balance between contemplation and ministry, of which De Piro is primary
example. He lived his spirituality rooted in the experience of God’s
love that directed his attitudes in life towards total availability to
God’s will. Those who follow De Piro’s spirituality must live a
harmonious synthesis between deep spirituality and ministry. If
conversion and transformation are the very goals of missionary activity,
a missionary spirituality must consist first and foremost of a
conversion and transformation of all those who are being sent. Authentic
proclamation must always be thoroughly intertwined with witness.
My aim in this dissertation was to give a new perspective
on how the missionary spirituality of Joseph De Piro can be relevant for
the Missionary Society today. The spirituality of Joseph De Piro
requires to be studied afresh in every age, otherwise it remains
encapsulated in the century and terminology of his time.
De Piro’s unexpected death left the first community
facing difficult choices. A re-founding experience was necessary: "At
his death, it was as if the whole Society lost its soul…we were
bewildered and astounded people because of what happened to us… We found
ourselves in the wilderness, in the desert, surrounded by darkness and
open space; without any help although deep down we felt that help was
near; that it was with us; that it was in our soul."
This evidence from the first community shows clearly that
what the Order is going through today is not new to its short history;
the first members already experienced it. They had to hold firm in the
hope that: "if he provided us with all our needs while he was with us,
how can he abandon us, now that he is in heaven…Now we expect the mercy
of God’s providence."
Such witness gives us courage to look with hope. De
Piro’s deep conviction is that: "God is with us, indeed, one should not
get discouraged, God is with us, there is no doubt about this reality,
but our part is exactly this, to listen to his voice who calls us to
follow." This voice was the force and the reason behind this study. It
was a call to explore and discover in a new way the missionary
spirituality of Joseph De Piro which will always leads us:
cease from exploring, and the end of all our exploring
to arrive where we started,
the place, as if, for the first time.
Benedict XV, Maximus Ilud.
John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, Libereria Vaticana,
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, Libereria Vaticana,
John Paul II, Vita Consagrata, Libereria Vaticana, 1997.
Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Liberia Vaticana, 1975.
Vatican II Documents: Perfectae Caritatis.
Almanac of the Institute of Missions. Casa San Giuseppe,
Hamrun, Malta 1922 –1936.
Mons. G.De Piro Predikatur Imheggeg tal-Kelma ta’ Alla.
Volumes 1-3., Postulazzjoni Kawza ta’ Mons G. De Piro, 1987.
Il-Qaddej ta’ Alla G. De Piro: Korrispondenza, Volumes
1-3. Postulazzjoni Kawza ta’ Mons G. De Piro, 1990.
Mons. De Piro; Djarju 1889-1909. Postulazzjoni Kawza ta’
Mons G. De Piro, 1988.
Regole Della Compagnia Di San Paolo, Volumes 1-3.
Postulazzjoni Kawza ta’ Mons G. De Piro, 1988.
Twemminu f’Kitbietu: Sayings ta’ Mons. G. De Piro. Vol.1;
Postulazzjoni Kawza ta’ Mons G. De Piro, 1996.
(These Documents can be found in the Archives of the
Missionary Society of St. Paul, Rabat, Malta.)
Agius, Emmanuel. Social Consciousness of the Church in
1891 –1921: The impact of Rerum Novarum. Malta: Media
Centre Publications, 1991.
Anderson, Gerald. Mission Trends Volume 1. New York:
Paulist Press, 1974.
Arbuckle, A. Gerald. Out of Chaos: Refounding Religious
Congregations. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.
Au, Wilkie. By Way of The Heart: Towards a Holistic
Christian Spirituality. USA: Geoffrey Chapman, 1990.
Baltahasar, Han Urs Von. Prayer. London: Geoffrey
Beumer, Jurjen. Henry Nouwen: A Restless Seeking for God.
New York: The crossroad Publishing Company, 1999.
Bonnici Alexander, Mons. Guzeppi De Piro: Fundatur
tas-Socjeta Missjunarja ta’ San Pawl, Vol .I. Malta: Edizjoni Socjeta
Missjunarja ta’ San Pawl, 1982.
Bonnici Alexander, Mons. Guzeppi De Piro: F’kull qasam ta’
l-istorja ta’ Malta, Vol .II. Malta: Edizjoni Socjeta Missjunarja ta’
San Pawl, 1982.
Bonnici, Alexander. Giuseppe De Piro: Founder of the
Missionary Society of St. Paul. Malta: P.E.G. Ltd., 1988.
Bouyer, Louis, Introduction to Spirituality. London:
Longman &Todd, 1983.
Bosch, David. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in
Theolgy of Mission. New York: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1991.
Burghardt, J. Walter. Contemplation: A loving Look at the
Real, Church, Winter, 1989.
Butler, B. C. Prayer: An Adventure in Living. London:
Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., 1961.
Collins, Pat. Spirituality for the 21st
Century: Christian living in a Secular Age. Dublin: Columba Press, 1999.
Conn, Wolski J. Women’s Spirituality: Resources for
Christian Development. New York, Paulist Press, 1986.
Consecrated Life Today: Charism in the Church for the
world. UK: St. Pauls Press, 1994.
Dorr, Donal. Option For The Poor: A Hundred Years of
Vatican Social Teaching. New York: Orbis Books Maryknoll, 1983.
Downey, Michael. Understanding Christian Spirituality.
New York: Paulist Press, 1997.
Dunne, Tad. Lonergan and Spirituality: Towards a
Spirituality of Integration. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985.
Ekstrom, Reynolds. Evangelization. New York: Don Bosco
Faricy, Robert. Praying. Dublin: Villa Books, 1979.
Finley, Finley. Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A search for
God through Awareness of the True Self. USA: Ave Maria Press, 1978.
Gittings, J. Anthony. Bread for the Journey: The Mission
of Transformation and the Transformation of Mission. New York: Orbis
Books, Maryknoll, 1993.
Greer, Windy Wilson. Henry J.M. Nouwen: The Only
Necessary Thing. USA: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000.
Gutierrez, Gustavo. A Spirituality of Liberation. New
York: Obis Books, Maryknoll, 1989.
Hauser Richard J. Each Mortal Thing Does One Thing and
the Same -Selves: An Approach to Christian Discernment., in Handbook of
Spirituality for Ministers. ed. Robert J. Wicks. Mahwah: Paulist Press,
Jones, Kathleen. The Poems of St.John of the Cross:
Spanish and English texts. New York: Burnes &Oates, 1993.
Lonsdale, David. Dance to the Music of the Spirit: The
Art of Discernment. London: DLT, 1992.
Luzbetak, Louis. The Church and Cultures: New Perspective
in Missiological Anthropology. New York: Orbis Books Maryknoll,1993.
Martini, Cardinal Carlo. Ministers of the Gospel. USA:
Paulist Press, 1993.
Merton, Thomas, Contemplation in a World of Action. New
York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
Merton, Thomas. The Humanity of Christ in Monastic
Prayer. New York: New Directions, 1967.
Merton, Thomas. Contemplative Prayer. New York: Herder &
Nemeck Francis Kelly and Marie Theresa Coombs. Called by
God: A Theology of Vocation and Lifelong Commitment. Minnesota:
Liturgical Press, 1992.
Nouwen Henry. In The Name of Jesus: Reflections on
Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad, 1989.
Nouwen, Henry. Creative Ministry. New York: Image Books,
Nouwen, Henry. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in
Contemporary Society. New York: Doubleday, 1972.
Nouwen, Henry. Gracias: A Latin Amrican Journal. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.
Paulsell, O. William, Rules for Prayer: New York:
Doubleday & Company, 1975.
Power, John. Mission Theology. New York: Orbis Books,
Schillebeeckx, Edward. Ministry: A case for change.
London: SCM Press Ltd, 1982.
Schneiders, M. Sandra: New Wineskins: Re-imagining
Religious Life Today. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.
Schneiders, Sandra. Spirituality as an Academic
Discipline: Reflections from experience, Christian Spirituality Bulletin
Schneiders, Sandra. Spirituality in the Academy,
Theological Studies 50, 1989.
Smyth, Bernard. Paul: The Man and the Missionary. London:
Darton, Longman & Todd, 1980.
The Divine Office, Volume III, Dublin: Talbot Press,
Thompson, G. William. Paul and his message for life’s
Journey. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.
Whitehead Evelyn Eaton and James D. Whitehead. Seasons of
Strength: New Visions of Adult Christian Maturing. Minnesota: Saint
Mary’s Press, 1995.
Wicks, Robert. Availability. New York: Paulist Press,
Regole Della Compagnia Di San Paolo
(Rule of the Society of St. Paul)
1R Volume 1
2R Volume 2
3R Volume 3
G. De Piro, Predikatur Imheggeg tal-Kelma ta’ Alla
(Joseph De Piro, Preacher of the Word of God)
1P Volume 1
2P Volume 2
3P Volume 3
AM - Almanac of the Institute of Missions
D - Mons. G. De Piro; Djarju 1889 – 1909
(Diary of Joseph De Piro 1889 – 1909)
Il-Qaddej ta’ Alla G. De Piro: Korrispondena
(Joseph De Piro, Servant of God: Correspondence)
1K Volume 1
2K Volume 2
3K Volume 3
S - Twemminu f’Kitbietu: Sayings ta’ Mons. De Piro
(Sayings of Joseph De Piro: His Beliefs in Writing)
Life - The Life of Joseph De Piro by Alexander Bonnici
mssp - Missionary Society of St. Paul
N.B. The number before the abbreviation refers to the
Volume Number whereas the numbers following the abbreviation refer to
the page number. The last number is just a reference to facilitate my
An example: 1R; 50:3 – Regole Della Compagnia Di San
Paolo; Volume 1, page 50.