Our times are difficult times for evangelizations. The Good News of the Kingdom of God doesn’t seem to be any good, or new. It seems that our world has already seen everything, and the more the world suffers, the harder it is to talk about God and His love for humankind. Or maybe… it is that the evangelizers are not passionate and creative enough to find different paths for the Gospel to touch human hearts in our “today”?
Last Sunday, the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we saw Jesus choosing his Apostles. It began with the way Jesus looked at the world, at humanity, at concrete persons He was meeting: they seemed like sheep without a shepherd. So He gave them shepherds with a concrete mission: “Go to the lost sheep, with your presence and deeds tell them that the Kingdom of God has arrived, cure them, heal them, console them, cast their demons. And all of it, do it freely, with no expectation in return, because you also received it freely and I don’t expect anything in return from you”.
This is exactly what Father Palau felt and did in 1851 when he started the School of Virtue. He looked at the society of his time, at so many people who were ignoring the teachings of God and of the Church, so many people driven away from the health of faith by modern doctrines that they looked like sheep with no shepherd. And he committed to becoming their shepherd, together with some other “crazy guys” who loved the Church the way he did. Every Sunday he would gather people from the whole of Barcelona to listen to that the Kingdom of God is at hand, it is so close, and it comes with healing and restoration. And it was totally free, nobody had to contribute anything. That’s why we call Father Palau an apostolic missionary, because he followed the example of Jesus and his Apostles in the challenging task of evangelization in his times.
And what about us? What about our times? There are many people who feel lost, with no direction, and no place to turn in times of distress, confusion, and doubt. They seek the answer in ideologies, politics, and spirituality but they can’t find guides who will accompany them, show the way, will look at them with mercy, not with judgement. There are many “laborers” but so many work for the salary, not for free, and when the society doesn’t recognize their effort, they turn their backs on the world and close themselves in their own circle. Yes, they invent many pastoral activities for those who already believe, who are strong in faith, but do not have much idea about what to do with those who lost their faith in God, in the Church, and in human goodness. All those sicknesses, depression (demons of our times)… and so little answer from the community that would welcome the suffering, heal their wound of abandonment, of loneliness, of helplessness. Many times I ask: if Father Palau would live today, with all the means we have today, what would he do? And then I ask myself: why I cannot do it? Is my passion not enough to become true evangelizers in this era of New Evangelization? What do you think? Can we do it?
To Queen Isabel II: Madrid
Es Cubells (Ibiza) May 20 1857
I, Fr. Francisco Palau, priest, uncloistered, of the Order of Carmelite Discalced, residing in Ibiza, A.L.R.P. of Your Majesty with due respect.
Exposed that since the teaching of Catholic doctrines is an extreme, urgent and pressing necessity of the country, I resolved to dedicate totally to this holy ministry; considering all the circumstances of time and persons, I adopted a style and method that would seem to be most appropriate and adequate for God’s word to bear abundant fruits. To this effect, I turned and referred to the bishop of Barcelona and obtained the authorization to preach with doors always open, and began this praiseworthy task in the parish church of St. Augustine’s of the same city, in November 1851.
The undersigned desired that the seat of the Holy Spirit must be attended not only by the teachable pupils to their lessons but most particularly by certain learned, cultured and privileged persons who were fascinated by the error, who have organized themselves as teachers and doctors of so evil doctrines which when tasted and digested by the crowd and incautious people, it brought forth disobedience to the constituted authorities, revolution and anarchy. I preached the holy gospel to an illustrious and religious audience which was in Barcelona in the years 1851, 1852, 53, and 54, but in critical circumstances, in difficult times and in an epoch in which errors of the most indecent were supported by a press without bit of bridle. This opened a volcano of wickedness, which emitted its deadly lava on all the classes, condition, position and ranks of the society. Because of this, I thought to choose a special and well-known style and method, like the academic-catechetical; upon which transforming the church into a public lecture hall. In the first session I defined the true virtues in its proper terms, and described the vices and its devastating properties under its natural and monstrous figures, and gave a detailed explanation of the evangelical truths and of the teachings derived from them; and then in the second part of this same teaching, with adopted style for high intellectuals, learned persons I developed those sublime fundamental truths that formed the firm indestructible and solid ground of our religious beliefs, dissolving and pulverizing one by one and in one’s time and turn all the arguments that formed the brittle and fragile defense behind the mask of wickedness. Consequently, the School had that mission of proposing and explaining to the people the Christian doctrine and of instructing them on the motives and principles from which they originate.
The exponent moved and stirred by the passion of the holy mission, even though it was difficult and distressing, he carried it out animated by the love of God and his country. Under this program, the parish church of St. Augustine’s of Barcelona was turned into a School of Virtue, where in all feast days the Catechism of Virtue was explained, which is an extension of the Christian doctrines, vindicating this very same doctrine of the errors that dispute it.
The preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of Christian doctrines even though it had a style of a school could not be suspected of the crime of conspiracy against the public order; since all its functions, prayers, doctrines and acts were directed efficaciously to establish it, conserve it and solidify it. The School announced ahead of time the program of all its teachings in all the city’s newspapers and this was faithfully and loyally performed; the people assembled in the same way and by the same means that they are used to in all the churches, as the celebration of a public act of worship by which thousands of witnesses heard and listened to its doctrines and saw its presentations.
The School run its glorious course. It welcomed constantly in its bosom selected and immense audience offering to a number of considerable families on all feast days two hours of religious instructions. Then, at the end of March 1854 it was suppressed by His Excellency Captain General D. Ramón de la Rocha. S. E. surprised without doubt by false information must have led him to attribute to the School the cause of the revolution between operators and labourers and so it was dissolved. Nothing could be more improbable and inaccurate than to attribute the revolution to some teachings that have for its object to destroy, to abolish and to make it impossible.
The petitioner, Madame, cannot but reject this calumnious accusation and challenges his accusers before God and all men to prove duly the guilty. This could not be done in the actual case, for having attempted to vindicate his innocence, unpleasant responses criss-crossed with the Mayor and His Excellency Captain General of which resulted to his confinement to this island. Here he resided constantly observing an irreprehensible conduct.
In view of this he humbly pleads to Your Majesty to protect the innocence of this unworthy priest and to lift his exile of which he will receive a special grace.
May God our Lord grant Your Majesty many years of life for the good of the Church and for the Spanish Monarchy.
Fr. Francisco Palau, Priest