Preface to the 145th Birthday of Societas Verbi Divini (SVD)
By Fr Roderick Salazar SVD
A week from today, on September 8, 2020, we shall be
145 years old as a religious missionary congregation.
Our Founder, Arnold Janssen (now a Saint) called our group
Societas Verbi Divini (SVD), the Society of the Divine Word,
composed of priests and brothers.
He purposely chose for our birthday,
the Catholic Church’s celebration of the birthday
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8.
He later founded two congregations for women,
one active, the other contemplative.
The active one he called Servae Spiritus Sancti (S.Sp.S.)
Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit.
The contemplative one, Servae Spiritus Sancti
Adorationis Perpetuae (S.Sp.S.A.P.), Sister-Servants
of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration –
also called Pink Sisters because of their pink habit.
My reflection today is about who we SVDs are
and who we must be to be true to our name.
It is an invitation to others to get to know us
and to look at themselves and their life with God.
DIWA is our preferred translation of VERBUM or WORD.
as found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John,
“In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD
was with God. And the WORD was GOD.”
The usual translation of ‘word’ in Tagalog is SALITA.
We believe that DIWA brings out better the idea
that the word which comes out of the lips as Salita
issues from a united mind and heart: thus, DIWA.
One of the prayers that Arnold Janssen wanted us all
to say together to remind us of our goal and mission is:
“May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish
before the LIGHT OF THE WORD and the SPIRIT OF GRACE.
And may the Heart of Jesus live and reign in the hearts
of all. Amen.”
LIGHT is rendered in Tagalog as LIWANAG.
Since WORD for us is DIWA, it is an easy move to say
Light of the Word is DIWANAG.
In the same vein, when we celebrated our Centennial
in 1975, our dance presentation of the Holy Mass
we called MISANGDIWANGAN. (Misa, Diwa, Diwang, Diwangan).
Our University of San Carlos has for its VISION
the articulation of the Arnold Janssen goal:
“The University of San Carlos sees:
A WORLD where the darkness of sin and the
night of unbelief vanish before the Light of the Word
and the Spirit of Grace.
A SOCIETY where citizens are competent,
noble in character, and community-oriented:
What they know, they apply justly and honestly.
What they do not know, they seek to learn.
What they do not have, they endeavor to acquire.
What they have, they share.”
The USC motto which had long been just
SCIENTIA et VIRTUS (Learning and Moral Character)
was seen as able to add another word, DEVOTIO
(DEdication to religious duty arising from a vow: VOTUM.
So the university put in the third word such that the present
motto of USC is SCIENTIA VIRTUS DEVOTIO,
the initial letters easily relating to : SVD
When we are asked why we became SVDs,
our usual answer is that we were called to evangelize,
to preach the Gospel to every creature, as we read
in the ending part of the Gospel of Matthew.
While this is true, there is something in Chapter 3
of the Gospel of Mark which describes the call by
Jesus of his apostles in a really intimate way
(which I, perhaps others, too,) often bypass
or do not give enough thought and reflection.
In verses 13 to 19, Mark explains that while it was
true that Jesus sent the apostles to preach and
have authority to drive out demons, the PRIMARY
reason he called each of them by name was
that He WANTED THEM to BE WITH HIM!!!
Huh? NOT Action first, NOT DOING first, but what?
BEING first. BEING-WITH-HIM first.
and then only to preach and drive out demons.
TO BE WITH HIM, first. O my God, please forgive my
blindness to this central fact. I often hurry to the action.
But any action is nothing if there is no BEING-WITH-Jesus.
The congregation is called SOCIETAS in Latin,
so its members are each a SOCIUS (companion)
of the Divine Word. A companion is one who
is WITH a person and shares PAN or PANIS (bread).
I am empty if I am not WITH JESUS.
If I am WITH Jesus, Christ must be WITHIN me.
This is the next step. To deepen the relationship,
the companionship. Enter the INNER soul,
let Christ be WITHIN me. So what I say or do,
who I am – all come from Jesus WITH me,
and Christ-WITHIN me. Jesus Christ one with me.
WITNESS has a dual meaning: to SEE and to SAY,
to PERCEIVE and to PROCLAIM
to SAY WHAT ONE HAS SEEN.
to PROCLAIM what one has PERCEIVED.
WITNESS is a noun and a verb,
A witness in court is asked: What did you see?
What did you hear? Were you there?
If there is no answer to these questions, one cannot
BE WITNESS (noun) or BEAR WITNESS (verb).
Unless Jesus is WITH me and Christ WITHIN me
I cannot WITNESS TO THE WORD that He is.
The basis of my WITNESSING is what John
says in his first Letter: “We declare to you
what was from the beginning:
what we have HEARD, what we have SEEN with our
own eyes, what we have LOOKED AT and TOUCHED
with our hands, concerning the WORD of LIFE…
we TESTIFY to it and DECLARE to you the eternal life
that was from the FATHER and was revealed and
made visible to us… We declare this so that
our JOY may be complete.”
Real regular JESUS-WITH me, CHRIST-WITHIN me
is the only credible foundation to being and becoming
WITNESS TO THE WORD.
Without this continuing communion with Him,
no matter how eloquent I think I may be in preaching,
I will only be what St Paul said of one without love:
a resounding gong, a clashing cymbal.
O Lord, what I ask for myself, I pray for everyone
who says he or she believes in You.
Priest or lay, bishop or cardinal, husband or wife,
male or female, young or old
we must be constant in what we live and believe.
Jesus-WITH-ness, Christ-WITHIN-ness, WORD-WITness: