Bob Dirgo is a professed lay Missionary of Charity and the president/founder of Gennesaret, Inc., an all-volunteer nonprofit corporation that has been feeding, housing and serving the poorest of the poor for the past 30 years. He and his wife, Mary, have been directing Gennesaret together as a couple since they were married at the Vatican and received the blessing of Pope St. John Paul II on May 13, 1997. They have also been graced with two beautiful girls adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Mumbai. Bob has written for the Register and other Catholic publications and has two published books. He has worked in the aerospace industry for 33 years and is currently the director of continuous improvement at Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems.
If you form your impression from what is reported in the news, you would think that the Church is full of pedophiles, homosexual priests and embezzling nuns. You would also think that the laity are uninterested or lukewarm at best, and at worst, actively opposed to the teachings of the Church on abortion, same-sex marriage, adultery, contraception and so forth.
But truth be told, the Church is full of quiet, unrecognized saints who pick up their cross daily and follow Jesus, living ordinary lives with extraordinary faith, hope and love.
We all know people who quietly live their lives with heroic strength, love and faith who will never be the subject of a news report. Those who live out extraordinary lives of faith do not seek out to have their life reported in the news, but rather are seeking to build treasure in heaven with the way they live.
The mother of four children, one of whom is severely disabled and requires round-the-clock care and attention. The daughter who lives with her elderly mother who has Alzheimer’s and devotes herself to caring for her everyday. The wife of a young child with a chronic disease, who selflessly gives of herself for the comfort of her child. The priest who lives simply and starts his day with 7:00 a.m Mass for his parish and typically ends it at 11:00 p.m. after visiting sick parishioners in the hospital. And on and on.
Those of us whose lives are less challenging have crosses of our own, albeit perhaps not as heavy as others, and we can be lifted up by learning how others carry their heavier crosses and make it through life. That is what I’d like to try to do within this forum, by sharing some heroic examples of Catholics who are living the faith in heroic ways.
I’d like to start with sharing a little of a day-in-the-life of a saintly priest named Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, M.C. Fr. Sebastian is the co-founder with Saint Mother Teresa of the Missionary of Charity Contemplatives and the Lay Missionaries of Charity. He knew and worked with Mother Teresa for 30 years and at her funeral was one of only six people given the honor of riding on the catafalque that carried her body.
I have not met anyone who more fully lives out the gospels every day of their life in a quiet and humble way than Fr. Sebastian, and his life has been an inspiration to me and our family for many years. As members of the Body of Christ we are dependent on the other members of the body to help build us up. Just as a heart in the human body is dependent on the legs and feet to exercise to build up the heart, we need to be built up by the other members for the betterment of the body.
Fr. Sebastian is the spiritual leader for the worldwide Movement of the Lay Missionaries of Charity as well as the M.C. Contemplatives, but what is less known is the daily routine of this saintly priest. Like Mother Teresa, he lives his daily life in service of the poorest of the poor in one of the poorer areas of Rome. His service is fueled by our Lord’s amazing grace and as a result is transformed into a work of grace that builds the kingdom on earth.
The following are some of his own thoughts on a typical day in his life as he strives to live out the gospel:
“In Rome we have two tabernacles: the tabernacle where we keep Jesus in the Bread of life. We have perpetual adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Here we are called to love and adore him unceasingly. Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “Let your adoration never ease”. I also have two hours at night, from midnight to 2.00 a.m., six nights a week, besides the other hours of adoration. To love and adore Jesus in the Bread of life is one of my birth rights, I feel.
The other tabernacle is Casa Serena, where we have 72 beds or more for men from the streets of Rome to be loved, cared and served everyday, seven days a week. Our Brothers do it in all our houses. In Albania we have 34 disabled boys and men; in India we have over 100 orphaned, homeless, disabled boys and men; so also in Nigeria, Ghana, etc. They too are the real body of Christ to be loved, to be washed, clothed and fed, to love and serve them is another form of adoration.
Both these two-fold contemplations and adoration compliment each her.
Our day begins at 4.35 a.m. and end at 9.00 p.m. for the community. But then we have not only adoration for all the day long, but all night long all through the years since 24 August, 2008. We have never closed down our perpetual adoration and since 4 September, 1993 we have never closed down our night shelter for homeless men or for orphaned, homeless boys and men…
Our day is spread out into Ora et labora. We have seven different hours of community prayers, longer or shorter. Our labora does not consist in farming or other kind of manual work, but more in taking care of the poorest of the poor.
We also have the Lay Missionaries of Charity, who can be found in about 60 countries of the world. From 28 to 31 March, 2019 we will have the U.S.A. National retreat in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to that, I have seminar with the M.C. Sisters in Haiti, and a day of prayer for the LMCs in Haiti. So from 21 to 28 March, 2019 I hope to be in Haiti. In February, 2019, the M.C. Sisters want me to give a retreat in Burundi (Africa), in Mexico from 3 to 17 May, 2019, in Camerum, from 3 to 14 August, 2019, in New York and Newark (N.J.) in October. These kinds of ministries consume a lot of time
At home, in Rome, we also have LMC meeting every Saturday and every first Saturday of the month a monthly day of prayer. There is so much to do and there so much more to do. Calcutta is everywhere if only we have eyes to see. In U.S.A. the M.C. Sisters have about 50 convents with soup kitchens and night shelters.” … Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.
Fr. Sebastian is totally committed to our Lord’s call in his life, Totus Tuus, and denies his very self and takes up his cross daily in service of our Lord in the poorest of the poor. We are not all called to serve the Lord in this manner, but we are all called to be all-in with our service of the Lord, whatever it is that he has called us to do. Are you all-in with your walk with the Lord or half-in with it and half-in with what the world offers for the satisfaction of your “self?” Mother Teresa said, “Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is everyone’s duty, yours and mine.” Our Lord had a similar message to us: “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23).
Are you all-in? Do you know of someone who is and is an inspiration to you? If so, I’d love to hear their story as well so that I can share it in subsequent articles, in order to help build us all up as the Body of Christ. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.