by Father Robert B. Fisher, SVD
The founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, St. Arnold Janssen, had a lifelong spirituality that was very Trinitarian, an outlook that he passed on to the Society of the Divine Word members. His family frequently recited the Prologue of the Gospel according to John in their prayers together. The passage which says, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” was etched into his heart from his youth.
Following on that, St. Arnold developed a spirituality that centered around the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is because he had a passion for the Missio Dei, the sending of the Son by the Father for the salvation of humankind, and the sending of the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of all who believed in Jesus Christ. The “sending” was an aspect that lay beneath St. Arnold’s concept of the mission in founding a missionary society of men in the Society of the Divine Word, and in a congregation of religious women in the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit, with two divisions: one the missionary branch, called the “blue sisters,” because they wore a blue habit, and the praying branch, called the “pink sisters,” because their religious garb was pink.
St. Arnold’s heart was full of the idea of mission, just as we find it in the Holy Trinity, where God in the Divine Persons is God-given to, God-given away, God poured out to each other, and then to creation. This was Arnold’s spirituality, one that he handed on to his followers in those religious congregations. A spirituality is what we do with what the ancients called our eros, our deep-seated desire, our passion, our urgent longings, to achieve a goal in life. St. Arnold was and is a saint, because he could channel his powerful eros in a creative, life-giving way that resulted in the founding of his missionary congregations and in the sending of the first missionaries abroad.
The will of the founder was that the feast of Pentecost and the feast of the Holy Trinity should be major liturgical feasts in his congregations. Pentecost celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles so they could carry out the missionary mandate of Jesus at his Ascension: “Go and teach all nations.” Holy Trinity celebrates the Persons of the Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in their self-surrender for the salvation of the world God created. For the founder, every Sunday was again a celebration of the Holy Trinity in the liturgy and in the community life. The passion for mission should permeate the entire year by liturgical prayer and the action for the apostolate (the sending) to all nations.