Saint Arnold Janssen

Founder of the Society of the Divine Word, Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit and Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration.

Arnold Janssen was born in 1837 in Goch, Germany, and ordained a priest for the diocese of Muenster, where he served in the Apostleship of Prayer. Moved by a desire for the union of all Christians, the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of the Church among non-Christians, he founded the Society of the Divine Word in 1875 at Steyl, Netherlands. Realizing the need for women missionaries, he established two congregations of Sisters: the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit in 1889 and the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration in 1896. Arnold Janssen died on 15th January 1909.

The following has been taken from the writings of Saint Arnold Janssen.

The name “Divine Word,” as expressed in the name of the Society of the Divine Word, first of all refers to the Word of the Father, the divine Son, secondly to the word of the Son, the good news of Christ.

Because of this we are called to a special devotion to the eternal Son. The confreres should, therefore, often consider the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father has become our brother and food. In this manner he taught us both love and humility.

In him we see the first and greatest apostle, priest and pastor. He is a lamb, a lion, a servant and still the Son of the Father. As a pilgrim on earth he teaches, admonishes and heals. By his very teaching and the cross he opens the way to salvation for all. In the contemplation of his holy life the confreres should try to enter into the sanctuary of his heart, admire and adore the virtues exhibited in his earthly, eucharistic and mystic life and imitate them as far as they possibly can.

Among the wonderful works which Jesus performed, three excel: the salvation of the world, the founding of the Church, and the sending of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, however, who completes the work of Christ. It is the Spirit who enlivens the Church as teacher of truth and as the giver of life, especially in the sacraments which are the sources of salvation. He frees the people from their sins and makes them holy. Here we find the great Father of love in whom God loves himself and the world and through whom the love of God fills our hearts. It is the Spirit whom the Father and the Son decreed to send as the witness of their love.

Let us also love the Spirit in and with Jesus and the Father. We can best show our love for him by placing ourselves at the free disposal of his strong hand and by letting ourselves be guided by the inspiration of his grace, not only in our zealous apostolic work, but in a way of life that is simple, just and holy.

Even though we venerate the second and third Persons of the Trinity in a particular way, we should not neglect the first Person or the mystery of the most Holy Trinity itself. God the Father is the most holy and loving origin of the two other Persons. He is the Father of all that is best and most lovable. We must adore, love and venerate him whose kingdom of love we are to extend and for whom we strive to increase the number of his loving children through the world.

It is above all the most Blessed Trinity that we wish to honour with our heart, our words and deeds; with our heart by our love and surrender; with our words by our heartfelt prayers and preaching; by our deeds through all our activities. Among these activities the spiritual and corporal works of mercy above all will be specially emphasized by us since the Lord has especially recommended them. For people are images of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as God cares for them out of the fullness of his love, puts up with their defects while helping them to improve, so we too will try to do the same. This will be our golden rule both in spreading the faith and in promoting brotherly and sisterly love.

In the proclamation of the Word of God we must direct our work towards the increase of the Catholic faith and the Christian virtues and at the same time, the decrease of the power of sin. Insofar as it is possible, we ought to select those countries in which we can expect the greatest results from our work or where divine providence seems to be calling us. First of all our work should be directed toward the conversion of the pagans, the non-Catholics and unbelievers. This should be and remain the primary purpose of our Society insofar as God’s providence permits it. In all of these labours, however, our greatest love should be for the conversion of the people who live in those places where the Gospel has not been preached. Therefore we must labour with untiring zeal so that they be converted and come to know the Father and those whom he sent: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray: O God, you continue to reconcile humanity through your incarnate Word, by the intercession of Saint Arnold, your priest, graciously grant that, freed from the darkness of sin by the light of the Word and the Spirit of grace, all peoples may walk in the way of salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.