Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 28

Glorious Cross  February 28

Veneration forever to the shroud, stained with blood, in which the body of Jesus was wrapped! (Proper liturgy of the Crosiers, second Friday of Lent).

Look at the body.  Don’t be afraid to fix your gaze on it.  Look at the face, now pale in death, but once radiating the peace and joy of living in God.  Look at the eyes, now shut to the light, but not long ago looking with love on children, the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery and bathed in tears over Jerusalem.  Look at the ears, now deaf to the sounds of life, but which once heard the lament of the widow of Naim and the cries of the poor.  Look at the mouth, now silenced, but which had spoken of the love of God, the pardon of sins and the Kingdom of Heaven.  Look at the hands, nail-marked, limp and lifeless, that touched the sick to heal, the children to bless, the hungry to feed and the possessed to be calmed.  Look at the chest, now pierced through, rigid and cold, that before heaved with emotion at the death of his friend and was a place of warmth for the head of his beloved disciple.  Look at the feet, nail-marked as well, mangled and immobile, that used to walk on water and travel everywhere with the Good News for the poor.  Don't be afraid to look long at the deceased Christ and to worship him.

The grave is the way to life.  (Baoule)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 27

Glorious Cross  February 27

The living elements of our tradition include . . . a commitment to the life-giving Cross (Const. 4.1).

The Cross is the most significant emblem of our Order.  Our name marks us:  the Order of the Holy Cross, the Crosiers.  In our history, many of our churches were named in honor of the Cross.  Our habit shows the Cross.  In our liturgy on Fridays, we give attention to the Cross.  Our most important feast day is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  Our Constitutions propose the Cross as the symbol of our total service to the People of God.  In many Crosier communities, there is a preference for the image of the Glorious Cross, of the Cross depicted with jewels.  This jeweled image does not want to deny the suffering of Christ, nor that of his Body, the Church.  But it proclaims the message of the Cross in its wholeness:  the Cross leads always to life in abundance, to glory.  The Cross, whatever its design, always evokes Gospel hope.  Through the Cross, Jesus conquered death and all evil in the human world.  The Crosier without the Cross is inconceivable.

Nobody hides his sickness from the doctor.  (Bamileke)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 26

Glorious Cross  February 26

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan, but you struck my head with a reed (Reproaches, Good Friday).

I answer you.
The little ones always feel powerless,
    in need of someone to be their champion.
We confess that you are there
    to dethrone the Pharaohs, the Nebuchadnezzars, the Caesars.
But why do you seem to delay so much,
    leaving us far too long in the hands of despots,
    in situations where we even lose our dignity,
    in the choking grip of evil?
Are our cries not loud enough to get your attention?
Does not the stench of our spilled blood move you?
Why does the clamor of our falling not incite you to react?
Forgive this impatience and lack of confidence,
    that has made us violent people, even toward you.
If we lift the reed against you in our pain,
    take it as the howl of intercession to awaken you
    rather than the act of rebels to dishonor you.
Save us quickly by your Cross!

Nothing can escape God’s awareness, but he pretends to lower his eyes.  (Madagascar)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 25

Glorious Cross  February 25

The power of the cross reveals your judgment on this world and the kingship of Christ crucified (Preface, Passion of the Lord I).

The blacksmith is a muscular man, capable of withstanding the heat, mastering fire to fashion implements of iron.  He is at ease with the noise and sparks that come from his confrontation, deliberately provoked, with the material that resists him.  The blacksmith perseveres until his new creation is finished.  He accomplishes and his accomplishment endures.  This is a prophetic image of Christ (Is 2:15), combative and persistent, worker and master, conqueror and ultimate sovereign.  His strength is in his obedience.  He has faced diabolic strategies that sought to eliminate him, turning them to his own advantage by his strong arm.  He turned his face resolutely toward Jerusalem without fearing the heat of battle in order to fulfill his destiny.  In the midst of the cacophony of the lies, the whip, the stumblings on the way and the hammer blows, he gently breathed his Spirit over the world to forge a new reality.  He is himself risen, modeling what he is making.  One day he will return with a flash of glory, the final moment of appreciation of all he has done.

Blacksmiths don’t lack burns.  (Burundi)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 24

Glorious Cross  February 24

We wish to see our fidelity to the Cross most especially in our dedication to fashioning a truly evangelical community through our acceptance of our life and work, and in our apostolic presence where human and religious needs call out to us (Const. 2.2.).

In the Garden, the communion Adam and Eve had with God was the guarantee of a life lacking nothing.  There was nothing to poison their happiness.  But, in the end, their “no” to God created an insidious virus at every level of their existence that threw them off balance and provoked a multitude of anxieties that were unknown to them until that moment.  The assurance of immortality was sapped by physical, even incurable, weakness.  Their clear headedness dimmed, their path in life became fraught with danger.  The joy of their married and family love exploded, fragmented by egotism and fratricide.  With their wills broken, no project was certain.  The loss of intimacy with God made their hearts unstable and agitated in a search for whatever consolation.  This is the heritage of sin that still disrupts human balance.  Its antidote is the Cross of Jesus with assured healing, but a healing that is not instantaneous.  It is rather like the growth of a mustard seed.  Meanwhile, we live with confidence and attentive to the cries of others in distress.

Wood left on the ground is devoured by termites.  (Baoule)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 23

Glorious Cross  February 23

With regard to this triumph of life over death, it is important in our mentality that chastity puts us “in quarantine” so that the mystery of the Cross might be fertile (Congolese Regional Statutes, Intro., 1.25).

Fertility or sterility, that is the question of life.  It was the concern of the Creator looking at the earth about to be created:  “and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss”  (Gn 1:2).  In response, God opted for fertility and for six days “God said” so.  Throughout the history of creation, the creative effort of God has favored fecondity:  that the universe evolve, that the earth and its inhabitants be fertile, that man and woman reproduce, that Israel grow, that Christ give birth to the New Creation.  At the same time, there was a sinister effort toward sterility, whose sower was sin.  Its power was finally completely crushed by the Cross of Jesus.  All activity henceforth associated with this Cross, whether an initiative or a renunciation, has as its objective to reverse sterility and to make the world fertile.  Every Christian involvement should be verified by fecundity.  Celibate religious men women in the Church are involved in service with this conviction:  chastity, far from sterility, makes fertile the Body of Christ to bring forth a more abundant life.

Nobody closes up what is full.  (Shi)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 22

Glorious Cross  February 22

Our profession is a personal act of dedicating ourselves, empowered by the Spirit, to follow Christ in his total and free devotedness to the Father and to others, which reached its completion on the Cross (Const. 10.2).

Following Christ as people of the Cross is first to be in solidarity with everyone who suffers.  As people of the Cross, we must also courageously protest, in the Spirit of Jesus, against the causes of human suffering.  What’s more, as people of the Cross, we are called to compassion in the use of talent, time, energy and other resources to help suffering people.  But solidarity, protest and compassion are not enough.  Christ wants even more.  We must finally proclaim the great message of hope, the Good News, that the forces of evil in the world have been vanquished by the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.  The forces of evil no longer dominate life, even if the contrary seems true at certain moments. Jesus has won the victory and his victory is at work in the world until the last day of history, when its full realization will be revealed.  To transmit this hope is the summit of pastoral work with suffering people.

You love the hen; you have to love her eggs, too.  (Kusu)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 21

Glorious Cross  February 21

. . . our fidelity to the Cross . . . (Const. 2.2).

To enter Crosier life is to manifest a conviction and a decision about the role of Cross of Jesus in the history of the world.  The conviction is that in the mystery of the Cross is found the salvation of the world.  And the decision, consequently, is to associate radically with the Cross as the source of all human happiness and to accept it as what gives meaning to all the events of life.  If someone accepts the mystery of the Cross in this way, the person lives by its revelation, namely, that all the world’s evil is already conquered and that the restoration of human life progresses by imitation of the love expressed by the Cross.  The religious commits to the proclamation of this Good News by a life of Gospel conversion and by active participation in the birth of the new humanity.  Such an association with the Cross is not considered one option among others, but as the supremely crucial option.  In effect, it is to believe that life or death for the person or the world depends upon this choice.

If the first number is wrong, the total is wrong.  (Pele)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 20

Glorious Cross  February 20

I gave you saving water from the rock, but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink. My people, what have I done to you?  How have I offended you?  Answer me! (Reproaches, Good Friday).

I answer you.
Making water flow from the rock in the desert
   manifests your omnipotence.
Making exquisite wine pour from the water jars at the wedding
   signals the messianic feast.
You wanted to make of the world a great vine, you said,
   with a view to producing sweet grapes
   that rejoice the human heart.
I am among the vinedressers that deceive you.
When you return for the harvest, you will drink bitterness;
   I have only the fruit planted in the troublesome time of my folly
   and in the vineyard devastated by my sin.
I am left only with vinegar to slake your dying thirst.
But you are accustomed to transforming
   drought into gardens, what is distasteful into flavor.
Make of your Cross the winepress of excellence
  and of the vinegar I touch your lips with,
  in a pitiful gesture of mercy,
  the spiritual refreshment for which I search.

A person with salt cooks a good meal.  (Bembe)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 19

Glorious Cross  February 19

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Cross, you have redeemed the world (Gospel Acclamation, Exaltation of the Holy Cross).

His face, drawn and marked by pain and fatigue, his head bent forward and encircled with a crown of thorns, his eyes open, his hair disheveled, his shoulders covered with a robe and in his right hand a reed of mockery—this is the image of the Man of Sorrows.  It is the image of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, who offered himself in service of the plan of God for the restoration of all humanity.  Jesus is identified in the New Testament with this Servant.  In contemplating his appearance, we can see to what point love can come and to what point it did go.  Who can resist the appeal of such affection?  Who can remain immoveable, confronted by such generosity of spirit?  Seeing the divine passion, a person is moved toward the One who loves.  Heart speaks to heart.  This moment of movement toward God is the first moment of personal resurrection.  The break with sin comes when the eyes of the Suffering Servant and the eyes of the sinner meet.  Life is born in a mutual look.

The tracks of the elephant erase the tracks of the antelope.  (Duala)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 18

Glorious Cross  February 18

The Cross of Christ is a sign for us of his total service in love to all of humanity (Const. 2.2).

With Jesus, the man of the Cross, we are people of the Cross.  Our spirituality is a grace which calls us to enter into the Passion of Christ so as to come out of it, not only risen with him, but also as partners in his work of saving the world.  This commitment to his Cross leads us to participate in the sufferings of his Body today, to embrace the pain of all his brothers and sisters in the world.  We do that as celebrants of Jesus’ victory, with a strengthening message of hope.  Thanks to our own personal experiences of the Paschal Mystery as Christians and Crosiers, we have come to believe in ultimate victory over suffering.  Meanwhile, we help others patiently endure even their irredeemable sufferings and to live with sometimes inevitable human limitation.  At the same time, with unshakeable confidence, we collaborate with all sufferers to eliminate from the world everything that does not accord with resemblance to the Risen Christ.

Anyone who gives a sweet potato to an orphan also commits to giving that orphan a drink of water.  (Nande)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 17

Glorious Cross  February 17

(The Crosier) gives prophetic witness in the midst of misery and suffering, proving his persistence in the difficulties of life (Profile of the Congolese Crosier).

The Cross of Jesus was not an isolated moment of his life.  He lived under its shadow during the whole of his earthly sojourn.  Already in the womb of his mother, he felt the problem of being homeless.  He was born in poverty.  Among the gifts given him at his birth were embalming spices.  He experienced the nocturnal terror of fleeing for his life.  He faced the tempter.  He did battle with demonic possession, sickness, death.  He saw the arrest and decapitation of his messianic collaborator.  He knew family rejection, unbelief of friends, political threats.  He did not have a place to lay his head.  He wept from disillusionment and at wakes.  He was unwelcomed and fell victim to several attempts at murder.  All that was prelude to his Passion in the garden, before the religious and imperial courts, on the sad way to the hill of the awful Cross.  If only his suffering had lasted a moment!  But the Cross is always a Way of the Cross—also for the disciple.

The persistent person always eats ripe fruit.  (Kusu)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 16

Glorious Cross  February 16

Lord, . . . by the law of nature we have borne the likeness of his (Adam’s) manhood.  May the sanctifying power of grace help us to put on the likeness of our Lord in heaven (Prayer, Good Friday).

We can imagine that he spent his childhood like the others:  loved by his parents, full of innocence and joy, a good comrade in neighborhood games, curious about the world around him, a serious student at school, religious according to the traditions of his ancestors.  Maybe he had a turbulent adolescence like others did, but he arrived successfully at adulthood.  Certainly he dreamed, planned and decided to assure himself a good life.  That is why contracting leprosy was a terrible shock and overwhelming tragedy.  Now he was isolated from the village, far from his family and friends, a contagious companion of other contagious people, condemned to be a helpless spectator from one day to the next of the sickening disintegration of his own flesh.  He was not a bad man.  Perhaps that is why, when he realized what had happened, he left the other nine to look for the man in the street who had cured him.  The ravages of his body did not destroy the goodness of his heart, despite being a member of the so-called Samaritan schism.  This goodness, as a fruit of the Spirit, testified to a passage already from the old man to the new man resurrected.

Every river has its own power.  (Zulu)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 15

Glorious Cross  February 15

Christ’s entering into our world and his going forth to the Father signify not estrangement or alienation from this world, but rather his total dedication to bringing the world to fullness and to establishing love in people’s relations with one another (Const. 2.1).

Despite the horror of the human evil that killed Jesus, the early Church, knowing Jesus risen, did not respond by fleeing the world, but by a more intensive engagement in it.  The first Christians, filled with the mystique of the resurrection, organized their earthly lives in a formidable solidarity, with radical economic consequences.  They held everything in common, alleviating the poverty of their companions by the sharing of their earthly goods.  This dividing up of their earthly treasures was among their first responses to the acquisition of heavenly treasures.  Do we have the courage to live like them in our world today?  Jesus does not pray that we be taken out of the world because he had need of us right where we are, among our friends, in our families and communities, at work or school.  In effect, it was out of love for the world that he went to the cross.

The worm stays in the ground until the earth is softened.  (Azande) 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 14

Apostolate  February 14

(The Crosier) is concerned about evangelization (Profile of the Congolese Crosier).

She seemed interested in religious questions, but not much.  Her concern was ordinary, the needs of housekeeping.  That is why every day around midday she left her house, jug on her head.  To look for water was not only the thing she searched for in her life and perhaps it was a symbol for them all.  But she did not spend a lot of time thinking about it.  In any event, that day she arrived at the well to find a thirsty man who asked for a drink of water.  The conversation between the two of them became theological and the stranger profoundly touched the spirit of the woman.  Convinced finally that he was the Messiah, she left the well, leaving her jug behind, and returned to the village.  Did she no longer have need of water or was her thirst satisfied in another way?  It made no difference!  The news became the priority and she hurried to announce it.  This is an illustration of how the work of evangelization begins.  It is only by cutting loose from every egotistical compulsion and satisfying the human thirsts from a redemptive source that one can leave the jug once and for all and run without being hampered to slake the thirsts of others.

A gun without powder doesn’t shoot.  (Yaka)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 13

Apostolate  February 13

By a strong mutual love, our brotherhood, which is called to be a living parable of unity, proclaims an essential mark of the Church (Const. 15. 2).

We speak of a parable being “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”  This interpretation is verified in the parables of Jesus.  However, the use of parables by the Lord is not limited to the New Testament.  He continues this way of teaching today.  Take, for example, the parable of religious life.  It is truly “an earthly story” about the gathering of men and women, the struggles and vulnerabilities of personalities, the failures and successes of projects, the discovery and loss of life.  But in living all of that, religious life manifests “a heavenly meaning”:  the revelation of the dignity of the person, the clarification of suffering and the source of hope, the call to solidarity with others nearby and far, the word of counsel about achieving human destiny together.  In effect, religious life is a conversation with the world that makes known the impact of communion with God.  Religious life is the contemporary parable continually preached by Christ.  And I, I am among the actors.

If the stranger knew the place of the sacrifices, it’s because someone from the village showed it to him.   (Moba)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 12

Apostolate  February 12

Religious life in common fulfills its prophetic function when the example given by its members challenges all people, Christian and non-Christian, to bestow on each person they meet a love that is universal and without regard for human rank (Const. 15. 2).

From the beginning of the history of our Crosier monasteries, it was as though there were a sign on the door that said, “Welcome, participants of the Crusades, pilgrims, the sick.”  The tradition of hospitality was constant in our communities, even in times of decline when the too open door prejudiced religious discipline.  To have a healthy commitment to hospitality is correct because without this gesture of being close to people there is no real possibility of ministry.  Jesus welcomed everyone, even his enemies.  He let people get close to him, even close enough to touch.  In the end, language, tribe, skin color, nationality, economic status, beauty, health, intelligence, morality, belief, dress, hygiene, social position, etc., meant nothing to him.  It was his unconditional welcome that counted, because without allowing everyone who bore the tarnished image of his Father to get close, he could not be their Sacrament of Salvation.  To open the door is the first gesture that brings about the Kingdom of God.

It’s the quality of the gourd that allows you to drink certain wines.  (Bamileke)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 11

Apostolate  February 11

In order to be faithful to our calling and to create a fruitful apostolate inside and outside of the community, it is absolutely essential that we be men marked by a faith that is authentic (Const. 23.1).

Chased from the Garden, the renegade man looks unceasingly for the way back in.  Terribly wounded, he travels his own interior life and his environment to find healing for his body, his heart, his spirit.  At a certain moment in his desperate search, he is stopped by Christ and the promise of salvation.  He makes a decision.  If he accepts Christ, he feels renewed to his very roots.  Now he knows himself and is given vital power.  With all the other rescued ones, his song becomes “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our tribulations” (2Cor 1:3).  This evangelical experience, considered as the foundational event of his life, leads him to share.  And he sings again “so that, by the consolation we ourselves receive from God, we may console the others in whatever their tribulation”  (2Cor 1:4).  This is the birth of ministry:  a rescued person goes to rescue.  The effectiveness of his ministerial efforts begins with the witness of his own Gospel experience.

It’s only when you have crossed the river that you can say the crocodile has a bump on its snout.  (Ashanti)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 10

Apostolate  February 10

Our apostolate, moreover, can be fruitful only when there is vital contact and collaboration with the leaders of the local Church (Const. 22.5).

It takes a man and a woman to conceive.  It takes two feet to walk.  It takes two sticks to kindle a fire.  It takes a pen and ink to write.  Everywhere in human experience, there are examples of the need for collaboration.  It is the same with the mission of the Body of Christ, with the ministry of the Church.  There are a multitude of personal, community and institutional charisms that should be combined so that the work of Christ gets done well in the world.  That does not mean that there is no friction.  It is often friction that creates the heat that heals, the light that illuminates.  It is like that in the traditional relationship between religious and the hierarchy of the Church.  The Bishops are like the upper jaw—fixed—and the religious are like the lower jaw—mobile.  It takes the two to chew.  It is useful to have the interaction of these two charisms, the one more fixed to stabilize, the other more mobile to go beyond limited horizons.  This creative tension promotes good digestion of the Word of God in the world.

The jaw doesn’t eat if the feet don’t set off.  (Bakusu)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 9

Apostolate  February 9

Thus, (the Crosier) lives in communion . . . with the Catholic Church first, but also with the sister-churches in a spirit of open and fraternal ecumenism.  He also respects the other non-Christian religions (Profile of the Congolese Crosier).

To our brothers and sisters in the other Christian churches we make the following appeal:  Let us remember the Common Womb from which we came forth a long time ago—the same life flows in our veins.  Did we not breathe the same air—and, yes, the same dust—of the House in the past?  Have we not been fathered by the same Father-God, nourished by the same Mother-Gospel, taught by the same older brothers and sisters to talk, walk, shed our blood for the Faith?  How could we ever forget that we have we used for a very long time the same Bath, eaten the same Bread, read the same Book and collaborated in the same household chores?  Let us pray, dialogue and collaborate so that we can celebrate again together.  And to our brothers and sisters in the great religions of the world:  Remember that the same sun shines on us all, that we work the same earth and walk toward the same human destiny.  Is the Divine not the same who is revealed in the sights and sounds of our ancestral house?  Sharing the same hopes and aspirations, can we not make use often of the same spiritual and moral goods?  Come, let us sit and talk together about the path.

Having slept in different places, the game animal multiplied his paths.  (Tabwa)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 8

Apostolate  February 8

With people throughout the world, we affirm the principle of human dignity; we recognize and accept human longing for freedom and community; we acknowledge human demands for democracy and personal responsibility (Const. 5.1).

What joy for Israel to have had the person of Jesus in its midst!  His words and activities represented the best of the Jewish tradition, the most profound truths of its creed.  In him, Israel could contemplate and take up again the most authentic road toward the accomplishment of all its desires and participate more fully in the Covenant with God.  In a similar way, what a joy for the world to know the Church of Christ, which proclaims the divine esteem for it and vigorously supports the call and dignity of the human person.  And what good fortune for the Church and the world to know religious communities like the Crosiers that respond to the values most thirsted for today, among which are respect for human persons and their rights, mutual confidence, equitable share in the goods of the earth, co-responsibility and democratic collaboration.  This is the way religious model and invite to the new image of humanity coveted by the world itself.

Porridge smiles with joy when it sees meat.  (Shi)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 7

Apostolate  7 February

Yet we properly and fully appreciate our vocation only when we remember that every vocation in Christ supports and sustains every other in building up the Body of Christ in love. Thus we must be open to receive inspiration and enrichment from all other vocations. Thus we must be open to receive inspiration and enrichment from all other vocations (Const. 10.7).

Lord, Jesus Christ,
with your Father and Holy Spirit
you once brought me from nothingness into life.
I bless you that I am so wonderfully made.
By my Baptism,
you called me out of darkness
to live in your redeeming light.
At your Table,
I praise the victory of your Death and Resurrection in me!
Let me take my place of service
beside my brothers and sisters in the Church.
Keep me always aware of the gifts you have given me
and ready to use them with love until you return.
For within, I bear your Kingdom,
your Power and your Glory
      for the sake of the world.    Amen.

It is when torches meet that fire blazes.  (Tanzania)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 6

Apostolate  February 6

In your walk, comportment, and in all actions, let nothing occur to give offense to anyone who sees you, but only what becomes your holy state of life (Rule of St. Augustine, 21).

Ministers of the Church take responsibility for the integrity of the message and appropriate relationships with those they minister to.  There are scandals—Jesus said that they are inevitable (Mt 18:7)—where ministers of the Gospel deceive people about the Gospel message.  But equally deplorable are the scandals where pastoral agents exploit the persons they are sent to serve.  These scandals can include, amongst others, economic exploitations, disregard of rights and sexual abuse.  Before giving someone pastoral responsibility, the community has the right to verify not only the doctrinal orthodoxy of the minister but also his knowledge of appropriate boundaries for personal interaction.  To be a minister does not give anyone the right over the goods of others, nor sovereignty over their freedom, nor license to invite or force intimate relationships with them.  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42).  Holy message, holy delivery.

The snake changes milk into venom.  (African proverb)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 5

Apostolate  February 5

Each province and local community, inspired by our charism and in deliberation with the provincial government, should consider its own forms of apostolic activity according to the needs of the local Church (Const. 22.1).

Religious life, as a daughter of the Church, serves her with a critical eye, throwing light on her true identity and encouraging her proper vocation.  That is why religious life, wherever it is, searches for ways to insert itself into the most problematic human situations in order to help the Church act truly as the sign and instrument of Christ’s salvation.  The ministry of religious life tries to address the most serious sufferings of the Church and society with resources of relief and the word of Gospel hope.  Its pastoral discernment concerns all levels of human life—material, social and religious—in order to discover ignored needs, strengthen unattended weaknesses, correct hidden distortions.  The pastoral commitment of religious life is not satisfied with mere discussion, however well intentioned that might be.  Its apostolic contribution includes both the pricking of consciences and great generosity of effort in its spheres of influence.

Anybody who stays in the same place has his two eyes in the same sack.  (Baoule)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 4

Apostolate  February 4

So that our apostolate is authentic, we work for the integral development of our neighbors, always listening to them and collaborating with them and other agents of development (Congolese Regional Statutes, 3.5).

“It will not be like that among you” (Mt 20:26).  With these words, Jesus put an end to all misguided ideas about the role of leadership in the Church.  The minister of the Church, whether ordained or lay or religious, must quickly forget the model of authority experienced in worldly societies.  The text, “they lord it over and . . . enslave” (Mt 20:25) can never be the description of relationships between pastors and their so-called “charges.”  The minister approaches people as their servant and not as the master of their destinies; as guest and not as the owner of the space of their lives; as accompanier and not as director in the accomplishment of their projects.  Even in the name of God, ministers cannot lay claim to the life of another, cannot diminish the person’s responsibility.  The first pastoral act is that of listening, followed quickly by collaboration.  To begin otherwise risks ending up like “the leaders of the nations” who pretend to be “benefactors” (Lk 22:25).  It will not be like that among you.

The chief’s gourd comes from the same jungle as everybody else’s.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 3

Apostolate  February 3

We favor those apostolic endeavors which require or are enriched by community life and which in turn foster it (Const. 22.2).

One protects what one cherishes.  If it is shared, only a bit of it is shared, that is to say, only a portion of it is given so that its integrity is not threatened, but, at the same time, allows for the cherished value to be reproduced elsewhere.  Crosier communities, in the spirit of St. Augustine, protect their fraternal life, not simply for selfish motives but for the well being of the Church and world.  Community life is a Gospel treasure that teaches religious tolerance, dialogue, solidarity, justice and serviceability—in effect, the charity of Christ.  To lose the sweetness and formative power of such an experience would certainly be regrettable for community members.  But it would also be sad for those who, outside such a community, aspire to the similar values and formation.  Religious do all to assure the integrity of their fraternal life.  At the same time, by their witness, by their practice of hospitality and by their teaching of such values, they offer community to others as a kind of “primer,” full of potential for being adapted in other circumstances.

The house chicken shows the way to the stranger chicken.  (Congo)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 2

Apostolate  February 2

Particular attention should be given to the signs of the times, so that we will not remain immobilized in those forms of apostolate that served another period of time or other circumstances well, but which are no longer suitable for the contemporary situation (Const. 22.1).

To what can we compare religious as pastoral agents?  They are like someone who lights fires and leaves them burning.  In the name of Christ, they walk through Christ’s field like someone carrying a torch in the dark.  When they come across a family, friend or community where the fire of love has gone out, they light the fire again, teaching loved ones how to relight it themselves.  Then they move on.  If they discover a social, political or ecclesiastical situation where the flame of justice has been smothered, they light the fire again, helping those involved to embrace one another again.  And they move on.  When they come across demoralizing circumstances where the fire of spiritual, economic or democratic hope has cooled, they light the fire again, teaching desperate people the why and how of rekindling the flame themselves.  And they move on.  That is the pastoral task and vigilance:  always relighting the fire, leaving it burning and then moving on, lifting the torch on high to look for others lying in the ashes.

A lit torch never goes out when someone is guarding it.  (Nande)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 1

Apostolate  February 1

Our third source of apostolic inspiration flows from the profound human concern displayed by people in the world of today, and from the exemplary generosity and solicitude for others which characterize the truly outstanding people of our time (Const. 20.4).

Their consternation was great.  The divine order had been established.  At the moment determined, the elders were called and gathered around the Tent of Meeting—except for these two.  And now the two imposters began to prophesy elsewhere.  Eldad and Medad did not have that pastoral right!  They must be stopped!  (See Numbers 11:24-29).   But that was not the last time in history that such an event and such dismay were experienced.  Later there was someone, also unauthorized, who began to minister by expelling demons.  Imagine, a man who was not part of our entourage!  How could he do it in the name of Jesus?  He should be stopped immediately! (See Lk 9:49-50).  And today?  There are people who do not follow us but who witness to “our” truth.  When something like that happens, our response should be like that of Moses, “Would that all the people of God were prophets and that God would send the Spirit on all of them!”  We should have the conviction of Jesus, “Don’t stop them . . . because anyone who is not against us is for us.”

You never know where the termite hill will rise up out of the ground.  (Akye)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 31

Apostolate  January 31

As part of the universal Church, the Order is especially attentive to needs throughout the world (Const. 22.1).

The Order of the Holy Cross, from the beginning, had a tendency to establish itself with stability somewhere in a local Church.  However, in certain epochs, already from 1248 on and especially after the “second foundation” in the 19th century, the Order exhibited a more explicit missionary spirit, although limited.  Not missionaries by charism, the Crosiers as Christians, nonetheless, participate in the mission of Christ ad gentes, to the unbelieving nations.  Ordinarily that was expressed by gestures of solidarity from a distance and, by way of exception, through the actual sending of missionaries.  Christ roots himself in a certain place, but he does not remain simply local.   To move in somewhere as a religious community does not mean to close oneself off there.  The inter-provincial solidarity of the Order asks at least the displacement of the confrere's heart, if not finally the displacement of his person.

Although the river is wide, we cross it.  (Bemba)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 30

Apostolate  January 30

Our religious community . . . is in a special way part of the prophetic and dynamic conscience of the Church (Const. 15.2).

The first foundation of the Crosier Order was called “Clairlieu,” or “Place of Light.”  At Clairlieu, the first Crosiers founded their life as a human experiment under the inspiration of the Gospel.  In its organization of life, the experiment took account of all the dimensions of human life:  physical, intellectual, social, moral, emotional and spiritual.  Each dimension in itself, and all of them together, should become authentic in Christ.  The sharing and use of goods in common, study, fraternal interaction, freedom to choose, work and prayer, all demanded a careful discernment.  The great effort maintained by these confreres to put all of the elements of life in serious and deep conversation with the Gospel created a light, illuminating their own space and that of the world around them.  Here was direction for living in search of God;  here were firm criteria for fidelity.  It was thus that the myth of “Clairlieu,” “Place of Light,” was born.  But this myth isn’t unique.  It is but a variation of the great theme of religious life throughout the ages, a striking and bold illumination by which the Church and the world judge themselves in the search for authentic humanity.

The clearing where there is joy is always sunny, even when it rains.  (Burundi)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 29

Apostolate  January 29

A human and pastorally effective presence among the People of God obliges us to assure personal and community study of religious, social, cultural, regional and world questions (Congolese Regional Statutes, 3.1).

The practice of holistic medicine has become the preferred method of healing today.  The body-life of a sick person has its own rules and there is a whole medical approach for responding to physical weakness.  But the health of the body is influenced by other human factors.  That is why the holistic doctor takes into account personal history, living situation, balance in emotional life, stability and quality of relationships, intellectual capacity and spiritual life.  Because what happens in each of these aspects can affect the healing process as seriously as medicine, the doctor tries to get as fully informed about the patient as possible.  Is it otherwise in ministry?  The roots of a pastoral need can be greatly extended.  The pastoral minister must have the capacity to see far and deep to effectively proclaim the Word of God in the concrete situation.  Pastoral activity, done personally or as a team, must be holistic in its preparation and practice.

A single paddle doesn’t move the canoe ahead.  (Ntomba)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 28

Apostolate  January 28

Moreover, living in community is itself a proclamation of the Good News to others. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13, 35) (Const. 21.2).

The baby learns to speak by imitating the sounds its parents make.  The young girl is initiated into cooking by paying attention to her mother.  The boy acquires the skill of a farmer by working with his father.  The young prince becomes capable of ruling by watching the king.  Apprenticeship serves very well as educator.  For this reason, Jesus gave religious life to the world.  Religious are artisans of love.  They practice the art of loving among themselves by mutually responding to daily personal and community needs.  Gestures of listening, collaboration, care, sympathy, counsel and relaxation are the rules of their art that create the masterpiece of fraternal love.  They leave their studios to practice their art outside.  Religious life, then, is a workshop with an open door, a place of learning for Christians and other people of good will, for country folk and government ministers, for poor people and entrepreneurs, for infants and young adults.  The world learns to love by imitating the gestures of loving people.

What is good for the river is good for the alligator.  (Mossi)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 27

Apostolate  January 27

Our life in community forms our most immediate apostolate since we are called there to assist one another in charity and unity, by our prayers and by all our other activities (Const. 21.1).

Perhaps it is easier to see the person at a distance as “neighbor” than the confrere at one’s side.  But the truth is that the one who is part of daily life in the same house, eating at the same table, is the most immediate presence of Christ.  The call of Christ in the person at one’s side cannot be ignored in the name of someone at a distance.  No, it is the same Christ whose cry begins very close and whose echo is heard from far away.  Can husband neglect his wife, parents be disinterested in their children, friend abandon friend, all under the pretext of service to the wife, the child, the friend of someone else?  The connections already established, at least by charity if not by justice, must get preferential attention, but without forgetting others.  Religious profession, and especially in an Augustinian community, creates an incontestable bond with the confrere, such that negligence gives a bad taste with regard to pastoral involvement outside.  How is it possible to offend Christ at hand in order to honor him further away?  No one can trample Christ underfoot in order to reach him.

The clan is not a market where we come to look, only to scatter afterwards.  (Bakongo)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 26

Apostolate  January 26

The Lord grant that you may observe all these precepts in a spirit of charity as lovers of spiritual beauty, giving forth the good odor of Christ in the holiness of your lives (Rule of St. Augustine, 48).

It is said that the custom of using incense in the liturgy began with a need.  It seems that often liturgical processions outside the church had to pass through bad-smelling streets—something which disturbed the spirit of meditation.  To help with the passage, at the head of the procession, an acolyte walked with a pot of fire in which perfumed incense burned, creating clouds of fragrant smoke.  Perhaps this is a useful image for religious in pastoral activity.  Often it is the religious who, in the name of Christ, pass through some of the foulest smelling avenues of the world, through situations of misery defiled by all sorts of human garbage, through societies rotting from corruption and injustice, through places smelling of death and war.  Religious, consecrated by their radical evangelical commitment, pass by as the perfume of Christ that resists the foulness and makes the promise of finally freshening the air of human history.

A house built on the side of the road helps all passersby because they can spend the night there.  (Bamileke)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 25

Apostolate  January 25

(The Crosier) prepares himself well for ministry (Profile of the Congolese Crosier).

All of us are prepared by the Spirit for a mission.  Life in the family, our schooling, our religious education, our participation in the Paschal Mystery in the highs and lows of life--all that becomes a body of formative experiences in view of a personal call from God.  We should reflect, nonetheless, about the seriousness of the commitment to God.  Is it not better to not begin at all than to finish badly?  We expect a lot with regard to the personal life of the ministers of the Church.  They should be persons of faith and high integrity, qualities recognized by everyone.   They need to be proven people.  They should have wide religious and secular knowledge to direct pastoral work well.  In short, they should be worthy and capable representatives of Christ.  That is a great challenge for us.  We do not live any longer for ourselves, but for him who calls and sends us.  We are on mission and every aspect of our life participates in it, whether hidden in the interiority of our spirit or visible in the external world of our behavior.  We must accept responsibility very well for this.

The hen that doesn’t know how to scratch the ground always loses her chicks.  (Shi)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 24

Apostolate  January 24

In choosing his (Augustine’s) rule, the first brethren of the Cross also joined life in community to an apostolic life of prayer and work (Const. 20.3).

Their unhappiness was no secret.  No, the others guessed their discomfort with every intonation of  “O God, come to my assistance.”  A bit rebellious, they often found themselves together to express their anxiety and to share their inspirations.  They lived in a disorder incompatible with the Gospel.  Their witness to the Crucified was no longer credible.  They hungered for more fraternal collaboration.  The formal recitation of the Psalms together was not very satisfying.  Their prayer had lost its vital relationship with those living around the cathedral.  No, at the date agreed upon, they would leave their choir stalls in the cathedral and never return again.  It was better to leave for a calmer place in order to give themselves to truer evangelical living.  Thus it was that Theodore de Celles, founder of the Crosiers, and his companions began the reform of their canonical life under the Rule of St. Augustine.  It was their hope that the anxiety and inspiration, the hunger and determination for a more balanced Gospel life, would characterize the Brethren of the Holy Cross down through the ages.

It’s the elephant’s muscles that get him out of the swamp where he is stuck.  (Shi)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 23

Apostolate  January 23

This consecrated life helps us commit totally to the Kingdom of God.  In the service of others in the Spirit, we consecrate ourselves to the liberation of every person and the whole person through an integrated ministry (Congolese Regional Statutes, Intro. 3.1).

The encyclicals of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II asked for a “new evangelization” that goes further than the mere conversion of persons.  Such an evangelization looks for the birth of a new society comprised of a new humanity.  It invites first to an experience of God in Christ, promoting personal salvation.  But the will of God for “a new heaven and a new earth” promotes also a transformation of society, brought about by the work of justice that liberates from every kind of human misery.  In the end, in order to arrive at the cosmic identity of Christ, the “new evangelization” engages in a dialogue with pluralistic culture.  Religious life is well place to become a new evangelizer.   It follows a style of life centered in the experience of Jesus Christ as Savior.  It has a history and an inspiration of solidarity with the poor.  It lives with wide and diverse cultural horizons that equip it for sensitive and effective conversation with the peoples of the world.

A single spark can set fire to a whole mountain.  (Lendu-Hema)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 22

Apostolate  January 22

Since the Lord has called us as part of the Church to serve him in our fellow men and women, we look upon our whole life as a following of Christ, who spent himself, even unto death, for the salvation of others (Const. 20.2).

A missionary bishop who had been a simple religious served many years in the missions.  As an old man he returned to his abbey to retire.  A short time afterwards, he died.  During his wake, some of his confreres, looking at his body, were astonished.  They said, “But he looks so worn out!”  Another confrere standing close by, a bit wiser, remarked, “Why are your so surprised?  Certainly he looks worn out!  What would you expect for a man who gave everything for the Gospel?”  What joy for the good servant to return to his Creator at the end of his earthly life completely empty.  Every gift used, every strength spent, every resource employed, nothing remains but to be embraced as comrade by him who already passed by that way and who lives eternally, Christ, who died and rose.

Fighting with a leopard will mean getting clawed.  (Yaka)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 21

Apostolate  January 21

If our communities are to reflect upon their work and life effectively – to test themselves by the Gospel and contemporary social developments – regular personal and communal study and reflection are necessary (Const. 19.7).

One of the principle objectives of community hospitality is to bring people close in order to guide them to Christ.  In a truly welcoming environment, the community wants to help people review their lives by the light of the Gospel.  By word or example, the confreres invite people to ask themselves about the significance of Christ for all dimensions of their lives.  The hungry person looking for food is welcome, the sinner who has lost heart, the sick person who wants healing, the young person who is searching for good direction, the couple that is struggling for the integrity of their marriage.  Deep inside, all these people, indeed all human beings, are thirsting finally for Christ.  He alone is bread, pardon, healing, life, love.  What a service the community performs to gradually reveal Christ to others and sensitively help them decide for him.  How does one prepare oneself to give this great spiritual news to others, while not neglecting to meet their physical needs also?

It is thanks to the chicken that the lizard finds water in the puddle and drinks  (African proverb)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 20

Apostolate  January 20

(The Crosier) commits himself to the work of the inculturation of the Gospel and Crosier life in Africa, proclaiming the Gospel in the values of the culture and setting aside all cultural elements which do not build up the human person in the image of God (Profile of the Congolese Crosier).

That Christ should become African in the Africans is the dream of inculturation.  It was already the plan of God that Christ should assume the identity of every human person and so come to his full cosmic stature.  That is the reason why Christians are sent to make disciples of all nations.  In some sense, Christ is already “pre-announced” in a culture to which missionary Christians go because Christ’s spirit was poured out on the whole world.  Thus, the words and signs of Christ revealed in the Bible can find authentic cultural expression in the believing Christians there.  The emergence of the image of Christ in a culture requires a dialogue between the members of that young Church and the universal Church.  In such a dialogue, new Christians affirm the values of their culture that are consonant with the Gospel and promote the dignity and vocation of humanity.  They are critical, as well, of the values of their culture that contradict the Gospel, dehumanizing people.  Little by little, the Spirit of Christ works toward the transformation of the whole culture into the Body of Christ.  And that is to be a new epiphany.  That is why you, the African, must express yourself!

You don’t dress a woman:  she dresses herself.  (Burundi)