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)

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) 

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)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 18

Apostolate  January 18

We acknowledge and encourage new developments in the apostolate for us as religious. This work may well take on different forms within our Order (Const. 6.3).

The ministry of Christ is traditionally expressed in three messianic functions: priestly, prophetic and royal.  All the baptized participate in them according to their own gifts and in their own circumstances of life.  There are some who are chosen to take responsibility for the integrity and the coordination of ministry.  Ordained by the “laying on of hands,” they preside over the liturgy (sanctify), assure the preaching of the Good News (teach) and coordinate the gifts of the community (govern).  In principle, the ministry of the Crosier priest conforms to this model, even if his activities go beyond it.  Crosier Brothers, as lay religious, are also called to the messianic functions.  The Order, in effect, shows the face of Christ Priest, Prophet and King in these two ministerial expressions, sacerdotal and lay.  It is the community that discerns the calls, the direction and the unity of these two vocations in its midst.

Milk is not enough to make porridge.  (Dogon)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 17

Apostolate  January 17

Let each one use his talents, specializing through personal study in one or other religious, social or technical area to become able to serve the People of God (Congolese Regional Statutes, 1.17).

Reflect on the drama of David and Goliath.  David chose five well-rounded stones from the stream and put them in his pouch to be used later with his slingshot.  In the river of life, as we move toward God, we receive gifts, abilities and powers to confront Goliath.  Face to face with Goliath’s weapons, our means of combat really seem like pebbles and, perhaps, not even well rounded ones.  They are the little strengths of body, mind and spirit.  They are the little virtues of speech, humor and wisdom; of energy, endurance and flexibility; of scholarship, craftsmanship and business; of friendship, helpfulness and generosity; of solidarity, accompaniment and compassion—all pebbles of little value in the eyes of the powerful in the world.  With David, we should put our hand in the pouch and take out pebbles to fling from the circumstances of our lives.  And afterwards, as David, we should contemplate with wonder and gratitude the victory accomplished by the hand of God. 

Don’t sort firewood because even among small sticks you find kindling.  (Tabwa)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 16

Apostolate  January 16

As religious we hear the call to free ourselves by professing a commitment to the Christian responsibility of collaborating in the work of bringing love and justice into this world (Const. 2.1).

The profession of the vows frees the minister and supports the ministry.  By their observance of the evangelical counsels, religious ministers of the Church are well prepared to respond to the ministerial demands of Mt 10: 9-10: “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick”  (Lk 10:4 adds “and greet no one along the way”).  Gold, money and tunics in the traveling bag signify the security that the goods of this world provide.  Evangelical poverty, which counts on Divine Providence, unburdens one about security.  Footwear symbolizes the concern about being wounded on the road, whereas the walking stick represents the preoccupation with having energy for the long haul.  Evangelical obedience, convinced of the effectiveness of the Divine Plan, frees one from that concern.  The need to greet others brings to mind the fear of losing loved ones.  Evangelical chastity, overwhelmed by Divine Love, liberates from that fear.  All these human concerns can compromise Christian ministry, unless there is faith and a continuing formation that strengthens and intervenes.

The milk of thunder is drunk by the daring.  (Burundi)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 15

Apostolate  January 15

Together with all Christians, we share in the constitution of the Church, the Pilgrim People of God, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is kept alive and proclaimed (Const. 1.2).

The ministry of the Church is founded on a theological truth that defines both its mission and the identity of its ministers.  It is this:  Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection, is the Savior of the world, who is extended in human history through his Body, the Church.  The Church is the depository and guarantor of the Good News.  She is the community through which Christ renews the world.  But the Church is not the Savior, and neither are her ministers.  Joined to Christ, the Head, and always attentive to his Spirit, the Church and her ministers serve as the “sacrament” of salvation, witnessing humbly and unambiguously to Christ whom they make present.  The motto of ministry is always that of John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn. 3:29).  Vigilance is called for in this matter.  We must avoid the possibility that others stop at us and do not go to the one who is truly the Messiah, Jesus.  So as to never forget this truth, the minister practices prayer, humility and patience.

Saliva doesn’t equal the sea.  (Dogon)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 14

Poverty  January 14

In order to build up our fellowship and our apostolate, we accept a community of goods and joint responsibility for property, income and expenditures (Const. 13.3).

Our life in community is, first of all, a joyful commitment of persons to one another.  It is the oneness of heart more than the “community of goods” that gives real joy to life.  Oneness of heart is a commitment to building mutual confidence and support in community life.  In effect, this requires an exercise of co-responsibility on the part of each member for the well being of all.  It demands a shared responsibility for all the human and religious goods of the persons united in community, as well as for its property.  Thus, religious life should never lead to parasitism.  If everyone has the right to use community goods, everyone has the duty to take care of them. Enjoying the use of community goods implies sharing in their management in the local chapter and remaining actively concerned for responsible stewardship at all levels of Order life.  Without such a community practice, the confreres risk becoming a band of profiteers rather than a brotherhood of shared life.

A good back supports the ribs.  (Nsombe)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 13

Poverty  January 13

It follows, therefore, that if anyone brings something for their sons or other relatives living in the monastery, whether a garment or anything else they think is needed, this must not be accepted secretly (Rule of St. Augustine, 32).

It was towards the end of his life.  He had lived for years with the deacon in the community.  Together at prayer, table and work, these two had become good friends, dear brothers.  They had studied together, discussed contemporary problems, advised each other spiritually.  The deacon died before him.  But the sadness at his death suddenly became a deep disappointment for Augustine.  This dear companion, after years of sharing life, make a secret will that deprived the community of his goods.  How was that possible?  Augustine was crushed.  Was the deacon living a lie the whole time in community?  To promise with one’s mouth and, at the same time, hide with one’s hand is treason, robbery.  Dishonest sharing is not sharing at all.

People can be old from the point of view of their white hairs or of their wisdom.  (Shi)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 12

Poverty  January 12

And just as the sick must take less food to avoid discomfort, so too, after their illness, they are to receive the kind of treatment that will quickly restore their strength (Rule of St. Augustine, 18).

Since the sin of Adam, the seeds of death lie hidden in the body.  From time to time, they threaten to germinate in illness.  Illness is a significant moment in human life, particularly when it becomes serious.  Sickness can be either the horizon of spiritual enlightenment or the precipice of despair.  For that reason, sickness mobilizes the compassion of the community.  To cure someone sick is to give the person the possibility of taking up again a vital commitment as a more alert and zealous as a servant of God.  To spoil a sick confrere for a while does not necessarily lessen the spiritual strength of the sick person or of the community.  Quite the contrary, when the confrere happily resumes his ordinary spiritual discipline, the grace of the illness for him and for his caregivers increases the Gospel efficacy of the community.

If you want the bird to fly, strengthen its wings.  (Mongo)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 11

Poverty  January 11

This common responsibility should manifest itself in an equitable and efficient distribution of the resources of the community, corresponding to the needs and wants of our members and our work (Const. 13.3).

Community life is no stranger to African culture, which puts emphasis on the life of the group.  The individual finds identity in relationship to the tribe.  The well being and destiny of the human person is inextricably tied to it.  The person lives as a member of the group or dies.  After initiation, the person takes his proper role in the life of the group to assure personal life and well being.  The practice of solidarity, which leaves no one in need, is characteristic of this commitment to the tribe.  African culture corrects the tendencies toward the individualism of other cultures that can easily leave the masses in need.  Augustinian religious life corresponds well with the African sensibility for the common good.  In the community, there is always the effort to satisfy the needs of each without prejudicing the welfare of the other and the whole.  Such a commitment demands the good will of every member to make one’s own the concerns of all.

Your hand receives something and your mother’s mouth is hopeful.  (African proverb)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 10

Poverty  January 10

For it is better to suffer a little want than to have too much (Rule of St. Augustine, 18).

The difference between “need” and “desire,” while it may seem simple, demands attentive discernment.  “Need” refers to something, the lack of which blocks the achievement of a necessary function of life.  Basic human needs have been defined by physical, psychological and social studies.  To be healthy, one needs food, water, sleep, etc.  To develop humanly, love, responsibility, work, etc., are necessary.  To have a democracy, freedom, education, the vote, etc., are needed.  There is not much disagreement about such things.  But “desire” is something else.  It is a force that pushes toward gratification of “non-essential” needs.  It is possible for people to live, even sometimes painfully, without the objects of their desires.  In religious life, each member needs to discern real needs of life, what is absolutely necessary to function.  The great difficulty is that desire often comes disguised as need, something that can seriously disorient the person and the community.

I am dying of a stomach ache, Mother, for having eaten everything.  (Mongo)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 9

Poverty  January 9

Those who owned something in the world should be cheerful in wanting to share it in common once they have entered the monastery (Rule of St. Augustine, 5).

The dowry for entering religious life is well calculated:  a healthy body with all its physical strengths; a good head with all its intellectual capacities; an affectivity capable of effectively facing the highs and lows of life; a heart that relates to others and is available for service; a moral sense already accustomed to evangelical discernment and open to pursuing it; a faith rooted in Christ; and all one’s current and future material goods.  All of this is humbly, willingly and joyfully placed at the feet of the confreres.  What wealth at the disposition of the community!  What resources to help suffering people of all sorts in the world!  What advantages for realizing the Kingdom!  But the gift of self has to be total and irrevocable in its generosity.  The one thing to do to assure the Gospel integrity of this act of generosity is to also abandon the proud tendency to keep counting it afterwards.

What matters in having a little dough is that it is shared.  (Burundi)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 7

Poverty  January 7

. . . then these latter ought to consider how far these others have come in passing from their life in the world down to this life of ours (Rule of St. Augustine, 17).

In the great spiritual tradition of the Crosiers, the whole of life is seen as a way of the Cross that leads to resurrected life.  All the elements of the charism (the vows, the three pillars, the spirituality of the Cross) are, in effect, an invitation to participate in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.  Evangelical poverty illustrates this very well.  To abandon all human security in order to confide oneself into the hands of the Provident God is to die.  One dies in accepting willing or unwilling privations so as to be more effective in the mission of Christ.  It is death to relativize personal needs, giving priority to the needs of others.  To lift one’s voice in protest against attitudes, structures and decisions that offend against justice is to die.  What a resurrected person one is in dying:  free, strong, compassionate, courageous!  Observing the vow of poverty is a passage to incomparable riches.  The Crosier who dies to himself by the practice of poverty is the Crosier risen to new life.

It is better to have a stiff neck looking up in the air than to become a hunchback looking down.  (Senegal)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 6

Poverty  January 6

We find the deepest source of inspiration for this form of life in the life of Christ: “he was rich, but he became poor for your sake” (2 Cor. 8: 9) (Const. 12.2).

When Jesus descended into the waters of the Jordan, there were two flashes of revelation.  The first was the great splash of the water that cried out Jesus’ desire to enter into solidarity with the poor human condition of his brothers and sisters.  “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?"  Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt. 3:13-15).  Son of God, he wished to be known as Son of man in every sense.  The second flash of revelation at the Jordan was the voice of his Father who expressed his agreement with the messianic mission of Jesus.  “And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17).  By the vow of poverty, the consecrated person identifies with Jesus revealing solidarity with humanity.  What flashes of revelation occur in my practice of the vow of poverty?

If a hat falls into a field of cotton, it has fallen into its family.  (Marka)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 5

Poverty  January 5

Our practice of poverty should not diminish adult responsibility or foster immature dependence on the superior (Const. 13.5).

Augustinian religious life has nothing to do with childish relationships between superiors and members.  It is a community of adults, each one exercising proper Christian responsibility.  What is an adult?  The adult is a person who has grown up, a person who has developed to a certain maturity.  Psychologically, it is a man or woman who has the knowledge and qualities of character to direct personal, family, civic, business and Church life in a mature way.  When Jesus counseled us to become as children, did he refuse to honor this natural movement created by his Father?  No.  He was speaking of a deeper maturity.  And when Theodore and his companions left the Cathedral of Li├Ęge to found the Crosier Order, was that an escape to childish religious fantasies?  Quite the contrary:  it was a reform of a certain clerical childishness that rejected true evangelical responsibility.  And I, how do I behave in my community as a disciple of Jesus and companion of Theodore today?

What the heart ardently desires makes the legs march.  (Rwanda)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 4

Poverty  January 4

Let not your mouths alone take nourishment but let your hearts too hunger for the word of God (Rule of St. Augustine, 15).

The Eucharist is a meal in two courses.  It is the same food, that is, the Christ, which is served, but in two different ways.  The best known Eucharistic course is the bread become the Body of Christ and the wine become his Blood.  This is real nourishment taken by the mouth to feed the heart.  It fills the whole person with Divine Love and builds the community.  The other course is the Word.  It is taken by ear for digestion in the heart.  The Word is real bread, the Christ, which feeds and strengthens the spirit by an illumination leading to an authentic Christian life.  The tradition of the Church extends this second course by the personal or communal practice of “lectio divina,” or Bible reading.  The reason is clear:  taking this nourishment deepens hunger like gas inflames fire.  In the case of the Word, if one is not hungry after having eaten, one has not eaten sufficiently.  Take and eat again.

Do not let yourself get caught by a blade of grass, without understanding that it plunges its roots in the earth from where it gets its force.  (Toucouleur)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 3

Poverty  January 3

So whenever you show greater concern for the common good than for your own, you may know that you are growing in charity (Rule of St. Augustine, 31).

At the Last Judgment, what will separate the sheep from the goats?  It won’t be the quantity or quality of the Christian’s theology, or the fervor or frequency of prayers, or the religious customs one observes.  It won’t be the monk’s habit, or one’s ecclesiastical status, or the pastoral fame one has attained.  No, what will separate the sheep from the goats will be those small, humanitarian acts toward others either done in the name of Christ or omitted through negligence.  These humanitarian acts will recommend or not to the Kingdom of God.   It is care for others that is the measure of Christian holiness.  “Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me . . . what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me’” (Mt. 25: 37-40, 45).

The mongoose has left, but you can still smell the odor of its musk.  (Ntomba) 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 2

Poverty  January 2

In this way, no one shall perform any task for his own benefit but all your work shall be done for the common good, with greater zeal and more dispatch than if each one of you were to work for yourself alone (Rule of St. Augustine, 31).

“There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need” (Acts 4:34-35).  Poverty of spirit is not an ideal without practical consequences.  Being poor in spirit can never remain simply an attitude, but has to become a practical option that favors a life lived simply and according to need.  What’s more, to be poor in spirit translates itself into self-forgetful hospitality and service of others.  “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment” (Lk 14:12).  In the end, proof of such a commitment to evangelical poverty is in the priority given to the well being of others.  And the maturity of this commitment is measured by the intensity of zeal and vitality for unselfish work for others.

The bee is honored because it works, not for itself only, but for everybody.  (African proverb)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 1

Poverty  January 1

We accept this life of . . . poverty . . .  in community as a public testimony to God’s Lordship and active presence in the world.  Religious life is a witness to the transcendent that is present in the world of human existence (Const. 10.6).

One day, in the central plaza of Assisi, in full view of the clergy, shopkeepers, public officials, parents and friends, a rich young man took off his clothes and, turning around, walked away completely naked.  What shame for his family!  What embarrassment for his companions!  What scandal for the clergy!  He had every advantage for a life of ease.  His businessman father lacked nothing.  Coming from an influential family, his social position was already assured.  What madness, this act of renunciation!  Where did he get these antisocial and revolutionary ideas?  In effect, it was the moment when Francis made his first profession of the vow of poverty.  He took his direction without looking back and without ever going back.  A while after this initial gesture of his evangelical commitment, to be consequent, he covered himself with the burlap that the insignificant people of his society wore.   It was a sign of his changing his social position and his world view.  I ask myself:  what are the gestures and signs that witness to evangelical radicalism in me?

We are here, our head bent toward the earth to build houses and we forget that we are strangers on earth.  (Luba)