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)