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)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 19

Apostolate   January 19

A religious fellowship of life and work is a special sign and instrument in the Church for true unity among people, a unity that is rooted and brought to completion in Christ, in whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created (Const. 15.2).

Crosier life models the Church of the New Testament in a striking way.  Because of their encounter with the Risen Christ, the first Christians immediately knew themselves to be brothers and sisters (community).  This fraternity was strongly characterized by a spirit of gratitude for Jesus, which was regularly expressed in their community prayer (liturgy).  Profoundly touched by their Gospel experience, they felt impelled to share the Good News with others everywhere by word and loving deed (ministry).  So, there we see the three pillars of the Church of the New Testament.  These three pillars form the heart of the charism of Canons Regular.  By their liturgical prayer, their fraternal life and their pastoral service, the Crosiers as Canons Regular attract the attention of the world to Christ and to the reality of his salvation.  But even more, the community advances in the world the Kingdom of Christ, of which its religious life is the sign.  All Christian communities--ecclesial, familial, educational, fraternal and apostolic--conform themselves to this model.  Our charism, shaped by this model, instructs the Church and world in Christ's salvation.

Those with the same roots will drink the same water.  (Luba)

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)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Parable and Conscience Meditation January 8

Poverty  January 8

The poverty we profess is not a poverty of destitution, but one in which the members enjoy that support and security which comes from belonging to our community (Const. 13.4).

There are various perspectives on the vow of poverty and different ways to live it in the Church.  Franciscan poverty is not the Crosiers’, nor is the poverty of other more recent congregations.  Our ancient tradition of the vow certainly takes us in the direction of simplicity and sobriety, but always with discerning moderation in the spirit of the Rule of St. Augustine.  Crosier poverty takes into account of the humanity of the confreres and their varying needs. It recognizes how linked to the earth we were created to be.  Jesus took our flesh, ate our food, drank our wine, worked our wood.  He will return one day to recreate our world and resurrect our bodies.  To have and enjoy material goods, then, during our earthy sojourn is not theologically problematic for us.  The challenge is to practice poverty in a way that remains faithful to who we are as human beings and in a way that assures a just distribution of goods respectful of the humanity of others.

God makes the manioc bread, we humans season it.  (Bakongo)

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)