Saturday, February 27, 2021

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 27

Glorious Cross  February 27

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

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

Nobody hides his sickness from the doctor.  (Bamileke)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 26

Glorious Cross  February 26

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

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

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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 4

Apostolate  February 4

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 3

Apostolate  February 3

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

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

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

Monday, February 1, 2021

Parable and Conscience Meditation February 1

Apostolate  February 1

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

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

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

Sunday, January 31, 2021

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)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

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)

Friday, January 29, 2021

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)

Thursday, January 28, 2021

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)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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)

Monday, January 25, 2021

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)

Sunday, January 24, 2021

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)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

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)

Friday, January 22, 2021

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)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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)