Tag Archives: freedom
The signs of the times cannot simply be material events or objective happenings. Such things, of themselves, do not indicate anything. They prompt a suspicion that things are brewing, it does not take very much to be aware of that. Sadly that is where most people stop. Whereas the real signs are human actions, human responses to challenges posed by these events. Only people can create realities pointing somewhere, through their words, gestures and actions. The “signs of the times” are these gestures which allow the Lord to be present. There will always be a connection between events and signs. St. Paul’s journeys depended on the existence of sea-routes, and the communications system established by the Roman Empire. But a study of these phenomena would not suffice to help us understand what was going on. Only people can be signs. Anthony in the Desert, Benedict, Francis, Gandhi, Martin Luther King… were all signs who were intimately involved with what was going on in their own world. Their sign value lay in the pathways they opened up for the Gospel life to move through them, relevantly, into the world.
If we are simply looking for new ways to win people to the church, all we need do is take note of modern resources on offer. Make use of the variety of ideologies at our disposal. But our task is different. A new Church demands freedom from the accretions and accumulations of time. We need to sweep away whatever makes the Word inaccessible. Just as individuals need to be set free from their past, so too do Institutions which are made up of individuals. We will only realise the need for change when we discover people who are not being reached. Recognising the signs of the times means risking letting go of much of the past. If Jesus had taken all the Jewish traditions on board he would have made many more converts, but nothing would have changed and the truth would have remained “safely” locked up.
Mission is not something extraordinary, it does not require the presence of genius; simply ordinary folk prepared to do ordinary things, extraordinarily well. When we rely over much on system and method we end up transmitting ideology, religion or culture, rather than access to Jesus Christ
Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris1 emphasized that relationships between nations must be based on the same values that guide those of communities and individuals: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom. Catholic social teaching stresses that peace is not simply the absence of war, but is based on the dignity of the person, thus requiring a political order based on justice and charity. The right of conscientious objection is affirmed when civil authorities mandate actions which are contrary to the fundamental rights of the person and the teachings of the Gospel.
But Vatican II also emphasized the crucial role of the laity in the Church, and these past fifty years have seen a growth and flourishing of lay leadership all around the world. Many Catholics are eager to learn more about their faith, but not all parishes offer opportunities to do so. Therefore, lay Catholics need to evangelize their priests and parishes in social justice terms as well as the other way around. Catholics don’t need to wait for the go-ahead from their pastors to engage in works of peace and social justice. That way, the Church’s social teachings won’t be a secret any more.
To the majority of people in the world, Jesus is an honoured historical figure who was the founder of Christianity—but that is about as far as it goes. Many have no idea that his most wonderful life had an unsurpassed effect on the history of humankind. In fact, without the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, life on planet earth would be incomprehensibly different from what it is today.
1The Vatican website publishes Pacem in Terris at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-xxiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_j-xxiii_enc_11041963_pacem.html
Brother Givemore Mazhanje is a young Franciscan in Zimbabwe. There is a freshness in his writing which I hope you enjoy. The post is about when he attended
A WORKSHOP ON FAITHFUL VOCATIONS
Mr and Mrs Musiyiwa from St Francis of Assisi Parish, Waterfalls in Harare, were the facilitators.
Firstly, they took us through reflections on our life as religious men of today, including: what is the significant contribution of my vocation to people in the Church and in society? Is my choice of vocation an informed decision? Does my vocation have a foundation in God?
One’s choice of vocation gives life to the individual and humanity only if it has God as its source of being. God is the source and summit of each and everyone’s calling. All vocations are nurtured by Him. On the other hand, it is of paramount significance that each person should cultivate some crucial values and virtues; including endurance, flexibility, dedication, commitment, truthfulness, humility, trust and self-control.
Akin to these, is the establishment of personal boundaries that a person to protect oneself and remain focused. Boundaries can be emotional, physical, psychological and material. Above all these practices, a vocation is nourished with prayer. Without prayer, religious life can be fruitless and meaningless.
Several challenges affect faithful vocations: identity crisis, health, personal doubts, the balance between prayer, study and work, family demands, cultural diversity and economic crisis among others.
Identity crisis is a question of knowing oneself. It is a challenge in religious life if one does not really know who he or she is. Yet knowing oneself requires introspection and acceptance; failure to do such, one may remain in confusion.
Another challenge is the balance between prayer, study and work. All these three are to be given suitable space and time, considering their vital roles in the life of a religious. The challenge arises when one aspect is given more time at the expense of the other. For example, it is not healthy when more time is given to study while prayer and work are suppressed; or more time is given to prayer without studying and working. What is needed is a balanced undertaking of one’s prayer life, time for work and studies.
Secondly, a religious ought to make peace with one’s past and the present so as to build a better foundation for the future. Not only that but also to attend workshops where challenges are shared and discussed so as to gain skills of conducting oneself. Reflections, recollections and retreats are also of great importance. The workshop helped us to know the foundations and importance of a vocation and how to nurture a faithful, meaningful and life-giving vocation.
Let us pray that Givemore and his fellow novices may persevere in their vocations and find the Franciscan way life-giving.
S. Anthony said that a man who knew he was praying was not praying. He meant that what was spontaneous and natural was most real; what was most studied and most conscious tended to lack reality.
Often I have heard people say they could pray to God while they were walking about and doing their chores, but that as soon as they knelt down they were plagued with distracting thoughts. The truth about that is that they prayed best when they were least conscious of themselves.
from The Life and letters of Fr Andrew, London, Mowbray, 1948, p210.
Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta
Saint Francis said: “Give ear, my brothers: brother wolf, who standeth here before ye, hath promised me and plighted troth to make his peace with you, and to offend no more in any thing; and do ye promise him to give him every day whate’er he needs: and I am made his surety unto you that he will keep this pact of peace right steadfastly.”
Then promised all the folk with one accord to give him food abidingly. Then quoth Saint Francis to the wolf before them all: “ And thou, brother wolf, dost thou make promise to keep firm this pact of peace, that thou ofFend not man nor beast nor any creature?” And the wolf knelt him down and bowed his head : and with gentle movements of body, tail, and eyes, gave sign as best he could that he would keep their pact entire.
Quoth Saint Francis: “Brother wolf, I wish that as thou hast pledged me thy faith to this promise without the gate, even so shouldest thou pledge me thy faith to thy promise before all the people, and that thou play me not false for my promise, and the surety that I have given for thee.” Then the wolf lifting up his right paw, laid it in the hand of Saint Francis.
Therewith, this act, and the others set forth above, wrought such great joy and marvel in all the people, both through devotion to the saint, and through the newness of the miracle, and through the peace with the wolf, that all began to lift up their voices unto heaven praising and blessing God, that had sent Saint Francis unto them, who by his merits had set them free from the jaws of the cruel beast. And thereafter this same wolf lived two years in Agobio; and went like a tame beast in and out the houses, from door to door, without doing hurt to any or any doing hurt to him, and was courteously nourished by the people; and as he passed thuswise through the country and the houses, never did any dog bark behind him.
At length, after a two years’ space, brother wolf died of old age: whereat the townsfolk sorely
grieved, sith marking him pass so gently through the city, they minded them the better of the
virtue and the sanctity of Saint Francis.
When Father Simon Denton OFMCap had a Jubilee one year, Maurice’s brother Christopher made a cake with the wolf of Gubbio in icing. Basil, the family dog, modelled for the wolf. Much better looking than a mangy old wolf. And never a terrorist!
Alfred Noble, inventor of dynamite, hoped his high explosives would make an end of war sooner than international peace congresses. Mutually Assured Destruction as a deterrent has turned out to be MAD indeed. Nobel himself died, a lonely man, in his Italian Villa, ‘Mio Nido’, My Nest. But he left his prizes.
In 1955 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for what is a practical work of peace. Here are a few excerpts from the acceptance speech of the High Commissioner, Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart.
“Der Mensch braucht ein Plätzchen
Und wär’s noch so klein
Von dem er kann sagen
Sieh’ hier dast ist mein
Hier lebe ich hier liebe ich
Hier ruhe ich aus
Hier ist meine Heimat
Hier bin ich zu Haus”.
(A man needs a little place, small as it may be, of which he can say: “This is mine. Here I live, here I love, here I find my rest. This is my fatherland, this is my home!”)
“The essence of the refugee problem is very, very simple. It is: to find ‘ein Plätzchen,’ to find a ‘Mio Nido’ for people who for reasons of persecution have been obliged to leave their native country and who have therefore become ‘uprooted’ and homeless.”
The refugee problem has nothing to do with charity. It is not the problem of people to be pitied but far more the problem of people to be admired. It is the problem of people who somewhere, somehow, sometime had the courage to give up the feeling of belonging, which they possessed, rather than abandon the human freedom which they valued more highly … And the refugee can solve his problem only by striking new roots.
Many years ago I participated in a discussion on the problem of international education. After many experts had presented their complicated theories, an old headmaster of a certain school got up and quietly said: “There is only one system of education, through love and one’s own example.” He was right. What is true for education is true also for the refugee problem of today. With love and our own example – example in the sense of sacrifice – it can be solved. And if in the cynical times in which we live someone might be inclined to laugh at “love” and “examples” as factors in politics, he would do well to be reminded of Nansen’s hardhitting, direct and courageous words, based on a life full of sacrifice and devotion: “Love of man is practical policy”.
Find the full text here.
Seventy years ago today, Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical letter Auspicia Quedam. He was writing to ask people to ask Mary’s prayers for peace in the Holy Land. We begin with his reference to the similar call to prayer he made during the Second World War.
6. It was comforting for Us in past years to appeal earnestly to all – especially to the young so dear to us – to crowd around the altar of the great Mother of God during the month of May imploring the end of a cruel war; so now, similarly today, by means of this encyclical letter, We invite you not to cease from this pious practice and further to prayers add resolutions for Christian renewal and salutary works of penance.
7. Above all, speak to the Virgin Mother of God and our most tender Mother words of most heartfelt thanks for having obtained, through her powerful intercession, the long desired termination of that great world conflagration, and also for so many other graces obtained from the Most High.
8. At the same time, implore her, with renewed prayers, that at long last there may shine forth, as a gift from Heaven, mutual, fraternal and complete peace among all nations and the longed for harmony among all social classes.
Let there be an end to dissensions that redound to no one’s advantage.
Let there be a reconciliation of disputes that often sow the seeds of further misfortunes.
Let international relations, public and private, be fittingly strengthened.
Let religion, the foster mother of all virtues, enjoy the liberty to which she is entitled.
And let men set about their peaceful work of abundant production for the common welfare – with justice their guide and charity their motive.
Not all of us feel comfortable with praying to or with the saints, and Pius’s language does not fall naturally on every ear. But we can all pray for Peace, especially in the Holy Land.
Janet and I were discussing matters theological over dinner. What is communal living, like L’Arche, about? I recalled the suffering manifest in some core members from the early days of the community, people who had left incarceration in hospitals and had to learn that they could live a life where they were valued.
From their suffering we moved to talk of the Crucifixion, where Christians have some explaining to do. It’s not difficult to imagine people concluding that a God who demanded the sacrifice of animals, let alone human beings is a cruel god, not a loving shepherd. Janet shared how the Franciscan Richard Rohr takes sacrifice, building on the work of his confrere, John Duns Scotus, in this reflection from his website: Atonement not atonement .
Well worth reading during Lent. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God, as Friar Richard says, not the other way about.
Saint Josephine Bakhita
Saint Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 where she was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child. She was a modern slave: in servitude despite laws forbidding it. After changing hands many times, she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where slavery was indeed illegal, but it was only through the help of some sisters, the Canossian Daughters of Charity, that she gained her freedom from his family. She learned about God from the sisters and entered the congregation where she lived a life of love and service until her death in 1947.
Josephine Bakhita was canonised by John Paul II on October 1, 2000. He spoke of Josephine Bakhita as ‘a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights’.
Let us pray for all people caught up in modern slavery and those working to release them, often in grave personal danger to themselves.
You may also like to return to the Littlehampton Sisters’ reflection from last year.