Thursday, 23 April 2015

Easter Monday Pilgrimage: Namugongo (Part 1)

Uganda is such a beautiful country with a beautiful history of the beginning of the Catholic Church. It is a country from which the natives easily embraced Christianity. They consecrated and dedicated their lives to discipleship; to following of the Christ. Easter Monday became a second opportunity for me to go and bend low in this Holy shrine, the root of the Catholic Church in my country and it was the first opportunity for some of my brothers. 

Fr. Peter Reilly guiding the group

We were being guided by Fr. Peter Reilly M.Afr. a man of wide experience in Uganda. Their story animates our own story as Christians walking the same way of faith and as disciples responding to God’s question; whom shall I send? What touched me from Peter’s sharing about the Uganda Martyrs was their way of life, it was a journey that made their Catholic faith a story of wonder in history; the way they lived is what matters, death was simply the consequence of that way of living. The second important thing significant of the martyrs is that each and every martyr had a choice: they were free to choose to live by denouncing their faith. Humanly speaking, many of us would choose to live for fear of death.

This story of the martyrs seems to be mysterious. However, we are also capable of emulating this by our way of life and by making quality choices in the pilgrim journey. Namugongo thus has become a holy ground for the church in Uganda and many are inspired by this place. At Namugongo spot, Caroli Lwanga and 13 others were murdered. He was the leader of this group. He was taken apart in order to breakdown the moral of the others. The other 9 were killed in Mityana and around Kampala. In memory of their blood, a basilica has been built with 22 poles each representing one of the martyrs. We also had the opportunity to look at the altar which is right at the Centre, tradition has it that it was the spot where Caroli Lwanga was killed. So far 2 Popes have visited this country, Paul VI and St. Pope John Paul II in 1969 and 1993 respectively.

When the first missionaries arrived in Uganda, they found that God was already ahead of them. “It will be wrong to think that Lourdel brought God to Uganda; it was God who brought Lourdel to Uganda such that when Mapeera started to preach, he found the word of God already existing in the hearts of Ugandans. They had words such as Kubanga, Katonda, Ruhanga”, said Fr. Peter. This reflected divine reality. They only turned the Old Testament in the hearts of our ancestors into the New Testament of love, they taught them to call God, Father’. These united them to the point of death. In this Easter season and throughout our lives, may we live by the example of the Uganda Martyrs by our way of life and by the daily choices we make. May whatever we do be guided by God’s will. It was such an enriching experience!

Longoli Michael


Monday, 20 April 2015

The Spirit of Intention

What do you intend to do in the next 5 years, 5 months, 5 days, 5 hours or 5 minutes be it a life career or vocation, a one day task of even some kind of leisure activity? It’s easy provided one has the intellectual, physical and skill capacity to achieve anything one desires. From life experience, it requires something a little more than that so as to finally reach a goal for your life’s fulfillment. It calls for the Spirit of Intention to achieve fulfillment which is beyond contentment. Many people today do things that help them achieve what they desire and live contentment than fulfillment. In fulfillment, one discovers constant growth both spiritual and intellectual which are often kept away by contentment. So ask yourelf, is what am doing today in the here and now bringing fulfillment or its easy for me to say, “Am not complaining therefore it’s okay”. The choice is yours.

I would like to draw this in the line of my 3 years of formation with the Missionaries of Africa. A great and memorable period of time though with growth-filled challenges. This first phase being for Social and Philosophical Studies, it also included other dimensions such as pastoral work, spiritual nourishment, and the human development dimensions. All these actualized in different day to day activities like community and individual prayer, sports, manual work, visiting different people in their social setups, recreation, cooking and dish washing.

To the crux of the matter, it’s easy to run through all these activities as chronologically designed by our fore-fathers without acquiring the intention of each small activity since one is more focused on the destination. Often times before I take up a simple task, I imprint in my subconscious why I want to do it. This is by asking myself the question “why take it up, and if you don’t, who will, how will I be affected and the people around me?” In this case, I am seeking the spirit of why I intend to do that I going to do.  This yields to greater creativity and growth in passion for what I want to accomplish. Just as a believer, I know that Faith and Hope in God and Charity to my brethren will bring  me salvation, what would picking up a littered piece of paper, cleaning a dish, dancing and singing with children, visiting the prison, slums and vulnerable children’s homes  (add your task) bring me and the people am reaching-out to? Or is it my responsibility done with no passion but due to routine and what other people will say?

This anyway may not need or does not need others’ remarks about what you do. Just do it as St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 16:14, “let everything you do be done in love” (NJB). This will add a gram to your talents, skills and abilities. As Martin Luther Jr. said, “after you have discovered your calling, do or live it as if God called you at this particular moment in  history to do or live it” (ref: The Measure of a man). This all requires one to be ‘in’ wholesomely to what is regarded as a responsibility in a career, vocation or task in order to live one’s desired dream.

“God does not want our deeds but the Spirit that prompts them” 
St. Theresa of Avila.

Let’s serve Humanity in good willed Spirit. God bless.

Walimbwa Teddy Richard

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Beauty of Pain

Pain is something anybody has never desired to have at any moment of life. Yes, even when we cause it for ourselves still we don’t want it our way.

But then, pain is another thing that will always be part of life, it can never be completely out of the body. It can surely reduce or increase but not free from it.

Pain is not tangible (physical) but also not emotional yet we can physically or emotionally express it. Some people express pain with a big concern of silence, some with bitterness and truly, others don’t give it room but inwardly respond to it. Pain once present must in one way or the other be responded /attended to because of the much or little by little discomfort it brings about.

The beauty of pain is not the intense enormous care I get when my pain is a question of self­helplessness. No, not even the concern of the general public who come around with different messages that approach sympathy and consolation. In fact it’s the ugliness of pain when I look someone doing for me something that even an eight year old sharp can offer him/herself; bathing me, just always bringing for me food, washing for me everything, myself crying time over and again etc! I can say they indeed happen but if they don’t make me sicker, reminding me always how helpless I am! Then they give me a psyche click or check.

The beauty of pain is when I sit back with my pain in an open and quiet environment: left in solitude for an hour or plus: on bed alone in a room for a couple of sleepless hours. When only the melodies of nature seem talking to me. Personally lost in my on and off thoughts. Seeming helpless but much helped. Taking myself in a process of transition to this my new identity. At this moment I feel free and contented with what is around me and if anyone comes to my sight I won’t ask for any help. When slowly I dislike but gently love the time­loneliness. A time when I bear a free and fair face, not happy but not really sad/worried.

It’s at this moment that the beauty of pain is felt. When I realize my “aloneness” at the time of my creation. Sure, my uniqueness is now portrayed, proving how I can never be another person but “me, myself alone!” Glancing at people doing what I best did before I was relaxed from most of them. This gives me an answer to how everyone is a gift to me and how I too am a gift them and to nature, how complementary human beings we created and intended to be. When I realize I am carrying a unique cross from others around me, it is simply because we may suffer from the same disease but we can never have the same pain. The level of perceivity and feeling of this pain varies from person to person. This is the first gift of my pain that I can only welcome and have to then realize the beauty of pain.

I felt much disciplined with my injury (fracture) of the completely broken fibula bone whenever I starred in memory at the times I fell down back to almost the first pain, just because I was sometimes trying to go on alone. My transition could physically come after a fall e.g. on emergency POP, final POP, wheelchair and Oh my God! The first time on clutches, they had to put me down! This was in order to stand up and go on, on them. For every new stage I fell so as to stand up automatically changed and transformed to that level/stage.

The days after the 2nd X­ray, which happened after removing the cast (POP), were of limited physical joy and much internal tension. I had a meditative journey to Rubaga hospital­ Kampala! I then went out of myself when the doctors’ discussions surrounded on an operation. This made me inquisitive to everyone and everything around me even God! On the ground of operation, we were referred to CorSU Hospital­Kisubi, I had a contemplative journey to kisubi, heart beats increased on reaching the hospital, but I was touched by the sicker people than me that I found. I asked, “God! Why me and now?” But consoled myself saying, “God, may your will be done.” My greatest fear was when I was called to the operation room, and asked to climb the operation­ bed. I saw the doctor as my god of that time; I was lost in thoughts and scared of every doctor’s touch on me. My company in all this time was Fr Hans, he read the signs of the time and called me, “Jean Marie! Calm down, open yourself to anything” “I am with you and God is right here.” No doubt, this turned me greatly to the present then. Surely! I could not believe when the doctor said ok, “come down” he instructed Fr Hans in my presence on what to do and hoped to hear from us after 2 weeks. Surprisingly, from that very day, I started putting down the clutches one by one until I walked without any! To Be The Glory!

It’s only at this time of selfless pain that I realize big that I had and still have a mission in Life. When I feel limited in performing what I used, should and hoped to do within a given range of time, in mind I hypothesize an obstructed mission that I had right from the word “go” of my creation. This selfless pain gratefully tells me again how everyone is a gift to me, how pain is not only bad but also good. Pain will either quickly or slowly, peacefully or forcefully teach you and me a lesson, or give a kind of discipline you never imagined of. Ha­ha! “Pain is a bad company but an extremely good and experienced teacher who is always available wanted or not.”

Looking at St. Ignatius of Loyola, one time after being shoot in a war, upon recovering he said, “It was after losing my leg that I got my leg.” Encouraging to me! With this in reflection, I feel the secret in “pain” is “preparation” for a more meaningful happiness. We lose our full ability for a time so as to gain “Complete” life ability for our abilities. Thus, pain is not pain as such but a preparation. Indeed, after happiness we find pain but again after pain, we find happiness. I feel I have finished the first part of my mission that only God the cause and reason of the then me, can affirm whether I successfully lived it as I hope or not for the past twenty years.

I now feel in this my new­ state, He (God) is preparing me for the next mission that He wisely thought that I must undergo all this in order to fully know, carry on, enjoy and purposefully live well equipped for it, though it’s a day to day mission that may seem obscure. The uniqueness of the preparation (pain) conforms how unique and special you and I are, both of us totally different and with uniquely very great and important but complementary individual missions to accomplish in life.

Indeed I am so grateful to my formators, brothers, parents and friends who have always been and still are altruistic and serene to my subtle moment, giving me company; I really feel after all their efforts to make me feel at home and sure I have not yet at any moment felt abandoned in this prevailing situation. God! Bless them all. Bless the Society of the White Fathers. To God be the Glory, May His Will Be Done. Amen! Amen!

Jean Marie Bamutaze

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Spiritual-Existential Intelligence

As Stephen Covey says, “spiritual/existential intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others”.

In this sense, I could say that the development of this intelligence is the main purpose of our formation program at Lavigerie House. But now, in practical terms, how are we trying to actualize the spiritual/existential intelligence?

First of all, in developing our capacity of self-awareness, we are invited to know what we believe and value in life. We are invited to express/articulate our motivations. What does move me/us to be here? Every semester we engage in personal and communal evaluations. We are also guided by a community project from the beginning of the year. Each student is accompanied by a spiritual director, a chaplain, and by his community-mates.

Another very important element in the actualization of the spiritual/existential intelligence is the development of a quality of presence to oneself and one another, to be mindful, to live first and foremost in the here and now. For that, we have half an hour of personal meditation in our Chapel every day. The visibility of our intention is very relevant. We also meet daily for Laudes, Vespers and the Eucharist. Each week, we have three occasions to explore different ways of meditation and prayer. For example, on Monday mornings, we were exposed to the following ways of meditation: Ignatian imagination, Taize meditation, meditation in nature, body/earth awareness, drumming and dancing meditation, breathing meditation, the “tired man” meditation, etc... On Many Thursdays, we have praise and worship prayers where we express through dancing and singing our joy in following Jesus Christ. Finally on Sundays, each team is invited to present the theme of the week in any creative way.

Another dimension of spiritual/existential intelligence is called holism. Recently we began exploring how we are actualizing different intelligences in our formation program, and how different dimensions of our formation are interconnected. The goal is to develop a capacity of seeing in larger patterns. We are also exploring different community dynamics, like team encounters, monthly students meetings, personal group initiatives of different groups in the house (per year, per nationality...). The goal is to strengthen the quality of relationships, as we develop a sense of belonging and identity in being a Missionary of Africa.

Our purpose of being here is to grow in compassion towards ourselves, to one another and to the whole world. We sense our interconnectedness with the whole creation. For that purpose our program provides several occasions during the year where one can experience in faith God’s compassion. Indeed compassion is intelligent. 

Part of the spiritual/existential intelligence is the celebration of diversity. We come from 20 different ethnical backgrounds and 7 nationalities. We live together in spite of all our differences as we focus our attention to what bring us together: our love in Jesus Christ. Thus, we create one culture; a culture in Christ where our diversity becomes a gift and source of amazement. We have our monthly socio-cultural evenings as well as an inter-congregational cultural gathering at the Philosophy centre.

Another dimension in our formation program is the development of the capacity of being critical; standing out against the crowd to have one’s own convictions. The studies in Philosophy and Social Sciences help the students to develop a critical mind. In that sense, the students develop the tendency of asking fundamental “why?” questions. Through courses like Critical Thinking and Conflict Transformation, they are invited to understand things in depth, searching for root causes.

A fundamental quality of spiritual intelligence is a sense of humility: being aware of one’s true place in the world. Our living together challenges constantly our sense of humility.

In line with visual-spatial intelligence, spiritual/existential intelligence tries to stand back from any given situation so as to see the bigger picture. Our monthly recollections and yearly retreats are quite helpful in the vocational discernment process of our students. In our daily meditations, we develop the capacity to look at ourselves and the world through God’s eyes.

Life is difficult, thus spiritual/existential intelligence allows us to learn and grow from mistakes, setbacks, and suffering. We learn to forgive and to start afresh.

Finally, the main purpose of our being here is to discern God’s call for each one of us in our lives. A sense of vocation is the cornerstone of a life that is taken, blessed, broken and given. These four movements of our Christian intelligence is a transformative one. Formation that is not transformation is deformation.

Yago Abeledo, M.Afr.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Easter Vigil

Christ yesterday, today, beginning, and the end. His are the times and the ages alleluia.

On the earth we live as part of the church militant. We cannot wage a war without weaponry or an objective. The weapon is Christ alive in the most perfect unity between us. The objective is, “So that we may all be one.” (Chiara Lubich) 

I am so great full that the mother church has embraced us with the feast of Easter vigil mass. In accord with the ancient tradition, this night is one of vigil for the Lord, when he brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. So on this night all Israelites must keep the vigil for the lord through generations (Ex .12:42) “Blessed are those servants whose master find vigilant on his arrival. (Lk, 12:35). This is a reminder for the faithful to have their lumps burning ready, to be like men awaiting their master’s return so that when he alives he will find them wide awake and seat with them at his table.

The night vigil is arranged in four parts which include, service of light, liturgy of the word that the church meditates on all the wonderful beauty of creation God has put on earth from the beginning. We also have the liturgy of baptism. The resurrected Lord is the sign for the members of the church to be reborn in baptism. All Christians renew their baptismal promises. The last part is the liturgy of the Eucharist; the entire church is invited to the banquet of the Lord as the witnesses of the paschal mystery. The celebration of the Eater vigil starts at night. According to the church tradition, it should not begin before the night falls and should end before the day break on Sunday (Roman missal)

As Lavigerie community in Jinja, this is how we celebrated our Easter vigil. We started our mass late in the evening with the preparation and blessing of a conflagration that was set a distance from the chapel. The Easter candle was blessed along with other candles. We started our procession to the recreation room where the Exsultet was recited. We had the first reading which was accompanied by the power point making us feel the reality of creation. We continued with the procession with the accompaniment of more readings from (Gen, 22:1-18), (Ex, 14:15-15:1), (Is, 54:5-14), (Bar, 3:9-15, 32:4:4). After the last reading from the Old Testament with the responsorial prayer, we entered chapel. The lights and alter candles were lit, and Father Gaetan who was the main celebrant intoned the Gloria that was taken up by the whole congregation. The last two readings were taken from the New Testament one from the book of Romans (6:3-11) and the gospel, “why look among the dead for someone who is alive.”(Mark 16:1-8)

The main celebrant’s homily was so moving that it left Christians in a thick smoke confusion to reflect more about their relationship with the risen Christ. He posed a question that, “Why are you a Christian?” Many answers were presented from Christians; these are some of the answers which were presented. One said I am a Christian because Jesus suffered, died and resurrected because of my sins. Another Christian responded that I want to be a disciple of Christ. In his homily, the preacher challenged the congregation saying that most of us are not strong in our journey of faith. “Where do you draw water when your well gets dry?” He called upon the entire community to always dig deep and surrender our lives to God when our wells get dry.  The main celebrant had prepared letters to the entire Christians, the later I received said, "Hello Collines, am happy again to talk to you, you are my beloved, I trust in you. I came so that you may have life and life to the fullness. You are the light of the world, don’t be afraid to shine. Shine my compassion. Remember, you are precious to me. Yours, Jesus."  The Easter vigil it is a reminder of the final victory of life over death; it also reminds us that we are the beloved, that we are called to have life to the fulness, that we are invited to be the light of the world. In order to experience the victory of Easter we need to befriend a journey of rejection, suffering and death as Jesus did, for any Christian who is serious about following Christ must be prepared to walk the same path with the risen Lord.

The mass finally ended sound and all Christian communities were invited for the simple meal which was prepared for us all as the sign of the togetherness to celebrate the joy of the risen Lord. Later all visitors departed. It’s my prayer that the good Lord protects us from all evil and continues blessing our renewed baptism promises.

Kananura Collines