As Qohelet says: There is a time for everything under heaven. We have gone through a time of preparation for the jubilee of our missionary institutes. We have had some beautiful celebrations. Now the time has come for apostolic action. It is the time for the commitments that our missionary institutes are embarking upon, as a follow-up of our Jubilee celebrations, to be realised. Such commitments have two major characteristics. They are inspired and motivated by our charism and they are intended as a response to appeals and challenges coming especially from Africa.
I single out three such commitments. The first one is at the level of “our common home” as Pope Francis likes to call our world. It is an ambitious project of the whole Church, spread over seven years and meant to foster an integral ecology. Here we work with many other congregations and local Churches, with people of good will, all taking part in the campaign “Laudato sí in action”. Andreas and the General Council shared about it.
The second is about to be realised as the first White Sisters and the first confreres have started to move. It is the project that our institutes chose to mark our jubilee in a meaningful apostolic way. It is a project of the two institutes together. It is about being on the margins, among refugees in the north of Uganda.
The third project, specific to each of our two institutes, concerns the further appropriation of the charism that Cardinal Lavigerie bequeathed to us.
During the Plenary Council, last November, in Kampala, Brother Reginald, a Xaverian brother, made a brilliant presentation on charism. At the end he left us with four questions. The first is about spirituality. What are the different spiritualities, he asked, behind Cardinal Lavigerie’s spiritual intuitions? The second refers to personal dispositions. Reginald put it this way: According to Cardinal Lavigerie, what should the dispositions be of those who want to follow Christ as Missionaries of Africa? The third is about our identity, about who we are in front of Jesus, our one and only love. And the last one is about the practical consequences of the two previous questions: how does a M.Afr. organise his daily life, what is his lifestyle?
As we celebrate Cardinal’s Day, let us recollect ourselves before one or the other of these questions. It is true that our mission is a bit special. We are here either to study and likely to prepare ourselves for a new task, or we are here for helping with the general administration of our institutes. All the same, all of us we are engaged in mission.
Let us recall what our founder wanted our identity to be as missionaries and apostles. The question is not the one Jesus put to Peter when he asked him “who am I for you”, but “who am I for Jesus? Who am I in front of Jesus?” Starting out from there, we may then like to see with which inner dispositions, in which spirit, we are to assume the tasks and responsibilities which are ours today.
The Gospel of this celebration helps us to recall who we are for Christ and the first reading reminds us of the apostolic ideal of Saint Paul, an ideal our Founder Cardinal Lavigerie reminded us of so often and which he himself lived by so generously. Let us ask him to obtain this grace for us.