Since the foundation of our Society, Spirituality has always taken first priority in all its chapters. The last chapter of 2016 was not an exception. It is definitely due to its value and importance in guiding our missionary and Christian identity. We are called to be men of prayer! Through personal and community prayer, spirituality takes a concrete form. I believe it is in these two aspects of spirituality that we exercise the encounter with Jesus and live a gospel inspired life.
My experience has shown that to live-out a fulfilling missionary life personal and community prayer is indispensable. While one can be introduced to prayer life from childhood, as it has been in my case, my experience on the ground, especially after my ordination (2008), has revealed that to grow in prayer life is a daily process. With time, prayer takes different shapes and particular importance. At least this has been my experience for a number of years. Prayer has been an entry to encounter and living diverse situations of joy and sadness, challenges, consolation and struggle in my own daily life.
As a result, personal and community prayer has become a ‘centre of gravity’, or the ‘capital’ of my missionary life. I have a strong feeling that prayer is what distinguishes my daily activities from other people doing similar tasks without an obligation to link it with prayer, an encounter with Jesus. Many organizations are involved in similar activities such as Justice and Peace, charitable works, environmental issues and poverty reduction to mention a few. I feel that my involvement in such activities as a missionary is nourished by encounter with Christ through and in prayer. Without prayer, I can seem to be nothing more than a social worker and put my missionary identity in crisis.
Having said this, a need to nourish spirituality is imperative. Among other means I have personally attempted is to make prayer, both personal and in community, an integral part of daily life. Respecting time for personal prayer, belief, preparing and celebrating the Eucharist, praying with others in the community, and adoration have been a trustworthy source of my daily prayer. However, the trust in the Lord as a fount of spirituality (see Is 40,31: ‘those who wait on the LORD will find new strength’) continues to be a fountain of my spiritual growth. In short, I try to make prayer an existential reality rather than wishful thinking. Other sources include developing a passion for prayer by reading biblical texts, reading spiritual reflections from various authors, encyclicals (Joy of the Gospel) and try to attribute them to my own life. Finally, sharing my spiritual reflections and convictions with others has been a source of joy for me. I have been doing this through social media and with groups with whom I am connected e.g. The ‘Focolare Movement’ and ‘FAZENDA Rehabilitation group’ among others. Such sharing has been to me to a kind of pastoral ministry whereby we nourish each other spiritually while strengthening our friendship. In short it has been a source of great joy.
Hence, I believe that to subscribe to both personal and community prayer can only be a long-term asset for a joyful missionary life. I hardly imagine a fulfilling spirituality which takes personal and community prayer as optional. The world offers all kinds of spirituality but I would consider the one, which calls us to be ‘men of prayer’, as the apex. Our daily activities would not make any difference without prayer as its driving force. I see my spirituality without personal and community prayer being dry. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that it is not always easy for me to pray; however, I remain convinced that it is worth it for a fulfilling missionary life. As a result, persistence and perseverance in prayer (Lk 18,1-8, the parable of the unjust judge) has and will certainly bear fruit, especially during the moments of fatigue.
John Itaru, M.Afr.