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01/10/2010: Angola


MaristAngolan Marist Brothers schools are auxiliary centres of Evangelization. Those who had a chance to visit Angola, in Africa must have been struck to works of the Marist Brothers in the schools. The key word is EVANGELIZATION. The Motto of Homa Bay Diocese along the Lake Victoria to the border with Tanzania is, “ Arise and Evangelize!” The students too must arise and evangelize. I said to myself, evangelization is needed in all the dioceses in the world and it is not a monopoly of a special group in the church. There are no passive participants in evangelization. Others like apostles of old may say, “ we found others who are not belonging to us a specialized group doing our works and we stopped them.” Jesus will rebuke this attitude because evangelization comes after Baptism. In Luke Jesus sent both apostles and disciples, the Twelve and the seventy two to preach. The recent synod says, “ Every Christian, man or woman, priest or not, should get involved in the process of evangelization.” This was new to our students in Angola when Brother Norbert Mwila, the master of novices told them. Look the way they were looking at him, with attention. The pioneer Brothers in Angola came from Brazil and today you see them ministering numerous youth in Luanda, Kwito and Ndalatando realizing the very words of Jesus that the harvest is great but the labourers are few, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers. You too are being invited to arise and evangelize. Grow into good Christians and good citizens of Angola by turning your country into a paradise on earth. How will this come about since your are like young? The Holy Spirit will overshadow and empower you with his fruits and gifts to make it possible for you to be successful. Be witnesses of Christ everywhere you go and are. Living what you proclaim is the secret.When you assembled at Dos coquerios stadium, the Pope told you this, “ Take courage! Dare to make definitive decisions because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life. The power to shape the future is within you. My young friends, you hold within yourselves the power to shape the future. You are the seeds God has planted the future in.” Some of them had doubts and said, “ Yes! But when will this happen?” At God’s own appropriate time because does not abandon his people.Yes, our students of Angola, Champagnat was known for courage in starting our teaching congregation to minister to the youth in general but especially those most neglected in the rural areas. Today you are among the beneficiaries of that courage. He faced difficulties from an anti-clerical regime of France with courage because he believed in Providence. He had courage to face the Crown Prosecutor who thought the Hermitage was keeping arms to overthrow the revolutionary government. He had courage in not allowing the Little Brothers of Mary merge with the Society of the Cross of Jesus of Bochard. He had courage to close the school temporarily at Marlhes when his Parish Priest refused to cooperate in repairing the accommodation places for the brothers and the students. He had courage in allowing the Brothers to put on cassocks even when the political scene was not favourable to the church. He had courage to change the stockings of the brothers even when some became non-conformists. He had courage to ask them to experiment the new method of teaching students how to read despite the opposition from the non-conformist. Imagine he made the altar of Mary in the chapel, put burning candles there around the statue and asked all the children of Mary to be near their mother. Majority of the children of Mary and stood beside their mother except tow who chose to be indifferent. The books says the two non-conformists were excellent teachers and the pupils, the parents of pupils and their confreres applauded their skill in teaching. Pride can kill humility in us. Champagnat discovered that he had pride, and took a resolution to destroy. He succeeded because he was determined. Humility is today our Marist virtue, a Marial virtue. Mary was the lowly handmaid of the Lord. The humble will be raised up but the pride sent away empty. And Jesus was humility par excellence. He was born in a poor place , a manger and died as a criminal by hanging on the cross. But he defeated death by rising from the dead on the third day. Mary and Jesus were never separated from each other. The best gift Jesus gave to the beloved disciple, John was Mary. The church without a tender love of a mother is heading for competition of power, “ Who is the greatest?” This gives meaning as to why the late Pope John Paul II told all the Marists to show the Marian face of the Church, a feminine face of the church to complement the authoritative , disciplinarian , patristic and masculine face of the church marked by Paternalism. “In this church is seen as a struggle for human power, the power theatre of those who, by their observations, wants to absolutize official Christianity and paralylize the true spirit of Christianity.” A quotation from the 1970 theologian called Ratzinger, our present Pope. A Marian face of the church is place like a common well where people congregate to drink, a palce of meeting, sharing, sitting down, feeling at home: adults, women, men, children, the elderly, the maimed, the physically challenged, the psychologically challenged, the mentally challenged just to add some thoughts from Pope John XXIII.A church where all are Brothers and Sisters with diverse charisms ready to Announce the Good News to the poor. A Marian church believes in finding answers to problems that we encounter daily together. The Marian face of the church is the synod, we means Vamos caminhar juntos” let us walk together as a family where competition does not count but collaboration, sharing and solidarity. Check our Marist chapter documents and see how many times the word SOLIDARITY appears in it . a family should rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Mary is with the church as a mother. A church that sideline women in evangelization is betraying the Marial face of the church which complements masculine face of the church. Many children in Africa feel free to dialogue with the mother. A father in general is known as a no nonsense figure where his word is the last word. He is a distant figure who commands obedience and knows all the answers. Brothers although they are men like anybody else, give a different image of the masculine church, the feminine face and Mary is the model in the face. Mary the woman of Nazareth is reflected in our approach of auxiliary evangelization in the schools, hidden and unknown, doing good quietly. A Marist does not say “ I am here for you but I am here with you.” “For” advocates paternalism while” with” promotes maternalism. We need the father and mother image of the church. Everywhere we hear promotion of women rights. In the 27 years civil war of Angola, women suffered like Rachael mourning for the only child. All the world wars which invaded the Christian Europe, from 1914 to 1918 and again 1939 to 1945 were initiated by men, repeating the men question of James and John, “ Who is the greatest?” Jesus who serves others by washing their feet is the greatest. The one who stays in prison for 27 years in prison like Mandela with the hope of creating a raceless society is the greatest, where all are Brothers and Sisters, can consult one another, where everybody feels at home and his contribution accepted. Where everybody’s idea is important in bringing about change of hearts and minds. In this image respect and dialogue have space. Contact and dialogue has space. That is what Marist evangelization is all about. United we stand, divided we fall is our motto in the Marian face of the church.Some of you may say he was a dictator. But to tell the truth and shame the devil, he was never a dictator. He believed in the value of consultations. He used to consult God in prayer. He had childlike confidence in Mary, as God Mother who will never abandon the work of her Son. He consulted Father Gardette, the Rector of the Seminary at Lyon, he consulted the Vicar General Courbon, Father Durand, Father Duplay, bursar and professor at the seminary, Father Dervieux of St. Chamond, Vicar General Barou, the Bishop De Pins. He consulted his senior brothers when making the Rule. He consulted them before allowing the nine young men who had come to ask for entrance at the Hermitage. He used to consult Jean-Louis Duplay as his confessor but hearsays led him to abandon Champagnat. He had to look for another confessor. This means we do not have all the answers. We need to listen to different voices to get the answers.On the side of definitive decision, Champagnat was number one. “ I will be a priest, no matter what happens on the way.” His real father doubted him that he would make it to priesthood but this did not make him change his mind. When we make a decision we need to make a commitment in the realization of that decision. His brother- in –law doubted his ability to make it for priesthood. This too did not make him change his decision. When he was at the Seminary at Verrieres, the rector had sucked him on academic grounds. He and his mother immediately went to St John Francis Regis tomb to ask for his intercession. Later the mother Theresa asked the intercession of Father Allirot, and he got back into the seminary. He was a man of resolutions. When he joined the happy gang through frequenting the taverns, one day he made a decision never to put his feet in the tavern any more in the future. He remained true to this resolution because he was free.Brother Christopher last year told us , “ The bird is in your hand, you can kill it or let it fly.” How will this come about? The Pope says, “ You hold within yourselves the power to shape the future.” You have still the memories and the scars of the 27 years civil wars. Some of you ar maimed and disabled by the war landmines. Each of you makes make serious decisions not to repeat this experience in your oil rich country. Transform the weapons of mass destructions that had killed your parents, relatives and friends into plough sharers of peace. Be advocates of peace even now here at school. Be your brother’s guardian and not Cain who kills his brother through xenophobia or fratricidal wars. Make Angola the pride of Africa like the Kenyan Airways motto by welcoming all and make them feel at home> Make every African a neighbor of your country. The priests and the Levite were restricted in their neighbourhood because of the law and regulations but the Samaritan by-passed the law in being a neighbor to the victim of the robbers. Build Angola with love and love all equally as St. Marcellin Champagnat always recommended to his brothers who are your teachers and evangelizers.Never entertain dances that will jeopardize your treasured moral values as Christians. Champagnat discouraged the waltz which Napoleon soldiers had learned from the German side, known at that time as morally explosive because couples could embrace tightly and move together as though one. Your beloved continent has been known for condom use as a solution to combat HIV/AIDs but take abstinence as the only sure way to win the victory over the deadly disease which has claimed your friends, relatives and parents at the prime stage of life. You have the power to make Angola HIV/AIDs free. We live in sex-saturated world and without looking at Jesus as the only reference for a chaste life, promiscuity will be the source of bodily gratification, thereby defiling the very Temple of the Holy Spirit. As good Christians refuse gay marriages at all cost, be martyrs for our times who accept to die in order to defend a chaste life. If you have to marry, marry one wife as polygamy and polyandry have no place in the Christian life. Faithfulness to one partner like an elephant is the only remedy to conquer HIV/AIDS and abstinence.Abuse of alcohol was another problem Champagnat had to deal with at La valla. When you look around you may see some of your friends or guardians who abuse alcohol. Warn your friends of the danger of abusing it as Champagnat had done at La Valla. To make sure that people did not abuse alcohol he used to suggest adding half water and half wine in a glass. Today you may laugh that it will spoil the wine but it will guard our integrity and good image.Today pornography has become a converging place are among students. Many in internet cafes search for such dirty stuff that can easily corrupt your minds and turn you into sexual addicts. Champagnat at La valla burned books that corrupted the spiritual mind of the Christians and gave them instead good books by creating a library for them though it was expensive. A disciple of Christ ought to shun anything that entices him or her into immoral behavior. Have a critical use of the media. Look at the Brothers who live a celibate life to the full for Christ and take them as your models of following the chaste par excellence Jesus. Be the champagnats of these days and you have the power to shape the future, not only for Angola but for the whole of Africa. Remember the bird is in your hand, you can kill it or let it fly.__________Brother Simeon Banda, fms, Matola, Mocambique.

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