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Dear Sisters, Dear Brothers,
n initiative by the Marist Brothers invites both the laity and religious to reflect on the struggles and battles of the people of a particular continent. I’d like to take up that idea and invite you all, in this Year of Grace, to pray to our Saints for the Continent of The Americas. As Arnold Janssen’s family we are called to go beyond the limits of our own frontiers and to pray with those in need, full of dreams and concrete hopes, despite grave problems, persecutions and even martyrdom! The Word of God invites us to meditate profoundly during this Advent season, full of hope for all. Although these reflections originated in Latin America, the concerns expressed herein are relevant to our local realities and to the common worries shared by our world. When we pray alongside our sisters, confreres and friends, we ask the Lord to sensitize our hearts to the injustices suffered by the poor and marginalized, and to the root causes of such injustices, that we may take up the call to solidarity.
The method of the 10 Advent reflections presented in this pamphlet is simple. The reflection for each day begins with a reading from the Word of God, followed by communal prayer. Next, we hear a brief Word from one of our Saints, followed by a Word of wisdom from daily life in dialogue with our religious-missionary heritage. The reflection concludes with an Advent prayer. You are encouraged to add other elements, especially hymns, questions and symbols in harmony with the focus of each day’s reflection. The elements presented here are intended as a basic guide, not a full program. It is your own creative effort, guided by the Holy Spirit that will bring these reflections to fruition. I would like to thank the Marist Brothers for providing some of the texts and prayers, as well as those who helped with the translation, layout and distribution of this reflections.
This Christmas, I pray that each and every one of you may experience the Presence, Power and Light of Jesus, born in a stable. May He sustain us in our common battle against the power of darkness, a darkness that destroys the life of the poor. Advent is an appropriate time to implore the Lord to extend the horizons of our hearts, and to fulfill some of our deepest hopes and dreams.
United in solidarity with the poorest among us.
Michael Heinz SVD
O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. (Isa 64:7)
I love you, LORD, my strength,
LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,
My God, my rock of refuge, my shield,
my saving horn, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim!
I have been delivered from my enemies.
The breakers of death surged round about me;
the menacing floods terrified me.
The cords of Sheol tightened;
the snares of death lay in wait for me.
In my distress I called out: LORD! I cried out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry to him reached his ears.
You, LORD, give light to my lamp;
my God brightens the darkness about me.
With you I can rush an armed band,
with my God to help I can leap a wall.
God's way is unerring; the LORD'S promise is tried and true;
he is a shield for all who trust in him.
Truly, who is God except the LORD? Who but our God is the rock?
The language of love is the only foreign language that all human beings understand. - Joseph Freinademetz
She could not have been sixteen, though she looked much older. I remember well the day we met: her disheveled hair, her skin tanned by the sun, her bare feet, her dirty clothes and face displaying the marks of beatings. Lorena approached to tell us she wanted to enter the rehabilitation center for “street girls.” “I want to study, I want to be someone in life…” she said. During the ensuing bus trip she began telling us something of her story: how she’d left her family—a broken family—and had begun to wander the streets; her nights of liquor, theft, and abuses suffered... and how, after so much time, the desire to remake her life surfacing in her... I remember too how she smiled at a little one in his mother’s arms who took the seat opposite her; how she extracted a biscuit from her bag and gave it to him, beginning to sing as we got down from the bus….
The story of Lorena’s sorrow is repeated in thousands of Latin America’s young people. And her return to hope must be so often repeated... “I want to be someone in life...” Make space in your heart today for the boys and girls, the young people of our area, of our school or educational center, of our society... all those whose pain stops them from recognizing they are clay in the hands of the Father... Mention their names in your silent prayer. Ask the Lord that the time of Advent now beginning may lead us to life, and impel us to take new steps along the road to justice in favor of life for all those “works of God’s hands”... and may our prayer and action turn into a hope-filled song like Lorena’s....
“HIV/AIDS is a tragedy of global proportions, decimating generations and
destroying the economic infrastructure of entire countries. Its spread is
abetted by situations of poverty, lack of availability of funds for proper
medical care, and drug abuse, but most particularly by ignorance and by
reluctance to discuss sexual matters, whether for cultural or religious
reasons. Confreres need to be aware of the rapid rate at which the
HIV/AIDS crisis is escalating, and be prepared to take action in the very
early stages of the spread of the disease. We should cooperate in
awareness-raising and the correction of misinformation, cultivating an
atmosphere of frankness in dealing with the issue. We should also increase
our efforts of support for those affected by this epidemic, helping to
overcome the stigma that is frequently attached to the disease.”
(Listening to the Spirit: Our Missionary Response Today,
SVD General Chapter 2000, No. 88)
Lord God, this Advent,
Grant that we may give life where there is death,
bring light where there is darkness.
Grant that we may work for justice by the way we relate to people,
that we may sow love where there is exclusion, oppression and
I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. (Luke 10:21)
Lord God, friend of the poor,
help us encounter you in your dwelling among the most humble of our sisters and brothers.
May we learn from them the ways of your Kingdom. Amen.
“As the rays of the sun open the buds and the flowers, so a happy face reaches into the hearts of people.” - Joseph Freinademetz
“Spare me something, at least a cent!” Sometimes her cries were so shrill that it was impossible not to notice her. Always dirty, dressed in her black rags, always with her stick and her tin plates in hand—that was Lolita. I didn’t know the details of her life, only that she begged all day in the public park and then returned to her home: an ugly half-destroyed room in which she would await the following day. We had agreed to give her a portion of her weekly provisions, and often we went with the youth group to visit her, bringing food, cutting wood for her, and tidying up her room a bit…. Frequently we heard her invoking God in a tender fashion: “Dear God, bless them for me”, “My Lord, accompany them for me” (though it’s also certain she was capable of invoking all manner of demons on those who dared refuse her request for alms!). Her room counted only a few blankets in which she slept, an old table and a few bits of junk. I recall that one time we offered to move her to an old peoples’ home with all expenses paid. She didn’t want to go.
When Lolita died after a few weeks’ illness, something changed for me; I felt a kind of emptiness that I’d not known before…. And I discovered that she had made me question my lifestyle, and had taught me a new way of looking at life: freer, more trustful of Providence. Lolita had been the face of God for me.
Our Constitutions remind us that the poor are the blessed of God, and that they evangelize us (112). Reflect and pray about a poor person whom you have met, whom you may have silently passed by. Allow their life to challenge you… feel God’s presence in them and hear his call to you. Pray that our community will open itself ever more in solidarity with those who lack life’s necessities, with those who have no one to look after them or love them. And let’s give thanks for Lolita and all the little ones to whom God has revealed his wisdom.
I had a paint box
but it didn’t have the color red for the blood of the wounded,
nor white for the hearts and faces of the dead.
It didn’t have yellow either for the burning sands of the desert.
Instead it had orange for the dawn and sunset
and blue for new skies
and pink for the dreams of young people.
I sat down and painted peace.
(written by a 10 year old Latin American child).
during this Advent season,
open our eyes to see your presence and peace in unlikely places;
yes, even a stable! Amen.
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. (Matt 7:24)
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we thought we were dreaming.
Our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD had done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us;
Oh, how happy we were!
Restore again our fortunes,
LORD, like the dry stream beds of the Negeb.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with cries of joy.
Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed,
Will return with cries of joy,
carrying their bundled sheaves.
“A community can only achieve something good if it is filled with a good spirit.” - Arnold Janssen
Almost every day “street educators” go out to comb the city to find boys and girls who have made the streets their home. In Brazil, José Antonio and Rubén carry out their mission amidst the youth in a frontier situation. Each meeting is different: there are always new stories and new problems to share and to try to solve: maltreatment from passers-by, abuse from the police, fights amongst themselves, venereal diseases, robbery.... And in each meeting the educator does his best to listen, to give affection, to affirm that they are persons who contain within themselves immense possibilities of fulfillment. Each educator normally carries a first-aid kit for minor emergencies and infections amongst the children. Very often, when our educators begin attending to one of the children, others begin to feel ill and ask for attention as well: a little burst of anesthetic spray, a little cough syrup, a small bandage… And our brothers give it joyfully, knowing full well there is no physical ailment, only the need to be welcomed, to receive some love….
Solidarity well understood begins with love and results in a generous gift of oneself. It is like a house built on rock. True love always seeks to transform a situation, propelling it towards its best fulfillment. Perhaps solidarity that is content to simply give away things without personal investment is no solidarity at all. It is like a house built on sand. There echoes within us the pedagogy: “To educate a child, you must first love him.”
Let us pray for persons in our midst who serve young people in situations of high risk and abandonment. Let us also pray for ourselves, that our own mission might reflect an authentic commitment to solidarity: the generous giving of one’s own life.
You are the God of the poor,
A God both human and simple
A God who sweats in the street
with a weather-beaten face.
That is why I speak to you
In the same way
that my people speak.
Because you are the worker-God,
Christ the laborer.
(Nicaraguan Peasant’s Mass)
Spirit of God, we long to mend the broken circle this Advent.
We long to heal the fractures in the world around us and within ourselves.
We long to learn from one another the ways of being fully alive.
We long to transform those parts of ourselves and of our world that block our contact with the deepest realities and most sacred dimensions of all other beings. Make us one, O Lord. Amen
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that our needs captivate the loving attention of God.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that the Promise has been raised on the milk of Woman.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that our flesh clothes the silent presence of the Word.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that the Kingdom is traveling hand in hand with History.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that we’re beside the Cross and ablaze with the Spirit.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that every name can be full of Grace.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that every death holds the promise of Resurrection.
To say your Name, Mary,
Is to say that All is Yours, Cause of Our Joy! AMEN.
(“Still These Words” – Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga)
“A good bee knows how to make sweet honey from everything, everywhere. Likewise, a critical person can turn even the sweetest wine into vinegar.” - Arnold Janssen
Once again the moving words of Mary are presented to us as the model for total acceptance of God’s will. God makes her the Mother of Jesus, who is the Servant announced by the prophets. Today our world rejoices because it finds in Mary the image of new life arising in so many situations that radiate our charism to the different continents. Arnold Janssen’s dream is being realized, blessed by our Good Mother, as so many committed lay groups are involved in Christ’s mission. One such example is a social project in Bogota, where a group of ten laypeople are dedicated to promoting community and social services such as education, healthcare, dressmaking, evangelization and catechesis. They work with children and old people alike. Today’s feast is the manifestation of a divine project which transcends borders and takes the good news of Mary’s “Yes” to those places where the Gospel proclamation is ever more necessary, especially among poor children and youth.
Sisters and Confreres, in the shared joy of this day, let us pray for all the lay groups and dedicated people who share Christ’s mission with us. Let us mention them by name.... Let us give thanks to God for these new signs of life and ask our Good Mother to continue to be our inspiration for witnessing to Kingdom values.
“The place and role of women in the Church as well as in the larger
society, particularly their participation in decision-making, is an area
of concern for us. We commit ourselves to working for equality between
women and men. We also continue our efforts to work even more
cooperatively with our sister congregations, the Sister Servants of the
Holy Spirit and the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual
Adoration. We resolve to extend our cooperation with women (whether
religious or lay) beyond the scope of our Arnoldus family.”
(Listening to the Spirit: Our Missionary Response Today, SVD General Chapter 2000, No. 85)
Lord, may your Kingdom come.
May your will be done in our struggles with the complexities of this world,
and as we confront greed and the desire for power in ourselves,
in our nation, and in the global community.
May your Kingdom come this Advent season. Amen
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost. (Matt 18:13-14)
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And put a new and right spirit within me.
Create in me a clean heart, open and receptive,
so that I may embrace the many ways you choose to visit my life
through the peoples of the Americas.
Create in me a clean heart,
freed from the clutter of cultural enticements,
so that I, like many of the indigenous people of the Americas,
can enjoy the beauty of life’s simple things
and relish the gifts I easily take for granted.
Create in me a clean heart,
scrubbed of prejudice about any culture, nation, tribe or tradition,
drawing me toward all as my sister and brother.
Create in me a clean heart, brushed free of frantic busyness,
so that I will have time to dwell with you
in the listening space of solitude and silence,
like many peoples of the villages and mountains of the Americas. Amen.
“Do not act in the heat of the moment. Before making any important decision, sleep on it overnight. It is not good to speak frivolously or to act frivolously.” - Arnold Janssen
Today we have a day of great significance for humanity and for our world. The parable of the lost sheep that is rescued by the Good Shepherd is an invitation to reflect about the many “little ones” whom we may meet daily in the street, in our work, or whom we hear about in news reports, those whose rights as persons are so often violated. Commemorating a day like today heightens our awareness of those peoples and nations where injustices of all kinds condemn human beings to suffer scourges like hunger, violence, torture, and death. Sadly, it is precisely indigenous peoples who throughout history have been amongst those most afflicted by cultural marginalization and lack of respect for their values and traditions. One of the most beautiful examples in the struggle for human rights, peace and respect for indigenous peoples has been that of Rigoberta Menchu Tum from Guatemala. From childhood she suffered the rigors of repression directed against her people and her family. Over the last two decades, she has been a prophetic voice calling attention to the condition of indigenous peoples in Guatemala and Central America. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, and the Príncipe de Asturias award in 1998, Rigoberta has been a living witness for a people seeking justice and freedom.
Let us recall and present to the Lord the lives of some of our own sisters and confreres who share life alongside the indigenous peoples of Latin America in their mission as Gospel witnesses. Let us also pray that this shared mission may plant a seed of hope for all the little ones whom the Good Shepherd invites us to seek. Let us build with them a more just and humane world.
“Even in the most difficult moments, in the hardest and most complex situations, I‘ve always been able to dream of a more beautiful future.” - Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Guatemala
Lord, give us this day our daily bread;
bread that we are called to share,
0bread that you have given us abundantly
and that we must distribute fairly, ensuring security for all.
May your Reign come this Advent season. Amen.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior…. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:46-47,50-53)
Sister pilgrim of Yahweh’s poor, prophecy of freed slaves,
Mother of all in this one world of ours,
You are the Mother of God made flesh.
With all those who believe in Christ,
and all those who in some way are seeking his Kingdom,
we call you Mother, so that you will speak for us all.
Beg Him who made Himself poor
that he might share with us the riches of his love,
and that His Church may rid herself of all other riches.
Implore Him who died on the Cross to save all,
that we, his disciples, might know how to live and to die
for the total freedom of all our brothers and sisters.
Beg Him that we might be devoured
by hunger and thirst for that justice which strips and redeems.
Beg Him who toppled the wall of separation,
that all of us who carry the seal of his Name
might seek beyond all that divides us,
might seek the unity he left us as his inheritance,
and which is only possible in the freedom of God’s children.
Beg Him, who lives Risen alongside the Father
communicating to us the Spirit’s joyous strength,
That we might overcome selfishness, routine and fear.
Peasant woman, teach us how to read the Gospel of Jesus sincerely
and to translate it into our lives
with all its revolutionary consequences,
in the radical spirit of the Beatitudes and the total risk of that Love
which knows how to give its life for those it loves.
Through Jesus Christ, your Son, God’s Son, and our Brother.
(Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga)
“It is not long prayers, but generous actions, which move the Heart of God.” - Arnold Janssen
Without a doubt, today’s feast represents one the most beautiful moments in Mary’s manifestations to humble men and women in the Latin American Church. The apparition of Mary on Mount Tepeyac in the early days of the Spanish conquest in Mexico constitutes a defining moment in what was to become Mary’s importance in the continent’s evangelization. Mary presents herself as an indigenous woman, a tender mother ever attentive to the pain and suffering of a crushed and enslaved people. Inspired today by the Mother of Guadalupe we recall and pray for all those women throughout the length and breadth of Latin America who have suffered the disappearance of children and loved ones. Remember the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina; the mothers of the ‘desaparecidos’ during the Chilean dictatorship; the mothers of soldiers and police killed and kidnapped in Colombia’s violence; the mothers of all who have disappeared in Nicaragua, Argentina and many other countries. Remember the women who are persecuted, tortured and exiled for denouncing trampled human rights, women who are robbed of their lands in Brazil, or women who are forced into prostitution or crime in order to feed their children.
Today’s feast invites all of us to strengthen ministries that seek the promotion and aid of women. We think of those we know, or about which we have heard. Let us also recall in our prayer all those women who are engaged in Christ’s mission as faithful disciples. We give thanks to God for them and for so many women who, inspired by Mary of Guadalupe, open their hearts to hear the cry of their children.
“In union with the whole church we praise God for what he has done in his angels and saints. We ask for their intercession and strive to follow their example. In a special way we honor Mary, virgin and mother. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she was called to bring the Divine Word to all and to take part in his redemptive work. She is our model of faithful attentiveness and ready response to God's word; she will help us bring the Divine Word to others.” (SVD Constitutions 406)
Lord, lead us not into temptation;
the temptation to close our minds, ears and eyes
to the unfair global systems that create
larger and larger gaps between the rich and the poor;
the temptation to think it is too difficult
to bring about more just alternatives.
May your Reign come this Advent season. Amen.
Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. (Isa 48:17)
We come before you Lord
accompanied by Saints Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz
sharing the vision entrusted to us.
We know what we are about, planting seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted
in the hearts of the people of our communities
We know we cannot do everything
and we feel liberated in accepting that fact.
We hear your call, Lord, to do something and to do it as well as we can.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers and not messiahs.
We are prophets for a future not our own,
not seeing the end results.
We ask, with Saints Arnold and Joseph,
that we too might have hearts that know no bounds.
We lift our hearts to you in prayer with Jesus
in solidarity with all those in need at this time. Amen.
(based in part on the words of Archbishop Romero)
“If you see errors in a community, see also the good that happens there and have confidence.” - Arnold Janssen
His enthusiasm and energy were such as to make an impact from the first moment you met him. He used to enter the classrooms and share tales with the youngest students as well as with those nearest graduation. He always had a word of encouragement and hope for the youngsters, and his devotion to Mary was never far from his lips. Already in his later years, his constant concern for the young Brothers was manifest in his joyful welcome, the smile on his lips, the hand on the shoulder and his characteristic phrase: “Confrater, feel proud to be an authentic son of God.” I heard of his death whilst far away, but I was told that many attended his funeral from among those whose lives had been so positively marked by his memory and his presence, and who will always retain his image near and dear. There are innumerable older sisters and confreres who have remained faithful throughout a long life on the path they decided to undertake when they were very young. Their lives are a beautiful example of constancy in the midst of difficulties, of generous commitment before multiple challenges, and of continuing adaptation to the signs of the times.
Let this moment of Advent be for us a time to recall the witness of our older Brothers. Recall some of their names in prayer. We think of the older members of our own community, or of those who are now in retirement homes, or who have recently surrendered their earthly lives to the Father. Let us praise the Lord for the gift of their lives, and pray that their witness may remain a stimulus for our own perseverance and fidelity.
“Christ proclaimed God as the God of life and of the future. He himself is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25). The afflictions of sickness and old age lead to a deeper experience of the mystery of his suffering and death. In the patient acceptance of infirmities, our conformity with Christ is brought to completion and our hope in the new heaven and new earth is nourished.” (SVD Constitutions 413)
Lord, deliver us from evil:
the evil of a world where violence happens in your name,
where wealth for a few is more important
than economic rights for all,
where gates and barriers between people
are so hard to bring down.
May your Reign come this Advent season. Amen
Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matt 8:10)
Make my eyes see what You see.
Make my ears hear the crashing
of Your voice in the waves of creation.
Make my speech a bath of honeyed words
poured on those who are embittered.
Make my lips sing only the songs
of Your love and Your joy.
Achieve through me the word of truth.
Keep my hands busy in serving all.
Make my voice continually scatter seeds of love for You
in the soil of those who seek You.
GIVE ME YOUR STRENGTH!
Make my feet advance always along the path of justice.
Guide me out of my ignorance to Your light.
Father, move my heart and make me feel sympathy
with all living creatures.
May your Word be my Teacher.
Think with my thoughts, for my thoughts are Your thoughts,
my hand is Your hand, my feet are Your feet,
my life is Your strength to make justice among all living things.
“Only love can make a human heart bigger.” - Arnold Janssen
Martin and his friends were sweating copiously, as you would expect. For it was some two hours since they had loaded that transformer on their shoulders, carrying it uphill to their mountain home. A few nights before, seated on the floor of his home in the candlelight, Martin said to me: “God willing, for Christmas we’ll have electric light.” Martin and his friends are indigenous folk of the Maya-Quiché, and his village is situated atop a high mountain where there is no dependable supply of drinking water, and where—at the beginning of the third millennium, the century of high technology and the global market—its inhabitants have no access to electric energy. Martin’s commitment to his people saw him visiting people, sending petitions, and promoting the organization of his community. He is also a catechist, and finds in his faith the power to spend himself in favor of his own people. Neither the six hours’ journey required to conduct the business of the day, nor the many negative responses he had to endure, were enough to stop him. “God willing...” So many are overwhelmed when faced with such difficulties. They allow fear to paralyze them. Perhaps you yourself have had this experience? Just the same, the Lord now invites us to live our faith - the true faith - that moves us to solidarity and commitment with our neighbors; the faith that heals our paralysis.
Let’s present to the Lord today specific people and groups who are committed to the transformation of our society, and whose action is rooted in their faith in Jesus. They may be people who act silently, like Martin, far from TV screens and newspaper headlines, or they may be people who are better known. We think of Non-Government Organizations like VIVAT and charitable foundations that endeavor to incarnate our congregation’s contribution to this transformation. Let us give thanks to the Lord for these people and groups, and give thanks also for the ways in which our own local community is committed to serve the poor and needy among us. Let us pray for the faith and stamina to explore new paths of committed solidarity so that we may help to construct a more just and human world.
“And how can I fail to mention Latin America, which is always dear to me?
In some countries of this great continent the persistence of social
inequalities, drug trafficking, corruption and armed violence can endanger
the foundations of democracy and discredit the political class…. With
insistence I wish to encourage the people of Latin America to hold on to
hope amid the present difficulties, and not to lose sight of the fact
that, given the great human and natural resources available, the present
situation is not irreversible and can be overcome with everyone’s help. If
this is to happen, private or partisan interests must be set aside, and
the interest of the nation must be promoted by every legitimate means,
through a return to moral values, open and frank dialogue, and the
renunciation of what is superfluous in order to help those who are in any
way in need. In this spirit, it should be remembered that political
activity is above all a noble, demanding and generous service to the
(Pope John Paul II, Address to members of the diplomatic corps, January 10, 2002)
As we prepare for Christmas,
gently unleash within us the simplicity and silence of the stable.
When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith." (Matt 9:28-29)
Open our eyes to see
all those who live in misery.
Inspire in us words of truth when we meet
with our brothers and sisters
who are lonely and abandoned.
Instill in us the courage we need
to assist those
who live in misery and oppression.
Make of your Church a place
of truth and freedom,
of justice and peace,
so that all people may find in her
a motive for hope.”
“Of all the places in the world, that one, where God wants me to be, is the best.” - Joseph Freinademetz
Doña Gregoria is an indigenous lady now past forty years of age. Since she never had the opportunity of schooling, she can neither read nor write. Last year, the Education Commission of her diocese launched a bilingual literacy program for adults, and Doña Gregoria enrolled. Anyone who has worked in Latin American literacy programs knows that enrollment—although a big step—is not as crucial as the capacity to keep up attendance. Doña Gregoria had to walk, barefooted, for at least an hour through mountainous terrain to get to the house where her group met... twice each week. But she never became discouraged. I remember well the deep concentration in her eyes as she struggled to decipher the letters written on the blackboard: “m... a... m... á...”, and her smile when she succeeded in reading each word. I recall well that group of more than forty indigenous men and women who finished the program and celebrated their graduation through varied activities in which they could share their newfound skills. Their decision had led to opened eyes, stronger awareness of their own dignity, and growth through self-determination in speaking their own word.
So many people in Latin America and in the whole world fervently desire to open their eyes, to utter their own word, to uncover their personal value as sons and daughters of the Father. For our part we are called to provide situations in which this becomes possible. Our educational tradition, our resources, our own lives can help these sisters and brothers who wish to fully see and live in the world. Give thanks today for the way in which our provinces and communities have been able to help open the eyes of those who wish to see. Ask that your own eyes may never be closed to the neediness of those at your side. Place in the Lord’s hands your desire for commitment and ask for his strength to bring it about.
Consecrated life has manifested the desire to reflect upon its specific charism and its own traditions in order to place them at the service of the new boundaries of evangelization. This means becoming one with the poor, the aged, the addicted, those suffering with AIDS, and exiled people who undergo any form of suffering because of the particular reality in which they find themselves. Attentive to the change in models, since mere assistance is no longer seen as sufficient, they seek to eradicate the causes of the needs. Poverty is caused by the ambition and indifference of many and by sinful structures that must be eliminated through a serious commitment to the field of education. (Starting Afresh from Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium, 36, June 2002, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life)
Lord of Light, during this Advent,
we seek to be in solidarity
with those with whom we live as missionaries,
with those whose lives
are hidden in pain and darkness.
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
And Mary said:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness;
Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
Dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things;
The rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
According to his promise to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)
“Love and confidence cannot be forced. We must try to reach them, with the help of God, acting accordingly.” - Arnold Janssen
Fear is often our first reaction to being called to action beyond our usual patterns. It is consoling to note Mary was no exception. Many men and women in Latin America have heard other calls to adopt new ways for justice and they have had to surmount their natural fears. In 1988, in the town of Xapuri in Acre, Brazil, the ecologist leader Francisco Mendes was killed. He is best known as Chico Mendes. He was not a rich man, as he did not have many possessions. Nor did he have many relations with powerful or rich people. But he carried with him many ideals, and was committed to the land and his people. He had a wife, children and a piece of land to till. Due to his commitment to defending life, namely the ecological cause, he was brutally murdered by some landowners, as his advocacy against the exploitation of the land threatened their economic interests.
There is no doubt that in many places around the world, we have witnessed similar situations of lives sacrificed for the protection of life and creation. They were silenced, but they left seeds of hope. Let us pray in thanksgiving for the signs of hope among us. Let us remember in prayer the leaders of organizations working for the integrity of creation, defending land and life. Turn to Mary, and place your personal fears before her.
“We recognize that one of the newest areas of missionary concern is that
of working for the integrity of creation. In the light of today's
ecological crisis, our concern for the well-being of future generations
leads us to commit ourselves to working for a sustainable environment and
to adopting a way of life that witnesses to the importance of
(Listening to the Spirit: Our Missionary Response Today,
SVD General Chapter 2000, No. 82)
We pray at this time of Advent
for a new spirit of care
to branch out across the earth.
That all nations might act for Your creation
in silencing the roar of the chainsaw,
in extinguishing forest fires,
in purging pollution from the air,
in conserving valuable energy,
in stemming the tide of pollution –
so that our destructive ways
may be transformed springs of new life.