Many are the times when we leave our house and venture along the winding paths and the hills of the Villa Ecológica. And many are the time when along the way we meet life stories shared with simplicity on a threshold. The street is the place where we enjoy spending our time. In the simplicity of each encounter we recognize and share life values. Each face we meet speaks to us of a culture, of a people with which we are each time falling more in love. Often they let us enter into their homes and share with us their daily bread. It is through all the people we meet on a daily basis that we hear the call to mission.
Mission means to walk together, to accept one another as we are and be accepted in a bosom filled with life’s experiences. We walk together, often in silence, the path of liberation. Every day we are the symbols of an Easter which is built daily.
We grow hand in hand in the Love of the One who calls us to be more. We grow in the certainty that we are never alone. Here is where we are called to be. With the poorest. Connected to the miracle of love. And, as the song goes, “It is Christ who calls me, gets closer to me. Smiling He tells you, come to me. Close your eyes and let yourself be taken. Yes, He chose you and you must say, “Yes, Lord. Here I am. You are in me.”
It is marvelous to be connected with all these families who join our lives in order to live the fullness of the Ayllu Project. With the help of many including yours we strive to make a difference in this land that we now call home. We are with them. We share in their struggles and together we celebrate their victories. We live together this moment of joy.
This road with the youth already has half a year and the truth is that every day we feel that it goes further. From the first days, their lives crossed with ours and from that moment, we decided that somehow we had to walk together.
The group was born and, although without a name, it has grown with the testimony of everyone’s life.
Now they take the helm. We plant a little of the seed that we bring inside and together we will see how it will bear fruit.
The coming of the Pope to Peru did not leave the Peruvians indifferent. His closeness to the people touched their hearts. Many were the reports of those who accompanied him personally and on TV. Joy reigned in Peru just as we still live it in these days under the banner of hope left to us by the Pope of the people. It was a Pope who embraced the great open wounds of Peru by asking for a change that can only happen if we know to hold hands like brothers as we search for a truly common home.
In this journey of preparation for the Youth Synod, the Pope did not depart without leaving a challenging message of love and joy. With his words he reminded us that young people are not the future, as it is often said, but rather the present in a world to which they must not and cannot remain indifferent.
“Dear young people, I am pleased to be here with you. These meetings are very important for me, especially in this year of preparation for the Synod on young people. Your faces, your questions and your lives are important for the Church and we need to give them the importance they deserve. We must also have the courage of the many young people of this land who were not afraid to love and risk everything for Jesus.
Dear friends, how many examples you have! I think of Saint Martin de Porres. Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first. Just as he was: a mulato. He had to face many hardships. In the eyes of others, even his friends, it seemed that he had everything to lose, but he knew how to do one thing that would be the secret of his life: he knew how to trust. He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you.
You may say that sometimes this is very difficult. I understand that. In those moments, we can think negative thoughts, we can feel overwhelmed by different situations, and it can seem that we are left on the sidelines, while they have the upper hand. But it’s not like that, is it?
There are moments when you can feel powerless to achieve your desires and dreams. We have all experienced situations like that. Dear friends, in those moments when our faith seems to fade, remember that Jesus is by your side. Do not give up! Do not lose hope! Remember the saints who accompany us from heaven. Go to them, pray and never tire of asking for their intercession. Not only the saints of the past, but also those of the present: this land has many of them, because it is a land of saints. Ask for help and advice from people you know can give good advice because their faces radiate joy and peace. Let them accompany you as you journey along the path of life.
Jesus wants to see you on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions. He will take you along the path of the beatitudes, a path that is not easy but exciting, a path that cannot be traveled alone, but only as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self. Jesus is counting on you as he counted long ago on Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Turibius, Saint Juan Macías, Saint Francisco Solano and so many others. Today he asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him. Are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?
Dear friends, the Lord looks on you with hope. He never grows discouraged with us. Perhaps we are the ones who grow discouraged, about ourselves or about others.
I know that we all like to see digitally enhanced photographs, but that only works for pictures; we cannot “photoshop” others, the world, or ourselves. Color filtering and high definition only function well in video; we can never apply them to our friends. There are pictures that are very nice, but completely fake. Let me assure you that the heart can’t be “photoshopped,” because that’s where authentic love and genuine happiness have to be found.
Jesus does not want you to have a “cosmetic” heart. He loves you as you are, and he has a dream for every one of you. Do not forget, he does not get discouraged with us. But if you get discouraged, I invite you to take a look at the Bible and remember the kind of friends God chose.
Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him… and we could go on with this list. So what excuse can we offer?
When Jesus looks at us, he does not think about how perfect we are, but about all the love we have in our hearts to give in serving others. That is the important thing for him, and he will always be concerned about that. He does not worry about your height, or whether you speak well or badly, whether you fall asleep when you pray, or whether you are very young or very old. His only question is this: Do you want to follow me and be my disciple? Don’t waste time disguising your heart, but instead fill your life with the Spirit!
Jesus is constantly waiting to give us his Spirit, who is the Love that God wants to pour into our hearts, to make us his missionary disciples.
In following Jesus, we never, ever, remain shut out. Even if we make mistakes, the Lord always gives us a new opportunity to keep walking with him.
Dear young people, in my prayers, I entrust you to the care of the Virgin Mary. Be assured that she will accompany you at every moment of your life, at all the crossroads of your journey, especially at those times when you have to make important decisions. She will always be there, like a good Mother, encouraging and supporting you, lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.
Pope Francis to the young people in Peru
On Sunday, as we usually do it, we gathered with the youth group after the Eucharist. We had all experienced this grace of knowing we were far away, but at the same time so close to the representative of God on earth. We had nothing planned, actually we gathered at our house with the idea of having a short prayer and share what each one of us felt about the presence of the Pope. However, we were surprised when on getting the TV connection, we listened to one of the most challenges talks of the Pope to young people. We were silent. We listened to each word pronounced by such a wise person. Almost by surprise we prayed together. We experienced a piece of heaven on Peruvian soil.
True joy is born out of love. Only when we dare to live by love we allow God to be born in us turning our heart into his crib. Only when we believe in the mystery of Jesus we are truly happy. Happiness comes out of a heart that, a little at the time, has gone and has been falling in love with God. To acknowledge that God exists is to be certain that we never walk alone and the joy to know that he walks with us and daily transforms our lives. The journey is not as simple as the words we use, it is demanding. It demands an effort on our part, that we start walking, that we move out of ourselves and, like Mary and Joseph, we walk to the Galilee of our hearts looking for the best place to be reborn with Jesus. Because Jesus is alive and comes to us.
Like Mary, we harbor many fears, anxieties and uncertainties but, inspired by her example we repeat our Yes each day. Accepting to be a mother, Mary gave up all her plans in order to do the will of God. Even though it was not part of her plan to be the one chosen by God, she accepted. Like Mary, let us entrust our lives to God’s hands.
St. Joseph inspires us to accept God’s project for us despite the difficulties and challenges. It was not easy for Joseph to understand that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. He reached the point of wanting to leave her secretly, but after hearing the angel he gave himself completely. The family of Nazareth teaches us to live in community. Mary and Joseph, as community, knew how to live the incarnation in their own lives. It is not easy to follow God’s will in community, but they understood that, when God calls, touching our hearts, our life will never be the same. Our Yes opens the door to many more marvels, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. In prayer they found the courage they needed to accomplish their mission joyfully and confidently. In moments of prayer we open the doors of our hearts and homes so that God may come and daily he may tell us which path we must follow. Prayer is the basis of community and through it we consecrate our lives to the Lord. Let us live this Christmas, remembering what José Tolentino Mendonça said: “We are the crib, it is within us that Jesus is born.” Let us prepare our hearts and lives to be the home where Jesus will be born.
We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Only add that in this place, lost in between the volcanoes Chachani and Misti, there live a humble people with whom now we share our lives.
Along our still early journey, many are the faces that are already imprinted in us. At times it is because the lack of humanity is so evident that, taken to the extreme, it leads to death. We have already heard many stories of violence not only in words, but also through the living witness of those who daily fight for change. Why is it that in this country, Peru, there are some of the highest levels of machismo in the world. In this essay by Manu Tessinari we can come to know this reality more deeply:
“Peru is a country of machismo, a lot of machismo.
In Peru, an adolescent girl may be beaten by her father if she is caught having sexual relations with her boyfriend. Here, an incarcerated woman does not have a right to conjugal visits. In the public health system, it is forbidden to give the “day after” pills to patients who were victims of rape.
Something more absurd? In Peru, if a woman is abandoned by her husband and does not accept divorce, the man can start a new life and register all the children from his new partner. The woman cannot. The law stipulates that the child of this woman legally belongs to the former husband (protected by the bonds of marriage) and a biological father needs to go through a lengthy and complicated legal process to register him.
Out of every 10 Peruvian women, six are victims of psychological violence and two of physical violence at the hands of their partners. About 16% of the people (men and women) believe that the fault is always with the woman, including 3.7% who believe that women DESERVE to be beaten and 3.8% DO NOT see a problem if the man forces relations on his partner.
People are great workers. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI), 95.4% of Peruvian women have a job, mostly in the servant sector. On the average, a Peruvian female earns ONE THIRD less than a male doing the same work. Unfortunately, only 36% of females go to school to the end and only a little more than 16% end up concluding university studies. And all this in a country with 15,800,000 women, namely, 49.9% of the population.”
The lives of people going by our door do not leave us indifferent, and even though this is the reality, we bring them the joy of a Gospel which is not only ours, but a Gospel that fiercely demands to be taken into the world, taken to the extreme peripheries of it.
Do not be afraid to go meet these people, these situations. Do not be blocked by prejudice, by habits, by inflexible mental and pastoral attitudes, by the infamous “it has always been done this way.” But we can only go to the peripheries if we hold the Word of God in our hearts and walk with the Church, like St. Francis did. Otherwise, we are just proclaiming ourselves, and not the Word of God, and this is not good and does not benefit anyone. We are not the saviors of the world: The Lord saves it! (Pope Francis)
And here is where we feel called to live with them and among them. Here is where we cease to be ourselves in order to become living instruments at the service of Jesus Christ in Peru.
To have faith is to sign a blank page and le God write on it what he wants (St. Augustine).
The same way, mission means to allow us to be guided by the Holy Spirit who accompanies us and waits for us. We came to this journey with all that we are and this way we left. We carried in our hearts all those we love and are part of us. They sent us here and they will accompany for the rest of our lives, for this is what love demands. We left at dawn and we reached Peru also at dawn. Aware of the length of our journey we found strength in the tight embraces we immediately received. We reached the land that, for the next several year we will call home.
They were waiting for us at the entrance to the airport and received us with joy. We shared our names and our charism.
Outside, we were received by a fine and penetrating rain, and in this whirlwind of sensations we stepped on Peruvian soil for the first time.
It was a time of primary knowledge, stripped of our own selves, we took the first steps with these people who welcomed so lovingly. It’s us, from the other side of the Atlantic, living the mission in the style of St. Daniel Comboni.
To know the CLM meant to get to know our Peruvian CLM family. Each one of them shared with us a little about themselves, their witness of life and of faith. While talking, eating, drinking and laughing we received part of themselves and shared part of ourselves, joyfully, certain that all these lives converge in God.
With the certainty of what has been and that God is calling us to this mission. Let us walk together sure that we will reach where they are waiting for us.
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