Comboni Lay Missionaries

WHAT IS PRAYER

Uganda
Uganda
Christians praying at the Grotto of Mother Mary

A lot is said about prayer and a lot has already been said about prayer. Every social media is filled with prayers and many people have asked many questions about prayer. We admire the lives of very many saints both living and dead. What is so surprising about people whose lives reflect the glory of God like St. Padre Pio Saint Mother Teresa and very many others  is that they believe they are sinners and they do not know how to pray. Our own current Pope Francis whose life has touched many with very many people following him on social media in billions says he is a sinner and he always asks people to pray for him. Many people have dedicated their lives to prayer and still they continue to pray without ceasing. So the question still stands, what is prayer and how can we pray?

According to Oxford English Dictionary prayer is defined as a practice of communicating with one’s God. Other people can say prayer is silent or loud conversation with the unseen God. No matter how we pray and the method we use, it all aims at talking with God.

Many different religious sects always lead their followers to pray in particular ways to nourish the spirituality of different followers. What is then the difference between religion and spirituality? Many scholars have different approaches of defining spirituality though they all agree on what religion is. Religion may be simply put, different people gathering together under the same roof to pray together in ways so appropriate to them. In Catholic Church our main prayer is the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Mass.  Other different religions have their own according to what they see fit for them. Spirituality in simple terms can be what matters most to the inner being of a person, what is so intimate, most desired, most valued in the intimate being of a person and the person can do nothing without it. Many people are so intimate with money, love of children, spouse, job, cars, idols, phones and tablets, computers, spirits of ancestors which is the most popular in Africa and other parts of the world. This most intimate thing that occupies the mind and life of this person is said to be his/her spirituality. The thing that a person in need turns to for consolation in terms of need is the spirituality. Something that makes someone so intimate constitutes prayer to this person. Some people go to witchdoctors or ancestral spirits to look for quick answers to their needs. As missionaries, we meet these people and there are times you find in the middle of the Holy Mass a person getting a phone to check through. There are certain situations when a person can have prayers and follow the order of Mass and songs from a soft copy on a phone. So what is so intimate to you in your life as a missionary? If you get distractions concentrating in prayer, what comes so prominent is where your spirituality is drawn and so you need guidance on how to overcome this and be directed to proper methods of prayer. A true prayer needs to be when all your attention and self is drawn to God or the scriptures you have chosen to focus on. However not many times a person feels drawn to prayer like explained but the intention in prayer must always persist to pray to God as we shall see later in this article. It is not about being with others. Religion therefore helps to direct a person’s spirituality towards God, focussing on God not on any other consolations when in need. A spiritual person tells us to look for God of consolations but not consolations of God. This brings us to focus all our attention to God when we are in prayer, when challenges come; we draw our attention to God but not something else. In a very beautiful Hymn we sing, Jesus never fails…things of this will let you down but Jesus never fails…which stresses the importance of focussing on God other than focussing on earthly things that all have an end in case we have an issue burning in your life.

What do others say about Prayer?

Soren Kierkegaad said in true prayer, it is not God who hears what is asked of him but he who prays and who continues to pray until he hears what God has to say to him. Therefore, in prayer we need not to target quick solutions to our petitions but as they say Pray until something happens. It is important to pray always and not to lose heart Lk 18:1. It is important to pray always without becoming weary focussing our attention on God in body and mind.

Jesus advises us to be persistent in prayer. Like friendship, prayer relationship takes time, effort and sacrifice. In our Christian life we should never speak of success but faithfulness to him and his word even if we do not get what we have asked. True prayer has no conditions attached to it, we need to pray and continue to pray at all-time even if we fail to get all that we want. In all that we pray for, it is very important to ask God to let his will be done in our life but not what we want from him in our prayer. We always ask God to answer our petitions but we need to remember that on entering the service of God, we need to prepare your soul for temptation from all that we face in life.

Many times as missionaries we teach others to pray, we show them how to live as Christians but we may fail to teach ourselves to pray. As such we ask many people to pray for us. This is very good but the heart of prayer is from the individual and others intercede for us to add on what we already have in our heart.

Why do we pray?

Many people have reasons to pray and we need to understand that there are very many reasons why people pray. Others pray for success in getting a marriage partner, improve on business, success in academics, to know God, to find vocation in life, for the soul of the deceased especially those in purgatory. Whichever reason is there we should focus our prayer in the following as our Spiritual writers put it:

Personally some reason we pray for include;

  • Forgiveness of our sins, the sins that we commit all the time and our prayer should ask for forgiveness as Jesus said …. come to me all that are overburdened and I will give you rest Mtt 11:28
  • The love of God, we need to pray for perseverance in the love of God as our human love is conditional and self centered in most cases of our life
  • The love of prayer, when we persist in prayer we tend to be drawn to love praying as part of our lives
  • To find perseverance and peace. Unguarded looks are often the cause of grievous sins as one spiritual teacher said. Unless we have peace in our lives we cannot understand what true peace means in other peoples’ lives

For the Church;

  • To glorify God, venerate Blessed Virgin Mary, Angels, Saints and many more
  • Provide for spiritual necessities of children of God
  • Procure deliverance of souls in purgatory

To live and pray very well we are encouraged by our spiritual leaders as devout soul should be pure, honest, transparent in all that we do with our hands, lips, eyes, ears and the whole body. St Paul tells us “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you received from God? 1 Cor. 6:19. As human beings it is not easy to know ourselves transparently as John Powel SJ said that “to reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage”. The best prayer is to accept and believe we are nothing in front of God and we are nothing but sinners and pray for his mercy and forgiveness.

We must know that there was nothing Jesus did without prayer and we too can do nothing without prayers in our life like what Jesus went through in the wilderness Mtt. 4: 1-11. A good prayer is where we feel so free to pour out our heart without fear. Prayer can be sharing a relationship with God and some people just need to be in the presence of God

There is a story of Simon Makonde who was born on Sunday, baptised on Monday, was confirmed on Tuesday, he wedded on Wednesday. He fell sick on Thursday, taken to hospital on Friday, died on Saturday and was buried on Sunday. This very imaginary story explains that the journey of sanctity is not something very short. It has to be tested by time and challenges. What matters is where you will be at the end of time, hell or heaven. To pray well, St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us we must focus our attention on that day we shall die whether near or far, in painful of peaceful death, alone or in care of others. When we die what will be our fate on the last judgement day Mtt. 25: 1-13? To pray well we always focus on our death and final judgement. We must live a life based on the beatitudes Mtt. 5: 1-12 and the teaching on the mountain Mtt. 5. 1-12

Where do we see God in our life?

God is everywhere and we can find God in all that we do and the people we meet. The fact you are able to read this message means you are blessed among billions in the world that do not have access to internet and the computer, you have eyes that are able to read compared with millions who are blind, you are blessed because you belong to a group who have a very great concern for one another. All these call for a big thanks giving to God. When you look at the nature, trees, sand, animals, birds, water, the wind, and cool/warm water breeze are all ways we can appreciate God in the creatures as St. Ignatius and other saints did. A story is told of St. Ignatius who would move at night to the balcony of his house and gets taken up to look at the stars and tears begin to flow down his cheeks with eyes fixed on the stars.  This is a good thing we can try to identify with God in our life.

 

PRINCIPLES OF PRAYER

Spiritual teachers came up with some points to help and guide us in our prayer. These are just suggestions to look at but personally it has helped me a lot.

  1. Prayer is an interpersonal relationship with God. It has to be internally felt by a person but not told what to do. When you pray it must be an inner most feeling in your heart. Use few words but to the point.
  2. Prayer is an affectionate communication with God performed by the Holy Spirit and supported by the Holy Spirit. We must be ready to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. Prayer must be from the mind and the heart. When you pray endeavour to forgive all who offend and ask for forgiveness from all you might have offended to have a good prayer life Mtt. 6:12, and St. Paul tells us to pray with the spirit who intercedes for us Rom. 8:26.
  3. Learn how to thank God is the simplest and yet important principle. One who does not thank is not welcome and appreciated. For our prayer life to be good we need to be thankful to God and to other people in our life and this appreciation goes to God in prayer.
  4. Prayer is above all an expression of Love. Thank God for all that he has done in your life and has given you. Pray for empowering that is asking for God’s grace upon your decisions. Love with charitable acts to God and fellow brethren and always ask God “what do you want of me, what can I do in this situation?”

5.Prayer is to make the power of God come down in our weakness and difficulties Eph. 6:11. Make resolutions before you ask God for help. When we feel we are weak the best we can do is to call on the power of God in our weaknesses and beg for his forgiveness and mercy for having sinned against him.

  1. The prayer of simple presence or prayer of silence is very important that is, put yourself in the presence of God without words. Quiet time in the presence of God without saying a word and without having anything to think in your mind. Put all your presence to God in Adoration.

7.The heart of prayer is in listening. Listen to the voice of God speaking to you

  • Our mind which has to be very clear with nothing negative moving on and it must focus only on God and the wonders God has done for us. No thought of revenge, committing a crime and plotting God always uses the normal ways to talk to us, just only listen and follow what you get. In this way we must be conscious of false positive voices from the devil. An encounter with your Spiritual Director is necessary to discern voices from God or the devil
  • Your will to do something. What is that you always wish to do? is it so pleasing to God according to what the church teaches us to do?  A friend giving you a good advice in both spiritual and other areas of life is God talking to you through that friend. We need to always listen to the people talking to us in our communities or other places about our character and what we need to keep and what we need to drop as far as our character is concerned
  • Your emotions how are they, happy or remorseful, contented or dissatisfied
  • What are you always imagining in your life both public and private, do you imagine conversing with Jesus, Mother Mary and the Angels or something opposite to what is suggested here?
  • What is in your memory that you always think about, something pleasing to God or pleasing to the devil?
  • Christ also speaks to us through his own personal life we read from the Holy Bible and the apparition the Catholic Church approves for the Catholics to follow
  • He speaks to us through the Prophets and the Catholic Church Leadership especially through the Encyclical letters from the Holy Father the Pope
  1. Place and time are important to pray and must be conducive. However, you do not need always a quiet to pray and just switch off the noise from your mind in the middle of a noisy place if it comes to your will to pray
  2. Struggling with problems in prayer in form of distractions in prayer is very normal and is always expected in our human life. But this should not make you abandon your prayer and communication with God. Such distractions include sleep, thoughts and many others but only pray to overcome them. Our spiritual leaders encourage us to persist in prayer even if distractions come. One reason we sleep in prayer is that we go to pray when we are already tired from what we did during the day. This may necessitate a change in your prayer time or is a sign of a tired and exhausted body. Therefore, you need to take a leave from what you do and take a retreat that can nourish you and make you capable of communicating with God in prayer. If you always pray in evening hours a shift to early morning could be of help. They say what matters in prayer is the intention though the way may not be appropriate and having a target for your prayer intention matters so much and God listens to such prayers even if with a lot of distractions.
  3. Our Father should become the basis of a Christian prayer as it is taught to us by our Lord Jesus. It should never be recited but meditated upon. The prayer of our Father covers all our life if meditated on from word to word and this should be our root of meditation on daily basis.

There are many ways we can pray in a group from the divine office, family prayers recited in a group and mental prayer which has been seen to be helpful in prayer life and all the Saints practice mental prayer or meditation on daily basis both the saints living and dead. Such meditations can focus on fining the will of God in our lives or even finding God in what we do as suggested by St. Ignatius of Loyola. If you are a farmer you need to see God in the plants and animals you keep, a teacher finds God in the pupils or students he/she teaches, a married couple must find God in the lives of the spouse and the children and home and many other examples in all the work we do. St Ignatius suggests in his Spiritual Exercises to imagine one walking side by side with Jesus or attending his sermon on the mountain or talking about the last judgement what questions will you ask him or you walk with the Lord Jesus in his Passion in the Garden on the way to Calvary how do you still up to now crucify Jesus and how do you intend to reconcile with him by being sorry for your sins and asking for forgiveness. These are just very minor suggestions but each person is to find out the best way to pray and meditate as guided by the Holy Spirit in the person prayers.

Why mental prayer and what makes up a mental prayer?

Without mental prayer a soul is without light. Someone said “they who keep their eyes shut cannot see the way of their country”. We need to realise that the external truths are all spiritual things that are seen not with the eyes of the body but with the eyes of the mind by reflection and consideration as one spiritual writer tells us. St. Bernard tells us that meditation regulates the affections, directs the actions and corrects the defects. One Saint during his life time would starve the body for weeks if his body got taken up with the lust or desires of the flesh and he would punish the body without food or drink until he would be very weak and asks the body if it can defeat God in his meditations for perfection in life aimed at sanctity. This can teach us a lesson in overcoming evils in our life with fasting. Jesus defeated the devil in the desert with fasting and prayer and this can teach us something to learn about how to achieve sanctity in life.

St. Teresa of the child Jesus said that he who neglects mental prayer needs not a devil to carry him to hell but he brings himself there with his own hands. Abbot Diodes said a similar thing that he who omits mental prayer soon becomes either a beast or a devil. St. Paul advises us that without petitions on our part God does not grant the divine help and without aid from God we ca not observe the commandments 1 Thess 5:17 that we must pray without ceasing. This prayer comes best in meditations.

St. John Chrysostom said by prayer we may obtain from God his Graces; without prayers it is absolutely impossible to lead a good life. The neglect of mental prayer is the cause of the great relaxation of morals we witness every day even in some of our religious communities and families. God wishes to be asked, compelled and he wishes to be overcome by certain importunity in prayer. Charity cannot last unless God gives perseverance, how will the Lord give us perseverance if we neglect to ask him for it. Saint Teresa again said without mental prayer there is no communication to God for perseverance of virtue. Cardinal Bellarmine said that it is impossible for he who neglects mental prayer to live without sin. Saint Augustine said to obtain divine mercy and grace, it is not enough to pray with tongues, it is necessary also to pray with the heart. Mental prayer makes one to see their own misery and return to God. Mental prayer makes a soul; modest, humble, devout and mortified in all things. Lack of mental prayer leads to wanting in modesty of the eyes, pride, resending every word, undevout, no longer frequenting the sacraments and the Church, attached to vanity, useless conversations, past times, earthly pleasures. St Chrysostom again tells us that he who does not pray to God or desires not to enjoy his divine conversation is dead….the death of a soul is not to be penetrated by God. Mental prayer is the root of fruitful vine. St. Climacus said that prayer is a bulwark against the assault of the afflictions, the spring of virtues, the procurer of graces. And Ruffina echoes a similar point when she said all the spiritual progress of the soul flow from the mental prayer, and Gerson said that he who neglects meditation cannot without a miracle lead the life of a Christian. St, Ignatius of Loyola noted that mental prayer is the short way to attain perfection and he who advances most in meditation makes the most progress in perfection.

Some virtues shown by people who live a life of meditations include the following but no exclusively limited to;

  • Humility and a big heart to persevere in vocation as was seen by St, Daniel Comboni and other Saints both living and dead. St. Bernard said that the truly humble man does not desire to be advertised as a humble man but wishes to be reputed and considered worthless
  • Feel the suffering of others and be able to heal in ways appropriate to you
  • Have a heart for others unconditionally
  • Love the poor and the suffering
  • Trust in the Sacred of Jesus and the Immaculate Herat of Mary at all times
  • Always be positive with people and their problems both personally and to others as well
  • Share their challenges and achievements, life with others, they always have in mind that faith without actions and good works in a relationship is dead
  • They are always calm, happy, have visions for the future both good and bad, trust in God at all times and all circumstances they go through in life

Therefore, a good Christian should;

  • Never fear to fall and when they fall they look straight to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins they commit all the time. This brings them so closer to perfection which is a step ahead to sanctity.
  • Looks at the cross all the time. Each time you look at Jesus on the cross fills your mind with thought about his passion and death and puts you in a position of thinking about the sins that you commit that still nail Jesus on the cross every day
  • They pray all the time whether in sin, sanctity, sorrows, joys and any condition they find themselves in life
  • They have a Spiritual Director whom they contact at all times when in need and not in need but for guidance all their life
  • They renew their Baptismal promises, commitments and vows all the time
  • They know that it is very hard to be a Christian but can move ahead and ask for the Grace of God to do this

The virtues that helped the Saints to persevere in their faith were but not limited to, they had;

  • Unshaken faith in God and surrendered their lives in the hands of the divine providence
  • They had hope in every situation that the hand of God is on their lives and so fear, death, persecutions were not an issue for them to fear in life and as such they freely gave their lives for God
  • They were charitable with their life, time, concerns, prayers that they freely gave their all to those in need
  • They loved unconditionally at all times the needy and they were not attached to anything of this world, that is why others gave all they had to the poor and needy and lived a simple life from royal life styles, something worth noting for us to think about.

Therefore, we need a heart burning with love for God and our neighbour Lk 10:27. We need therefore a very strong relationship with God, human beings, the environment to do what is so pleasing to God as all are creatures and works of the hands of the Mighty God. Therefore, we need to beware of the presence of God with us at all times both in public and private life especially in all that we do. St. Mother Teresa says at the end it is not about how many certificates and diploma we have but how much Love did we put in all that we did. So above all we need to have love in our heart so that we are able to please the Lord in all that we do.

In order to progress on mental prayer, we need to beware of the Pride in us that comes when we feel we are all and no one knows what we know and we are only mist perfect in all things and more rich in money, blessings and virtues than others Lk 18:9-14. As missionaries our attitude should be the one of the tax collector and say “God be merciful to me a sinner….”. Saints know that God is the author of all good things and live a humble life. St. Bernard again said that Pride is less hateful in the rich than the poor, so who are, are you the proud rich in money, pride, jealousy, hatred, lust?

Effects of Pride

  • Presumptions that is believe in yourself not the help of God and others and they take all credit for themselves even if it is at the expenses of others effort and sweat
  • Ambitions which is a vice making us to seek our own honour with inordinate avidity. We ned to avoid merit of honour and confess honours we get is due to God, we only use it to serve our neighbours
  • We are so ambitious. St. Ambrose said ambitions often makes criminals of those whom no vice would delight, whom no lust could move, whom no avarice could deceive
  • Envy which is sadness arising from contemplation of our neighbour’s welfare
  • Vain glory which is inordinate appetite for praise, desire that our merits should shine forth with glory
  • Boastfulness i.e. desiring to be supremely honoured above others, praises and exalts him/herself, exaggerating and amplifying things to make his/her merits appear greater than what it really is
  • Hypocrisy- demonstrates externally a virtue and sanctity which we do not really possesses
  • Disobedience i.e. violate command of our superiors/leaders, treating them with contempt/worthlessness
  • Discord- discrepancy of the will which prevents it from conforming to the will of God and the good of our neighbours

Therefore, these re some fruits of pride in us and the way to overcome is to practice all that has been described in this article which can be summarised as;

  • Avoid talking evil about others
  • Stop being jealousy about others
  • Your academic qualification of PHD, Masters, Bachelors should not be of stepping on others
  • If you have prayed and prayed but have not got what you want, change your attitude
  • In your jobs, home, community do people see you as an insecurity, security or they see Christ in you or the devil?
  • Great deeds make Christ to shine in you and in all that you do
  • Pray that God gives you that grace to persevere in prayer and good Christian virtues
  • Always remember that the greatest saints wanted that anybody who sees them feel peace and they were ever there for the concerns and the needs of others.

To summarise all this allow me to share with you Pope Francis’ message for the Lenten Season of 2017 which if we can try to live it in our daily lives, it can help us to find peace in our minds among the thousands of what we do all the time in our life. It does not only apply for lent but should be  a life rule for any human being still living that is, they are very excellent resolutions for a Christian life on daily basis;

  1. Fast from hurting words and say kind words
  2. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude and gladness
  3. Fast from anger and be filled with patience
  4. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope (people cannot change easily as they will)
  5. Fast from worries and trust in God
  6. Fast from worries and contemplate simplicity
  7. Fast from pressures and be more prayerful
  8. Fast from bitterness and be filled with joy
  9. Fast from grudges and be reconciled
  10. Fast from revenge and be merciful
  11. Fast from selfishness and have sharing concerns
  12. Fast from words and be silent so that you can listen (talk less and listen more)

As I wrote this it does not mean I practice all these, I am far worse than you who is reading these words.  We need to pray for each other so that we can do our missionary work in the life of total self-giving to God and our neighbour.

Let us meditate on these words of Jesus in the apparitions to Vassula Ryden (2005) in True life in God be a consolation to us that “…..fear not oh sinner! If by your sins you have made yourself the slave of hell and are unable to deliver yourself, offer me to my Eternal Father and you shall escape death”. Mother Mary also echoed the same words in the same book when she said “….behold here is my son, endeavour to save your soul by offering Him frequently to God”.

May Mother Mary teach us meditation and contemplation which all made her life here on earth. Let us pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary to help and guide us in this journey of discovering our true identity as missionaries in search of the truth and giving this truth to ourselves and then to others, Amen

Let us give the Glory to God for all that we are we are going through whether good or bad.

 

Ezati Eric, CLM Uganda

 

Lent recollection Ugandan CLM 2018

lenten recolation Uganda

Greetings from CLMU and we hope all is fine and well over there. We are moving on with everything well with the grace of God.

We had our Lenten recollection in our apostolic community of Our Lady of Africa Mbuya Parish which was facilitated by Fr. John Bosco Nambasi – MCCJ with a theme of Relevancy of Religious Life in Today’s Society- 1 Kings 3:4-13 and Mt. 6:30

He illustrated many characteristics of our world that affect our prayer life and how to live in harmony with one another and the people we administer to. Some of these characteristics include dire need/poverty, yearning for authentic spirituality, commitment/stability, unity meaning of real love of God. He further illustrated the need to live the spirit of poverty as mentioned by Pope Francis who has declared 2018 as the year for the poor which is a true reflection of the world we live in which is full of poor people. This poverty he said is of material, spiritual and otherwise.

He also tasked us to come away to some lonely place and rest awhile. This helps to listen to ourselves (discernment), pray and make relevant options for apostolic work. A life without reflection is not worth living as a great writer once said. When we retreat or recollect to a lonely place for a meaningful prayer, we are likely to attract others to ourselves and this will make us relevant to the current world we are living with full of challenges.

Many people are living like sheep without shepherd in which there is no care from family to society and the parental roles for the young ones is lacking and no guidance for those who need it. Our apostolic missions should target these people who are like sheep without shepherd. This is where majority of poor people are and we need to do all that we can to improve their lives. He said to prioritize the poor is to set to teach them and impact gospel values/virtues in society.

He further said that being as opposed to doing is what we must be aware of. “Being” refers to what our core values are as religious involving prayers, charity in addition to our vows and commitments we made. The essence of being is therefore to strive to live a life of faithfulness, justice, integrity of heart other than having long life, riches and founding oneself on capitalistic mentalities of consumerism, relativism, scientism and individualism. Doing on the other hand refers to trying to live according to public opinion and to do everything to impress the public which at the end makes us to live double life full of stress. He said the bad die early and the good do great. We must try to live a life balanced to what our daily cores demand. He urged us to pray at all times and he cited that there is scientific evidence (research work) indicating that people who pray remain at peace with themselves and others and they are likely to live longer than their counterparts (The Longevity Project a book by Dr. Leslie Martin & Dr. Howards S. Friedman reports of 20 years of follow up research on 1,500 adults since 1921).  Also St. Augustine after his many years of living earthly life after finding about God remarks “you have made us Oh Lord our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. These researchers found out that people who pray get more engaged in social work and free service to others than those who do not value prayer. He emphasized the need of Lectio Divina which focuses on personal prayer focused on the scriptures which we must be able to relate to our personal life and work. He said Lectio Divina is different from community prayers like from the Breviary which many times we confuse.

This is the time also for us to renew our vows and commitments on daily basis basing on the charism of Comboni Missionaries, we need to renew our vows we made and commitments that we made the first time and see if we are still on the road or we have deviated from the originality. We need to pray at all times and Fr. Paulino Mondo MCCJ Assistant Parish Priest of Our Lady Of Africa Mbuya Parish brought it beautifully in one of the morning Masses that the Prayer of our Father has three points that we always need to focus; it teaches us to ask for food which we use to nourish us and we also need to ask for this food for the poor and needy and should endevour to do this for the benefit of others. Secondly he said it teaches us to be delivered from the sin and evil one which is the core of this Lenten period and this we can do through daily self-examination of consciousness like what St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us in his beautiful book of Spiritual Exercises and personal reflections during our solitude moments. The third element is prepare for death as we say in the prayer of Hail Mary…..death is certain we shall die and we need to prepare for this moment sooner or later we shall die. When we come to the final judgment what shall be said of us, shall we be the people on the right of the Lord or the ones on his left who are cursed and cast into eternal hell….??? The answer must be deep in our hearts.

What should be done despite all these?

Fr. John Bosco MCCJ gave us some suggestions in how to live with the above issues that affect our life more so in the spirit of Lenten season;

We need to adapt to novelty and renew our life through putting more emphasis on prayer and fasting, common apostolate in all that we do. He said Religious life should not be run like companies that are managed aiming at making outstanding brands. We are all human beings in need of mercy of God to live a life worthy of his call. He said superiors need to look for new ways to animate communities and we must read the signs of the time in terms of technology and human development. We must come out of comfort zones that this is how it used to be done, times have changed. Members should be happy with their vocation, put Christ/Church at the centre of their life and reduce on the measure of consumption of social media, money, digital gadgets, power/politics and bodily satisfaction of sex and beauty. We must stop the saying that “I do this because of obedience” when someone puts us in such a task contrary to our vocation

He also said we live God centred life through looking at the evangelical counsels, Lectio Divina and daily reflection on the founder’s charism. Have constant proximity to the gospel values, accept your weaknesses and work on them to live faithfully.

He also said we be life care givers. There are many religious men and women today who have very wide knowledge about humanity and the institutions they run but have no heart for the human person and yet our Lord Jesus prayed that “Father may they be one…. John 17:21”. They have knowledge for excellence of institutions they run but nothing of the life in Christ. He said vows therefore help us to affirm meaning, obey the laws of nature and God and face life with realism. He finalized this point by saying “you can only make decisions from a thoughtful and discerned position if you accept the life cycle: Birth-growth-death. Let us therefore bring Christ to the people we work with, the people we lead and the people we live especially in the different institutions we lead and work with.

We were also blessed to receive MCCJ Council Members from Rome who made apostolic visit to us and it was such a wonderful moment. They tasked us to do our work in the spirit of St. Daniel Comboni to the poor and the needy. They told us to promote vocations as very many Priests and Comboni Missionary Sisters are advanced in age and there is need to bring many to the table of the Lord. Therefore everything we do we must promote the message of St. Daniel Comboni to the young people so that they carry the candle of St. Daniel Comboni burning to the rest of the world.

From Uganda we wish you all happy Lenten season as we discover where we went wrong in order to be worthy followers of Jesus and renew our lives imitating the Lord when he was in the desert for the 40 days living among the wild animals with the angels guarding him. Our wild animals include hatred, jealousy, pride, lust, gluttony, greed and many others that we call the angels to guard us from.

Eric Ezati Comboni Lay Missionaries. Uganda

Spiritual dryness

espiritualidadI whole heartedly appreciate our colleagues who consistently bring us encouraging words to give us spiritual enlightenment through their own missionary experiences from which we are learning a lot from what they share with us here in our blog.

I humbly would like to share my own experience in spirituality from my journey in trying to find where our Lord is but I have not found him face to face but I know in faith he is with me and all of us in doing the work that we do. Without God we would not have reached where we are through the intercession of our beloved founder, St. Daniel Comboni in whose steps we try to follow which is like moving in a bush full of thorns. These are from my notes of some retreats and workshops I attended and I humbly pray those who will read it may find something to learn to share with the people they work within our missionary life. It may benefit you as a person or help to learn to facilitate some talks with the parishioners or the young people we work and stay with. This is not a complete literature to rely on but it may make you think more to discover the will of God in you and me.

Spiritual dryness is said to be a state of being distressed, hopelessness, and unworthiness, unsatisfied, discouraged in our spiritual life and duties. This can occur to anyone and we find from actively participating in prayer life, we tend to realise we resist going for morning prayers or saying it personally, reading spiritual books, community prayers become a very big burden. And we find no reason for what it is that we face but there is no reason we can explain for our state. St. Paul calls them as thorns in his flesh and no matter how long or how short we are in our missionary vocation, they are sure to come like day and night, as they say no matter how long or short a night is, the day is sure to come.

Let us look at some but not exclusive Causes of spiritual dryness

  1. Sin that we refuse to admit and uncover, this can be consciously or unconsciously in our life. If we do not have enough time to meditate on our life and services, it will be very difficult to discover sins we committed but have not come to our mind at the time of confession. Some great thinker said a life without daily reflection is not worth living. Mathew 13:12 tells us in such moments to always aspire for more of what we need from God so that God will bless us more with his gracious gifts. The more we meditate on our life and try to find out our wrongs, and surrender our all to do the will of God, the more he will show us areas in our life that we need to be delivered from.
  2. Over-feeding and over straining to some people. This especially comes during retreats of either group or individual, Bible camps where we learn about the Bible and learn how to live it in our lives, Church festivities like Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost in which we always prepare to get the most in all that we wanted. After such moments, our Spiritual Fathers always encourage us to prepare for this spiritual dryness that can make us to drift away from our main focus on Jesus and our beloved Mother Mary.
  3. When we have been blessed with God’s word from what we read, may be when we find our prayer requests have been answered. We are in very good perfect life with the family and the rest of people in our life. In our Parishes, where we do our missionary work, we have very excellent work life with no challenges and other associates or team work we work with. If we do not constantly pray for guidance of God and ask him to let us prepare for the worst in our spiritual life, we may find we easily fall into a state of nothingness and despair.
  4. Taking unlimited amount of spiritual food for example people belonging to more than 3 weekly Bible studies, prayer group may suffer so much but personally with our missionary assignments where we are two or even one, it may be very difficult to have a constant spiritual nourishment and we may put our self in a deep spiritual nourishment once and it will take another very long time to have a similar nourishment and so we can be an easy target of spiritual dryness
  5. Over-feeding spiritually may damage our spiritual life and o spiritual dryness and so we are advised to take what is appropriate but consistently searching to get more, as they say we need to thirst for more and more in our life to discover the Lord.
  6. Disregard of our body just as joy affects heart and flesh. We must be conscious of our health, may be working for service or an income for the family but we need to know when we are tired and we can do more. It becomes challenging when we are to meet deadlines of what we do and we may be taken deep into work, thereby depriving our body of rest, a tired body cannot concentrate on prayers. That is why Jesus in his mission, when he did a wonderful work, performed miracles, he would tell his apostles to find some place to rest, he would be alone in a state of prayer and contemplation when he is preparing for a difficult task. I strongly believe if we give our bodies rest and give some time to enjoy the nature God has given us to help us like flowers, trees, water, animals and the rest for us to live better, our spiritual journey will be easy. Psalms 84:2 brings us how to thirst for the word of God and to be in his presence and in his temple. We can never have this yearning when our body and mind is so tired.
  7. A sick mind can be a cause of a sick body. We are different individuals who grew from different family backgrounds and so when we come to live together in a community, conflicts are bound to arise by all means. If we claim not to pay attention to diverging views and learn to tolerate to live with them, it will affect our mind which will never find it easy to concentrate on prayers. One of the spiritual writers put it that Jesus advises us to learn to live with Judases in our life because he knew Judas Iscariot was going to betray him but he tolerated and lived with him for three years. We may say we are not Jesus the divine to tolerate Judases but St. Daniel Comboni had the worst share of this as well when too much allegations were put on him; he does not pray, he does not use the money for the purposes it was meant to be and so on, he personally did not have peace of mind with the clerics he was with, no wonder why he died in the hands of the Lay people who were by his bed side at that time and so I believe conflicts are good but if we cannot resolve them amicably like followers of Jesus, it will affect out prayer life and so spiritual dryness is inevitable in our life. Jesus brings this out very well in the teaching about divorce Matthew  19:1-9 and there are always people who will contradict us in our work and what we teach but remembering how he handled them is the way out to live with people who are always controversial in our missionary work in our communities or where we work
  8. Loss of balance. Our conversion to follow Jesus Christ does not relieve us from observing the order of creation in which we are part. We have friends we need to meet, we have to attend to our natural body desires of intimacy in a spirit of chastity in religious or marriage life and we need to acknowledge that we are weak and immoral and we need to surrender these feelings to Jesus to work. We have our families that need our company, we need to have recreation as St. Francis of Sales put in his book Treatise on the Love of God and The Devout Life that what our body demands, we have to do it even if it means going to dance but it has to be in a way if Jesus comes to you right there, he should judge you rightly. King Solomon tells us to learn to regulate our body according to reason.

Lack of balance between work and rest in a long run leads to spiritual dryness as well explained in Genesis 2:2-3 where God rested after working. God, in his divine nature did this, what about us the mortal ones who are victims of sin all the times of our life in this world of sin? Many sins we commit I believe happen so when we are tired and exhausted from all that we do and so we are so irritated that we just say anything that comes to our mind without reflecting on what we are to say or have just said, we tend to pass our judgments emotionally (irrationally) rather than rationally something we may regret later.

Lessons to learn from spiritual dryness

Therefore spiritual dryness should not be taken as a calamity. In John 11:4 Jesus said the death of Lazarus was to bring the glory to God. Personally I have been through some hard moments of life challenges but later on I would thank God that it went that way, it has brought me so closer to him. Therefore;

  • Through spiritual dryness, we can grow in our spiritual journey, we tend to surrender our all to God and say with our Beloved Mother Mary; Lord, let your will be done in this not mine, if it has come from you, make me strong enough to pass through this but do not remove it away from me. St. Augustine said “he who created you without yourself will not save you without yourself” and so we need to be fully present to overcome our spiritual dryness with prayer and fasting
  • People who were very close to God experienced the same like our Lord Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane before he handed himself to be tortured and killed. His words Father, remove this from me, but let it be you not I would have it… when he was scourged, he beautifully said, my heart is ready or God, my heart is ready….and these are the very words we can learn to have in our most challenging moments in our life, Moses and Elijah also experienced spiritual dryness and when we read about them, we find our they were so humble to let the will of God be in their lives through the hard moments they were going through, we can always ask ourselves how often we allow the will of God to happen to us than defending our pride to explain why the other person is wrong and I am the one right. Jesus did not defend his heavenly Kingship when Pilate asked him….are you the king? He said it is you who said it…..why then should we find it very hard to accept that we are wrong and find all possible reasons to defend our actions??? The answer could simply be got from Herbert Cardinal Vaughan’s book Humility of Heart that is the Pride in us that we are better than others and we are so much self-centered in all our deeds. St. Thomas said acquired humility is in a certain sense the greatest good. From Job 4:2 we learn that God sends us some moments of dryness to prove our worth as his faithful followers and Psalms 22:15 tells us the path followed by the evil is always wide with no challenges and is smooth as compared to path leading to eternal happiness which is full of thorns and holes to walk on. Jesus said whoever wants to follow me must take his cross and follow him. To me this is not the wooden or metallic cross that we make but the challenges that we bear in our daily life as we keep our focus on him but keeping touch with the reality we live on ground.
  • After every mountain, there is a valley and this is the journey to eternity and it is like watching a train or lorry fully loaded climbing a mountain with too much smoke and at a very slow speed and the driver keeps his speed because he knows there is a slopping side where all will be fine and when he reaches another mountain he prepares for that and this should be our journey in our work, always to be prepared for mountains and crosses in our life.
  • Do not despair when spiritual dryness comes, your blessings are at hand, only if you persist and do not give up your focus on the Lord Jesus and live in a spirit of humility knowing all is from God to make you to know him better. Daniel and his friends preferred to be burnt in the heart of fire, they did not ask God to save them from the flame but said the will of God be done. At the end they triumphed in this with God sending his Angel to save them.

How to overcome spiritual dryness

  • Try to live a life full of forgiveness and tolerance no matter how hard it may sound to be and how innocent you may be in all the challenges you are going through. Our Lord Jesus said …..father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…the same word St. Maria Gorrett said to her murderer that God should forgive him but he should turn to learn to do good….it needs a real divine intervention to forgive as human beings. We can say I forgive you but I will not forget. Therefore forgiveness takes time and effort through prayer. Etty Huillesum said “inside me there is a very deep spring and in this spring is God. Sometimes I achieve it but more often it is covered by stones and sand, at that moment God is buried, must be unearthed again” and this is done only and only when we pray and learn to forgive.
  • Confession and renewed assurance of forgiveness and this comes with the necessity of having a Spiritual Director who can guide us in all these challenges we go through and they always hold our hand in the journey which is full of thorns and holes. Whoever we have as our spiritual director is also a human being bound to err and when we witness this, it does not stop their role of being our spiritual directors to whom we can always run in case we are in turmoil of spiritual dryness.
  • Make daily examination of consciousness and discover the imperfections. Accuse yourself to Jesus for the sins you have committed for each day, eliminate self-love and become like little children as Jesus says. Consider humility under the aspects of your relationship with God and your neighbor. Always ask yourself what did you do this day, how did you do it, what have you omitted to do. Always insist on spiritual directors. Great spiritual writers gave us two things: two things of which one must never complain, clothes or food, two prayers we should frequently repeat, my God, let me neither be curious nor talkative and two actions for which we must be always ready to have Holy Communion all the time and to die. Let us all have an effort to read the very excellent book written by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori Preparation for Death (free download from search catholicfreebooks click on the second option, it brings a very beautiful cathedral windows and pictures of saints, you can download as many books as you can) or any other author and it teaches us how to live a real committed life to go to heaven as we can die anytime anywhere. When death comes whether prepared or not how will it find you and me
  • We need to live a life of responsibility and discipline in both private and public life at all times and in all places we go to. Always we need to ask ourselves what Jesus would like me to do. Spiritual writers tell us to live each day the way it comes and when we want to make resolutions, they should be made each day not for life, because we can control what we do at present not tomorrow which we are not sure whether we shall reach and also yesterday is gone and we leave it to the mercy of God. Therefore every day we need to live better as they say perfection is attained now at present when you are there doing all that you can.
  • We depend too much on second hand sermons; learning from others is very good but not enough for our constant spiritual growth. We need to dig out firsthand information on spiritual food for ourselves through personal studies, reading spiritual books, attending personal and group retreats, making every encounter we make a moment of prayer and to learn to appreciate Jesus for all the wonders he does for us.
  • All crosses and adversities will only serve to strengthen the spirit of the members who are faithful to this holy task and determined to put the mission on the road of certain prosperity, because the works of God have always been at the foot of Calvary and must be like Jesus Christ went through the process of passion and death in order to reach the Resurrection. (St. Daniel Comboni message MDC 238) and Having been made sharers in the passion of Jesus Christ, we have a greater desire than ever to sacrifice our life for Christ and for his mission (St. Daniel Comboni message MDC 69) with these beautiful words from our founder, let us learn to discover Jesus from all the spiritual dryness we shall always get and be ready to fulfill our part in the sacrifice for the kingdom of God for which we  are striving to do our part.

Matters of spirituality are never exhaustively discussed and are never easily understood but I hope with these few, it can lead us to read more and search more from different sources on how well we can do all this in our life. With our work, sometimes we may not have sufficient time to pray but learning to pray where we work, communicating to God in our work may help us to pray.

Disagreements are always there and when they come, let them lead us to pray more through the intersession of our Beloved Mother Mary, St. Daniel Comboni and our patron saints.

With these few words, let us keep the candle burning in our words and deeds while asking God to be with us all the time of our lives. And by asking the lord to make us live a committed Lay Missionary life with love and dedication to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate heart of Mary and to strive for something that is worth and very important to live as Comboni family to reach to all in words and actions as we live in peace and harmony. St. Julian of Norwich said the greatest honour we can give the Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love. Love is our Lord’s meaning and we have to do everything for love, God made us, God keeps us and so we need to turn to him all the time of our life.

To God be the Glory

Ezati Eric.

Comboni Lay Missionary. Uganda

Fruits

LMC Africa

Our meeting has brought forth the realities of our missionary vocation to the group.

We have discussed topics like communication, vocation, economics, formation and much more. Through these discussions we have found where we have met our goals, areas that we need to improve and the challenges we face in doing so.

Much like St. Daniel Comboni we have all found some difficulties in expanding the Kingdom of God. With the charism of our founder and intercessor, we find the strength to carry on in our mission and find the path to do so.

Like the palm tree bearing the coconuts fruit, it is not easy to share the sweet taste of salvation but we find the strength to climb, through our faith and our community.

LMC AfricaAfrican CLM

Unity

LMC Anchilo

Our theme for the day was unity.

As the Lord has brought us all from different lands, languages and different cultures, we come together in the Holy Spirit.

We ourselves, our work and our communities are like a puzzle. One piece alone has little meaning, but together we can create something beautiful.

African CLM
LMC Anchilo