The cross is “foolishness” for those who do not understand it… said St. Paul (1 Cor 1:18). Here we publish a Way of the Cross with 14 phrases by Saint Daniele Comboni on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Comboni deeply understood the “scandal” involved in seeing Jesus on the cross: he saw it as a necessary means for evangelization and as a reality that his missionaries had to embrace in order to continue God’s saving work in the world. What Comboni says is very strong and even scandalous in our day, but in these words of his we can find light and wisdom for our missionary life. [comboni.org].
Last weekend we celebrated the VII Meeting of the Comboni Family in Spain. We have experienced the joy of reuniting and we have verified that the missionary dream of following our vocation as a family (religious, men and women religious, lay and secular Comboni Missionaries) is renewed.
The house of the Comboni Missionaries in Madrid welcomed this group of 30 people belonging to the various communities of CMS, MCCJ and CLM in Spain. The Comboni Seculars could not be present on this occasion. Pietro Ciuciulla, of the MCCJ General Council, as well as the leaders of the 3 branches present and Alberto de la Portilla, Coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.
The focus of the meeting was to accompany, through reflection and prayer, the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our Comboni Missionary Sisters. Prado Fernandez led the presentation of the history of the first Comboni Sisters who accompanied St. Daniel on his first journeys, marked by the Cross as victims of the Mahdia, the revolt that devastated the first Comboni works in Sudan and marked from the beginning the vocation of the CMS.
From his first intuition, Comboni dreamed of a family, for his first journey counted on lay missionaries and on these courageous and forward-looking women as mission companions. In the course of its history, the witness of the sisters consolidates the liberating impulse of women in all latitudes. Rereading those early sufferings launches us into the challenges of the present moment. And we renew our awareness that today the Comboni charism is actualized through the Comboni Family.
Fr. Pietro insisted on this when commenting on the inspiring document of the General Councils of the Comboni Family of 2017:“The charism grows and is renewed when it is shared with others who recreate it in the peculiarity of each style of Christian life”.
In this spirit, the Map of the Ministeriality of the Comboni Family, was presented, which gathers more than 200 missionary presences in the world, with tremendous vitality in the most diverse contexts, educational, health, social, pastoral, transforming impact… The mission is understood today from the ministeriality, from the service to the people in these various areas. This integral mission of the Church must integrate service, accompaniment, reflection, sensitization and social transformation in the process.
The mission process
Taken from Fr. Alvarez SJ
In the final part of the meeting, the leaders of the 3 branches present shared the current situation of their organizations, with various challenges and hopes. This 2022 coincides for the first time the General Chapter of CMS and MCCJ. It is a moment of special density, to remain faithful to the vocation that is carried out in new ways, with new means. A moment in which we renew the intuition to continue dreaming together how to develop the Comboni mission in the world.
« I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already! » (Lk 12,49)
Keeping the flame alive
Introduction. As we celebrate the 190th anniversary of the birth of Daniel Comboni (Limone Sul Garda, 15 March 1831) and the 140th anniversary of his death (Khartoum, 10 October 1881), we are invited to celebrate our charismatic memorial and to invoke the presence of the Spirit which illumined his life from birth to death. His beatification (17 March 1996), whose 25th anniversary recurs this year, was a charismatic gift for the entire Comboni Family. On that occasion, (), the general councils published a message together with a letter to encourage the members of our missionary family to be joyful and to gaze in spiritual manner at our father, seeking inspiration and fruitfulness for our missionary service. Finally, with the canonisation, the Church enrolled him in the register of saints, recognising the validity and relevance of the Comboni missionary charism and proposing St Daniel Comboni as a model of Christian life and mission, the example and paradigm of universal missionary commitment, which unites different continents and people in the passion for God and Humanity. Then too, our general councils gifted us with a message () and a letter () inviting us to look upon St Daniel as the witness and master of that sanctity to which we are called and the mission we live. This letter is part of this movement of the memorial and actualisation of the charismatic gift entrusted to St Daniel and, in him, to all of us: a gift from God that is revived in every Comboni generation.
Considering his roots. The memorial we keep of the birth of St Daniel Comboni invites us, before all else, to consider the family, ecclesial and social roots that influenced him so much and which he often mentioned (). His birth occurred amid difficulties and limitations. His parents were migrants, having come to Limone looking for work. His father, Luigi Comboni had, at the age of fifteen, come to Limone from Bogliaco in December 1818. His mother, Domenica Pace, was born in Limone (31 March 1801) but her family was from Magasa, in the mountains. Luigi and Domenica married on 21 July 1826, in the church of St Benedict and, according to the baptismal register, had six children; to these we may also add twins who died and were not baptised ().
“Daniel Comboni grew up with his parents in their modest house in Tesol, sharing the joys and sorrows of the family. Of all his siblings, only Vigilio (1827-1848) and Marianna (1832-1836) survived” (). He had great affection and esteem for his mother and father. His mother died on 14 July 1858, during his first journey to Africa, and it was with his father Luigi that Daniel kept up constant correspondence in which he recognised the religiosity of his parents and the influence they had on his missionary life and vocation. Contained in those letters are the human and Christian elements that constituted the fertile soil that gave growth to the vocation and mission of St Daniel (the memory of the beauty of the lake and the mountains, pride in Christian faith and life, devotion to the Cross and the Saviour, the contemplation of his love and Pierced Heart, the passion for God and the most needy): “Have courage therefore, my dear father. I have always opened my heart to you, I speak to you every day, I am aware of your worries and I am enjoying a foretaste of the delights God has reserved for you in heaven. Courage therefore! May God be the centre of communication between us. May he guide our undertakings, our affairs, our destiny and let us rejoice that we are dealing with a good master, a faithful friend and a loving father” (). The celebration of the 190th anniversary of his birth gives us a new opportunity to come closer to him and his family and ecclesial roots, strengthening awareness of our own roots as a spiritual background that gives stability to our personalities and spiritual fecundity to our missionary life. This celebration also gives us an opportunity, as the Comboni Family, to deepen the role of Limone and to continue the collaboration undertaken at the birthplace of St Daniel Comboni.
Faithfulness in the midst of adversity. The memorial of the 140th anniversary of the death of Daniel Comboni invites us to look at his life from the viewpoint of the supreme moment of his gift of himself for the regeneration of Nigrizia. In the letters he wrote during the last months of his life, he appears to be a missionary surrounded by difficulties but rooted in the faith: famine, plague and hunger, the lack of water, the scarcity of means to keep the missionary work going, the sickness and death of his missionaries … In his own words, those were “times of desolation” when “the sufferings to be alleviated are unfortunately too many” ().
Faced with such difficulties, Comboni remains anchored in faith in God and the missionary vision that inspired and sustained his life. “I am happy in the cross which, when borne willingly out of love for God, gives birth to victory and eternal life”: these words () sum up, at a crucial moment, the mindset of his whole life. His return to the foot of the Cross, to the contemplation of the Pierced Heart where it all began, fills with light and courage the moment of his return to the Father and lies at the origin of the confidence and “courage for the present and even more for the future” () that Comboni instils in his missionaries in the moment of A-Dio: “I die but my work will not die!” ().
The two dates of the memorial we keep this year mark out a life’s journey in which the power of the Spirit takes shape in the life of St Daniel and renders perceptible and alive a small patch “of the unlimited love” of God (); he lets himself be “formed” by the Love he contemplates, keeping his gaze fixed on Jesus crucified. St Daniel leaves us a testimony that generates life for our time.
Birth and death. We are celebrating these anniversaries of the life of St Daniel Comboni after a year, 2020, that was marked by the coronavirus pandemic and after having begun the year 2021 while the whole world is still experiencing uncertainty in public health and the economy. In the Comboni Family, we too are suffering the consequences of this situation: we have lost men and women missionaries who, after many years of mission, enriched us with their testimonies and hoped to live out their old age in peace (); the pace of our activities has been brought to a halt and our plans and projects have been suspended; the limits placed on our travelling has sorely tried us, challenging us to be creatively close to the poorest and the least and those most affected by the pandemic; we feel unable to find a way out and we share the feeling of disorientation and loss that is overpowering many of our brothers and sisters.
Seeing Daniel Comboni and in the span of his missionary life and vocation, from birth to death, we understand how, in the moment of crisis and uncertainty, he recognised and awaited the movement of the Spirit, reviewed his plans and renewed his missionary commitment, embraced the Cross and its difficulties, seeing in all these things a sign of the loving presence and mysterious action of God, of a divine hour with its promise of renewed life. In all these situations, he yields to the attraction of the love of God for Africa and he is not afraid to be part of a tiny group; he perseveres, plans, takes risks and is able to offer his life, without counting the cost. From him we learn the attitudes we need to live through such uncertain times as the hour of God: patience and faithfulness to the missionary vocation; the ability to involve ourselves creatively, always placing people and God at the centre; the sense of communion (being a cenacle) that keeps us together and strengthens our charismatic identity and our missionary vocation in the Church of today.
Daniel Comboni urges us never to allow the burden of Covid-19 and the negative consequences of social distancing to close us in upon ourselves but to overcome conflict and competition and regain the spirit of collaboration between laymen and laywomen, sisters, brothers and priests; to increase the feeling of communion and friendliness of living together which Comboni recommended to his followers; to keep hope alive, even in darkness and rediscover the strength to care for ourselves and to be resilient; to accept the changes that are taking place and see opportunities where others see failure; to assume birth and death as doors to pass through, challenges to our creativity and occasions for mutual support; to consider losses (lives, occupations, health and economic security …) as an opportunity for conversion and support among ourselves, individuals, families and communities. During the pandemic we have maintained communion, we have exchanged information and set in motion processes such as the Social Ministeriality Forum with meetings held using Zoom; the present situation challenges us to find new ways of being united as a Comboni Family, to face together difficult movements and changes and continue the process of collaboration ().
The light of the testimony of St Daniel Comboni illumines the discernment that what we are living calls us to prepare for the immediate future which will not simply be a return to the familiar past. It offers us criteria for assuming the values we hold dear, the friendship and affection of family and friends; to understand the common destiny of humanity, threatened by the pandemic and ecological disaster; to commit ourselves to social transformation (including climate change, care for our common home and healthcare for every person …) giving our contribution creatively, rejecting the superfluous and favouring solidarity.
These attitudes are rooted in the faith, in “a strong awareness of God” and “lively interest in his Glory and the good of people”, especially the impoverished and marginalised who are the antidote St Daniel suggests to counteract the stress of the pandemic and the uncertainty of the times we live in. He inspires us to see the world and the events we are living with “the pure eye of faith” () and warns us that any missionary, whether man or woman, lacking this attitude “will end up in a kind of emptiness and intolerable isolation” (). He also points out the way to remain faithful: “… to keep one’s gaze fixed on Jesus Christ, loving him tenderly and striving to understand better every moment that passes the meaning of a God dead on a cross …” (). Comboni speaks of an “impetus of divine fire” coming from the Pierced Heart which men and women missionaries receive at the foot of the Cross to take everywhere; that flame that nourishes their commitment to the regeneration of people and the transformation of the society in which they live ().
Keeping the fire burning. The memorial of the birth and death of St Daniel Comboni reminds us that the chief challenge we are faced with at this time is precisely that of keeping alive this flame, this divine impetus burning in our hearts and “seeing the beauty of the spiritual paternity of St Daniel whose heart was burning and (…) succeeded in prophetically kindling the fire of the Gospel, overcoming boundaries, (…), suffering misunderstandings, limiting visions and concretising an innovative missionary vision”. Fidelity to Daniel Comboni is played out in “keeping to the path he has commenced” and in “believing in the power of the fire of the Spirit (…) that comes down upon us and makes us courageous frequenters of the future” ().
General Councils of the SCM, CMS and the MCCJ and the International Commission of the CLM
 Letter dated 23 February 1996, for the Day of Reconciliation. The message “Gazing at the rock from which we were carved” is dated 6 April 1995.
 “A Gift to be Welcomed and Studied” dated 15 March 2003.
 “Daniel Comboni, Witness of Holiness and Master of Mission” dated 1 September 2003.
 Both by visiting his native home and especially by letters to his parents, to his father after his mother had died, to his cousins, the parish priests and citizens of Limone. The correspondence of Daniel Comboni with his father includes 31 letters. The first was written from Cairo on 19 October 1857, the last on 6 September 1881, a month before his death.
 In Annals of the Good Shepherd 27 January 1882.
 Giovanni Dichtl, letter to Cardinal Simeoni, 29.9.1889.
 Daniel Comboni, Homily in Khartum, Writings 3158.
 During the first wave of the pandemic, 13 Comboni Missionary Sisters died in Bergamo. In the second wave, between 8 November 2020 and 10 January 2021, 20 Comboni Missionaries died in Castel d’Azzano; others died later in Milan, Ellwangen (Germany), Guadalajara (Mexico) and in Uganda; a total of 35. Altogether, up to the end of January 2021, 48 Comboni men and women missionaries died victims of Covid-19.
 During the Social Ministeriality Forum, the member of the Comboni Family commission reflected together on this time as a good opportunity for new modes of encounter, while waiting for better times when we can meet face to face. To keep the process going, two webinars were planned. For the first one in December, 279 people registered, representing the Comboni Family all over the world.
 Daniel Comboni, Homily in Khartoum, Writings 2745.
 Daniel Comboni, Plan for the Regeneration of Africa, IV Edition, Verona 1871, Writings 2742. “… Then he was carried away by the impetus of that love set alight by the divine flame on Golgotha and came forth from the side of the Crucified One to embrace the whole human family…”.
 Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Homily for the memorial of St Daniel Comboni, Rome 10 October 2020.
Do you have your backpack ready? We have prepared a virtual missionary pilgrimage. Don’t be afraid, we are not going to walk 30 km every day (well if you want to…). What we will need are minds and hearts full of passion, can we count on you?
[I have to inform you that the pilgrimage will be in Spanish]
WHAT IS A PILGRIMAGE?
Pilgrimage: From Latin. Peregrināri. 1. A person’s saying: To walk in strange lands. 2. intr. To go on a pilgrimage to a shrine for devotion or for a vow…
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?
– Visit virtually 7 places that marked the life of St. Daniel Comboni, starting in Italy and ending in Sudan.
– Get to know the Comboni Mission and St. Daniel Comboni, its founder
– Discover his passion for Christ, for the mission of the Church and for the African people.
– To have moments of silence, prayer and meeting.
– To ask ourselves what is our mission wherever we are.
WHAT IS THE JOURNEY?
1. Limone Sul Garda (Italy)
2. Verona (Italy)
3. Holy Land
5. Nile River
6. Malbes (Sudan)
7. Khartoum, Sudan.
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?
All those who wish to participate.
HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO IT?
– You must register in the pilgrims’ registry. When you do so, you will be able to access the content of the first stage.
– In each one of them you will be able to enjoy: virtual tour, missionary testimonies, reflections, prayers, some history, many stories? and a very good atmosphere.
– Before moving on to the next stage you will have to answer a brief questionnaire. This will give you the key to access the next stage.
WHAT IS NEEDED?
– A computer or a cell phone
– At least one hour every day (x 7 days). The pilgrimage is designed to be done in 7 days, but don’t worry, if you need more time, the materials will be available.
– And above all, a lot of desire to live this experience.
DO YOU HAVE TO PAY ANYTHING?
– God’s grace is FREE! But if it has helped you, invite others, don’t keep it just for yourself!
AND WHY EMBARK ON THIS?
Because it is worthwhile to live an adventure with Jesus and with Daniel Comboni. The missionary and prophet who went beyond his time and his land. He gave up everything for the mission and consecrated his whole life to an ideal: “To save Africa with Africa”.
What better travel companion than someone who travelled through 3 continents in the 19th century without a plane! He sailed the Mediterranean Sea; he crossed Europe by train; he travelled the African deserts by camel and the Russian steppes by sledge; he even saw the crocodiles of the Nile up close and travelled on foot many of the roads of Africa! And why all this? Because Daniel Comboni lived with passion the call to make Christ known to those whom history and society had left out.
Are you ready to embark with him on this adventure?
To be formed is to be configured to the Heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd
“What is your name?… Go to your home and family and announce to them what the Lord has done for you and the mercy he has shown you”. (Mark 5,9 ff)
“In the mystery of the Heart of Christ, the missionary contemplates, in their fullest expression, Christ’s innermost attitudes and makes them his own: his unconditional giving of himself to the Father, his all-embracing love for the world and his involvement in human suffering and poverty” (RV 3.2)
“Formation must, as a priority, concern itself with interior motivations and educate towards facing, with creativity, competence and flexibility, the challenges emerging from new situations” (Ratio Fundamentalis 113)
In communion with all humanity, this year we are celebrating the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the extraordinary context of the COVID-19 pandemic that is still causing so much that is tragic and sorrowful all over the world. With confidence in God, we address an invitation to the whole Institute to contemplate the Heart of Jesus while opening our hearts to the mystery of his love so that this mystery may touch us deeply, free us from all the forces that keep us imprisoned and isolated and may help us to be faithful to our consecration and our mission.
As missionary disciples we enter the school of the Heart of Jesus who, in his humanity, reveals to us the Heart of God – the Heart of the Good Shepherd who goes out, approaches the poor, the suffering and the marginalised, inviting them to emerge from their isolation and their incommunicability, prepared for communication and a quality encounter with God, with others and creation. It is about participating in that love that always communicates itself, and that, if it is received by the beloved, always gives life, brings about growth and educates in the sense of the Latin word educere, which means bringing out what is best in the human being.
It’s important to remember that this encounter with Christ sets in motion a process of conversion, of formation and transformation, or better still, of “Christification” that lasts a lifetime and must touch the heart. The content of our initial and ongoing formation consists of the holiness and transformation of the person into Jesus Christ according to the dual complementary orientation of the sequela and imitatio Christi. Therefore, to be converted into another Christ is for us a privilege granted us by God’s mercy and grace and, at the same time, a responsibility that commits us to the coherence of life with the pressing and incessant question: “What would Christ and Comboni have done in this same historical situation of mine?“.
It is Christ who, with his merciful heart, takes the initiative of asking each one of us “What is your name?”,as he did of the possessed man referred to in the passage above.Toknow a person’s name, according to the Hebrew mind, means entering into the depths of his personal life. This question shows his interest in us as people loved by God and helps us, on the one hand, to reinterpret what is within and around us so as to discover where our hearts lie, who we really are and, on the other, shows us the Heart of Christ full of love, compassion acceptance and tenderness.
As Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, both in our initial and ongoing formation, it remains the commitment of the person and of the Institute to cultivate, deepen and contextualise our spirituality of the Heart of Jesus so that our whole life may increasingly adhere to the “programme” contained in our name.
It is Christ who, with his welcoming heart, shows his full trust in others, no matter what their situation, values them and restores them to their communities, to their homes, symbols of places of hope, of cordiality and human warmth. Life is made up of quality communications and relations. Saint Daniel Comboni speaks of the Institute “as a Cenacle of Apostles, a centre of light sending out so many rays that shine, giving warmth and revealing together the nature of the Centre from whom they emanate” (cf. Writings: 2648). Our hope is that the Heart of Jesus may truly be a Centre of communication among all the confreres and that we may make of fraternal communication an instrument for building bridges, to unite us and share the beauty of being brothers in mission, in an epoch marked by contrasts, division and indifference.
Lastly, as we reflect this year on the theme of ministeriality in the Institute, let us pray that the contemplation of the Heart of Christ may help us to live the mission, not superficially as a role to be filled but as a service to the Kingdom of God and an expression of a process of kenosis and decentralization. We wish you all a Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!
The General Secretary of Formation and the MCCJ General Council.
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