We resume this series of testimonies with Fr. Longinos and his missionary experience in Uganda.
Fr. Longinos brings us closer to the reality of a country and its people in a context of war. Especially the reality of the Karamoja region.
Happy Easter to you friends!
Today, Easter is both a celebration of the gift of spiritual rebirth and at the same time a reminder of the constant renewal of life here on earth.
We live in a wonderful but deeply wounded and wounding world that is at times uncaring, unforgiving, cruel, and devoid of second chances. Easter offers the assurance that the many difficulties and challenges that threaten to overwhelm us will be overcome.
Jesus says to frightened disciples, “Do not be afraid.” To us he says, “Do not be afraid.” Whatever it is that causes you to fear, Jesus the risen Christ will be with you and will go ahead of you and continue to be with you. He offers you joy and peace, forgiveness and hope. Most of all he offers you himself. You need not fear. He has overcome the world. As a community, we are involved in several activities in order to reach out to the society with gospel values and this has brought hope, restored broken relationships, and transformed many lives for Christ within Uganda and beyond.
Emmaus covenant community members apart from spiritual programs, we also do some other activities for communal and self-sustainability in order to provide essential needs to their families:
We do Poultry farming and we are currently dealing in broilers.
We have parenting workshop for community members
We minister to the married and singles in the community
We have Family cell groups
Next to this we minister to children, religious and lay people.
To all our dear friends and partners in the Vineyard of Jesus Christ our Lord, we wish you hope, faith, love, and peace of the risen Lord.
Emmaus Covenant Community Leadership Team
We, the Emmaus Covenant Community are a community of lay faithful. We are called to be an oasis of gospel life expressed in the love of God and mutual love for one another so that the gospel of Christ will shine forth from them. Consequently, Emmaus Covenant community by its very lifestyle is evangelizing. Called by Jesus and touched by His grace each member of the community aspires to attain growth in human and spiritual maturity.
Richard. CLM Uganda
The year 2020 has started with the visit to the province by the Superior General, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse and one of the General Councilors, Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla. It has been a great moment of communion. They had also a meeting with the Comboni Lay Missionaries in their house at Solent Avenue-Kampala (in the picture).
From the 6th January to the 8th February 2020, the two visitors met confreres individually and all communities. It was also a moment of meeting Bishops of the dioceses where the Comboni Missionaries are serving and some other religious families with which we work closely. The two confreres visited different projects geared at human promotion with which we are engaged. In all the communities, the Superior General and Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla had a message of encouragement, acknowledging the tremendous work the Comboni Missionaries are doing in Uganda and inviting us to be focused on labouring for the Kingdom of God despite the challenge of a reduction in personnel.
They had a meeting with the Comboni Lay Missionaries in their house at Solent Avenue-Kampala. The visitors invited the province to be grateful to God for the forthcoming beatification of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, Mccj.
Scheduled for the 22 November 2020 at Kalongo (Archdiocese of Gulu), the beatification will be a moment of celebrating the work of God’s grace in a man who humbly and lovingly sought nothing other than caring for the sick. One of the moments that marked the end of the visit was the inauguration of a small project, Limone Medical Centre, situated at the former premises of Leadership Magazine. The facility designed to accommodate confreres who need special care as they follow their medical treatment in big medical facilities in and around Kampala. It will have an outpatient service open to the public. It was a moment of joy to have the Superior General officially opening this place on Friday 7th February 2020.
The province is grateful to the General Council for this moment which we will always treasure.
We have observed many times a truck carrying a heavy load climbing a mountain. In the sloping side of the mountain the driver has little work to and in the climbing lane, there is a lot of smoke that comes and a keen attention is needed by the driver to manage the climbing lane. The driver is determined because he knows the lane will end and he will relax and so he does not give up in his task of taking the goods to the required destination. I can confidently compare our Christian life to this scenario of a truck driver who has to engage all the gears according to the task to be accomplished. Many times in our Christian life, we meet people who tell us it is very hard to follow Christ. Once they have made up their mind to follow Jesus, they are faced with situations that make them lose heart and they feel the fire in them that burns for love of God is getting weak and weak. Our Christian life comprises of many obstacles we meet. Much as we have faith in God and promise to maintain closeness to God at all times, there are few things that will give friction to us in the way of our Christian life to love God at all times. God created us in his own image and likeness Gen. 1:27-28. And Jesus came to fulfill this in New Testament when he said …..I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full John 10:10. It may not be easy for us to feel this fullness of life in Jesus on daily basis unless we are aware of our inner and very deep self-rejection. I meet very many cases of self-rejection in my daily work in the hospital and clinics and families with all categories of people both young and old, laity and religious and those who have no faith in God. According to different sources of consultations with patients and general teachings and Catechisms of Catholic Church the writer comes across, he has come up to compile these as some of the causes of self-rejection affecting our love for God. These causes when we dig deeper to find out the details are the same regardless of who is the person presenting with these scenarios affecting all people of all walks of life.
How can I know I have self-rejection?
God created us so that we should enjoy the company of one another but not to be segregated or isolated from one another worse in our communities and families.
Some causes of self-rejection
This can be as a result of some other things not only limited to such as;
All these will bring doubts about God and meaning of life to the victims and the family members. All these above issues in a very long time in life sometimes late into adulthood can breed the 5 Demons in our life or in the life of others called Hatred, Fear, Irrational fear, Feeling of being inferior and Persecution Complex/Self-pity
These 5 demons cause the following in our lives or lives of others;
Unless the inner causes are removed with prayers of repentance and counselling which are normally combinations of very many factors, you will never get rid of self-rejection in life. We should never take prayers as magic like you want food and there it is which is all about testing God.
Let us look at the manifestations of these 5 demons in our life;
IRRATIONAL FEELING OF GUILT
The first step to overcome this is to accept and believe there is a problem with you so that you can seek relevant solution accordingly.
Prayer is the only solution to overcome this problem after seeking spiritual counselling from spiritual director or otherwise. This will energetically and profoundly influence our mind and spirit to be directed towards God.
This will call us to have very deep reflection and contemplation towards God and have a strong will and sufficient love for God. Prayer of conversation/repentance in such circumstances helps to heal/cure our lack of reflection about our activities.
God listens to our prayers and so we need the spirit of perseverance to wait for the will of God in our life as we ask in Faith convinced like a farmer who plants maize and will expect maize to germinate and give yield with good harvest at the end which will all take time and patience. We also need to remember that our prayers and answers will correspond to our actions in order to collaborate with God.
Our Spiritual Fathers give us a beautiful lesson about such challenges in life when they say: “Happy is the man,” says the dear St. Francis of Assisi, “who does not worry, nor grieve himself, about anything in this world, but leads a holy life, without any inordinate attachment, and abandons himself cheerfully to the will of God.” This is very true because we get troubles with ourselves when we are attached to material things or worldly pleasures and fame which all are pride and self-centeredness that drive us to oppress and deprive others of their due praise and recognition. St. Francis of Sales, knowing that all the accidents of life, without exception, happen by the order of Providence, reposed in Him with the greatest tranquility, like a child on the bosom of its mother. This gentle saint was filled with so great a confidence in God that in the midst of the greatest disasters nothing could disturb the peace of his soul. “I cannot but be persuaded,” he often said, “that he who believes in an infinite Providence, which extends even to the lowest worm, must expect good from all that happens to him.” In the same spirit, St. Vincent de Paul exhorts us: “Let us place our confidence in God and establish ourselves in an entire dependence on Him. Then fear not what men may say or do against us all will turn to our advantage. Yes, if all the earth should rise up against us, nothing will happen but as God pleases, in whom we have established our hopes.” Says the author of the “Spiritual Combat”: “Nothing is impossible to God, since His power is infinite. Nothing is difficult to God, since His wisdom is equally infinite. Therefore surrendering through prayers to allow his will be done in all that happen to us is the best offering we can give to him in our Comboni Lay Missionary activities we have committed to do. God desires our good with an infinite desire, since His goodness is without limit. We are told that God does not send us to carry a burden beyond our bear and he is aware of all that happens to us and we just say with our beloved Mother Mary let your will be done to me according to your will, Luke 1:38. What can be more stretched is a blessed secret this, of living by the day that is to say live each day the way it comes, one at a time. Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all what life ever means to us — just one little day at a time “Do to-day’s duty; fight to-day’s temptations, and do not weaken or distract yourself by looking forward to things you cannot see, and could not understand if you saw them.”( Lasance, F. X. (Francis Xavier), 1860-1946. My prayer book; happiness in Goodness: Reflections, counsels, prayers and devotions. New York Benziger Bros). God gives us nights to shut down upon our little days and we should always remember to thank him for the gift of each day regardless of what the day has for us both good and bad, all of which has a purpose for us to identify God from what is happening to us each day.
St. Daniel Comboni beautifully puts it to remind us in our Missionary journey that: 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 born and grown at the foot of Calvary (Cross) and must, like Jesus, go through the process of passion and death in order to reach the Resurrection (St. Daniel Comboni Message MDC 236). When we have this saying in front of us in all moments of our life, we shall embrace all sufferings with open arms as Comboni Lay Missionaries knowing well that there is no Easter without Good Friday. Let us be strengthened by our weakness to find God in all that we go through as his followers and imitate our most beloved Mother Mary placing ourselves to the working of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our life under the inspiration of St. Joseph our model in family life.
May we be there for each other to hold our hands when hard moments come to us in our daily Christian journey while daily singing our beautiful Hymn…I have decided to follow Jesus…..no turning back, no turning back…. May we always be one in Jesus Christ our Lord…..Amen!
Comboni Lay Missionary, Uganda
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;
For the Church;
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.
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.
7.The heart of prayer is in listening. Listen to the voice of God speaking to you
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;
Therefore, a good Christian should;
The virtues that helped the Saints to persevere in their faith were but not limited to, they had;
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
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;
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;
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