Archive | June, 2008

Lord of Miracles- Luke 8:22-56

9 Jun

In a small indigenous community there lived an elderly woman whose daily task was to carry the villagers’ clothing to the nearby river, wherein she would wash it. The humble old lady had little money and few personal belongings, though she had saved about seventy Spanish Real, enough to buy herself a small crucifix in the village’s religious goods market.

 

One day, she had finished her work washing clothes in the river and was preparing to go to market to buy the crucifix when a man walked past with his head downcast and with tears in his eyes. The man was on his way to prison because he owed seventy Real in taxes that he was too poor to pay. The man’s plight was well-known in the village; he often lacked the means necessary to support his wife and his young children. The old woman was moved with pity for the poor debtor, so to keep him out of prison she gave him her entire savings with which she had intended to purchase the crucifix. The man was overwhelmed with gratitude toward the woman, and he blessed her for her selfless gift that had saved him from going to jail.

 

Some days later, the woman was, as usual, at the river washing the villagers’ clothes. As she laboured, unnoticed by anyone with her hands below the surface of the water, the current pushed a small wooden object against the cloth that was in her submerged hand. The woman was unsure of what had touched her hand, since her sight was failing due to age, and the piece of clothing she was holding was thick. Hoping to look more closely at the wooden object that had become wrapped in cloth, she lifted it out of the water and, bringing it almost to the tip of her nose, she unwrapped it. Within the bands of cloth, there was a crucifix that was an exact replica of the one in the marketplace. It fit perfectly into the old woman’s palm.

 

Since she had been working in the river above the village, the woman knew that the crucifix could not have belonged to any of the villagers; it had miraculously appeared in the river. The old woman carried the crucifix back to her home and with great joy she built a small altar upon which to rest it. Then, exhausted from her day’s work, she fell asleep.

 

She was abruptly awakened from her slumber after a short time by a low knocking noise coming from the wooden altar she had constructed. The woman found that the crucifix on the altar, once small enough to fit the palm of her hand, had grown. Thinking that her vision had deteriorated so much over time, the aged woman took the crucifix to the priests and to the village’s elders. They agreed that the image of the crucified Lord had indeed grown; it was no illusion.

 

Over the years up to and beyond the old woman’s passing, the crucifix continued to grow until it reached a height of almost two metres and a width of nearly one-and-a- half metres. Pilgrims came from near and far to pray before the life-sized image of Christ on the Cross. So many came that the crucifix became damaged, and the governor ordered it to be burned twenty-seven years after its first appearance in the river. The fire was lit, but once the crucifix was placed amid the flames it was not consumed. Instead, the image of Jesus’ body began to sweat abundantly. It continued to sweat for two days thereafter, drawing even greater crowds of people, many of whom were sick but went forth completely cured.

 

The crucifix first floated down the Guadalajara River (Río Guadalajara, later Río Buga) and into the old Aboriginal woman’s hand in 1580. The governor of the region surrounding Popayán, which included the woman’s village and ranchland, ordered the crucifix to be burned in 1608. In 1819, the woman’s house was restored and made into a place for the ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims to meet and to pray. La Ermita, the church built to house the crucifix, fell into disrepair and became too small to accommodate the masses. Therefore, in 1875 the Archbishop of Popayán invited the Redemptorists to begin construction of a new shrine. The rose-couloured brick church received the Solemn Benediction of the then-Archbishop of Popayán, Msgr. Antonio Arboleda, on August 2, 1907, the Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Order. A magnificent clock was imported from France and fitted to the bell tower in March, 1909. The home of the crucifix known since the nineteenth century as “El Señor de los Milagros” (“The Lord of Miracles”) and before then as “El Señor de las Aguas” (Lord of the Waters”) was given the title of Basilica, House of the King, by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, in 1937. Today, the Basilica of Buga is one of the most-visited places of worship in Colombia.

 

Our Lord continues to work miracles for the faithful who journey to Buga or to countless other holy places the world over. Jesus works a miracle in the presence of believers every time the Mass is offered; He gives Himself to us in the celebration of the Eucharist whether in the great Basilica de Buga or in the most nondescript chapel.. Each time He renews His promise to us: “Amen, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by My heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

 

St. Matthew’s Gospel in particular emphasizes the role of ‘God with us’. The “Emmanuel” born to us in a manger in Bethlehem is “with (us) always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 1:23, 28:20). God’s coming among us in the flesh is a miracle in which the Almighty has made himself visible to us in human form, yet whether or not we are able to see God physically, we are usually unsure of how to respond to such miraculous Divine intervention, much less how to define a ‘miracle’.

 

Dr. Donald McFarlan of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, identifies a miracle as an “object of wonder” and paraphrases St. Augustine’s description of a miracle as a “marvelous event exceeding the known powers of nature” that is “due to some special act of God.” (McFarlan, Concise Bible Dictionary, Article on ‘Miracle’. Glasgow: Blackie and Sons, 1982) Appropriately, Dr. McFarlan then turns to the books of the Holy Scriptures in their original languages in search of the meaning intended by the divinely-inspired Biblical writers.

 

In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word ‘oth’, translated into English as ‘sign’, is used to denote an event or series of events that defy natural explanation. However, the appearances of ‘oth’ are not meant to detail disconnected occurrences, but to convey high points in the relationship between God and His chosen people Israel. This God-human relationship lasts from our creation until the end of time and beyond. The concentration and intensity of miracle stories in the Old Testament increase in times of trial for the Israelites, especially during the exodus from Egypt. These tales, first passed on via oral tradition, were eventually written down to be even more effective instruments with which to teach future generations:

 

“Later on, when your son asks you what these ordinances, statutes, and decrees mean which the LORD, our God, has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, ‘We were once slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with His strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-22)

 

God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh Ramses II was a foreshadowing of His greatest ‘oth’, the Incarnation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. As in the Hebrew Old Testament, St. John’s Gospel presents miracles as ‘signs’. John uses ‘semeion’, the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word ‘oth’, to describe seven of Jesus’ most important works: the changing of water into wine at Cana (cf. John 2:1-11; ‘semeion’ is first used in v. 11), the cure of the royal official’s son (cf. John 4:46-54), the healing of the paralytic at Bethesda (cf. John 5:1-18), His multiplication of the loaves (cf. John 6:1-15) and walking on water (cf. John 6:16-21), wherein the parting of the Red Sea and the Passover especially come to mind, the curing of the man born blind (cf. John 9:1-40), and lastly the raising of Lazarus (cf. John 11:1-44), a presage to Jesus’ own Resurrection.

 

St. John’s account of only seven of Jesus’ signs is not a limitation on the part of the Gospel writer, but perhaps more his emphasis on the universality of miraculous works. The number of miracles recorded in John’s Gospel- seven- signifies all-inclusiveness in the Bible. The Church herself is a miracle and owes her existence to the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ and to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Furthermore, the original conclusion of the Gospel of John prior to the later addition of Chapter 21, the Epilogue, likely by a different writer, summarizes excellently both the purpose of Jesus’ signs and that of the whole fourth Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [His] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.” (John 20: 30-31)

 

The Synoptic Gospels also agree on miracles as one of Jesus’ means of showing His power to His followers so that they might believe in His Godhead. However, instead of using the Greek word ‘semeion’ as does St. John, Sts. Matthew, Mark, and Luke employ the Greek ‘dunamis’, which means great or mighty work. The literal translation of ‘dunamis’ into English results in words such as ‘dynamic’, ‘dynamism’, and ‘dynamo’. The Lucan Gospel presents the most important mysterious act of God’s dynamism, the Incarnation, most at length among the four Gospels. Luke’s beautiful and detailed infancy narrative includes Mary’s Magnificat, with her acknowledgement, “the Mighty One has done great [works] for me, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49)

 

Thus Mary, Jesus’ first disciple, recognized the miracle that she bore in her womb. That mighty work, the Christ, went on to perform many great deeds for those who were willing to follow Him. The most miracles in any single chapter of Luke’s Gospel- four- are recorded in Chapter 8. The stories of Jesus’ calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, His healings of the Gerasene demoniac and of Jairus’ daughter, and the raising of the daughter of the synagogue official occur in sequence immediately after the parables of the sower and of the lamp in the same chapter. As is the purpose of the parables, Jesus’ miracles are correctly understood only by those properly disposed toward faith. (cf. Luke 8:10)

 

Fear, though, often precedes faith as our response to God’s wonders, especially when we do not connect supernatural acts with their source, the One whose “footsteps [are] unseen.” (Psalm 77:20) Earlier in Psalm 77, Asaph writes of the Exodus: “The waters saw you, God,…and lashed about, trembled even to their depths.” (Psalm 77:17) Likewise, Jesus’ disciples were afraid of their own demise during the storm on the lake. (cf. Luke 8:23-24) Jesus, meanwhile, was peacefully asleep in the boat. The disciples, in a panic, awoke Him: “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:24) Upon awakening, Jesus first calmed the storm, and then asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25) The order of Jesus’ actions is important; He did not chide His disciples for their lack of faith before calming the tempest. Our Lord recognized His disciples’ natural human reaction to the threat of imminent and sudden death. The disciples’ response to the storm is as natural as our need to sleep. Jesus, fully human, knew that even as He slept while the disciples feared that they would die alone. The Master’s sleep was meant to prepare those in His presence for His death on the Cross. Jesus’ glorious victory over death itself would entail His suffering and dying alone. His disciples would all flee, and it would seem that even God the Father had abandoned Him. (cf. Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:34) Only after the Resurrection did the disciples no longer fear but understand and believe. (cf. Luke 24:13-49)

 

Before “opening [our] minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), Jesus allows us to experience fear, such that we tremble to our depths like the waters of the Red Sea. (cf. Psalm 77:17). Most if not all people experience fear, so to be afraid is not intrinsic evidence of wrongdoing. For many, fear is a necessary stage of our journey toward faith. Two forms of fear are presented in the Bible. The first is the kind of fear, similar to that of Jesus’ disciples prior to the calming of the storm, which we understand literally today, while the second is a response of awe and amazement at the greatness of God, such as that felt by the disciples after the sea was calmed.

 

The latter form of fear involves our lack of knowledge of who God is. The disciples asked, “Who then is this, who commands even the winds and the sea, and they obey Him?” (Luke 8:25) This question in response to Jesus’ power is entirely instinctive; most of us would behave the same way in a similar situation. Some people, though, never advance beyond fear in the sense in which it is understood contemporarily, and on toward faith. Philosophers including the Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard have written that one cannot ever overcome the “fear and trembling” stage, which is not therefore something to be surpassed or suppressed, but is essentially human. (cf. Philippians 2:12, Psalm 2:11, and Isaiah 19:16; cf. also Kierkegaard, “With Fear and Trembling”) The Bible even lists fear of the Lord as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Isaiah 11:2)

 

Nevertheless, Jesus’ calming of the storm on the lake only momentarily reassured His disciples, who again faced their fear of death when they encountered a possessed man on the opposite side of the lake. St. Luke describes the demoniac thus: “For a long time he had not worn clothes; he did not live in a house, but lived among the tombs.” (Luke 8:27) The setting of this story in all three Synoptic Gospels is near the Gentile town of Gerasa, or Gadara as in St. Matthew’s Gospel, which also includes two demoniacs instead of one. (cf. Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28-34) Gerasa was one of ten pagan cities southeast of the Sea of Galilee called the Decapolis. (cf. Mark 5:20) In such an environment, one can empathize with the disciples for feeling uneasy. In Gerasa, deep in pagan territory, a possessed man approached them. He was naked and had been in contact with the dead. Swine, which were forbidden by Jewish law to eat or to raise (cf. Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8), were feeding nearby. Most Jews would have remained as far away as possible from such an obvious risk of ritual uncleanliness, but Jesus led His followers into the midst of it. The disciples were understandably terrified. The evil spirits, though, were the most afraid; they were about to be destroyed by their Almighty and courageous foe, Jesus Christ, who called the demons out by name: “Legion.”(Luke 8:30) Our Lord single-handedly gained control over the numerous demons- a legion was equivalent to approximately 6 000 Roman foot soldiers- and sent them into the swine, who rushed off the cliff and were drowned in the lake. (Luke 8:32-33, and related notes, New American Bible). These demons were most fearful of Jesus because they knew Him best. They, too, called Him by name as they had in previous encounters between the Lord and other demoniacs: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Luke 8:28; cf. Luke 4:34, 41) However, this time the evil spirits who had “taken hold of [the man] many times” (Luke 8:29) were powerless against being cast into the swine and drowned in the lake, which in Luke’s Gospel is a symbol of “the abyss”, a word that is unique to Luke among the Gospels and signifies either the prison dwelling of Satan or the watery disorder prior to God’s creation of the universe in Genesis. (Luke 8:31 and related notes in R. Brown et al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; also cf. Romans 10:7 and Genesis 1:2)

 

Following the exorcism, only Jesus and the cured man appeared calm. The Gerasene townspeople scattered, “seized with fear” (Luke 8:35, 37), and they asked Jesus to depart from them. The phrase used by St. Luke in verse 35 is similar to the words that the Gospel writer first employs in his description of the shepherds tending their sheep when Jesus was born: “The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Like the righteous and simple shepherds or the evil King Herod (cf. Matthew 2:3), we are also sometimes afraid of the meaning and the message of a baby wrapped in cloth in a manger, not to mention of a mighty exorcist. The former demoniac at Gerasa, though, sat calmly at Jesus’ feet in the traditional posture at the time of a disciple before his teacher. (cf. Luke 8:35 and notes, NAB) The man would have followed Jesus, but Our Lord had greater plans for him: He was to go out and to proclaim gratefully amongst his fellow Gerasenes “what Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:39)

 

Meanwhile, Jesus returned to Jewish territory and was immediately greeted by great crowds that “almost crushed Him.” (Luke 8:42) St. Peter, likely feeling claustrophobic and therefore growing impatient with the masses, stated the obvious, “Master, the crowds are pressing in upon you.” (Luke 8:45) Though Peter does not, in this passage, ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd, his later words especially reflect that he is tiring of the great number of people constantly surrounding the Lord and His Apostles (cf. Luke 9:12), and likewise of their own inability to find a secluded location appropriate for prayer. However, two people were able to reach Jesus from among the multitude, the synagogue official named Jairus and a woman afflicted with hemorrhages. Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him in desperation to save his only daughter from death. (cf. Luke 8:42) This scene is reminiscent of the raising of the widow’s only son at Nain (cf. Luke 7:11-17); Jesus is shown again by St. Luke to be particularly attentive to those whose only children require His presence.

 

As highlighted previously in Luke’s Gospel, this Evangelist is especially concerned about women. Like Jairus’ daughter, the person who had been bleeding continually “for twelve years” was female. (Luke 8:43) The two women also share the number twelve in common- the length of time the second woman had been hemorrhaging is equal to Jairus’ daughter’s age in years. (cf. Luke 8:42-43) Twelve in the Bible usually symbolizes completeness or wholeness. Furthermore, Luke presents these two interwoven miracle stories to illustrate God’s response to genuine faith when it overcomes fear, in this case either of ridicule or of the density of the crowds. (cf. Hahn and Mitch, Ignatius Study Bible, note on Luke 8:48, 50, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2616)

 

A striking recent example of the role of true faith in surpassing fear is that of the Franciscan Padre Pio, who died in 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Reportedly, those who came to Padre Pio to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation were reminded by their confessor of all the transgressions that they were too afraid to admit. Many people, including Padre Pio’s own father, went forth in tears after being absolved of their sins. They had come into the confessional obsessed with the shame of sin and thus lacking faith and confidence in God. Following absolution by Padre Pio, penitents went forth crying tears of joy, liberated by the deep and powerful mercy of the Lord of which a holy yet humble Italian priest was an ideal instrument.

 

Whether through His disciples, through the Church, or alone, Jesus works miracles for those who believe in Him or who are willing to have their faith increased radically. From within the crowds, a woman who had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years approached Jesus and touched the tassel of His cloak. The tassels worn on men’s cloaks in Jesus’ time represented adherence to Jewish law. (cf. Matthew 23:5, Numbers 15:38-39, Deuteronomy 22:12) The woman risked not only making her own ritual impurity widely known, but also passing on her uncleanliness to Jesus through physical contact with Him. (cf. Leviticus 15:19-30). When, as St. Luke writes, “all were denying [having touched Jesus’ cloak]” (Luke 8:45), Christ encouraged the woman to come forward and to explain “in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him and how she had been healed immediately.” (Luke 8:47) Thus, Jesus’ miraculous works were revealed to a large number of people, just as they had been proclaimed in the Decapolis by the Gerasene man who had been freed of His demons.

 

While Our Lord was still teaching the crowds about the value of faith in understanding miracles, saying to the woman whom he had cured of her hemorrhaging, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 8:48), a member of Jairus’ household suddenly interrupted Him with the news that the synagogue official’s child had died. Jesus responded with the same message that followed His earlier miracles: “Do not be afraid, just have faith and she will be saved.” (Luke 8:50) Only the Lord’s closest friends, the Apostles Peter, John, and James, accompanied Him to Jairus’ house, wherein the girl had indeed died. There, Jesus had a special message for a select group of people; the larger crowds would not yet have understood its significance, and even those gathered were later instructed “to tell no one what had happened.” (Luke 8:56) Jesus showed Peter, John, James, and the girl’s parents that, as fear gives way to faith, one is capable of greater and more generous acts of service in God’s name. The raising of Jairus’ daughter resulted from the persistence of her family, which believed despite an incomplete comprehension of Jesus’ works and overall mission. In their lack of understanding, they ridiculed Jesus when He said to them, “Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52) Jesus would again be mocked as he hung on the Cross (cf. Luke 23:35-38), changing our death from sin into a temporary state to be conquered by His death and Resurrection.

 

Fear, then, must be surpassed by faith through which good works are performed by the grace of God, who is with us and within us. Jesus commands us to share in His miraculous ministry. He says: “Amen, amen, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these. And whatever you ask in My name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12)

 

Lord of Miracles, strengthen our faith that we may work fearlessly according to Your example. You teach us, as in the story of the old woman in Buga, that the smallest acts of kindness are often miracles to those in need, like the debtor on his way to prison. Lord of the Waters, calm all our unnecessary anxiety. Lord over evil, sickness, and death, You call to us as You did to Jairus’ daughter, “Child, arise!” You give us the gift of Yourself as food in the Holy Eucharist, just as you commanded the girl’s parents to give her “something to eat.” (Luke 8:54-55) Dwell within us and, as we share in Your Passion, may You also grant us a share in Your Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour, who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 

WRS

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Un candidato Basiliano en Cali- Una reflexión

1 Jun

Esta reflexión esta dedicada al Padre Francisco Amico, CSB, bajo requisición suya.

 

 

Tras de un amoroso lance, 
y no de esperanza falto,
volé tan alto, tan alto,
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

Para que yo alcance diese
a acueste lance divino,
tanto volar me convino
que de vista me perdiese…

 

Cuanto más alto llegaba
de este lance tan subido,
tanto más bajo y rendido
y abatido me hallaba;
dije: ¡No habrá quien alcance!
y abatime tanto, tanto,
que fui tan alto, tan alto, 
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

-San Juan de la Cruz (1548-1591)

 

Cada vez que leo esta poesía, que fue escrita durante un tiempo de reforma, no solamente dentro de la orden Carmelita a la cual San Juan de la Cruz perteneció, sino de toda la Iglesia Católica, creo que resume apropiadamente mi tiempo de servicio en Cali, Colombia, como candidato de la Congregación de San Basilio.

 

Mientras comienzo a escribir esta reflexión sobre lo que acaeció durante mis seis meses en Cali para cuando vuelva a Canadá en junio; estoy regresando a Cali después de una visita a la Casa Annonay, la sede Basiliana de Bogotá. La altitud de la ciudad capital colombiana es destacada. A una altura de 2 600 metros, Bogotá esta más arriba del nivel del mar que todas las ciudades capitales del mundo a excepción de dos: La Paz, Bolivia y Quito, Ecuador. El eslogan de Bogotá, a causa de su altitud, es la ciudad “2 600 m más cerca de las estrellas.”

 

Tuve también la oportunidad de visitar la casa  Basiliana de Medellín, que tiene un balcón en su tercer piso con una vista hermosa del centro de la ciudad desde las alturas del barrio Olaya Herrera. Este balcón era uno de mis lugares favoritos para escribir, para orar, y para contemplar la naturaleza tan bonita que Dios nos ha regalado. Cali, que está en el valle del Río Cauca, tiene montañas también, pero es una ciudad generalmente más plana que Bogotá o Medellín. En Cali como en Bogotá o en Medellín, los Basilianos están siempre dispuestos a servir a los pobres. Esta es una gran diferencia, creo yo, entre el carisma principal de los religiosos de Suramérica y los del Norte.

 

Nunca antes de llegar a Cali había visto tal nivel de pobreza que hay en una parte de nuestra parroquia que se llama La Playa. Mi primera excursión en este sector del barrio Puerto Mallarino fue emocionalmente difícil. En La Playa, mucha gente no vive en casas, sino vive en chozas básicas que sirven apenas como abrigos contra los elementos climatológicos. Las calles dañadas huelen feo y se llenan de agua durante las tormentas. Hay siempre riesgo de inundaciones provocadas por la lluvia, que a veces aumenta mucho el nivel del Río Cauca que fluye cerca. Lo que debe ser más triste es que hay otros barrios que están en la misma condición, ó sino peor que La Playa. Las personas que viven allá muchas veces no pueden pagar una educación para sus niños. Frecuentemente son personas desplazadas por la corrupción y la violencia que manchan este país que tiene un potencial social y económico tan grande.

 

Caminé otras veces en La Playa: una vez serví como intérprete entre dos sacerdotes Basilianos, el consejero general Padre Gordon Judd quien había estado visitándonos de Estados Unidos y el Padre Pedro Mora de Cali. Esta visita se dio durante un periodo de trabajo manual cuando en lugar de la labor físicamente más dura, el superior local, el Padre Francisco Amico, me encomendó ir con los Padres Gordon y Pedro a practicar mi español. Otra caminata en La Playa fue con los otros candidatos Basilianos de Cali para cortar los ramos del Domingo de Ramos en el mes de marzo. En las Escrituras Sagradas, los ramos tienen doble sentido. Primero, ellos significan el mártir y el sufrimiento, como viven cada día los habitantes de los barrios populares, que comprenden mejor que los ricos que la muerte de Jesús es intrínsicamente una glorificación del Señor (cf. Juan 12, 16), aún más que en relación con su Resurrección que es obviamente gloriosa. Segundo, los ramos denotan la alegría y la celebración. Cuando Jesús llegó a Jerusalén, las multitudes lo aclamarán con ramos, un símbolo judío de la Fiesta de los Tabernáculos (cf. 1 Macabeos 13, 51; 2 Macabeos 10, 7). Estas multitudes recordaran también la resurrección de Lázaro, amigo de Jesús, de entre los muertos (Juan 12,17). Para nosotros, discípulos de Jesús como Lázaro, la muerte entonces no es un hecho separado de la resurrección; para compartir la gloria de la Resurrección de Jesús, debemos también estar listos a compartir el sufrimiento y la vergüenza del Cristo crucificado- a cargar nuestra cruz diaria para seguir al Señor. (cf. Marcos 8,34; La Imitación de Cristo II.11) Esta es una lección importante que nos enseñan los pobres cuando estamos preparados para caminar con ellos.

 

Concurrentemente con la humillación de la pobreza, los que viven en los barrios populares comparten también una alegría que viene sin duda del Espíritu Santo. La alta taza de fertilidad en Colombia en comparación con la de Canadá se nota; hay bastantes jóvenes colombianos. Muchos de estos niños sufren de las mismas aflicciones de la generación de sus papás, por ejemplo la pobreza y la violencia ya mencionadas, el fracaso familiar, el abuso y el tráfico de la droga, y el robo que es con frecuencia una señal de personas desaventajadas tratando solamente de sobrevivir. Sin embargo, en medio de todos estos malos sociales, los niños tienen la fe y la esperanza que confunden a los que tienen una abundancia de bienes materiales pero carecen en demasía de lo que es más importante: la confianza en Dios omnibenevolente.

 

La primera Misa a la cual asistí en Cali fue pocos días después de llegar en enero. Fui con el Padre Basiliano Felipe (Wallace) Platt a una Misa de profesión de Franciscanos. El coro, enteramente conformado por niños, canto hermosamente. Me acuerdo de dos ó tres palabras del canto de entrada cuyo bello marco eran las sonrisas de los jóvenes, que cantaban con todo su ser de “la fe y la esperanza”. Desafortunadamente en aquellos días mi nivel de español no era suficientemente rico para deleitarme con el contenido idiomático del resto de la Misa, pero la canción inicial y la mirada en los rostros de los niños están siempre gravadas en mi mente.

 

La sonrisa es su idioma particular, trascendente de toda incapacidad de comunicar con palabras. San Francisco de Asis es famoso por haber dicho: “Predicar el Evangelio; usar palabras si es necesario.” También la primera carta de San Pablo a los Corintios nos impulso a orar por el don de interpretar lenguajes más que de sentirse orgullosos de poder hablarlos, porque dice, “Si oro en un lenguaje, mi espíritu está orando pero mi mente está improductiva.” (1 Corintios 14, 13-14) Los niños y los necesitados ilustran cómo interpretar de mejor manera el lenguaje de amor y de bondad que Dios enseña con preferencia a los sencillos. (cf. Lucas 10,21; Proverbios 9,4)

 

La Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción sirve a tres barrios del este de Cali: Andrés Sanín, Siete de Agosto, y Puerto Mallarino. El templo principal, así como la casa Basiliana y un colegio, el Instituto Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (INSA), donde estoy terminando mis cinco meses a enseñar Francés e Inglés, se sitúan en Andrés Sanín. En la parroquia, hay también capillas en los otros dos barrios. El barrio más pobre de esos tres es Puerto Mallarino. Me alegra ir a Misa y acolitar en todas los sectores de la parroquia, pero los encuentros con la gente de Puerto Mallarino, especialmente los más pequeños, me proporcionen una enorme jovialidad que se resiste a la descripción escrita.

 

Había ya contado la historia del día Domingo de Ramos. Mientras que los candidatos Basilianos, incluso yo, cargábamos los ramos en las calles de Puerto Mallarino, los niños salieron de sus casas para saludarnos. Los habitantes de nuestra parroquia reconocen el servicio de los Basilianos para ellos, y responden con inmensa gratitud. Muchos no tienen una educación ni buena catequesis, y siempre confunden los Basilianos en formación con los sacerdotes. Estaba también confuso la primera vez que un hombre me saludó en la calle frente del templo principal, “¡Buenos días, Padre!”, lo cual fue un gran honor, sin embargo, inmerecido para mí. Este saludo erróneo me hace no obstante recordar que debo buscar y orar por la santidad para vivir mis votos de pobreza, de castidad, y de obediencia ya no oficiales, y seguir la vida a la cual Dios nos llama comúnmente: a  ser según el bautismo Cristiano sacerdotes, profetas, y reyes. (cf. 1 Pedro 2,9)

 

Otra situación que me conmueve de sobre manera son mis encuentros con un niño particular de Puerto Mallarino después de cada Misa que yo acolito allá. A la salida de la Misa, cantamos siempre, “Dios te Salve, Maria…” En los tres templos de la parroquia, hay una imagen de la Madre de Dios cargando tiernamente el Divino Niño. Luego del himno a la Virgen, un niño cuyo nombre me escapa me sonríe y me pide que lo levante. Una vez en mis brazos, me dice, “¡Abre la boca!” No sé  porque él me solicita siempre abrir mi boca, pero cuando yo hago su voluntad, su sonrisa crece. Es una vista sin precio- la imagen, creo, del rostro de Dios mismo. Jesús nos da dos enseñanzas importantes, una concerniente con los niños y Su Reino, y la otra a propósito del ministerio de la boca. Primero, el Señor dijo a Sus apóstoles, quienes se encontraban impidiendo a los niños que estaban viniendo para que Jesús pudiese tocarlos: “El Reino de Dios es de quienes son como ellos. Les aseguro que él que no acepta el Reino de Dios como un niño no entrará en él.” (Marcos 10, 14-15) Segundo, Jesús castigó a los fariseos: “De lo que abunda en el corazón, habla la boca.” (Mateo 12, 34) Como ya lo dije, la sonrisa, particularmente de un niño, es su lenguaje propia, revelando la plenitud del amor Divino en el corazón más humilde y seduciendo al mío. (cf. Santa Teresa de Lisieux, Ms. C, 36vo)

 

Ha sido mi privilegio y mi placer de enseñar a los estudiantes del INSA durante este tiempo en Cali. Mientras que todos los Basilianos de cualquier etapa de la formación religiosa tienen la oportunidad de compartir mucho con los jóvenes, es raro de que un candidato pueda dar clases diarias en el colegio. Esto implica inmediatamente una diferencia en la relación del candidato con el estudiante. Admito que es fácil sentirse muy encariñado con los alumnos, también que dejarse perturbar por los muchachos que no muestran esfuerzo en sus estudios ó que tienen problemas de disciplina, pero eso no debe obscurecer los principales objetivos del educador: de informar a los alumnos con un poco de sus conocimientos en un área especifica, y de permitirse a veces aprender valores importantes de los estudiantes.

 

En el INSA, la mayoría de los alumnos vienen de los dos estratos económicos humildes de la sociedad colombiana. Hay seis de tales estratos en Colombia, donde los más pobres están en el primer estrato y los más ricos están en el sexto. Entonces, algunos jóvenes que estudian en el INSA llegan sin haber comido ó de toda manera mostrando la tristeza de su situación de hogar. Todavía la mayor parte de los alumnos quieren aprender y respetan y honran los profesores. Era muy interesante sobre todo de responder a las preguntas frecuentes de los estudiantes sobre algunas detallas de la vida Basiliana ó de la cultura canadiense.

 

En la Semana Santa, presenté una exposición sobre cuatro santos de interés personal: San José, San Basilio Grande, Santa Juana de Arco, y Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús. La Semana Santa fue un gran éxito en general, en la casa, en la escuela, y en la parroquia. Mucha de la gente que viene a Misa tiene carencias graves, por ejemplo el desempleo, las enfermedades, y tal vez más significativamente, las faltas en el nivel de educación y de instrucción sobre la religión católica, pero también estas personas son testigos de la devoción y de una fe que es casi de ensueño en Canadá. Nos preparamos para la Semana Santa en grupos de habitantes de los barrios llamados Pequeñas Comunidades. El Jueves Santo, participamos de la celebración de la institución de la Eucaristía y del sacerdocio por Jesús con doce estudiantes del grado undécimo del INSA sirviendo como apóstoles para el lavatorio de los pies. (cf. Juan 13, 1-20)

 

El Viernes Santo se celebró con la intensidad más grande que nunca había visto en mi país natal. Cargamos en las calles durante el Vía Crucis la Cruz y una estatua grande de la Dolorosa. Después del Vía Crucis, hubo una dramatización por los jóvenes del descenso de Jesús de la Cruz frente de la capilla de Puerto Mallarino, y luego una vigilia en el templo en Andrés Sanín, que fue oscurecido para recordar el vacío que acompaña la muerte del Cristo, quien venció el pecado del mundo. En la noche del Sábado Santo pasó la Vigilia de la Pascua, la Misa más grande del año, para celebrar la Resurrección del Señor, pero también para dar cuenta a nuestra esperanza común como Iglesia del retorno de Jesucristo en el día final. (cf. Apocalipsis 22,20)

 

No sabemos cuando el Señor llegará a la tierra de la misma forma que mientras fue al Cielo en Su Ascensión. (cf. Hechos 1,7; 1,11) Por eso debemos estar siempre listos, como siervos esperando el regreso de su maestro de un matrimonio (cf. Lucas 12, 35-40), practicando la Bondad, la Disciplina, y la Ciencia en la vida religiosa. En la casa Basiliana de Cali fue mi primera experiencia de esta forma de vida en común. Tengo mucha gratitud y alegría profunda por haber vivido en Colombia una mayor parte de mi candidatura. El Superior y Rector, el Padre Francisco Amico, además el Padre Pedro Mora y todos los habitantes de nuestra casa son ejemplos de virtud, de cariño, de enseñanza, de paciencia, y de amor fraternal.

 

Estoy preparándome para el noviciado Basiliano, que empezará el 15 de agosto en Windsor, Ontario, Canadá y que durará un año. “Noviciado” y “novicio” vienen de la palabra Latina “novus”, significando “nuevo”. Estoy siempre creciendo y descubriendo nuevas realidades en esta peregrinación Basiliana. Oro a Dios Padre, Hijo, y Espíritu Santo de continuar su trabajo en mí y de ayudarme a seguir su camino. También doy gracias a nuestro Dios por todos mis hermanos Basilianos que me dan la fuerza del Todopoderoso para ser cada día un mejor discípulo del Señor.

 

La vida religiosa es, de una manera, un microcosmo de la Iglesia entera. Finalmente, somos llamados no solamente a ser buenos religiosos, hermanos, ó sacerdotes, sino somos llamados a la vida eterna- a permanecer con Dios en la Comunión de los Santos, que es la comunidad más especial de todas. Experimentamos en esta valle de lágrimas el destierro, la pobreza, y la tristeza, pero debemos esperar únicamente en el Cielo. Este mundo, especialmente la vida en común, implica toda la topografía espiritual que explicó San Juan de la Cruz y las varias características físicas que Colombia me recuerda. Si deseáramos ser santos, como enseñó también Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús y de la Santa Faz, hermana de la misma comunidad Carmelita que incluyó San Juan de la Cruz, debemos primero ser humildes y no tener miedo de abatirnos, de estar tan bajos que Dios pueda llevarnos “tan alto, tan alto” para que podamos alcanzar la plegaria que es el Amor…

 

Oremos al Señor de la cosecha para que Él envíe más buenos cultivadores fieles a Su Palabra (cf. Mateo 9, 37-38), y para que podamos practicar la pobreza del espíritu y seguir a Jesús según Sus mandamientos de amar a Dios, a nuestro prójimo, y a nosotros mismos con todo nuestro ser. Somos siempre candidatos y novicios, tratando de nuevo de aprender la forma de vida para la que el Creador nos ha formado. O Cristo, sea nuestro instrumento de reformación de todas nuestras imperfecciones para llevarnos a la vida eterna. Amen.

 

  

 

Tras de un amoroso lance, 
y no de esperanza falto,
volé tan alto, tan alto,
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

1. Para que yo alcance diese
a acueste lance divino,
tanto volar me convino
que de vista me perdiese;
y, con todo, en este trance
en el vuelo quedé falto;
mas el amor fue tan alto, 
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

2. Cuanto más alto subía
deslumbróseme la vista,
y la más fuerte conquista
en oscuro se hacía;
mas, por ser de amor el lance
di un ciego y oscuro salto,
y fui tan alto, tan alto, 
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

3. Cuanto más alto llegaba
de este lance tan subido,
tanto más bajo y rendido
y abatido me hallaba;
dije: ¡No habrá quien alcance!
y abatime tanto, tanto,
que fui tan alto, tan alto, 
que le di a la caza alcance.

4. Por una extraña manera
mil vuelos pasé de un vuelo,
porque esperanza del cielo
tanto alcanza cuanto espera;
esperé solo este lance,
y en esperar no fui falto,
pues fui tan alto, tan alto, 
que le di a la caza alcance.

 

 

 

 

Quisiera incluir una dedicatoria especial a Andrés Felipe Zúñiga, mi maestro de Español y gran amigo durante éstos seis meses en Cali, quien me ayudó a lograr este primer articulo enteramente escrito en Español y quien es, creo, un ejemplo excelente del amor de Dios.

 

Warren Roger Schmidt,

Candidato, Congregación de San Basilio

22 mayo, 2008

Santa Rita de Casia

 

 

 

 

A Basilian Candidate in Cali- Reflection Essay

1 Jun

This reflection is dedicated to Fr. Francisco Amico, CSB, and was written upon his request.

 

 

I went out seeking love

and with unfaltering hope

I flew so high, so high

that I overtook the prey.

 

That I might take the prey

of this adventuring to God

I had to fly so high

That I was lost from sight…

 

The higher I ascended

in this seeking so lofty

the lower and more subdued I became.

I said: No one can overtake it!

And sank so low, oh, so low,

That I was so high, so high,

that I took the prey.

 

-St. John of the Cross (1548-1591)

 

Each time I read this poem, which was written in a time of reform, not only of the Carmelite Order to which St. John of the Cross belonged, but of the whole Catholic Church, I believe it more to be an appropriate summary of my time spent serving in Cali, Colombia, as an associate of the Congregation of St. Basil.

 

As I begin to write this reflection on what will have been nearly six months in Cali by the time I arrive back in Canada in June, I am returning to Cali from a visit to Casa Annonay, the Basilian house in Bogotá. The altitude of the Colombian capital city is noteworthy. At approximately 2 600 metres, Bogotá is higher above sea level than all but two other national capitals in the world: La Paz, Bolivia, and Quito, Ecuador. Owing to its altitude, Bogotá’s slogan is the city “2 600 metres closer to the heavens.”

 

I also had the opportunity to visit the Basilian house in Medellín, which includes a balcony on its third floor with a beautiful view of the city center from the heights of the barrio Olaya Herrera. This balcony was one of my favourite places to write, to pray, and to contemplate God’s wonderful gift of nature. Cali, which is in the valley of the Río Cauca, also has mountains, though it is generally flatter in topography than Bogotá or Medellín. In Cali as in Bogotá or Medellín, the Basilians are continually prepared to serve the poor. I believe this to be one important difference between the principal charism of religious in South America and those in the North.

 

Prior to arriving in Cali, I had never encountered such a level of poverty as there exists in a part of our parish named La Playa. My first visit to this section of Puerto Mallarino was emotionally difficult. In La Playa, many do not live in houses, but instead these people live in basic shacks that barely serve as shelters against the elements. The damaged streets have a foul smell and they fill with water during storms. The risk of flooding exists continually due to rainwater that often greatly increases the level of the Río Cauca, the river that flows nearby. It is perhaps even sadder that other barrios exist that are in the same or worse condition as La Playa. Those that live in these neighborhoods frequently cannot afford an education for their children. Often these are persons displaced by the corruption and violence that stain this country with such great social and economic potential.

 

I walked through La Playa on other occasions: Once I served as a translator between two Basilan priests, the General Councilor Father Gordon Judd, who had been visiting from the United States, and Father Pedro Mora of Cali. This visit to La Playa happened during a manual labor period when instead of heavier physical work, the local superior, Father Francisco Amico, requested that I accompany Fathers Gordon and Pedro to practice my Spanish. Yet another walk through La Playa was with the other Basilian candidates living in Cali. In March, we went to cut palm branches for Palm Sunday. In the Sacred Scriptures, palm branches have a double meaning. Firstly, they signify martyrdom and suffering, such as that lived out every day by those in the lower-class barrios, who understand better than the rich that Jesus’ death is intrinsically a glorification of the Lord (cf. John 12:16), even more than in relation to His Resurrection that is more obviously glorious. Secondly, the palm branches represent joy and celebration. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the crowds acclaimed Him with palm branches, the Jewish symbol of the Feast of the Tabernacles. (cf. 1 Maccabees 13:51, 2 Maccabees 10:7) Those multitudes also remembered the raising of Lazarus, friend of Jesus, from the dead. Thus for us, disciples of Jesus like Lazarus, death is not an event separate from resurrection; in order to share in the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection, we must also be ready to share in the suffering and in the shame of the crucified Christ- to carry our cross daily and to follow Him. (cf. Mark 8:34; The Imitation of Christ II, 11) This is an important lesson that the poor teach us when we are prepared to journey with them.

 

Along with the humiliation of poverty, those that live in the underdeveloped barrios also share a joy that without doubt comes from the Holy Spirit. Colombia’s fertility rate is remarkably high compared to that of Canada, and therefore there are numerous young Colombians. Many of these children suffer the same afflictions as do people of their parents’ generation, for example the aforementioned poverty and violence, family breakdown, drug abuse and trafficking, and theft that is frequently a sign of disadvantaged persons trying just to survive. However, amongst all these social ills, the children possess faith and hope that confound those that have an abundance of material goods but dearly lack that which is most important: confidence in the omnibenevolent God.

 

The first Mass I attended in Cali was only a few days after arriving in Colombia in January. I went with the Basilian Father Wally Platt to a Mass with the profession of vows of some Franciscans. The choir, entirely composed of children, sang beautifully. I remember only two or three words of the entrance hymn, along with the magnificent smiles of the young singers, who sang with all their being of “faith and hope.” Unfortunately at that time my level of Spanish was not sufficient for me to understand the rest of the Mass, but the initial hymn along with the image of the children’s faces are forever fixed upon my memory.

 

The smile is its own language, transcending all incapacity to communicate with words. St. Francis of Assisi is famous for having said, “Preach the Gospel; if necessary use words.” Furthermore, the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians impels us to pray for the gift of interpreting languages rather than feeling proud of being able to speak in them. St. Paul says, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit is at prayer but my mind is unproductive.” (1 Corinthians 14: 13-14) Children and the poor illustrate how best to interpret the language of love and of goodness that God preferentially teaches to the simple. (cf. Luke 10:21, Proverbs 9:4)

 

The Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption (Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) serves three barrios in the eastern part of Cali: Andrés Sanin, Siete de Agosto, and Puerto Mallarino. The main church building, as well as the Basilian house and a school, Instituto Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (INSA), where I am finishing my five months of teaching French and English, are in Andrés Sanin. The area served by the parish also includes chapels in the other two barrios. The poorest neighborhood of the three is Puerto Mallarino. I enjoy going to Mass and serving as Acolyte in all the sectors of the parish, but the encounters with the people of Puerto Mallarino, especially the smallest ones, give me a great sense of delight that resists written description.

 

I have told most of the story of Palm Sunday. While the Basilian candidates, including myself, were carrying the palm branches through the streets of Puerto Mallarino, the children eagerly came out from their houses to greet us. Thos living in our parish recognize the service provided for them by the Basilians, and they respond with immense gratitude. Many have little education and are poorly catechized, and they regularly confuse Basilians in formation with our priests. I was equally confused the first time a man greeted me in the street in front of the main church, “Hello, Father!” This was a great honor for me, however unmerited on my part. This mistaken greeting nevertheless helped me to remember that I should search and pray for holiness in order to live by my vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience that are as of yet unofficial, and to live the life to which God calls us all together: to be, according to our Christian Baptism, priests, prophets, and kings. (cf. 1 Peter 2:9)

 

I am also deeply moved by my encounters with one particular child from Puerto Mallarino after every Mass that I serve there. The Hail Mary is always sung as the recessional hymn. In each of the three churches of the parish, there is an image of the Mother of God tenderly carrying the Divine Child. Following the hymn to the Virgin, a child whose name escapes me smiles at me and asks me to lift him up. As soon as he is in my arms, he says, “Open your mouth!” I do not know why he always asks me to open my mouth, but when I do as he wills, his smile grows. The sight is priceless- the image, I believe, of the face of God Himself. Jesus gives us two important teachings, one concerning children and His Kingdom, and the other about the proper role of the mouth. Firstly, the Lord said to His apostles, who were attempting to prevent the children from coming to Jesus so that He could touch them: “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mark 10: 14-15) Secondly, Jesus scolded the Pharisees: “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) As I have said, the smile, especially that of a child is its own language, revealing the fullness of Divine Love in the humblest heart and seducing my own. (cf. Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux, Autobiographical Manuscript C, 36vo)

 

To teach the students at INSA during this time in Cali was a great privilege and pleasure. While all Basilians in whatever step of religious formation have the opportunity to connect with youth, it is rare that a candidate is able to teach daily classes in the school. This immediately implies a difference in the relationship between the candidate and the student. I admit that it is easy to feel attached to the children, as well as to allow one’s self to become frustrated with those that show little effort in their studies or with those who have discipline problems, but that ought never to obscure the main objectives of the educator: to use a portion of one’s own knowledge in a specific subject area, and also to permit one’s self at times to be taught important values by the students.

 

At INSA, the majority of the students come from the most humble economic strata of Colombian society. There are six such economic levels in Colombia, where the poorest are in Stratum One and the richest persons are in Stratum Six. Thus, some students at INSA come to class not having eaten, or in any case showing signs of the sadness of their situation at home. Nonetheless most of the students want to learn, and they respect and honor the teachers. It was interesting above all for me to be able to respond to frequent questions from the pupils about some of the details of Basilian life or of Canadian culture.

 

During Holy Week, I presented on the lives of four saints of personal interest: St. Joseph, St. Basil the Great, St. Joan of Arc, and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. Holy Week was a great success in general, in the house, in the school, and in the parish. Many in the community who attend Mass regularly contend with serious hardships, for example unemployment, sickness, and possibly of greater consequence, low levels of education and of instruction in the Catholic religion, although most of the people are true witnesses of Christ, possessing a level of devotion and of faith that is but a dream in Canada. We prepared ourselves for Holy Week in groups of residents- the “Little Communities- of each of the barrios. On Holy Thursday, we participated in the celebration of Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood with twelve Grade eleven students from INSA serving as apostles during the washing of feet. (cf. John 13:1-20)

 

Good Friday was celebrated with an intensity that I had never seen in my native country. During the Way of the Cross, we carried the Cross along with a large statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. Following the Way of the Cross, the youth presented an enactment of the descent of Jesus from the Cross in front of the chapel in Puerto Mallarino, and then later a vigil took place in the church in Andrés Sanin, which was darkened to recall the emptiness that accompanies the death of Christ, who conquered the sin of the world. The Easter Vigil, the most important Mass of the year, was observed on the night of Holy Saturday to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, but also to evoke our common hope as Church in the return of Jesus Christ on the last day. (cf. Revelation 22:20)

 

We do not know when the Lord will come again to the earth in the same way as He ascended into Heaven. (cf. Acts 1: 7, 11) Therefore we ought always to be ready, as servants awaiting the arrival of their Master from a wedding ceremony (cf. Luke 12: 35-40), practicing Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge in our religious life. My first experience of this form of community living was in the Basilian house in Cali, and I am filled with much gratitude and with a profound joy for having lived in Colombia for a significant part of my candidacy. The Superior and Rector, Father Francisco Amico, as well as Father Pedro Mora and all those living in our house are examples of virtue, of friendliness, of sound teaching, of patience, and of fraternal love.

 

I am currently preparing myself for the Basilian Novitiate, which will begin on 15 August in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and which will last one year. “Novitiate” and “Novice” come from the Latin word “novus” meaning “new”. I am continually discovering new realities in this pilgrimage with the Basilians. I pray to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to continue His work in me and to help me to follow His path. I also give thanks to our God for all my Basilian brothers who give me the strength of the All-Powerful, that each day I might be a better disciple of the Lord.

 

Religious life is, in a way, a microcosm of the entire Church. Finally, we are called not only to be good religious, brothers, or priests, but we are called to eternal life- to abide with God in the Communion of Saints, which is the most special community of all. In this valley of tears, we are acquainted with exile, poverty, and sadness, but we must place our hope fully in Heaven. This world, especially life in common, entails the experience of the whole spiritual topography that St. John of the Cross explained and of which the varied physical characteristics of Colombia remind me. If we desire to be saints, as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, sister of the same Carmelite community that included St. John of the Cross, taught, we must firstly be humble and not be afraid to abase ourselves, to sink “so low” that God will raise us up “so high, so high” and that we might then take “the prey” that is Love…

 

Let us pray to the Lord of the harvest, so that He might send more good laborers who are faithful to His Word (cf. Matthew 9: 37-38), and that we might practice poverty in spirit and follow Jesus according to His commandments to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves with our whole being. We are always candidates and novices, attempting anew to learn the way of life for which the Creator has formed us. O Christ, be the instrument of reformation of all our imperfections and lift us to life everlasting. Amen.

 

 

I went out seeking love,
and with unfaltering hope
I flew so high, so high,
that I overtook the prey.

 

 

1. That I might take the prey
of this adventuring in God
I had to fly so high
that I was lost from sight;
and though in this adventure
I faltered in my flight,
yet love had already flown so high
that I took the prey.

 

2. When I ascended higher
my vision was dazzled,
and the most difficult conquest
came about in darkness;
but since I was seeking love
the leap I made was blind and dark,
and I rose so high, so high,
that I took the prey.

 

3. The higher I ascended
in this seeking so lofty
the lower and more subdued
and abased I became.
I said: No one can overtake it!
And sank, ah, so low,
that I was so high, so high,
that I took the prey.

 

4. In a wonderful way
my one flight surpassed a
thousand,
for the hope of heaven
attains as much as it hopes for;
this seeking is my only hope,
and in hoping, I made no mistake,
because I flew so high, so high,
that I took the prey.

 

 

I would like to include a special dedication to Andrés Felipe Zuñiga, my Spanish tutor and great friend during these six months in Cali, who assisted me in realizing my first article entirely written in Spanish (of which this is my translation to English) and is, I believe, an excellent example of the love of God.

 

Warren Roger Schmidt,

Associate, Congregation of St. Basil

22 May, 2008

St. Rita of Casia