We hear so little positive news about the many and varied countries in Africa – most given the Catholic faith along with their subjugation by European powers intent on despoiling them. I want to redress the balance by sharing two stories from one of the poorest countries where Christian Life Community (CLC) is making a difference.
The CLC Ignatian way lies in healing historical divisions, a way that blurs distinctions of skin colour, offers a new way of relating, and shows the love of the Lord for all his peoples. In the forefront of these endeavours stand the Jesuits. They often came with the conquerors, but immediately showed a different way of relating with the indigenous peoples. They demonstrated ‘love in action’.
Based on formation through the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, CLC offers a process and ways of discernment and evaluation for those individuals who take seriously Christ’s call to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ Coming together in small groups to share their spiritual journey strengthens them to begin healing the terrible wounds inflicted on their neighbours, through the divine gift of forgiveness. as in Rwanda offering to share the treasure of CLC with Burundi, the country which had massacred so many Tutsis. Taking the first step is crucial on this journey.
I find it inspiring, challenging, shaming that people who seem so poverty stricken and disadvantaged compared to those around me in Aotearoa, are able to rise above their circumstances by ministering to others in need.
Here are the brief stories of two women from Burkina-Faso, one of the tiniest and poorest countries in Africa, as examples:
The woman with little education who studies for three relentless years to become a nurse, followed by three years of more advanced medical studies so that she may help HIV/AIDS victims. She has the perspicacity to see that they want most of all to be listened to, treated with dignity, when they are often rejected by their families through shame or fear of infection. Through the CLC process of sharing on personal prayer, of being listened to without comment or judgment, she learns to express herself, to pray, and to find a commitment to ‘help souls’, as Ignatius has it. She finds that CLC is not for herself, but for her sisters and brothers.
Another woman whose son’s failing sight motivates her to train in ophthalmology, in order to help those suffering from eye infections. She emphasises the importance of the quality of the reception of the patient for healing. She continues by detailing how the CLC, by means of silent, interior prayer on the Word of God has helped her to share her Christian experience through the witness of her life. She says that she looks for joy in the patients; their joy becomes her joy, and sustains her in her work.
The Christian Life Community is long established in over 60 countries and now nascent in Aotearoa. Tricia Kane.
- Tricia Kane is a former librarian and a grandmother.
News category: Opinion.