Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I am the Vine, you are the branches!

Few days ago I decided to have a bit of immersion experience in different environments here in Tamale. I decided to visit my mentally and physically challenged children in their different homes as they were on a month’s vacation. It was an experience that left me energized. But it also raised a lot of answered questions.

Some families lived with those who are challenged in a very integrated way loving unconditionally and with no hint of discrimination. While in some other families this was not the case. The question, “when are the schools re-opening again?” was indicative of the fact that for some these children with special needs were a burden.

I found myself questioning, “Am I really aware what these families are going through? Am I aware of the demands made on these families and the sacrifices they have to make daily?

Many of the families were surprised that I had taken the time to especially visit the children. They told me it had been a long while since anyone had come to visit them as friends. This only highlighted the isolation of these children for me.

I pondered Jesus’ words, “I am the vine and you the branches”. How could I make these children feel like the branches? It gave them great joy when I affirmed them that my community held them and their children in prayer. I believe it will be a greater surprise when they realize a wider world is saying a simple prayer for them as a sign of great love, friendship and unity

I request you to breathe a simple prayer today for these my friends and for the many like them, make them feel they are part of the much larger vine, the Kindom of God!

(Samuel Munyua Ngumi)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Feminism - Change we can believe in?

“Change we can believe in” is a slogan we have seen often these last few months. But I wonder if we as a people and a society are really committed to change. Reading about the growing communal tension in India, the unabated abuse and destruction of the environment for personal and economic gain, the flexing of political muscle in so many countries around the world, the aggressive and relentless arms race and the collapse of financial structures and entities across continents brings me to the point where we as a people need “to be the change that we wish to see in the world.” Is it not time now for a whole new world order, a new world view where power, control, order, domination, patriarchy, war, aggression give way to empowerment, equality, humanity and dignity of all living things? Or are we content to languish and wallow in “more of the same?”

The book, “Fire in these Ashes” by Joan Chittister has been an all time favourite of mine. In the chapter ‘New Perspective, Necessary Virtue’ she says, “Feminism is a worldview that revisions the world from the perspectives of the equality, humanity and dignity of every living thing.

Feminism is actually a very simple concept. Feminism is a commitment to the equality, the dignity and full humanity of all human beings to such an extent that we dedicate ourselves to effecting the changes in structures and relationships that make the fullness of humanity possible for everyone. On the other hand, straightforward as it is, it requires a whole new way of seeing the world and everything in it. Feminism views the world from the point of view of the meaning of creation rather than the concentration of power. To the feminist whatever has been created is good and gifted and necessary to the development of the human race, to be respected, to be listened to, to be included in the panoply of power that affects its existence. To the feminist, nothing is made for the "comfort and necessity" of something else, nothing is without its own dignity, its own meaning, its own value, its own needs, its own gifts, its own rights. To the feminist, life is not a matter of the survival of the fittest, it is a matter of the fullest possible development of us all.

What feminism seeks is true partnership for the care of the earth, true balance of its gifts, true integrity in its rela­tionships. Without it we can never mend a universe distorted by force, given over to power, built on oppression and made the captive of might.

Feminist spirituality calls for a new kind of spirituality in all of us. The rational, the ritualistic, the repressive spirituality of patriarchy that divides the world and everything in it into good and bad, high and low, living and non-living, agent and object must give way now to a spirituality that, integrated, sees God in everything, inspiriting, recognizes the Spirit in every­thing, inclusive, sees equal value in everyone, humble, sees no one and nothing as more or less acceptable to God, and incarnational, sees God and God's grace present everywhere in everything. Feminist spirituality is indeed dangerous for the orthodoxies that categorize and control. It demands a new ecology of life, not simply a reform of what is. It is the hope of the earth, the liberation of the oppressed, the eman­cipation of imagination, the very restoration of the real mean­ing of God.”

Imagine! Believe! Become the change!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Good that can come from Suffering

In the recent weeks news about hurricanes Gustav and Ike, floods in Bihar, attacks on Christians in the Indian state of Orissa, bomb blasts in New Delhi, plane crashes in Russia, mudslides in China, rockslides in Egypt have filled the air waves and used up much newsprint. What does all this say to me and to us?

I was left pondering the awesome and destructive power of the forces of nature, the indiscriminative targets of terrorists attacks and the very discriminative violence against an innocent minority people. It took me invariably to ponder the place of suffering in our lives.
Some time agao i read an article by Kathleen A Brehony entitled "The good that can come from suffering." And as i read it again the other day it made som much sense all over again. I quote part of it below....
"Viktor Frankl (the author of the book, 'Man's Search For Meaning') survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. His mother, father, brother, and wife did not; they died in the camps or the gas ovens. Except for Viktor and his sister, Stella, the entire family perished. In an instant, his whole former, comfortable life as a doctor encircled by a loving family vanished. His every possession was taken from him and he suffered from hunger, cold, and brutal beatings. For more than three years, death surrounded him at every moment like a filthy shroud.

Soon after entering the camps, Frankl realized that he had "nothing to lose but his ridiculously naked life." However, in spite of the pain and torture that he experienced, Frankl refused to relinquish his humanity, his love, or his sense of responsibility to bear witness to the world. In spite of the atrocities around him, he remained courageous and filled with hope. In choosing "to be worthy of suffering" Frankl was able to rise above his outward fate, by making inner, conscious decisions about how he would respond to his circumstances.

In his book Frankl gives testimony to the existential belief that life is filled with suffering and that the only way to survive is to find meaning in it. "Once an individual's search for meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering," he wrote.

Although we cannot always change the fact that terrible things will happen to us, we have every power to change how we will respond to those painful events in our lives.

In his book, Frankl announces that he, himself, is filled with a "tragic optimism," a philosophy that allows him to say "yes" to life in spite of pain, suffering, and death. He has little patience with the nihilistic idea that being has no meaning and considers the common belief in that as a "mass neurosis." It is this philosophy, Frankl says, that served him in the camps and allowed him to maintain his dignity, grace, and compassion in spite of the unspeakable atrocities to which he was subjected. He holds that it is precisely man's search for meaning that is a primary motivation of our existence and one that gives us a reason to live in spite of life's tragedies.

To Frankl, meaning can be found in the fact that human beings are self-determining. Although we cannot always change the fact that terrible things will happen to us, we have every power to change how we will respond to those painful events in our lives. We do not simply exist but have the intrinsic authority--this "last of human freedoms"--to decide what our existence will be, what we will become in the next moment."We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed," he wrote. "For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation--just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer--we are challenged to change ourselves."

Monday, September 8, 2008


The day we recall the 'birthday' of the Mary, is a wonderful day to reflect on motherhood and our call to birth God into this world. We remember all our mothers today and mothers all over the world most especially mothers in those areas affected by floods in the Carribean and India, and by famine and drought in Africa.

We pray for mothers who walk miles on end to gather firewood and collect drinking water, who cook in smoke filled kitchens, who wash clothes in rivers and lakes, who have to put up with abusive husbands, who go hungry so that their children may get a morsel of food, who quietly work 18 hour shifts, who stay up all night with the ailing child, and above all we pray for mothers who shower such love and give us our very first experiences and lessons to share this love with all that we meet!
Reflecting on the words of Meister Eckhart and Edwina Gately I am reminded that we are dared to recognise that we are indeed a seed of God and each called to be mother of God -- that is, to actually give birth to the Holy ourselves. We need to recognise that we all carry the Divine potential. Each and every one of us is a God-bearer!

Whose footprints are we walking in?

On the 29th of August we remembered and celebrated the lives of John the Baptist, Blessed Edmund and Br Paul Noonan.

We began our prayer by calling on thier spirits to be amongst us. For many of our men Paul Noonan is only a name and the events of August 2001 a part of forgotten history. Having invited the spirits to be among us by pouring a libation we read the account of Paul's death from the annals of the Novitiate. It was a very moving experience indeed to hear that story again.

The three men... prophet, founder and brother ... reminded each of us what we are called to be in todays world as we are invited and dared to be disciples of Jesus.

Are these the footprints we walking? Are these the shoulders we standing on? Are these the men we have before us as we follow Jesus to the edge, into the deeper and wider dimensions of living that we may discover the God who awaits us?

The testimony of their lives reminds us that...
"That the way to make the most of ourselves is by transcending ourselves…
It means that each of us will become a paradox –
Free, yet constrained by necessity;
Shrewd, yet innocent;
Open to the others, yet self-reliant;
Strong, yet able to yield;
Centered on the highest values, yet able to accept imperfection;
Realistic about the suffering existence imposes on us, yet full of gratitude for life as it is.
When you transcend yourself, the fact will be confirmed by the quality of your life……
A transparency and a radiance of being
Which result from living both within and beyond yourself.”