Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Spirituality of Transparency!

When I joined the Brothers in 2008 my main aim or focus was to be a Brother, nothing else .Then I met these senior brothers, we call them formators, who told me “don’t even think of becoming one, think of realizing your vocation, be open with yourself.” Eh? This was cruel wasn’t it? What I learned they were putting across for me was to be transparent with myself. No, no! Excuse me here, let me pronounce the word aloud let it fill the air with noise, and my soul with its meaning, because in it there is health and life, spirit and innocence.
Transparency, whatever it is perceived to be let it be, whatever I think of it let it be known, whatever I feel about it let it be felt. Yes, to be transparent with one’s self is to face reality which keeps on knocking at our door whenever we are with our inner selves.
At my personal level, transparency with myself helps me to understand the Nicholas in me; hence I’m able to understand my companions. It is better if I cry once in truth than if I laugh a thousand times with lies. The hard nut to crack here is this: it takes courage to let myself be myself as I am more than I let myself see myself and be seen by others.
This lesson: the reward of the transparency is the peace of mind just as contemplation brings peace to mind. Truth alone gives rest to our hearts, transparency brings self identity.

(Nicholas Linus K' Minandi)

The Night the Freeze hit Tamale!!

Having expreienced the high temperatures of 34 to 38 degrees C for the last few days it was a welcome relief when the rains and cool winds dropped the mercury to 25 degrees C. This was akin to a cold spell hitting Tamale! Out came the pull overs and fleece jumpers!! That was the night the freeze came to Tamale!! Now i know why when temperatures rise to 19 degrees C in Dublin people complain of a heat wave!!!

The next morning we were back to normal with the sun shining bright and the mercury back in the 30's.

Novices Missing Michael

What a blessing the month of March has been!
After spending almost a month together it was time to say good-bye to Br. Michael Colasuonno. This was his last visit to Africa. Each and everyday during his stay in Tamale it was such a learning and a blessing, whether in class or in individual meeting. Thanks to Michael for broadening our understanding of being a brother and for a brief but fruitful introduction to our Constitutions. His words of wisdom will always ring in our hearts.
Br Michael was always punctual and before starting his classes, two things were done –acknowledge the presence of God, check the energy level of the group or do an energy building exercise which was very good to keep novices alive and active in his classes.
He often said a brother must be proud of who he is, appreciate his being different in the society (just different not better/worse) and be a life giving force to all people - not a cold fish! Because as brothers we stand for something more. He termed vocation as a significant challenge which we are responsible to nurture.
On the 29th of March we celebrated his time with as we said farewell with a dinner out in the open under a tree with a cool gentle breeze making the atmosphere conducive. Preparations started in the early afternoon, where Sydney spent quite some time on the tree fixing the lights. Although we had doubts about the weather the night turned out to be the best, with the sound of different ‘good-bye’ songs in Swahili and Mende filling the air.
As the Old saying goes “Every new person changes the dynamic’ so did Michael’s quiet presence which had an impact on the community as a whole. What a gentle “Guy”, full of life and smile, (I say this with great respect). I thank Br Michael for the wisdom and knowledge he shared with us during his stay and through his classes. I appreciate the privilege of his presence in the community. I wanted to cry as I presented the gift on behalf of the Tamale community anyway I just asked Michael what his energy level was.
We’ll always remember you Michael, wishing you well in your future endeavors.
(Jordaan and Likisi)

MBTI Workshop

On Friday March 27, after ministry, resting was the last option to think about as we made ourselves available to start a two day workshop on MBTI. It was great to have in our midst men in formation from the FIC and Presentation Brothers, making it a total of 26 participants. It was incredible at the end to come closer to discovering who we are and what makes each of us unique.
Thanks to the facilitators Srs. Mary Kay and Dorez for the well articulated presentation which helped us obtain knowledge of who we truly are in terms of personality preferences.
Praise God for the gift of the rationalists, the idealists, the artisans and the guardians in our community. May we be grow to be truly ourselves and flower freely.
We concluded this self realization workshop by celebrating our diversity in the oneness of love. In our thanks giving remarks to the facilitators, we pledged to use the MBTI input as a tool in our community for building healthy relationships.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thank you Br Michael Colasuonno

Michael spent the month of March with us here in the Novitiate in Tamale. His was a inspiring and energising presence in our community. He shared his wisdom, knowledge and vast experience with us even as he braved the heat and high 30 degree C temperatures.

The month has gone by quickly but the words have sunk deep into our hearts. His contribution will be remembered for years to come.
Michael has been a frequent visitor to the Novitiates in Africa. This was his last trip to Africa in his role as the "roving formator." His visits will be missed, and many a brother in Africa will remember his varied ways of measuring energy levels!

We wish Michael well as he returns to Dublin today enroute to take up his his next assignment in New York in May. We are sure he will bring the same energy and enthusiasm to the elder brothers as he did to the younger!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour - 28th March 2009

At 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March, people from all corners of the world will turn off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour - and cast their vote for action on climate change. Anybody can participate and join together with millions of people across the globe celebrating Earth Hour. Earth Hour is about taking simple steps everyday that collectively reduce carbon emissions – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.

Now many might think this is a very novel idea that originated in Sydney, Australia but many Governments in the so called Two Thirds World have been participating in "Earth Hours" for many years now!!!! The call for global action now is to switch lights off for one hour once in a whole year which is ONE hour in 8760 hours!!! However, the call now is to switch power off for one hour intentionally.

Many of us have been participating in enforced "Earth Hours" reluctantly and with many a frustrated and angry word. At least from now on when the power goes off here in this hot and dry place I can console myself and say I am participating in yet another "Earth Hour." By the end of the year I am sure many people would have logged quite a few "Earth Hours."

Now, if for every "Earth Hour" that the Two Thirds World endures in a year the One Third World turned their lights off for a minute we would have the World turning off their lights for a lot more than just 1 in 8760!!!!! So get on with it and make the Earth Hour more than just a token celebrated hour.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Celebrating Namibia Day in ‘elamaT’

This sound weird, isn’t it? For most I’m sure your eyes are as big as doughnuts but hey it’s normal. It’s good to be astonished at times.
This year marked the first time for me to celebrate the independence of my motherland outside the country. For the fist time in my one and a half month stay I felt home sick, but thanks to the company of the ‘elamaT’ novitiate community the day was so extra-ordinary and special.
“Namibia - land of the brave”, once a colony of Germany and later occupied by South Africa's apartheid government, gained full independence on 21st March 1990 in conjunction with South Africa's withdrawal from Angola with Dr Sam Nujoma as the first President. Namibia is one of Africa's most developed and stable countries, with a stable multiparty parliamentary democracy and an estimated population of 1,820,916. “Glory to their bravery whose blood waters our Freedom”.
Thanks to Br. Vivek for the lovely background music from the Mascato Choir, it really made me feel at home as the novices were enjoying the ‘clicks’. It made me enjoy the night even more as I was the last person to go to bed. “Contrasting beautiful Namibia…Beloved land of savannahs” may God bless you abundantly together with the sons and daughters of all Africa.

Jesusubab sada #gaogu !na ha….. /amos kose
(Live Jesus in our hearts….Forever)

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Prayer

Come, Lord, do not smile and say you are already with us.
Millions do not know you,
And to us who do, what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency.
Make your word our life's purpose.
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortbly.
For only in this way is that other peace made - your peace.
(Dom Helder Camara)

Embrace of Love

If Christ rose from the dead, then indeed he must be living somewhere and I should be able to find him in my everyday life. I am sure that Christ is not found in the Eucharist and the Gospels alone, but in the people I meet every day.
On Friday morning, I went to my ministry - distributing food to the mentally challenged people on the streets of Tamale. One of the ‘mad’ women rushed to me and embraced me and said “I love you”. I was confused and didn’t know what to do or say. The people around us laughed and told me I was a lucky man. I knew they did not mean what they said. I hesitated for sometime, then I gathered my courage and embraced the mad woman and said “I love you too.” I saw the joy and excitement in the woman’s eyes.
I now know I had met Jesus, I now know I am a lucky man, I now know Jesus told me “I love you” and I am glad I embraced him and said “I love you too”.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St Patrick's Day Celebrations

Over the last few days, we have experienced thunder storms which ensured an extraordinary blackout for a couple of days and one of the summer huts had its thatch roof blown off.
On the other hand, I realized that fresh green were sprouting in our compound and the neighbourhood and the flowers which were drying up initially were gaining their lost glory. To me all these were signs that St. Patrick’s Day was around the corner.
This day was celebrated in style and we were joined by the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers from our Choggu community. We began the celebrations with an evening prayer in the chapel where the story of St. Patrick was paralleled to that of Moses. Both men lived in slavery in a country to which they would return to lead a nation towards and to God.
After prayers, we moved to the community room to nourish our physical beings by gulping down the frothy liquids which were served at the right temperature while the members of the social committee busied themselves preparing the meat on the “braai”. I must appreciate the work that was done by Brain, Jordaan and Paul. The meal was served out in the open under fresh skies with a hint of rain in the air and I don’t think that anybody went away with an empty stomach. While the brothers served their meals, cool Irish music played in the background and for the first time, I thought I was in Ireland. After supper we watched a bit of ‘Riverdance’ and a truly Irish night was complete!!
May God Bless Ireland, St. Patrick and all the missionaries in the world abundantly!
(David Otieno)

Meeting the Youth Parish Council

On Sunday the 15th we had the pleasure to host six representatives from the parish youth council in our community. The main agenda of the meeting was to welcome us and give us an idea of the youth year plan so that we could work together. The meeting started at noon and ended at 2.00pm.
The main issue which was highlighted was to encourage one another to take part in youth activities like singing and drama to name but a few.
I was delighted with the positive response from the novices who pledged to work together and ensure that the youth benefit from us and we from them. To our advantage we have novices who are trained in the youth ministry and have worked with the youths before.
It was resolved that for a start we would have a sports day for the sole purpose of interacting with and knowing each other. The day for the games was to be communicated later. For most novices it was a great blessing to have this opportunity of meeting the youth leaders in order to discover there ministry.
The meeting was a good start and like good seed holds lot of promise for future growth.

Monday, March 16, 2009

That Lives in us - Rumi

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

The Deer's Cry - The Prayer of St Patrick

I arise today, through the strength of heaven; light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of the wind, depth of the sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me; God's eye to look before me, God's wisdom to guide me,God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,from all who shall wish me ill, afar and a-near alone and in a multitude.

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me.

Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,

I arise today.......

St Patrick

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. Saint Patrick described himself as a "most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God."

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice -which he believed to be God's- spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation -an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission-to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries-spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. St. Patrick's Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ghana at 52 on 6th March

52 years ago a country colonized by Britain became a Republic led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
This year in Tamale the early morning roads jammed with traffic and people as all headed for the Independence Square. The Novices had the privilege to join the multitudes in celebrating the freedom of mother Ghana.
We started our morning with a prayer, where libation was poured in remembrance of all those who sacrificed their lives during the liberation struggle. Following the recent post election violence in Tamale we were cautioned “not to sport any of the political party’s colours”. There was little to worry about though. We spoiled ourselves in town as we explored different Ghanaian dishes and drinks.
Celebrations continued at the community upon return where our lone Ghanaian novice, Cornelius, explained the meaning of the national flag, sang the anthem and cut the cake decorated with “Ghana 52” on it. We also welcomed Br. Michael Colasuonno to Ghana at this celebration. He will spend month of March with us.
“I was impressed by the spirit of patriotism and the singing of heroic songs as they flooded the town, I felt happy spending my day with the Ghanaians making their day more colorful”
May God bless Mother Africa, let justice flow like a river.
(Cornelius and Chrispinus)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trip to Kintampo Waterfalls

March the 3rd has been one of the good moments in Ghana when the community set off for Kintampo waterfalls. After a 2 hour drive it was Akwaaba (welcome) to Kintampo - Ghana’s famous falls. The falls were discovered in the 18th century on the Pumpum river. The caution was given “let us protect our beautiful natural resources”.
We first went to stage 1 of the waterfalls, after which we went to stage 3 which requires going down 152 steps constructed by Taysec in 1996. Feelings of anxiety filled the men and the coming up was exhausting. The pleasure trip at the aforesaid falls was really exciting and on the other hand reflective to me.
It was interesting as the water seemed to be increasing as it is said that “its volume rises depending on the number of people” This gave the men zeal to sit and enjoy the fast running water. The cool chilling breeze was great.
Praise to the spirit of the great waters, womb of all life, power to dissolve boundaries, to taste and to feel, to cleanse and to heal, great blissful darkness of peace.
I believe that the earth does not belong to me, instead I belong to the earth. Whatever befalls the earth befalls me. I did not weave the web of life but I am a mere strand in it. The tour taught me one lesson enough for all earth lovers “I have no right to contaminate this lovely mother, because if I spit on the ground, I spit on myself.

A visit to ministry sites

Excitement galore and curiosity were the highlights of the day as the novices set out looking forward to see their ministry sites. We left at 8:00 am accompanied by our three formators, each with a group of novices. What a ‘red carpet’ welcome we received upon reaching our various destinations. I’ve never seen such in my 22 years of existence. The workers, the inmates/patients, students and teachers they were all just a wonderful crowd. Even before being introduced, we chatted as if we’ve known each other for decades. It’s a pity this coming Friday is a public holiday, but we are all looking forward to the 13th as it will mark the first day of our ministry. Talking about Friday the 13th (known as the bad luck day) I hope and believe nothing bad will happen to us. One could tell that upon returning, the novices were at ease and relaxed as each one of us were ready to share about the day and our experiences as we enjoyed first hand a taste of Ghanaian welcome, hospitality and friendship.