Worth Revisiting: We Drink From Our Own Wells

Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People. 20th Anniversary Edition. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2003.

In the foreword, Henri Nouwen beautifully articulates that the premises within Gutiérrez’s book grow out of the “lived experience” (xiii b) of God’s presence in history as understood by “men and women who have devoted themselves to pastoral ministry in Latin America.” As each one of us seeks to live out our faith, we too are part of a concrete experience of God at work in the world around us. In caring for and pastorally ministering to others in our communities, we are given a glimpse of a diverse and yet unique spiritual journey.

On Spirituality

“Spirituality, Gustavo writes, is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the experience of faith” (xvi)

It is a personal encounter with God breaking into the very essence of our lives, meeting us where we are spiritually,  creating ineffable moments of transformation and continual conversion.  An understanding of spirituality, therefore, which is sourced in God’s love produces not only comfort but is itself an abundant stream of joy and blessings. This is a very important to consider, I believe, as it is quite easy to focus on the struggle and neglect to understand that there are also the experiences from the Lord of  “joy and gratitude, friendship and generosity, humility and mutual care”.(xv)

This brings me to Gutiérrez’s discussion of St. Paul’s “walking according to the Spirit, who is life and enables us to live in freedom”.(3) That while we are engaged in the journey of life in the Spirit, we do not know the bends and twists in the path ahead, but is established in the very going” of our discipleship. It is a journey that we do not travel alone, for the Spirit guides, and we travel together as an “entire people” in search of freedom and the experience of the fullness of life .In doing so we also find joy and fellowship with one another. Pope Francis speaks very eloquently to this also in encouraging us to recognize that discipleship is a journey together, and we need to reach out to one another as we engage in our call to discipleship and mission. In time and ministry with the elderly, I recognize fully the call to bring Christ and the presence of community.  The freedom we seek-from loneliness, pain, and the unknowing as we journey from this life to life eternal with God, is there. As well as the joy of holding the hand of another along the way!

Accompanying the Poor

A point that Gutiérrez makes quite clear in his writings, however is that in accompanying the poor and oppressed we cannot just tend to the spiritual needs but must actively address their material needs as well. If others are to truly “see and know Christ in and through us” then I believe we must also be attentive to feeding, clothing and caring for those “least” among us. As Gutiérrez notes there must be “unity and connection between prayer and action” and a desire to live our Christian spiritual life within the historical reality of the world (17).  Of course it may very well challenge us to examine our own consumption habits and shake us from our comfort level in the underlying structures which support inequality and injustice. Yet, we cannot fall back on the assumption that the poor will always be with us, but instead tend to the poor in front of us.Remembering  that Christ did not choose to solely dine with those considered most like him, but radically reached across the table to those whom others wanted nothing to do with.

Prayer and Action

This movement of prayer and action can take several different directions, depending on God’s guidance and your own charisms. Perhaps you are able to provide resources, or to advocate and enlist the participation of others. A close friend of mine, for instance, gathers food and needed household items for the homeless when make the transition into temporary housing. In my community alone,there are a number of organizations which seek to serve the poor- St. Vincent’s de Paul, Matthew’s Kitchen, and an Interfaith Food pantry. Homeless and families, many of which arrive at least an hour ahead of distribution, often leave expressing a renewed hope for the day ahead. Conversely, those who serve are given a profound and humble appreciation of the gift of being present to this graced moment.

God is so amazing- he constantly trumps in gift giving! Take time today for both prayer and action, embracing the Christ before you!

Peace,

Signature

Advertisements

Worth Revisiting: Oscar Romero-Prophet of Hope

 :

As a witness to the ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. This biography by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca is extremely well researched and informative on the recently beatified and hopefully soon-to-be saint. So much so, that its author was invited as an expert to the consideration of the cause of sainthood for this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith. The following are quotes taken from this biography that poignantly speak of the soul of the man who will be forever remembered in the heart of the people. I highly recommend this work as a valuable resource and primer on the life and witness of Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero.

On Being a Jesuit: 

“The Exercises of St. Ignatius [of Loyola] are a personal effort to put Christianity into practice. They are not the great principles of revelation or the magisterium, but the personal conversation with God. ‘I have seen God’ Jacob said. This must be my yearning, ‘Speak to me Lord’”. (p.6)

File:MOAR 3.jpgOn Being a Priest:

Perhaps it may surprise you but as Morozzo della Rocca affirms- Blessed Oscar Romero was at his core a traditionalist. He proudly wore a cassock, was committed to the Rosary, fasting, examinations of conscience, deep prayer life, supported Opus Dei and had a profound love for the people he served.

On Being a Bishop:

Rather than a supervisory or administrative role Oscar Romero saw the role of a bishop as one who “is essentially a pastor, a father, a brother, a friend. He journeys with other people, sows hope along their path, urges them to seek peace, in justice and love, and teaches them to be brothers and sisters.” (p. 49)

Still accused by some to be a supporter of socialism, he was ardent in his opposition to the separation of the inherent connection between God and man that Communism and Marxism advocated..

On Communism:

“The serious decisive reason why Christianity will always be anti-Communist is above all that Communism denies God and Christianity affirms God” p. 15

File:Óscar Arnulfo Romero with Pope John Paul.jpgOn Vatican II:

“‘Renewal’ the Church has cried, and no one will be able to stop this renewal because the Holy Spirit is blowing… It is not just a restoration of the Church’s prestige, which convinces no one, but a firm and open minded renewal that makes the church appear simpler and more biblical.” (p.22)

“The best thing is to live today more than ever according to the classic axiom: think with the church” (p.23)

“Tradition and progress go together”… “it is not uncommon to come across people who would like a clear decisive break with the past and to meet others who with systematic resistance oppose any form of renewal or adaptation…The conciliar position is a position of integration which brings about a vital synthesis of these two forces, Tradition and liberty.” (pp. 37-38)

Conversion or Fortitude?

What some have called a conversion others close to the bishop described more as a growing awareness to the socio-historical conditions and strength or fortitude to respond to these circumstances out of a deep faith. “Because the Church was faithful to her mission of evangelizing by fostering the conscience of society and by denouncing the injustices and abuses of authority, all these things made the Church the object of persecution…I believed in conscience that God was calling me and giving me a special pastoral fortitude that contrasted with my temperament and my conservative inclinations. I thought that it was my duty to take a positive stand to defend my Church, and on behalf of my Church to stand with my greatly oppressed people.” (p.81)

File:Oscar Romero.jpg
A commemoration of those killed in the Civil war in San Salvador, El Salvador

On Violence:

Romero, as della Rocca observes, was a man of non-violence, of forgiveness not hatred ..and yet equally noted is that at the time.. “neutrality was nearly impossible”. In one of his last homilies he speaks that “ It is time for reconciliation..how irreconcilable they seem the Left’s denunciation of the right and the right’s hatred of the left..those in the middle say let violence come from wherever it may, it is cruel in either case. So we live in polarized groups”. (p. 92)

On Being a Church of the Poor:

File:Oleo em tela.jpg
Pedro  Casaldaliga, cc. Carolina Batista

“Let us not look for Christ in the opulence of the world, amid the idolatry of wealth amid the desire for power, amid the intrigue of the great. Let us seek God among the undernourished children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat..among the poor newsboys who will sleep tonight in doorways covered in newspapers..The God of the poor has assumed all that and is teaching [us] the redemptive value of human pain- the value that poverty, suffering and the cross have to redeem the world” (p. 114)

Finally, as della Roca observes, Blessed Oscar Romero could have fled but didn’t. Instead, Romero remained “faithful to God and the mission” in the face of certain persecution and death.Signature