General Superior's Address to Mill Hill Students, Bamenda
To use a phrase from Pope Francis, all of us are called to wake up the world. How do we do this?
By living and communicating the message of Jesus Christ. Our Missionary way of life is part of that communication of the Word, of how our humanity was saved through God’s loving action and how the way we live our humanity must reflect the loving kindness of God. Our life is missionary and our formation should not be oriented only towards personal growth but also how we are to care for God’s people. Hopefully our formation is not only to produce administrators or managers but people who are brothers and sisters and – ‘travelling companions’.
Travelling companions – what does that mean? We missionaries are called to a prophetic life. We must more than ever speak to people through our lives – called to be prophets by demonstrating how Jesus lived on earth. We are called to light the way to the future and walk with others on that way. Our Missionary life is not an end in itself, but a service to God’s people on their journey.
I have written this in my messages in our Central Newsletters that waking up the world is not making news headlines – it always involves encounter and personal contact. It is about being alongside the men and women of our times in their own struggles in life and especially those who are on the periphery of society. As I said yesterday that periphery does not always refer to geographical or economic peripheries of Society – though this is also vital – but of the profound peripheries of alienation and hopelessness and suffering and search for meaning that exists among the men and women of our time. We are to be travelling companions who journey with others step by step in their search, not lecturers or moralisers who simply tell other people where they should be.
Missionary life is not just about doing things. It is about doing things in a different way. It is about witness and attraction. We must never tire of this. We are called to live life authentically in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in – our life is a never –ending challenge irrespective of increased age or numbers.
One vital thing that we missionaries can do is pray- not just pray for someone but show what prayer means in a world where doing and having possessions seem to be the sole order of the day. Your life of prayer is also a prophecy. It is witnessing to the mystery of God’s presence among us. It is witnessing to the fact that God cares, that God loves, that God reaches out to us, even if his ways are mysterious. We have to learn to share our prayer life with others and guide people in prayer. This cannot be privatised. Your prayer is a service for the whole church and cannot be enclosed within the walls of your chapel.
Wake up the world – Pope Francis has a great gift of characteristically simple and striking language. His language is earthy: it is not earthy for our entertainment, but it is profoundly provocative and challenging. Perhaps my favourite comment of Pope Francis in his meeting with religious superiors, was when he said: our life is not a bottle of distilled water. Again what does this mean?
It means that we do not need a missionary life that is crystal clear, tasteless, insipid and safe. Our Missionary way of life must make noise, uproar and even a mess.
They are the Pope’s words and I like them. Noise and uproar and and making a mess were and in some cases still not on high on the instruction list of Formators. Those in formation were taught not to stand out, formed in conformity. Our charism as missionaries is not one of conformity. It is like yeast which even when you are not aware is always causing ferment and changing and developing. This is what the prophecy of missionary life is like. That is what the great missionaries were always like.
God called each one of us by name and still challenges us by name to respond and to find in our commitment to Jesus the fullness of our humanity. We need renewal in the Church. The Church will never renew by looking inwards. We can never be just and inward looking Society preoccupied by our own challenges. The moment we become over concerned with our inward challenges the more we will actually become more inward looking and never the out going reflection of the challenging and prophetic message of Jesus who cares.
Let us become more travelling companions seeking to live our Christian life more authentically and with renewed enthusiasm. May the Lord be our travelling companion and our guide as we reflect on the word and break the bread of communion.
Amare et Servire.
Michael Corcoran, General Superior
21st January 2017