Mons' Musings Vol. 5: Paths of Hope For a Troubled World
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
The Second Vatican Council released a vision of the Church that put society’s weakest and most marginalised members at its heart. Since then some people are shining examples of that mission. I am thinking of people like (Saint) Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Oscar Romero of San Salvador who was shot as he elevated the consecrated chalice during Mass; Jean Vanier who has lived in “L’Arche” communities of handicapped people for more than fifty years.
Jean writes about the impact Xavier Beauvais’ film “Of Gods and Men” had on him. It was Jean says because it showed the world one of the “Signs of our Times”. Christians today are often subject to indifference or outright humiliation.
A film, which tells the tragic fate of nine Trappist monks in Algeria, illustrates this hostility to active Christianity. These monks lived in deep harmony with their Muslim neighbours until 1996.
Some fundamentalist forces ordered them to leave. After prayerful consideration, nine of the monks decided to remain. It is a moving and dramatic time. Two escaped the fundamentalist attack on these French who were monks, the other seven were kidnapped and murdered. The film portrays dramatically the difficult prayerful discernment in the monastery. It was they knew a matter life and death. They stayed not because they were unaware of the danger; but they stayed because they had given their lives to God and to the Algerians, their brothers and sisters in humanity.
We are living in difficult times today because of the lack of priests, the scandals that have erupted, and the indifference of many to Gospel values. So, we could say, in some ways our mission is like that of the monks in Algeria. It is to recognise our faults and encounter ‘the other’ with humility, respect and love as Jesus did.
The Christian faith is not an ideal divorced from reality – it is primarily an “encounter” with Jesus - that relationship with and in Him invites us to live all our encounters with others in reality and humility.
Let us not confuse ‘the good’ with ‘success’ – this happens too often in contemporary society. Vatican 11 has something to say which is very relevant:
“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man and according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths”
Gaudium et Spes 16:1