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Is being a Brother still relevant to the youth today?


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04/08/2016: Malawi


Brother Simeon Banda, fms, Malawi

A colleague of mine from the first world asked me whether being a Brother is still relevant in the third world  as it was in his world sometime in the  past. Immediately the image of Sarah which our Superior General has  put in the Message magazine came to my mind. The lady looks with wrinkles with no hope to have a child.

We must not forget that old age with God is not a barrier for him to reverse the trend. Let us not allow faith to die due to advanced technology. Sarah had a child even in her old age because  God intervened. For us Negroes to  have many children is still acceptable. Majority of us come from big families of four to five children or even more. Child spacing is set aside in favour of children in rural Africa.

As I am writing this article, was doing meditation. I was meditating on the Canaanite woman, who seeks the Son of David to have mercy on her daughter victimized by sickness. Jesus has entered her territory. Do take  advantage to convert when Jesus enters our territories like the Canaanite woman?  For pedagogical reasons Jesus seems to say no to her petition because there is no need to waste the food of the children(Israel) to dogs (Gentiles). She knows the historical privilege of the people of the covenant but she insists of the uncovenanted remains. It is her insistence that Jesus rewarded her great faith.

When I look at these young men above from Southern Africa province, at the postulate here, I say to myself that Jesus has come to the territories of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique. These young men seem to make hay while the sun shines.  Faith must be criteria number one for anyone aspiring Marist life.  I am sure Jesus will test them to see if they are serious in their search to be Marists.

Many people nowadays say that vocations to consecrated life are not a numbers game. I sometimes agree with them judging from the rate of departures of indispensable Brothers in my sector. What matters in any vocation in the church today is clear motivation, to work for the Kingdom of God,  to go to the  other gentile territories where people are desperately seeking the mercy of Jesus, the Messiah. Any egocentric privilege loses its place here. But how many of us came to consecrated just to get a university degree and leave soon after.  These young men stay with us here for  one year and it is clear to see those who are accepting formation and those not responding well. But we offer equal opportunities to all.

In my culture no man will be given a wife when he does not demonstrate any sense of taking care of someone. I say to myself, that Marist life too is precious and ought not to be offered at a cheap price to anyone who does not demonstrate any sign of seriousness. The woman passed the test of faith and her request was rewarded.

Young men have to prove themselves worth for such radical way of life. Any deceptions must be scrutinized by the vocation directors. Vocation directors do us a great work but sometimes they fail us. In Africa vocations are there but it is a question of motivation that has to be clarified to the young men as well as their guardians or parents. Let us as much as possible not get a young man whom we have not followed up for a long time. We shall have false vocations whose perseverance rate will disappoint us at the end.

Let being a brother be more important than doing work. I am not playing a Mary /Martha jargon. But at times I have noted studies interests occupying a central place in us as if our security is centred on work rather than being a Brother who dependence on Providence like saint Marcellin. What ought to drive us is following Christ and Jesus will not hesitate to tell us as he did with Peter and others, “Follow me!!!”.  But at times we ask Jesus to follow our will and not his will which seek too much demanding. 

God’s will and my will conflicts have rendered obedience a satire. This is a clear sign of poor motivation. Perseverance remains a challenge to many of us when faced with vocation storms.

Let Jesus remain our centre of focus in our vocation journey and we shall be authentic portraits of Champagnat who was driven by faith always and reliance on Mary’s protection.

Brother Simeon Banda, fms, Malawi

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