We have prepared a paper on the Ratio Missionis. It is meant to assist us on our journey towards the renewal of the Institute. It is a work for personal and community reflection. For a deeper understanding of it, it is preferable to discuss it in several meetings. The questions are meant to help us in the sharing and interiorisation of the topic. The answers are to be sent to the provincial/delegation commission for the Ratio Missionis.
1. At what stage are we?
We observe the situation around us with interest, fondness, but also with a critical attitude, trying to discern the signs of the presence of the Spirit among us. The positive and negative aspects we are discovering invite us to reflection as they may be an indication towards a revision of our life, a renewal of ourselves and an opening up to new perspectives (AC ’03, 24).
1.1 Some features of today’s world
· We live in a world that is ever changing, complex and unpredict-able. Nothing is definitive: what is valid today may already be obsolete tomorrow. Affective relationships, work and beliefs are no longer firm and established pillars; instead they have become fleeting and precarious ex-periences.
· We live in a globalised world. Human beings have never been so close one to another. Everything is at hand’s length. Though there is an enormous improvement in the fields of communication (in 1995 Internet’s users were 9 millions, in 2005 they are 2000 millions), the electronic revolu-tion has not affected the planet equally.
· We live in a contradictory world. The 21st century has begun by showing a deeply divided humanity. On the one hand we have the well-being and waste of a few, on the other hand we have the struggle for sur-vival of the majority. The inequality gets ever wider. Today’s world is ever more insecure and at risk.
· The inequality is causing huge migratory movements. A large number of people risk their lives in these migrations. Contacts with other populations, religions and cultures are on the increase.
1.2 Some features of today’s Church
· The Church is a place of hope. In places where governments are only concerned about themselves and people do not count, the Church many times is the only institution capable of offering hope to the poor through its initiatives of human promotion, justice and peace (CA ’03, 12). The Church favours reconciliation and a new way of community living even for factions.
· The Church favours awareness and greater commitment. In some places social and ecclesial awareness is growing. A voice is given to the voiceless. Women and youth understand ever more the importance of their role in society and in the Church and become involved (AC ’03, 10). This commitment is necessary and it helps to respond to some of the chal-lenges, like the sects and Islam.
· A Church that at times places the guidelines of the II Vatican Council on a dead track. There is a tendency towards clericalism and rigidity. The openness started up by the II Vatican Council is put into discussion (CA ’03, 14). The religious are emarginated, while traditionalist movements are promoted.
· A Church that "forgets" the mission. The Church seems to be more concerned about its survival than to be the leaven of the world. The mission "ad gentes" doe not seem to be any longer at the centre of the hi-erarchy’s concerns. At times one has the impression that even the Church has adopted the political and economic system of globalisation (namely that few people live well at the majority’s expenses). It is encouraged, for in-stance, the flight of priests and of pastoral agents from disadvantaged Churches to better off Churches.
1.3 Some features of the Comboni Institute
· Generosity in difficult situations. We are aware that many con-freres are generously living and sharing their lives with the people and in the midst of difficult situations (CA ’03, 16).
· Cross-culturalism and pluralism. We are getting away from be-ing Europe-centred. With the new “geography of vocations” we are receiv-ing the gift of cross-culturalism (CA ’03, 17).
· Weakening of our sense of belonging. One of the symptoms of the present time is fragmentation and dispersion. In the past, everything was resolved by a single and definite choice (either the mission or mar-riage). Today we are faced with various choices made at different times, which creates uncertainty and insecurity. There are no final commitments.
· Individualism and the desire to live in a community. We often come across confreres who seem closed in on themselves and who work alone (CA ’03, 73.3), but we are also aware of a desire to live in a commu-nity and to be renewed.
· Worldliness and lack of spiritual life. There is the perception of a comfortable and worldly lifestyle, as well as of lack of interior life. To edu-cate to a sober, simple and self-restrained lifestyle (CA ’03, 103) is neces-sary in order to curb such a tendency.
For our deepening, prayer and sharing
From your own experience, which aspects of today's world help you and which scare you? Make a list of them and explain why.
Today’s Church does not see the mission "ad gentes" as a high priority. In which way does this attitude affect you?
Analysing the Six-year Plan of your province/delegation and the Community Charter, what is your opinion concerning the way in which your province or delegation and your community is facing up to the present challenges?
2. How do we face up to the challenges of our time?
· Attentive to the signs of the times. The Comboni Missionaries, docile to the action of the Spirit, are attentive to the signs of God in the world’s history. They interpret them in the light of his Word and through the example of Comboni. They allow these signs to place a question mark over the way they are missionaries and over the way they do mission (W 3615).
· With faith and courage. Comboni, faced with the reality of pov-erty and exploitation of the African continent, does not get discouraged. He knows how to read the situations in the light of faith and lets himself to be lead by the God’s love for humanity (W 2742; CA ’03, 34 and 36).
· With an attitude of conversion. The analysis of the social, eccle-sial and of our Institute’s reality demands from all of us a constant attitude of attention and of discernment of the will of God. All this for a personal con-version and a change in the structures.
· With honesty and prophetic stand in our relationship with the local Churches. Our relationship with the local Churches is often marked by reciprocal ignorance. Comboni has felt to be a member of a Church he loved and to which he was faithful. At the same time, he knew how to "apply pressure" in order to provoke the Church and to summon it to answer the call of the mission. We too are called to live and to cultivate (at individual and Institute level) this "sensus ecclesiae", so that the Church may ever be more missionary, prophetic and Catholic.
For our deepening, prayer and sharing
What place does the Word of God and Comboni’s life occupy in the reading you make of reality? Relate an example of such experience.
How do I relate to the local Church? Share the experiences you have made in the places where you work or have worked.
3. Inalienable points for recovering and restoring our memory
· During difficult times: to be sincere, brave and to look together for appropriate solutions. It is not enough to explain what happens, we must react and look for solutions. The Spirit helps us to a deep and far reaching renewal (at personal, community, structures and work levels...). These inalienable points will be upheld in a more appropriate way if they are the product of an effort done jointly. Comboni tells us: "Have courage in this difficult time, and even more for the future.”
· Called (again) to be witnesses. In our world experts of all kinds are on the increase, but witnesses are dwindling. The witness we are called to is not an activity, but the manifestation of the love of God. For this reason we must be willing to meet Christ again, with the intensity we had the first time. Everything is possible if Jesus' presence in us becomes a reality. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2, 20).
· To be missionary in the manner of Jesus and of Comboni. It is good to feel sent again and to walk with Him to carry on his mission. To have his criteria, his desires and his options. We set off and live as a group, not in solitude (Mc 6,6b-13). To feel as useless servants (Lc 17,10). Com-boni spent all his strength for the African people, but he was aware of his insignificance (W 2427) and that his mission, so arduous and immense, was God’s, so that he did not doubt that it would go on (W 5329).
· To renew our experience and community life. We find a certain isolation and lack of enthusiasm in the confreres. We have to change our way of living together and improve our way of relating to one another. It is at risk the quality of our mission as well as our emotional maturity. It means to return to Comboni’s intuition that the Institute is a cenacle of brothers (W 2648).
For our deepening, prayer and sharing
Among the inalienable points mentioned above, is there anyone in particu-lar that has marked your life? Which one? Relate and share with your con-freres those experiences that have been important to you.
Which confreres in your province/delegation have made a particular impact on you? Explain why their lives have meant something to you.