Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus: is a name that gives us also common characteristics which spring from our personal encounter with the Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd

“So they said to him: Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?” (Jn 1:22)

1. We are “catholic” missionaries
If we look at the origin of our Institute we cannot deny that it is culturally rooted in Europe, particularly in Italy and Germany. This has undoubtedly marked a religious and missionary lifestyle which has, even today, its influence and meaning. With the passing of time, our Institute has become more and more “catholic” (universal)1, because it has extended its “roots” into different countries of Europe, America, Africa and Asia. This fact has become a visible witness of unity in diversity and of living together in differences in a world that is incapable of getting along with what is diverse, except for the market area. This situation, nevertheless, appears not to be lived with serenity by many Comboni Missionaries and, at the same time, it raises questions concerning a Comboni identity based on western cultural principles. Perhaps many of us are not prepared for the international and intercultural encounter and living together. This may be the reason why our community and missionary life does not always shine for fraternal and supportive living together among us2. Confronted by this situation, which has emerged especially through the process that the Ratio Missionis is making us go through, it appears urgent the need to look at and say to ourselves – beginning from the evangelical perspective and the intuitions of St. Daniel Comboni – that we are “catholic missionaries” or, better, that internationality and interculturality are essential to our being Comboni Missionaries as signs of our universal brotherhood3.

2. We are “religious” missionaries4
Consecrated life is an important dimension of the mission of the Church. Of this we are all convinced5. The problem is that often we are exposed to situations and predicaments which make us neglect our being religious and consecrated people. This leaves us with just the shell of a religious, with a form of hectic and secular life that does a lot of good for the poorest and most abandoned but which often drains and deflates us humanly and spiritually6. This horizontal and individualistic perspective of missionary life belittles our vows, community life, prayer life, brotherhood…7 In this way we lead a life that is contradictory and little consistent with the faith we preach8. This personal and community state of affairs makes us face the challenge of saying to ourselves that we are “consecrated” people; of saying that it is the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd which is at the centre of our missionary consecration and lifestyle, not just the needs and emergency situations of the people among whom we live. We are not merely those who go out to meet the most needy people because we are good-hearted or even compassionate towards the poor, but because the Lord has called us to be with Him. This being with Him is realised by living in a community, by a life of prayer and by being with the most forgotten of the world, in places where we do not choose to be and with confreres we do not even like, but simply where the Lord wants us to be and with those He wants us to be9. And this is what makes us happy.

3. We are “Comboni” Missionaries
Today’s world is carrying us more and more towards uniformity in every way. Within the Church, even the various agents of evangelisation become ever more mixed among themselves, because it seems that they are all doing the same thing. Not even we can escape from this standardising tendency of the world and of the Church. Often, indeed, it takes a great effort to explain who we are and which are the specific characteristics of our charism, because people find the distinction difficult to understand. In our way of doing mission many characteristics come into play10.
Our missionary presence, lifestyle and methodology not always distinguish us from other religious Institutes or diocesan organisations. The poor, the most abandoned, the difficult mission… not always define and identify us within the Church and today’s world11. This tendency and realisation compel us to urgently tell ourselves – as a community, so that we do not fall into the trap of a “free and individualistic”12 interpretation of the charism – the fundamental aspects of our being Comboni Missionaries, so that we may truly assert that we are “Comboni Missionaries”.

4. We are Missionaries “of the Heart of Jesus”
Many say that the Heart of Jesus is a devotion of little meaning in this modern world. Certainly internationality and interculturality as well as the inter-generation gap that are present in our Institute may question the Heart of Jesus as a devotion13. Perhaps what we need is to pass from an individual “devotion” to “placing ourselves” in the Heart of Christ as individuals and communities, so that He may be the driving force of our being missionaries.
To enter into the Heart of Jesus allows us to understand his feelings towards the world and especially towards the least of our brothers and sisters; it allows us to follow his intuitions and aspirations. Presently the widespread spiritual situation we are going through as Comboni Missionaries requires that we say to ourselves that “we are the property of the Heart of Jesus” rather than the Heart of Jesus is “ours”, because this latter view leads us to a free interpretation of the feelings and aspirations of God in the present world and to remain where we choose to be, without following the beats of a Heart that makes of missionaries people who have no place to rest, because the urgency of the mission does not let them rest.

5. We are Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus: is a name that gives us also common characteristics which spring from our personal encounter with the Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd. This Heart:
- makes of us missionaries “ad vitam” (consecrated forever), namely men who let themselves be totally owned by the Spirit of the Lord in such a way that their entire person is consecrated to the Mission forever;
- makes of us missionaries “ad paupers” (for the poor, the excluded and abandoned), because the Good Shepherd’s Heart beats in a preferential way for the poor and the excluded – these God’s feelings for the least of the earth make of one who desire to enter deep into this Heart someone who is not afraid to be “one of many”, “to demean himself” in order to gain Christ’s poor so that they may have life in abundance;
- makes of us missionaries “ad gentes” (to non-Christians), because this Heart of Christ does not exclude anyone from the joy of the Good News: “God is the Father of every human being” and this news is the only one that can create the necessary conditions so that the world may be a just and more fraternal place;
- makes of us missionaries “ad extra” (to those who are afar), because the maternal Heart of God does not endure and accept to see anyone excluded or separated from his love. These feelings of God urge us to go out of ourselves, of our countries, of our cultural perspectives and values and to enter into the world of other people and to meet those who are “far from” the banquet that the Lord has prepared for all, those who are cut off from the benefits of the system that governs the world. In other words they make us brothers of and companions to those who are at the outskirt of the Church and the world.

6. For our sharing
* Starting from your own experience, what are the characteristics which define the Comboni Missionary, irrespective of his culture, age and academic formation?
* What makes us different from other agents of evangelisation?
* In your community, province/delegation and in the Institute, which works or types of presence do you believe are specifically Comboni-like, and which do you believe make us get confused with other Institutes?

1 Cfr. CA ’03, 17, 18.
2 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 5.
3 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 14.
4 Cfr. Reviewing the mission renewing ourselves, 10.2.4
5 Vita Consecrata, 3.
6 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 1.
7 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 7-8;
Reviewing the mission renewing ourselves, 4.
8 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 2.
9 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 6.
10 Cfr. Reviewing the mission renewing ourselves, 8.
11 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly - 2006, 11.
12 Cfr. Together toward the Intercapitular Assembly, 4.2, 4.3, 9.
13 Cfr. Reviewing the mission renewing ourselves, 4.1.

Ratio Missionis, phase of discernment IDENTITY 4