Rome, Tuesday, 9 October 2012
“We are approaching the feast of St. Daniel Comboni, 10 October 2012. As I did in the past, I thought of sending you a few lines to invite you to celebrate this feast with a heart full of gratitude for the gift of our father and founder”, opening words of the letter of the Superior General, Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, addressed to all the Comboni Missionaries. “I wish everyone a good feast day. May St. Daniel Comboni make you experience again the beauty of our missionary vocation”, concludes Fr. Enrique. We publish below the text of the letter.
We are approaching the feast of St. Daniel Comboni. As I did in the past, I thought of sending you a few lines to invite you to celebrate this feast with a heart full of gratitude for the gift of our father and founder.
The feast is always a good opportunity for renewing our desire to continue living with joy the charism we have inherited from St. Daniel Comboni and to strengthen our sense of belonging to the mission and the Institute.
Today I feel lucky to be able to write this little message from the house of Limone. Here I do not lack reasons for remembering with love and gratitude the person and the missionary example of St. Daniel Comboni which stretch beyond the ages and invite us to live today our commitment as people who faithfully carry on his enterprise.
Comboni was born in this house. His missionary vocation began to take shape in this environment. This project continues today through the witness of so many sons and daughters of his scattered around the world.
The house of Limone has become too small to contain all those who live his missionary passion. This is surely a reason for rejoicing. But it is also a challenge that compels us to commit ourselves to make sure that the gift of Comboni and of his charism becomes a true grace for the Church and for the world.
I believe that Comboni has still a lot to teach not only to his missionaries. His missionary spirit and his gift to dedicate himself to the people he considered the poorest of his time are gifts and lessons that we all need today.
Comboni has surely a lot to tell us these days. We need to ask ourselves whether we really are the missionaries that he was dreaming to have for his mission.
Comboni’s houses today are many and we find them where his men and women missionaries and all those who live with joy his charism in a variety of ways and in incredible situations. The spirit of Comboni has spread far and wide: it has not been possible to keep it just under the roof of his house in Limone.
Travelling around the world it is wonderful to meet people who live the spirit of Comboni in an exemplary way without having taken the vows in any Institute. Thanks God, there are so many “Comboni missionaries at heart” that it is impossible to count them. Many of them are a true example of missionary passion that expects from us an example and an encouragement because they see in us the heirs of his charism.
We have long realized that Comboni has overtaken his Institutes. Many people refer to him not only as an example of missionary life, but also as an inspiration to a good Christian living and to the effort of becoming disciples of the Lord.
Comboni is a saint who is slowly conquering his place in the world. But we have to admit that he is still little known even here, close to the place that saw his birth. This is a great challenge for us and for our mission promotion wherever we are, because it is our responsibility to make his holiness known, particularly by the example of our way of living.
The family that used to live within the walls of Teseul has become a family that has now spread to four continents. Comboni’s charism today is a gift shared by very many people. Yet we cannot feel satisfied and must be careful not to further all those tendencies that aim at closing us within ourselves.
The presence of Comboni’s charism in the world is a cause for gratitude and at the same time a challenge for us, the special heirs of his charism, of his spirituality and, particularly, of his mission.
As today the charism and the spirituality of Comboni is taking up different aspects and begins to be expressed in different ways and languages, I think that we have to be very careful as not to stifle the action of the Spirit. Everyone must feel responsible for the gift he has received of sharing the grace of Comboni’s missionary passion.
It is true that we are not called to repeat his personal experience or to accomplish his identical works, but we cannot fail to give a new perception to his charism, allowing it to offer relevant answers to the contemporary needs of humankind.
This compels us to seriously take up the question on how to be missionaries and true sons and daughters of Comboni today, in the places in which we happen to live our missionary vocation. And I believe that we do not have much time at our disposal.
During these days I had the opportunity of contemplating the house of St. Daniel. I feel that these walls still speak to us: they preserve the memory and the spirit that nourished the missionary vocation of our founder.
These walls speak of poverty, reminding us that God’s works do not become manifest where people lead a life that satisfies all the whims of comfort and wellbeing offered by the things of this world.
We surely cannot fail to ask ourselves how to show our solidarity with a world that at this time is going through a deep economic crisis that affects especially the weakest people who are those who already suffering a lot. How does the world’s poverty question our everyday choices and our lifestyles, the demands of the individual members, of communities and of the whole Institute?
How much are we sharing in the poverty and precariousness of the people of our time?
Here poverty became openness and trust in God’s Providence which became a constant companion in the life of St. Daniel.
Where are now our hearts? In the laying out of our programs how much do we trust in Providence, which makes our trust in God grow but at the same time helps us to take up our work with a deeper sense of responsibility?
The rooms of this house have preserved the perfume of sacrifice and of suffering borne in silence and faith. Comboni was able to carry with him throughout all his life this spirit of sacrifice. He managed to transform it in the dynamism that sustained the work entrusted to him.
Behind the house, the mountain rock rises high, as if it wanted to indicate the impossibility of getting out of this place. It looks like a symbolic image to express the difficulty and the amount of obstacles that filled the life and mission of Comboni.
It is a steep and hard wall that may become a source of discouragement for a person who dreams of reaching the top.
It could also symbolize the world and all its problems, difficulties and challenges. It is a mountain that seems to fall on you and in front of which even the strongest man can feel like a dwarf.
Comboni did not get frightened in front of any obstacle; he never doubted that behind the mountain there was a world that was waiting for him as a witness of hope.
In front of the house, beyond the wall and the lemon greenhouse that remind us of hard work often poorly rewarded, there lies the lake in its serene majesty, inviting one to dream of a world without limits.
It must have been in that almost limitless horizon where St. Daniel planned his missionary project, where he allowed his heart to stretch out so as to love Africa with all his strength: that was in fact the only passion of his life. How much we need to learn from his ability to dream with the feet solidly anchored to earth and the eyes open to contemplate the tragedies of humankind!
I wish that we too, as we remember our Founder, may become people full of trust, with a big heart that is able to continue to love our vocation and our mission with the same passion as that of St. Daniel Comboni.
I ask him for a particular blessing on all of us so that he may help us to live our days with great generosity and grant us to respond to the challenges of mission with a new heart. That he may obtain for us the courage to take up our commitment for the most abandoned, in the certainty that at this time God wants to use us to show his presence.
I wish everyone a good feast day. May St. Daniel Comboni make you experience again the beauty of our missionary vocation.
Fr. Enrique Sánchez G., Mccj
Limone, October 3, 2012