(Kenya) From October 18 to 22 the members of Kenya Mission were at Benedictine Retreat Centre, Nanyuki for their annual retreat and Assembly. The ambiance of the retreat center, away from the city, at the foothills of Mt. Kenya, almost in the midst of a forest and stream was a fitting place for meditation and reflection.
The Benedictine retreat center is also famous for Bible on the Ground. Here scripture is explained in the traditional African setup. It helps Christians experience God in their unique African way. It is rooting the Word of God in people’s lives, contexts, and experiences. It is helping people assimilate the Word of God, and looking at the Bible, not as a Book external to their way of life, but as a spiritual book that relates their spiritual way journey. The landscape is covered by indigenous trees, valley-like ground surfaces, small mounds to represent mountains and runs from Genesis to revelations. Notably, it is also covered with traditional African huts with various subjects to talk about ranging from family to society.
Our retreat preacher was a Passionist priest, Fr Simeon from Kisumu. He focused on the theme of Beatitudes. He asked us to look at the beatitudes from the point of the gospel, the world, and as new Redemptorists.
Beatitudes may appear as very difficult and impractical yet they are the fundamental characteristics of a Christian. We need to look at them from a higher perspective. He explained each beatitude with a number of practical examples.
For example: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The gospel sees it: Those who consciously choose a needy life, rejecting the logic of possessions. It frees one from the clutches of attachments- of property, wealth, vehicle, etc. Possess nothing and enjoy everything.
The world sees it: The more you have the more you are blessed. People shop for things that attract them and not for what they need. Every year a list of the richest people in the world is published by some magazines. People think that they can be happy if they have more.
As a new Redemptorist: It’s a challenge to live consciously as needy. Your preaching can be relevant only if your lifestyle matches your proclamation. Live with only what is necessary. (Some confreres have the tendency to demand the use of community car while they have their own vehicle, or take allowance from the community while they get an allowance from elsewhere.)
After explaining each beatitude the preacher concluded that to be a new Redemptorist, let the beatitudes shape you; try to live it faithfully. It needs a complete paradigm shift. We need to see ourselves as new persons. We should not compromise the values of Christ with the values of the world. Make the beatitudes as your principles.
All of us were happy to go through this retreat that challenged us to live the beatitudes as new Redemptorists.
Fr. Paul Pazhangattu, C.Ss.R.