News from Uganda

Advent in Novitiate

I do not think that it is a mistake to say that a novitiate is an Advent where we watch, prepare the ways and wait in hope the coming of the Messiah by asking ourselves “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

This advent period has been marked by many events which I would wish to share with you. Advent in Novitiate was started by a serious preparation of the body, mind and heart.

We started by preparing our minds. Helped by our novice master who gave us work to do, a research on Advent, to begin by the etymology of the word itself, the beginning of Advent in the church (Western and Eastern Church) in the historical way. We did not remain on the history level but went so far to the spiritual level where we asked ourselves. “What does Advent mean in our life?” and what this Advent of 2008 is calling us to prepare for?”

On the liturgical side, we have prepared ourselves seriously. By learning Runyankole language songs of Advent ( Mujuni shuma, Ari haihi kwija… Ija ai Yesu Kristu…) this shows how eagerly we are to learn local songs and to identify ourselves with Banyankore way of worship.

As we know that a true friar minor is the one among the people.  Francis said “Friars should be happy when they find themselves among the poor and the lepers”.

We are the ones to learn Banyankole culture and Runyankole language, instead of waiting for them to learn English. To prepare ourselves spiritually during this season of Advent, we have been helped also by following different following themes:

  • For the first week we had “Watch”,
  • The second week “Prepare the way”
  • Third week “Joy in Christ”
  • The fourth week “the incarnation of the Word”

The body is the temple of the Spirit, it is impossible to prepare ourselves spiritually and forget our physical preparation. To achieve this we decided to fast as the Franciscan rule requests it and our mother church demands about fasting during this holy period.  As the voice is shouting in the desert “prepare the ways of the Lord”. We can not manage it if we do not repent our sins and do fasting, which is one of the ways. We have planned that this way should not be economical fasting meaning to stop using something so that it can be used in the future, but a way of charity in sharing with the poor and the needy.

Novices like other Christians, are called to announce the good news, to be messengers of the messiah who is to come. It is in this way that during this period of Advent we started Bible sharing in the mass during week days (from Monday to Saturday). It has been an interesting experience for us novices and we have been beneficial to Christians who attend the morning mass. This exercise is very important because we enrich ourselves with Holy Scriptures and get more information from different commentaries of the fathers of the church in Holy Scriptures.

To make Advent a special period in liturgical way, we sing also responsorial psalms and this of course bring another mood and shows that Advent is a joyful holy period where we wait in hope.

When we receive the Holy Eucharist we want to become a gift, a sacrifice, a Eucharist to others. Jesus Christ we receive through the Eucharist is not only for us we are to take Him to others. After receiving Christ, we become the tabernacle because he dwells within us.

We as well know that they are so many people, Christians or none Christians who are thirsty, who wish to hear the word of God, the word of consolation, want also someone to listen to them, this is the reason why during this period of Advent we started to visit the families; to be with them.

Our vocation is not for our benefit but the benefit of others. Even if the first days are a bit challenging because of the language, slowly we are improving till now. We are doing well and we hope to succeed in our mission.

 During this period of Advent, we had a seminar on Islamic religion given by father Labonté, (a missionary of Africa) which will help us to relate and dialogue with our brothers and sisters Muslims. To reinforce this, we were blessed to have another seminar with brother Fidelis from Nairobi on Communication. Knowing how to communicate and relating well with all people is important.

Our father St. Francis of Assisi never stopped to warn and admonish his brothers to work with their own hands and not to distinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion. Even if Advent is a period of watching and waiting with hope in prayer, it does not mean that we are to be lazy, rather, we are to avoid idleness, the enemy of souls. It is in that way that we continue our daily work.

After harvesting beans and enjoying the fresh and green maize, we are preparing for the following season. Furthermore, to make the ways ready not only spiritually but also physically, we have started to clean our surrounding; slashing in the hermitage so that Christmas celebration may find our place clean. Saint Francis was clear when he said that if the work of our hands is not sufficient let us take recourse to the table of the Lord and we should not be ashamed of this because it places us among the poor. To fulfil this wish, our heavenly Father has blessed us during this period with food from the nature (why not from heaven) which is “senene” in Runyankole language, which means grasshoppers.

It is a sweetest food in ankole land and a source of serious business which becomes of course a source of richness (money). If you can see how people pass nights without sleeping watching for senene which they do not know the time or the hour they come.

We are to ask ourselves how would it be like to remain watchful waiting in hope for the Messiah, the king of kings who is to come to set us free from the injustice of this world.

Advent was not only a happy event for us, but we experienced also sadness about the death of the brother of our brother Fabian, may his soul rest in peace. We keep the family in prayer as well as we know that all of us we are pilgrims on this world. We pray for Fabian who passed these days under operation of eyes; knowing that we are called to imitate Christ through suffering.

Lastly, during this advent, we have not forgotten to pray for our benefactors who sacrifice their goods for our sake. “May God continue to grant them all graces necessary”.

In conclusion, through all examples given we find that our life is an Advent, a continuous revelation till the end of the world. Therefore to think that this advent is periodical or that Franciscan advent (formation) finish with final profession, it is a great mistake.