News from Uganda

Lent, a time for change in the depths of our heart in the novitiate

In our Novitiate Kakoba – Uganda, Lent was a good time and penitential season of prayer. Before we started this season, our novice master helped us to understand better what lent is by giving us an assignment. To research on the history of Lent, Ash Wednesday and forty days; the themes and structure of Lent; the paschal Triduum especially on the themes, scripture passages, key points of each day and briefly state five areas of our personal focus during this Lenten season. This assignment helped us to get more information from different books of our library. What was remaining was to put it into practice.

On Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was a day of recollection for all members of our fraternity. Fr. Fabian gave us a talk on the Rule of St. Francis, especially on the way of fasting in the Order of St. Francis. “Francis himself fasted a lot as a good example to his followers. His joy was to eat food mixed with ashes or destroyed its taste, usually by adding water. He never drank enough water; his natural desires were to punish his body, his joy in trouble and in prosperity cf: Riches of the poor men. He continued to remind us of the priorities of the Order, which are prayer, fraternity, minority, Evangelization and formation as the life we have chosen to live.

In summary, he reminded us to go back to the rule of St. Francis, which was placed before us and concluded by prayer and blessing. Then each one took his direction for reflection in a lonely place. When we fast we give up not only luxurious life but also we have to know that we do not have anything of our own. Even the body that we think is ours will be taken away. In the tomb, the worms devour the remains of putrid flesh, all the limbs are separated, and the bones are eaten away by the corruption of the tomb. See what remains of the body that we have loved so much, something that has no name in any language. A human being experiences a certain hunger and thirst that only Jesus can fully satisfy and it is useless to look anywhere else for satisfaction ( Is 55: 1- 5). At evening, tired and thirsty, we came back together in our small chapel for adoration where we find all our needs.

The following day, which was ash Wednesday, many Christians came for Mass in order to worship and get the mark of ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance. Just after Mass, brothers and novices went out to proclaim the Good News of repentance in two places. Some went to the prison for Mass, others went to Uganda Martyrs Parish and two novices remained in kitchen preparing supper. It was not the first time to go out for pastoral work and it is a good program, which trains us to be used as it is our future life. Every Saturday afternoon we go to the prison. Sunday after Mass, we accompany the elder brothers to the outstation for Mass and in the afternoon, we visit the families. On Sunday the 1st March of this month, we novices and Br. Aimable Bizimungu went to visit the AIDS patients organized as an association group of men, women, young girls and boys whereas the other brothers went to celebrate Masses to other different places.

We shared lunch, they sung, danced and they were very happy to see us present among them. From the example of Francis’s humility who was a beggar and at the same time generous.  Those who came and asked for help were rewarded as long as he had anything to give. He had a very simple faith in the providence of God.

There is no life of penance without fasting by giving up some lunch in order to remember those who are hungry. Fasting is not for economizing the food but is also for almsgiving. Before we went back home, we distributed to them some bars of soap and packets of salt from what we had sacrificed. Some days later, we went back to the AIDS patient to work together with them. From morning to noon, we cultivated a beg place and it was a good opportunity of sharing different stories with them. Before our departure, we shared porridge prepared, using the flour which we had carried. They were very happy to see that we were supporting them and we were like friends.

During this Lenten season, every Friday, Christians come to join us for the way of cross which begins from the main road to our chapel. The stations are said alternative in English and Runyankole. In order to be trained and strengthened in our Franciscan journey, each Novice was given some days of sharing his faith on the scripture readings during daily Masses but alternating with the homily of the priests. The general themes have been organized in this way: Repent and believe the good News, prayer, penance, almsgiving and forgiveness. There are also weekly themes. First week: Jesus was tempted by Satan Mk 1: 12 – 15. Second week, transfiguration: this is my Son the beloved Mk 9: 2- 13. Third week: Destroy Jesus the new Temple Jn 2: 13 – 25. Fourth week: God sent us his Son, so that through Him the world might be saved. Jn 3: 14 – 24. Fourth week: if a grain of wheat falls and dies, it yields a rich harvest Jn 12: 20 – 33.

All these themes were written in visible letters and were pinned on the wall of the Chapel. Everyone would be able to read the messages. Before the Altar, pictures were put according to the week’s theme like transfiguration, Moses and Ten commandments, the death of Jesus on the cross which pierced Mary’s heart his Mother.

As we come close to the Lenten period and prepare to celebrate the great mystery of our redemption at Easter, we appreciate all that has enabled us to enter into this period prepared spiritually and psychologically. We have learnt a lot which has enriched us and has made a difference in our approach to this mystery. May the humility of Christ on the cross, which St. Francis loved so much, help us to be humble enough to sing with Francis the Office of the Passion of our Lord and rise with him to new life of Easter.