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27 July

Saint Natalia
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Marist Calendar - July

Ad gentes in Mymensingh



A community of Marist formation

28/07/2011: Bangladesh

On 29 June 2011, the AD GENTES Marist formation community in Mymensing, Bangladesh, celebrated an event worth recording. It received all at once seven candidates to Marist life coming from three tribes, mostly Christian and generally poor: five from the Mandi tribe, one from the Ekassia, and one from the Santal. They arrived to follow the « College » course, that is, the last two years of secondary school. They will be accompanied for these two years by Brothers Mark and Virgilio of the formation community. It is pointless to say what hope this group represents for Marist life in this very poor country. They can become the « roots » of a  Bangladeshi Marist presence in this land. May God and Mary hear our prayers favourably.

By a fine coincidence, the seven candidates were received on 29 June, the feastday of Saints Peter and Paul. And by another fine coincidence, I was present at the reception. I was actually on a visit of this AD GENTES community. The feast of the holy apostles lent itself to a little reflection on vocation with the new candidates. As their English is very weak, I had recourse to the Brothers’ knowledge of the Bangla language to make myself understood. I took some teachings from the life of these two pillars of the Church to share in my reflection. They could be easily applied to the situation experienced on this feast day.

  1. Peter and Paul were called directly by the Lord while coming from very different backgrounds: Peter was a simple fisherman from Galilee; Paul, a first class intellectual. After meeting the Lord, however, they did not hesitate to follow him.
    You also come from very different backgrounds and tribes, where vey diverse cultural elements can be found. Through the mediation of some missionaries, you have heard the Lord’s call. You are beginning a stage of discernment. The Lord will lead you where he wills, just as he led Peter and Paul.
  2. Following Christ does not mean all was easy for Peter and Paul. Quite the opposite, they had to face many sufferings, right up to martyrdom, to the total gift of their lives.
    You will not probably have any great difficulties in this time of discernment when you are with the Brothers; in any case, you will be invited to discover more and more your Christian vocation. The Lord may be inviting you to the Marist life. From now on, you are invited to give yourselves without measure, to renounce all egoism and discover the joy of serving persons as well as your country.
  3. During his meeting with the risen Lord, Peter was « obliged » to make a triple confession and profession of love: « Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you ». But first of all, he had been loved by the Lord; he had had the experience of his love, much greater than his limitations and failings. And strong with the love he had for the Lord, he was invited to serve and love others, the people of God, the « Lord’s flock ».
    Like Peter, you will be invited to grow in love. First of all, love for the Lord himself. You have to and learn to love him more and, most probably, within the Marist tradition. But this growing love for the Lord will lead you, I am sure, to a greater love for your Bangladeshi  people; you will be called, like Peter, to love this part of the « Lord’s flock » which is in your dear country. And you will be invited to love it in the persons of the most poor. That is what I have seen in a number of missionaries working in your country. From now on, learn to love the poor, to experience a deep joy from the fact that you are with the poor.
  4. Paul, too, met the Lord, in a very dramatic way: by falling to the ground and temporarily losing his sight. He would subsequently recover it and put his whole life at the service of the Word of the Lord with incomparable enthusiasm. He would be, in the early Church, the « proclaimer of the Word of God » par excellence. And he would be so in practically the whole world known at his time, for one simple reason: « I belong to Christ; I live in Christ ».

I would also like Paul to be an example for you. Grow like him in a unique passion for Christ; in the measure you grow in Marist formation, grow also in the love for Christ and for his Gospel. Paul is a great teacher; not simply in theology, but in the ability to love Christ, to be capable of losing everything in order to gain Christ. So grow in his school. Learn to relativise the value of things so that Christ may be in your lives the unique value, the absolute value.

I do not know if my translators into Bangla translated my words properly. In any case, this is the message I wanted to leave with our Bangladeshi candidates. It was the message that I also wanted to leave with all our candidates in formation. May Saints Peter and Paul help us all to love the Master more and not to be afraid of difficulties when the Gospel has to be proclaimed. Even if martyrdom is lying in wait for us at the crossroads…


Brother Teófilo Minga - Co-ordinator mission AD GENTES
Mymensingh,  29 June 2011

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