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“Being spiritual – being human”

 

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West Central Europe Province Workshop

20/10/2015: Germany

Forty nine participants from Ireland, Scotland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany attended this workshop at Vallendar, near Koblenz, Germany. Brendan Geary, Provincial, leading the meeting welcomed the Marists, the young and the old, men and women, Brothers and laity, wishing them an interesting and fruitful meeting.

The theme of the meeting was, Being spiritual – being human, and the speaker Father Dennis Tindall from Bishop Auckland in England, who has known Brendan for some time, got the meeting off to a vivid start after the evening meal. Important points of this input were various ways of meeting God, our daily communication with God and the knowledge that each one of us is a house in which God dwells.

The second part of the Saturday morning which involved small group meetings dealt with the questions of how God communicates with us, how we react to the needs of others, how we deal with our own shortcomings and just how much we depend on the grace of God. Other themes included the fatherhood of God and His unconditional love of everyone, as well as the task of the Church, loudly and clearly proclaimed by Pope Francis, to heal the wounded and liberate the people.

The fourth session highlighted the grace of God’s gifts, mercy and forgiveness. In his self-emptying and incarnation the Son of God became man and through his suffering, death on the cross and resurrection brought redemption to all of good will. Incarnation does not mean simply the presence of God in every person and the recognition of Jesus in the face of the other, but is also an on-going process in which the incarnation continues through the course of time to repeat and renew itself. Finally, incarnation includes the fact that Jesus brings humanity to God; he is the spokesperson of humanity within the Trinity.

In their helpfulness and striving to do the good Christians must also be aware of their own boundaries. It behoves us to listen carefully so that we truly recognise need and not to get caught up in “actionism”. We are confronted with the question of what the other’s needs really are; the purpose is to help the needy understand their life. One’s own vulnerability can help in this situation of letting the other come to the realisation that he also comes from God.

God seeks out the others – for us that means we remain attentive and allow ourselves to be approachable and encouraging.

The statement of the journalist, that we recognise ourselves in observing others is underlined in the images of the drowned child of a refugee on the shore and then in the arms of a paramedic which shortly before had been featured in the media. Global networking and the omnipresence of various communications media see to it that we are massively provided with information, much of it about the misery in the world. As a result of that, the poor can well teach us the Gospel since they constantly are a challenge us to react to their predicament. We are forced to decide for ourselves if we close our eyes and ears or if we get the message that through them, God also speaks to us.

Father Tindall who is a good story-teller and illustrates his talks with vivid examples and real events narrated that a prison inmate who confided in him as a priest told him, “you have accepted me, so I can also hope that God accepts me.” This shows that when we come down to it we should be turning towards the weaker ones, those on the outside, the underdog in the team and others with any disability and let them feel that they are accepted. In the first instance this should call to our minds Pope Francis’ Church of the poor and, of course, of Saint Marcellin and that we should be concerning ourselves with the least privileged whether they live in the poorest countries or the seemingly rich industrialised societies. Father Tindall embodied in his own talk and person the Marist virtues of simplicity, humility and modesty and was able to relate pertinent theological ideas tersely and coherently. Clear graphic language and a well-structured train of thought supported by well-chosen examples conveyed an overwhelming impression of depth and authenticity.

We are also looking into the beyond, whether to the impact on our own lives, or the further development of the Church or the future of Marist presence. In many ways, looking forward gives us signals for a new beginning and new challenges; we can look to the present Synod of Bishops on the family, the refugee problem in Germany, in Europe as a whole and indeed in the whole world or we can look at the international conflicts. Visions and dreams are necessary in life and we must pursue them. To round off his contribution Father Tindall alluded to Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “I have a dream.”

Father Tindall was lauded with long applause. The meeting ended with the regional groups gathering ideas and suggestions from the various participants for workshops and other occasions to further develop the Marist dream.

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Johannes räpple

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