Missionary simplicity today

As we approach the 156th anniversary celebration of the founding of the SMA, we feel called to take stock of our missionary commitment to follow Christ, the missionary par excellence, and, in fidelity to the spirit of our founder, Bishop de Marion Brésillac, to “serve the most abandoned peoples of Africa.”

To take stock means to begin with what we are presently living, to become conscious of where we now stand and to envisage a faithful and better future with resolutions that are more in line with those of our Founder.

I refer to de Bresillac’s resolve to be “a missionary from the bottom of my heart.” Our Founder was able to live this by a simple life. He wanted this simplicity of life for us as missionaries. He wrote to Father Planque: “… I must admit that it is essential to have a greater spirit of condescension and simplicity reigning in the house.” (29th June 1857)

Aware of this reality, we make ‘simplicity’ a hallmark of the SMA. We use the word simplicity very often in our work, our documents, our SMA Constitutions & Laws. But simplicity is not a magical concept. It encapsulates behavior and is a way of being. How do we live this today? It is up to each of us to respond objectively to this question.

However, I note that, apart from the fact that everyone lives simplicity according to the traits of their own unique personality, there is also a common tendency to live it in a manner that risks bordering on laziness and mediocrity. Today, speaking of the SMA, it is through these that we love to cleverly name simplicity. Do not be afraid to recognize the evils from which we suffer.

I can sometimes pass through SMA communities where we do not say, for example, the prayer for the Canonization of the Founder. I have always had SMA members reminding me of the sacred principle of simplicity which characterizes us as SMAs. However, using this principle of simplicity they go on to state that we do not need the canonization of our Founder to be missionaries from the bottom of our heart. I have known a parish where a torn basket has been used as a ciborium for Communion. Here, too, to justify the unjustifiable, my friend spoke about simplicity with reference to the manger in Bethlehem…

Fidelity to missionary simplicity in the spirit of Bishop de Brésillac, as elsewhere in the Gospel, is not in the doing of it or in the having of it. Nor can it be undertaken with an economic end in view. Everything depends, rather, on our way of being. Missionary simplicity: Is it not when one recognizes oneself as a useless servant (cf. Lk. 17, 10) and when one knows how to be happy, there, where one finds oneself, neglecting nothing in order to advance the work of God?

“Let each of us therefore go within himself to examine first whether, instead of always doing the work of God, he has often done the things that upset or even destroy it. In how many mysterious ways could this simple examination make us more intelligent?” (Marion de Brésillac, Retreat to Missionaries, p. 34)

I like the Offertory Hymn which, in my opinion, states what is essential about missionary simplicity: Lord my God, with a simple and joyful heart, I have given everything.

May Bishop de Brésillac intercede for each of us before the Lord so that the Lord will grant us the grace of greater openness to live with a simple and joyful heart, ready to welcome all our brothers and sisters, and to know to give everything for the greater glory of God.

Father Bruno Miyigbena SMA
Freetown
Sierra Leone

Our Founder today – number 14, December 2012