OUR FOUNDER TODAY No. 6 March 2010
IN SEARCH OF JESUS BY TAKING UP ONE’S CROSS
In joining the SMA I believed, like all young people my age that I was simply going to offer all my being to God for the Evangelization of Africa. However, in the course of my formation and of my life as a missionary priest, I was obliged several times to come back, humbly, to the question asked, many years before, by Bishop de Bresillac:
What are you looking for? Quid quæritis ? Honor? Don’t come here. The joy of ministry? Don’t come here. For friendship, for recognition, consolations, in return for all that you do? Don’t come here. You will find all of that in Europe (…) But if, faithful to your vocation, you accept, in all its depth, a life of sacrifice; if you are looking for Jesus alone, the poor Jesus, the humble and humiliated Jesus, Jesus crucified, ah! Then come! Hasten to run after him, come! You will find here everything to fill your heart with bitterness and venom but with venom that becomes sweet by virtue of the cross. (Retreat to Missionaries, 2nd edition, pp. 72-73)
If I recall here this type of questioning by the Founder it is because I think that it merits being meditated on regularly, above all during this time of Lent, by all the members of the SMA from every époque, age and nationality.
Indeed, let us look at the following: what is the primary objective of our SMA missionary life? Primary Evangelization? Promotion of the local clergy? Justice, peace and protection of the environment? The setting up of parishes? Urban or rural Apostolates?
One could still cite other responses that are formulated as a result of our work, but let is listen to what our Founder proposes.
While approving all of the above priorities he shows us in his ‘Retreat to Missionaries’ the supreme objective, the objective that includes, conditions and brings to perfection all the others: seeking Jesus and him alone; and he shows us the best way to reach this end: take up one’s cross, which means taking up the mission received from Christ. Because the true lover of the cross finds himself there, where the Lord leads him. He would not wish to be elsewhere. (Ibid., p.196)
This, perhaps, may appear to us banal but let us ask ourselves candidly today: how many times in our lives have we refused to receive the mission proposed to us? How many times, after having accepted this mission, have we wished to change it for another that appears to us to be more worthy of our capabilities and of our devotion? How many times have we done our best to ensure that our Superiors accept to give to us the position that we have dreamt of?
Most probably our Founder asked himself all these questions when he was sharing his experience of being in a parish and the superior of the seminary and vicar apostolic, in the course of his ‘Retreat’ (Ibid., pp.193-194). No one is exempt from the temptation to be jealous of the cross-mission of the other person or to choose for himself a cross-mission that appears to be the most adapted to his own character and to his own capabilities, which may not be the case in reality.
So what are you looking for? Quid quæritis ?
Marian Szatkowski SMA