Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical Gaudete Et Exsultate and his monthly intention of prayer that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.
Our Good God has given us all another year and other seasons in which to reflect on and challenge ourselves individually and communally in the practice of justice. This year, our reflections aim to bring together thoughts from Gaudate Et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, and concerns raised by Pope Francis in his monthly intentions given to the Apostles of Prayer. Many may wonder how the spiritual theme of a call to holiness may relate to the often considered political nature of the practice of justice. This will be our journey for the year—linking these two challenges.
An old African tale goes…
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to grow.
This story speaks to us of Pope Francis’ intention for September, namely, that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.
Though there are undoubtedly huge and difficult obstacles in the way of obtaining an education in many parts of Africa, our prayer is that there will be many young people with the spirit spoken of in the tale above. We pray that young people will have the motivation and strength needed to desire to overcome obstacles, and then the opportunity and energy to actually do it. Thus, the riches of education can enter their lives and aid them in their own journey to the Kingdom.
As Pope Francis writes in Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Life does not have a mission, but is a mission”. We are called to accept the mission of our life. We can wander through life, we can charge ahead through all our days, or we can choose to employ our gifts and talents in the light of God’s grace to plot our mission of life. This is where education intersects with holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God with the ability to reason. Our likeness to our Creator deepens with the opportunity to employ the gifts given us. Trevor Noah, a comedian from South Africa writes, “The generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use their skills and education to move forward.” These Children of God have been denied the chance to live in a just society, and have also been limited in their journey to holiness. As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
Let it be our prayer that “beautiful feet” of many sizes and hues will answer the call to open the minds of the youth of Africa and indeed, of the world, so that they might become forces for justice and examples of holiness in our world community.