God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Lent in the times of SONA

Ash Wednesday – a time marker to reflect the beginning of lent. Lent is for Christians a time to reflect on their lives and to prepare for the big feast of Easter – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Germany you also have the political Ash Wednesday – where a political party tries to set it’s mark with sometimes over the board speeches to score points before elections or to satisfy their electorate.
This year in South Africa the religious and the political Ash Wednesday are close together with today’s religious ceremonies and tomorrow the president’s address to the nation. It actually started already yesterday, where clearly lawyers for the president and the chair of parliament conceded that they were wrong in their actions in a constitutional court proceedings about the actions of the President of South Africa.  It was a classical turn around and if meant serious an example for remorse and repentance – even if in the world of the courts this only counts as litigation during sentencing of an offender.
So Ash Wednesday may mark this year in South Africa on various levels a time for serious reflection – on an individual base people are called to reflect on their lives, make corrections, ease their burden and try to regain a positive energy and outlook on their respective lives to fulfill their calling and vocation. The church recommends cutting down on luxuries as a means to simplify life and be open for things really important and counting in life.
Society is also called to have a look on its habits – and with all the turmoil in our society, from #RhodesMustFall via #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall; a dwindling economy, a realization that racism is not conquered completely in this country and that old wounds haven’t healed yet there is much to reflect and to correct. But for that we need a moral and political leadership which the ruling party is not willing or able to give in the moment. We need a change of hearts from those in political power.Politicians from all parties are called to look very closely whether they serve their own interests or those of themselves and their followers. No party is immune against corruption, power hunger and self-love and the thought of an importance, which warrants perks of various sorts.

The Catholic Church has called for a “Year of Mercy” – mercy towards others, but also mercy towards oneself. It tries to make visible, feel-able the unconditional love of God towards every human being. But this mercy can only work if one is open to receive it. And openness means to reflect and realize the own situation without make-ups and touch-ups. It’s a mercy which wants to change human lives on all those levels of individual life and social life. I guess in South Africa, we need tons of mercy – let’s start allowing it to flow into our society, into our lives so that Ash Wednesday 2016 might be the beginning of a new chapter in the new South Africa. At least this is my wish for this years beginning of lent.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, in the Christian churches a day of reflection and fasting – begin of lent, the time in preparation of the highest feast of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ.  Being on travel I also reflect on my life. And my first question would be: which life? The life as it isfeatured in the public domain with all the articles in newspapers and magazines and other media? The life of  a public person – the “founder” of HOPE Cape Town? or is it the life of the priest, called to holiness on a daily base and representing a church which is battling with all the shortcomings in the moment on a daily base? Or is it the life of Stefan, the friend, the family member, the acquaintance? Or is it the conclusion of all three facets of different lives? Or is it the real me – the person, I only know best and still remains a mystery for myself at the same time – the person who would never fit in all the roles given to me or expectations raised towards me in daily life.

I sometimes wonder how people perceive me and how I perceive me being perceived in public. I see what kind of difference exists in people how they believe they are and how they come across for others; it makes me think twice about my own perceptions.

I guess what counts at the end is how much we live who we are, how much, as we Christians phrase it, we are able to be what we are called for. And how much we are honest with ourselves and strive to bring our being and our doing together. We have to write each of us our own little story with God, our own little bible added to the official one – and as important to God as the latter.

For me the last 10 years have been also years of HOPE in the true sense of the word. This organisation has become a part of my life and I have served HOPE Cape Town in different capacities, as chairperson of the HOPE Cape Town Association, as management member and these days as board member and as chairperson of the HOPE Cape Town Trust as well as management member of the HOPE Kapstadt Stiftung. In all these capacities I was blessed with wonderful moments, with truly interesting and humble visitors who all added to a colourful life.
In the last 25 years I also had the luck to serve as a priest, the longest time as the chaplain to the German-speaking Catholic Communities in Cape Town and in Durban. What a diversity added to my life – what for blessings and possibilities to grow – even in the hardest hours of being nicely disposed as the chaplain in a way which some described as “between diplomacy and dishonesty” – the usual way of getting rid of perceived problems in our days. The toughest hours shape the most and I see them as a challenge to grow.

Lent is the time to reflect – to count the blessings and to see what is still needed on our way through life and what habits have become a burden and could be discharged or left behind. This is a time to allow ourselves a clear and honest picture of ourselves and to experience the unconditional love of God towards us anew. A love which allows us to grow, to change, to resist pressure of fellow man to adjust only to mainstream or to be scared to speak our minds if need be. A love which enables us to love and to cherish our neighbour, our fellow men and women next to us.

I wish all readers a blessed time of lent and at the end not only the celebration of Easter but a celebration of the resurrection of each and everybody of us as a grown human being – able to live life to the fullest and being more identical and reconciled with “myself” .

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

17.02.2010 Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday and a remarkable full church service in the morning with the pupils of the Holy Cross Primary School in Brooklyn and parishioners. The students had prepared papers were they put on all their misbehavior which were burned during the service. We transformed – so to speak – the guilt into ashes and used it to receive the sign of the cross. Ash Wednesday as the starting day of Lent – a time of reflection, because God has called us to do better as we are in the moment. We are called to listen to our vocation again, and bringing our life in order.

It is not about the chocolate or the 4 kg we like to lose over the 6 weeks – fasting in lent has not its purpose in itself but can only be a symbol for conscience to be developed about how life is treating us and we are treating life. It’s not about ” us sinners”, but us human beings, who need once in a while to clean our compass of life to find the right direction again. In this sense is lent a very important time.

I wish all and everybody a great time of lent and so many new discoveries how life can be even more worth living to the fullest.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

27.01.2010 a normal day..

Standing up at 6h10 this morning, and being at the office before 7am. First checking emails & news before going to town. Meeting with my co-operation partner Anja Tambusso Ferraz from the Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Petra Reichwein from the Mediterranean Villa to discuss the next Ball of HOPE, to be held on the 22nd of May 2010 at the Westin Grand Hotel. A bit later our musical director Adolf Thelen joins to discuss the musical arrangements. After that planing for the service on Ash Wednesday for the Holy Cross Primary School in Brooklyn.  Back to the office and working on reducing the stable of papers, files and folders on the desk, answering letters, phone calls before heading off again to an interview regarding a volunteer position during soccer world cup 2010. I am considered for a “protocol position” and faced with 3 interviewers I try to answer all the questions. It is amazing to sit again in an interview on the side with the one chair.. 🙂

Back to the office, more phone calls, more paper work, some preparations for tomorrow for a talk and some meetings and at 6pm home, only to meet with friends at 7 for dinner. Back home at 9h30 pm – some reading of theological nature and now the blog and a last check on emails. Preparing some papers for the senior staff meeting of HOPE Cape Town tomorrow and for my sergeant duties at the Rotary meeting tomorrow noon time.  A day is done… nothing extra-ordinary but enough left for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

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