God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

09.08.2009 Sunday blues…and toughts about the sermon…

Sunday morning – and the usual ritual. Going to the office, last preparation for the church service and then off we go. And as every Sunday the question before: Does my sermon meets what the people need to hear…? Need to hear to go home afterward more joyful, more thoughtful, with more sun and love and compassion in their hearts? Am I able to touch their hearts and minds – those of the adults, but also those of the kiddies, the young and the old ones?

When I do prepare for a sermon, I always have somebody in front of my mind, or a situation close to my heart. Theological lectures are for study purposes, a sermon should bear witness from my faith, my thoughts, my questions, my experience with the unconditional love. I strongly believe that I can only touch peoples lives when they sense that my words are matched by my life experience. Otherwise I only deliver bloodless words…

Getting feedback on my sermons is very important to me. When I hear that a family was still discussing the sermon on the way back home, or somebody after quite a while can still tell me what I said on that occasion.. it is amazing for me and I feel blessed being able to be a blessing for others. Or an encouragement. Or a stone to stumble and get into deeper thoughts about life and faith.

Whatever it is, a sermon, even if nobody is able or willing to respond directly, must be a dialogue of hearts, otherwise it is a waste of time. Lets hope for this dialogue this morning again.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

02.08.2009 Living with HIV

I have added on the blogroll “living with hiv – as it happens”. I find this blog a very important one as it shows without attitude or drama how life develops after a positive test result. The blog is anonymous and this shows again, how difficult it is to get it out. Here in South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign advocates the “coming out” of HIV positive people and sometimes I have the impression, that is is almost done in a militant and pushy way. I don’t agree with it at all. Living with the virus is as intimate as faith – and it needs time and trust to open up and to talk about things which are so close to myself. Everybody has the right to be silent and to decide himself or herself, to whom to reveal the news.

People can react sometimes quite funny – for me as a counsellor it is important to advice a newly diagnosed person to look out for one person, with whom he can share the news and with whom he can discuss his joys and sufferings, his grievance and anxiety related to the virus occupying parts of his or her body. It is indeed a roller coaster to get used to the virus, to get used to treatment, and to be able to live a life to the fullest.

I feel often sad seeing how prejudice creates stigmatisation, discrimination – there is still a long way to go until we just accept a person living with the virus without even considering what could have gone wrong. It really does not matter in my opinion how and when somebody was infected – it is for me as a person, a Christian, a priest completely uninteresting – the only duty I have is to encourage somebody to live, to experience the unconditional love of God and to make the best out of his or her life.

Here in South Africa, we also have AIDS orphanages, and I always tend to flip out when I hear people saying, they want to see the innocent AIDS babies and clearly trying to distinguish between them and those, who have acquired the virus during adulthood. First of all there are no AIDS babies, but babies living with the virus. And secondly there is no innocence or guilt when dealing with a person living with the virus.  We should stop even using such words – and leave the morals at home somewhere in the corner where they don’t disturb our judgement and our commitment towards other people. Lets forget about judging people – and just embrace them as they are. This is the way, we also want to be dealt with … at least the way, I want to be dealt with…

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , ,

17.07.2009 … not needed anymore…

What does one do if one suddenly is told that your services are not needed anymore? Working hard, believing in what you are doing, this was always a more theoretical question in my life – until it hit hard in Jan 2009 and manifested itself in the last months. I always assumed that I am a strong person – taking on, whatever comes its way and moving on to conquer the next mountain in life. Being the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community was indeed part of my life, I loved the work and all what came with it. Knowing, that we as priests have to change position I twice agreed in the last years to be transferred. All was agreed, only to be called of again without real reasoning…

I guess everybody deals differently with such a situation – one person fights on, runs virtually against a wall; another licks his wounds and falls into depression – whatever it is, what you do: there is no other way than to work through all your feelings, aggressions, disappointments, hurts and hopefully to come out as a stronger person you are in the moment.
In my situation it was to realize that there is indeed a difference between the world of church technocrats, knowing the world from their files in the office and some travel in between and us priests living at the frontline of pastoral work on a daily base.  Of course you know it, but you don’t touch it, because you are too busy with your daily challenges.
There is the other realization that our church is run by humans, you have the nice ones, the genuine ones, but also the weak, the careless, the ones only looking for a career  or whatever unrecognizable intention they have…  Once again, you know it, but you ignore it as long as you can and most times, you meet people who are compassionate about their work and take seriously that they are serving God and mankind.

But the biggest challenge in such a situation is to take a deep and careful look at yourself. What is important for you? Where do you get your stamina from? What makes you tick? What do you really believe in? All those questions bring you to the deepest valleys of your own life – not an easy one.. It must be clear for you in such a situation that the basic laws of life applies: you cannot change anybody else than yourself. And if you have experienced the unconditional love of God in your life – is there really somebody else able to border you so much that he or she can derail your way in life? They might be able to close one door – but closing one door in life means only that others will be opened and that looking back, the insult meant to you has been transformed into  a border crossing into a new path, leading to more life, more love, more peace and more happiness and fulfillment in life.

Filed under: Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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