God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Church battle intensifies

Well, I have to admit: Whoever got Kim Davis, the bigot Kentucky county clerk who went to prison for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple to meet Pope Francis scored a point and steered the pot. Everybody is screaming and shouting – one side because of the joy to exploit such a meeting and to abuse the figure of the pope; the other side because they feel this is a sign of rejection towards their cause. Let’s keep the world grey and not black and white: As said, those wanting to turn the clock back in church scored a little victory but looking at it without falling into emotions it is quite simple: The pope met hundreds of people, he met gay people at the White House – and also there we saw the same scenario, one-quarter jubilant while the other fighting the presence of a gay bishop and friends. I believe he is a pope with a message for all and if I only take serious that the first and foremost duty is to welcome everybody – so also the lady Kim Davis.
Asked about the Davis case during his flight back, he said and I have no reason to doubt this, that he does not know the particulars of this case. Davis and her husband were in Washington for a different reason: they were to receive the “Cost of Discipleship” award on Friday 25 September from The Family Research Council at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  And I am sure in that context you find those who have been pulling the strings to make this meeting go ahead. And the words of encouragement – have you ever listened to the Queen of England: Every small talk conversation has the same theme – and so it is with all people having to meet different people all day long. Words of encouragement are standard with this pope and his message.
Generally I believe that we all should relax a little bit more and see and appreciate that the church indeed is moving under the leadership of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church is an old lady and we are starting to see the revitalization of the II Vatican Council after going backwards before his election. This revitalization and acknowledgement of the church in today’s society and a message relevant for today’s people, the working of the spirit is what scares those who have fallen in the trap of ideology within our church. Church teaching always developed and the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit always got a deeper understanding of God’s good message. Blocking this development like some high-ranking church officials try to do in the moment via statements or writing books or even accusing directly or indirectly those of acknowledging the signs of the time brings the danger of gliding from faith into ideology. On a positive note it shows how human the church is when cardinals try in vain to push their point of view as the only correct one forward.
And another positive note: Who would have thought that the Catholic Church is able on this level to have a debate? Who would have thought that a Synod is more than giving the nod whatever the Vatican and the Curia has already decided beforehand? Remember the days of John-Paul II or Benedict XVI – would such a debate be possible?

So let the church battle intensify without losing our heads and minds in the “Kim Davis story” or extreme statements like voiced by Cardinal Sarah or Cardinal Burke. Let us acknowledge the humanity of the debate and hope and pray for the divine mercy filtering through during the days of the Synod and at the end it will be Pope Francis who will make sense of it all – that is indeed his role as the Peter of today.

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An examination of Conscience

The times of the seasons are hectic times – especially in South Africa where the summer holidays and Christmas / Hanukkah and so many other festivities are coming together. It is difficult to pay attention to all what is happening around us and having time to read in depth what might be an interesting and important read. Therefore I feel it is appropriate to publish the Christmas greetings of the Pope Francis to the Curia from mid December 2014 again as I believe they are the most humble and honest reflection on church business on all levels of the church hierarchy. It is also done in support of the pope who really tries with utmost sincerity to clean up and restructure our church in a way which serves the Lord rather than those in so-called power. The battle is on for the direction of the church and our times will be decisive whether we can turn the ship of Peter around or sail in the same old direction and loose more and more people as we sail along. Or even worse: we are in danger to turn a message of joy into an ideology of burdens claiming like the Pharisees that this is the will of God. Let’s all examine our conscience and start the new year with clarity and honesty and make 2015 a year of joy and mercy for all men of good will. The text is taken from the official translation into English.

The Roman Curia is like a “complex body”: in order to live it needs not only “nourishment” but “care” to treat the diseases and temptations which weaken “service to the Lord”. This was the image chosen by Pope Francis for his address on Monday morning, 22 December, in the Clementine Hall, during the traditional meeting with members of the Curia to exchange Christmas greetings. The Pontiff proposed this reflection as “a help and a stimulus to a true examination of conscience, in order to prepare our hearts for the holy feast of Christmas”.
“You are higher than the cherubim, you who changed the pitiful plight of the world when you became like one of us” (Saint Athanasius)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of Advent, we meet for our traditional greetings. In a few days we will have the joy of celebrating the birth of the Lord: the event of God who became man in order to save us; the manifestation of the love of God who does not just give us something, or send us a message or a few messengers, but gives us himself; the mystery of God who took upon himself our humanity and our sins in order to reveal his divine life, his immense grace and his freely-given forgiveness. It is our encounter with God who is born in the poverty of the stable of Bethlehem in order to teach us the power of humility. For Christmas is also the feast of the light which is not received by the “chosen”, but by the poor and simple who awaited the salvation of the Lord.
Before all else, I would like to offer all of you — co-workers, brothers and sisters, papal representatives throughout the world, and all your dear ones — my prayerful good wishes for a holy Christmas and a happy New Year. I want to thank you most heartily for your daily commitment in the service of the Holy See, the Catholic Church, the particular Churches and the Successor of Peter.
Since we are persons and not numbers or mere titles, I would mention in a particular way those who in the course of this year concluded their service for reasons of age, or the assumption of new duties, or because they were called to the house of the Father. My thoughts and my gratitude go to them and to their families.
Together with you, I want to lift up to the Lord a lively and heartfelt thanksgiving for the year now ending, for all we have experienced, and for all the good which he has graciously willed to accomplish through our service of the Holy See, while at the same time humbly begging his forgiveness for our failings committed “in our thoughts and words, in what we have done and what we have failed to do”.
Taking this request for forgiveness as my starting point, I would like this meeting and the reflections which I will now share with you to be for all of us a help and a stimulus to a true examination of conscience, in order to prepare our hearts for the holy feast of Christmas.
As I thought about this meeting, there came to mind the image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. This is an expression which, as Pope Pius xii explained, “springs up and in some way blossoms from the frequent teaching of sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church”.1 As Saint Paul wrote: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor 12:12).2

The Second Vatican Council thus recalls that “a diversity of members and functions is engaged in the building up of Christ’s body too, There is only one Spirit who, out of his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his various gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor 12:1-11).3 As a result, “Christ and the Church together make up the ‘whole Christ’ (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ”.4
It is attractive to think of the Roman Curia as a small-scale model of the Church, in other words, as a “body” which strives seriously every day to be more alive, more healthy, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ.
In fact, though, the Roman Curia is a complex body, made up of a number of Congregations, Councils, Offices, Tribunals, Commissions, as of numerous elements which do not all have the same task but are coordinated in view of an effective, edifying, disciplined and exemplary functioning, notwithstanding the cultural, linguistic and national differences of its members.5
However, since the Curia is a dynamic body, it cannot live without nourishment and care. In fact, the Curia — like the Church — cannot live without a vital, personal, authentic and solid relationship with Christ.6 A member of the Curia who is not daily nourished by that Food will become a bureaucrat (a formalist, a functionalist, a mere employee): a branch which withers, slowly dies and is then cast off. Daily prayer, assiduous reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation, daily contact with the word of God and a spirituality which translates into lived charity — these are vital nourishment for each of us. Let it be clear to all of us that apart from him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:8).
As a result, a living relationship with God also nourishes and strengthens our communion with others. In other words, the more closely we are joined to God, the more we are united among ourselves, since the Spirit of God unites and the spirit of evil divides.
The Curia is called constantly to improve and to grow in communion, holiness and wisdom, in order to carry out fully its mission.7 And yet, like any body, like any human body, it is also exposed to diseases, malfunctioning, infirmity. Here I would like to mention some of these probable diseases, “curial diseases”. They are the more common diseases in our life in the Curia. They are diseases and temptations which weaken our service to the Lord. I think a “listing” of these diseases — along the lines of the Desert Fathers who used to draw up such lists — will help us to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for all of us to take in preparing for Christmas.
1. The disease of thinking we are “immortal”, “immune” or downright “indispensable”, neglecting the need for regular check-ups. A Curia which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable! It is the disease of the rich fool in the Gospel, who thought he would live forever (cf. Lk 12:13-21), but also of those who turn into lords and masters, and think of themselves as above others and not at their service. It is often an effect of the pathology of power, from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the image of God on the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need.8 The antidote to this plague is the grace of realizing that we are sinners and able to say heartily: “We are unworthy servants. We have only done what was our duty” (Lk 17:10).
2. Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect “the better part”: sitting at the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while” (cf. Mk 6:31) for a reason, because neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments of spiritual and physical recharging. We need to learn from Qohelet that “for everything there is a season” (3:1-15).
3. Then too there is the disease of mental and spiritual “petrification”. It is found in those who have a heart of stone, the “stiff-necked” (Acts 7:51-60), in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men of God (cf. Heb 3:12). It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! This is the disease of those who lose “the sentiments of Jesus” (cf. Phil 2:5-11), because as time goes on their hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving unconditionally the Father and our neighbour (cf. Mt 22:34-35). Being a Christian means “having the same sentiments that were in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5), sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.9
4. The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When the apostle plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to contain and direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is always greater and more flexible than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8). We contract this disease because “it is always more easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not try to control or tame him… to tame the Holy Spirit! … He is freshness, imagination, and newness”.10
5. The disease of poor coordination. Once its members lose communion among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra which produces noise: its members do not work together and lose the spirit of fellowship and teamwork. When the foot says to the arm: “I don’t need you ”, or the hand says to the head, “I’m in charge”, they create discomfort and scandal.
6. There is also a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease”. It consists in losing the memory of our personal “salvation history”, our past history with the Lord and our “first love” (Rev 2:4). It involves a progressive decline in the spiritual faculties which in the long or short run greatly handicaps a person by making him incapable of doing anything on his own, living in a state of absolute dependence on his often imaginary perceptions. We see it in those who have lost the memory of their encounter with the Lord; in those who no longer see life’s meaning in “deuteronomic” terms; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands.
7. The disease of rivalry and vainglory.11 When appearances, the colour of our clothes and our titles of honour become the primary object in life, we forget the words of Saint Paul: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). This is a disease which leads us to be men and woman of deceit, and to live a false “mysticism” and a false “quietism”. Saint Paul himself defines such persons as “enemies of the cross of Christ” because “they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:19).
8. The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive spiritual emptiness which no doctorates or academic titles can fill. It is a disease which often strikes those who abandon pastoral service and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people. In this way they create their own parallel world, where they set aside all that they teach with severity to others and begin to live a hidden and often dissolute life. For this most serious disease conversion is most urgent and indeed indispensable (cf. Lk 15:11-32).
9. The disease of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting. I have already spoken many times about this disease, but never enough. It is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a “sower of weeds” (like Satan) and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of our colleagues and confrères. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Saint Paul admonishes us to “do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent” (Phil 2:14-15). Brothers, let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!
10. The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favour. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honour persons and not God (cf. Mt 23:8-12). They serve thinking only of what they can get and not of what they should give. Small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness (cf. Gal 5:16-25). Superiors themselves could be affected by this disease, when they court their collaborators in order to obtain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependency, but the end result is a real complicity.
11. The disease of indifference to others. This is where each individual thinks only of himself and loses sincerity and warmth of human relationships. When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of his less knowledgeable colleagues. When we learn something and then keep it to ourselves rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others. When out of jealousy or deceit we take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them.
12. The disease of a lugubrious face. Those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious we have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others — especially those we consider our inferiors — with rigour, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism12 are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So let us not lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations.13 How beneficial is a good dose of humour! We would do well to recite often the prayer of St. Thomas More.14 I say it every day, and it helps.
13. The disease of hoarding. When an apostle tries to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. The fact is that we are not able to bring material goods with us, since “the winding sheet does not have pockets”, and all our earthly treasures — even if they are gifts — will never be able to fill that void; instead, they will only make it deeper and more demanding. To these persons the Lord repeats: “You say, I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. So be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:17, 19). Accumulating goods only burdens and inexorably slows down the journey! Here I think of an anecdote: the Spanish Jesuits used to describe the Society of Jesus as the “light brigade of the Church”. I remember when a young Jesuit was moving, and while he was loading a truck full of his many possessions, suitcases, books, objects and gifts, an old Jesuit standing by was heard to say with a smile: And this is the “light brigade of the Church”? Our moving can be a sign of this disease.
14. The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than belonging to the Body and, in some circumstances, to Christ himself. This disease too always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer which threatens the harmony of the Body and causes immense evil — scandals — especially to our weaker brothers and sisters. Self-destruction, “friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, is the most insidious danger.15 It is the evil which strikes from within;16 and, as Christ says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Lk 11:17).
15. Lastly: the disease of worldly profit, of forms of self-exhibition.17 When an apostle turns his service into power, and his power into a commodity in order to gain worldly profit or even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally, so as to put themselves on display and to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm to the Body because it leads persons to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a priest who used to call journalists to tell — and invent — private and confidential matters involving his confrères and parishioners. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel “powerful and glamorous”, while causing great harm to others and to the Church. Poor sad soul!
Brothers, these diseases and these temptations are naturally a danger for each Christian and for every curia, community, congregation, parish and ecclesial movement; and they can strike at the individual and the community levels.
We need to be clear that it is only the Holy Spirit who can heal all our infirmities. He is the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ; as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed says: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life”. It is the Holy Spirit who sustains every sincere effort at purification and in every effort at conversion. It is he who makes us realize that every member participates in the sanctification of the Body and its weakening. He is the promoter of harmony:18 “Ipse harmonia est”, as Saint Basil says. Saint Augustine tells us that “as long as a member is still part of the body, its healing can be hoped for. But once it is removed, it can be neither cured nor healed”.19

Healing also comes about through an awareness of our sickness and of a personal and communal decision to be cured by patiently and perseveringly accepting the remedy.20

And so we are called — in this Christmas season and throughout our time of service and our lives — to live “in truth and love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Eph 4:15-16).
Dear brothers!
I read once that priests are like planes: they only make news when they crash, even though so many of them are in the air. Many people criticize, and few pray for them. It is a very touching, but also very true saying, because it points to the importance and the frailty of our priestly service, and how much evil a single priest who “crashes” can do to the whole body of the Church.
Therefore, so as not to fall in these days when we are preparing ourselves for Confession, let us ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin which each of us bears in his heart, and to sustain the Church and the Curia so that they can be healthy and health-giving; holy and sanctifying, to the glory of her Son and for our salvation and that of the entire world. Let us ask her to make us love the Church as Christ, her Son and our Lord, loves her, to have the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners in need of his mercy, and not to fear surrendering our hands into her maternal hands.
I offer cordial good wishes for a holy Christmas to all of you, to your families and your co-workers. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Heartfelt thanks!

1 He states that the Church, being mysticum Corpus Christi, “calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. As in the body, when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the aid of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body… a Body not formed by a haphazard grouping of members, but… constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally united parts” (Encyclical Mystici Corporis, Part One: AAS 35 [1943], 200; ed. Carlen, Nos. 15-16).
2 Cf. Rom 12:5: “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another”.
3 Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 7.
4 It should be remembered that “the comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as the head of the body; and the Church as bride of Christ. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 789 and 795.
5 Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 130-131.
6 Jesus often spoke of the union which the faithful should have with him: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (Jn 15:4-5).
7 Cf. Pastor Bonus, Art. 1 and CIC can. 360.
8 Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 197-201.
9 Benedict XVI, General Audience, 1 June 2005.
10 Francis, Homily at Mass in Turkey, 29 November 2014.
11 Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 95-96.
12 Ibid., 84-86.
13 Ibid., 2.
14 “Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest. Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it. Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil, but rather finds the means to put things back in their place. Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumbling, sighs and laments, nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called ‘I’. Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke and to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others”.
15 Evangelii Gaudium, n. 88.
16 Blessed Paul VI, referring to the situation of the Church stated that he had the feeling that “through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God”: Paul VI, Homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June 1972); cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 98-101.
17 Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 93-97.
18 “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ…. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior cohesion” (Francis, Homily at Holy Mass in Turkey, 29 November 2014).
19 Augustine, Serm. cxxxvii, 1 (Migne, P. L., 38, 754).
20 Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 25-33.

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Synod on Family: Signs of deep divide or healthy discussion?

It was amazing to see the discussion before, during and after the first part of the Synod on Family: those discussions, interviews, reporting back, misunderstandings when being interviewed and it seems a somehow brutal gloves off discussion is going on for the time being. Reading conservative blogs or so-called Catholic news websites like the German “kath.net” every bit of news is bend up to a point of ideology and bits of events are highlighted and others completely overlooked just to make a point.
The removal of Cardinal Burke from a high-ranking position has fired up the discussion as has the remarks of Cardinal Kasper that one cannot discuss certain topics with African bishops. All this shows that the unity of bishops and the church has been enforced by a structure or hierarchy based on fear and choosing only candidates who would normally never speak up but defend even the not possible to defend as part of the deal. Those times are hopefully gone and the God’s good spirit seems to get more and more room to conquer the hearts and minds of those leading the church. And giving the spirit more room is certainly healthy for a church claiming to be guided by exactly this spirit.
I personally think it is good to see the diversity of thoughts within our church and if it is done right and with respect, a robust and healthy debate can only further our cause as it has done during the Second Vatican Council. The only difference is that in our times, the debates are public and can be followed by millions with each and everybody able to voice his or her own opinion while at the time of the council, it was fought out behind close doors and only the results were published.What is scary is the bitterness of certain so-called conservative circles even talking about a “false” pope or yesterday I even read about a schismatic pope. Here, ideology has taken over religion and a debate is not even possible any more.

Working in the field of HIV and AIDS, seeing the crisis of family and the changes happening in form and perceptions, there has to be a debate if we want to remain relevant in our days. Nobody I see wants to abolish the institution of family, but as always in life, there are many shades of grey in the realities of family life and we have to see the good and beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment, dedication there he is present. And there are many shades of grey in the reality of sexuality and  again let’s see the good and the beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment and dedication, there he is present. Life is getting so complicated, let’s point out all what contributes to life and the diversity of life – God’s plan is certainly not uniformity but a colorful mosaic where every different piece counts to make the whole picture beautiful.

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A year passed by…

Cape of Good Hope - Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope – Cape Town, South Africa (Photo credit: David Berkowitz)

This was quite a year – and even as it is not ended yet, some reflections cannot harm. Lots of travel I have undertaken to further the cause of HOPE Cape Town. 5 overseas trips gave ample opportunity to introduce HOPE Cape Town to new friends, partners and sponsors but also kept “old friends” informed. A special thanks to the visitors from the Bavarian Parliament with Barbara Stamm and Franz Maget amongst others who assisted in organizing a 3 days visit to the European Union in Brussels to learn about the EU- SA relationship first hand. What an insight and a privilege. My annual trip to Dresden to attend the HOPE Gala is a must every year – what a delight to see many people again and again flocking to this event. The USA, Fr Paul, Joe and Shirley – we laid the ground for hopefully good joined work in the new year, not to forget the meeting at Fordham University in Manhattan.
At home here in Cape Town the Ball of HOPE proofed again to be a social highlight and a great marketing tool to keep the ideas of HOPE Cape Town floating. We welcomed new staff to the HOPE Cape Town Association, among them Izane as program coordinator with excellent skills and Charles, coming from Durban with lots of new ideas for marketing and fundraising. With Martin and Jacobus, two new trustees were inducted.
We mourned the death of our trustee Auntie Pat and were grateful to had her on board for so many years.New plans to develop HOPE Cape Town, to add programs like HOPE to HOME and identify other gaps in the roll out and care through the official health services were also on the cards .
For me, finding a spiritual home in supplying Holy Mass in Milnerton, Brooklyn and Manenberg amongst others was equally important as was the visit of “my” Bishop Stephan Ackermann from my Diocese of Trier. Showing him how project work, caritas, diakonia, missionary work in the best sense of the word – understood like Pope Francis does –  , pastoral work and the interaction between all these lines of work was important to him as it was to me.
Being a chaplain to sea and even being able to play a priest for a German TV production – quite some new experiences I don’t want to miss.
But there is also the sad part of life:
I already mentioned the loss of Aunty Pat. I also lost my dad and we here in South Africa lost with Madiba the father of the nation – and both within a week – quite a tough time and full of emotions I never thought I have in me. It also showed me that there is still a learning curve to accept death as part of life – nothing can prepare you when it comes close to you. All mental preparation is fading in minutes.

I was blessed to meet so many people from all walks of life who added to my life a great deal – I only can be grateful for that. Whether it was praise or critical words – it all helped me to try to be a better person. And there is surely enough room for improvement. 🙂

I am continuing reflecting on 2013 and looking forward to a 2014 full of life, joy, challenges – but I am sure – being unconditional loved by God – it will work out and add another exciting time period to my life time.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Gala Dresden, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Faith and Joy..

I think I would never have considered in my keenest dreams that I one day would sort of advertise a papal writing. Anyhow nobody would expect that from me, but this Apostolic Exhortation is worth being read by a lot of people. This document cannot be labeled progressive or conservative, it does not introduce new teachings, but it paves the way to get back to the roots of our faith. Believing should bring joy to life, it should give meaning to life, it should protect life… It should serve the purpose of experiencing the unconditional love of God in our daily life. Evangelii Gaudium shows what it could mean if the church just does that: proclaiming the joy of the good news. And it also has a meaning for those working in the fields of social injustice or health challenges; those working on the ground, work on grass-roots level. Because this message has practical means – faith is practical and must express itself in doing good and caring for those around us and in need of a holding or supporting hand.
But read for yourself:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html

Read it as a caregiver, a patient, a believer, a person searching, even as a non-believer I am sure you get some heart warming thoughts from it. And for those within the church: exciting times are ahead – not in the sense that liberalism or left-wing attitude wins over the other side of the spectrum. Once again: old labels don’t work with this pope, and this is good so.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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35 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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