Day 8 – Christmas Novena
We bow to the presence of God in all creation and we also bow to the presence of God in the heart of every person. I become aware that there is indeed God within each one of us and around us. In silence we sense God with us, so close to us.
The theme of our 8th day of the novena is “called to intercultural living”. Our interculturality as SSpS is an essential aspect of our identity. It is the expression of the Spirit´s many faces in our present reality. We experience both the richness and the struggles of living in an intercultural community and become aware of the lights and shadows we encounter on our intercultural journey, to look beyond the differences and disagreements and consider them as opportunities to discover the Love dwelling in each one of us.
“Christ has called us to this Congregation, a religious missionary community dedicated to the life-giving Spirit. In the power of the Holy Spirit we follow him, praising the Father and bringing the fullness of life to others. Living in a religious missionary community, we endeavor to make the presence of the Divine Love visible in our life and activity. As a community of sisters of different nations and languages, we become a living symbol of the unity and diversity in the Church.” (SSpS Prologue).
We listen to a story of a sister missioned to a foreign land.
Story: “Intercultural community, my beginning and end”
I arrived in the country without knowing a word of the language of the people. I speak English, but unfortunately no one in the community spoke the language I knew. I found the early days distressing. It was winter and the temperature was below zero. The day I arrived, I was brought straight to my room and there, very tired, I fell straight into bed and went to sleep. But when I woke up, I was freezing and I looked for another blanket in the closet but found nothing. As I couldn’t sleep anymore, I left the room and searched for someone to help me and when I met a sister, I tried to explain what I wanted. But despite all my efforts, she didn’t understand me, so I took her arm and led her to my room. With the dictionary that was in my room I tried to compose a phrase to make myself understood, but it was no use. Only with the help of gestures and sign language did she finally understand that I needed more blankets. She also apologized, because the one in charge of the rooms had only put a single blanket in the room. From then on, this sister became my friend and she started looking after me. At first, during meals, I was quiet at the table and tried to understand what the sisters were talking about. There were times when I felt invisible in their midst and that the sisters didn’t care. At times, I was so upset when some were hesitant to stay near me and even avoided sitting at the table where I was. Only the sister who helped me with the blanket, I could sense, exerted more effort to come closer to me. I suffered a lot but I knew in my heart that the sisters also suffered. As I struggled to learn the language and communicate, I perceived the sisters’ efforts to help me as well. I was more spontaneous in expressing myself despite my broken sentences and I even learned to smile with my wrong grammar. Sometimes I got mad at the corrections from all sides, but I needed to believe that was the only way to help me. I began to know my sisters more and eventually developed that sense of belongingness to the community. I shared my culture and became interested in Brazilian culture. One discovery that fascinated me is that there is beauty in interculturality. I have something unique to share from my culture and something unique to learn from the other culture. By allowing my culture to be enriched by Brazilian culture, I came to deepen my Filipino culture. Interculturality has been my way of life and joyful intercultural living has been my life’s testimony to the Divine communion.
(Leonie Pregunta, SSpS missionary to Brazil)
How have I grown in the awareness that my story and others’ stories are interconnected and that our story is the continuation of God’s story of communion? Am I convinced that Interculturality is my call and living in an intercultural community is my response to the call?
Lk. 1:57-66 (Birth of John the Baptist) Let us listen to the story of John the Baptist. In the reading, the people that surround him feel the great wonder as to what this child might turn out to be, while believing that the hand of God is surely with him.
Response: God of cultures, hear and heal us!
- Create in us a heart that feels deep gratitude for our origin: family, life situations, nationality and cultural heritage.
- When we are overwhelmed with the feeling that my culture is superior to the other and that my opinion is better than the other
- When our negative thoughts of others keep preventing us from being compassionate and understanding
- In our tendency to be right and invest to prove that others are wrong
- When our cultural prejudices overshadow us and we succumb to being judgmental instead of being sensitive and appreciative of other cultural values.
- One can add other petitions.
God of interculturality, attune us to your Holy Spirit and one with Him may we listen to Him leading us to find beauty in our diversity. Valuing our interculturality may we witness the Love of the Trinity who calls us to be one family. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.