Burkina Faso - WITH THE MARKS OF HIS LOVE
"Our Lord always presents Himself to us with the marks of His love." Etienne Pernet
Indeed, the stigmata of His Passion become signs of his indescribable love for us, of his risen love. During this paschal time we would also like to share with you the marks of his love that we have gathered along the way.
Palm Sunday, in this parched land where there is no greenery at this time … Very early in the morning, a large number of people meet behind the schools to make the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. They are holding little branches that the nimble fingers of the children have turned into crosses – and a whole crowd is cheering and singing. The silent time of Lent is breaking out, already, into a desire for Life: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God of the Universe". The heat does not prevent people from being packed closely… and always managing to make room for a new arrival. Father Félix said to us in his homily love contains three ’D’s: detachment, donation and duration…
Holy Thursday, an astonishing gesture! It is the president of the Christian community who washes the feet of the apostles – of the representatives of the different groups in the Basic Christian Community: among them, for the first time, were three women!! The first woman was a samo… to see a mossi man kneel before a samo woman to wash her feet – that is really something in the Burkinabe culture! He continued with a second woman who had been abandoned by his own brother… he washed her feet!!! Yes, love and the faith can turn our world upside down, especially the world of how we look at things, our concepts of exclusion.
A night of adoration: The groups pass in turn before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in an old cupboard that had been decorated for the occasion… and throughout the night it was the young people who sang and adored… and who prayed for the world, for the Church, for those in responsibility, for "our community of Little Sisters of the Assumption"… Letting oneself be carried by the prayer of others in that night of a love that was given right to the end.
Good Friday: It was those young people who presented the way of the cross at midday – under a blazing sun. … Everybody was there. Accompanied by the shouts of the executioners, we followed the faltering steps of Jesus ... and the women, outside of the procession, were weeping... they hid their face with their skirts to conceal the tears that were flowing … they, who face so many sorrows in everyday life, were there with all their sorrows beside this God-man who was suffering with them. Moslems dressed in white, who were leaving the mosques after the Friday prayer, followed the cortege from a distance, full of respect.
Holy Saturday, and Lurdes went early in the morning to decorate the Church with the women … a sign of the beauty of a life that is imminent … fragility of the skirts, of the few flowers that withered almost immediately, but the desire to love and give rise to love through the symbols. Decorating in poverty and weakness … and working wonders!!! A beauty that continued throughout the night with hymns and dances … the Glory to God filled the locality. Seventy (70) adults entered the Christian community through baptism… There was an old woman in front of us: how long had she waited before coming to that day!!! Sometimes there are women, married to a Moslem, who had to wait until he was gone before setting out on the path of faith; sometimes women in irregular situations in polygamous families, sometimes women, torn away from their village, who no longer have the support of their traditional religion – and behold a new life that is at last beginning. Nothing is impossible for God. Around them are the catechists, the sponsors, the community, all of whom accompany and encourage them. On Easter Monday they will be among the readers, the collectors, the reception service at the Church… to be a Christian is to be in a community of service !!!
Easter Sunday … And the water that flowed again on 80 children. The year of mercy has opened the doors to all those children who are not in "regular" families. And the joy of so many unmarried mothers, children of mixed couples, children of unmarried couples … Among them was Jonas, full of joy. We had accompanied his father up to the last moment of his life. He had not allowed his children or his wife to be baptised, despite all the catechetical instruction given. ... He died three years ago and his wife was baptised on Saturday and the little baby on Sunday. … We prayed for them, as well as for the father Kalo who, at the age of 40, went to God. In the line of people waiting to receive the water, a young father dances with his child in his arms… full of tenderness and joy he dances and makes the child dance... a new generation of Burkinabe men. Images that change ...
During the thanksgiving a tall woman danced with all her heart … Yes, a twenty-year wait so as to be able to receive communion once again. Her husband, a Moslem, had agreed to have a mixed marriage a week before Easter. We met them at the marriage preparation group, they were both there for a week. Her face shone with an indescribable joy… she clasped us in her arms at the end of mass. On Sunday people arrived at our door to present their good wishes, the first to arrive being our Moslem neighbours… People brought meals, and cooking pots also left our house… the children arrived for their meal … Omar cried out: "We are going to pray" and the Christians made the sign of the cross while the Moslems passed their hands over their face… "May God who is good and merciful grant us to have this friendship and this love, in peace, all the days of our life." And the children replied: "Amina !!!". Aline came to help us cope with all this activity… On our arrival in the area she too was sitting there with the others; now she has grown up and places herself at the service of the smaller ones.
Evening fell as we were enjoying a cake with some "aspirants" and a young woman and couple with whom we share the mission and life… Then it was night and we listened in the chapel to the voice of the Master: "Do you love me" and each one responded: "Yes, you know everything" … Nathalie said as we left: "It does great good to pray like that.".
The week continues.... Monday, thanksgiving and the betrothal of our neighbour. It was the first time for us to participate so closely in a marriage according to custom… they gave us a place beside the negotiators who were talking among themselves. It was again a marriage between two different religions and two different ethnic groups… and so the conditions and the demands on both sides were clearly expressed before the consent was given. Afterwards, the two young persons were called to make their opinion known, and to give them advice. The celebration then began … a crowd of the local people. For two days the neighbours (women) had been preparing the food together for that event. …
At the end, the Christian delegation that had come from the village came into our house to thank us, to prayer together for the young couple and to ask the Lord for Burkinabe vocations for our congregation "so that its work of service and proximity and the proclamation of the Good News may continue in our country"!!!
Tuesday: the meeting with the monitors for the holiday activities, a day of work with a meal together… Because of the school holiday almost all of us were able to be there: 17; in a family spirit of mutual help, creativity and shared responsibility.
Wednesday: visits to the sick to bring them communion: Teresa again met Pascal, who has both legs amputated, and who had just finished a little table to receive the Lord in his house, and then she went to Thierry, a young mentally handicapped man who, on her arrival, began to sing: "Lord Jesus, Your are living, in you is Eternal Glory". His parents were laughing!!!
Marie Claire has just telephoned: her course at the border with the Côte d’Ivoire is going well. It is a special time of encounter with a population that has so many needs… A baby had just been born in the maternity units where she is on duty this week.
That was our Easter, and some marks of His love!!! May we be able to inscribe them in our lives!
Sister María José – Community of Bobo-Dioulasso