Dedicated to the families of Bella Vista, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, great apostles of the Spiritual Exercises.
I have been thinking that there is nothing that can be done without heart. I am saying nothing new here. Still, this is something that has come up in a particular way these past few days. It came to my mind because there is always so much to do, and there is always the temptation to do only that which is required of us. But, things for God are only done with the heart. This can be applied to what we missionaries do, to what each priest or each religious sister does, and to what all of you do: fathers and mothers of families, young people, students, children. Whatever is done for God requires that we give our whole heart; only then will they have merit in His eyes, regardless of the work itself—whether it is great or small, important or not.
I was thinking about all of this due to the apostolate that God, in His everlasting mercy, allowed us to carry out last week. I say that without exaggeration. We were able to preach the first Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Swahili. This is a miracle of grace, above all for my Swahili. I do not speak Swahili well in general, much less when it comes to homilies…and even more so when it comes to the Spiritual Exercises. However, there were two young women, lay missionaries, who had been working with us for almost a year, living in the village and dedicating all their time to the apostolate, and they asked me to preach the Exercises…I could not deny them. It was a way of saying thank you. So I told them yes, trusting that God would help me since I could see that it was His will. Not many preparations were made, since the days leading up to the retreat kept us busy with work, trips and visits to different villages… and then the time came to begin, Sunday night, with the Introductory Talk. We had prepared a building in the park behind our house, and so we were able to be a little more separated from the bustle of the parish in a place more conducive to silence. It was but a simple building: a place to have the talks and where they could eat. The retreatants themselves cooked with a charcoal kitchenette. They cooked very little…only breakfast and dinner, which they finished in a couple minutes, altogether they were very frugal meals. It was a good penance. The little house had no lights, so by night we used a little solar lantern to give us lights. They slept in the sisters’ convent, just 30 meters from our ‘House for the Exercises’.
I think that you can only do something if you do it with the heart, because it is the only way to help overcome difficulties and, on a certain level, ‘do more than what we can’…if you can say it that way. During that time I was rather tired and overwhelmed—and I don’t say that so that you feel sorry for me, but so that you may know the concrete challenges that we sometimes encounter in the mission. However, God helps…and if there is a great desire to help, it can be done. I remembered this while I was preaching the meditation on the Kingdom, when St. Ignatius puts these words in the mouth of Christ during His speech to those He has called: “that all may desire to help”. Without heart, it cannot be done, because without heart, one cannot desire, and so one cannot help. When we try to do things with the grace and help of God, then we can do “more than what we can do”, because “it is not I, but Christ who lives in me”, as the Christian can say.
Those four intense days passed quickly. Between each talk, I would try to keep translating the most important words of the upcoming meditation…and I slept only five hours every night. I had reached the end of my strength. But there is an immense joy in being able to say that we have preached the Spiritual Exercises in Swahili for the first time. There is of course much to be bettered, to be perfected and corrected, but the most important thing is that we have begun. God will have spoken to their hearts better than we have done. I was thinking about that as well, when during the meditation on the Principle and Foundation I had to speak on indifference… which in Swahili is: “kutojiungamanisha.” It was like a tongue-twister whenever I wanted to say “he who is indifferent” or “he who is not indifferent”, or “If we are not indifferent”…etc. After that half-hour talk, I left there unsure if they had understood anything I had been trying to say. I think God kept on teaching them… I especially think this now that both have shared with me their desire to give themselves to God in the religious life, to enter the community of Mexican sisters in which they are lay missionaries. God wants it this way. I ask for your prayers for them and for their vocation.
Thank you, dear readers of these missionary stories…thank you for your affection and for your prayers. I wish that each one of you, in your role in life, may be able to do things “with your whole heart, for love of God”, and “that all may desire to help”, and in such a way to please Him in everything and reach the point to do “more than what we can”, because God blesses generosity.
Stay firm in the breach!
P. Diego Cano, IVE.