The luxury of the New Year

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Ushetu, Tanzania, January 1, 2018

I am writing in somewhat strange circumstances… it is the New Year, and I wanted to give myself “the luxury” of writing the first chronicle of 2018 in the first hours of the year. I am taking advantage of the fact that I am alone in the house since the other two priests, Fr. Victor and Fr. Orazio have gone to celebrate the evening Mass in one of the villages and will spend the night at our house in Kangeme so that they can celebrate another Mass there in the morning.

But, on top of this, I wanted to have another “luxury”, that is, to begin the year praying… something that we are always drawn to, to conclude a year, putting the past in the hands of God, and to begin anew asking God’s blessing upon the year to come. Perhaps where we come from the customs of the land do not often make this possible, but here in the mission it is very different.

I grant myself the “luxury” of writing before the Blessed Sacrament, in the chapel that we have in the priests’ house. I do so before the tabernacle, in accord with what Fr. Llorente taught in his chronicles, as he often wrote in the chapel, read the letters he received and responded there… because, as you must know, Christ in the tabernacle takes pleasure in the company of a missionary, but He also takes pleasure in the stories of those who ask our prayers, of those who form part of our lives.

I celebrated the Holy Mass in Nyamilangano, and I was accompanied by three postulants who questioned me continually throughout the trip, asking about the significance of the novitiate which they will begin, God-willing, this year 2018. We arrived and since the faithful had not yet arrived, I took advantage to pray the liturgy of the hours, and afterward told them to begin praying the rosary, adding hymns in between each mystery. I heard confessions for a while, and as the litany signaled the end of rosary and the line of penitents also ended, we began the Holy Mass.

It is dark in the Church, but they tried to place some lamps, especially on the altar and the ambo, which gave a good amount of light. They participated well in the Mass, and almost at the conclusion it began to thunder and lightning… when Mass finished, close to 11pm, they began to return quickly to their homes, as it was going to rain at any second. We went to have dinner in a house, a future house for the priests, which is under construction.

The food was very simple, as is the custom: white rice and chicken. To drink we had hot tea since the air was cool. And this, which seems to be so normal, made me think a lot about what these feasts mean in our country. What a difference! and how simple everything is!… the people simply came to pray and return to their homes to eat something… or perhaps they ate before, a simple dinner before coming to the Church. At suppertime, it began to rain. We happily stayed for a bit, together with the catechists and leaders.

When we decided to begin our return trip, it was 11:45pm… fifteen minutes before the New Year. The clock changed while I was driving and discussing things with the postulants, we almost didn’t realize. The road was very poor, especially in the last 6 miles (10km), on account of the rain, but also because it had begun to rain again. When we arrived to a section where, a lot of sand had piled up due to the water flowing down the street, we began to pray Hail Marys that we wouldn’t get stuck there. What a way to start the New Year if we were stuck there! But, thanks to the Blessed Virgin, we continued ahead… and proved what a great buy we had with this vehicle, even though it is now 20 years old. Broken bridges, more sand and mud… skidding a bit here and there… and further ahead we saw a hyena in the road. Good thing that we weren’t swamped in, I thought, though they usually don’t attack human beings… it’s not worth the risk.

Actually it is raining a lot these days… we begin the year with a blessing from God: the rain. But, on the other hand, the rain and the water destroy many roads. There are two centers which we have not been able to travel to for the celebration of the Christmas Mass; and the way it continues to rain, I don’t think we will be able to.

When we arrived at the parish, there were finishing the festivities outside of the Church with the boys… after, each one headed to their homes, running under the rain and in the dark. Each of us also headed to our homes, the postulants to sleep at the novitiate, and I remained here.

Giving thanks to God… a new year amid the simplicity of these festivities in Ushetu. You understand why I said it is a little strange… we aren’t accustomed to it. Here the missionary gets used to things and all seems perfectly normal, but when we return home and recall the celebrations, then we see the great difference that exists. Here I can have many “luxuries”… and the best of all, is to be writing this first chronicle of 2018 before the Blessed Sacrament, asking that God’s blessing would be poured out like the rain that is persistently falling, especially on the souls of this mission, on the souls of the pagan people, on our Congregation, and upon all of our loved ones.

There is much to do in the year that we begin. God has His plans for this year. I pray to God that we can occupy ourselves with what is most important, trusting always in His help, which never is never lacking, that we seek to do great things for God… and above all else, to persevere in the good and not grow weary.

Happy New Year to all!

Stand firm in the breach!

Fr. Diego Cano, IVE.

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