The Positivity of Humility.


Brother Patrick Nora, M.Afr, from Ghana but based in Tanzania gave us a spiritual and illuminating retreat in Kasama from May 8 till 16, 2017.

On the third day, there was something that retouched me on the theme of the Mercy of God.

patrick_mumbiBy Patrick Mumbi, M.Afr

Initially I wanted to have as title; ‘forgiveness and humility’. I had the sense that you cannot forgive without humility because the two go together and especially when forgiving someone who is not contrite for what he or she did to you. Those who killed Jesus or St. Stephen were not remorseful as they thought that they were doing a just act. Even terrorists might think so. But Christians must make a difference by not retaliating. They should instead pray even for those who persecute them (Mt 5:44). Our Master Lord Jesus Christ said; ‘if only you reserve your greeting to those you know what difference are you making, even pagans do the same, do they not (Mt 5: 47)’?

alan-kurdiOn the theme of forgiveness, others think otherwise, namely, one can forgive even without humility because forgiveness is a human thing and especially when one sees the other suffering. The human conscious cannot allow one to see the other in a situation of suffering no matter how coarse his or her heart is. The case in point is that of the closure of the borders to immigrants due to terrorism. When a baby boy called Alan Kurdi slipped from its mother’s hands in 2015 and was washed away by the current and landed on a Turkish beach, it sent shock waves and borders were opened for the immigrants. I agree to the fact that forgiveness is part of human nature. God has implanted it into every human heart. When we talk of sisterhood, brotherhood, freedom and indeed all the fruits of our nature and enterprise, they are all present to human nature in a mystery. For us, they are revealed in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and will be brought into full flower when the Lord returns (class notes on Grace). But there is more to why forgiveness hinges on humility. For me it is not only biblical/spiritual but also productive and positive.

The Christian aspect of forgiveness.

My spiritual director once asked me that when someone has insulted you or told you that you are a fool or stupid, who has to apologise? Off the cuff, my answer was: “the one who had insulted me”. To my surprise, he said no! You are the one who has to go and ask for forgiveness or reconciliation. You need to go in humility and ask him or her where you went wrong. This is being Christian. You need to go and ask to your brother or sister and say: my brother/sister, forgive me, I saw you angry with me. This will change your brother or sister’s heart who wronged you or insulted you. This is biblical as scripture says;

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Mt 5:24).

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil (Rm 12:17). Carefully, consider what is right in the eyes of everybody.”

“If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.” (Rm 12:18).

This is the crux of the matter and why forgiveness calls for humility. It is Christian in the sense that it is not him who wronged you who should ask for forgiveness but it is you who was wronged, who needs reconciliation or to make peace.  We instead wait for the other person who has wronged us to come and apologise. If he or she does not come to me, I will never talk to that person. This can happen to priests, Church elders, leaders of lay groups such that they have never talked to each for ages because something happened between them. Such kinds of hatred have even brought divisions in the Church but people pretend not to bother.

But by taking the first step in humility (and as a Christian) you emulate God who took the first initiative to come and save humanity at the time when we had sinned. St. Paul writes: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die” (Rm 5: 7). We did not go to him but he came to us.

However there are stumbling blocks to this, taking into account our human insecurities, pride and fear. There are fears that others will manipulate me or think that I am too cheap. Additionally, fear in the sense that other people look for the mistakes or weaknesses in other people so as to blow them up. The attitude of blowing up mistakes of others is a sign of insecurity. Likewise the fear of revealing one’s weaknesses is a sign of insecurity. There are insecurities on both sides. Insecurity also in the sense that others may take it as my weakness when I have already built up my self-esteem and I cannot bring myself so low.  But I have also a sense that humility is a feeling of courage when others are pigeonholing you without shaking. Humility is daring to listen to feelings, comments, shameful and awful aspects of oneself which probably I have denied and repressed from my life. This attitude I believe can move me to the level of self-acceptance and wholeness. I would like now talk about the positivity or productivity of humility.

Positivity of humility.

In communities, we live with people whom we do not like and those who do not like us. But how do you feel especially when you are not talking to each other and you have to face each other every so often? The world becomes small having to avoid them all the time. But when you forgive and reconcile you feel free and healed. Someone told me that forgiveness is like swallowing a bitter pill but it heals you. A grudge, on the other hand, sickens and kills you psychologically in the sense that you need a lot of negative energy or emotions to keep it going. You cannot go for a long time before it suffocates you. But if you let go with a lot of pain- if you go to that pain of letting go rather than avoid it, the Kingdom of God comes.

Humility helps to reach out to others strongly. The letter to the Philippians is a prime example of the positivity and productivity of humility of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2:5-11). It says; “though he was God he did not cling to his divine nature but assumed the nature of a slave and through that he reached out to many people.” You know your rights and your importance but as a Christian, you forgive because you want reconciliation and reach out to other(s). It is much easier to talk and write about humility but quite hard to practise it in one’s life. Other people have responded to me by asking and challenging me saying; “what about the humility and forgiveness of you, Patrick”? In other words, I should not only write or talk about humility and forgiveness but I should put it into my life. Let me also talk about what humility is not.

Humility as different from low self-concept.

Humility actually builds up and elevates the self-image. Spiritual masters always tell us that the one who says I am sorry for my wrong doing, builds up self-esteem instead of being proud or putting up a wrong/false façade. Humility does not involve thinking less about yourself or having a negative view of yourself. When you forgive, it does not mean that others are much better than you. When you forgive you also respect the person you have forgiven. Humility involves letting go wholeheartedly and that is freeing. It is also composed of sacrifice, self-denial, fasting and going an extra mile or giving more than what was asked of.

Let me also quote another Bemba proverb about humility. It says that; “tobela tobela akafye inganda.”  The literal translation is that; “endless arguments leave people nowhere.” There needs to be at least one who gives up his or her position or each one of you moves half way so as to bring up peace.  Sticking to one’s position without any movement will not solve any problem. It requires one to relinquish his or her position. For example, one can say; “I am the president” and another says, “I do not recognise your presidency”. If the two sides perpetually stick to their positions, nothing will materialise in terms of peace or reconciliation. Whereas humility is attractive, arrogance is repulsive. You cannot feign humility just as a drunkard cannot feign sobriety.

Therefore, humility does not mean that you look down on yourself. But humility is different from low self-concept, esteem or low locus of evaluation. Forgiveness is not completely due to the realisation of human contingencies or that I am a sinner therefore I need to forgive; this is self-pity. Realisation of one’s contingency or sinfulness could be a step towards forgiveness. Jesus was not a sinner but he forgave those who killed him.

Do not intimidate the offender.

Is it not right to say that preventing humiliating the offender breaks the circle of violence? In being offended we carry with us a lot of anger in our chest believing that the offender must be punished, crushed and feel the pinch of his or her offence. But what actually are we doing to them? Haven’t we created a psychological warfare or created a spirit of vindictiveness in them which will never end? It is part of human nature that even if people have sinned or offended they should not be intimidated but need respect and experience softness in order to foster the attitude of change. Besides there are some people who may not be ready even to relinquish their pride. They would prefer to die with their pride other than swallowing it while others may be shy or find it humiliating by being forgiven.

Les misérablesYou remember in that film “Les misérables” how the pursuant asked his enemy why he did not kill him but forgave him. In other words, he was telling him: “who told you to forgive me”. Sometimes, I am led to think that it is the poor and the humble who appreciate forgiveness. In this world where people have acquired a variety of statuses in forms of richness, education, political mileage, etc. humility to accept forgiveness will be hard to come by. It is up to the victim or the offended to be humble to forgive.

Humility in valuing others or seeing goodness in others.

There was a woman who came to me and said she lent a lot of money to her friend and for many years she asked for that money but to no avail. Her friend always told her that she would give it back to her but she did not. In the end, she just gave up her pursuit of that money for the sake of friendship. There are similar examples of that nature such as giving up the debts, the land, and property helplessly. But is this forgiveness? Wouldn’t it be much better to tell the other one that I have forgiven you, so that the other does not look down when you meet face to face?

Scripture says that humility consists in valuing others above yourself. I quote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit but rather think of others as better than you.(Phil 2:3). St. John of the Cross said that rejoice in the goodness of others as if it were your own, desiring that they be given precedence over you in all things. In other words, try to see goodness in other people. This is very difficult especially when you are at loggerheads with them. It is even harder to see goodness in people who pride themselves.

I would like to quote a Bemba proverb or a tale which says something about humility. It says that friendship started by ‘help me look for my arrow’ = Icibusa catampile muli mfwailako umufwi. In the process of helping the other to look for his arrow, the two boys became friends. If it was not for loving humility, the other boy would have gone home and not have spent hours looking for the lost arrow.

Barak Obama PNGLet me also talk about another side of humility. Probably other people may find some truth or meaning in it. There is one thing I liked about Obama’s character. When people talked ill about him such as calling him a nigger and what, he just smiled and laughed. I found that healing instead of having to defend oneself and arguing. If you know who you are, why should you worry about negative remarks people make about you? (ukukuntikilwa = to worry about negative remarks.) We are very quick at defending ourselves whenever people say something negative about us. When I was doing the course of psychotherapy there was a day in a week which was strictly dedicated to each person. Fellow students would point at each and every defect they have known about the person and the person is supposed to keep quiet. Knowing one’s weakness in humility is also empowering. But some students would end up crying all day thinking that others do not like them.

There are some people in this world, when you meet them, you feel like a human being, empowered and magnanimous. This is not pretence or that they are putting up a façade but it is just the way they are. I also believe that we can heal people simply by the way we are. It is the phenomenon which the psychologists call ‘participation mystique’ = when what we are experiencing from inside is in resonance with what is happening from outside. You are truthful to other people in your relationship and forgiveness.

CarlRogersI like what Carl Rogers said which I think is related to healing and it comes from conscious forgiveness. Rogers said: “If only I can be real, if only I can be transparent, if only I can get in touch with my inner self so that the other can see through me that I am not holding anything back, then process of therapy can begin to take place” (Rogers, 1959). In this case forgiveness is coupled with honest and respect of someone, and honouring of that person (hyperecho to elevate/hold above in Greek). It is not pretence or demeaning of someone like; “I have forgiven you, little mosquito”. People are not fools, they can see through whether you have forgiven them or not. If you haven’t, they will always walk with a guilty conscious and will never look into your eyes.

In conclusion. 

We are born in different settings with different upbringing and humility may not be part of our life. Some people are lucky by being born with humility. But if we can train for transformation we can as well train or learn to be humble. We can start by appreciating others; delight in the success of others. All in all, in my view, forgiveness is positive and hinges on true humility.

THE POSITIVITY OF HUMILITY1

“Where are my Hearts”? 125 years of Evangelisation in Zambia


patrick_mumbiThe title is not meant for everybody but for a few like me. It is just there to guide my thoughts but in the grand scheme of things it is also challenging to me. 

Patrick Mumbi, M.Afr

Recently, I gave a talk to the Missionary Oblate students and they chose the title; “Formation as Missionary oriented.” My talk centred on the mission of St Paul; “Being all things to all people” (1Cor 9: 19-23). For me this is the heart beat of missionary life and this is what I saw and moved me with the White Fathers 25 years ago even before I joined them. I observed and felt that they were sent to all people not only to the Catholics. St Paul’s mission of “becoming all things to all people” was modelled on Christ; the “Man of all seasons”. Just as Jesus Christ modified his life though he was God, St Paul too simplified his lifestyle, his preferences in order to win all for Christ. Adapting of one’s life and going an extra mile is not only a stepping stone for a great mission but also a fertilisation of Evangelisation for people to come to Christ. We sometimes laugh about Father Joseph Dupont nicknamed as Motomoto becoming the husband to the wives of Paramount Chief Mwamba but how many people did he win for Christ? Actually, the story is that when Chief Mwamba was probably dying around 1899 he gathered his counsellors and handed over his wives and the kingdom to Motomoto. Is this not the origin of the famous book, “Roi de Brigands”? Around 1898 in Chilubula area, Motomoto had already established friendship with Chief Mwamba unlike his father Paramount Chief Chitimukulu who did not consent to the White Fathers settling in his Kingdom.

Having the spirit of being all things to all people, missionaries were washing the wounds of people and bandaging them, giving injections and pills. At times their cars acted as ambulances because they would be awakened at night to take the sick and pregnant women to the main hospitals. I am pretty sure all these helped people to listen and become more open to receive the Good News. In my conception, there is no cut and dried priesthood or sisterhood. Priesthood is a tool through which one can propagate and accomplish the mission of Christ. Evangelisation is an archetype concept such that at every stage of human life it has to be reinvented. Archetypes like the Evangelisation of Africa which our Cardinal Lavigerie conceived, emerged from the human psyche. The word “evangelist” comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as euangelion) via latinised evangelium. The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον originally meant a reward given to the messenger for good news (εὔ = “good”, ἀγγέλλω = “I bring a message”; the word “angel” comes from the same root and later “good news” itself (Class notes of scripture 1991). Archetypes are the formative templates that give breath (inspire) and depth (materiality) to events in the outer world (Carl Jung’s archetypes 1959). In certain individuals like our Cardinal, events or history prepare themselves; and when the archetypes are activated in a number of individuals and come to the surface, we are in the midst of history, as we are at present. Missionaries were seized by this archetype of evangelising of Africa and therefore packed their bags 150 years ago.   

african-altar-boysCommitment to Christ’s mission: This commitment was very important for missionaries. Probably this is the reason why they worked tirelessly. This commitment and courage continued even when others perished, and the energy to work hard every day, is what impressed some of us and got the vocation to join them 25 years ago. This year in 2016, I celebrated my 25 years of priesthood in Luena parish and Jack compound in Lusaka. But concerning mission, do we as young missionaries have the zeal and commitment to work extra miles today as they did? As altar boys, we were visiting outstations with missionaries for months during holidays. With them we conducted catechumen classes, helped to carry out marriages and house to house visitations etc. For some of us young missionaries, going to an outstation is like a punishment. The only thing we would wish is to go back to the parish as quickly as possible. But in those days, touring and knowing people, registering them in books were taken as evangelisation. Bringing happiness and fulfilment were some of the other attributes of missionaries to the people they evangelised.

exit-dragon-enter-the-tigerAvailability to the people of God: The Parish Office was open from Sunday to Sunday. Unlike today, we open when people come to knock at our doors then quickly close them saying; “we do not have time or we do not want to be bothered”. When I was young, I saw that when one priest went out of the Parish Office, another one entered in to attend to the people. It reminded me of the film of Bruce Lee: “Exit Dragon Enter the Tiger.” They were serious and firm as any other priest found in the parish office when it comes to matters of faith. When someone enters the office they would enquire if he or she received all the sacraments. I must also acknowledge that they were of different temperaments; some moderate while others were hard. Some of them preached with passion such that children would get afraid and begin to cry out.

The spirit of service: White Fathers were servants of God and peoples. They served them with humility. They not wait for people to come but they would go to the people so as to know them better. I knew some White Fathers who used to come to our village to drink beer such as Fr Cletus Gerrie van Erp and Fr Anton Buys. They did so as to familiarise themselves with the people and get to the grips of their culture. The whole village became Catholics. Even individuals who claimed to be from some other churches joined Catholicism.

The new mushrooming churches I have seen was a later phenomenon when White Fathers had left. I would like to acknowledge that the evangelised people became evangelisers of the Copperbelt and some parts of Zambia because these were properly catechised. In the 1930s, when the Italian Franciscans came to the Copperbelt at the beginning of mining, they found groups of young men and women from the Northern Zambia and Luapula already praying on Sunday morning. It was easier for them to form Parishes.

The casualisation of mission: Nowadays we are witnessing the casualisation of evangelisation even that of the priesthood.  There is nowadays lack of seriousness in studying the language. The feature of not knowing the language and needing an interpreter is a recent thing. Besides, if one spends the whole night on the Internet watching one movie after another, would one have the energy next morning to go and work in the outstation? Nowadays there are vices such as overdrinking, priests befriending nuns and lack of prayer life, etc. I was once asked by parishioners the following; “when Father so and so was here, he used to read a little prayer book and saying the rosary while walking up and down, and you, do you also have that little book and do you say the rosary”? Ah, hum.

Zeal for the mission: Early missionaries were pastoral people and were filled with zeal for the mission. Do we have that pastoral zeal today? Where are our hearts? Ubulimi bwakale tababutalalikishako mwana; “My child stop crying of hunger, I used to be a good farmer with plenty of food,” meaning “you cannot at all times glory in the past successes”. We need to reinvent ourselves in this age. We need to be thinkers and reflectors about today’s mission which is a challenge, otherwise we shall be redundant. This is the reason why I said that evangelisation is an archetype concept and if we do not meditate on it we shall find ourselves outdated when actually the sky is the limit when it comes to evangelisation. Nowadays there are challenges in social life, worrying African politics, poverty of Africa, refugees. What would be our contribution to all these?

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« Où est mon cœur ? » 125 ans d’Évangélisation en Zambie.

Chakwela makumbi rainmaking ceremony of the Soli: A faith event.


patrick_mumbiBy Patrick Mumbi, M.Afr (FENZA)

The literal translation of chakwela makumbi is ‘pulling down the clouds’. At this time of the year in Zambia, the earth is dry parched, people are thirsty and therefore hankering for rain. In some places, animals have begun to die. It is why Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II, through the ancestors, intercedes to God for a good rainfall. The seeds of sorghum, maize and other ones are brought to her. While at prayer, she shells maize, pumpkin seeds and squeezes sorghum into the gourd and mixes them. She raises eyes to heaven and cries to God.

I heard her prayer; “God of my ancestors, of heaven and earth, open your heavens and pour down rain to us. To whom can we go except to you our Father? I am your creature and you created me and you can take my life if you want.” After a lengthy prayer and while kneeling, she begins to sob and threw herself prostrate to the ground. This is a reminiscence of the psalmist distress; “I cry aloud, I cry aloud to God that he may hear me,” Psalm77, 142.

Women worshippers began to wipe away her tears. This was a moving prayer and I felt tears in my eyes too. I then saw some dark clouds forming in the sky. I could not help but think that God has definitely listened to such powerful prayers. I sensed a deep concentration on the side of the people as they implored God. I also could not help but notice the humility of people as they clapped their hands to God.

chakwela-makumbi-rainmaking-ceremony-of-the-soli-2

Also, prominent among the people, were a group of women worshippers, whom some people may call babinde, dressed in black symbolising the dark rain clouds. I was told that, in former times, the people chosen to go and pray were erecting some shelters in the forest. These were special people like diviner rain makers or cousin clan members (abena mfula na bena bowa). While they were in the forest, they would pray for rain and it would immediately pour down. During yesterday’s prayers, I saw some herbs and a black chicken placed on a black cloth within the same area of prayer. In the background, there was a chanting invocation song; “Twakabomba kuli mwami, mukamambo, katiye tulumbe,” meaning “we are saying thank you to the Chieftainess Mukamambo II. Let us go and say thank you.”

A woman worshipper dressed in black came and snatched away the black chicken, swung it and threw it at the other women seated nearby. This act was a symbolic gesture showing that our ancestor did not go empty-handed when approaching God. They would offer sacrifices to God in their supplication.

As Clifford Geertz said, the power of symbols lies in the ability to transform experiences by constructing a sacred reality upon which everyday events of life are grounded. Symbolic gestures reflect unconscious wishes, longing desires and even desperation. When people communicate through their ancestors with symbols, their prayers are addressed to God. They are speaking to God and not to a mountain, a big tree or the waterfalls. These are just spiritual symbols to solicit God’s power and benevolence.

chakwela-makumbi-rainmaking-ceremony-of-the-soli-03The second part of chakwela makumbi ceremony was the planting of seeds by the Chieftainess. At this time, she lights the fire within the cleared bush and burns a heap of stalks of maize. She then plants sorghum, maize, pumpkin seeds, etc. while people were again imploring God in a solemn song; “ilaloko, ilaloko kuli babinde, twebene mandondo, twebene imfula ilaloko ilaloko katuna tubyala. The language of this song is quite ancient. But the literal translation could mean; “it has rained, the raindrops are there, the rainmakers are praying the owners before the planting season.” This song implies that it would even rain at time before the planting season. But it could also mean that before the chief plants crops no one is supposed to do it.

Kings, Chiefs and Chieftainesses possess sacred powers over the land and there are the ones to sanction the planting season. This also corresponds to the sanctioning of gathering caterpillars among the Bemba people of Northern Province. Before the Paramount chief of the Bemba offers sacrifice to God, no one is allowed to gather caterpillars or else something worse will befall him or her. If this order is ignored, these are times when we hear that someone has been swallowed up by a python.

Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II herself is a Catholic Christian. For that reason, the ceremony begins with a solemn inculturated Mass. People know that she goes to sweep and clean the premises around the church. According to them, this should not what a Chieftainess should do. When people try to stop her sweeping and taking away weeds around the church, she answers them saying; “in heaven, there are no Kings or Chiefs. We are all the same!”

Venue of the event: Chongwe

chongwe-zambia

Jubilees of confreres who were or still are in SAP – 2015


Oswald Payant 100 years 0275 years of Oath

1940-06-22 Fr. Payant Oswald, Canada/Sherbrooke – was in Mansa

65 years of Oath

1950-06-27 Fr. Bédard Gaétan Canada/Montréal – was in Kasama.

1950-06-27 Fr. Fitzgerald Patrick, Great Britain/London – was in Lusaka.

1950-06-27 Fr. Genest Pierre, Canada/Montréal – was in Dedza Diocese, Malawi.

1950-06-27 Fr. Piette Luc, Canada/Montréal – was in South Africa.

1950-06-27 Fr. Poisson Bernard, France/Billère – was in Kasama.

50 years of Oath

1965-01-28 Fr. Amyot d’Inville Jacques, France/Paris, Friant – was in Mansa and South Africa.

1965-02-01 Fr. Gouiller Jean-Luc, France/SAP/Zmb/Kalongwezi – is still in Zambia, Chipata.

1965-02-01 Fr. Hoffmann Felix, Germany/Trier – was in Mbalaé

1965-06-28 Fr. Tillmann Ferdinand, Germany/EAP/Uga/Ggaba.

1965-06-29 Fr. Richard François, France/MG/Roma – was in Zambia, FENZA.

25 years of Oath

1990-12-07 Fr. Bomansaan Francis, Ghana/SAP/Zmb – is in Kasama.

1990-12-07 Fr. Gasimba Raphaël, DR Congo/EPO/Jérusalem – was in South Africa.

Julain_Kasiya_21990-12-07 Fr. Kasiya Julian, Malawi/SAP/Mwi/Mua – is moving to Mozambique.

1990-12-07 Fr. Mapunda Baptiste,Tanzania/Ghana/Wa – was in Zambia.

1990-12-07 Fr. Mumbi Patrick Zambia/SAP/Lusaka, FENZA

1990-12-07 Fr. Wernke Bernhard, Germany/SAP/Moz/Dombe.

1990-12-15 Fr. Apee Dominic, Ghana/Tamale – was in Zambia.