We Pray for Peace!

Woman planting potatoes
Editor: These are reflections from a participant of our 1991 Council of the Congregation held in Antsirabe, Madagascar. When Fr. Franz wrote this, his Province’s mission in Angola (now a Province) was still in the midst of a seemingly endless civil war and he sees the ongoing reality of life in his Madagascar surroundings.

Around us life goes on: They are walking through the many fields, quietly, in rhythm. They bear under their arms baskets that they have woven themselves. They walk together, side by side. Two more come behind. They are sowing potatoes in the red earth of the highlands of Antsirabe. They work carefully. Their hands are like opened shells. Their feet don't trample the furrows, but move along the narrow strips of elevated earth.

The two women who follow behind use their bare feet to cover with earth the freshly sown potatoes. They tread the soil lightly. They are working with confidence in their hearts. The potatoes will grow and multiply, and there will be food for many.


A meeting of minds and hearts: In our meeting room, this image stays with me. This is how we should sow our words and our ideas, together and with care, covering them with the earth of brotherhood and understanding. They should be good ideas which have the power to develop, to multiply and to serve as food for the Congregation and for the neighbors. This is how we are speaking. Whether one-on-one, in small groups or all together, we speak as brothers, with a great deal of openness.

Angolan farmer
Angolan farmers plant and sometimes reap: He stands at the edge of the small rice field, propped up by his shovel. His straw hat shines in the sun. "We wait so long for the rain," he says. "When the earth is dry, we can't plant. When we can't plant..." He looks up to heaven.

Dry earth. Our brother, Fr. Tarcisio Tchiheke, M.S., from Angola can't be with us at this meeting. The war and the poverty of his people prevent him from coming. Dry earth - hungry people. Hungry for peace and for bread. Hungry for God's love.

During the Mass, we hold in our hands a picture of hungry people in Angola and we pray for peace. It's very quiet. There's a lump in my throat. "Lord, bestow on us the gift of your peace!" "Amen," say my brothers on either side of me. Then we share the Bread of Life.

The daily plight of the poor: They sit down and wait on the edge of the streets. They run before their pousse-pousse (typical rickshaw-like transportation in Madagascar). Sometimes they ring a small bell. They pull people and their baggage.

Row of pousse-pousse in
Antsirabe, Madagascar
"Can they make a living from it?" I ask my brother, Menez. "They survive." "Don't they have any reserves?" "No one has any reserves here. If they fall sick, they sell two chickens or a pig, if they have any. They move out the furniture, and they sell the house." They sell a pig or a chicken - they have still less to eat - they fall sick – they have nothing more to sell - they... I ask no more.

And the children at La Salette saw a Lady seated on a stone, her face hidden in her hands, weeping. In a sense, our Mother first visited La Salette, and then through our meetings is present to listen to our concerns this year about Madagascar, Angola, and other needy places around our world… and so it goes…

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