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12.08.2021 14:04:10 657x read.
INSPIRATION
“Mary Mother of the Poor” (Bro. Aaron Nee-Eru, Ghana)

 “Mary Mother of the Poor”

(Bro. Aaron Nee-Eru)

Introduction

I deem it a privilege to contribute to our esteemed Magazine on the topic “Mary Mother of the Poor”, which I hope will be read by FIC aspirants, friends, co-workers and those interested in the apostolate of the Congregation. I use this opportunity to thank God for my vocation to the FIC family and gratitude to all those who contributed to who I am today. I will never forget my novice master Bro. Raphael Besigrinee, a member of the General Council who initially molded me to be part of the FIC family. I feel a strong belonging to this fraternal community and I hope to grow better as a religious together with my fellow brothers in the community. I have been an FIC brother for Twelve (12) years now (2021). As a young brother I find it an opportunity to be asked to share my experience and devotion to Mother Mary as part of my learning process.

In our Constitutions it says: Mary is the Patroness of our Congregation. We are happy to place our lives under her special protection. We call ourselves Brothers of the Immaculate Conception (Fratres Immaculatae Conceptionis; F.I.C.) Mary’s life was completely consecrated to the service of her Son. She saw herself as a lowly handmaid, for whom God wrought his wonders.

In her Magnificat we taste her preference for the poor and needy, and the longing for justice and righteousness. She is the mother of the faithful. Through all her doubts and uncertainties she remained faithful to her Son, even on to Calvary. That is why all generations call her blessed. She inspires us too: it is her example we wish to follow and invoke her aid in our prayers.


Mary, Mother of the Poor

From Mary’s first appearance in the Gospel, she is clearly shown to be a person who embraced both material and spiritual poverty. She is one of the Lord’s ‘faithful poor’ or the “anawim” (the little ones). In fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary was the purest and most perfect of the Lord’s “anawim” in all of Israel. How poor in spirit Mary showed herself to be when she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Mt2:7). Mary did not complain about suffering this hardship. On the contrary, she rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, despite the poverty of her surroundings. Though she was a homeless young mother, she trusted in God to provide what was most truly needful, and she received with joy, even in the midst of material poverty, the divine gift of the Christ Child. Saint John Paul II taught that the whole Gospel story of the Nativity of our Lord centers on the theme of God’s special love for those who are poor and humble. They are blessed above all others because they have room in their lives for the coming of his son.

In her Magnificat, Mary shows that God offers a tremendous treasure to those who embrace a life of material poverty that is, a life that is sometimes called “Gospel Simplicity” for the sake of the  cultivation of spiritual poverty and detachment; “he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:53). What are these “good things” to which Mary refers here? Jesus Christ born in a manger in the midst of her poverty signifies the birth of the Christ Child in the center of every human heart that is poor in spirit. Moreover, when Christ is born in the hearts of his “anawim” they received also the gift of the Holy joy, for the whole story of the nativity in the Gospel is about the gift of joy from God. “My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant” (Lk1:47-48) “Fear not, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Lk 2:10). “and the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God, for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20). The question still remains: do we still have this great joy as followers of Jesus who live in the 21st Century? Have we found the treasure of the gift of the Christ Child, and of Holy joy, in the midst of true poverty of spirit?

Joseph and Mary showed their simplicity and poverty in the naming ceremony of their son Jesus. The offering of Joseph and Mary was a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. Many authors are of the opinion that Mary even made a vow of poverty, and we are told that she herself said to St. Bridget, “from the beginning I vowed in my own heart that I would never possess anything on earth.” The gift she received from the Holy Magi cannot certainly have been of small value, but we are assured by St. Bernard, that she distributed them to the poor through the hands of St. Joseph. That the divine mother immediately disposed of these gifts is also evident from the fact, that at her purification in the temple, she did not offer a lamb, which was the offering prescribed in the book of Leviticus for those who could not afford it. Mary’s Poverty demonstrates to us that obedience to God’s will is a key to Christian living. Mary’s simplicity and demonstration of love to her son in her poverty state cannot be over emphasized. Her Magnificat depicts the fact that she opted to be poor, and she loves to be poor, and  identify herself with the poor. The virtues of Mary gives hope and encouragement to every Christian who is a true devotee to Mary. She relies on God’s providential care and this brought about her simplicity. Whoever identifies him/herself with God avails him/herself to be used according to God’s will. It was not that Mary could not fight to come out from her material poverty, but she loves to be poor in order to serve God to the full.

Religious and the Poor

Following Christ is a principal value in the religious life. It is the supreme rule of any religious community. One cannot talk about religious life without reference to the following of Christ. Identification with Christ means sharing his anguish over the plight of human beings and being ready to give one’s life for them. Following Christ does not mean simply living a life of faith and imitating his statute towards universal values. Even more importantly, it means “recognizing him in those who are poor and those who are suffering. A commitment to the poor is an essential part of following Christ. Religious must choose to focus their attention on the poor, establishing solidarity with them, their problems, their struggles, and their commitment. We FIC brothers must incarnate ourselves into the world of the poor. There can be no integration in the world of the poor without an option for them. Voluntary adoption of the lifestyle of the poor is the result and embodiment of an option for the historical project and the interest of the poor. The principal concern of brothers FIC is "the poor" and this must be noticeable in our apostolate and our encounter with people.

Living a life of simplicity also entails identifying ourselves with the less privileged, and the vulnerable. We are called to follow Christ: the man who identifies himself with the poor, lowly and troubled . The poor are the trustees of his promises and its fulfillment. Human beings are faithful to God if they respect the poor, the lowly, the helpless, and the simple. As a religious how do I identify the poor in my society? This is sometimes difficult in the sense that some people of today pretend to be poor. They are seen begging for alms with the intention of enriching themselves. My encounter with a supposedly 'poor' woman in Kumasi (Ghana) before I became an FIC brother scared me and put me off from those who beg for alms on the streets. I was travelling to Kumasi to visit a relative. On arrival at Kumasi “Kejetia” lorry station, a woman with a child at her back approached me and asked for money to buy food for the child. As a young man who cares for the poor, and seeing the condition of the child, I felt pity for them. So I gave the woman some money, and proceeded to pick a car to my sister's place. When I wanted to buy the ticket I realize that all my bank notes had changed to graphic, still folded in my pocket. I got the biggest shock of my life! At that time there was no telephone to call my sister to come for me, and I could not return to campus. I became so confused. Fortunately, I met a man I knew and I narrated my ordeal to him and he helped me with some money to continue my journey. This is one of the experiences I encountered with fake poor people in our society.

Conclusion

In spite of this unfortunate experience, there are people who are really poor and need our attention in society. Thus our option for the poor and oppressed is not one task among many others. It is the key act, and it demands our immediate action. In imitation of Mother Mary, we religious necessarily have to live the Gospel poverty, and at the same time fight and liberate people from material poverty.  Rivora described Gospel poverty as "an internal reality, an attitude and an interiorly lived reality and the fruit and consequence of faith. Concretely, one starts off from accepting God in Christ as center and motivation of one’s life; that is, the primacy of God over everything and everyone. And consequently, total donation to God in Christ, as the only One necessary". The spirit described by Rivora here is that of self-emptying and detachment from family and material goods, and embracing an attitude of freedom and availability to God and one’s sisters and brothers, as Christ did.

As FIC brothers, we are asked to 'show special concern for the poor and needy'. The spirit of our founders, Louis Rutten and Bro. Bernard, demands that we have special concern for the poor and needy. Our principal concern as FIC according to our Constitution is to live according to the spirit of our founders: to have special concern for the poor and destitute, for the underprivileged and disabled, for socially weak and forgotten groups, for those who experience little love (art 17). We resolve also to follow Mary's example in having a preference for the poor and needy (art. 12). Mary indeed is our inspiration and model, the reason why we should seriously 'invoke her aid in our prayers' (art. 12).

[Bro. Aaron is the Aspirancy coordinator in Ghana. At the same time, he is a teacher in St. Mary's Junior High School in Tumu]








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