O Le Faamanatuga Lona Valu

 

O I LENEI o si "upu" lea na mau i oʻu mafaufauga mo le tele o tausaga, a leai e sefulu tausaga. Ma o le tuputupu aʻe manaʻoga mo moni Kerisiano faʻapotopotoga. E ui e fitu a tatou faʻamanatuga i totonu o le Ekalesia, o ni “fetaiaʻiga” ma le Aliʻi, ae ou te talitonu e mafai foi e se tasi ona tautala e faʻatatau i le “faamanatuga lona valu” e faʻavae i aʻoaʻoga a Iesu:

Aua o le mea e faʻatasia faʻatasi ai le toʻalua poʻo le toatolu i loʻu igoa, o iina ou te i ai i le lotolotoi o i latou. (Mat 18:20)

Here, I am not speaking necessarily of our Catholic parishes, which are often large and impersonal, and to be honest, not always the first place one finds Christians on fire for Christ. Rather, I am speaking of small communities of faith where Jesus is lived, loved, and sought after. 

 

THE ENCOUNTER OF LOVE

Back in the mid 1990’s, I started a music ministry with the word on my heart that “Music is a doorway to evangelize.” Our band not only rehearsed, but we prayed, played, and loved one another. It was through this that we all encountered a deeper conversion and desire for holiness. 

Immediately before our events, we would always gather before the Blessed Sacrament and just worship and love Jesus. It was during one of these times that a young Baptist man made a decision to become a Catholic. “It wasn’t so much your events,” he told me, “but the way you prayed and loved Jesus before the Eucharist.” He would later enter the seminary.

To this day, even though we have long parted ways, we all remember those times with great affection if not reverence.

Jesus did not say that the world will believe in His Church because our theology is precise, our liturgies pristine, or our churches great works of art. Rather, 

O le ala lea e iloa ai e tagata uma o oʻu soʻo oe, pe afai e te fealofani. (Ioane 13:35)

It is within these nuu o le alofa that Jesus is truly encountered. I can’t tell you how many times being among like-minded believers who strive to love God with all their heart, soul, and strength has left me with a renewed heart, illuminated soul, and strengthened spirit. It is indeed like an “eighth sacrament” because Jesus becomes present wherever two or three are gathered i lona suafa, wherever we implicitly or explictly put Jesus at the center of our lives.

Indeed, even a holy friendship with one other person constitutes this little sacrament of Christ’s presence. I think of my Canadian friend, Fred. Sometimes he comes to visit me and we leave the farmhouse and go hole up in a little dirt sodhouse for the evening. We light a lamp and a little heater, and then plunge into God’s Word, the struggles of our journey, and then listen to what the Spirit is saying. Those have been profound times where one or the other is edifying the other. We frequently live the words of St. Paul:

O le mea lea, fefaʻamafanafanaaʻi le tasi i le tasi ma fefaʻamalosiaʻi le tasi i le isi, e pei ona e faia. (1 Tesalonia 5:11)

As you read the following passage of Scripture, replace the word “Faithful” with “Faith-filled”, which essentially means the same thing in this context:

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them. Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be. (Sirach 6:14-17)

There is another little group of women in Carlsbad, California. When I spoke at their church many years ago, I called them the “daughters of Jerusalem” because there were so few men in the congregation that day! They went on to form a little community of lay women called Daughters of Jersualem. They are immersing themselves in God’s Word and becoming signs of love and God’s life to those around them. 

O le Ekalesia i lenei lalolagi o le faʻamanatuga o le faʻaola, o le faʻailoga ma le mea faigaluega o le faʻafesoʻotaʻiga a le Atua ma tagata. -Catechism o le Katoliko Ekalesia, l. 780

 

IS “COMMUNITY” THE NOW WORD?

Several years ago, I had a strong sense that, in order to survive this culture, Christians would have to withdraw like the desert fathers did centuries ago in order to save their souls from the pull of the world. However, I do not mean we should withdraw into desert caves, but from the constant exposure to media, the internet, the constant pursuit of material things, and so on. It was around that time that a book came out called The Benedict Option. 

… Kerisiano Orthodox tatau ona malamalama o mea o le a sili atu ona faigata mo tatou. O le a tatau ona tatou aʻoaʻo pe faʻafefea ona nonofo faʻata'feaina i le tatou atunuʻu… o le a tatou suia le ala tatou te faʻatino ai lo tatou faʻatuatua ma aʻoaʻo ai ia tatou fanau, ina ia fausia ni nofoaga maufetuunaʻi.  —Rob Dreher, “O Kerisiano Orthodox E Tatau I Nei Ona Aʻoaʻo e Ola Faʻafea i Lo Tatou Lava Atunuʻu”, TAIMI, Iuni 26th, 2015; taimi.com

And then this past week, both Cardinal Sarah and Pope Emeritus Benedict have spoken about the emerging importance of forming Christian communities of like-minded believers who are totally committed to Jesus Christ:

We should not imagine a special program that could provide a remedy for the current multi-faceted crisis. We have simply to live our Faith, completely and radically. The Christian virtues are the Faith blossoming in all the human faculties. They mark the way for a happy life in harmony with God. We must create places where they can flourish. I call upon Christians to open oases of freedom in the midst the desert created by rampant profiteering. We must create places where the air is breathable, or simply where the Christian life is possible. Our communities must put God in the center. Amidst the avalanche of lies, we must be able to find places where truth is not only explained but experienced. In a word, we must live the Gospel: not merely thinking about it as a utopia, but living it in a concrete way. The Faith is like a fire, but it has to be burning in order to be transmitted to others. —Katinale Sara, Katoliko FaʻasalalauAperila 5th, 2019

At one point in my talk to the men at a retreat last weekend, I found myself shouting: “Where are souls who live like this? Where are men who are burning for Jesus Christ?” Fellow evangelist, John Connelly, drew the analogy of hot coals. As soon as you remove one from the fire, it quickly dies out. But if you keep the coals together, they keep the “sacred fire” burning. That is a perfect picture of authentic Christian community and what it does to the heart of those involved.

Benedict XVI shared such an experience in his beautiful letter to the Church this week:

One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them. I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again. — POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI, Ofisa o Tala Fou a le Katoliko, Aperila 10th, 2019

Habitats of Faith. This is what I am speaking of, little communities of love where Jesus is truly encountered in the other.

 

PRAYER AND PRUDENCE

All this said, I want to encourage you to approach this clarion call to community with prayer and prudence. As the Psalmist said:

Vagana ua fausia e le Alii le fale, ua latou galulue fua o e fau. (Salamo 127: 1)

Several years ago, I was having breakfast with a priest. I had sensed Our Lady saying a few days earlier that he would be my new spiritual director. I chose not to discuss it with him and just pray about it. As he was looking over his menu, I peeked over mine and thought to myself, “This man might just be my new director…” At that very moment he dropped his menu, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Mark, a spiritual director is not chosen, he is given.” He picked up his menu again like nothing had happened. 

Yes, I think it is like this with community. Ask Jesus to give you one. Ask Him to build the house. Ask Jesus to lead you to like-minded believers—especially you who are men. We’ve got to stop talking about football and politics all the time and start talking about the things that really matter: our faith, our families, the challenges we face, and so on. If we don’t, I’m not sure we can survive what is coming and, in fact, what is already tearing marriages and families apart.

Nowhere in the Gospels do we read Jesus instructing the Apostles that, once He departs, they are to form communities. And yet, after Pentecost, the very first thing the believers did was form organized communities. Almost instinctively…

…those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:34)

It was from these communities that the Church grew, indeed, exploded. Why?

The community of believers was of one heart and mind… With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. (v. 32-33)

While it is difficult if not impossible (and not necessary) to imitate the economic model of the early Church, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council foresaw that, through our faithfulnes to Jesus…

… O le a avea le faʻapotopotoga Kerisiano ma faʻailoga o le faatasi mai o le Atua i le lalolagi. -Ad Gentes Divinitus, Vatikana II, n.15

It seems to me that the time is now upon us to at least begin asking Jesus to build the house, habitats of Faith in a faithless world. 

Ua toeititi oo mai. E le o toe mamao ona iai lea o le tele o afioʻaga faʻavae i luga o le faʻamatagofieina ma le auai atu i e matitiva, fesoʻotaʻi le tasi i le isi ma le tele o faʻapotopotoga o le ekalesia, o loʻo toe faʻafouina ma ua leva ona latou malaga mo le tele o tausaga ma o nisi taimi seneturi. O se ekalesia fou ua fanau mai… O le alofa o le Atua o le agamalu ma le faʻamaoni. O loʻo faʻatali mai lo tatou lalolagi mo afioʻaga o le agamalu ma le faʻamaoni. Ua latou o mai. — Jean Vanier, Nuu ma le tuputupu aʻe, i. 48; faavaeina o LʻArche Kanata

 

FAITAU FUAFUAGA

Le Faʻamanatuga o le Nuʻu

O Le Sau ma Sulufaʻiga

 

Lau lagolago tautupe ma tatalo o le mafuaaga
o loʻo e faitauina lenei mea i le aso.
 Faʻamanuia ma faʻafetai. 

E malaga ma Mareko i le Lenei le Upu,
kiliki i luga le fuʻa i lalo e lesitala.
O lau imeli o le a le faʻasoaina i se tasi.

 
O aʻu tusitusiga o loʻo faʻaliliuina i totonu Farani! (Merci Philippe B.!)
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lafoina i AIGA, FAATUATUA MA AGAGA LELEI.