Saint Daniel Comboni and we today

INTRODUCTION

Founder of the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries, Comboni is a missionary saint who can inspire our path of life in so many ways. Universal salvation, communion and service are the three pillars that make up the spirituality of the “Apostle of Africa.”

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Comboni inspires us in our contemplation of God. He looked at God seeing Him always in an atmosphere of beauty and with His traits of merciful love, exactly the way the Holy Scripture presents Him, for example in Is 43,1-5; Is 49,14-16; Jn 3,16.

In our world today, there are so many distorted images of God making of Him a far away God, so demanding to the point of exaggeration, if not cruel. Comboni believed in the God of our Lord Jesus Christ who wants all people to be saved and who calls the followers of His Son Jesus to cooperate with Him in the realization of His plan.

Saint Daniel Comboni inspires us also in the process of the acceptance of ourselves with all that we are and with all that we have; not a passive acceptance, but a dynamic one with a wonderful aim: offering ourselves to the Lord in order to be transformed by Him – naturally, with our cooperation.

How beautiful is the following prayer that, in its simplicity, I have found always effective: “Lord, we trust in You and we entrust ourselves to You; take us as we are and make us the way You want us to be.” I believe that this prayer reflects very well the spirit of prayer that Comboni had. Let us listen to him:

“God is all mercy, love and justice.”

“All my trust is in God who sees all, who can do everything and who loves us.”

“In dealing with God, we are dealing with a Good Master, a Faithful Friend, a Loving Father.”

“Let us trust in Jesus: I am too happy to be honored by Him with so many crosses, precious treasures of His divine grace.”

Comboni intercedes for us that we may become more and more open to God and to His plan of salvation for the whole of humankind.

Nowadays, we can easily fall into the temptation of closing ourselves in our little world of selfishness, condemning the weak and the sinners – naturally, excluding ourselves from this condemnation. Comboni inspires us with his great love for the African people and for the whole of humankind; Comboni makes us understand how necessary it is not to condemn anybody as God is the only Judge; he makes us understand this great principle of wisdom: “Only love can transform people and structures, nothing else, not even the death penalty.” Let us listen to him:

“From the side of the Crucified One came forth that divine flame of love, thanks to which we embrace the whole human family.”

“I am well, although I have been suffering much in my inner self, but I suffered for the love of God and for the good of souls, and God will comfort me by frustrating those who were the unjust cause of my suffering. Pray to Jesus for them and be glad.”

 

A bright light

Saint Daniel Comboni is a great light which enlightens our path of life; he is like a great magnet attracting us; he proposes to us to live within the context of the optimism of faith.

The optimism of faith – that is optimism based, first of all, not on what we can accomplish, but upon what God can do and actually does for us. I have the impression of seeing Daniel Comboni and of hearing him saying: ‘Where I am, in the glorious and eternal kingdom of God, there you are called to be. So, overcome with strength every temptation of pessimism, of sadness and of despair. Commit yourselves to the transformation of this world into a better place to live in, with your eyes fixed upon Christ Jesus and upon the eternal realities.’

Let us read from Comboni’s own Writings:

“Let us love God with all our heart, and place all our trust in him. You must be brave and press on, for one day we will sing of the divine glories in heaven.”

“My hope in the ultimate success of so great and sublime a task never left me for an instant.”

“If we are abandoned by men, God will never fail us.”

 

Missionary spirituality

In the life of Comboni and in all his activities we see some other creative realities which I believe can be considered as the three solid pillars of his missionary spirituality:

1. The Covenant of God with the whole of humanity for the salvation of all. Comboni had this understanding: God has given Himself and continues giving Himself to all, in a special way to the poorest and most abandoned. Moreover, Saint Daniel Comboni makes us understand that the only thing that we can do for our salvation and for the salvation of all is to cooperate with God with faith, enthusiasm and spirit of sacrifice. Let us read how he expresses himself:

“Lifted up on the tree of the cross, Jesus gathered His chosen ones into the bosom of the Church from all over the world.”

“Finally, our soul is full of the dearest hope that the unity, simplicity and usefulness of the new project of the Association of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary for the Conversion of Africa… will find an approving echo, support, favor and help in the heart of the Catholics of the entire world, clothed and filled as they are by the spirit of that supernatural charity which embraces the immense vastness of the universe and which our Divine Savior came to bring to the earth.”

2. The koinonia – that is, communion among all, with Christ as the great link. Communion of continents, of peoples, of groups and of plans for the salvation of all! It seems to me that Comboni had this understanding: To be faithful to Christ and to His call, it’s not enough to avoid doing to others what we do not want done to us (Tobias 4,15); it’s not enough loving others as we love ourselves (Luke 10,27). God calls us to love all people the way Jesus has loved and loves us (John 15,12), aiming at becoming one as Jesus is one with the Father. (John 17,21). This is the way Comboni expresses himself:

“The Catholic was carried away under the impetus of that love set alight by the divine flame on Calvary Hill, when it came forth from the side of the Crucified One to embrace the whole human family; he felt his heart beat faster, and a divine power seemed to drive him towards those unknown lands. There, he would enclose in his arms, in an embrace of peace and of love, those unfortunate brothers of his.”

“This Institute, then, becomes like a little Cenacle of Apostles for Africa, a center of light sending to the center of Africa as many rays as are the missionaries who go out from it. These rays of light, bringing warmth, as well as illumination, cannot but reveal the nature of the Center from which they spread out.”

3. The diakonia – that is, service in the context of the gift of self. Today, Comboni asks the Church, our society and ourselves to fan the flame of the spirit of service. In a very vivid way, the spirituality of Comboni presents the icon of Jesus who washes the feet of His disciples and asks to answer the command of Jesus with generosity: “I have given you the example so that you may do the same.” (John 13, 15). Let us listen again to Daniel Comboni:

“For Africa, I have dedicated my mind and my heart, my blood and my life.”

“The Lord has blessed us a thousand times. Far from losing hope, we shall spare no toil or efforts to cooperate in the conversion of Africa.”

I pray and hope that Comboni may obtain for us the grace of committing ourselves with faith and enthusiasm in the work for the evangelization of the world. That all may inject in our society big doses of hope and enthusiasm!

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