Chew Your Cud!
October 14-18, 2019: Claretian Postulancy House, Ibefun. The Claretian Missionaries, Delegation West Nigeria, gather in their numbers for the Annual Spiritual Exercise, otherwise, Annual Retreat, at the Claretian Postulate, Ibefun in Ijebu-Ode diocese, South West of Nigeria directed by Most Revd Michael Olatunji Fagun, the Bishop Emeritus of Ekiti diocese where our missionaries have ministered for years even today.
No moderator would have been more suitable than the choice the Delegation Council made purposing to harvest from the experiences of Bàbá Fágùn. He needs no introduction in the Nigeria Church having single handedly translated the Jerusalem Bible and the complete Daily Missal into Yoruba language among other pioneering awe-inspiring works. History is thus fair to refer to him today as one of the Bàbá Ìgbàgbó (Father of faith) in Nigeria.
However, the hallowed documents of the Claretian Congregation underpin, unequivocally, the fundamental characters of our Missionary Life as regards these holy exercises when we read, inter alia, that:
We should strive to walk in newness of life, setting our hearts on God, doing everything with an upright intention and true fervor of heart, bearing adversities for his sake. We should daily renew our resolution to advance in the way of the Lord. Each month we should set aside a day for recollection during which we can reflect on our own vocation and renew within us our hope of the glory to come, so as to be better prepared for the Lord’s coming. Each year we should make a retreat with all due care. (CC. 52).
Guided by the above mandate, the Directory of the Congregation, accordingly, explains that,
The spiritual exercises (CC 52) should normally be held outside one’s place of work, and silence and retreat should be observed during them. Types of retreat other than the Ignatian Exercises are permitted for reasons of greater effectiveness or for a variety of other circumstances. Concrete arrangements for these exercises are left to the director, with the approval of the superior. (Dir. 92).
The vastly experienced Prelate enjoins all retreatants, wishing to make steady progress to holiness, to strive to live the Claretian Life as stipulated by St Anthony Mary Claret in his unique followership of Jesus via the Evangelical Vows of Poverty, Obedience and Chastity. In fact, he summarised the whole spiritual injunction with the popular phrase: “Chew the Cud”. To profoundly appreciate and apply this injunction to our human and missionary context (in order to be, not only meaningful but also relevant) we are wont to ask: what does it mean to “chew the cud”?)
The species of mammals called ruminants – cattle, sheep, goats, antelopes etc. – with four biological stomachs, mainly eat grass. The initial ingestion goes into the rumen. When the ruminant has finished eating, in its quite moment, the now partly-digested food is brought back (regurgitated) and rechewed, slowly and thoroughly, before being properly and finally swallowed. Experts say that, it is a pure sign of ill health if the animal stops ruminating. The word ‘ruminate’, adopted by humans from irrational animals, means to “ponder”, “contemplate”, reflect, cogitate, meditate etc.
We have embraced the love of God made manifest in Christ Jesus and eaten from his Eucharistic table; we have drunk from the wells of the Missionary zeal and life of St Claret, now, it is imperative on us to chew the cud. Regurgitate the stock piled in our hearts and memories, ferment and digest them and make them sprout virtue, growth in the love of God and unalloyed service to the people we are sent to minister to.
When the religious, and in our case, the Claretian, fails to chew the cud of faith in Christ as Claret did, it is already a sign of spiritual malady, or, to be consistent with our words, ‘spiritual ill health’.
What a masterpiece of an analogy!
We pray for all our Missionaries and the faithful in our areas of apostolate.