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					The Voices of Children
 Call Us to Solidarity




  Advent and Marist Solidarity 2006
         Bureau of International Solidarity (BIS)
         Marist Brothers General House, Rome
                                               Bureau of International Solidarity
                                                Marist Brothers General House
                                                                    Rome, Italy

                                                                  October 2006

        “Children are not passive recipients of our charity or protection, but
active citizens with rights who should participate in their communities and
societies. But lacking a political voice or representation, children are easily
left out of discussions on public policy.” This statement from the State of the
World’s Children Report 2006 (Unicef) captures the theme for our Advent
Solidarity Reflection Booklet, “The voices of children call us to solidarity”.

       This year’s reflection booklet has become an avenue for children’s
voices around the Marist world to be heard. Twenty three children, or in some
cases groups of children, have shared with us their reflections on life, the
world around them, and their concerns and hopes for the future. We have
incorporated their reflections into a format for reflection that includes a daily
reading from the scriptures of Advent, points for personal reflection and a
closing prayer taken from the liturgy of the day.

        Each child’s reflection on their particular situation in life is unique.
However when they talk of their concerns and hopes for the future, regardless
of whether they are in developed or developing countries, their gender, or
their age, they are also remarkably similar. As you spend time each day
reflecting on what they have shared with us, you will be impressed with their
ability to remain hopeful and focused on a future which is better than their
present. They are truly resilient young people.

         We want to offer a sincere word of thanks to these young people.
Thanks also to those brothers who made it possible for us to hear from them.
Where it was not possible to receive one specific reflection, they sent us a
reflection based on a series of interviews and discussions they had with a
group of young people. In two situations, clearly indicated, brothers prepared
reflections based on past experiences, observations and discussions with
young people. In all cases, it is the voices of young people who speak to us in
this year’s Advent Reflection Book.

        Before closing, we offer a word of welcome to all who will use these
reflections especially those who may be new to the mission and ministry of the
Marist Brothers within the church. Please pray and reflect with these young
people. It is our sincere hope, that all who use this reflection text during
Advent will be moved to act for the rights of the child everywhere.

In prayer and solidarity,

Br. Dominick Pujia, Director
Ms. Sara Panciroli, Administrative Assistant
Br. César Henríquez, Child Rights Advocacy Officer
Ms. Angela Petenzi, Projects Coordinator


                                       2
Thanks to…
Production, Lay-Out and Design

Br. Dominick Pujia, BIS Director
Ms. Sara Panciroli, BIS Administrative Assistant
Br. Peter Codd (Australia)

Translators and Editors

Br. Gilles Beauregard
Br. Carlos Martín
Br. Ross Murrin
Br. Manoel Soares
Br. César Henríquez

Proof Readers

Ms. Annie Girka, Vichy, France
Mr. Sergio Luis Schons, Montenegro, Brazil
Br. Francisco Castellanos, Spain
Br. Gerry Brereton, USA
Br. Ross Murrin, Australia, General House
Br. Don Neary, USA, General House
Br. Joseph De Meyer, Belgium, General House
Fr. Rogério Groh, Brazil, International College, General House

The young people, brothers, and lay colleagues from around the Marist world
who made these reflection prayers possible:

 Introduction       Congo DR Reflection on Solidarity / Br. Michel Uhuka
 3 December         Spain: Rafa, age 14 / Br. Federico Andrés Carpintero
 4 December         India: Johnson, age 17 / Br. Lazar Hirundayasamy
 5 December         Australia: Patrick, age 17 / Br. Chris Wills
 6 December          Kenya: Ogaga, 16 / Based on the experience of Br.
                     Patrick Kenagwa
 7 December         USA: Wander, age 18 / Br. Michael Flanigan
 8 December         France: Sebastien, age 12 / Br. Michel Morel
 9 December          Mexico: Alejandro, age 12 / Ms. María del Socorro
                     Alvárez Noriega
10 December         Syria: Bassel, age 18 / Br. Georges Sabe
11 December         Argentina: Jonatan, age 18 / Br. Gerardo Accastello
12 December         Brazil: Rafael, age 7 / Br. Vanderlei Soela
13 December         Vanuatu: Lydia, age 15 / Br. Chris Wills
14 December         Philippines: Joevelon, age 18 / Br. Crispin
15 December         Malawi: Group of Children / Br. John Francis Bwanoli
16 December         Honduras: Gabi, age 18 / Br. Antonio Rieu
17 December         Nigeria: Amaobi, age 18 / Br. Basil Nwude
18 December         Ecuador: José, age 15 / Br. Galo Rivera
19 December         Guatemala: Angie, age 15 / Br. Jesús Balmaseda


                                      3
20 December    Rwanda: Pierre, age15 / Based on the experience of Br.
               Antoine Kazindu
21 December   Chad: Kemndigue, age 24 / Br. Carlos García
22 December   Chile: Rodolfo, age 17 / Br. Fernando Figueroa
23 December   Germany: Marcel, age 18 / Br. Gerhard Ippisch
24 December   South Africa: Mikhaila, age 13 / Br. Mario Colussi
25 December   Sri Lanka: Shaeveen, age 15 / Mrs. Nirmala




                               4
Reflection on Solidarity
After years of civil war, the children of the Democratic Republic of Congo hope
for peaceful elections and a new government that will lead the nation toward
prosperity and growth. Elections are scheduled for December 2006. This
message comes from our brothers in the DRC. The brothers tell us it comes
from a young adult named Bulukaoto in Kisangani. During this season of
Advent, remember to pray for a peaceful outcome to these elections.

“Advent” ... a time of hopeful anticipation for the birth of Our Lord Jesus
Christ. “Emmanuel: God with us” … a message of the love of God who
wants to live among us…

How are we going to respond to this “welcome” of God who begs our
hospitality?

My country, the DRC, after many years of war is in a period of transition that is
full of uncertainty.

God teaches us Solidarity by wanting to come among us. When I look at my
family, my school, my country and the other countries of the world, I discover
that Solidarity is no longer a duty that touches the heart of people. Today -- in
many families, in our schools, what we see on television -- we see and learn
selfishness, vengeance and bloodshed.

Advent invites us to change our heart to aim for the common interest, the
interest of all.

This is perhaps what the politicians of my country with the help of the
international community are trying to teach us children who grew up in a time
of civil war. A “change of heart” which is real for me is expressed by the
desire to stop wars and a commitment to advance to free, democratic and
transparent elections. For me and for many children who have been the
victims of war, this is a real joy.

Now, in our schools, our churches and our families, we do not cease hearing
words like: “Election, Reconciliation, Forgiveness, Negotiation, Change, etc.”

Today, these are words of hope. Only a few years ago, we were taught how
to hate and kill. The Congolese people, like many other people of our planet,
are journeying towards the solidarity of God who wants to live among us
despite our differences.

We are learning to accept each other despite our differences. We want to turn
our diversity into a source of richness, of peace, of forgiveness and not a
source of conflict, of war, of exclusion and of bloodshed.

Our prayer is that God may make us into a people of solidarity, open to
everyone, and ready to spread His message of love and of solidarity.



                                        5
                         First Sunday of Advent
                               December 3

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the
stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish, distraught at the roaring of the
sea and waves. Men will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the
earth. The powers in the heavens will be shaken. After that, men will see the
Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory. When these things
begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, for your ransom is
near at hand.

Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgences and
drunkenness and worldly cares. The great day will suddenly close in on you
like trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the
earth, so be on watch. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is
in prospect, and to stand secure before the Son of Man.”


Reflection

Spain, once a colonial world empire, has a proud history of cultural
achievements. From 1936 to 1939 it suffered a devastating civil war. It joined
the European Union in 1986 and has become a strong economic force in
Europe.

At fourteen, Rafa enjoys the support of a stable and loving family. He also
finds himself confronting a world where not all are so lucky. He worries about
his friends, wars, poverty and inequality.

I am Rafa and I am fourteen years of age. I live in the city of Valladolid, in
Spain. I am currently in the second year of secondary school at the Marist
school called “La Inmaculada”. I have a great brother whose name is Kiko. My
father works in the telephone business and my mother at the Castille and
León Council. What I prefer is the computer and everything that you can see
with it. I like fantasy books, going to the movies and chatting with my friends.
Sports wise, I prefer swimming to football or basketball. I do not know what I
am going to be when I grow up; I have not really thought about it yet;
…something with languages… that’s what interests me the most.


                                       6
What I look for in my friends is that they tell the truth, that they are easy to talk
with, well mannered and friendly … I have been at the school for three years -
a long time!, since I was a child. As for the teachers … there are all sorts.
Boys of my age have problems and difficulties with their studies; some are
isolated. No one hangs around them because they are violent, sometimes…
As for me, I do well in my studies and I have some good friends.
I believe that the most important thing to be in life is to be happy with who you
are. And also to do what you like to do. I am concerned about what is
happening in the world, especially the poverty of people in under-developed
countries (they do not have anything to eat), the wars (in Iraq), what is
happening every day, the terrorists who get on buses and blow themselves up
… Here at Valladolid, there are groups of neo Nazis with a fascist ideology …
There should be more equality in the world (even though we are all different), I
would say: more equality of rights. When I hear the word hope, I believe that
means that there are possibilities… that there exists a faith in something
good. People need to be less concerned about unimportant things and to
profit more from life, friends, family, things that fill your heart. If someone says
a prayer, may it be for the world, for me, for all the sick, for those also who are
close to me and to you and who are having some hard times …

Rafa, age 14


Points for Your Reflection

   1. We are at the start of Advent. Take some moments to reflect on the
      words of the Gospel, “Be on guard,… Pray constantly,… Stand secure
      before the Son of Man.”

   2. Rafa is fourteen. He is a typical adolescent with the usual concerns
      and occupations of an adolescent; yet he is aware of the poor in
      developing countries, the war in Iraq, and the threat of terrorism. How
      much of these things concern you during a typical day in your life?

   3. What are some steps you can take this Advent season to prepare for
      the day of the Lord’s coming?


Closing Prayer

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may
find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of
heaven, where He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.




                                         7
                     Monday, First Week of Advent
                             December 4

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 8: 5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached him to ask his
help, "Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralyzed and suffers terribly."
Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The captain answered, "I am not
worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my servant will be
healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to
one: 'Go,' he goes, and if I say to another: 'Come,' he comes, and to my
servant: 'Do this,' he does it." When Jesus heard this he was astonished and
said to those who were following him, "I tell you, I have not found such faith in
Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven”.


Reflection

According to the April 17-23, 2004 edition of the Economist, at least 600,000
people in India are living with AIDS and more than four and a half million are
infected with HIV, the virus that causes it. In terms of the number of people
infected, India ranks second behind South Africa.

Johnson is 17 years old and HIV-positive. He is an active participant in the
Rainbow Program, a pastoral AIDS project of the Marist Brothers in Trichy,
Tamil Nadu State. This is his story.

I am Johnson. My family is Catholic. I have a sister, 20 years old, who has
studied up to year 12. Our mother and father died of AIDS – our mother three
years ago and our father 2. The two of us live with our paternal grandfather,
who is 73, and grandmother, 55. Our maternal relatives abandoned us when
they learned that my mother was HIV-positive. Our grandfather is a laborer
and our grandmother joins in his work. We have an uncle, our father’s brother,
who is handicapped. My grandparents look after him, too. We are deeply
grateful to them for taking such good care of us in their advanced age. I get a
lot of my strength from them. Because of low income my sister and I cannot
continue our education. I was born with AIDS. I got it through my mother. My
father was a truck driver who spent weeks at a time away from home driving
through the northern states of India. He must have got this dreadful disease


                                        8
from prostitutes. He passed it on to my mother who was an innocent lady and
a faithful housewife. I am not afraid to tell the world that I am HIV-positive. I
have been living with it for the past 17 years. Some people say that children
with this disease will not survive more than 6 years but I am living proof that
this is not so. In fact I am setting a record. It is because of my will power. I try
to be lighthearted though I know how serious it is. Now my eyesight is
deteriorating and I have no money for treatment. But I never feel like I’m going
to die from the disease. I hope to live a long life. I believe that what is most
important, besides having the basic things we need, is to live a life that has
value. We need goals in life, and to work hard to achieve them. As for me, my
aim is to help my aged grandparents and my sister. They are helping me so
much. I want to see my sister with a happy family. And being HIV-positive, I
want to dedicate my life to helping those who have AIDS.
I want to tell them not to get carried away with worrying about the sickness.
Be courageous. Sickness is curable and people say this will be curable too. If
the worst comes we must be ready to face it. Until then we need to keep going
to doctors and following their advice. I dream and hope for a world where
there is no sickness. I would do all I could to make it possible for everyone to
work, except the sick and the aged. I would encourage people to practice their
religion, not blindly but out of conviction. I would lead people away from being
separated by caste, creed, nationality, politics, or any other kind of division.

Please pray for me and my family and all of us in the Rainbow Project.

Johnson, age 17


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Johnson asks you to remember him, his family and those in the
      Rainbow Aids Program in your prayers. Take a moment to pray for
      them now. Pray also for all who are sick.

   2. Even in the face of death, Johnson’s positive attitude toward life is a
      sign of hope for many. In fact he believes it’s his positive approach to
      life that has kept him alive this long. What about your own attitude
      toward life? Does Johnson have anything to say to you?

   3. Where do you need healing in your life? After a time of quiet reflection
      on this question, pray in the words of the Centurion. “Lord I am not
      worth to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and I will be
      healed.”


Closing Prayer

Lord, our God help us to prepare for the coming of Christ your Son. May he
find us waiting, eager in joyful prayer. We ask this through our Lord Jesus
Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.


                                         9
                    Tuesday, First Week of Advent
                            December 5

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 10: 21-24

At that time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and said, "I praise
you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from
the wise and learned, and made them known to the little ones. Yes, Father,
such has been your gracious will. I have been given all things by my Father,
so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the
Father except the Son and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, "Fortunate are
you to see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings would
have liked to see what you see but did not, and to hear what you hear but did
not hear it."


Reflection

Australia is a country rich in natural resources. It has an internationally
competitive, advanced market economy. Its environment is unique and
fragile. It faces many social challenges including reconciliation with its
Aboriginal past and the cries of peoples from other parts of Asia seeking the
safety of its shores.

Patrick attends a Marist school and is respected by many of his fellow
students. At seventeen, he is not blind to the injustices around him. He asks
himself very difficult questions and appears ready face the challenges before
him to create a better world

My name is Patrick; I’m a seventeen-year-old Australian and a practicing
Catholic. I attend - as the College Captain of 2006 - Marist Brothers Ashgrove,
and live in a world offering me countless opportunities. My wish is for others to
have the same wonderful life with which I have been blessed. As I look at the
world in which I live, I see a great deal of injustice. Many are born into the
harsh world of poverty, with limited opportunities for education, basic nutrition
and living, and yet few have the privileges I so often take for granted. For me,
the world must be changed. For too long, poverty has oppressed people of the
world. For too long, the fortunate have sat back letting these injustices occur.
As an adolescent, and in the future, I know that each individual has the power


                                       10
to make a difference, each individual possesses the power to pursue his or
her dreams. My dream is of a world of equality, a world where everyone
considers all others as family, a world no longer plagued by the injustices of
poverty. I wholeheartedly believe that with God beside me, my potential – like
all children of God – becomes limitless, and my dreams become achievable.
“Changes can come from the power of many, but only when the many come
together to form that which is invincible, the power of one.” (The Power of
One) Only as a united body with a common goal can the world, its people and
its leaders hope to achieve the changes necessary for the world to become
what it was always meant to be, a place of love, freedom and happiness for
all. It is time for us to stop asking, “Why is the world the way it is?” and start
asking, “What can I do to help?” The actions of every individual will ultimately
contribute to create the world of the future; hence the responsibility rests on
us all. I pray for a better tomorrow for the world in which we live, for God to
bring opportunities and equality to those less fortunate in the world than
myself and for all people everywhere, that they may find God in their journeys
of life. I pray for the current and future leaders of the world, that they set their
sights on noble goals, that their decisions are made with courage, love and
compassion, and that they serve the common good of all mankind. May God
guide us all through our journeys of life, may we live as Jesus taught us, to
love one another as family, may our characters shine with the qualities given
to us by the Lord, and may all people experience the opportunities to nurture
these qualities and live to their full potential as children of God.

Patrick, age 17


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Patrick’s dream for a world of equality where all are “as family” are
      quite profound and appealing, especially when they come from
      someone so young. Read them again.

   2. Could it be that these thoughts are an example of what Jesus meant
      when he praised the Father saying “what you have hidden from the
      learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest of children?”

   3. Today, remember to give attention and respect to the dreams of the
      young people around you.


Closing Prayer

God of mercy and consolation, help us in our weakness and free us from sin.
Hear our prayers that we may rejoice at the coming of your Son, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                         11
                  Wednesday, First Week of Advent
                          December 6

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
     -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:29-37

From there Jesus went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into the
hills where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the
blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. The people
carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them. All were astonished
when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed and
the blind able to see; so they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus called his
disciples and said to them, "I am filled with compassion for these people; they
have already followed me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not
want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way." His disciples
said to him, "And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed
such a crowd?" Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They
answered, "Seven, and a few small fish." So Jesus ordered the people to sit
on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the small fish and gave
thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to his disciples, who distributed
them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover broken
pieces filled seven wicker baskets.


Reflection

Situated on the equator on Africa's east coast, Kenya is one of Africa’s more
politically-stable countries. In recent years Kenya has taken the lead in trying
to negotiate a peaceful end to the fighting going on in Somalia and in the
Sudan. On the domestic front, Kenya faces many challenges including high
unemployment, crime and poverty; most Kenyans live below the poverty level
of $1 a day. Moreover, a long-running regional drought has put millions of
Kenyans in need of food aid.

Ogaga is not a real person. His story is a composite of many stories that can
be told by Kenyan children. It comes to us from one of our Kenyan brothers
who lived and taught in Orore for many years. He has met many young
people like Ogaga over the years.




                                       12
For those who would like to listen to me, my name is Ogaga and I am 16
years old. I was born in a small village of Orore in Gwassi, Suba District on
the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya. I am an orphan. I was born in a poor
family and my parents were both peasant farmers. Occasionally, my father did
work as a fisherman just to support the family especially when the garden
crops failed due to lack of adequate rainfall, a famous tradition along the lake
region. When I was in grade 5, my father passed away. It was a difficult
moment for me being the firstborn son. I knew what it meant to be without the
father. I cried and cried but he could not come back to life. His death was
untimely. I asked God why he had decided to take my father but he kept quiet
because I knew that he was the one who had taken him. I remained with my
mother and my three siblings. At the end of my grade 7, I received news that
my mother had passed away in the hospital. Being the only parent left, this
news left me with very little hope because I knew how mom loved us and how
she cared for us after the death of my father. The pain of losing both parents
was too much for me to bear but this is the lived experience or reality of many
young people in this area of Orore. I buried my mother and every day I prayed
for my parents because they loved us so much. From this time onwards I
became a parent without choosing. Since my grandmother could not afford to
feed all of us, I decided to assist her in looking for food. At night I used to go
fishing and during the day, I attended classes in the Marist primary school
where I was a student. Life continued this way till I finished my secondary
school education last year. My experience of life as an orphan, has taught me
a lot. My hope is to continue with my studies if God allows because I have
anyone to pay for my college fees and to take care of my sisters and my
grandmother. To wind up, I would like to encourage my fellow young people to
trust in God and to share their experiences with others. The loss of my
parents, the poverty in my family and the experiences of school life have
taught me to believe in God, to trust in God and to love God and all the
people. Many thanks go to the Marist brothers, my teachers and my friends
who have loved me till now.


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Jesus was moved with pity at the sight of the crowds. Many were sick,
      some were unable to walk, others not able to speak, and still others,
      not able to see. An even larger number were hungry. They came
      looking for a cure. They came looking for food.

   2. In their own way, children like Ogaga come looking for relief and for
      food to help them continue their journey through life. Spend some time
      reflection on them.

   3. Let us take a moment to remember the many people who pass through
      our lives in the course of a day who are looking for something that will
      encourage them in life. We pray for a rebirth of compassion in our
      hearts.




                                       13
Closing Prayer

Lord our God, grant that we may be ready to receive Christ when he comes in
glory and to share in the banquets of heaven, where he lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                     14
                    Thursday, First Week of Advent
                             December 7

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
     -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 7: 21, 24-27

Not everyone who says to me: Lord! Lord! will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. "So, then, anyone who
hears these words of mine and acts accordingly is like a wise man, who built
his house on rock. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and
struck that house, but it did not collapse because it was built on rock. But
anyone who hears these words of mine and does not act accordingly, is like a
fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the
wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible fall that
was!"


Reflection

The US is the world's foremost economic and military power. Not so long
ago, it was a country which took pride in the fact that it was a "melting pot" of
ethnic and racial diversity. As in the early 1960s when racial tensions led to
marches and boycotts and a federal law to outlaw discrimination, this core
element of American ideology finds itself once again in question as issues of
immigration increase public tension.

Wander is a student at a Marist school in New York. His parents are from the
Dominican Republic. He will be the first in his family to attend a university of
higher learning. He stands at a crossroad.

True reflection requires deep introspection, or an examination of oneself.
Those who are adept at accomplishing this feat usually know themselves
best. My name is Wander and I am a proud student of Mount Saint Michael
Academy in Bronx, New York. I am the child of Dominican parents who sought
opportunity over poverty. My passions include helping others, basketball, and
music. Most importantly, I feel that the greatest gift is giving. Next year I will
be attending college and there are mixed emotions about that. On one hand, I
feel the enormous pressure of being the first person in my family to attend a
big time college, on the other it is exhilarating to realize my parent’s dreams.
This uneasiness causes me to question my abilities.



                                        15
Growing up in an extremely mixed, urban community, I have seen the worst of
society. All who are able to overcome these circumstances are “roses that
grew from concrete.” Being blessed with the chance to attend a Marist school
has permitted me to blossom and see the best in people. The world around
me is filled with illusions of success based on finances. People go against all
odds to acquire wealth, even if it means being immoral. The sad reality of this
causes me to reminisce on a metaphorical world in which all is good. Quickly I
realize that this is Heaven. From this bleak surrounding, I find tranquility in the
few who do live their lives righteously. The Mount is located in the midst of the
same problems that strangle my own neighborhood. It’s commitment to
educate and love young men is a testament to the work of St. Marcellin
Champagnat. The world around us has a glimmer of hope because of people
like the Marist Brothers and institutions like the Mount. It makes the world a
better place.

Wander, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Wander has reason to be proud. He will be the first in his family to
      attend a university. Yet he stands at a crossroad with a certain degree
      of fear and humility. He knows that his family has sacrificed a great
      deal to get him to this point in his life. Nothing for Wander or his family
      has come easy.

   2. Today’s Gospel shows us the difference between a house whose
      foundation is built on sand and a house whose foundation is built on
      rock. Wander’s foundation appears strong. What about your
      foundation?

   3. Take some moments to give thanks for the many immigrants who have
      moved into your country. Why did they come? What were they
      searching for? What have they given to the foundation of your
      country?


Closing Prayer

Father, we need your help. Free us from sin and bring us to life. Support us
by your power. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                        16
                    Friday, First Week of Advent
                 Feast of the Immaculate Conception
                             December 8

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
     -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee
called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin who was betrothed to a man
named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. The
angel came to her and said, "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you." Mary
was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But
the angel said, "Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You
shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great
and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him
the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob for-
ever and his reign shall have no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can
this be if I am a virgin?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come
upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the
holy child to be born shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth
is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child,
and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible." Then
Mary said, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have
said." And the angel left her.


Reflection

A key player on the world stage and a country at the political heart of Europe,
France sent shockwaves through European Union capitals when voters
rejected the proposed EU constitution in a referendum in May 2005.
Recently, the country has experienced civil unrest over racial and cultural
issues related to immigration and job security for young people.

At twelve years of age, Sébastien is troubled by family disintegration and the
poverty he sees around him. He worries over growing violence at home and
is the world. Sébastien lives in a small commune at Allier in France, about
thirty kilometers from Vichy. Being the eldest in the family, he has a brother
and two sisters. His father is a teacher in an establishment within the Marist



                                       17
network. Sébastien attends this school. His mother is a nurse in a house for
elderly brothers.

My name is Sébastien, I am 12 years old and I am French. I play music:
percussion instruments (xylophone and drums); I chose percussion because I
like rhythm. I find these instruments extraordinary; it gives me a lot of pleasure
and makes me proud to play in an orchestra. I also play a sport that motivates
me a lot: tennis. On the other hand, school is not my strong point, but there
are some subjects in which I get good marks. I often go to Mass and I like to
sing; my deepest desire would be to have a voice like Jean-Baptiste Maunier.
I am preparing for my confirmation; it is important for me to take a greater
responsibility for my Christian life. Usually, I am happy to be alive, for I have
good friends; I have a good family whom I love; it makes me feel good to be
surrounded by them. And I see my future in an optimistic way. I would like to
be like my sports teacher because he is good and just. Concerning the things
that upset me, there are of course all the wars in the world, misery and
unhappy children. There are also separated families: my godmother is
divorced. Around me, my friends make fun of God a bit; and we cannot speak
about this subject amongst ourselves because they are not Christians. Even
though we are one of the richest countries, there are people who die from the
cold in winter. I have friends who get angry with their parents and I think that
is a pity. It is my family who gives me confidence, my parents in particular.

I would like you to pray for the people who do not get along or who do not
respect each other and also for the poor people.

Sébastien, age 12


Points for Your Reflection

   1. The gospel of today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception, recalls the
      great faith and open acceptance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to God’s
      will. Because of her “yes” to God, Jesus becomes present in the world.

   2. Sébastien is young and involved in many things in life. He takes his
      faith seriously and seems prepared to accept the responsibility for
      being a Christian in a not too Christian world. Read once again about
      the things that concern him at this young age.

   3. What can you do to support the many other young people like
      Sébastien whom you encounter everyday in your area of the world?


Closing Prayer

Father, you prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of your Son.
You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death,
and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Help us by her
prayers to live in your presence without sin. We ask this through our Lord


                                       18
Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                      19
                    Saturday, First Week of Advent
                             December 9

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
     -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 9: 35-10, 1, 6-8

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues
and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and he cured every sickness
and disease. When he saw the crowds he was moved with pity, for they were
harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his
disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the workers are only few. Ask the
master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest."
Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority over the
unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: Go instead to the lost
sheep of the people of Israel. Go and proclaim this message: The kingdom of
heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers,
and drive out demons. You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift.


Reflection

Mexico is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendor and urban blight
rub shoulders.

Alejandro lives in the federal district, the center of government and economic
growth. Alejandro is lucky to be born in a family where hard work and mutual
support have provided stability and a level of comfort. Despite this, Alejandro
is not immune to or ignorant of the troubles around him. Notice the positive
effect his school environment and education has had on his faith and social
development. The right to an education is fundamental to a person’s
development.

My name is Alejandro, I am twelve years old and I am Mexican. I live in
Mexico. I like watching television, playing nintendo and soccer, going to the
cinema and doing lots of other things. I have two brothers who are called José
Manuel and Santiago; the latter is my twin. My father’s name is José Manuel
and my mother’s name is Ana Maria. In my life, I have experienced things that
have made me very sad: two years ago my cousin Christopher died, and last


                                       20
year my little dog died. I loved them both. Both were run over by a car. I cried
a lot, even at school. I am happy at school because I have friends there with
whom I can play and talk. I know that I will always be able to count on them.
My parents support me a great deal, except when my brothers and I fight. My
dad works a lot, but in his free time he is with me. My mother is also very
busy, but she is always close to me. They get me everything I ask them for
and I am not exaggerating. At home we do not have problems with money and
time. I can tell this to people I know well, but to others no, because they look
at me with a strange face. My mother told me that she went to school on foot.
Mexico was safer then and there were fewer cars, but they don’t let me go to
school alone. I believe that Mexico is a country with a lot of beautiful
traditions, but there is little security. Before, my neighborhood was nearly
empty, but lately it is full of cars and garbage. What gives me hope is to speak
with people who help me, to see something amusing, or simply to think that
there will be a better future for the world, for my country, for my neighborhood,
for the poor. I want more schools to be built so that no child goes without the
chance to study and so that we all have the same opportunities I have had.

 I would like you to pray for the poor, because my teacher told me that the
poor are the reflection of the face of God.

Alejandro, age 12


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Today’s gospel challenges us to “go instead after the lost sheep of the
      house of Israel.” Who are the “lost sheep” in your area of the world?
      Name them.

   2. Alejandro appears to have all he needs to succeed in life: resources,
      the possibility of an education, and parents who are supportive,
      attentive and not afraid to give him direction. Yet his world is not
      always a safe place. There will be dangers ahead.

   3. Some are not as lucky as Alejandro. What can you do today to reach
      out to one or two of the “lost sheep” around you?


Closing Prayer

God our Father, you loved the world so much you gave your Son to free us
from the ancient power of sin and death. Help us who wait for your coming,
and lead us to true liberty. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your
Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.




                                       21
                       Second Sunday of Advent
                            December 10

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11

And when I pray for you, I pray with joy. I cannot forget all you shared with me
in the service of the Gospel, from the first day until now. Since God began
such a good work in you, I am certain that he will complete it in the day of
Christ Jesus.

God knows that I love you dearly with the love of Christ Jesus, and in my
prayers I ask that your love may lead you each day to a deeper knowledge
and clearer discernment, that you may have good criteria for everything. So
you may be pure of heart and come blameless to the day of Christ, filled with
the fruit of holiness which comes through Christ Jesus, for the glory and
praise of God.


Reflection

Syria is a country of fertile plains, mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse
ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Alawite
Shias and Druze, as well as the Arab Sunnis who make up a majority of the
Muslim population. Christians are in the minority. Having achieved its
independence from France in 1946, today the country is run by a dictatorship
and is finding itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the international
community over allegations of support for terrorism and involvement of
political assignations.

Bassel is eighteen years old and, like many young people his age, is
struggling to make a decent living to help support his family. With his health a
constant worry, he still maintains hope that one day he will have a better
future. The support he receives from caring adults and chances to learn a
marketable skill are keys to his success.

My name is Bassel. I was born at Aleppo. I am eighteen years of age. I have
two sisters. Dad works as a textile worker and my mother does not work
because of her eyes. My sisters go to the public school. Our house is small.



                                       22
I abandoned school in 6th grade (primary) to work and help dad. I left my work
in a barber’s shop very quickly because I was suffering from rheumatism of
the blood. My illness and also that of my mother has cost us a lot of money.
Currently, I work with dad and I earn thirty American dollars each month.
I have known the Marist Brothers through the scouting movement. I really like
this scout group that the brothers have set up in our poor neighborhood. It
allows me to discover the true face of God. The brothers are also helping me
to study computer programs. I dream of pushing my studies further to be able
to work abroad and assure a better future. Thanks to the brothers and to my
faith in Jesus, I will get there.

I would like to say to you at the end that you can have all things thanks to your
prayer.

Bassel, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. “I am sure of this much: he who began the good work in you will carry it
      through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus.” Offer a
      prayer of thanksgiving for God’s great love for you.

   2. Bassel has had a difficult life. He is torn between helping his family,
      wanting to continue his education, and wanting to have a better future
      away from home. His health is a constant worry to him and the rest of
      his family. Yet in all this, he is confident in his faith. “Thanks to the
      brothers and to my faith in Jesus, I will get there.”

   3. How can you be an agent of God’s love for those you meet today?


Closing Prayer

God of power and mercy, Open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things
that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom
and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       23
                  Monday, Second Week of Advent
                           December 11

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom.
Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendor
of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see
the glory of Yahweh, the majesty of our God. Give vigor to weary hands and
strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid: "Have courage, do
not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who
rewards, the God who comes to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be
opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a stag
and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the
wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will
become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once
reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes. There will be a highway
which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor
any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey.
Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of Yahweh will return:
with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness
and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.


Reflection

Argentina is rich in resources, has a well-educated workforce and is one of
South America's largest economies. In 2001 an economic collapse left more
than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest. In 2003
recovery began with the help of a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Argentina restructured its debt and within a few years paid back its loan and
took additional measures to become more stable. Poverty and unemployment
are still high, but progress is being made.

Jonathan and his friends meet at a Marist school in Rosario, Argentina to
discuss the problems they see around them. Besides the economic strategies
offered to bring recovery, Jonathan reminds us of the personal and social
responsibility we all have to construct a more just society.


                                       24
Hello, I am Jonathan, I am eighteen years of age and I live in Rosario,
Argentina with my family and my friends. I am a boy like any other, with my
dreams, my aims, my problems and all that an adolescent experiences from
day to day. Every weekend, I participate in a meeting at the Marist school with
a group of young people where we speak about our problems and try to help
the others in any way we can since the situation in our neighborhood is not
very good. There are a lot of material needs; there is hunger and
unemployment, and also needs of the heart, the lack of love, of
understanding, etc. Some of my difficulties come from the fact that people
around me do not always agree with my decisions, and because of that, often
I cannot attain my goals. However, there is always the light of hope, which
assures me that I am not alone and that I have friends, members of my family
and especially God who accompanies me always. These prevent me from
falling even though I feel overwhelmed by so many things that I must face in
my life.

I want to say to those who will read this reflection that, by prayer, we can be
united. Think of all the people who need a hug, an ear to listen, a shoulder to
rest on, so that their dreams do not vanish and that they are sure that from
now on they have a new friend.

Jonathan, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Today’s scripture reading speaks of liberation and restoration. Spend a
      few moments reflecting on how the reading touched you.

   2. Jonathan is confident in God’s presence in his life. His friends and
      family assure him and watch over him. It is through their acts of love,
      that God is present to him.

   3. Jonathan asks you to “think of all the people who need a hug, an ear to
      listen and a shoulder to rest on so that their dreams do not vanish.”
      Take a moment and reflect on how you can make this reading from
      Isaiah a reality for those like Jonathan. Doing so, makes “solidarity” a
      way of liberation and a sign of restoration.


Closing Prayer

Lord, free us from our sins and make us whole. Hear our prayer, and prepare
us to celebrate the incarnation of your Son, who lives, and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       25
                   Tuesday, Second Week of Advent
                       Our Lady of Guadalupe
                            December 12

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 18: 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: “What do you think of this? If someone has a
hundred sheep and one of them strays, won't he leave the ninety-nine on the
hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you: when he finally finds it,
he is more pleased about it than about the ninety-nine that did not get lost”.


Reflection

Brazil is South America's biggest and most influential country and takes up
almost half the continent. It is one of the world's economic giants and is
revered for its football prowess, coffee production and distinctive music. It
includes much of the world's biggest rain forest around the Amazon, whose
exploitation has become a major environmental worry.

Even at his young age, Rafael has begun to confront one of the contradictions
and injustices that many children his age face in the world: children being
forced to work in order to survive. He wonders why these children are not
able to enjoy their childhood or attend school.

My name is Rafael, I am seven years old and I live in Brazil, a very big
country, rich in nature and a lots of animals. But what is more beautiful is that
there are children here. I have a lot of friends and I love going to their place or
inviting them to mine. I am happy and very clever, but some things make me
sad. Near my house, there is a very nice place… where people can play and
fly their kites. It is called “Place of the Pope” because that is where Pope John
Paul II visited and blessed our town. On Sundays when I go to fly my kite with
my father, I see a lot of children who are selling coconut milk, kites, popcorn,
balls, juices, etc. I find that strange because they should also be playing like
me. My father calls some of them to play with us and that makes me very
happy and fills my heart with joy. I believe that Jesus, my friend, would do the
same thing. I imagine that He would gather all the children who would make a



                                         26
large circle around him under a tree and he would tell us a story. He would
tell us that a child’s place is in a school and near their family.

Because of that, I would like everyone to pray for the children of my country.
They need affection, care and games.

Rafael, age 7


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Imagine, at seven years of age Rafael is caught by surprise to see
      other children his age having to work instead of having the right to
      enjoy childhood. Rafael knows there is an injustice in this.

   2. The Gospel reading today reminds us that “it is not part of your
      heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these least ones shall ever
      come to grief.”

   3. Child Labor is an issue of justice and a violation of child rights. Be
      attentive to those children around you who are forced to work due to
      circumstances or situations beyond their control. As a follower of
      Christ, put into action the words of Jesus and see that not “a single one
      of these least ones ever comes to grief.”


Closing Prayer

Almighty God, help us to look forward to the glory of the birth of Christ our
Savior: his coming is proclaimed joyfully to the ends of the earth, for he lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       27
                 Wednesday, Second Week of Advent
                          December 13

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 11: 28-30

Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will
refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and
humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is good and my burden is
light."


Reflection

Vanuatu - a string of more than 80 islands once known as the New Hebrides -
achieved independence from France and Britain in 1980. Most of the islands
are inhabited; some have active volcanoes and tropical rainforests abound.
Around three-quarters of the population live in rural areas and practice
subsistence agriculture.

Lydia is fifteen years old and is struggling to survive, to get an education, and
to find work. Many young people in Vanuatu are struggling to do the same.

My name is Lydia and I am fifteen years of age. I was born at Vanuatu, a very
beautiful country of eighty-seven islands. Everything is green because the
climate is tropical, hot and humid. It often rains here. I am a student at the
Saint-Michel technical college, a mixed college that teaches young people
useful knowledge for life. We girls learn cooking, catering, sewing, infant care
and typing. I very much like my college where I have spent four years. I have
a lot of friends and the college is very clean as we do the cleaning each
morning. I love my country with its volcanoes, its mountain and the sea. My
country lives in peace with its neighbors. I love music and the rhythms of a
string band. Here, no one is left on the side of the road, whether they be
orphaned, handicapped or bubu (elderly). Even those who cannot find work
find a place in a friend’s family. When I look around me, I find that my parents
have to work hard to pay for my studies; they gather copra and then sell it.
Sometimes it is poorly paid and that is a problem for finding the money for
school! What also bothers me is that my little brothers and little sisters have to
stay at home. Some days, I am quite worried about the national exam at the
end of the year and also because I do not know what I am going to do


                                       28
afterwards to earn a living or continue my studies. There are few jobs. I see a
lot of people loitering in the streets of the town. If I fail my exam, I will have to
work the land and cultivate yams, taros and manioc to feed my family in the
village. But I would like to do something else and have a salary. I hope that
my country will be developed, that the people will continue to respect each
other. The motto of my country is “Long God yumi stanap”. That means “With
God we stand tall.” I like this motto very much; I find that it is well chosen and
that it helps us, young Vanuatuans, to live well as Christians.

Lydia, age 15


Points for Your Reflection

   1. The season of Advent is approaching the half-way point. The Lord
      calls us and asks us to find rest in him. Take a few moments to rest in
      God’s presence.

   2. What a luxury it is to rest. One wonders if Lydia can find some rest
      from all the pressures she faces in life. Think about her life for a few
      moments.

   3. With the challenges she faces, she has a remarkable sense of hope
      and faith. This hope and faith is not only for her, it is for her country.
      Today, make the motto of her country your motto for the day: “Long
      God yumi stanap.” (With God we stand tall.)


Closing Prayer

All-powerful Father, we await the healing power of Christ your Son. Let us not
be discouraged by our weaknesses as we prepare for his coming. Keep us
steadfast in your love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.




                                         29
                  Thursday, Second Week of Advent
                            December 14

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Isaiah 41: 13-20

For I, Yahweh, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: "Fear
not, I am your assistance." Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of
Israel, so frail. I am your redeemer, says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, your
helper. I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth: you will
thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will
winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But
you will rejoice in Yahweh and glory in the Holy One of Israel. The poor and
the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I, Yahweh, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will
open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the
valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a
land of springs. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle
and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine - that all may
see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of Yahweh has done
this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.


Reflection

Almost 2 million of Manila's 2.5 million children younger than 15 years old live
on or below the poverty line. 75,000 of these children live on the streets after
having run away from home or being abandoned. They beg, steal, scavenge
for food, and sell newspapers, cigarettes, and garlands of flowers. About
20,000 of the street children prostitute themselves.

Prior to his being in Marcellin Home, the market place was Joevelon’s refuge
for three years. At age twelve, he learned to survive the harsh demands of
living, unaware of the imminent risks it entailed. “Velon,” as he’s fondly called,
did errands for market stall owners, worked as a vendor of goods, and at
night, slept where ever he could in the market place with no blanket for
comfort.

I lived in the market for three years because I could not stand my home
environment. Realities in the squatter’s area and the difficulty of living at


                                        30
home without a mother led me to be on my own. I couldn’t relate well with my
father. It was a difficult life for me. For three years, the market was my home.
I had to work to earn money so as to be able to buy my food. During the day,
I cleaned myself by going swimming in the nearby sea. At night, I would get a
piece of newspaper and find a corner to sleep. There were nights when it was
very cold and I could not sleep. In Marcellin Home, my life was given direction.
I finished my high school and I learned how to drive well and do electrical
work. I am also a mechanic and I enjoy doing the job. I was very lucky
because I traveled to Rome and other places during the Canonization of St.
Marcellin [1999]. I will not forget my experience. I thank Marcellin Home for
letting me live a normal life, for having a “second father” in Bro. Crispin, and
for helping me to give my life direction.

I am happy because in Marcellin Home, I have the blanket I need on those
cold nights…

Joevelon, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Almost 2 million of Manila’s 2.5 million children younger than 15 years
      old live on or below the poverty level. 75,000 of these children live on
      the streets.

   2. “The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain; their tongues are
      parched with thirst. I, the Lord, will answer them; I, the God of Israel,
      will not forsake them.”

   3. How many homeless young people like Joevelon live on your streets?
      Look closely. Many are not easily seen.


Closing Prayer

Almighty Father, give us the joy of your love to prepare the way for Christ our
Lord. Help us to serve you and one another. We ask this through our Lord
Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       31
                    Friday, Second Week of Advent
                             December 15

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Isaiah 48: 17-19

Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, Yahweh, your
God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go.
Had you paid attention to my commandments, your peace would have been
like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants
would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains,
their names never cut off nor blotted out from my presence.


Reflection

For three decades Malawi's destiny was tied to the whims of a totalitarian
president-for-life, but pressure to hold popular elections in the mid-1990’s
ushered in a new era of democracy when a new president was elected.
Today, social problems persist, including poverty and the high rate of HIV-
Aids infection. Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but the food
supply situation is unstable and the country is prone to natural disasters of
both extremes - from drought to heavy rainfalls - putting it in constant need of
thousands of tons of food aid every year.

The Banda we refer to in the reflection below, is not a real person. Our
brothers in Malawi interviewed several children and sent this combined
refection giving an insight into several challenges the young people of Malawi
face on a daily basis.

We are really surviving not living. The environment is not conducive for the
proper upbringing of a future leader and a citizen. Rural areas are always
neglected, like latecomers who always eat bones. The teachers are not
qualified, the equipment is either poor or scarce, no laboratories, no libraries,
experiments for practical subjects are done using TALULAR – (Teaching and
Learning Using Available Resources) of which most are inappropriate. My
parents like many others depend on rain-fed agriculture. It is not even fit to be
called subsistence farming as we fail to produce enough for our consumption.
My education demands thousands of Kwachas from these dry fields that have
hardly produced anything. In 2005-2006 Malawi experienced a dry spell that


                                       32
led to the infamous drought and hunger. My parents had to dig deep into their
pockets to send me to school. The children in Balaka are weeping. Parents
and relatives have gone before us as HIV/Aids is wreaking havoc, leaving
them responsible for households or taken care of by a single parent especially
mothers. It is not easy to be a child. Many entice me to drink alcohol or take a
drug to forget my problems. Others have discouraged me. They actually don’t
see the difference that an education has on the life of a rural Malawian,
because after such toiling there is hardly any chance to get employed. People
of good will are trying to patch the pieces of this life through orphanages,
bursaries, youth groups and adoption of children. But as they say, it never
rains but it pours. The malice of tribalism, ethnicity, corruption, embezzling of
public funds meant for the poor has crept in and unfortunately settled and
taken root. Friends out there, reason with me. Are these problems or
difficulties? Do you expect me and my colleagues to compete with the well to
do? Can I concentrate in class with all these financial problems? Will I be able
to run away from initiation ceremonies? Do you expect me to survive? Do you
expect my future to be bright and promising?

Remember I am a future leader, a church leader of tomorrow, a civil leader
soon. What kind of citizens will rural areas like Balaka produce for Mother
Malawi?


Points for Your Reflection

   1. “Remember, I am a future leader, a church leader of tomorrow, a civil
      leader soon.” Can these words not be the words of the prophet Elijah
      today? “Like a fire there appeared Elijah whose words were flaming
      furnaces.”

   2. It is said a child lives what he learns. What kind of a society will these
      children bring forth when they are of age?

   3. Reflect on the environment the young people in your area are exposed
      to. What needs to be done to make it a more supportive and healthy
      place for growth? What is your role in this?


Closing Prayer

All-powerful God, help us to look forward in hope to the coming of our Savior.
May we live as he has taught, ready to welcome him with burning love and
faith. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       33
                  Saturday, Second Week of Advent
                            December 16

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Isaiah 2: 1-5

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the
last days, the mountain of Yahweh's house shall be set over the highest
mountains and shall tower over the hills. All the nations shall stream to it,
saying, "Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God
of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths. For
the Teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of Yahweh.
He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will
beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation
will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more. O nation of
Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!


Reflection

Military rule, corruption, a huge wealth gap, crime and natural disasters have
rendered Honduras one of the least developed and least secure countries in
Central America.

Gabi is 18 years old and like many young people her age; she is trying to find
her way in life. It is a challenge we all face every day, regardless of our age,
gender, religious, cultural and social backgrounds.

Hello, I am Gabi. I am eighteen years of age and I live in Honduras with my
parents and my two brothers. I belong to a group of young people. Our parish
priest is very severe and he wants us to behave like adults. The reality is that
our group has no one to look after it, because many adults say that working
with young people is truly a pain in the neck. At home the situation is different.
My parents listen to me attentively and correct me when I make mistakes.
From time to time we have meaningful discussions. I am a student at the
Marist Institute of the Immaculate Conception, in the town of Comayagua.
Here, the brothers and the teachers listen to and welcome our initiatives, our
ideas and our youthful expressions. There is a good atmosphere of dialogue
in a climate of mutual respect and acceptance of the school rules.



                                       34
At the moment, my question is: To what point do the adults of our society help
us to grow? If they do not influence us well or neglect to deal with us all
together, will television or fashion fix the rules for us? Some complain about
our lack of seriousness and restlessness. I think that instead of criticizing us,
they should focus their energies to help us test our youthful ideas in the
struggle to achieve the common good. In my country, there are many young
people who belong to gangs, which they incorrectly call “families.” They
belong to these gangs because they seek after the understanding, affection,
respect and attention that they do not find in their broken homes. They take up
drugs, extreme violence and debauchery, and lose of meaning. They are
unschooled children and young people who have no possibility of finding
worthwhile work due to the social and economic reality of our country.
Within these groups of young people, many talents that could be
advantageous for society are lost. I have known some young people in the
gangs who draw very well and with the appropriate training could become
artists and be useful to our society. There are also young people whose
parents renounce their responsibilities and give way to all their whims, in order
to “be freed from the worry of the children.”

We, who are trying to be responsible, are convinced that only an education in
responsibility and in dialogue with adults will be able to redeem our country
from the social prejudices from which we suffer today. A well lived youth will
assure success as an adult.

Gabi, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. We are at the half-way point in the season of Advent. How prepared
      am I for the Lord’s coming?

   2. Gabi is searching for acceptance and respect. Others her age are so
      desperate for acceptance and respect they have joined gangs they call
      families. Gabi is fearful for these young people because they and their
      talents may be lost and given over to the forces of destruction.

   3. What can I do this day to turn “swords and spears” (instruments of
      destruction and death) into “plowshares and pruning hooks”
      (instruments of cultivation and life)?


Closing Prayer

Lord, let your glory dawn to take away our darkness. May we be revealed as
children of light at the coming of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       35
                        Third Sunday of Advent
                             December 17

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Philippians 4: 4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: rejoice and may everyone
experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near: do not be
anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication
together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God. Then the
peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus.


Reflection

Amaobi is 18 years old, and lives in an overcrowded slum in Iva Valley, in
Enugu, Nigeria. The settlement was built by the colonial masters to
accommodate those who worked in the coal mines. The mines have long
since been exhausted. Time, a rapid growth of the population, and neglect on
the part of government officials have left the settlement to decay. Amaobi
lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with his parents and 8 other siblings.

My name is Amaobi. I am a “Senior Secondary Class 1” student of the
Government Boys Technical College. I live with my parents, four brothers and
four sisters. I am the fourth in the family and the eldest boy. My dad is a
retired coal worker and now has no job. My mum is a pity trader here in Iva
Valley. She uses whatever profits she makes to support the family’s needs.
My mum and dad often quarrel. This started when the Nigerian Coal
Corporation stopped paying my dad’s salary and my mum could not meet the
needs of the family. The quarrelling and fighting disturbs my studies and I feel
ashamed especially when neighbors are around. I don’t study or pray
properly when they have misunderstandings. The frustrating aspect of it all is
that when they are arguing with each other, each looks to me for support and
justification of their argument. If I agree with one, the other accuses me of
taking sides. I try as much as I can to keep whatever is happening at home
behind me and work hard at school. When I have a personal need I go to Br.
Basil for help. I ask him for jobs in exchange for money. I use part of the
money that I earn working for Br. Basil for my younger brothers and sisters
and for my transportation to and from school. Now I do not always depend on
my parents to meet my needs. I am happy though, because I have started


                                       36
practicing what I am learning at the technical College. I can repair some
minor fault in my radio and TV which I hope will help me in the future when I
graduate from school. My plan for the future is to work hard at my studies so
that I can pass my NBTEB and JAMB examinations and qualify for university
admission. I hope to study Mechanical Engineering.

What I want is a favorable home environment where parents and their children
live in happiness and harmony. I want peace and love between parents in
every family. I look forward to start helping my parents someday.

Amaobi, age 18


Points for Your Reflection

   1. “The Lord himself is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.”

   2. Amaobi reminds us that not all justice issues involving children are
      dramatic media worthy events. Sometimes the cries of young people
      can be heard from the very place where peace and justice should
      reign…the home.

   3. Today, spend some time reflecting on how young people in your work
      are doing in their homes. How can you be in solidarity with them?


Closing Prayer

Lord God may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ,
experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and
thanksgiving. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                      37
                    Monday, Third Week of Advent
                            December 18
Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture reading: Jeremiah 23: 5-8

Yahweh further says, "The day is coming when I will raise up a king who is
David's righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and
righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and
Israel will live in safety. He will be called Yahweh-our-justice! "The days are
coming," says Yahweh, "when people shall no longer swear by Yahweh as the
living God who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they
will swear by Yahweh as the living God who restored the descendants of
Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where he had driven
them, to live again in their own land!"


Reflection

A patchwork of indigenous communities, people of colonial Spanish origins
and descendants of African slaves, Ecuador is a microcosm of Latin American
cultures. Traditionally an agrarian country, Ecuador's economy changed
radically after the 1960s, when industrial development and the discovery of oil
triggered rapid growth and progress in the spheres of health, education and
housing.

Jose is a young man whose spirit is not broken despite what he has seen and
experiences in his fifteen years of life. He stands as a testament to resilience
and as someone his other brothers and sisters can look to for hope and
guidance

My name is José and I am 15 years old. I live in the town of Quevedo, in the
province of Los Ríos, in Ecuador. I am now with the Marist Brothers in the
Casas Familia Project, with my two brothers; my other brothers and sisters
live in the prison with my mother and stepfather. This year I am in seventh
grade and will finish my primary studies. Last year, I did two years in one with
a lot of effort and despite being very tired. I am a little lazy and stubborn. At
the house there are eleven children and I am the oldest. I lived with my
grandmother from the time I was three months old until I was ten years old.
Then I was with my mother, but she was put into prison. My real father lives in
the city of Esmeraldas. I know him, but we hardly ever see each other. Before


                                       38
coming to Casas Familia, my situation was like that of other children who
accompany their parents in prison. If you have money, you can leave to study,
if not you spend the day wandering about. Sometimes people from the Church
come to visit you, but not often. In Casas Familia, people help us a lot. I have
been able to go to school, to study and I help with the housework. Before, I
used to spend weekends in prison with my mother. For a while, I have been
going to my grandparents. They were a bit annoyed because of what my
mother had done, but now it is ok. They help us as much as they can because
they are poor and what my grandfather earns is not enough for everyone,
especially because I have cousins who have lived with them since their
parents left for Italy. I sometimes have some pretty bad times, like when my
friends invite me to smoke, to steal and to drink. I suffer from not having my
parents beside me. As well, my mother has been fighting with another
prisoner and that has been a problem for her as well as for my brothers and
sisters who are with her. Despite all that, I see that it is good for me to study,
to live in Casas Familia with my Marist Brothers and to hope that one day my
parents will get out of prison.

I ask you to pray for them, so that they do not stay in prison for too long and
that we can return to being a family. I would like you also to pray for my
friends here in Casas Familia, for all the young people who live in prison with
their parents and for all the children in Ecuador.

José, age 15


Points for Your Reflection

   1. The days are coming says the Lord, …the Lord our justice!

   2. José waits for the day when his parents will get out of prison and he
      and his brothers and sisters can be reunited.

   3. Take a moment to pray for José and other innocent victims of this
      world’s system of justice.


Closing Prayer

Lord, hear our voices raised in prayer. Let the light of the coming of your Son
free us from the darkness of sin. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.




                                       39
                    Tuesday, Third Week of Advent
                            December 19

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3: 12-4:2

May the Lord increase more and more your love for each other and for all
people, as he increases our love for you. May he strengthen you interiorly to
be holy and blameless before God, our Father, on the day that Jesus, our
Lord, will come with all his saints. For the rest, brothers, we ask you in the
name of Jesus, the Lord, and we urge you to live in a way that pleases God,
just as you have learned from us. This you do, but try to do still more. You
know the instructions we gave you on behalf of the Lord Jesus.


Reflection

Guatemala is a country of natural beauty and a strong indigenous culture. In
1996 the country emerged from a 36-year-long civil war which left more than
200,000 people - the vast majority of them civilians – dead or missing. Today,
poverty is widespread, particularly in rural areas and in indigenous
communities. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the
highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common
with many of its neighbors, the country is plagued by organized crime, drug-
trafficking and violent street gangs.

Growing up has not been easy for Angie. She seeks security and a safe
place to live.

My name is Angie and I am fifteen years old. I was born in a little town in the
northern region of Guatemala. My parents have had five children as well as
me. My father is a bus driver and my mother is a housewife. The children all
study at the public school. I had to repeat my fourth grade because my
parents changed houses a lot and in the end I stopped going to school. My
house was pretty because it was an apartment building, but I did not like the
neighborhood as it was at the end of the district, and the space was too small
for all our family. I now live in a shelter for young people who come from
difficult situations. I came here three years ago because our living situation at
home became violent. I didn’t feel safe. My dad separated from my mother I
was nine years old because he had found another woman. When he would


                                       40
come back to the house to visit my dad would hit me because I was the oldest
of the children. He was like a madman. Our neighbors, tired of hearing our
cries, complained about him and a judge barred him from the house. Life in a
house like this, with companions, who have so many problems, is not all that
easy. I am not very tolerant and I get angry easily. They have put me in
charge of supervising the clean-up activities, and sometimes when I say
something to my companions about keeping our home clean, they talk back to
me and that infuriates me. Thus I shout at them and quarrel with them and
turn my back on them. I feel bad when the staff gives me punishments for
having done something bad, for example, when I get angry without any
reason, only because I am depressed or that I don’t like the activity that has
been given to my group. After three years in this place, the thing that
motivates me to stay and to profit from it is the chance that has been offered
to me to complete my studies. I know that the rest of my life depends on this.
If I do not have this tool in my hands, then I will not have a good future and I
am not going to do as well as I can as a person. My family also gives me
reasons to hope, especially my brothers who are all younger than I am. I can
be an example for them.

In all the countries of the world there are thousands of children like me who
cannot stay in their homes with their dear ones because of domestic violence.
Wouldn’t we all be happier if we could all live in peace, loving each other? We
all have the right to be treated as persons, even if we are still only little
persons.

Angie, age 15


Points for Your Reflection

   1. While at the same time encouraging, the scriptures tell us we must
      continue to make even greater progress in love and action. It is not an
      easy thing to do.

   2. It has not been an easy road for Angie, yet look at the progress she
      has made and is continuing to make.

   3. Today, let Angie be your model in resilience and endurance. During
      the difficult moments this day may hold, think of her. Offer a prayer for
      her.


Closing Prayer

Father of love, you made a new creation through Jesus Christ your Son.
May his coming free us from sin and renew his life within us, for he lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                      41
                  Wednesday, Third Week of Advent
                          December 20

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 3: 14-18

Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully
with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has lifted your sentence
and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do
not fear any misfortune. On that day they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be
afraid nor let your hands tremble, for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh,
saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love.
For you he will cry out with joy, as you do on the days of the Feast. I will drive
away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be shamed.


Reflection

Rwanda experienced Africa's worst genocide in modern times and is still
recovering from the shock.

Pierre is not a real person, but the story he tells is typical of what many
children, now adolescents, experienced during the genocide when millions of
them were killed. This reflection comes to us from one of our Rwandan
brothers.

I am Pierre, a young Rwandan orphan, aged fifteen. The war of 1994 took
place when I was hardly three years old. There are things that I remember
often and that make me afraid. But I get along well with other young people
my age. They like me and tell me that I am a happy person. I take into
account that those who do not know my story cannot guess my suffering. I
saw how my parents were killed. Someone whom I still do not know took me
from the back of my mother who was already dead. And that is how I am still
alive today. I think often about the day I saw them die and I often cry when I
am alone. The reality is that I am always worried. The fear of being killed has
never left me despite the friendship of my friends and the peace that now
reigns in my country. I wonder how long this suffering will last. At school, I
have noted that some orphans of my age are even unhappier than I am.
There are other young people who look after them. They live in very difficult


                                       42
conditions. But that does not lessen my suffering. Besides, when I am alone, I
think only about myself and the suffering becomes unbearable. I sometimes
dream of the return of my parents. I really want to forget all that has
happened. But at school, we learn that we must remember so as not to repeat
the errors of the past. They tell me I must do that to feel better later. It is very
difficult for me and that makes me suffer too.
I hope that one day all those who are suffering now will be happy.


Points for Your Reflection

   1. The king of Israel is in your midst you have no further misfortune to
      fear. He will renew you.

   2. Ethnic and racial violence is born of hatred and fear. When left
      unchecked, it leads to devastating effects.

   3. Pray for children like Pierre. They will carry these scars for the rest of
      their lives. Pray for Rwanda, it needs a renewal that only God can
      bring.


Closing Prayer

Father, may the coming celebration of the birth of your Son bring us your
saving help and prepare us for eternal life. We ask this through our Lord
Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                        43
                   Thursday, Third Week of Advent
                           December 21

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
       -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 3: 10-18

The people asked him, "What are we to do?" And John answered, "If you
have two coats, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food,
do the same." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and asked him,
"Master, what must we do?" John said to them, "Collect no more than your
fixed rate." People serving as soldiers asked John, "What about us? What are
we to do?" And he answered, "Don't take anything by force or threaten the
people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay." The people
were wondering about John's identity, "Could he be the Messiah?" Then John
answered them, "I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming will do
much more: he will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not
worthy to untie his sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan to clear his
threshing floor and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff he will burn
with fire that never goes out." With these and many other words John
announced the Good News to the people until Herod had him put in prison.
For John reproached Herod for living with Herodias, his brother's wife, and for
his evil deeds. Then Herod added another crime to all the rest he had
committed: he put John in prison.


Reflection

A largely semi-desert country, Chad is rich in gold and uranium and stands to
benefit from its recently acquired status as an oil-producing state. However,
Africa's fifth-largest nation suffers from inadequate infrastructure and
simmering internal conflict. Poverty is rampant, and health and social
conditions make matters worse.

Kemndigue is a young adult who is committed and active in his faith. Rather
than stand back and do nothing, he is taking active steps to address the
needs of young people.

My name is Kemndigue. I am 24 years of age and I am single, Christian and
a catechist. I am from Chad. I have a degree in engineering but I am without a
job. I love studies, reading sport, sharing, the mixing between religions, and


                                       44
music, especially religious music. I give a great deal of respect for other and
like working with friends. I am always seeking to know and live according to
the Word of God without being ashamed of living my Christian faith at every
moment and in every place. I want to promote justice and peace so as to live
in a climate of tolerance, which helps to discover the true human values. I fight
against alcoholism, tobacco addiction, sexual promiscuity, prostitution,
tribalism, violence, illiteracy and the conflict of generations. I want to help
others to be aware of their situation so that they can build their lives according
to the Gospel. The difficulties that I meet are the daily difficulties of nearly all
the young people of my country. They are of a moral, spiritual, material and
structural order. I would like to highlight particularly the lack of formation and
of education, the abdication of the State concerning young people, the lack of
educational establishments worthy of this name, the school programs that are
not adapted to the reality of the country, the marginalization of young people
and the manipulation of which they are the object. There are things that give
me hope for living: in the first place the Bible which gives me orientations for
life, the witness of certain adults who are true Christians, the interest of the
leaders of the Church in listening to and helping young people.

I would like people to reflect on the situation of children and young people in
countries such as mine. They are neglected, abandoned, forgotten. Their
rights are not respected and they are floundering in an uncertain world,
without a future. I ask you to pray for peace, justice and harmony in Chad, in
Africa and in the entire world, and to pray in a special way for African youth:
we risk being discouraged.

Kemndigue, age 24


Points for Your Reflection

   1. In today’s reading we see people asking John the Baptist what to do in
      order to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Rather than give them
      a complicated list of preparation exercises, he gives them a simple
      task: carry out your daily tasks in a just way.

   2. Kemndigue wants to promote peace and justice through education by
      helping others to become aware of their situations and the right they
      have to be respected for who they are.

   3. What are you doing with your life to prepare for the day of the Lord’s
      coming? Will you be ready for him when he comes?


Closing Prayer

Lord, our sins bring us unhappiness. Hear our prayer for courage and
strength. May the coming of your Son bring us the joy of salvation. We ask
this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


                                        45
                     Friday, Third Week of Advent
                                December 22


Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Micah 5: 1-4

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, so small that you are hardly named among
the clans of Judah, from you shall I raise the one who is to rule over Israel.
For he comes forth from of old, from the ancient times. Yahweh, therefore, will
abandon Israel until such time as she who is to give birth has given birth.
Then the rest of his deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He
will stand and shepherd his flock with the strength of Yahweh, in the glorious
Name of Yahweh, his God. They will live safely while he wins renown to the
ends of the earth. He shall be peace. When the Assyrian invades our land
and sets foot on our territory, we will raise against him not one but seven
shepherds, eight warlords.


Reflection

Chile is a relatively peaceful county. Its people, a mixture mainly of mixed
Spanish and indigenous backgrounds, give the country a special character.
Chile became a democratic country after the long dictatorship of General
Pinochet, that left more than 3,000 dead or missing people.

Rodolfo is a bright and energetic seventeen year old. A recent volunteer
experience among migrant farmers changed him in ways he will never forget.

My name is Rodolfo. I’m seventeen; thinking about my future; out to make a
name for myself, eager to do something for my country and the world. I like
running. Endurance events always bring out the best in me. A race is like life –
you go all out, giving everything you have, and all of a sudden there’s hill on
the horizon. Each of us faces everyday situations that tire us out and test our
resolve. We can be tempted to give up. That’s the time to look to Jesus, God.
He is our strength. If we trust in Him we will succeed, because He always has
our best interests at heart and never leaves our side, especially when dangers
lurk at every turn. I have an ongoing concern: that when all is said and done I
won’t achieve my goal, I won’t be able to change society as much as I’d like
to. Faith keeps me going – with faith, all things are possible. When I look in a
mirror, I see someone anxious to experience life more deeply, aware there is
so much to learn, so much growing to do. I believe my hopes and dreams as a


                                       46
young student are similar to those of many others my age: I want to enter a
profession and raise a family. That’s why I study so hard. I often wonder why
opportunities vary so much, why some of us have lots of ways to reach our
goals while others have but one, and if they pass it up, the establishment
swallows them whole. My classmates and I are blessed – our school offers
many activities that enrich our lives. Last year I had a life-changing
experience. It opened my eyes and I saw that I was living in a fantasy world.
We volunteered to work in the countryside for a week. Right from the start I
saw that this involved not just doing manual work, but sharing every aspect of
my life with the local people, day after day. By the middle of the week I was
exhausted. A few of my classmates were bored by the routine; others decided
there was no reason to be out in the fields working for others. I wondered
about the feelings of the longsuffering farmers and migrant laborers. Where
did they get the stamina and drive to do the same hard work day after day? I
decided to enter fully into what they were going through. In one of my many
conversations with them, one man stood out. He told me that when he
finished school, he was offered the chance to go for professional training. I
noticed a tinge of sadness in his eyes as he related that because he had no
interest in continuing his studies as a youth, it was his own fault that now
working at this farm was his only option. That really struck me. When I found
out how much the laborer earned, I was at a loss for words – next to nothing
for all that backbreaking work. Similarly, other workers up in years accepted
the idea that they’d be locked into this type of work for the rest of their lives.
Yet they worked with the utmost effort and dedication. What an injustice that
we are blessed with so many opportunities, possibilities, and facilities that we
can take or leave because we know that, one way or another, we’ll do fine.
How long will this go on? While we’re enjoying the good life in our homes,
watching TV, eating whatever we want, and enjoying endless opportunities to
advance in life, others only see their hopes dissolve and doors shut on their
dreams, morning, noon, and night.

You and I are called to do something about this – as Marcellin Champagnat
used to say, we are called to be agents of change. Whatever our line of work,
we need to join hands to increase opportunities for the poor in our country and
around the world to improve their lot in life. Although this may seem like a
daunting task, every one of us has something to offer for bettering the society
in which we live.

Rodolfo, age 17


Points for Your Reflection

   1. Today’s reading recalls the prophecy of Bethlehem. It is from this little
      known city that the Savior of the world shall come.

   2. For Rodolfo, the experience of working alongside migrant farmers was
      a life changing event. He experienced a sense of “solidarity” with them.
      Now he feels comfortable to share that experience with you.



                                       47
   3. Becoming involved in another person’s life can change a person on so
      many different levels. Reflect on a similar experience you may have
      had. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the unexpected events and
      places in your life that have shaped you in one way or another.


Closing Prayer

All-powerful Father, guide us with your love as we await the coming of your
Son. Keep us faithful that we may be helped through life and brought to
salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                     48
                    Saturday, Third Week of Advent
                             December 23

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 3: 1-6

It was the fifteenth year of the rule of the Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilatus
was governor of Judea; Herod ruled over Galilee, his brother Philip ruled over
the country of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias over Abilene. Annas and
Caiaphas were the High Priests at that time when the word of God came to
John, the son of Zechariah in the desert. John proclaimed a baptism for
repentant people to obtain forgiveness of sins and he went through the whole
country bordering the Jordan River. It was just as is written in the book of the
prophet Isaiah: listen to this voice crying out in the desert: prepare the way of
the Lord, make his path straight. The valleys will be filled and the mountains
and hills made low. Everything crooked will be made straight and the rough
paths smooth; and every mortal will see the salvation of God.


Reflection

The trauma of post-war division is now firmly in the past but over a decade
and a half on from the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Germany has yet to come
up with the economic key to coping with its aftermath. In recent years the
economy has improved but other economic factors have been a cause of
concern for many, especially the young.

Marcel’s struggles and hopes are typical of many young people his age who
live in developed countries. His faith in God and ability to lead and inspire
confidence among his peers was confirmed when he was chosen as the
leader of the Youth-Attic Community, a special program for young people who
attend the boarding division of the Marist Brothers School in Mindelheim.
People who participate in this program have formed a small community within
the boarding school. Beside the regular activities all boarders participate in,
this community meets daily to pray, study the scriptures, and share faith
together. They are looking for ways to live their faith in an active and visible
way.

I am Marcel. I am 19 years old. I am from Germany. My home is in Landsberg
am Lech, about 40 kilometers from Munich. I am interested in tennis, skiing
and playing guitar. I attend a boarding school run by the Marists in


                                       49
Mindelheim. I am in my final year at the school. I have a girlfriend. She’s also
from Landsberg. She is 20 years old and works in a bank. In 4 weeks, I will
have my final exams, so I’m very busy with studies at the moment. When
school is over I’ll have nearly four months holiday. In September I’ll start my
civilian service and work with disabled persons in a school. I’ll do that for 9
months. Civilian Service is a way to serve the country, something all of us
must do. If I don’t do civilian service, I would have to go to the army. Once the
service period is over, my plan is to study at the University of Munich and
become a teacher of history and the German language. In the boarding school
I have a special function in my group. I am the leader of our “Youth Attic-
Monastery.” Being the leader of the community I am called upon to address
religious questions or offer advice to our young boys who have problems. It's
a very interesting responsibility because I learn much about the fears and life
situations of others. This helps me carry my own burdens as well. What
burdens me at the moment is the future. I am worried about getting a job,
especially in today's world. Another worry is the health of my family and
friends. Cancer runs in our family. My grandpa died because of that. As far
as my faith is concerned, I know that God is next to me and loves me, even
when I've done something wrong. God gives me the power to go on in life. I
find my strength in God.

When you are finished reading my statement, please pray for peace in the
world and for a common religion/church in the world. Furthermore pray for
people in poor countries and people who are suppressed and are unable to
live their belief or their convictions.

Marcel, age 19


Points for Your Reflection

   1. John the Baptist is the focus of our scripture reading today. He is
      described as, “a voice crying in the wilderness.”

   2. Marcel is a young man about to leave the safety of his school to face
      new challenges. In many ways he will be entering into a wilderness of
      the unknown. Yet he will not go unprepared. It is clear he is respected
      by his peers and has the ability to lead.

   3. Pray for all those young people who are ready to begin life’s journey.
      As Jesus prayed at the Last Supper, pray that they remain faithful to
      His call and that they are protected in the difficult moments they will
      encounter.


Closing Prayer

Father, creator and redeemer of humankind, you decreed, and your Word
became man, born of the Virgin Mary. May we come to share the divinity of



                                       50
Christ, who humbled himself to share in our human nature, for he lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                     51
                         Fourth Sunday of Advent
                              December 24

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of
Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the
baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud
cry, said, "You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of
your womb! Blessed are you who believed that the Lord's word would come
true!"


Reflection

Once a racially divided country, South Africa has now become a model of
reconciliation and growth. The great hope for growth and development that
first swept the country after the end of apartheid has given way to the harsh
realities of poverty that still faces the country. A rising number of HIV
infections and outbreak of AIDS in recent years presents a new set of
challenges.

Mikhaila is no stranger to challenge. She is proud of her faith and is not afraid
to be called a Christian. She is ready to take her place with millions of South
Africans who are seeking to make South Africa a better place.

My name is Mikhaila. I'm a 13-year old Christian girl from Cape Town, South
Africa attending St Joseph’s Marist School. Until very recently I've led an
extremely sheltered life. I've grown up in a loving family, being taught
Christian morals and values from the moment I was born, and every day I
thank the Lord for that. But at my age, it's dangerous to think that the world at
large is the same. In this society, however, it's incredibly difficult to stay true to
what you've been taught, hold on to yourself and ultimately on to God too. As
a young girl trying to find herself in a country with one of the highest HIV/AIDS
rates in the world, appalling rape statistics, drug abuse and crime, I won’t find
it easy to rise above all that and become a happy, successful adult. The entire
world has similar problems, and for any child, anywhere, growing up isn't
easy, but it's possible. Many youth struggle to cope with life and the endless


                                         52
pressures that friends, society and even families put on them. But the most
important thing that God has shown me time and time again is that with Him
guiding you, you can do absolutely anything. That's why I believe that there is
hope for our world. I look at my own country, and I'm so proud of the progress
South Africans have made as a nation. We've had the darkest past, but
countless people passionate about freedom and with God on their side,
managed to lead us away from all that. Now South Africa is growing stronger
and better. Anyone can change the world. With every new day comes a
chance to help someone, change someone's life, to make the world a better
place in some small way. Just one tiny gesture of kindness can make
someone's world seem brighter. The world is full of people looking for love
and guidance in all the wrong places, and that is why it's our duty as
Christians to tell everybody of our Lord Jesus Christ's unconditional love for
us, and to pray for them all - the lost, the abused, the hungry, the abandoned -
everyone.

And never forget how much Jesus loves you!

Mikhaila, age 13


Points for Your Reflection

   1. It is the fourth Sunday of Advent. It is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow we
      will celebrate Christ’s birth, the dawn of our salvation. Like Mary we
      run in hast to the hill country. The time has come.

   2. The hill country can be a dangerous place. Mikhaila is just beginning to
      realize what lies ahead of her. It will not be easy for her. Yet, like
      Mary, her faith gives her the strength to make haste as she begins to
      face the challenges ahead.

   3. What about you? Is your faith in Christ alive? Do you draw upon
      Christ to give you strength to face the challenges in your life?


Closing Prayer

Father, all powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the
Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in
watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our
minds to receive the Son who prepares us for his coming. We ask this
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                      53
                                Christmas Day
                                 December 25

Call to Prayer

God, come to my assistance.
      -- Lord make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
      -- As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.


Scripture Reading: Luke 2: 1-14

At that time the emperor issued a decree for a census of the whole empire to
be taken. This first census was taken while Quirinus was governor of Syria.
Everyone had to be registered in his own town. So everyone set out for his
own city; Joseph too set out from Nazareth of Galilee. As he belonged to the
family of David, being a descendant of his, he went to Judea to David's town
of Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, his wife, who was with child. They
were in Bethlehem when the time came for her to have her child, and she
gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and
laid him in the manger, because there was no place for them. There were
shepherds camping in the countryside, taking turns to watch over their flocks
by night. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them, with the Glory of
the Lord shining around them. As they were terrified, the angel said to them,
"Don't be afraid; I am here to give you good news, great joy for all the people.
Today a Savior has been born to you in David's town; he is the Messiah and
the Lord. Let this be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling
clothes and lying in a manger." Suddenly the angel was surrounded by many
more heavenly spirits, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest;
peace on earth for God is blessing humankind."


Reflection

Sri Lanka is small tear-shaped island nation to the south west of India. Many
have referred to it as a jewel with its peaceful palm studded beaches, lush
green mountains and magnificent waterfalls. Yet below the peaceful surface
lies a violent interior. For nearly two decades, the island has been scarred by
a bitter civil war arising out of ethnic tensions. In the 1980s civil war broke out
between Sinhala nationals and rebel Tamils in the north pressing for self-rule.
By the time a ceasefire and tentative political agreement was worked out in
2002, more than 60,000 people were dead and the country’s economy was in
ruins. In December 2004 the country suffered a devastating natural disaster
when a series of tsunamis left more than 30,000 dead and many thousands
more homeless. In the past year, the ethnic tensions have again erupted and
fighting has begun leaving the question of a lasting peace in question.



                                        54
Shaveen is 15 years old and he wonders what the future will bring for his
country.

I am Shaveen. I am fifteen years old, and live in Sri Lanka. There are five
members in our family. I have two older brothers and I am the youngest in the
family. I am studying for the GCE Ordinary Level examination which will be
held at the end of this year. I attend a school managed by Marist Brothers
namely “Maris Stella College.” I am a scout of the school. In the past, Sri
Lanka was a peaceful country, but at present it is entirely different. The peace
and love which was with our ancestors is not with the present generation.
Instead of thinking of others, most people are running after wealth and power.
I do understand that we must have these things in order to have a good life,
but the problem is that most people think only about their own benefits. So
they have no time to spare to help others. According to the statistics,
Christians in Sri Lanka are only 8% of the population. At least these Christians
should take the initiative to re-build peace in our country. If they don’t think
about it, the situation of Sri Lanka will be worse. This is the season of Advent.
During this period we prepare for Christmas, the commemoration of the birth
of Jesus Christ, by decorating Christmas trees and making Cribs. We also
paint our houses, go on shopping trips and have parties to share the
happiness of Christmas. While doing these things we must first understand
the meaning of Christmas and should have an inner change of heart to
prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus Christ. If we do so, we will be able to
experience the happiness which Jesus Christ brought to this world. As
Christians, and followers of Jesus Christ, we too must enjoy peace in our
homes, schools, work places etc. In order to have peace we must stretch out
our hands towards each other forgetting ourselves. We must use our talents
which we have received from God to make another person happy. When
Jesus was living on earth he always thought of others with a loving heart. He
was quick to forgive and to help anyone. Jesus wants us to be like him. Then
our country will be a better place for people to live in. Further we should have
to show our gratitude and love for Jesus and should try to re-build the peace
which Jesus brought to the world and should practice what he preached. For
that we have to pray everyday and have a close contact with the Lord. We
prepare ourselves according to the word of God, pray for others, help others
in their need and try to preach the word of God for those who do not know
him. If we try to practice these things, it will not be difficult to have peace in
our country once again.

I hope the people of Sri Lanka would realize the truth and would follow the
path of Jesus and let Jesus control their lives. So I kindly ask those who read
this to pray for Sri Lanka and its people to have peace according to what
Jesus Christ brought to this world.

Shaveen, age 15


Points for Your Reflection




                                       55
   1. It is Christmas Day. We commemorate the birth of Jesus. The good
      news is announced to the shepherds keeping watch in the fields.

   2. Shaveen reflects on Christmas and the many things we do around this
      celebration: decorating Christmas trees and setting up cribs, painting
      our homes, shopping and having parties. He wonders if we have lost
      the true meaning of Christmas: honoring the birth of Christ in our hearts
      and acting accordingly.

   3. Note the underlying worry he has for the establishment of peace in his
      country. On this day of the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us take a
      moment to pray for the establishment of the reign of peace in our
      hearts, in our homes, in our works, in our communities, in our society,
      in our country, and in our world


Closing Prayer

God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way
to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word. that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




                                       56
Institute of the Marist Brothers
Bureau of International Solidarity

Piazzale M. Champagnat, 2
C.P. 10250
00144 Roma
ITALIA
Phone: (39) 06 54 51 71
E-mail: solidar@fms.it
Site: www.champagnat.org

Printing

Marist Brothers, Rome
October 2006




               57

				
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