“To abandon a family when it is grieved by a death would be a lack of mercy, to lose a pastoral opportunity, and this attitude can close the doors for us to some other evangelistic initiative.” (Amoris Laetitia, nn. 253-258).
The spiritual family of Venerable Father Enrico MAURI, in his charism of being a sign and messenger of the mystery of the nuptial love of Christ the Bridegroom and of the Church his Bride, has always been concerned with widowhood, since its foundation, after the First World War. The founder, Father MAURI was inspired by the fact that the widow is part of the people whom God particularly cares about: widows, orphans, the poor. The branch of the widowhood spirituality movement of Father MAURI’s spiritual family was created to accompany the widowed person on a path of recovery from openness to life through growth in faith and understanding the new state of life; a journey matured in the perspective of the nuptial charism that the Church has recognized and entrusted to the Family.
Consolation in Immortality
Love wants unity, and separation generates pain. But “if the law of death grieves us, the promise of immortality brings us consolation. For those who die in you, Lord, life is not destroyed, it is transformed “AL.256. It is about entering into a new mode of love, purified and free, open to transcendence and to the gift of one’s spouse to God: only the Spirit can transfigure and accompany this journey.
Rediscovering the sacramental significance of one’s own marriage means avoiding making absolute and making an idol of one’s spouse: this love was a sign of greater Love, of the unity of Christ with his Church. “Who did you marry one day in front of the altar? Christ in the bridegroom, and the bridegroom in Christ ”(Father MAURI, Ascending together towards the Lord).
Widowhood in the light of the Risen Christ
The pastoral accompaniment of widows / widowers aims to recover the esteem for the state of widowhood present in the Holy Bible, and to give it to the widows / widowers themselves: the widow must know that her emotional, generative and self-giving is not destroyed, that his existential state is precious for the Church and for the world. The task is therefore to evangelize widowhood, so that widowhood can evangelize.
The existential choice of a Christian widowhood thus becomes a talent to be used, and when it is addressed to wounded families and to new generations, it can reveal to them the beauty and the holiness of God’s plan for human love. With this accompaniment, the widow becomes aware that our God is not the God of the dead but the God of the living because he is risen. Her husband has changed the way of life, he is living with God. She has no reason to desire death to go and live with her husband because she can continue to feel him alive in a different dimension. From there begins the resurrection of the widow and the rediscovery of the meaning of life because she opens up and no longer locks herself in herself.
Above all, she opens herself to the understanding of her children, if she has any, because just as she lost her husband, the children also lost their father. His pain should not neglect the pain of his children. Many times when the widow locks herself in the pain of losing her spouse, the children also lock in their pain. Being aware that her spouse lives in God, the widow remains and lives in communion with him in Jesus Christ. Thus, she discovers her call to realize the mystical wedding with Christ.
Widowhood is a fundamental theological-pastoral issue, the implications of which are unfortunately, not yet fully understood and whose potential is largely unused. Even in the Church, we still see a substantial silence about this state of life, perhaps conditioned by the worldly view of widowhood. Indeed, for the world, the death of a spouse marks the final separation and therefore the end of the nuptial adventure. If the Church is not ready to accompany the widow on her journey towards a renewed openness to life, if the Church does not announce the truth of Love, the world will give the best of itself, with his idols to fill in the gaps.
Collaborations with parishes
The parish is the most favorable ground for the pastoral care of widowhood because it is in the parish that the real and concrete situations of the widowed persons are known.
In the parishes, the family of Father MAURI offers widows the possibility of meeting in groups, and specific teaching is given for the discovery of the human and Christian meaning of widowhood, relationships of listening and help are created, experience sharing and solidarity. In Church groups, widows can create a network of positive relationships that support each other and can even help the community in many things. The group creates an experience of “belonging”: I am no longer alone because I belong to my spouse who does not die, Jesus, to the Church and to my parish group.
With a path of conscience, the widow / widower becomes a precious resource for evangelization in the parish and in the Church, at all levels. Having gone through different stages of life, youth, marriage, widowhood, its field of evangelization is open to young people, to normal couples, to couples in relational difficulty or already separated and to widows.
In particular, the widow opens up to the mission of helping other widows who are going through the same experience of suffering. She approaches them not to give advice but rather to show them her closeness.
In the Archdiocese of Kigali, this experience is lived in the parishes of Kacyiru, Kabuye, Rutongo, Gishaka, Karenge, Ruhuha, Nkanga and will extend to other parishes.
Suggestions and advice for implementation in parishes
The involvement of the parish priest is very important; he is the first to assimilate the spirituality of widowhood. He in turn involves a targeted group of widows in his parish to be accompanied and undergo training, in order to become in turn the accompanists and formators of other widows in the parish and in the centers.
The spiritual accompaniment of widows must be structured in parish groups, with periodic monthly meetings, which include: the Holy Mass, the proclamation of the Word of God and an appropriate formation, the sharing of life and experiences, the time of sincere and close listening and prayer. Fraternal sharing with people who have had the same experience can help one not to isolate oneself in one’s own pain, but to relate it and transmit it in the confidence of mutual understanding.
My name is Claudine Umubyeyi, I have been a widow for 19 years, my husband died in 2002, I was 37, leaving me with two boys aged 8 and 7. Since I knew the Spiritual Family of Father Enrico MAURI in 2007, I have been living my widowhood, with the grace of God. I am accompanied by this Family, located at the “Domus Pacis” Formation and Spirituality Center in Kicukiro.
I thank the good Lord because by his mercy, I was able to face all these difficulties; I found the hope and the courage to continue my life and that of my family. I educated my children, they grew up, they graduated and we live in harmony. Thanks to the spiritual formation and the pastoral accompaniment of the widows received in the Family of Father MAURI, in my turn, I am available to give myself to help others.
By Silas NDAGIJIMANA
Responsable du Conseil de la Famille
Charlotte Marine UWIMANA
Responsable Adjointe de l’Institut Séculier
Des Oblates du Christ Roi
In « Croisée des Chemins », Bulletin Officiel de l’Archidiocèse de Kigali numéro 120 (pp 44-61)