Dawning Light

Dawning  5By Sister Maureen Boggins, C.S.J.P., Hôpital Sacré Coeur

I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock

(The Deer’s Cry/Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

It is, often, difficult to get up early in the morning, especially, when it is still dark. However, as intimated in the above words, attributed to Saint Patrick, we are being called to “arise” and to see God in all around us. The prayer, which continues with the acknowledgment that “I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me,” is an inspiration and an encouragement to arise not only physically, but, even more so, in our hearts and spirit and to see God’s Light in life as we set out and journey through each day.

When the clocks in Haiti go back in November, the daily 5:30 a.m. early morning walk up to Mass is in deep darkness. On a cloudy, moonless night the darkness is all-encompassing, like a great cocoon enveloping everything and, without a flashlight, no path can be seen. This can remind us of the opening line of John Henry Newman’s hymn:

“Lead kindly Light amid the encircling gloom. Lead Thou me on!”

Even in the darkness life begins to stir: one can hear crickets chirping, birds twittering and roosters that have been busy “practicing” during the night, continuing their calls! A few taps-taps are already plying their trade and their occasional headlights make dancing shadows of static and moving objects. The moon often shines with a silvery reflection, highlighting nearby clouds. On a cloudless night, myriads of stars shine brightly showing that, paradoxically, some lights can be seen only in darkness. They invite us to raise our eyes and hearts heavenwards.

Dawning  9

“Praised be You, my Lord,
through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.”

(Canticle of St. Francis)

Along the road, the red glow from charcoal cookers provides a gentle illumination, an indication that women are getting ready to prepare food to give their families and to sell to others. These women, like the strong, wise woman in Proverbs, have risen before dawn and have started their day’s work while it is still dark. Since over 40% of households in Haiti are headed by women, it is, often, a woman who is the main support for her family.

One Haitian proverb “Fam se poto mitan” (The woman is the central pillar) underlines the many roles a woman plays, not only in her family, but, also, in society.

Dawning  1We pray for all women that they may be guiding lights for their families and society and that they may attain their true status in life. Let us pray, especially, for those who make heroic efforts in spite of severe poverty.

Huddled in ditches and other places along the roadside, eager students sit around any source of light they can find to do their homework. Since the provision of electricity is intermittent there is limited opportunity to do this.

We pray that children may have access to education and to the resources they need and that they will be able to lead Haiti to a brighter future. May teachers have the opportunities for spiritual and professional development and be creative and inspiring in their teaching.

When there is no electricity, the only light in the church is that provided by the candles that are faintly illuminating the altar and by the flashlight that is used to see the Readings for the day. As dawn breaks, light streams in through the windows of the church and dark silhouettes become filled with color. Outside, the sun shines through the leaves on trees, giving the appearance of twinkling Christmas tree lights.

May our minds and hearts be enlightened by your Word, O God, so that we may live and spread the light of your Gospel in the world.

Dawning  8As the morning moves from darkness into light, peachy-pink clouds frequently drift across the sky and a soft glow of sunlight shines on the ruins of Sans Souci Palace. Now that increased efforts are being made to promote tourism in Haiti, the Palace and the Citadelle are among the places people are being encouraged to visit.

If these plans are successful, the economy of Milot and the surrounding areas could be improved.

We pray that new life may emerge from the brokenness of the past, that systems and society may be healed and that new life may spring from the suffering that has been experienced. “May light break forth like the dawn.” Is. 58.8

Dawning  4Even when there is only a small group at Mass, the singing resounds harmoniously throughout the church — the effect is far beyond the number of people there. As they leave the church at the end of Mass, several congregants continue singing the hymns, for example, “M’ap chate louanj pou ou” (I will sing praises for you.)

May our lives be prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has created.

As we leave the church, Milot is beginning to come “alive”: some children, in crisp uniforms, are already on their way to school while others are still preparing for school and mothers are doing their daughters’ hair; men with machetes are setting out to work in their farms, others gather at stalls where they buy food and coffee and sit and have lively discussions.

Dawning  3Greetings and smiles are exchanged along the way and there are shouts of “Kafe a cho” (Hot coffee). Meanwhile music blares out from colorful tap-taps as young men hanging on the backs of the vehicles and tout for customers as they shout “Okap, Okap.” Motorbikes, accompanied by the sound of horns, speed by and vendors shout their wares. Once again, there is a great buzz in the town.

As the day brightens, we pray in thanksgiving for the blessings of life and for the grace to follow Christ, our Light. May we be able to face the challenges that each new day brings.

We arise today!