SPEECH AT THE ACCRA EAST REGIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE NOBLE ORDER OF KNIGHTS AND LADIES OF MARSHALL HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA FROM 19 – 20 JULY 2014
I am glad to be here not just as a Guest Speaker but as a participant of the 2014 Conference of Accra East Region
of the Noble Order of Knights and Ladies of Marshall.
I place emphasis on my participation because I believe that there is so much to learn from the organizational and leadership dynamics your constituent Councils and Courts are noted for. In many areas of engagement, your Region has undoubtedly become the pathfinder, torch-bearer and flagship of our Society.
I congratulate you.
The theme you have chosen is “Living Our Faith as Marshallans in a Challenging World”. It is appropriate and relevant to the current orientation of the Church and it is hoped this Conference would not fail to come out with a framework that can guide the entire Councils and Courts in the Region as they journey towards the universales salutatis sacramentum. My duty this morning is to humbly offer some views on a few areas of the many concerns that need to be interrogated. These views are intended to provoke you to come out with brighter ideas that will strongly and effectively push us onto the path of “living our Christian faith as Marshallans in a challenging world”.
First, Marshallans have a duty to work to remove the false opposition that exists betweenTheocentricism and Anthropocentrism. In other words, there exists a phenomenon where some Christians worship God Almighty simultaneously with their worship of a traditional deity or fetish. Some may doubt this but there is a large amount of incontrovertible evidence that some Catholics, including some members of the Noble Order, practice a religious life of what I call “a little of God plus a little of traditional deity”. This is utterly shameful and an anathema of the highest order for a Christian. In this era of New Evangelisation, we have a duty, not to say task, to completely remove ourselves and others from this practice because the Gospel does not see the human being in a dual mode; one time for God and another time for a deity. That is a contradiction to our belief. Our God is the central cause of all that exists or have existed. God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. No deity, principality or mammon can match His Glory and Power. Nothing surpasses Him. Why must we practice double standards? Don’t we know that our God is a jealous God?
Second, we use the word Charity to describe our actions towards our Neighbour. This central pillar of our Order is probably not properly conceived for we tend to equate it with almsgiving. But even pagans and atheists and agnostics also practice almsgiving. Charity goes beyond that. The Church defines Charity as to “love God Almighty above all things for his own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God”. This our “neighbour” should be properly understood. Christ taught us that our neighbor is not only the one who we know and who loves us. He gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan to show us that we should even love our enemy because he is also our neighbor.
St Paul says in Rom 5: 10 that “Christ died out of love for us, while we were still enemies”. The man from Samaria was given the tag “good” because he showed real love to the Jew who hated him. That is the core element in the Christian sense of Charity. How often are we able to love our neighbor in this sense? This difficulty is part of the challenging world we are called to overcome with our faith. The other aspect of the parable is that the “neighbor” was not in prison or orphanage or hospital. Our neighbor was lying helplessly on the roadside where people passed him by.
Blessed Teresa in her lifetime taught us that our neighbor is also the one who is hungry, in pain and with sores all over the body and cannot have a bath and is lying at the roadside, likely to die by the next time we pass by. To what extend do we go near such persons to concretely avail them of the benefit of our works of Charity? Remember Christ said; “So long that you have not done it for one of the least of your brothers you have not done it for me”. We should not allow ourselves to be referred to the least of our brothers as “ And yet, they call themselves Christians”. If we are truly committed to living our faith as Marshallans in a challenging world, then this area of apostolate must become a priority to us.
Thirdly, we must heed Christ’s call to us to be Resourceful. To be resourceful is essentially to be knowledgeable so as to be ready to pass on knowledge to our neighbour. “…the things that you have heard from me……..commit them to faithful
men and women who may also teach others” ( 2 Tim 2: 2). Christ was a teacher and he passed on this quality to His Disciples who also passed it on to their successors to this day. He imparted to us a body of teaching. Members of the Noble Order if they are to be faithful as followers of Christ, must seek to be resourceful by acquiring and deepening their knowledge about Christ and his teaching so that they can teach others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a veritable source of knowledge that Knights and Ladies can rely on to improve their standing. It is my view that no-one can claim to be an educated Catholic if they do not have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to which they refer regularly.
In our world today, almost all the great problems facing us are in the domain of social living. That is why the Church in her wisdom has urged Catholics and other Christians to study the Social Doctrine so as to be resourceful. Unfortunately, as the US Bishops have assessed, “Far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic Social Teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the Social Teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith”. In this our challenging world where there are too many errors seeking to delegitimize Christ, the church needs to have an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense and knowledge to counter the errors of our day. Why can’t members of the Noble Order become such lay persons? May I suggest that you undertake to make the study of the Catholic Social Doctrine a regular programme of your Region. This, I believe, will help prop up the level of knowledge about the Church among Marshallans so that we can adequately live our faith in the challenging world.
It would be most gratifying if by the next Regional Conference there would be several Councils and Courts running Study Sessions on the Catholic Social Teaching and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Lastly, Christ’s command to all his disciples was “Go forth to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Good News and tell people what you have seen”. This is what evangelization is all about – to step out into the world to proclaim God’s Word to others. But the New Evangelization consists of not only proclamationbut witnessing, too. Do not concentrate all your energies on proclamation. Of a truth, the man in the modern world hears, listens and is influenced much more by witnesses than teachers. Let your light shine so that people will see your good works and by that come to know and accept the teaching of Christ the King. How do members of this Regional Conference witness to their faith?
Individually, we can adopt personal approaches to tackling these issues I have raised. But from the perspective of group-action, leadership becomes most essential and indispensable.
Marshallans, as a group, must always have strong, effective leadership. Christian leadership is the one that is visionary. The Christian leader must constantly dream about the Word of God and about opportunities to help his members become more committed to the purpose of the group. A visionary leader is able to acquire a deeper understanding of God’s direction to him. If leaders are to make any headway in leading their groups to meet the challenges of this world, they must become Servant Leaders. A Servant Leader knows that his is to Serve not to be served, explore not to exploit, accept all not to be selective, encourage not to discourage.
I urge the members of the Accra East Region to ensure that their leaders are those who serve and not those who lord it over their members; those who choose the power of love, not the love of power, and they should be transparent and not inscrutable.
Let me also emphasise that ordinary members are equally if not more important because if there are no followers there is no leader. Though Followership has been late in manifesting itself as a concept in the literature of group dynamics, it is gradually becoming a front-burner issue. Followers should no longer resign themselves to docility and gullibility. They must be proactive and be able to question leadership actions or non-actions. For instance, the Second National Pastoral Congress is scheduled to take place at Sunyani a couple of weeks from now. The entire spectrum of the Church has been invited by the Bishops to send delegates to deliberate on how to “develop a deeper understanding of our relationship with Jesus Christ” and also “to find new ways of doing things and embrace the future with renewed energy and freshness”.
The question for all of us is: Has the Noble Order prepared itself to present a position paper at the Congress with the view to influencing the Plan of Action to be adopted for implementation in Ghana towards the New Evangelisation? All of us – leaders and followers alike – are to blame if such a thing has not been done. Under the circumstances, how do we reconcile such situation with our determination to live our faith in a challenging world?
Marshallans have a duty to counter or challenge directives put forward by leadership but they should only do so with strong, responsible and well-founded views, ensuring that such views are expressed in a disciplined, respectful and undisruptive manner. By our own tenets, members of the Noble Order are charged to be bold, fearless and unafraid to express opposing views on important matters for the good of the Order. Followers have a duty to consciously challenge leadership with well thought-out opinions when directives the latter gives are palpably unhelpful and improper to the realization of the purpose of the group. Until citizens are able to straighten up and check bad leadership in our world today, they will not be able to overcome the challenges they face.
Having said all the foregoing, I wish to, in the same vein, condemn those followers who have made it their stock-in-trade to undermine leadership and indeed, willfully work against it. They do not voice out their concerns because they have none but they delight in indulging in acts of back-biting, tale-bearing vilification and calumny. Followers who are determined to live their faith should shy away for making disparaging remarks about their leaders. We must appreciate that a good number of Knights and Ladies who assume leadership role in the Order always come in with a great sense of sacrifice and I know many such leaders have passed the Chair with distinction.
We must be proud of such leaders and give recognition to their abilities and selfless service to the Noble Order while asking our young members to emulate them.
Yes, MARSHALLANS must live their faith but they must not compromise on things that do not contribute to faith-building. Marshallans must seek knowledge about the Church , understand Charity in the context of what the Church teaches and we must not be afraid of working diligently to remove the challenges we face in the noble Order and the society in general.
I wish you a successful Conference. God Bless.