Reflections: 24th June 2018

A Reflection for The Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

LK 1: 57-66; 80 ( 

In 1980 the Spiritan (Holy Ghost) Superior in Kenya, the late Fr. Oliver Ellis C.S.Sp., together with Bishop Raphael Ndingi, then of the Diocese of Nakuru, invited three priests of our congregation to take up ministry in Kenya’s remote and isolated East Pokot region.

The following year the Incarnate Word Sisters (from Mexico) arrived in the town of Barpello in the same region.  One Sunday night when the sister-in-charge announced that her congregation was going to start a nursery school under the shade of a tree near a bakery, she was asked how they could begin since they spoke neither the Kiswahili nor Pokot language and only broken English. (Spanish, the sisters’ first language, was all but unknown to the Pokot people.) She responded that the nursery would open, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.

The uniqueness of a name is given to each of us by God through our parents shortly after birth. We have followed through the ages the name given to us by our parents as special, given to us after the name of God - the name of God being Father, Son and Spirit.

Many Christian parents search the bible for a name for their new-born son or daughter, a name close to God, the name of a saint or prophet, or a name taken from the Old or the New Testament.

In Chapter One of his Gospel, Luke focuses on the birth of John the Baptist and the naming of this child, the son of a barren mother and of an ageing father. In Jewish tradition, and, indeed, among the Pokot people, the naming of a child was the prerogative of the father. Not so in this account of St. Luke: It is not the father, Zechariah, but Elizabeth, the mother, who announces that this child is to be called John. In this, she was acknowledging the greatness and power of God and his graciousness and understanding.

Chapter Two of Luke focuses on the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds. On the eighth day, Mary and Joseph gave their child a name. He was called Jesus in accordance with the name given by the messenger of God, the angel Gabriel.

Among the Pokot people a name has power over sickness. It is widely known that the mother of the household may change her name, leaving the old one behind and continuing with a new name; she may mark her face with a white, chalk-like substance signifying that something new has taken place; a new beginning without sickness has given her a new name. 

David Conway C.S.Sp. – Fr. David was first appointed to Kenya in 2000 and has spent most of his missionary life to date with the Pakot people with a special focus on education.