I always find that one of the best times for reflection is immediately following Mass. The readings and the Gospel are always fresh in your mind as are the supplications that accompany the Eucharist. This morning, as I walked away from the lovely Chapel here at St. Columbans, I reflected on the three men who had celebrated Mass themselves and the gifts that they had left me with to both begin, as well as to finish, my day.
They are three Columban missionary priests, and in many ways represent the Society in nearly identical fashion because of their common virtue of sharing the Columban missionary experience, yet they are also very different men and tell another story of the Society. Two of the priests are young. One being of Irish origin, Fr. Tim, is our Regional Director. Another of the young men, an Australian, is our Society’s Superior General, Fr. Kevin. He is just visiting us from Hong Kong. The main celebrant of Mass today was Fr. Richard, an American. He is a past Superior General of the Society and one of our senior priests. He speaks and prays with the wisdom that accompanies his seniority.
Reflecting on Fr. Richard’s words, I am reminded of something that William Wordsworth once said, “The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind.” Fr. Richard continues to nurture us with his words and his eloquent and flowing supplications that lend themselves to an ebb and calmness that can only be described as completely natural. Every morning of the week, well into his eighties, Fr. Richard celebrates Mass in the chapel, and every morning he shares with us the spiritual, emotional and truly physical energy that completes the celebration of the Eucharist.
While it is true that Fr. Kevin and Fr. Tim speak with an understanding and passion that is befitting their positions in the Society, Fr. Richard shares with us a wisdom that is only arrived upon by age. He represents that segment of the Society who has reached an age where it could be a very easy choice to simply “hang up the coat and don the loafers” and save these moments more for personal reflection and introspection, but instead Fr. Richard continues to share and give nourishment to us, the flock.
His words will stay with me throughout the day and remind me that being missionary is something that has a beginning but does not have an end. Being missionary knows birth, and it knows life, but it ignores age, retirement and even death because it transcends all of these things. Fr. Richard is the breathing example of Psalm 92 verse 15, “They shall bear fruit even in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” Fr. Richard is fresh and green and so are his words. They will stay with me throughout my day and remind me that Columban mission is not defined by age.