Last year, I was visiting Monasterboice, an Irish monastic settlement that dates back to the fifth century, with a group of Australian pilgrims who were on pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Columban.
“This Advent season invites us to gently prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God.”
Reflecting on his visit to small-town America, one writer listed some of the very appealing traits of that society – the warmth of the people, their politeness, their way of affirming one. But it also struck him that this was a society in a great hurry. “The biggest single crisis,” he wrote, “the biggest cultural deficit resulting from all this hurry, is the inability to be still, to face oneself in silence, just to be in the moment.”
Leprosy - that dreadful word
causing terror in the heart
bad enough to live with rotting flesh
but even worse to be among the living dead
cut off from relatives, friends, community
One man made bold by hope broke the taboo,
sought out Jesus ministering in a town
passed shocked bystanders and pleaded on his knees
“if you want to, you can cure me”
Jesus moved by pity or anger at his plight
in turn broke the taboo reached out and touched him
“of course I want to, be healed!”
Fr. Chris Saenz is a native of Bellevue, Nebraska, and belongs to the Missionary Society of St. Columbans (commonly known as the Columban Fathers). He never felt a priesthood vocation when he was young. In reality, Fr. Saenz did not participate much in the Church during his youth. However, at the age of 21 he had a conversion experience after reading the book, The Song of Bernadette. That was the first time he began to feel a priesthood vocation which, at first, he rejected.
During the years between 1972 and 1975, I was pastor of a parish in Seoul, Korea. On Friday mornings I would go to a large prison nearby to visit the death row prisoners. Among the prisoners that I would visit there was one whose name was Matthew who was a very happy go lucky individual. He was from North Korea. The story that he told me was that he came down as a spy to the South, and in his travels around South Korea he discovered that the people were living much better than they were in North Korea.
I have many aspirations in life. Some of them I have already achieved. I am happy every time I achieve a goal. But every time I achieved something, I felt there was still something missing. I was searching until I became a Columban lay missionary. Here, I recognized what I was missing – a sense of belonging.
Milly Hampson is eleven years old. She lives with her parents Darren and Beatriz in a tower block of flats overlooking the River Mersey in a rather unfashionable part of Stockport, Greater Manchester (UK) called Lancashire Hill.
I have known her parents for over twenty years and celebrated their wedding. Stockport is my home town. Beatriz is Peruvian, and at the time of their marriage she was living in a Columban parish in Lima very near my own.
This spring a pair of great horned owls took over a large nest in a tree not too far from the Narragansett Bay shoreline. As one would expect before too long little owls could be seen safely peeking from the nest high in a tall evergreen. Of course owls are not meant to spend their lives in a nest; they are, as the saying goes, “born to fly.” Even so, flying is an acquired skill and takes some practice.
For more than a year I spent most of my time visiting the elderly. I would say that meeting the different types of elderly is interesting and enjoyable, but needs a lot of energy, and a peaceful mind and heart to be able to listen to them.
Due to their age and physical condition many can no longer walk far. Most of them just stay in their houses and spend time watching television. There was a time I caught an elderly person drinking makgeolli (rice wine) just to ease her loneliness. Some of them spend time sitting near the window waiting for the daylight to fade.