On the night of Palm Sunday, when all my pastoral activities in the Migrant Center were done, I arrived home, got a simple dinner and yet instead of getting myself ready to call it a day, I decided to do one more thing. I call it my little life project. What happened was, sometime in March, the staff of Moyse Catholic Migrant Center had gone to one of the Martyr’s Shrines as our bonding activity. The name of the Shrine was “Galmaemot Martyrs’ Sacred Place.” Since 1925, this place became a sacred place for Korean Catholics as this was confirmed by witnesses as the place where a French Bishop, two French priests and two Korean lay leaders were decapitated on Good Friday, March 30, 1866. 1866 was known as the devastating year of Byeong-in Persecutions where the three French missionaries surrendered themselves to minimize the further arrests and torture of the Korean Catholics. Their two Korean lay leaders surrendered as well and joined the deliberate act of marching them from Seoul to the small village called Galmayeon to warn every village they passed through the consequence people would get if they joined the Catholic movement. It was said that the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the execution were taking their time to parade the five prisoners. However, the French missionaries insisted to double their pace so their execution could take place on Good Friday. The execution was indeed done on Good Friday. Since then, the sacred place has been constantly visited by Korean Catholics. The three French missionaries and two Korean martyrs were canonized in 1984.
Going back to our visit to the sacred place, we joined the Mass just before noon and had lunch and coffee afterwards. The afternoon was spent exploring the sacred place. Across from the shrine was the sea facing China. The shrine was located in a fishing village. The sight of fishing boats docked near the shore reminded me of my own birthplace. The staff were enjoying the stroll while the others threw stones to the sea and tried to compete on the number of hops their stones would get. I noticed empty seashells of diff erent shapes and sizes littered on the beach. They were sights of an insatiable appetite of human beings for seafood. Some of the empty shells could have been used again as shelter for sea creatures if returned to the ocean.
The rest were completely left useless and thrown away. I decided to collect the ones with less damaged conditions. I really did not know what to do with them yet. All I knew was their seeming aesthetic value. I came home that day with some seashells.
Days and weeks passed, I completely forgot about the seashells. The pastoral demands at Moyse Migrant Center took most of my attention and time.
Then came Palm Sunday. It was a long day. I started off by leading a group of Filipino Catholics to do the station of the Cross at the old Church which was 40 minutes’ drive from our Migrant Center. Then I had to drive for another hour and a half to another city for the Tagalog Mass in the afternoon. After the Mass, I proceeded to visit a family stricken by Covid19 to deliver some provisions. By the time I got home it was already past 9 p.m. As I was taking my dinner, the succulent plants caught my attention. I noticed they were still planted in a plastic pot. And all of a sudden, I felt a sense of guilt. I remembered I promised these plants to get them a more comfortable and beautiful pot. I realized this promise had been left undone for more than four months. And so, I planned to go to the flower shop the following day to buy some descent pots for my plants.
But my impulsive tendency urged me to do something right away. The option to go and get the pots at the flower shop was out since it was already late in the evening. So, I looked around my room and see if there were descent alternative items I could use for the plants. Bingo!
My attention was brought to the empty seashells. Part of my brain argued that the seashells were created for sea creatures. The other part of my brain (I did not know if it was the right side or left side), had assured me that the seashells could also provide a comfy place for my plants. And so, the little life project began. I began to take the bigger shells and decided to make them the shelter pots for my succulent plants. I admit I kind of stretched the boundary of a land-based plants to live and grow in the seashells. However, asserting my stewardship role on this little life project, I hoped that the succulent plants would find the seashells as comfortable pots for them.
As a steward, I have learned to always look at the potential aspect of life. As a steward, I have learnt to nurture life. As a steward, I have learnt to learn from others. As a steward, I strive to co-operate and co-exist with other living creatures.
The narrative of Jesus Christ on Good Friday indeed reveals the life project of God. His suffering and death reveal how fragile life is here on Earth. His suffering and death seem to suggest that life has its limit and end. His suffering and death points to His resurrection. In his resurrection, life is stronger than death. Jesus indeed lives. No Good Friday without Easter. No Easter without Good Friday. My little life project this Holy Week reminds me that the thrown away seashells can still serve life other than sea creatures. May God shower you with blessings, love, and peace this Easter.
Fr. Jude Genovia lives and works in Korea.