A Page from a Missionary's Diary

By Fr. Frank Hoare

Columban Fr. Frank Hoare shared this page from his missionary diary:

April 16, 1992

My meeting Michael Rangu Raj on the streets of the town today, for the fi rst time in twenty years, left me astounded. He recognized and saluted me. Then he grabbed my hand and began appealing to me to forgive him. "I am sorry Father, please forgive me. I did wrong but you must not hold it against me," he repeated. I was staggered. In view of our last couple of meetings, I would have expected him to ignore me or to treat me coldly. Instead here he was appealing for mercy.

About fi fteen years previously, I used to say Mass for Michael and his family about once every two months. I would sometimes give catechetical instruction to the family, stay the night and return to the presbytery on the following day. Michael had earlier converted to Catholicism while being cared for by the Sisters on the leprosy island of Makogai.

One evening, I happened to arrive at his house unexpectedly. As I sat drinking a cup of tea, I caught sight of the equipment and trappings of Hindu worship under a bed. I challenged Michael and his wife. They admitted, without explanation or apology, having done Hindu worship earlier in the day. I was angry with what to me seemed like eclecticism and hypocrisy. I was annoyed to feel I had been taken in and fooled into believing that they were sincere Catholics. I expressed my disappointment and left.

Michael came some time later to the presbytery in the town. I had calmed down emotionally. But I warned him about standing with a leg in two boats and the danger of falling between them. I told him that he was taking a dangerous path along a cliff and could easily fall into a chasm. Michael was not impressed and left without any sign of compunction.

So when I met him again years later I was surprised at his humble and repentant reaction. Later I heard th at he had had a number of setbacks in previous years – an accident in a car he was driving, the loss of his job and problems with his children. Then it dawned on me that he must have thought that I had cursed him.

How we see ourselves and how others see us can be two very different things!

Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.