In the middle of the night, with the wedding guests gathered around, the groom is led to a specially-prepared canopy. There, he is seated, facing north. A short time later, his bride is led in and is seated next to him. This is their first moment together during the wedding ceremony and they spend it gazing silently at the Pole Star. As they do so, they cherish the hope that their commitment to one another as husband and wife might be as steadfast as that star.
There was a frantic voice at the end of the phone. “Fr. Peter our Filipino friend Genalyn is sick in hospital and our Taiwan broker is going to send her back to the Philippines this afternoon. Can you please come to the hospital to help her.” I asked Sr. Joyce, our Hsinchu diocese migrant center’s Filipino pastoral coordinator to come with me.
It is with much joy and heartfelt gratitude that I, on behalf of Columban missionaries and co-workers invite you, our benefactors, your families and friends, and the people among whom we live and serve, to join us in our Centennial Year celebrations which commenced on November 23, 2017, on the Feast of St. Columban.
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.