Tag Archive: History


Remembering with Hope

AMDG

disciples-empty-tomb-wallpaper   Taken from Todays Homily

Physical death is inevitable for all of us.  One day our hearts will stop beating, our brains will stop working, our bodies will become stiff and cold, and start to decay. …….  I thought that would cheer you up!  ……..  But that is not the end of the story for us.  Our faith leads us beyond death.  Biological or physical cessation does not mean spiritual death for us.  So this November as we remember the dead…..we must always we remember that our faith is built on the rock of the physical resurrection of Christ – his defeat of physical death.  We can historically prove Jesus’s death. Historians tell me that even the empty tomb of Jesus can be historically proven with recourse to divergent and non-Christian Sources.  But the physical resurrection of Christ is a matter of faith.   It is the physical resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope in the face of our own death.   Some theologians have tried to water this down – but we remember in the gospels that Thomas touched the risen Jesus’s side, that the risen Christ ate with the disciples –these physical details matter.   The  physical resurrection of Christ – this allows us to make sense of death.  In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters the  Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection.  Jesus is talking to their unbelief  and says  that God is not the God of the dead but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive

mem-127aOur belief in the resurrection and in eternal life  allows us to hope even in the face of terrible killing and slaughter on a massive scale.   Today we remember those who have died in the terrible wars of  the twentieth century – In this country it is called Remembrance Sunday.  It is today because of the end of World War One – On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Here in the Holy Name in Manchester we have a war memorial with 226 names on it, 226 young men, sitting in these pews who were killed.  Today we remember them especially.  I will ask someone you all know, Michael Keneely to come and lay flowers by their names.  You may not know Michael by name – but you will recognise his face.  Michael is the old man that welcomes you at the back of church when you come to mass.  He was a marine in the Second World War and took part in the D-Day Landings on Sword Beach in Normandy.  It was the D-Day landings that led to the liberation of Europe.  Michael’s brother was later killed in Palestine.   Let’s give him a round of applause as he brings the flowers forward.

All the Saints

AMDG

All-SaintsToday’s celebration of all the Saints is a very special one for the church.  All Saints day grew out of a need in the early church to remember all the martyrs that couldn’t fit into the emerging  liturgical calendar.  Initially every martyr (saint) was given their own feast day – but in the first three hundred years of the church, so many were killed by Roman emperors (about 100,000 according to some scholars)  - that they couldn’t fit them in the emerging liturgical calendar – hence the birth of all saints day.    The status of Christianity changed dramatically during the reign of Emperor Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christian, and agreed on the Edict of Milan, which stressed religious tolerance.  His mother St Helena is credited with discovering the true cross of Christ. Christianity went from being a sect, heavily persecuted and underground, to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.  A bit further down the line Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  This was a remarkable moment  where the ancient temple to all the gods of ancient Rome became a Christian church dedicated to all the saints of the early church.  Pope  Gregory IV (827-844) extended this celebration to the entire Church and gave the feast universal status – So for Catholics it is called a Holy Day of Obligation (i.e. they must go to mass) . Such important feast days have their own vigil – hence Halloween – the evening of all Hallows.  Wearing costumes / jack-o-laterns etc / partys (fiestas) can all be traced back to the start of this three-day holiday.

1970405592_0e3f9698f0There are two paths to ‘sainthood’ in the Catholic Church.  One is to be a martyr –  or to be killed distinctly out of hatred for the faith (“odium fidei”), the other is to live a life of heroic virtue.  The second process usually requires independent proof of miracles as a result of someone praying for your intercession.  The pictures on either side of the blog today come from a marvellous set of tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Angels in  Los Angles.    THe tapestries are called the communion of Saints consisting  of females and males of all ages, races, occupations and vocations the world over. Saints from the Renaissance are intermingled with people from the 1st century and the 20th century. The artist – John Nava -  combined digital imaging and “Old Master” methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that “a saint could look like me.”

Communion-of-Saints-tapestry-300x192

 

You can see these marvelous tapestries in more detail by clink on this link 
 

 

AMDG

English: Manchester University Logo

English: Manchester University Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it has been announced publicly now that my next job is to be chaplain at Manchester University.  I will be moving in sometime by the end of this week.  I will be on my own till Christmas and then 3 other Jesuits will join me.  It is a very exciting new mission, with a conglomeration of over 85,000 students (the biggest in Europe I’ve been told) and 400-600 coming to the Sunday evening mass.  Outside the chaplaincy is also the busiest bus stop in the country (foot-fall wise) with more than 2000 passengers embarking and disembarking an hour, so we really are in the thick of it.  Fantastic!  Many of mates think it is hilarious that a scouser and Liverpool fan is going to Manchester to be chaplain, but as I said on local radio yesterday, over the last 20 years us Liverpool fans have had to learn humility, which is a good quality for a chaplain.  I hope that brought a smile to a few Mancunian faces….  Daniel into the lions den!

Probably by advent we will be taking back the Holy Name Church (next door to the chaplaincy) as the Oratorians will move to their newly founded oratory nearby.  We owe them a huge debt of gratitude as in essence they saved the Church.  Last week a national newspaper reported that Roberto Mancini (Man City manager) is a regular mass attendee click here, so I will have to exercise restraint in the pulpit!  At the back of the church is a beautiful copy of the Rubens painting of St Ignatius and St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorians (see right).  They were great friends and St. Philip encouraged a number of his own disciples who displayed a desire for missionary work to become Jesuits.  Philip was fascinated with the plans of St. Francis Xavier, whom he befriended before the latter set off on his missionary journeys. Ignatius used to pass along the letters of St. Francis reporting back to Rome, which Philip and his companions would read and discuss together in community.  However,  Philip was told by a wise Trappist that “Your India is to be Rome.”, a city which is always in need of missionary and reforming zeal!  We owe a great debt to Father Ray Matus and his companions for all the work they have done in Manchester and I hope we can keep the spiritual synergy going!

 

Olympic Beginnings

AMDG

Olympic enthusiasm finally seems to be eclipsing Olympic cynicism here in the UK as the Games begin.  There has been a tidal wave of articles in the press about the Olympic Games however I am surprised not to have read much about the father of the Modern Olympics, Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Recently I investigated the beginning of the Modern Olympic movement for the British Jesuit’s on-line journal Thinking Faith.  De Coubertin belonged to an aristocratic Catholic family in the late nineteenth century who were being buffeted by anti-elite and anti-church currents in post-revolutionary Napoleonic France.  As a young man growing up in uncertain times he fell under the spell of a charismatic Classics teacher, Father Carron, at the Jesuit College of  Saint Ignatius in Paris.  Concerned that France, after a heavy defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, was in decline, de Coubertin found Father Carron’s classes about Olympia and ancient Greece a welcome escape from decline into past glories.  He became convinced that to reverse the decline in French fortunes their needed to be a widespread educational reform.  Impressed by the British Empire, he went on a tour of British schools and universities. Starting with the Jesuit colleges of Beaumont and Stonyhurst, even meeting Cardinal (now Blessed) John Henry Newmanhe became convinced that competitive sport played a much more central role in forming characters, particularly as it was often coupled in the boarding schools with a form of ‘muscular Christianity’ often inspired by Pauline metaphors.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, half-length portrai...

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, half-length portrait, standing, facing front (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However on his return to France his suggestions for educational reform had cold water poured on them. Discouraged but not giving up, he started dreaming of a bigger canvas to put his ideas into action.  The  International Olympic Committee was founded,  the motto ‘Citius, Altius & Fortius’  (Faster, Higher and Stronger) was borrowed from a Dominican priest, Father Diddon.  The first summer games  of the Modern Olympiad was held in Athens in 1896.  De Coubertin was to spend the rest of his life promoting his Olympic movement, even visiting the sports-oriented Pope Pius X to help him promote and widen ‘Olympism’.  However inspite of the Jesuit and Catholic roots to this enterprise, de Coubertin was to drift away from his early faith.  As he became more and more critical of Christianity he started to see ‘Olympicism’ and its attendant pageantry as being a replacement for religion.  He believed that the Olympic movement would awaken religious thoughts in its participants.  This distortion of his vision reached a climax in the infamous 1936 Olympics, where de Coubertin, after witnessing ‘Hitler’s Games’,  stated that only the Germans really understood his vision and expressed a desire that an institute would be founded to hold all of his letters and manuscripts after his death. If that has whetted your appetite you can read the whole of the article on Thinking Faith by clicking below.

Article ‘Dreaming of Olympia’

 

AMDG

English: View to Eigg. from Sleat, Isle of Sky...

The Island of Eigg is part of the Inner Hebrides

There is an archetypal story of the flower or plant that is very rare but exceedingly beautiful, or has mystical healing powers. In order to pluck this treasure you have travel to a remote spot, a high mountain perhaps or a lost island to locate it. The Church of St Donan on the Isle of Eigg feels like the ecclesial equivalent of that magical flower or plant. The Isle of Eigg has a population of 88, mostly nominal Catholics and the parish is served here from Arisaig, which means weather permitting (it’s a one hour boat ride) the get mass once a month. So two of us set out yesterday not knowing what to expect. What we found was truly a rare flower, overlooking the stunning Bay of Laig. There has been no resident priest on Eigg since the fifties, so a sporadic service from nearby mainland parishes probably accounts for the small active congregation – but as is often the case it is quality not quantity. I was very inspired by their commitment and their plans.

When you walk into the church you are hit by the delightful smell of the pine floor. The Church clean and recently renovated is beautiful. Such work is not cheap however, on enquiry theirs was a fascinating story about how the church renovation was paid for. The former priest had left a beautiful painting in the adjoining presbytery (recently demolished as it had fallen into disrepair). In his will he had stipulated that it only be sold to pay for renovation of the church. Removed to Oban and hung in the bishops house – the painting went into a bit of limbo.

St Donan who was massacred with over 50 of his monks by a Pictish Queen in 617

Meanwhile the small and tenacious group of parishioners were fretting about the state of the historic church, exposed to the raw Atlantic winds and harsh winter storms. Recently they heard about the renovation and rededication of the Catholic Church on the neighbouring Isle of Skye. They went to visit to get tips for fund-raising and they were told the best thing to do was to pray to their patronal saint. This they duly did, and the forgotten about painting came back onto the agenda – with one of the final acts of the retiring bishop to get it valued. With the value coming back at between 15,000 – 20,0000 it seemed that they would still fall short by a long way. They kept praying and the painting went up for auction at Sotheby’s two days after the feast of their parish saint. It was sold for nearly £250,000! Mairi, one of the parishioners told me with a beaming smile they are convinced it was due to the intercession of St Donan.

Inside the newly refurbished church

Now their plans are to get more priests visiting the islands to say masses on a more regular basis. They are even considering raising money to build a small chalet next to the church for the visiting priests. Meanwhile however they will be treated to island hospitality! So if you know any priests looking for a week away – in a beautiful spot – with wonderful walking, fishing, sea kayaking opportunities please tell them to contact Mairi at the following address.

Mairi Mackinnon , Maranatha

7 Cleadale , Isle of Eigg, PH42 4RL

Of course all arrangements should also be made through the Parish priest, Fr Andrew Barrett, the Parish Priest at Arisaig whose takes responsibility for the parish on Eigg. I left Eigg inspired by their story and keen to help them. A small but incredibly committed group of faithful. They are not asking for money but simply for priests so they can practise their faith… let’s try and help them!

Arriving for mass on a quad bike

AMDG

Doing the Parish Rounds will never quite seem the same again...

One of my abiding memories of my time in Culion was staying overnight with a family in the remote village of TabukTabuk.  On the west of the island many of the villages are populated by subsistence fishermen, taking their sustenance from the West Philippine Sea – or is the South China Sea…….. and therein lies a tale.  As I was enjoying fresh coconut milk, and squinting at the waves breaking on a distant reef, it was difficult to imagine that this stretch of water is tipped by some to be the possible starting point of the next global war.  How could this tropical bliss become a hellish theater of war?   The nagging thought only got stronger later in the day when on the way back to the Jesuit Community the boatman kindly detoured at my request.  I spent an amazing 30 minutes snorkeling and feeding a beautiful array of fish on a reef that was rich was life. The nagging thought came because this was an artificial reef created by a Japanese War Ship.

There are many wrecks in the seas around Culion from the Second World War — and ‘wreck diving’ has become a popular tourist attraction.  I suppose the nagging thought was also partly due to my working my way through HBO’s ‘Pacific’ the last couple of weeks which brilliantly portrays the intensity & brutality of the Pacific War.  It seemed the best place to watch it with the added impetus that my grandfather was awarded the Burma Star for fighting in the campaign – something he would never talk about, obviously too painful an experience to tell his wide-eyed grandsons but it was clear that he had bitter memories of the Japanese. and would get angry when he saw Japanese cars on the streets of Liverpool.

The South China Sea

Image via Wikipedia

But surely that is all in the past – and these islands have returned to a tropical bliss…. right?  Well it would be foolish to be too complacent. This sea appears to be one of the more disputed ‘territories’ on the planet and it is the rise of China that is getting everyone jittery.  In January the Philippines announced that it wants to “maximise” its mutual defence treaty with the United States, with more joint exercises, and more American soldiers rotating through. Reinforcing Obama’s ‘pivot’ to the Pacific – the reaction in the Chinese press was shrill calling for sanctions against the Philippines. In December Beijing had ignored Manila’s protest about the incursion of three Chinese vessels in what it calls the “West Philippine Sea”.  An old Jesuit told me that these spats were quite common.

But complacency is not in order here – according to the Economist the stakes are high, because of the enormous economic significance of this disputed sea. It accounts for as much as one-tenth of the fishing catch landed globally; around half the tonnage of intercontinental trade in commercial goods passes through; and a potential treasure chest of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) that China, anxious about the vulnerability of its own supplies, sees as its own (Banyan Feb 4th). With both the Philippines and Vietnam intending to start extracting oil things might more from diplomacy to harassment.  So the chances are that America, with its mighty navy and abiding interest in the freedom of navigation and commerce, and China which its rapidly developing its Navy - recently floating a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier and soon to finish building its first.

Will the waters of the South China (West Philippine Sea) lead to a maritime cold war? Or more aptly a clammy war? Or – God forbid – something worse.  Who knows? …. but it is certainly a sobering thought for Lent.  The potential for man to destroy his paradise.  I suppose that the wisdom of Lent is to remember our fragility and our mortality – if only more people took Lenten renewal more seriously.

Maybe I’ll be less gloomy by the time we get to Easter  :)

——-

P.S.  This news came on line 12hrs after I finished the blog entry :

China hits out at ‘troublemaker’ Manila in maritime row  :  BBC News Click Here 

 

———

 

“The Last Frontier”

AMDG
I will be spending the next three weeks in the remote Palawan Islands in Southern Phillipines (painted blue).   In what is called our ‘elective’ experience, I will be available to help at the Jesuit Mission in Culion (one of the 1700 islands that make up the archipelago).  There are 51 chapels that are served from the parish at Culion – scattered around the islands as well as a High school and College.  Having had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago – the consultant in the hospital was somewhat relieved I am not heading back into the Mountain Province.  Having just discarded my crutches – the mangroves, beaches and coral reefs of Palawan will be much more conducive to recovery than the rice terraces and mud slides of Kalinga!  (I hope!!)  The islands of Palawan are called “The Last Frontier” because it is the last unsettled area in the Philippines. Home to many tribal groups such as the Tau Batu, the Batak, the Tagbanua, and one such Palawano tribe was just discovered as late as 1997.

I must confess that I also noticed that Palawan is rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region in 2007, and the 13th best island in the world having “incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes.  I have been told that I will have a small boat and that maybe inbetween masses – baptisms – catechesis – there will be a chance for a spot of snorkelling or even scuba diving! Considering the famous French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau  once described the province as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world – it would be rude not to take up the opportunity! However before I get too excited – I have also been told – that the islands have a large population of reptiles such as Cobras, Pythons, and Monitor Lizards which range in size from 3 ft. to 8 ft in length.  It is also home to a sub-species of the Asian Scorpion which is found nowhere else in the Philippines. This Scorpion grows to be an average length of 7 inches…….

Someone had to volunteer to make the Parish rounds....

Finally just an interesting note specifically about the history of Culion and the Jesuit Mission there.  The treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898, wherein Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for 20 million dollars. The Americans wished to establish some form of public health policy in the Philippines as part of their long-termplan. The traditional belief was that the maintenance of public health required the isolation of cases of leprosy from the rest of the public. After an investigation of a number of sites, the island of Culion was selected as a segregation colony .  The government enacted a policy of  the compulsory segregation of the lepers, and confinement and treatment in Culion. Between 1906 and 1910 they rounded up 5,303 leprosy afflicted individuals and brought them to the colony. The Jesuits accompanied them – and established the parish with its network of chapels on other islands, as well as a high school and Loyola College. You can read more about its fascinating history here.   The beautiful Jesuit church in Culion (below), was built by the lepers.   Although leprosy in Culion has been totally eradicated, it is said the stigma still remains.   I don’t know how much I will be able to update the blog the next three weeks –  so don’t be too alarmed if there is a period of ‘radio silence!’.  Once again thanks for all the interest shown and all the comments – either by email or left on the blog itself.

AMDG

We have been enjoying two days in Baguio City – it feels a little like our base camp – before we are sent to our respectives areas for Christmas. It has been nice to relax and acclimatise away from the heat and noise of Manila. Known as the “Summer Capital” Filipinos by their thousands flock to Baguio to enjoy family vacations in the cool temperatures and dry air of the mountains. The City is at an altitude higher than Ben Nevis – and was developed by the Americans as a resort town in the mountains.  The Jesuits have a beautiful house called Mirador. It sits at the top of one of the hills in Baguio and has itself become a tourist hotspot.  Over a hundred years ago, Spanish Jesuits built a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes which is accessible by climbing 252 steps! And at the weekends it attracts many Phillipinos as much for the views it commands as for devotional reasons. Anyway we all managed to make it up the steps with our full packs- a little bit of training before the Christmas masses in the Mountains.

Mirador was once the site of a Jesuit Observatory and Seismology Station early in the last century which has since relocated to Manila.  For 20 years it became the theologate for the expelled Chinese Jesuits (at the time of Mao) – who have since moved on to Taiwan.  Now Mirador is a retreat/villa house for Jesuits who needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is under the management of the CLC.  Tonight – four of us are catching a night bus to Tabuk – where we will be assigned our areas by the Bishop. The journey may be about 12 hours – we have to go the long way round because the direct road is closed due to a combination of landslides and warring tribes!!  Please keep us in your prayers.

For me the highlight of our tour of Baguio has been visiting a quite remarkable work by the Good Shepherd Sisters. They have been training and educating many of the young people from the remoter regions of the Mountain Provinces. At first they had to rely on begging to support such scholarships – but now they have built up an incredible social enterprise where the youngsters support themselves through studies through a series of practical work – from making a nationally famous strawberry jam, coffee,  baking, needlework, making peanut brittle.  In 1990 there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed much of the plant – and so the sisters considered pulling out – but the youngsters insisted that as long as they could still be educated they would carry on the work for free until they built up the business again.  Another important element of the sisters work is to encourage the youngsters to be proud of their indigenous heritage (see pic) – and to preserve it as it is often looked down on by the locals! You can read about this remarkable and inspiring project here -journey form charity to social enterprise.   

I have made a small video called a taste of Baguio – it shows you some of the scenery, a beautiful hermitage in the grounds of the retreat house, the stained glass windows with the famous rice terraces and indigenous villagers depicted (where we will be giving our Christmas Ministries), also some of the work of the sisters, as well as a lovely scene outside the Cathedral in Baguio, with two young girls enchanted by the angelic Holy-water stoops and learning to bless themselves, Don’t worry it is only 90 seconds long!

 

AMDG

The newspapers in the Phillipines have all had David Beckham on the cover the last couple of days. He is in town to play a game – but is doing impressive work for UNICEF too.  His LA Galaxy beat the Philippine National  team (the Azkals) 6-1, and as he left the pitch after 70 mins he handed his shirt to a certain Manny Pacquio who was in the crowd.  It is a testament to Beckhams global appeal that he even seems to outshine Pacquio. Well who outshines Beckham? Well for devotion in Asia – Saturday was the feast day of St Francis Xavier – close friend of Ignatius and great missionary to Asia. His voyages are now legendary – and his popularity as a saint seems to be universal – he is truly an A-Lister!   His popularity can be measured by the amount of institutions, schools, parishes, universities, centers that are named after him.  Perhaps an even more impressive legacy is the impact of his name – Xavier is the name of his home ‘town’ or estate.  Just think about how many people you know who are named after him, Javier – Xavi – Xavier – Javi.

The Madonna and Child in Glory with Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Xavier – Pacecco de Rosa

In honour of the feastday – ignoring the big game – we tertians were invited on Saturday night to the Xavier school in Manila.  As well as celebrating mass, a very generous dinner was laid on – and the highlight of the dinner was the  presentation of a painting to the Jesuit Community and College of Francis Xavier.  The benefactors and donors of the painting – the D.Campos family (former students) -were attending an auction of Princess Diana’s goods on behalf of the Spencer Familyat Christies in London. This painting of Francis Xavier and Saint Ignatius with the Madonna and child caught their eye, it is an original by Pacceco de Rosa and it was bought  at an auction .  In a commemorative postcard given to is all said May we have the burning zeal to bring everyone to the Lord. 

The Devotion to Francis in Asia transcends religious groups.  I still have fond memories of taking a group of students from Wimbledon to Goa.  We were given permission to celebrate mass in beautiful Jesuit Church (and UNESCO site) the Bom Jesu – but had to wait about half an hour.  The reason we had to wait was that a Japanese goverment minister was visting the chapel.  It is a very popular place of pilgrimage in Asia as the chapel holds the glass casket where St Francis’s incorrupt body is on display.  The Japanese minister, not a Christian, had traveled all the way to Goa after a ministerial meeting in Dehli just to pay his respects.  The Body of Francis is brought down for veneration every 10 years and millions travel to Goa (Christians & non Christians) to venerate this holy man. Amongst Jesuits, Xavier is treasured for many reasons,  his successful missionary work, his capacity of inculturation, the beautiful letters written to Ignatius and distributed throughout Europe. He was sent by Ignatius to the ‘Indies’ as a last-minute replacement for Bobadilla, who had suddenly fallen ill. The very next day he packed up his things to leave Rome for Lisbon never to see Europe or his beloved Ignatius again.  This freedom of spirit, ‘availability for mission’ and generosity is what we are asked to live up to.

Story-Telling and Vietnam

In these first weeks of our Tertianship we are encouraged to reread the autobiography  St Ignatius, plus read other accounts of his life. Reading them in a ‘sapiential’ way rather than in a mechanistic way – i.e. listening with our hearts for the wisdom of the story.  At the moment I am making my way through  The Pilgrim Saint by the Basque historia, Tellechea Idígoras.   Alongside this private reading, as a group, we are also taking our time and sharing with each other our own life stories – in the form of presentations. Preparing these presentations itself has had hidden graces, whilst looking for photos from my youth (pre-digital / pre-internet days!) I have got back in touch with old friends, even getting a school photo from 30 years ago ( I will spare you the details).  This process has been surprisingly energising – it has reminded me of something I discovered when investigating grief counselling – a report in the BMJ about the importance of listening constructively to patients stories. I think this is now  called ‘narrative based medicine.’ This may seem obvious to you and me but the authors are critical of how so many time-strapped doctors seem to display superficial listening skills ( I think time -strapped may be the clue there!). The simple reality seems to be that storytelling, when listened to actively and empathetically can be inspiring,  encouraging, healing, clarifying and helps us to remember important truths. It is a privilege having these two weeks to do this, and also to be reimmersed in the remarkable story of Ignatius Loyola.

We are now half way through this process d and we have all shared the story of our early lives and calling finishing at the point where we entered religious life.  It has been quite moving to hear how God has worked in different ways, through different cultures from East Africa, North America, South Asia and Europe. What has struch me is how He has overcome the various resistances that we all placed in His way.

Three of our group are Vietnames Jesuits – although now working in California, Oregon and Australia respectively.  Their stories have been breathtaking -the three of them were young boys when Siagon fell to the Communists in 1975.  They all escaped in the wave of immigration known as ‘the boat people’ -they endured dehydration /starvation / Malaysian pirates / rape / death and many trials on the overcrowded and ill-equipped boats. Incredible and breathtaking stories. Estimates vary,  but the respected Professor Rummel from University of Hawaii claims that 500,000 died, mainly on the South China Sea, from 2million in that first wave of refugees.  Terrible and shocking to hear the first hand accounts. What has been a source of reflection for me, listening to my fellow tertians,  is that after this traumatic exodus / redemption / and then achieving the American Dream ( through hard work and serious levels of intelligence) they found their vocations. They had been to hell and back – achieved a life of luxury and still weren’t satisfied. On his final speech leaving Germany last night the Pope said ‘History has shown that, when the Church becomes less worldly, her missionary witness shines more brightly‘ and that is certainly true about what appears to be the vibrancy of the Viatnemese Church. I am very grateful to have heard their stories.

A final aside – it was the plight of the Vietnamese Boat People that led to the then Jesuit General, beloved Pedro Arrupe to set up the Jesuit Refugee Service – otherwise known as JRS.

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