In recent days I have been glued to the television watching various sports from the 2020 Paralympics in Japan. I am sure there were many others like me who loved every moment of this amazing competition. It is interesting to note that the different events were classified with letters and numbers rather than by labels. This seemed to me to set the athletes free to be themselves, to be their best selves. There are many things to learn from the Paralympics about the greatness of the human spirit and the ability to overcome difficulties and succeed against the odds. It seems to me that there is also an invitation to think differently about others. My personal invitation is to stop labelling and categorising others and to begin to think in new ways. For example: imagine how it would be if we stopped dividing others into into ‘friend’ or ‘enemy’. Imagine how things might change…
Bombs explode in the vicinity of Kabul airport and children, women and men are injured and killed. Thousands of people are crowded outside hoping for evacuation and even more are massed at borders waiting to cross into safety. Meanwhile a whole people waits with bated breath for whatever a frightening future holds. May our prayers bring peace forward and change our hearts. May we ‘welcome the stranger’ and work unstintingly for peace.
From day to day we hear stories ranging from those of joy and triumph to those of suffering and failure. As I watch the Olympics against the background of the wide-ranging world issues facing us it seems to me that we are called to pray in many ways – from thanksgiving to intercession. I am sure that we all try and offer help to others wherever we are and within our own contexts. I also feel part of one great global movement of compassion uniting us in spirit and in love.
As we watch, read or listen to the daily news we are all surely struck by the many problems facing our world at this time. Covid19 continues to be a threat in many parts of the world. Elsewhere poverty stalks whole populations, as does civil war. Yesterday’s news of flooding in parts of Europe only adds to our concerns. I am sure that we are all doing all that we can to alleviate the suffering of others. Let us all pray and keep on praying, without ceasing that there can be an end to the suffering we witness on a daily basis.
We have had good reason to celebrate in Yogyakarta this month as we have had the immense joy of having two vow ceremonies: a renewal of vows and a celebration of final vows.
On the evening of Friday 4th June, Mei renewed her vows for three years. The simple ceremony took place in Baciro community chapel. Mei’s renewal had a distinctly ‘missionary’ theme. She had chosen the Gospel account of the sending of the twelve disciples from Matthew 10:1,5a,6-8. Fr Harsanto, the celebrant, emphasised the seriousness of Mei’s commitment in his homily and encouraged her to live her vows with enthusiasm. Mei spoke her vows with a great sense of purposefulness. After the Mass we enjoyed a tasty evening meal which had been lovingly cooked by the members of Baciro community.
The memory of Mei’s vows was still with us as we completed our preparations for Tyas’ final vows in the coming days. The evening before the vows we gathered in Soropadan for a prayer of Thanksgiving. It was a happy occasion. Tyas was filled with delight. The prayer was lovely and the meal that followed it was delicious. The evening was a good introduction to the day ahead.
The final vows took place at 10am on Saturday June 12th. Despite the limitations placed on us by Covid restrictions we were able to make it a beautiful day. Both solemn and joyful, it was beautiful in every way. It was an intimate affair; the total number of people present was only sixty. Tyas’ family were happy to be present and we FCJs were, of course, delighted to be celebrating final vows. The singing was led by a small choir of five persons plus an organist. They could have been fifty! Tyas was radiant, it was clear she was ready for whatever she was committing herself to. It was great that the celebrant was from Ende. Fr Joseph Aurelius Wai Bule knows the FCJs well and he made the whole ceremony extremely personal. It was beautiful when Tyas spoke her vows. It was clear that she meant every word. The lunch that followed the vows was served in boxes. We gathered in small groups and were able to relax and spend some quality time together.
Later that day we gathered together for supper in Soropadan community house. It was good to be with Tyas as she read the cards and greetings she had received and to look back on the day and enjoy all that had happened.
I was cooking our supper on Tuesday and needed to go to the traditional market to buy the things I needed. One of our sisters kindly accompanied me as I had never been to this particular market before. We had done all of our shopping except for ‘free range eggs’ which seemed a bit elusive on that particular day. My companion asked an elderly woman who was selling snacks if she could tell us where the eggs where. I was deeply touched when the woman got down from her stool, walked across the market to the stall selling eggs and brought them to us. Not only had the woman helped us, she had also made a sale for the person selling eggs. We thanked her for her kindness and were rewarded with a beautiful smile that lit up her lovely face. That spontaneous act of kindness illumined my whole day. Hopefully, we can make other’s days too by our own simple acts of kindness.
As Pentecost draws nearer day by day I find myself praying earnestly for the precious fruit of peace to grow abundantly in our world. A shocking level of war and violence has broken out in many places, this calls for our prayer and advocacy. I realise it is not enough to pray, I need to have the stance of a peacemaker – to say sorry, forgive and reconcile in every case. Hopefully, our small efforts can help in some way to increase the overall flow of peace in our world.
As last Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 15: 1-8) has unfolded throughout this week in several of the daily Gospel readings I have found myself constantly reflecting on it. I have been focused on the connection between the vine and the words “Remain in me”. There is a single vine growing in the garden of Ende FCJ Community and I was dedicated to watering it every day for the three months of my time there. I was intrigued to watch the rapidly growing plant send out its spindly tendrils far and wide and grasp tightly on to any available means of support. Once they are wrapped around a piece of wood or even the stems of others plants those tendrils are very hard to unwind, they just don’t let go. It struck me that in the Gospel reading on the vine even as Jesus was inviting us to “Remain in me” he was also (like those tendrils) holding tightly on to us. I liked that idea. I pray that we are all able to accept, relish and remain in the love of Jesus.
In preparation for Vocations Sunday a group of religious from about 25 different congregations present in the UK hosted an online celebration of religious life called ‘Living Joyfully’.
The event aimed to provide young people with an opportunity to meet religious, ask questions and find out more about the wide variety of communities present in the UK.
We had Enclosed Contemplative nuns, Apostolic Religious Sisters and Brothers, members of Missionary congregations and Monastic communities present over the three day event.
Thursday and Friday were offered to schools, with teams of religious ‘Zooming in’ to classrooms to share something of their life and vocation and to answer questions ranging from ‘Do you have a phone?’ to ‘Can you give an example of when you felt God was present with you in a time of struggle? How did your faith help you at that time?’
Saturday was open to young adults from 18 – 40 and we had great conversations with the group who attended.
It was certainly an opportunity for joy as we worked together to share something of our wonderful vocation to religious life!
In reflecting on ‘Vocations’, the theme of today’s Mass, I find myself thinking of the many ways in which God’s people are called to serve others. It seems to me that each state of life is a vocation, as is each form of work, when we undertake it in the knowledge that it is our way of serving God. Today’s Gospel, taken from John 10:11-18, reminds us of the difference between a true shepherd and a ‘hired hand’ who has no true concern for the sheep. Just as Jesus is the ultimate ‘Good Shepherd’ I see that we too are invited to be good and true shepherds to those to whom we are sent. I am happy and proud to be an FCJ sister. It is my deepest prayer that we can all be happy and proud as we live out our unique and individual vocations.