CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Festivals can make a home sweet home and a sweet Church sweeter

 by Logos

Since 2003, the year I began my journey to follow my priestly vocation, I have not had the opportunity to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with my parents.

This festival of the full-moon is one of the traditional Chinese celebrations that call for families to come together for a reunion, as well as eat together in thanksgiving for what they have received.

For most my years in seminary life, l have spent almost all my time on the seminary campus with my brother seminarians.

Occasionally at Mid-Autumn Festival time we had a few mooncakes and sometimes even a small party. But in retrospect, the Mid-Autumn Festival of 2008, five years after I entered the seminary, motivated me to reflect a great deal on sharing warmth and festive joy with those in need, especially during cultural festivals.

Some days before Mid-Autumn Festival that year I got sick. I was able to arrange to stay in a parish to rest and recover from my illness. I was warmly received by Father Wang, the parish priest, whom I was meeting for the first time.

He treated me like a brother in a family. It was the first ever warm experience that I had ever experienced with a parish priest.

I was fragile and needed extra nutrition. Father Wang and the sisters serving at the parish had prepared food, drinks and fruit for me, even though their lives were simple and they barely had sufficient for themselves.

My illness kept me in bed most of the time. In order to relieve my boredom, Father Wang loaned me his laptop, something which was rather novel for us in those days, so I could keep up with my studies.

He also shared articles and materials with me that he had collected on his hard drive. This was another novel experience for me as, actually, seminarians were rarely allowed to go online.

Sometimes, even when the weather was hot, Father Wang, although sweating a lot from his work, would not allow people to use the electric fans during meals, as he feared that I could catch a cold easily.

For him and the others working at the parish, it was a great sacrifice. But for me, it was a touching experience of love and mercy being shown to me; a mere little and sick seminarian of the Church.

On the day of the festival itself, Father Wang arranged for me to call my parents on the telephone and invited me to join the parish celebration, with mooncakes and a hearty meal.

It meant a lot to me. I heard Jesus saying to me, “Be a loving and caring priest in the future.”

Also, I learned to care for those in need, as reflected by a slogan written on the walls of many of our churches, which says, “The Church is a home for all.”

The parishioners sometimes told me that they felt at home when they came to the church. Yet, our home still needs more people to make it better.

I hope our Church in China can bring warmth and care to those who come to it for assistance. During festivals, I just wonder if our bishops or diocesan administrators, as fathers of the diocese, could send their priests, sisters, seminarians, catechists and other staff a warm greeting. Even just a telephone call, a text message, a small gift, a mooncake or anything that express concern would suffice.

Similarly, it would be great if our parish priests could greet their co-workers in the parish and let the message of festive love be shared with others outside the Church. Otherwise, festivals will just become a time of gift-offering and fulfilling other social customs, without giving much thought to it.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to remember our parents. These days, more and more people are working in cities and are far away. Consequently, they and cannot travel back home to be with their parents and families.

Could our parishes not organise activities for them, especially our brother and sister Catholics during these festivals?

I remember once when I was staying with the priests and other seminarians in the diocese, a Catholic family from the northeast volunteered to cook some delicious cuisine for all of us at the church.

We certainly enjoyed a great meal with the family. But more than that, we thought of the migrant workers and the homeless.

The question that I ask is, “Have we got the courage to follow the Holy Father’s example of inviting the homeless to our churches to enjoy a meal and share the joy of togetherness at festival times?”

This kind of service is rarely heard of in the Church in China. What we do unto the least of our brothers is what we do for Jesus.

We can enjoy the full moon, eat mooncakes and share our faith life together, as well as offer prayer for their family and relatives who live or work far away.

Also, we can visit homes for elderly people and orphanages to bring God’s blessing and companionship to sometimes lonely people at festival times. This will make our parishes a sweet home.

However, for those who are lucky enough to be at home and enjoy great meals with their family at festival times, would you please switch off your mobile phones and computers?

This will enable you to have some quality-time to share with your parents and family. Like in the old days, you can pray with your own family.

Maybe it is a sign of the times, but many young Catholics today prefer to take part in online prayer meetings rather than pray with their parents. However, in my view, on festival eve, our time should be dedicated to accompany our parents, husband or wife, and our own children.

This will make your home a sweet home.

Let us pass on the message of keeping good, close relationships with our parents and family, treating others as we would treat our own family, particularly  at this Mid-Autumn Festival. With Jesus’ love and mercy, we can build our family and the Church together.

For the Mid-Autumn Festival this year, were you ready to make it a good day for your family, friends and Church groups? I hope so.

May God bless you (AsiaNews).

 

The writer is a seminarian from northern China.