January Home in Australia
Reflections on my time Overseas Br Michael Herry
For the past four months I have been in Europe enjoying myself and having a very rewarding time. A quick summary of my adventures: I first went to Scotland, spending a week with a Brown Josephite Sister friend, and presenting a liturgical music workshop to a parish near Fort William. The Scottish parish priest, Fr Roddy who kindly offered me hospitality in his presbytery, was, quite coincidentally an old boy of the Marist Brothers College in Cape Town, South Africa, his parents having immigrated there when he was a child. He even still had in his possession his much used and very old Marist Brothers school prayer book which he has kept from his school days. Then I headed for France, where I spent a few days tracing my Herry family roots in Brittany. I became quite excited here and there when I found a Herry name, especially on a war memorial in the small coastal village of Pordic. Inscribed on the memorial was the name of a Pierre Herry, ‘Mort Pour La Patrie’ - 1939 – 1945’. Sadly I neither met, nor heard of any living Herrys.
Next, I spent five weeks, initially intending to walk the 800 km French Camino across Northern Spain. I started out in fine style, successfully crossing Pyrenees from the French town of St Jean Pres de Port, but not too far into Spain I injured my knee, twisting it one night whilst of all things, getting into an up-ladder double bunk. I walked about 30 km on my knee the next day, starting out in morning rain, and that’s when I think I did some more serious damage. After showering that same day, my knee came up like a football, forcing me to catch trains and buses, and even to spend a week with the brothers community in Logos convalescing. I was pleased to return to walking however before I reached my final destination of Santiago de Compostella. There’s a common saying amongst pilgrims on the Camino ………. ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!’ Then to Italy where I joined a group of sixteen men, mostly retired or retiring religious brothers and priests from four continents and eight different countries who came together to share of their experience of having lived fifty or more years in religious life. As the introductory pamphlet said: Manziana Third Age Spirituality Program A time of …………..Sabbath Rest Renewal Transformation
Come apart, Pray, reflect, read God’s loving
Quieten, be attentive be energised initiative within me A variety of guest presenters helped us over the two months of the course in such topic areas as:
Life transitions and what entry into Third Age means.
Our call as Marists today as we approach our bicentenary 1817 – 2017
· What being ‘prophet and mystic’ (Karl Rahner) means in today’s church.
· Choices of the Heart: Living human intimacy as celibate men, the challenges thereof and strategies for continuing to ‘choose life’ (Deut.30:15)
· Mary in our lives as Marists and Marianists (members of two orders joined together for the course) and how we express that as members of today’s Church
· Seasons of Faith in the Christian Life as seen under the headings of Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
· Physical health matters and Well Being for ageing Men
· Prayer and its transition throughout life – which we approached not from the perspective of our duty or obligation as creatures, but rather from the perspective of how we, as sharers in humanity have been gifted or ‘graced’ with prayerfulness through the initiative of another (a loving God!). The where and how of this experience in our lives, and strategies for making room for this gift?
Lest the reader might consider us a somewhat homogeneous group of pious Catholic seniors, let me assure you we were a diverse group, members coming from four continents and eight countries, reflecting a wide variety of opinions and preferences in all sorts of matters relating to our lives as brothers and priests. The one thing we did have in common was that for all our differences we were all still ‘at it’!!! And speaking personally, I felt very grateful for this time, and to know that, even perhaps to my surprise, I found myself part of such a group of ordinary, yet good ……… dare I even use the word ‘holy’ or if you prefer ‘whole-ly’….. men. I felt encouraged and affirmed in the decision I made over fifty years ago to become a Marist Brother, but also challenged to live the rest of whatever years might lie ahead fully and creatively.
Many people have been inspired and challenged by Pope Francis, not only in what he says, but more particularly in his actions. I don’t know how often I’ve read references to his admonition to pastors to be less concerned about control and authority and more ready to walk with ordinary people, especially the poor, even to the point of taking on their smell. How will this ‘call to the margins’ affect me, living as I do a very independent and comfortable life as a brother, in the biggest and best house in our street, as one of a group of older retired men. I hope to find ways of doing this in this ‘Year of the consecrated life, even if it rocks the boat a bit. The time for calling ‘Bravo!’ to Francis, from a safe distance is over! I’ve been inspired too by his call in The Joy of the Gospel to a more liberated and joyful expression of religious and Gospel life, one where I’m freer to talk of Jesus as my personal friend and Saviour.
And all this as I get older (the signs of which are becoming more numerous by the day) and as I learn to surrrender the control over my life which I protect with such passion. God help me! Michael Herry 1st Jan, 2014