Pope Francis continues to amaze by his travels and his constant message of dialogue and peace in a world that waits in deep longing for both. He was recently in Egypt, a country that has seen its share of violence in past years and said that he hoped that the Egyptian people would view him as a “messenger of peace, and a pilgrim traveling to that land that gave refuge to the infant Jesus and his parents.” He travels as a pilgrim and that word pilgrim implies a person who is on the way, who has not yet arrived, and who is open to coming to know God while “on the way.” And he refers to the land of Egypt not in hostile terms, but as the land that provided a home and a resting place for the Holy Family as they fled King Herod for safety in Egypt. Our pope always seeks out what is best in people, always seeks to find common ground, always refers to a God who is boundless in love and mercy and forgiveness. He is a voice that shines a light in a dark world – who else in the world speaks in this way today?
As friars we see ourselves as pilgrims in the world, as being “on the way” in every sense of that phrase. Last week we learned that one of our friars in Peru, Fr. Mariano Gagnon, had died in Lima. I met Fr. Mariano when I was studying Spanish in Lima in 1997. He invited me to come with him to the Amazon to visit the Ashaninka Indians, who lived deep in the Amazon. We took a bus over and through the Andes Mountains to a jungle town called Satipo, and took a flight to a clearing in the jungle where we were welcomed by the Ashaninka (one of whom, I remember, had a New York Knicks t-shirt, a jarring sight to see in the middle of the Amazon!). I had a hut to stay in for the night, with a cot, and a mosquito net over the cot, and I remember Mariano telling me – much to my alarm – that snakes had been known to drop onto the mosquito net during the night. Nothing like that happened. The experience was an eye-opener for me as a young friar, hearing Mariano talk about his experience of being among the Ashaninka, and seeing the way he lived among them and accompanied them on their own “way.”
Congratulations to all who received first communion this weekend and last and thank you to all who helped prepare these children for this important day.
Blessings on your week!