Providentially, our start here in New Zealand has been a look at the end. We arrived just in time to witness the parish's emotional goodbye to our forerunners, Danielle and Kerstin. Yesterday Daniel left as well, bid adieu amidst an outpouring of gratitude. In participating in the farewell rituals for all three, we couldn't help but be inspired by what can be (and had been) accomplished in just a few years by people wholly given over to serving as the Lord called them. We were reminded that we too would leave New Zealand one day, and we will want to know that we too have given everything. Even if no one noticed. Even if nothing as impressive had been achieved. Even if we weren't loved as much. The point, as Mother Teresa often insisted: faithfulness, not success. Just as we arrived, we watched three missionaries leave NZ and all three had been faithful. Their fidelity had borne amazing fruit, and of course, they rejoiced in that - but the fruit, the harvest, was the Lord's and their joy was in Him, not themselves.
danielle & kerstin giving fr. michael a parting gift
Also just this week we met two amazing young men who have "graduated" already from the parish youth program. Each had a conversion story to keep an audience hanging on every word. This too is "the end" which we were glad to have brought so powerfully before our eyes right now, at the start. These two particular personalities are vastly different and their stories begin in very different places. But the sincere seeking of the Lord, the fire, the discipline, the charity - all of the evidence of authentic spiritual maturity in both of these young men, that is the goal. Our purpose here is so simple: to help as many young people as possible attain to spiritual maturity, each in his or her own unique way. There are as many ways to be holy as there are people created by the One who is Holy. We are well aware that our mission is not to cram anyone into a narrow mold of holiness. But there are fixed guidelines and some sure and well-trod paths (prayer, charity, discipline, etc...) - in spending time with these two men, we were able to reflect on the balance we must achieve of illuminating these timeless paths while respecting the different speed and gait of each with whom we will walk.
daniel (white shirt) with youth
These timely reminders I think conclude for us the period of our mission which we will look back on as "the beginning". The introduction to the youth, the ministry, the country has been accomplished. It feels "normal" to wake up here now, the young faces are familiar, the accent sounds normal. HAHAHAHA! What a lie! The accent will NEVER sound normal! But the rest is true. And that is good. And we are ready.
God help us.