The Primordial Encounter
April 3rd, 2021
As we draw ever closer to the “Liturgy of Liturgies”—the Easter Vigil—and the most solemn moment in our liturgical year as Catholics, I could not help but take a moment to “pen” another Chronicle. Last Sunday we made yet another first pastoral visit to one of the river communities within our parish territory: Arukamai. Arukamai is located on a branch of the Aruka River; hence its name. It took us about a half-an-hour boat ride upriver from Hosororo to reach the village.
As I wrote in my journal later that same night of our visit, “Today’s visit to Arukamai was uplifting. It was another opportunity to plant the seeds of hope, a flaming into fire of the love and fidelity to the Catholic Faith that is always born from true sacramental encounters with the Lord.”
It was the Mass, the Baptisms, the Eucharist that brought the Catholic community of Arukamai its greatest happiness, not us. Yes, we were real instruments in the hand of God that day, but the work was the Lord’s and, in the end, they were His gifts we gave them in bringing the sacraments. To center the joy, the hope, and the gratitude on us would be to rob Him of what is only His. And yet, this is also the greatest joy of a missionary: to be the instrument in God’s hands and not the masterwork. The masterworks of God are the sacraments He gives us. He and they are the life of every Catholic.
How important the sacramental encounters with the Lord are for our Catholic life! They are the primordial encounters! In the Eucharist especially, but in all the Sacraments, we find Christ and the power of His divinity. How I wish that the dormant Catholics of America could come to Arukamai and experience what we did. Here there is a community hungering for the Word of God and the Eucharist. I felt that hunger as we were departing.
As we were loading the boat to leave, some of the people asked if I could come back every Sunday. I told them that I wished I could, but that I had to be just to the other communities as well. But I told them to pray; to pray for us and for more missionary priests so that one day they could have Mass and our Eucharistic Lord with them every Sunday.
That is my prayer, too! But I also pray for those Catholics back home in the States who do not appreciate what they have. I know there are some back home who could go to daily Mass, but don’t. I know there are some back home who complain more about what their priest does, than thanking him for being there and ministering to them. I know there are some back home who rarely step foot into the confessional even though the priest is waiting for them every weekday or Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon. For these and for all of you reading this who do understand and appreciate the gift you have as Catholics in America, I pray to God who in His mercy gives us more than we could ever deserve.
Long live Christ!
Long live the priesthood!
Long live the missions!
Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE