Have we ever experienced a Holy Week where we have been so dependent on God as this year? Being locked down in Kenya, isolated and living among the very poor, is making me look forward to dying more to myself to become more of what God has created me to be.
In the past, I have grown to enjoy Holy Thursday and Adoration, the Paschal Triduum including Good Friday veneration, tenebrae evening service then concluding with the Easter Vigil. I have learned to appreciate it as a special time to shed myself from my earthly world and spend time quietly with my church family. This very unique year I tried to disconnect, pray and listen to what God may be asking of me.
My hope and prayer this year has been that we recognize our false gods, realize just how insignificant they are and find a way to return to our one and only God.
From more than 8,000 miles away, I was able to participate in a livestreaming of Mass from my home parish in Grand Ledge, Michigan. During Father Jim Eisele’s homily, he became noticeably emotional twice because I believe he truly loves his parishioners at St. Michael Parish, and is sorrowfully grieving being separated from them.
One of his greatest strengths, I believe, is how down to earth he is. During the Mass he prayed for me and the other lay missioners and read a bit of one of my missioner classmates’ newsletter that had powerfully touched him.
Father Nicky, who stays in the flat next to me each Sunday night and Monday, as a place of respite for him, invited me to Mass. A 73-year-old Kiltegan missionary priest with a heavy Irish accent, he is witty and filled with Irish Catholic humor. Participating at the table with a priest celebrating Mass was a very intimate experience for me.
We said additional prayers during the Mass and finished with some Irish prayers. His homily was about Jesus’ journey to death, which began the day before on Palm Sunday, as he went into Jerusalem. He mentioned our own journeys to death, which we are all on each and every day, but how much more real it is to us now with our current pandemic. Because of our quarantine, it had been four weeks since I had the Eucharist, and it came with thanksgiving.
I woke up to a message from an unknown long-time Maryknoll Lay Missioners donor, who was requesting to send money to Rich, Kathy and myself to assist our people here in Mombasa with food, medical or any other immediate needs that we could use it for. God always makes himself present during challenging times, as he promises that he will always be with us.
My first task of today was to get to the supermarket to prepare for our lockdown, which begins on Wednesday. Because it is a 2-mile walk the to the supermarket, I received an unexpected early-morning call from my guardian son advising me to have someone escort me because the environment of security is changing. In the evening I received my very first video of my 3-year old twin granddaughters bouncing on a trampoline shouting “Hi Grandpa Garr”!
Holy Tuesday love!
Brother Jack’s reflection question for today: “Whose words most move you to help others?”
My former Just Faith group facilitator always comes to mind, Dominican Sister Betty Gaiss. “It is easy to give to those you know and love,” she told us, “but much more difficult to give to those whom you do not know.”
I believe that is was these words of hers that challenged, transformed and led me to where I am at today, serving as a Maryknoll lay missioner. She would understand my quip that I wonder whether she is to be praised or blamed for that responsibility.
Today Abdalla and I delivered a bucket, pitcher and soap for washing hands, a box of flour and a box of rice and green grams to our three new neighboring orphan boys.
Took a 7-mile beach walk this morning, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. Exhausted, I returned home to read several reflections and prayers. I learned that today is the day to say the rosary for your priest, which will become an annual tradition for Father Jim. Today allowed me to reflect how I can be a servant to others and how I can love my neighbor as myself.
A very rainy morning which kept me inside for additional prayers, devotionals, scriptures, novenas and online Good Friday service with St. Michaels. From 1 to 3 p.m., I spent with Jesus.
Abdalla wanted to learn how to make hollandaise sauce, which we then converted into Béarnaise to serve with sautéed fish, green beans and rice. Just as we were sitting to eat one of the orphan boys, Jackson arrived to say thanks for the food we delivered for them Wednesday. The fish was divided into three portions and we all were satisfied.
#unexpectedguest #blessed #dinnerforthree
I thought about how Jesus’ disciples must have been on this day, perhaps frightened, confused, confined, abandoned and isolated. At times I have experinced these same feelings, with my current life being in a lockdown and pandemic while living in the poverty of Mombasa, Kenya.
I am existing in the unknown day-to-day, with little to no control over my destiny. I have never lived with such little self-reliance, nor in such dependence on God as I now do, but through his grace, I am surrounded with peace.
A New Life—today was just a simple day. I slept until 6 a.m., had prayers and greetings from many here and back home! Abdalla, my Muslim guardian son arrived for a late breakfast, then continued the day with cooking, laundry, ironing, making cupcakes for all the neighboring kids and a Netflix movie.
Before dinner, Abdalla gave thanks to God for our shoes, clothes, shelter, health, families, our friendship, our food, while being mindful of all those who have less. I was able to join an online Easter Mass with my home parish and later listened to the livestream homily of Capuchin Father Jack Rathschmidt in New York, talking about how God can be the anchor and rudder for our lives. How simple, fulfilling and beautiful this Easter was!
My prayer for us all is to reevaluate our lives in hopes of dying to our own self-desires and to live simply with keeping the needs of others in mind, by loving your neighbor as yourself.
God bless you and a happy Easter season!