Pilgrimage Reflections

November 15, 2010

Following are brief reflections from some of the participants in the Matteo Ricci Pilgrimage last October 2010 (see previous post).

Dorothy Claro, affiliated with Xavier School:
I had never heard of a Christian pilgrimage to China, so when my son broached
the subject to me, my curiosity drove me to sign up for this compelling trip. I
read up on the story of Fr Matteo Ricci, whose memory was being honored in
the pilgrimage, but it was not until I set foot in China that I understood the
depth of this missionary’s greatness and the admirable evangelical work of the
Jesuits in this daunting country. Inspired by Fr Ricci, I returned to
Singapore, where I work, feeling more connected with the scores of races living
here, more open to learning from them, and more eager to share my ideas
selflessly. I miss very much the new friends I have made among members of our
pilgrimage group; they were so caring and mindful of everyone’s needs. The
Jesuits who accompanied us said we are all pilgrims in this world, and we must
help one another to reach our heavenly goal. It was exactly that pilgrimage
spirit that gave me a foretaste of heaven.

Luz Lim of Mary the Queen Parish:
There had been many pilgrimages that I had taken in the past but none can compare to the one that I joined recently in honor of Fr. Matteo Ricci.
First of all he has not been declared a saint, and he has been dead for four centuries, yet his name is still very much revered by the Chinese people, his work leaving very remarkable results for the Church in China. This trip reconfirmed all that one can read about his life. He certainly was a very talented man, with his knowledge not only of the faith but also the sciences which were put to good use in his missionary work. But more than that is the fact of how he would search for ways to reach the people in the work of evangelization. He would try all means, never hesitating to give up one method in order to try other ways. But for me his greatest accomplishment is his ability to tap the scholars in China who then acted as his partners in his missionary work.
Visiting the various places where he had done his work, one can feel the fruits of his tasks. This is particularly felt in the cathedral of Xujiahui, the place where his most precious student Xu Guangqi was able to establish the roots of the Catholic religion in China.
What great foresight he had in reaching the multitude of scholars who came to Beijing for their examination into the government service, from whom the converts were instrumental in spreading the Word of God to the people of China.
The deep faith instilled among the Chinese people was severely tested during the ten years of Cultural Revolution when the Church was shut down and practically completely subdued.
But today the Church has again gained its foothold. Among all the churches we visited, people had flocked back. The number of locally ordained priests has increased, the seminaries now have more students.
Reflecting on the work that Fr. Mateo Ricci had done in his short life span in China, we can feel that for us blessed so much with religious freedom in our land, do have a deep responsibility to help spread the Word of the Lord in whatever manner we can.
This brought back my thoughts to what the Chinese Filipino Apostolate has been trying to do. While at the beginning we tried so much to answer the question of who should be the target of our apostolate, I would now conclude that it should start with oneself. We need to deepen the faith of each individual, but more than that we should make use of the Chinese language education that we had to improve our speaking ability, especially in the area of the Chinese prayers and religious terms, so that when occasion arises we will be able to communicate our faith to the Chinese we encounter, and spread the Great LOVE that God has for all of us.
I shall continue to pray for the beatification and canonization of Fr. Matteo Ricci, keeping in my heart the intentions of the projects of the Chinese Apostolate, that he may bless us with his wisdom on how to proceed with our work.

Michael Sy of Mary the Queen Parish:
As I was walking up to the chapel on the Shangchuan hill where St. Francis Xavier was buried before his body was taken to Goa, I couldn’t help but notice the shore and the small fishing boats anchored there. Beyond lay the Chinese mainland. I imagined the possibility that my ancestors, who are natives of this area (we spoke the same Cantonese Taishan dialect), might have encountered St. Francis here. I felt the great longing, waiting, hoping, and eventual disappointment of St. Francis, for not having crossed over. So too are the efforts of those who have labored hard in this Chinese Apostolate. They did not see the fruit sof their labor, ripe for the harvest. It is only in God’s time that things will work out as God has planned.

When we entered some of the old churches, the darkness inside added to my feeling of the persecution suffered by many of the Chinese Catholics who hid in the church as sanctuary from the violent mob of the Boxer rebellion and Cultural revolution against anything Foreign. We felt the oneness of our communion.

Significantly, the quadricentennial celebration of Matteo Ricci’s death enriches our pilgrimage experience to reflect on his missionary strategies and the great spirit of loving dialogue, patience, humility, sharing and peace.

Jose Claro of Xavier School / ERDA
(excerpted from his column in The Philippine Star, 2 November 2010)
On the last night of our pilgrimage to the holy places of the Jesuit mission in China, we were asked which was the high point of the whole journey. Despite the splendid structures and influence left behind by Matteo Ricci and his Jesuit contemporaries, I still deem most significant that humble chapel on Shangchuan island that once housed the remains of St. Francis Xavier. Fronting the chapel is a view of the mountains of Canton, which represented for Xavier the entry point of his desire to share the life of Christ with the Chinese people. As I was mesmerized by the very sight that Francis Xavier was probably gazing at, I marveled at how that simple desire to cross the sea to mainland China had rippled to Matteo Ricci’s mission and later on, even to the Chinese-Filipino communities in the Philippines, thus leading to the establishment of parishes and schools like Xavier School. There, on that solitary island, I learned the essence of school spirit. I do not talk of the shallow kind, which manifests through the loudest cheers during basketball games. I speak of a school spirit that takes root in knowing where my school comes from, learning about the people who had influenced its establishment and how the greater mission has progressed extensively both through victories and failures. In the spirit of Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci, Xavier School had emphasized to me the importance of going back to one’s roots by continuously sending its teachers and students to the origins of the institution. Through the experience, we take to heart and continue the mission of the school’s patrons, and are imbued with the desire to achieve, not for personal glory, but as means to attest and affirm that we are part of the mission that was started centuries ago by great men of passion, excellence, and holiness.

Rose Coleongco of Sacred Heart Parish, Cebu:
It’s been some weeks since we returned from the Matteo Ricci Pilgrimage. Yet every time I think about it I cannot help but feel that sense of peace, that surge of love, that longing to go back and experience it all over again.
After visiting Macau and Shangchuan island, we arrived in Shanghai and approached the much revered Marian Shrine of China in Sheshan, situated on a mountain top. We wondered how the elderly among us can climb all the way to the top while praying the Stations of the Cross. But by the unfailing grace of God and our determination, we ALL made it to the top, happy and exhilarated! As if that’s not enough the eldest of us all, Fr. Chuang, aged 88, was so refreshed after the climb that he even celebrated the Mass following it!
Without the shadow of a doubt, God was with us from beginning to end. Even as we traveled we realized that we were in the company of people who sincerely cared and looked out for each other. We seem to look at one another MORE lovingly. We seem to see each other with NEW EYES. We realized that we were looking at each other with the LOVE OF THE LORD!
During this time of GRACE, we all seem to know that our self-worth is NOT WHO WE ARE OR WHAT WE HAVE. We KNOW that we are endlessly Precious because of Christ living in each one of us!
So much so that even the youngest among us, the teenagers, loved and cared about the seniors: helping them in every way, giving them priority, supporting them as they walked, tirelessly carrying their things for them. Throughout the pilgrimage such acts of love touched us no end.
Finally we arrived at the climax of our pilgrimage in Beijing when we paid our respects to the tomb of Matteo Ricci together with the tombstones of 62 other missionaries to China. All these brave men of God risked all, sacrificed all for the love of God and His people. Together with our esteem for Matteo Ricci, we honored them and we thanked them. We prayed for them and with them. Above all we thanked God for sending such men into our midst.
At the end of our pilgrimage we carried home with us our gratitude to God, our love for our brothers and sisters and the determination to live with them in love and in unity. We pray that at the end of this long Pilgrimage of our lives, we may arrive at the Holiest of all Shrines and see Him face to face!

Joanne Pusta of Xavier School:
St. Francis Xavier Church, Shangchuan Island. Even in its utter simplicity, this was the most moving part of the pilgrimage for me. I would have loved to stay longer — to sit in front of his tomb and talk to him, to walk along the shore, to stare at the sea and the distant islands, all in perfect silence. But it was not to be as the tyranny of the ferry schedule beckoned. Sigh. Well, reason enough to go back someday and do all that I wasn’t able to do on this visit.

Fr. Robbie Sian, SJ of Sta. Maria Parish in Iloilo:
I was moved by the goodwill and camaraderie built among the members of our pilgrimage-tour group. Of course our group wasn’t perfect but how we were able to show patience and generosity with one another; also, being able to avoid major glitches. If we were pilgrims in China, it made me think about my parish community, also being pilgrims (in this world) belonging to the Sta. Maria Parish Community. If only we, in my parish, can also deepen our goodwill and unity so that we don’t only limit ourselves to Sunday masses but also have that real sense of community, working and being there for one another.
I was also touched by the passion and dedication of Francis Xavier and Mateo Ricci with the other Jesuit missionaries to bringing Christ and making him present in China. If only I and my fellow concerned parishioners had a fraction of their perseverance and generosity so that Christ can become more present and alive in our parish community.

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