Chaplain's Comments

Around the world there are women's shelters run by the St Vincent De Paul Society called "Manna House". It's an inspired name for such an important work. Women and their children, in the midst of fear, and having suffered terrible abuse, are welcomed into a safe haven where they can be loved and looked after. It's a temporary respite where broken families can piece their lives back together and be revived for the journey ahead.

What happens at Manna Houses for women at risk happens for each of us when we come to the Eucharist. We receive manna from heaven. It's our stop on the journey of faith so that we can go out spiritually revived to be the face of Christ in the world. Sometimes we need this "manna come down from heaven" when we are spiritually most at risk.

Elijah in the Old Testament was at risk, following his great victory over the prophets Baal, on the run from the hostility of Queen Jezebel and her weak husband Ahab. We come upon Elijah, in the first book of Kings, a picture of discouragement, if not of severe depression, sitting under a furze tree and wishing he were dead. It is particularly human and touching about the story is the way in which when the angel first wakes him and said, 'Get up and eat'. He looked round, and there at his head was a scone baked on hot stones and a jar of water. Elijah eats and drinks, and then goes back to sleep. Only when the angel repeats the gesture and he has taken nourishment a second time does the prophet set out, strengthened by the food he walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of the God.

I love the fact that we as Catholics believe that Christ is present in ordinary gifts of bread and wine blest and offered at the Eucharist. We don't just believe that Christ is present in sunrises and sunsets, and in natural beauty, we also believe that God comes to us in a special and unique way in the simple, ordinary things of life . And it is in what we do with these gits of bread and wine that Christ is really present. The earliest Christians called the Eucharist "the breaking of the bread". It is to the broken bread and the poured cup given into our hands to which we say "Amen" and so affirm our belief that Christ is present here.

We often need to be reassured of Christ's presence when we are in the desert periods of our own life. We can feel we are wandering around in the wilderness looking for some sign of God's life. For all of us who are broken in mind, body, or spirit, or who are pouring ourselves out in love for other people, communion is precisely the time Jesus meets us where we are. Is it any wonder that the Eucharist means so much to us? May we never feel as though we are not good enough to be here, for Jesus has invited us to be at his table where we are loved and cared for.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that faith is only an intellectual exercise. As important as good thinking and the power of strong arguments might be, the truth of faith is best demonstrated on an emotional and intuitive level when others see the power of God's saving love active in the way we live our lives. This is what really captures people's attention, and draws them to ask what gives our lives this quality, direction, purpose, and meaning.

Most people are afraid of offending someone in a leadership role or position of authority, so here is a Provincial Superior using humour to defuse a tense situation and helps others to relax.

One day, after Ignatius's conversion, he was riding on a mule when he came upon another man on the road also riding a mule. In the course of their brief conversation, the man insulted the Virgin Mary and rode off. Ignatius, who was still very much a hothead, waxed furious.

So he started to think about murder. But, try as he might, he was unable to decide whether he should kill the man or not. At that moment he reached a fork road, and decided to leave the fate of the blasphemer up to the mule. As he wrote in his autobiography, 'If the mule took the village road, I would seek him out and stab him; if the mule did not go toward the village, but took the highway, I would let him be. Fortunately for all concerned, the donkey took the highway.

After the Provincial told this story about Ignatius, he smiled and said, "Ever since then, asses have been making decisions in the Jesuits." His story was a tiny dig at Jesuit leaders by a Jesuit leader.

Delighting in the Olympics and our high achievers, Ignatius would be sure to invite us to reflect more on the experience, asking: What race am I to run? What does God ask of me? I will discern how best to serve others and how to do and be more, seeking the ' Magis'. He would insist on a two-step process.

First he would invite us to a deep interior freedom coming to a place where we are free from all disordered affections, peer pressures, and media fads. He would want us to be true to ourselves and to our God. The Second step is discerning to what will I be bound, to what will I commit myself and to whom will I be accountable and transparent. In a world of global superficiality, great change and uncertainty Ignatius would insist on the need for transparent integrity and commitment.

May in the days ahead, learn that Sport is Christocentric carrying within its best aspects the lifestyle of Jesus Christ, who was prepared to lose all to gain even more. Until our death and birth into naked eternity, when we shall see the face of God, we do not know whether we have won or lost life's game.

Meanwhile, let's always press forward and bear in mind the words of Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" spelled out above the entrance of Centre Court at Wimbledon: "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same".

Fr Gaetan Pereira SJ
College Chaplain