The start of a new year is a time to count our blessings
Blessings come in many forms and guises, and can easily slip by unnoticed, or be forgotten. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to share with you here some of my own blessings.
You are one of my blessings
It goes without saying that my vocation and pastoral life is a huge personal blessing. But alongside that blessing, for many years now, I’ve had your partnership in my life – through your donations to the missions, your prayers, your letters and cards, and the friendship that you give so generously. You make me feel very blessed. Thank you.
A mother’s special love
Going back to my childhood, my mother was a special blessing. She was always there to give her love to each of her seven children according to his or her needs, and to explain the mysteries of our faith. From about 18 months of age I suffered terribly from Asthma. It would flare up without notice. I’d be having my turn on the bicycle we all shared, when I’d suddenly have to head for the house and my mum. She’d hug me reassuringly, prime the inhaler and administer it to give me relief. I always felt my life had been saved.
My brother’s silent witness
My last year at school was marked by two events – the first was deciding where to go for university studies in science, or giving the priestly vocation a try. The second was my eldest brother’s announcement that stunned the family and the world that he was joining the Franciscan Order with whom he was working as an apprentice builder. His decision didn’t work out as he was a hands on person rather than a book person. But God’s hand wasn’t far away. What Peter told me about the Franciscans galvanized me into the decision to give the priesthood a try. His silent witness was God’s special blessing.
The blessing of seeing yourself as you are
My first two years in Franciscan Formation Houses in Ireland were an exceptional experience of God’s further blessing, mercy, and grace. From the moment I set foot in Ireland I was plagued by nagging doubts. How would I settle in to living with white people for the first time in my life? How would I cope with the level of studies, given that we all thought that people of colour in South Africa were given the second or even third best quality of education. Oddly enough it was a spiritual formation session that gave me the first inkling of God’s further blessing. My answer to the question, ‘what is a sacrament’, was so much more complete than those from the rest of the class. It was a huge confidence boost, followed by the discovery in Galway that some of my school subjects had been on a higher level than the Irish system. I learnt to deal with a different race group and culture as ‘man to man’, not superior and inferior.
Out of the mouth of a gogo (grandmother)
About ten years later after returning to South Africa, I visited one of the biggest and fastest growing outstations of the Lusikisiki parish. At the end of mass, a senior black lady stood up, called for attention and said: ‘I just want to say how wonderful it is to have ‘one of our own sons’’ serving us as our priest. I was home, truly blessed, and continue to be so.