Updated: October 28, 2021 10:35 AM GMT
Mater Unitatis sisters offer flowers to older sisters at their convent on Vietnamese Women's Day on Oct. 20. (Photo courtesy of Mater Unitatis)
Each of us has a homeland, the place where we are born and grow up. When we are mature, we choose other places to live and work.
Certainly, the homeland is always in everyone's memory. But because of livelihood or studies, we have to be away from homes and families. After Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) lifted its Covid lockdown early this month, people have flocked to their hometowns.
Many people only return home when their parents pass away. They sacrifice their youth in closed monasteries, respond to the Lord’s call to live a consecrated life, or are engaged in missionary work around the world according to Jesus’ call: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Living away from their homes in different cultures, religious also need comfort and support when running into difficulties. One of their main sources of great solace is their close connection with their homes and families as homeland is a part of each person’s flesh and blood.
Although devoted to serving in distant countries, religious always take the breath of their homeland in them. Those who say they completely abandon their homeland are deluding themselves.
The development of technology 4.0 helps people to connect with one another more easily than before. Back in the day, it took missionaries several months by sea to send letters to their families, but now religious with smartphones can chat for hours with family members and friends.
Technology is a means of helping religious connect with others, but it also risks fading their enthusiasm for the cause of the consecrated life
Even pastoral tasks such as counseling and spiritual accompaniment can be carried out easily online; religious can get closer to others by posting online pictures of their daily activities or small lines expressing their real feelings.
However, everything has its two sides. Technology is a means of helping religious connect with others, but it also risks fading their enthusiasm for the cause of the consecrated life.
I once asked a woman whose son is a priest working abroad if she missed him. She replied: “Oh, nothing to remember. I see him show up on Facebook every day!”
I do not think it is not an idle word as behind that statement is a sentiment on her son’s religious life. Human psychology is very clear: every time we care about something a lot, other things become less important. No religious enters into the consecrated life on social media. Although they share all that they do and think about religious life on Facebook, social media could not supplant convents and community life.
In the past, missionaries set off without looking back, but today many priests and nuns living far away from home still feel it in their bones. Is that a sign that they have not really given up everything to follow the Lord? The answer is to follow God does not mean to break off contacts with families or remove solidarity with the beloved homeland.
The Lord's disciples are called to commit themselves fully to their missions in new lands. It is called inculturation or living out the mystery of the incarnation.
In view of their love for souls, religious faithfully serve anyone anywhere in the world, not necessarily their own people. In fact, the real essence of consecrated life is the same everywhere: to live in the spirit of prayer and be dedicated to serving other people. Without that basic thing, relationships on social media will become a temptation to put religious off their stride.
I enormously admire priests and sisters who generously respond to the call to go out to proclaim the Good News in areas where people do not know God or have known God but neglected their faith life. They are useful instruments of evangelization.
They suffer a lot from emotional disadvantage since they have to live far away from their families and homelands. As humans, they cannot steer clear of moments of weakness, loneliness, discouragement. They really need a few words of encouragement from their family members and friends.
Living away from home, priests and nuns are continuing the heroic history of Vietnamese martyrs, consistently bearing witness to the Christian faith
However, they should also be alert to distinguish between healthy sources of consolation and snares from social networks. They need good friends inside or outside their communities to let off steam. They also seek practical advice from older religious with a lot of experience as spiritual directors to overcome difficulties.
They should get joy in their services, even in quiet sacrifices few people know about. In essence, they must aspire to be filled with happiness in intimate relationships with God through their personal prayer life.
The Church's service mission does not discriminate against skin color and ethnicity. Having chosen the religious life, they are ready to go anywhere and do anything for God's glory.
It is as clear as day that religious who are far from home to study or work are always full of love for their homeland. However, the more they love their homeland, the more clearly their Vietnamese temperament needs to be shown: being faithful to Catholicism, leading an exemplary consecrated life, and flourishing in their assigned mission.
Living away from home, priests and nuns are continuing the heroic history of Vietnamese martyrs, consistently bearing witness to the Christian faith not only in their homeland but throughout the world.
This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on gpbuichu.org here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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