WelCom May 2017:
Bishop Charles Drennan –
Flags and uniforms have never been my thing.
Recently I’ve been in Vietnam for a visit to the families of two of our seminarians for the Palmy Diocese and to a prospective student and his family. It was a wonderful week of welcome, hospitality and learning.
In many parts of Vietnam, flags are common. There are two options. The red-and-gold-starred communist party flag or the alternative, which is yellow and white. Yellow and white are the Vatican flag’s colours and so in Vietnam this flag indicates a Catholic home or family.
For some of us, that may reek of a kind of ghetto or fenced-in mentality. But that’s not the impression I got. Early morning tea time at one staunch Catholic family I stayed with always included agnostic neighbours. The flag at one’s gate does, though, speak of identity.
That got me thinking. The question of identity is a complex and multifaceted one. Some aspects of identity get a lot of media attention. And Facebook profiles play on aspects of identity.
In contemporary kiwi culture we are clear about the consequences of weak identity; we readily describe someone as at sea or adrift. Such comments rather than being judgmental are usually uttered with concern and even worry.
But what about the anchor or rock or the kaupapa or direction that ground and grow identity? Some struggle to name or describe that, or perhaps resist the idea of finding one’s identity in something bigger than oneself. Faith tells us that identity is not about straightjacketing or tying down, and nor should identity be reduced to a ‘do it yourself’ trial and error approach to life. Faith suggests and provides the opposite: a supportive and formative framework from which we flourish and become our true selves.
Identity and commitment are two intertwined hallmarks of faith, and they come from and lead to a community or parish. Little wonder that in Vietnam parish life is very strong.
I’m grateful for my short visit especially for the uplift in faith it gave me. I experienced a kind of clarity that has echoes through the readings we hear at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles during this extraordinary time between the Resurrection of Easter Sunday and Ascension Sunday. The passages we hear are responses to Christ’s perennial question: but you, who do you say I am?
“…at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles during this extraordinary time between the Resurrection of Easter Sunday and Ascension Sunday… the passages we hear are responses to Christ’s perennial question: but you, who do you say I am?”
That fundamental all-embracing question reminds us that our identity while personal is not DIY or self-service but gifted to us through baptism and lived communally in our whānau whakapono out as we make our own St Paul’s words: he is the one ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).
For more on Bishop Charles’ visit to Vietnam see (www.facebook.com/BishopCharlesDrennan).