Fr Kevin Neal
3 May 2011
I was heading for Christchurch. I was in Blenheim where I have two sisters. I also had a few other people to see. It always takes few days to see people in Blenheim and while I was there the news of the earthquake struck.
A quick call to my brother in Christchurch confirmed my worst fears. I wouldn’t be visiting anyone down there. So I stayed a little longer in Blenheim before returning to Palmerston North.
I did some good wandering around Marlborough and got to see, at last, the alternative venue for the ferry port. I think in the 1960s, when I was growing up, it was a close call between Clifford Bay and Picton. In the end, Picton won. Clifford Bay is good, too, but I guess it has never had the infrastructure in place. It opens right into Cook Strait near the salt works and Seddon.
At least both the ferry crossings were calm. When you are on a walking stick, the slightest movement can put you off and so you have to stay put for the duration of the trip. If your car has an orange mobility sticker they look after you, giving you a place to park near the lift. It’s a very good service on both ferries.
I was really looking forward to Christchurch and I was planning a trip over the Alps by train as well. So the trip back was a bit dreary and, like everyone, I was quite worried about Christchurch.
I wasn’t home long when I was offered the chance for evening Mass with the Indian folk. To be honest I didn’t take much notice of the approaching Mass but I was in for a surprise. The Mass was of the Syro-Malabar rite and quite different from what we are used to. Of course the essentials are the same but the sights and incense and the flow is quite different.
The singing was terrific and I would say, quite modern. For us in New Zealand with only one rite and one way of making music, it was breath of fresh air. Like many of the Maori, the Indian people switch quite freely between two or more languages and in church they move between rites as well. There are some tremendous lessons for us in all that because we are so used to uniformity we think this is the norm and that has some mysterious value to it.
Not long after this I had another wake-up call. It was a Sunday near the feast of St Patrick, our parish feast day. I wasn’t expecting the crowd of young people at the parish and school picnic and the Irish dancing was a big surprise. There seemed to be every sort of dance and, in the end, they had the whole crowd moving to the neat Irish music. The kids doing the dancing seemed so natural and it was great to watch. It made me wish that I could dance like rest of them.
It’s six months now since I moved camp. People often ask which is better, brighter or some other point of comparison. My thoughts are always the same. Looking backwards is useless, taking thoughts from the past is useless. I’ve had a fascinating life with huge variety for as long as I can remember. No one could wish for anything better in the past but I don’t dwell there. The same goes for the future. It looks remarkably good but who knows? What the good Lord has given me to enjoy and make the most of is the present moment. I could look back and get all upset about what might have been but that’s useless when you think about it. People have picked themselves up, from far worse states that mine and just got on with it.
Right now is very good.
Other recent articles by this writer:
Music helps understanding of church changes
The blessings of change