WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Watching a great leader’s tangi

Elizabeth Julian rsm

It’s Sunday evening 20 August 2006. Preparations are being made in Ngaruawahia for Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂hu’s final journey tomorrow.

Her casket will travel by waka from TÀörangawaewae Marae seven kilometres down the Waikato River before being carried up to the summit of the sacred mountain of Taupiri. It will be a unique privilege to watch what promises to be an incredibly powerful ritual.

A striking leader

Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂hu’s remarkable leadership journey over the past 40 years has had an enormous impact on the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand. It has been part of a journey of discovery of identity for both Māori and P’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂keh’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂.

Throughout her journey Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂hu took great care with the words she used, ensuring that they were the most appropriate ones, that they were faithful to the tradition but that they were adapted for the present situation.

As well as her care with words, Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂hu will be remembered for her actions, in particular, the signing of the Tainui Settlement. It was this action that brought about a new understanding and recognition between Māori and P’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂keh’≈°√É‚Äû√ɬ∂. There was a way ahead.

Liturgical words

Catholics, too, have been on a journey of discovery throughout the past 40 years. Now we have been asked to pause and look back to the words of our ancient liturgical tradition, and reclaim them for these times.

When the Second Vatican Council allowed the Eucharist to be celebrated in English, those who made the decision probably did not foresee that in October 2006 Catholics in Aotearoa New Zealand would be gathering to learn about changes to the translation that had been accepted at that time. But it has all been part of our journey as a community.

Perhaps in 40 years’ time another generation of Catholics will be gathering to consider further changes. Pauses in any journey can help ensure that we know where we are going and that we are all going in the same direction.

Another journey

On Easter Sunday evening about 2000 years ago, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem and thousands of miles from TÀörangawaewae Marae, had to pause on their journey in order to discover they were going the wrong way. They should really have known better!

Throughout Luke’s Gospel Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He’s determined to get there. In fact he ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).

For Jesus, Jerusalem – not Taupiri – is the end point of his journey. He keeps reminding his disciples about it.

After the resurrection, however, we find the two disciples leaving Jerusalem and heading towards Emmaus (Luke 24:13). Jesus has to walk beside them, using his words carefully to remind them of their religious tradition, before giving them a sign in the breaking of the bread. It is only after this revelatory ritual that they are able to see the way ahead.

They can set off, hearts burning with energy and excitement, in the right direction again, ie, towards Jerusalem, their tÀörangawaewae. Jesus has reinterpreted their religious tradition and now they want to share this new understanding with others in the very place they were trying to leave!

No one travels alone

The gathering of thousands of people over this past week in Ngaruawahia has brought home to us that we do not journey alone, that stories are for sharing along the way, that meaningful ritual leads to recognition and that traditions always need to be reinterpreted for our times, for our place.