Chris, the youngest and the darling of us all, shares some profound thoughts on the pilgrimage. To God be the glory! Thank you, Chris!
“I consider myself immensely blessed to have been able to accompany all of you on such a wonderful trip to China. It has truly been an eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me which I will treasure in my heart. We saw so many sights which normal tourists would not see, and while hopefully China will open up and allow more foreigners to visit the villages and churches that we went to, I believe our experience is a unique one.
What I saw in China changed my entire perspective. I was very touched and surprised at the reception we had at starting from Tiger Valley; it was definitely unexpected. I saw so many faces light up when we arrived, and the people celebrating as if we were long lost relatives coming home. The peace and joy of Christ was well and truly present in their heart! At the following villages and churches we visited we were met with the same grand reception, and I was overwhelmed and touched by their generosity, in not only giving us whatever fruits they had, but for opening their hearts and homes so readily to welcome total strangers into their midst. Deep in my heart a warmth arose, where I wished I could be as simple as these people – so joyful, so unselfish, not to judge but rejoice always. Not to grumble, but be satisfied. I saw Christ in others, even the non-Catholics. Our Inner Mongolia bus driver giving his love offering to a priest, a stranger on the street helping a beggar, a lady shouting at others not to judge a man who had been rejected by them. I also saw a society where everyone knows that overachieving is the norm, a dog-eat-dog world where if you fail to maximize your profits in whatever way possible others would climb over you. Yet I knew that beneath all this, there is good somewhere. And that gave me hope for humanity.
Flies circle the air like angels circling the altar of God. Dogs bark in the distance. A baby starts to cry. “The Lord be with you.” A voice thunders through the building. It is my first Chinese Mass in Inner Mongolia, and I am impressed by the congregation. Their participation in the liturgy is so earnest and eager that a five-person choir sounds like a full choir. One people, united in prayer, praising almighty God. When I saw the Blessed Sacrament, I nearly cried with joy, knowing that Jesus was with these people through all their hardship, uncertainty, and struggles in life, that with Him present everything would be fine. I praise God for truly being a God for all peoples, to all nations. As the Bishop in Yinchuan quoted from Matthew with the utmost conviction, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Their passion for God, faith and their trust in His will and his providential love is truly inspiring for me to see. This knowledge that the people of China have such a faith with the little they have been given will keep me going when times get tough in the future.
Having studied Chinese History in JC it was a wonderful time to revisit the past. I was given a history lesson of sorts, this time from the perspective of the Catholic Church. I never knew how much the missionaries had contributed to the Chinese people, or how the political climate of the past affected missionary work. To hear about active persecution which occurred during the Boxer Rebellion and Cultural Revolution allowed me to see China in a new light. The fact that CICM missionaries came to China knowing they would not be able to return home, but had to die in a strange place, brought newfound respect to these brave souls who would so willingly labor for Christ’s sake. This missionary zeal and spirit is also seen in the many priests that we encountered. Many of us say we would be willing to live and die for Christ, but when the time comes for us to really make that decision, it is so easy to back out in order to ‘live another day’. Would we be able to stand for Christ when put to the test?
Lastly, as Jesus said, you will know a tree by its fruits; and CICM’s work in China over the ages has borne fruit such as these. The 150th anniversary of CICM has allowed us pilgrims to see China in a new light, and witness the glory and awesome power of God’s work through men. Let us continue to pray for the Universal Church, especially the Church in China and the clergy who work so hard to bring Christ to us.”