|At the end of the Mass with Bp Barry Wood OMI, priests, altar servers|
and Sylvie Vantillard (architect), Johan (foreman), Lenny Willson (project manager)
This was "more or less" the text of the homily
at the opening of the Retreat and Training Centre
This retreat and training centre contains quite a number of images that are in itself a “homily”, an expression of God's Word.
This beautiful church in this amazing environment is an expression of God's blessings among us manifested both in nature and in people. Wish you knew how many people worked at this place in the last sixteen months! Each one of them made this possible.
Some of you know I take no credit for all this. I only had an idea which had an eco in so many people that I felt deeply encouraged (or crazy enough!?) to give it a try. The rest... the rest was in the hands of Lenny Willson who recommended Sylvie (the architect) and who gathered a team of people to advice him and us on every step.
A couple of months' ago, visiting the project with an American bishop I happened to tell him: "I really did not know what I was doing". Rudy Redinger heard me and replied: “This is how God works!”.
The stained glass! How many times traveling around the world I came across one of them and said to myself: “You do not see anything like this anymore today”. Never could I imagine that it would be part of a project I would start.
When I started talking about a new church, Tony da Silva told he would like to donate a stained glass. He knew who could do it for us. In my mind it was the size of an A4 page. This is huge!
But I need your help. There is another image. It is not “visible” anymore. It is hidden and I need you to tell everyone about it. I need people to know about it when they come to St Lucia. Hope to print a photo, enlarge it, frame it and put it at the entrance of the church.
I am talking about “the foundations”. No one can see that now but it is an “essential” part of what this retreat and training centre is today. In order to build it, it was necessary to go down two and a half metres! I am deeply grateful to our neighbours Shelly and Ermilda for their patience in times when the whole area was shaking.
A month and a half ago I came across familiar words in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus says: “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who laid the foundations on rock”.
Well... this is not exactly what it says. This is what we read in the gospel of Matthew. In the gospel of Luke Jesus adds a few more words, just few. He says: “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock”. Honestly... it is the first time I see it. We take God's Word for granted!
He dug... and dug deep! The “St Lucia Retreat and Training Centre” would like to be the place where people are invited to dig... and dig deep in order to build their lives on rock, on Jesus Christ, our rock.
Whenever people would come for Mass on Sunday, for a personal or group prayer during the week, for a retreat... the first thing they should remember is that they are coming here to be helped to build their lives on rock, on Jesus Christ.
There is a tendency to be superficial in what we say, in what we think, in what we do. Going deeper has become a choice in life.
We seem to live a time when we want to have “a fix” at every level of our lives. The problem is that when the fix is over... the emptiness is even greater than before. In one case or another, we are not really satisfied. Something is missing.
We celebrate today the feast of “all saints”, people who – yes! - chose to build their lives on rock and, in order to do that, they had to dig and dig deeper. They struggled. They struggled with themselves, with dark days in their hearts and souls. They struggled with their families, friends and communities.
The reason why I chose this day to dedicate this church was not because of this feast. I was just worried about the summer rains and heat and I wanted to do it as soon as possible. God, instead, seemed to have led us. As I said in January in Manzini, “only fools believe in coincidence”. It is just that we understand it later!
We tend to think of saints as people close to God but not exactly human. Becoming saints, instead, is becoming fully human. It is becoming people with a greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for compassion, for understanding. When we understand this, we also understand why Jesus said: “blessed are the poor in spirit... those who thirst for justice... the peacemakers... the merciful”.
I thank God for the gift of each one who in one way or another helped us make this possible. Some with their financial support, some with their time, some by letting us know they were not happy with elements of the project... Most of their names are written in this folder.
The building is ready. The journey ahead is only starting. Whenever you feel the need to dig deeper in your life... you know where you can go. Come here. This is your home. God bless.