A Maryknoll priest learns about playing a mission song
When people help me find God in my life and when I help people find God in theirs, that’s mission for me. As a Maryknoll priest, I’ve had the privilege to do that among young people here in Asia.
I must say, inheriting the artistic personality of my grandfather has been a blessing in mission because I find that young people are attracted to all sorts of art forms such as music and film, to name a few. I’ve used the flute that I learned to play growing up in Guatemala. I’ve used the guitar I learned to play in my years as a seminarian in Chicago. I’ve used a slide projector someone gave me during my overseas training in Cambodia. I’ve used a drum my language teacher gave me in Taiwan, and I’ve used meditation I learned in my mission in Nepal.
At first, I felt my sound of mission was out of tune. I needed to learn the young folks’ local melody, their rhythm, their beats, their taste. In mission, we don’t tell people what to do. We simply provide new ingredients that they can accept or reject. Once they accept those ingredients, they are the ones who make it all happen. Only then the sound of mission begins to emerge, attracting many or few, sometimes even scaring people. Patience is key when it comes to playing a mission song.
One of the biggest satisfactions in mission is to bring people to Jesus. Think of Andrew, the apostle who brought Peter to Jesus. Andrew also brought to Jesus the boy carrying five loaves of barley and two fish, which Jesus used to feed 5,000, against the apostles’ protests that it wouldn’t be enough. In mission, I have learned to be satisfied with how much of the local language I can speak, how much of the local traditions/religions I can understand, how long my sound of mission will carry. What’s more and quite essential to my own happiness is learning how to be satisfied with what I can’t do, knowing my limitations, saying, “Here’s where my gifts reach their max.” Jesus does the rest!
In mission we bless, we accompany, we dance, we laugh, we cry, we lament, we live, we doubt, we forgive, we write, we pray and we hope. We hope that our faith will continue to inspire us to bring the sound of mission to other parts of the world because, as St. Paul reminds us (Romans 10:15), “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
My feet are not so beautiful these days because of the cold temperatures here in the northeast part of Asia. Nonetheless, experiencing the good news keeps my heart near God and that’s a beautiful thing.
As I play my mission song, I keep before me the words of Marshall Moran, a Jesuit priest from Chicago who worked as a missioner in Nepal. “In mission,” he said, “we could get off to a quicker, easier start by thinking small, growing slowly, thoughtfully, carefully.”
Featured image: As a seminarian in Cambodia, Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry played the flute at a Mass with all Maryknoll missioners then serving in that Asian country. (S.Sprague/Cambodia)