By Nimmi Candappa
As lockdown restrictions are lifted and state boundaries open up across the country, one of the first things many of us want to do is see family. Whether separated from family members by thousands of kilometres or just by 10km, the desire to connect physically again with family is a very real one. We are made for connection and community, rely on this support to navigate life, and are often lost without it.
In the same way, COVID restrictions have probably highlighted for us the ways in which we play an important role in the lives of others around us. Many of us have become attuned to checking on the needs of neighbours, or smiling warmly as we pass each other on a walk, to make up for the lack of social contact in other ways.
Mission Sunday this week reminds us of those in the wider world who rely on us noticing their needs in order for them to flourish. It is a collective effort by the Universal Church to help those in need, physically and spiritually. Having experienced what it is like to live with physical restrictions on our lives, we can also imagine what it is like to live life without God’s love.
This was what drove St Eugene in his missionary endeavours. An awareness and gratitude for the blessing that is our faith, and a deep-seated desire to share this especially with those in the margins, who remain helpless if we do not help them. He was quick to acknowledge those who also supported the missionaries, those volunteering, those donating and those praying. He said once, in response to a benefactor’s gift, “this material charity has a direct relationship with the spiritual help which is given to the most abandoned souls: without it, they would have remained in their state of sinfulness in which they probably would have died miserably.”
In fact, one of the last comments St Eugene made to the Oblate priests before he died was “Practise among yourselves charity … charity…. charity… and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls”. Charity and zeal, neither easy characteristics to adopt but the two aspects highlighted as most important by our founder. Noteworthy is the use of the word practise, remembering that acting from these characteristics is likely to be a lifelong effort rather than a once-off choice.
In this coming fortnight, perhaps we might look at one of these characteristics, and find ways of practising it among those around us.