by Martin, sx
When I look at the tremendous number of pilgrims, tourists and visitors getting through the portals of Saints Peter and Paul Basilica in Rome, when I hear people talking about what they felt and understood while praying in the chapel built upon the grave of the Lord in the Holy Land, a song of thanksgiving arises in my heart for the gift of holy places where the Sacred is encountered. I may never pray in Saints Peter and Paul Basilica or in any other famous churches and shrines that two thousands years of living Christianity have given to the Church. However, whenever I enter in Saint Conforti chapel, this simple room of our House where our Community gathers at sunrise and sunset to praise the Lord, I share in the feelings of those pilgrims.
What catches first the attention of one who looks at the altar is the wall behind it. At the centre of this wall, there is a wooden crucifix. As one gazes upon this crucifix, the words of Saint Paul surface from within the depth of the heart: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Yes, this crucifix reminds us of a man who is also God, Jesus of Nazareth, who because of love for humankind became one of us. One of us in our daily family life, one of us in our call to work and eat from the work of our hands, one us in our joy, hope but also one us in our fragility, brokenness, finitude. Just by looking at that crucifix, we have the whole mystery of salvation summarized and made alive in our heart and mind: “Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures.”
At the foot of the crucifix there is the Tabernacle. Christ who died two thousand years ago for our salvation is present in our midst today. He is not far, but rather ever close to us. As it is written, He is God with us: “I am with you every day till the end of time.” Thus, remembering what happened at Golgotha, we now celebrate it in the Eucharist and keep the memory alive in the Tabernacle.
At the both sides of our crucifix are two pictures portraying two men very dear to us: Saint Francis Xavier at the right and Saint Conforti at the left. Both of them were great missionaries whose entire lives were dedicated to spread the salvific message of Christ to all and so to fulfil the command of the Lord: “Go, from all the nations, make my disciples.” They remind us, that our daily prayer and Eucharistic celebrations are not only for ourselves: they are offered to God for the whole humanity as Christ on the cross offered his unique sacrifice for the salvation of all. Besides, the mandate that they received from Christ is handed on to us. It is now our turn to walk on the roads of the world as they bravely did. The mission is now ours to proclaim to us the Faith we celebrate around the altar of the Lord. This proclamation of faith is not abstract or metaphysical. It has to be incarnated within the people where we live, within the Philippines realm where we are present. For this reason, a painting hung on one of the walls of our chapel depicts an original scene of the Last Supper: Jesus is surrounded by twelve poor Filipino children whose lives are nothing else than a vivid expression of our broken humanity. That is the mission that the Crucified points to us. Those are the people in whose hearts Christ awaits us.
However difficult this mission may sound, the icon of our Lady of Perpetual Help pending a little above the ambo of the Word of God, tells us that everything is possible for those who love and have faith in the Lord.
As I sit quietly in Saint Conforti chapel and expose myself to the richness of the symbolism enshrined in it, I have no other words than these: Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe, we proclaim.