An Infectious Smile
I was in total isolation for 14 days, alone in the unit adjacent to our community at Kogarah in Sydney. I had returned from a 10-day visit to the Philippines. Many images remain with me of my recent trip. There was the stop-over in Singapore and a visit to the magnificent new Novena Church. The church was in lock down and it was my first understanding of COVID-19. With plenty of distance between us, Fr Eugene Lee showed me the breathtaking interior of this national shrine.
While there were no cases of COVID-19 in Cebu in the Philippines, they were certainly making every effort to keep it out! On arrival at the airport and wherever you went they took your temperature and sanitised your hands. This seemed way ahead of what was demanded back home. That was, of course, until you left the city and visited the slums.
It is the vision of Ron Natoli and many Australian benefactors who created the Padre Pio Village to house some 2000 workers. It is part of a complex that now numbers three villages. Two are finished and a third is underway. I was Ron’s guest on this hands-on visit. While many of these children are housed in the village, many still return home to the dump.
I visited this part of the dump with Fr Heinz Kulüke SVD who was three times provincial in Cebu. He has worked tirelessly for the poor. Also, as a medical doctor, he runs a clinic from his van twice a week and offers the only hope of medical care to families there. Hundreds were lined up the day I visited. Just imagine trying to cope with COVID-19 if it reached a place like this. And I complain of isolation!
I remember my family had a saying: I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet! I have to ask myself: What is God asking of Redemptorists? Of me? in this lockdown time? How to preach? How to live? Copiosa Redemptio?
There is, of course, the old saying of being Carthusians at home! Perhaps this is what is envisioned in Const.10 … “When the opportune time comes, and the Lord opens the door to them for the preaching of the word (cf. Col. 4:9), the members are always ready to give witness to the hope that is in them. They bring to completion the silent witness of their brotherly presence by preaching the mystery of Christ with confidence and constancy.”
Certainly, at this time of shutdown such fraternal living has its challenges. Spike Milligan’s poem perhaps offers a solution:
Smiling is infectious –
You catch it like the flu! When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.
I walked around the corner,
and someone saw me grin.
When he smiled, I realised
I had passed it on to him.
I thought about the smile,
and then realised its worth,
A single smile like mine
could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin,
Don’t leave it undetected
Start an epidemic
and get the world infected.
Isolation can be contagious. So, all is not lost!