Our Lady of Fatima
Let our gratitude to God never cease!
May the grace and peace of the risen Lord be with you in this holy season of Easter, which prepares us for the great feast of Pentecost. Let us pray for a new Pentecost in our Society, in our Movement and in all of us.
Thank you for all your prayers and sacrifices offered to God for me in Jesus, Mary and Joseph, for my many intentions. My sincere gratitude to you is my prayers and sacrifices for you, which are being offered continually for all your many intentions and needs, especially of your family members, for the LMC groups, for our poor people who suffer in body and soul. As we are one family, we make one single offering to God, putting everyone in the chalice of life. The earth is our altar on which we offer all the toils and sweats of the suffering humanity, forsaken and forgotten by the rush and hectic life of our present day world.
But we cannot simply be pessimistic. There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us. Evil does not have the last word. Love and charity cannot be conquered or defeated. Love will conquer all and every one. It may take time. Here what comes to my mind is the good old Vedic saying of 2500 B.C.: “Satyam evam, Jayathe”, meaning “only truth will win, only truth will last”. Truth alone is victorious.
At times we waste so much of our time trying to solve problems, and to find answers to many vexing questions. At other times we break our heads over the many riddles of life, failing to see the smile of a child or the beauty of a flower, the eagerness of a religious, the zeal and fervour of some of the M.C.s to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the Cross and in the Eucharist for love and for souls. At times, observing our poor people’s faces and contemplating on the disfigured and suffering face of Jesus is a grace in itself.
In Rome we have our Chapel of perpetual adoration where Jesus is loved and adored for twenty-four hours of the day and night, and then in Casa Serena, our night shelter, where Jesus is loved and served every day of the year. Both are the two ways of loving and serving the Lord. “In God and with God, I love even the person I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond the exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern…” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est).
Prayer demands the encounter of the person of Jesus Christ, who leads us to real charity. Only the encounter with Jesus in prayer and contemplation can help us to practice love and charity with transcendence. Otherwise it can become a routine type, devoid of real spirit. We are not doing our work with and for the poor for something, or for some name and fame. First of all, it is not our work we do; it is God’s work. It is to Jesus in the poor that we give our love. “You did it to me” (Mt 25:40), says the Lord.
On Sunday 3rd May 2015, The Albanian President Mr. Bujar (Generous) NIshani gave me “The Mother Teresa Medal Award”, which is supposed to be the highest Albanian award. By now many of you might have heard of it. My heart-felt thanks go to all those who have offered their fervent prayers and sent their prayerful regards.
Mr. Bujar Nishani, the president of Albania, arrived at 9.55 a.m. right in front of the Church of the Brothers. He was welcomed by the mayor of Bushat, Mr. Zef Hila, and Fr. Sebastian M.C. The people stood in one line from the road to the entrance of the Church, including some of our M.C. Sisters. He greeted one by one as he walked toward the main entrance of the Church. The television cameras almost blocked the passages.
The Church was already full, not only with Catholic Christians, but also with Orthodox Christians and many belonging to the religion of Islam. Greeting the people from the back of the Church, the president was brought right to the front where seats were prepared for the President, for the Mayor and for Fr. Sebastian M.C. The choir sang a welcome song. One of the poets of Shkodra had his poem ready.
By then it was almost time to get ready for the holy Mass. There were two archbishops: His Excellency Rt. Rev. Angelo Massafra, archbishop of Shkodra-Pult, was the main celebrant. His Excellency Rt. Rev. Ramiro Moliner Ingles, the apostolic nuncio for Albania, concelebrated together with other priests. The solemn high Mass was over by midday.
There was absolute silence in the Church, a sense of the awesome presence of God. The gospel of the day was very significant: the image of the vine and the branches from the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of John.
After the final blessing all were asked to take their seats again. And the ceremony began. The mayor of Bushat, Mr. Zef Hila, welcomed the president in the name of the people of Bushat, explaining to the people the meaning and significance of what was going to take place. It was now the president’s turn to speak. He had a special podium with the microphone already fixed. The president spoke in Albanian for about 15 minutes, at the end of which he conferred on me “The Mother Teresa Medal Award” with following citation:
“The Republic of Albania,
The President of the Republic
The Mother Teresa Medal
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala
In recognition of his contribution, priceless assistance and altruistic assistance for the most unfortunate and helpless ones and also for the human modesty and humility that characterises the benevolent deeds by getting close to the virtues of a protecting angel and earthly saint”
No. of decree 9077
Tirana, on 28th April, 2015
President of the Republic
It was a moving moment for all. Now it was my turn to speak, which I tried to do in English. I was under heavy antibiotics, both injection and tablets. Dr. Odeta Hasaj, who arranged my trip to Albania, also did the translation of my speech in Albanian, which she did very well.
What remained now were the president’s visit to one of the inmates and the lunch. Mr. Athanas, who is bed-ridden for life, is the one the president visited with and stayed a few minutes with. It was a moving experience for the President to listen to Mr. Athanas’ sad and painful story of his paralysis.
By now the lunch was ready. There were two refectories prepared: one for the President, the Archbishops, the Mayor and other V.I.P.s organized by Mr. Zef Hila, the mayor of Bushat. It was not only the time for eating, but there was enough time to talk and share in a very personal way. The president told me that he was extremely happy to see the wonderful work of God being done for so many years in Albania. But he also said that he was a little sad. When I asked him why was he sad, he said that such a wonderful work of God has not been known in Albania for so long. He said that there can be several people in Albania who may be interested in helping this great work of God.
As we are unable to live the past, no matter what the past has been; it is better to remember the past with gratitude and purified memories, while trying to live the present with joy and enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with serene confidence. It is absolutely necessary to learn to make use of the present as best as we can.
The apostolic Nuncio for Albania was sitting opposite to me in the refectory. He told the President that the Missionaries of Charity do not go after big publicity but live and work humbly and quietly. Beyond doubt we are doing God’s work, and if we do our part well and with great responsibility, then the good Lord will do the rest. He may do even more than we can think or imagine. His generosity has no time limit. It endures forever.
The President, Mr. Bujar Nishani, spent with us a little more than four hours and a half. He is a very friendly person to be with. He expressed a great desire to collaborate with us, saying that he may be ready and willing to help us to help our poor people. He wants us to remain in touch with him. Again and again he insisted that we should feel free to be in touch with him.
There were many comments by various people. Some people were happy that he came all the way to our house in Bushat and gave the award in person, while several others were upset because he came to us empty handed. In everything we do there are two ways of seeing it. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
For me this award was a sign from God that what we have done and what we continue to do is God’s work; and God showed his approval and appreciation of his work done by the brothers of the Missionaries of Charity in Albania. This award is part of the work of God. In honouring me, God is being recognized, honoured and glorified. “It is for the glory of the Father you produce much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8).
The presence of the local Church represented by the archbishop of Shkodra-Pult and the presence of the universal Church, represented by the apostolic Nuncio for Albania, were very significant. The Church and the State go together. Works of love are works of peace. The presence of the President of the noble land of Albania was a sign that the Church and State are not in opposition; they are not meant to go in isolation nor in parallel lines but together as far as possible and necessary. Love does not divide and separate, love unites people of all sorts, going beyond the external appearances and differences and even religious beliefs.
After all, what is the heart of any religion but invincible love?! Religion without love is not a true religion, because religion is a means and not an end in itself. It is through the religion we belong to God, that we come to know God, come to love God, come to serve God in our fellowmen who live and die in poverty and hunger. The simplest and most beautiful definition of God is that “God is love”; and perfect love vanishes all fear. Religion is not to separate us from each other, but to unite us to God through our neighbour.
Where there is true love, there is true respect. We have to respect each other’s way of honouring God, each other’s way of serving God in one’s neighbour. This is what happened in Kisha Bushat and Bethel on Sunday, 3rd May 2015 by the event that took place there.
God alone can do this. “Who can explain God’s decision? Who can understand his ways? Who knows the mind of God? Who is able to give him advice? Who has ever given him anything, so that he had to pay it back? To God be the glory forever! Amen.” (cf. Rom 11:33-36).
My heart-felt thanks go to our Brothers of Kisha Bushat-Bethel community. Ever since they received the news of the award, Bro. Mathew M.C. and Bro. André Marie M.C. and their community of Brothers worked very hard to arrange and prepare for the event. They contacted the archbishop of Shkodra and the apostolic Nuncio in Tirana and all those who were to be contacted for the occasion. They started praying the Memorares and asked many people for prayers so that the event might be a real Pentecostal experience for all participants and a new Pentecost for our Society and for our poor people in particular.
The M.C. Sisters from Shkodra were extremely generous with their time to prepare the Chapel to look really nice and beautiful for the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.
Several obstacles and difficulties came on our way. Although I anticipated my return trip from Ghana, Africa, I ended up in getting very sick to the point of cancelling my trip to Albania. My special thanks go to Dr. Odetta Hasaj who not only gave the medical assistance but also accompanied me to Albania and back. She also did the translation of my talk in Albanian, which was appreciated by all.
Bro. Jan-Timo M.C. represented our Society and Ms. Gianna Tommasi LMC the Lay Missionaries of Charity Movement. There was a real family spirit, even with those of you who joined us from near and far in spirit of fervent prayers and joyful sharing. To each and everyone of you I say “Thank you”. May the good Lord bless and reward every one in abundance. Let our thanksgiving to God never cease!
Love and prayers.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.