News & Events
Partaking in the Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross!
Posted in News
By: Fr. Michael Johnstone, Walsingham, Norfolk, UK
It was January 2013 when I began working with MOP. It was a totally new experience: new and unfamiliar surroundings, routines, and faces. But once caught, no way was I ever going to miss an opportunity to volunteer over and over again!
Nothing unfamiliar now! The MOP spirit of ‘Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross’ under the banner of ‘Our Lady Cause of our Joy’ has so bitten into my spirit that the agony is waiting for each January to return to the now familiar and joyous routine.
The Prayer of the Church is celebrated regularly throughout the day: at 5:45 a.m., at noon, at 5:00, and at 9:00 p.m. What a joy – especially for me, a priest, who in normal circumstances prays these ‘Hours’ alone – to have them shared along with joyful chant and Caribbean song.
Breakfast is had with the gang of other volunteers- many of whom come as regularly and at the same time as my little group from England, and are now old friends- together always with new and other joyful and often youthful faces. After which we await our honorable guide Br Elijah to allot us our ‘Centre’ for the day, with the usual bits of haggling for each trying to visit the one they haven’t yet been to, or the one they most enjoy!
But does it ever matter? Whichever Centre we visit we are still received with enormous smiles and hugs of welcome – especially if we are allotted Jacob’s Well, where the ladies have permanently fixed grins and ever-open arms! Or Bethlehem’s deformed, abandoned infants
who are still the most adorable of all. Or Faith Centre, where Jessie will meet you and tell you exactly what to do and where to find everything; and dear Jacob with his lop-sided smile waiting to greet you as though a long-lost bosom pal. Or the other ladies at Lord’s Place, whose actions are seldom predictable, but always joyous and excitable – even if you are likely to have your specs knocked off your nose in their exuberance! And the cheerful gaggle of men, especially Mr. Donnelly, at Good Shepherd where you are constantly asked your name. And now in addition, the quiet efficiency of Holy Innocents with the wonderful ever-smiling Sisters calmly going about their business with those at either end of their earthly life -babyhood or oldest-age.
Midday prayer followed by lunch with the Brothers, gives one a chance to re-create with them, to find out about them and their countries of origin. Cheerful, ever-friendly, so young, so dedicated and so devout. Then a quieter afternoon of relaxation, chatting, possibly dominoes, and mugs of cold water. Until 3:30 for our return to Jesus Redeemer monastery-residence shared with senior Brothers.
All is now so familiar; the day so threaded through with wonderment at the love and joy shown by the residents; the devotion and self-denial of the Brothers; the underpinning of all by faith and prayer; and the clear direction of their lives of “Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross,” that one can’t help but be moved in the same direction oneself.
And so the day draws to an end with Evening Prayer, Rosary, Supper and Night Prayer – and a joyful, fulfilled feeling of readiness to collapse into bed as soon as possible!
Time to leave draws near- and you feel pulled away from what is most real, to another ‘unreal life’ – with the packing and goodbyes, and journey to the airport; carrying away with you a prayer for the Brothers, thanksgiving for their devotion, their self-sacrifice; and for the residents whose lives are enlarged by the care and love given them.