Der Friede seit mit euch! (writing from Vienna)
Peace be with you all!
OK - I believe we are on Day V:
Day V - So, on this day we traveled to three different churches. . .each one had a very special meaning for me. First of all, this was the 11th anniversary of my Profession of Vows, and so it was bound to be a special day! First, we went to a church in a small village, where we had lunch and met a small group of people. There was really a great "small town" feeling about this place. Everyone was very friendly, and the meal was really like a small potluck dinner that you might find in the US, except of course, it was all Chinese food. What really impressed me about this church was that they were rebuilding the actual church building, and so I couldn't help but think of St. Francis who was instructed by our Lord who said, "Go and rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruin."
Then we ventured on to an ancient village where we actually got to have Mass. I was so thankful that I could have Mass on this day, because it was the anniversary of my Profession, but what I did not know was that this Mass would be spied on. The Mass itself was just beautiful, as we sang in Italian and English. The Church itself was very simple, and I got to, again, read the english Gospel and help with Holy Communion. After Communion I thanked the Lord SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much that I could celebrate this anniversary in China, of all places!
From this ancient village, which was very beautiful, by the way, we traveled on to our last destination, which turned out to be the most exciting. This was a state church in Wenzhoe City. The minute we arrived, I knew that something was different, because it seemed that this church really had a lot of money. The others I had been in were more simple. Then we walked in and I felt like I had suddenly walked into Las Vegas. The church itself had all the elements of a Catholic Church building (a tabernacle, a statue of Mary, stations of the cross), but everything seemed to artificial and superficial. The dominant feature was a huge red neon cross in the very front. We were warmly greeted by an overenthusiastic man, whose mannerisms matched the neon lights that were in front of us. When asked what the red cross meant he answered thus, "It is a reminder to us that we are happy people, that we love our country, and that we worship our God. . ." and then he quicky added, "and your God." I think we all knew at that moment that we were smack in the middle of a state run church, and could certainly feel the difference. He invited us then for an evening meal.
On the way out of the church, I was quietly told that there were government officials all over the place watching us, and that I should spread the word that we say nothing about our purpose in China. And so the word spread throughout our group, and before we sat down to eat the group had been informed. As I walked into the place where we were to eat, the man who greeted our group in the church stood at the entrance and said to me in English, "Welcome, Sister." I admit, I was a bit taken back by this, because he certainly wasn't supposed to know this, but I just cooly walked through the door, and wished him a good evening.
And so our group had our gathering with a group of young people that night, but we were not allowed to really do anything religious. What we did, though, was have a great time, and witness to Jesus Christ with JOY in our hearts. I think it might have been one of the most beautiful evenings of all.
I will admit that I was very glad to leave that place, and as we prayed a rosary on the way home, a truck ahead of us had a blow-out in the tunnel, and so it sounded like a bomb going off. I think we all just about lost our Chinese noodles about then. . .but then had a good laugh, as we realized it was just the truck ahead of us, and all was well.
Yes, the Lord was certainly holding us up on that day. . .and what a way to celebrate my profession of vows.
Day 6 will come later. . .
Peace be to you all!
Sr. Mary Paul