27 September – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest
Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).
– Patron Saints Index
Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?
A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.
Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.
“One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays”
This year marked for me 17 years of being in the workforce, most of which was with the same firm. I don’t know if I have shared this before, but most of the work I did was around companies that were in distress. I used to read a lot about companies that got built up, lasted generations, then collapsed in the blink of an eye. Overnight, lives turned upside down, legacies ended. The sad ones were the companies whose undoing was due to complacency and greed. I know greed seems like a strong word, and maybe for some, exists in a world apart from us or on the silver screen, but it is real. Greed in the form of wanting more money, vanity, popularity, pride.
I recently read a book called “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. The most common regret was wishing that one had lived a life true to one’s self, and not what others expected of one. It’s so easy to be caught up by the present and pursuit of the next thing, that we fail to see the bigger picture of our lives. For most of us, our lives revolve around our inbox, answering emails late into the night. We respond to other people’s deadlines and emergencies, and plan fastidiously for our clients, helping them to achieve their annual targets. Their targets become our targets. But those targets are temporary. The next year, there will be new targets; the old will be forgotten, charted in the annual report for comparison later to the current year, likely as a blip on a line chart or bar graph. Meanwhile, what about our own life targets?
Life passes us by so quickly. I have seen so many contemporaries feeling jaded and restless, feeling the need to do something else more meaningful. That is our soul telling us that we are made for more. But we don’t know what that is, and we sit and hope that some sign comes to tell us what that missing piece is. Few of us will look for it ourselves. Then one day, we find that death knocks on our door. Our complacency has eaten away what time we have here on earth, and we have dreams half fulfilled, if even at all. We write wills and leave our belongings for the next generation, but what else are we leaving our children? What legacies, what other memories? What mark are we leaving here on earth that we can say was for the greater good, even if in the smallest measure? Can we say our souls thirsted to achieve the best of our inherent abilities and we strived to achieve it and satisfied it? Our worldly achievements and belongings are not something we can bring to bear before God on judgment day; our epitaphs will not read “here lies so and so, who always meticulously reconciled every cent/had a million Facebook friends/was the number one salesperson for 10 years consecutively”. No. We would want to be remembered as a dear father, mother, sister, brother, child, friend, and we would want people to mean it.
A dearly beloved priest in the Assumption Church of Petaling Jaya recently passed away. Father Mari Arokiam’s death was sudden and left many people shocked. During his funeral mass, the congregation prayed for the “grace of a well-prepared death”, that when we are called to the Lord, we will be “ready, with our lamp of faith, alight, and our baptismal robe unstained”. Father Mari was a man with a big heart, especially for the poor. Ironically, as we celebrate the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul today, we also remember Father Mari, who had also served in the Society of St Vincent de Paul in his lifetime. As we reflect on our own lives and the legacy that we want to leave behind, let us keep in mind Father Mari’s words at his silver jubilee last year, “One day when I am gone, I want to be remembered as a faithful priest who had compassion”.
How then do we want to be remembered?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and give us the courage to live our lives as You have determined it. We pray to leave behind a lasting legacy that is pleasing to God. We pray as well for the soul of Father Mari, may he rest in peace in the eternal glory of God.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the life of Father Mari, for his contributions and his compassion. May his legacy be remembered by all who knew him.