I have been struggling to work out how to describe the importance of The Far East magazine. The following fantasy is the result of my imagination at work.
The celebration of the 100 years since the first issue of The Far East came up in a recent meeting of the Holy Trinity. These meetings always start with a short time of quiet reflection when they remember why they created the universe. The mission of the Trinity is easily stated: “They want to share the love”. Their love for all that has come to be, particularly their love for their sons and daughters, is strong and constant.
When Father, Son and Holy Spirit thought about how they used some young Columban priests to start The Far East back in 1920, they remembered that they had set up this Columban Society a few years before. They had seen an opportunity to push along their project of bringing together the whole human race, the whole universe, into a unity. Yes, everything and everyone was in God, but they wanted all their sons and daughters to know that this is true.
The Trinity could see a new opportunity for their mission. There were Irish men and women, good Catholics who knew the story of Jesus, across many countries like the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. On the other hand, they were concerned about China. There had been Christian missionaries working in that country for a long time but there were still millions of good people there who had not heard the story about the Trinity – the Jesus story. So why not inspire the Irish to work for the Chinese?
This was behind their decision to start up The Far East in Melbourne. For the story to be told in China, the Columbans needed priests, money and moral support. Without moral support, from the basically Irish-Catholic community in Australia, there would not be any priests nor would there be any money.
How to build this awareness of the mission to China and to help people to see in it the work of God? A magazine, The Far East, seemed to be the best way to do this. The Holy Spirit, who had done most of this work, seemed pleased with the success of this project!
Looking back over the 100 years, the Trinity recognised that for The Far East to tell the story of Jesus in a place like Latin America, it had provided many articles and photos about the poverty of the people and the injustices they suffered. The Columbans had discovered, as had many others in the Church, that the story of Jesus was the story of God.
The Father’s love of his family meant that he did not want any of them to suffer but to thrive. That some of his children oppressed, robbed, and persecuted others was a terrible pain to bear. He had inspired men and women across the centuries to struggle for justice and peace. Now in these times, Columbans too were urged by the Spirit to do the same and The Far East told the stories.
There were plenty of other stories too. God had inspired men and women, including Columbans, to try to build bridges between the various large religious traditions across the world. Given all the conflicts involving religion, there still are many obstacles to fulfilling this dream. The desire of the Trinity for a world united in God is not easily achieved. It is the story of Jesus which is the basis of our hope that God’s desire will be realised.
Of course, the Trinity had seen many technological changes over the past 100 years. At the meeting, it was noted that, besides the magazine, the Columbans are now using many of these new technologies to let people know the Jesus story.
We Columbans believe that our Society was called into being by the Trinity and that each of us was also so called. God has worked in the hearts and minds of all of our friends and supporters who read The Far East. We are all engaged in God’s love for the whole of creation. God has blessed us and the work of The Far East for 100 years. Let us give thanks.
Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania