The First Holy Communion group receive the sacrament on Holy Thursday. - Photo:Sr Rebecca Conlon
The explosions of grace that took place in St John the Apostle Church in Latifabad, Hyderabad, throughout Holy Week and the Easter season of 2022 should not go unnoticed. It was not just a beautiful liturgical crescendo to Easter; there were many sacramental crescendos dotted throughout the week, causing an outpouring of God’s grace, love and joy on the children and community.
The first was First Confession. What a blessing it was to prepare the children for this beautiful sacrament. Then there was the Confirmation crowd. Those preparing for this sacrament were also invited to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation to prepare them for their big day.
It was challenging, needless to say, to go out into the gullies and invite wayward teens to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. But when they plucked up the courage to come, it was a real joy to welcome them to Sunday School and prepare them for the Sacrament.
Bishop Samson Shukardin came to the church to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation and was greeted by a sea of excited youth, thirsting for the Spirit - and we know that the Spirit was thirsting for them too. They came from the parish of St Elizabeth, 347 in all.
Between the praying, singing, excitement, heat, social order and not a little disorder, the Spirit came hovering over each one, renewing and strengthening their spirit to face life head on in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where it is a great challenge to live out their Christian commitment.
On Holy Thursday, we had the First Holy Communion group of 21 students, as it was the ideal day to receive the sacrament, remembering that Jesus broke the bread of His life for us all on that day.
Afterwards, there was the Agape meal, where people shared their food with each other and, as with the miraculous multiplication, there was more than enough for all.
As the Agape meal was about to start, the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the Altar of Repose. It is customary every Holy Thursday night for people to keep watch and pray with the Lord as He faces the ordeal of Good Friday and all that entails. When the food arrived, the people rushed in that direction. So I decided to go to the Altar of Repose to wait a while with the Lord and eat later.
There were two children in the church. I tried to gather my thoughts, but one of the children came up to me and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was praying as Jesus was all alone. He needed friends that night. Satisfied with this information, the little boy took off doing cartwheels and spinning about on the carpet floor of the church.
Explosions of grace at St John the Apostle Church, Latifabad, Hyderabad (Pakistan), throughout Holy Week and the Easter season of 2022. - Photo:Sr Rebecca Conlon
The other child was a young girl dressed immaculately in a long white dress. When she saw the little boy doing cartwheels, she decided that she would do what she was best at and so started standing on her head.
We three were the companions of Jesus on Holy Thursday - doing what we were best at - and I know that He was so happy to have our company.
It is like the story of the young student preparing for priesthood who was always criticised by his formators for not doing things the proper way. He knew what he was best at and decided to go to the chapel quietly and do that thing and offer it to God. Juggling was his gift.
We moved on to the Holy Triduum when those who received the explosions of grace and blessings from the Lord entered fully into the Holy Week ceremonies with great pride. May they be faithful to the promises they made and fulfil all their wishes to be committed Christians in this society and do what they are best at for God.
Thanks to Bishop Samson, Fr Yusuf Bagh, Fr Ajmal, Master Mubarak, and the staff of the Good Shepherd Tuition Centre, who shepherded the children through Sunday School and led them to these beautiful pastures. The Lord is my Shepherd, we shall not want.
Columban Sr Rebecca Conlon lives and works in Pakistan.
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- Read more from The Far East - March/April 2023