Holy Saturday

Photo: canva.com/caughtinthePhoto: canva.com/caughtinthe

Some months ago, a migrant friend here in Hong Kong texted me with an unusual request. She wanted the Columbans to hold her husband’s ashes in our chapel until she could bring them back to his home country for burial in the family plot. I was surprised that she did not want to keep them in the house where she and her husband had lived for many years. However, when I asked her about this, she told me that while she did not have any difficulty with this, she knew many of her neighbours would not visit her if they knew her husband’s ashes were in the house. They believed that it might bring them misfortune. I understood her dilemma and readily agreed to hold her husband’s ashes in the Columban chapel.

The disciples of Jesus had not time to prepare a grave for Jesus since his violent death was unexpected. Moreover, the day following his Crucifixion was a High Sabbath, so there was no time to explore the various burial options. Something had to be done and done fast. At that moment, Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, came to the rescue. Not only did he take the body of Jesus from the cross and wrap it in a linen cloth, but he also provided a fine tomb for his burial. It was, in fact, the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for himself.

When Columban Fr Charles Cullen left Ireland to begin his missionary life in China in 1921, he was twenty-five years old and full of youth and vigour. However, within two years, he died unexpectedly. During the following days, waves of shock and sadness spread over the Catholic communities and his priest colleagues, not only because of his youth but also because he was the first Columban to die in China. In their desolation, a local man came forward to provide a well-designed and carefully constructed coffin. This benefactor was not a Christian. Moreover, he had prepared that fine coffin for himself!

This Easter, my friend will take her husband’s ashes from the Columban chapel and return them to his home country for burial. Even though she is a devout Buddhist, not only did she ensure that her husband received all the sacramental support of his Catholic faith throughout his prolonged decline and final illness, but she also now wants to ensure that he receives a final Christian farewell with the hope of being re-reunited with him one day.

Columban Fr Tim Mulroy, Superior General, St Columban's Mission Society, Hong Kong.

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