Tuesday, April 01, 2014

"Hinds' Feet on High Places"

Church of St. Benedict, Hong Kong has organized a 12-days pilgrimage to South India, with Fr. Jose, Asst. parish priest, leading the group. Although the churches and shrines were so familiar, leading a group to these places gave me a different perspective to our life in faith!

 Before departure at Hong Kong International Airport
"The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." Habakkuk 3:19

 In Bom Jesus Church, Goa
Many years ago, back in Claretian Seminary in Bangalore, I picked up a book by English author Hannah Hurnard, titled "Hinds' Feet on High Places" written in 1955. Once I look back into the pilgrimage to India that we had undertaken in February 2014, I feel, I was re-living the story of "Hind's Feet on High Places"! It is the story of a young woman named Much Afraid, and her journey away from her Fearing family. She makes her scary and adventurous journey on to the High Places of the Shepherd, guided by her two companions Sorrow and Suffering. It is an allegory of a Christian devotional life from salvation through maturity.
 In the national shrine of "Our Lady of Expectation", Mylapore
When we began thinking about organizing the pilgrimage, the first reaction from most parties was, FEAR! We had concerns with the security and safety of the pilgrims, health issues such as food, drinking water, mosquitoes and what not! There were questions such as, "Shall we carry drinking water along with us"?  The rest is history!
At the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle
Indeed it was an opportunity for the Hong Kong Catholics to have a first-hand experience of the Church in India, and to have a better understanding of it's rich traditions.

During the course of 12 days in India, we had the opportunity to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in 12 different Churches, and Shrines.
At St. Claret Public School, Vythiri 
 In Mysore, with the King's Palace in the background
Indeed it was an opportunity for the Hong Kong Catholics to have a first-hand experience of the Church in India, its rich traditions and to have a better understanding of the terrain and people of the land. Yet, we were rightly focused on the spirituality and life witness of St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Francis Xavier and St. Alphonsa. Hence, during our three-months intensive preparations, the group gathered together to pray the rosary, the Way of the Cross and for benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We came up with a theme for our Pilgrimage: From Doubt to Faith – Exploring the Missionary Journey of St. Thomas the Apostle, in India
 In Claretian Seminary, Bangalore
On day six of our Pilgrimage, we had planned to scale the 1269 'Ft above sea level Kurisumudi (Hill of the holy cross) at Malayattoor. It was during our climbing up, I suddenly recalled the story of the book I was referring to in the first paragraph: “Hind’s Feet on High Places”.  I could easily associate myself with “Much Afraid”, the protagonist of the novel. And most of our group members shared similar feelings. If not for the tender, gentle guidance of the Shepherd, we would never make it to the “High Places”.

 Deepika, a Malayalm daily picked up the news of our
visit to the tomb of St. Alphonsa at 
Bharananganam, Kerala
This was indeed an eye-opener for me: this was exactly the mission of the Church today in the pilgrim-life of the people of God. The People of God on this earth are on a pilgrimage to the ‘Mountain of God’. Some are strong and some weak, yet all aspire for the summit. We will be a failure if we fail to take our fellow-pilgrims along with us.
 At the foot of  Malayattor, "Hill of the Holy Cross"
What matters most, is not how fast do we reach the summit, but rather how well do we make it to the top!  Moreover, how boring it would be there on the top, if I were to be all alone, without the company of my friends! I think, all of us shared similar feelings and this was visible when we were back in our coach – we were all tired, yet had the joy of accomplishing something big! Indeed, the ‘Hill of the Holy Cross’ left us with a great lesson, a wonderful message for the rest of our lives! 
During a House Boat trip in Alleppey
We are back home after a few adventurous and beautiful days in India, but our pilgrimage is not yet ended! We are on the go and along the way, we are assured of the two companions to assist us: “Sorrow” and “Suffering”, because they are the most experienced ones to take us through the steep, slippery and very narrow, zig-zagging track that lies ahead! Courage! Move on! 不要怕,只管信!

For more stills and clippings, check the video!

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