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Spiritual Reflection - April 2023

Ko te maumahara kore ki ngā whakapapa o ōu mātua tīpuna, e rite ana ki te pūkaka awa kāore ōna hikuawa, ki te rākau rānei kāore ōna pakiaka.
To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without its roots.

Alex Haley’s popular book, ROOTS, in the 1970’s, awakened in many descendants of migrants a curiosity that lay dormant within them. It wasn’t until I visited in Ireland the house of my paternal grandmother and celebrated  Mass in the Church she worshipped in, did I ever get a sense of this kind of connection. She migrated to New Zealand in the late 1800’s and died before seeing her grandchildren. We grew up with little knowledge of her. My eldest sister had visited Ireland in the 1950’s and stayed in the house of her childhood. It would be 60 years before I would enter that house, by then uninhabitable. With my two brothers we decided to stay in the village an extra day so I could celebrate Sunday Mass in the church she would have attended. It was all a bit overwhelming to realise that so long ago, a 15 year old girl would leave her homeland and make her way by ship to New Zealand. She married a Welsh protestant in the Catholic Church, and gave birth to five children, three of whom she lost through illness in their early adulthood. I have since pondered her life, discovered some interesting facts and marvelled at the toughness of my grandmother and people like her. These were the people who created families similar to mine, who built our parish churches and schools. Their Catholic faith was central and so too their willingness to sacrifice for others. I think most of us would have ancestors of a similar ilk.

In the indigenous cultures we will usually find that ancestors are a significant feature and Maori carvings referring to both the natural and spiritual often illustrate this.  The Jewish/Christian faith has a similar mentality as we see in Matthew’s gospel and in our devotion to the saints. It is those saints closer to our time though who seem to touch a chord in us, especially when we learn something of their lives and sacrifices.

A London Tablet article some years ago described how the Irish migrants to Australia dreamed of a better future in their new land. They were poor and looked down upon by others in the professions. They began to dream and realised that if they could educate their children they would soon have Catholic lawyers, doctors etc. So began their Catholic schools. Then by the time Pope John Paul 11 visited in 1986, a whole generation had turned their backs on the Church. New Zealand has a similar story, but our schools began because the government wouldn’t allow the Church teach the faith within the school environment. We therefore built our own and found the staff who basically taught for free.

There is no doubt in my mind, that the malaise in the Church today is happening, at least to some extent, because we have forgotten the faith of our recent ancestors. These people bowed their heads to a higher power, whereas today, we have everything in an instant. We tell ourselves we don’t need God. We have too many distractions, and we fail to deal with the resulting chaos. This sets us on a path to death and our ability to dream dies with us. We then become as the above whakatauakī says: “a brook without a source, or a tree without roots”. We all know that a tree without roots is nothing more than pieces of wood. It can never live according to its design.

I can’t help feeling that if we could focus on our more recent ancestors, we might somehow find the wherewithal within us to begin to dream anew. Are we going to say that they were naïve, simple people? I don’t think so. They may not have had much education, but they were smart, full of foresight and prepared to do what was needed just to make life better. Often they left their homeland with no idea of what the future might be like, or even that it would be any better than what they had left behind. We owe them our prosperity.


1)      Is there a malaise within the V de P society, or, do you feel that all things considered it is doing well?

2)     What are your thoughts about the need to dream new dreams for the V de P society?


Holy Spirit, come and awaken us to the possible
Within our call
To establish that reign
Justice and Peace.
May your will be done through us
On earth
As it is being done in heaven.