‘A priest wearing white cincture’ made me curious to know who this person was and what the reason was to wear a white cincture. Throughout my life, I met so many priests who wear black cinctures and it was normal for me as a young alter servant of 12 years old. However, this white cinctured priest made me interested to know what was this all about. But I was not fortunate enough to have a good chat with him though he had been to my parish of St. Mary’s Church Gatambe, Kandy to celebrate the Eucharist a couple of Sundays. May be his solemn approach and the seniority would have stopped me reaching out to him. Time passed. I did not see the priest any more.
Three years later two young brothers came to my parish to do their Sunday apostolate. Oh! Again, I saw the white cinctures on those young active brothers and I was able to recall my first memories of the white cincture. This time I did not miss the bus. I was able to talk to them and to know about the Redemptorists. I had the desire to become a priest since I was a child. But never was it my intention to join a religious congregation. I knew nothing about the congregation. I was able to join two vocation camps and discovered what this white cinctured congregation was all about. Even though I had many chances to join the diocese of Kandy, or another congregation, I did not feel that much eagerness as with these white cinctured priests. But I am sure it is not me but God who Himself had showed me the way to join the Redemptorists.
Time had passed and by now I am ten years in the congregation, in a way the Redemptorist life has affected my whole self. As our present Pope Francis tells us how we have to be a good shepherd who smell like their sheep, literary to be one with the poor and with the most abandoned around me. This is what motivates me, as our founder St. Alphonsus also wanted us to be a shepherd to the lost and the suffering. Redemptorists all over the world respond to the urgent needs of the time revealing the loving presence of God. I have immersed myself with the needy and the suffering in the past years, in some of the parish missions in Sri Lanka, and in my formation years in the Philippines. To go to the poor, and give the risen Christ to them, is not an easy task. Especially with modern science, natural calamities, fundamentalists, sicknesses and poverty which have challenged the faith. We live in a culture which is experiencing change including the change in religion.
The mission to the needy makes a true missionary to be vulnerable and at the same time available to find means and ways to bear witness to the suffering Jesus with His people. This is what makes me to love the congregation and to be a son of St. Alphonsus who in fact gave us a superior example of what it means to smell like the sheep. I have experienced how this Liguori family exercises the faith even with our human weakness in our respective perception of cultures and in traditions.
In addition, it has been always the community life, which reinforces the life of a religious, where one seeks the family in the community. Therefore, it is not my work alone. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians in his first letter “I, myself, came weak, fearful and trembling; my words and preaching were not brilliant, or claver to win listeners. It was rather…..God’s power” (1 Cor 2:1-5). So it is God indeed who works in each and every good act we do. He places us in the correct position of this journey of life. He has chosen me even before I could think where I would be. I am happy about His choice for me to be a member of the congregation, to be a true loving shepherd to the lost and weak. So it is His choice which I freely embraced with love and respect. And I am sure God would not abandon any one of us even with our weaknesses and limitations. God bless us all.
By the way, the white cinctured priest I mention in the beginning of the article was Fr. Nihal Abeyasingha, the first Redemptorist priest I met. Thank you.
Rev. Fr. Morris Gerard C.Ss.R