Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Know that I am with you always, yes to the end of time.” ( Mt. 28 v 16 – 20)

 

I remember so clearly my first day in CENFI, the Language School in Brazil where I went to study Portuguese for three months, before heading off on mission to Iguape, where I spent thirteen years. I’ll never forget entering the huge hall which was full to capacity, and where there was a cacophony of noise, with everyone gabbling and shouting in their own language, a motley gathering of a hundred students from various countries all conversing together.

But, what really caught my glance at first, and made a huge impression on me, was a huge banner on which were painted the words:“Go, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father, of the Son

and the Holy Spirit. And know that I am with you, and will always be until the end of time”.

We were all there, called by God, answering his invitation to “Go and make disciples of all nations”, to spread the Good News, to live as Jesus did when He went from place to place doing good, to reach out to people in love and to bring them the Good News. That image of the Call to be a disciple or follower of Christ has remained always with me, and has always been an inspiration and a challenge to me. Another phrase which also inspired me on that day was “Know that I am with you always, yes to the end of time”. What a promise and what a blessing!

I remember that when I was very young, my father used to read us a short story out of a big book, which later I learned was a Bible. There is one particular incident that has remained with me for more that seventy years! It was the story of Noah and the Ark. I remember daddy telling me that God had put a beautiful rainbow in the sky to remind us of his presence with us always. He simply said, “Remember, when you see a rainbow, that it is God’s message telling you that He is always by your side!”

Many times in my life I have been blessed by the appearance of a rainbow, but there is one instant in particular that has made a lasting impression on me. I had left the Language School in Brazilia and was living in Iguape, in a very rural area. I really loved being with the people and usually felt very much at ease with them. However there was one day when I felt so lonely, lost and insecure. It was spilling rain and the roads had turned to clogging muck. Had there been an aeroplane in the vicinity I certainly would have contemplated going back home to Ireland! In my frustration I was kicking every stone I saw. I was full of self pity and even questioned my apostolate in this God-forsaken place in Brazil.

And suddenly, there appeared in the darkened sky a rainbow. It was the brightest and most beautiful one I had ever seen. I just stopped in  my tracks and gazed in wonder and thankfulness at it. I realised also that the rain had stopped, and the raindrops which had fallen on the blades of grass and nearby bushes were sparkling like diamonds. A certain peace descended upon me, and instead of cursing God I was now moved to praise him for the glorious wonders of his creation. Love, peace and blessings now took the place of despair and pain. I even began to sing, thanking God for his love and his blessing.

Suddenly, out of a house emerged a young child, Selma was her name. She ran up to me and said “Hi Sister, Teach me how to laugh”. All I could do was to laugh with her and together the two of us, best friends, walked in peace and joy together down the road.

 

Certainly, on that day I was very sure of the presence of God with me: –

Of God the Father filling me with love and praise;

Of God the Son accompanying me on the way

And of God the Spirit guiding and inspiring meî.

 

PadraigÌn Mc Kenna OP