Home' Aurora : Aurora April 2013 Contents The Easter gift
I nearly missed
BY GREG BYRNE
One Easter, many years ago, God sent me
a present, although I didn't immediately
recognise it as a gift. It came in the form
of a family -- a father, three children aged
4, 2 and 1 and a mother who was eight
months pregnant. The gift came on Holy
Thursday night and I was very reluctant to
Easter at Forster Tuncurry is very full. The
Catholic Church is full of ceremony and
festivities, accommodation is full and
the shops are full. The weather that year
was particularly good and every form of
accommodation was taken -- right down
to tent sites.
Ceremonies included the Holy Thursday
liturgy followed by meditation and prayer.
Good Friday saw the Stations of the
Cross and the recounting of the Lord's
Passion. The Saturday night Vigil is always
a vital, moving celebration of the Risen
Lord where new members are welcomed
into our community. I am always enriched
by these celebrations and try to involve
myself in them. An added bonus this year
was that the Tuesday was Anzac Day and
so we had an extra holiday. I was looking
forward to it all. God had other plans.
It was Holy Thursday and, as usual, I was
trying to hurry Lauranne and our seven
children so we wouldn't be late. Then the
phone rang. It was a family I had helped
previously and the caller, the Dad, said,
"We've been evicted. We've been staying
in a motel for two days but we can't
afford to stay here anymore. The motel is
expensive but all the caravan parks are
full. We're right for tonight but we will need
somewhere to go tomorrow."
I was flustered. My mind was set on
getting my own family to church. I was
annoyed that my plans for the night were
being interrupted and I silently wished
he'd go away and solve his own problem.
I needed time to think. "I'll be there in an
hour," I told him.
After the service I hurried out to my car.
Thoughts had been running through my
head. We had a potentially homeless
family of five. The town was on holidays
for five days and therefore all Government
Departments would be closed. All
accommodation was taken. It appeared
Arriving at the motel I found the children
asleep -- two in the double bed and the
baby in the stroller. Dad was pacing
the floor and Mum looked exhausted,
slumped in an armchair. I suggested that
Dad approach the office and try to book a
few more days. It would be expensive but
there didn't appear to be any alternative.
"No luck. They're booked out," he reported
on his return.
Dad started to tell me the story of their
eviction and was obviously embarrassed
and humiliated by the family's plight. He,
provider and protector, had failed. And
yet there didn't seem to be any animosity
toward him from Mum. On the contrary,
there was obviously love between them
and deep concern for the children.
I emptied the change out of my pockets.
"First thing tomorrow go up to the post
office and call some caravan parks," I
suggested. "There may have been some
cancellations." I was clutching at straws.
"Meanwhile get a good night's sleep and
we'll sort something tomorrow." I tried to
sound like I had it all under control.
Next morning I returned to find them all
packed (stroller and one overnight bag)
and ready to go. "There's a vacancy at
Coolongolook," Dad happily informed
me. "And after the holidays there could
be a permanent site." He sounded almost
overjoyed. I was apprehensive because
Coolongolook is half an hour away from
many support services. It seemed like a
desperation tactic and one can jump from
the frying pan into the fire. However, there
weren't many alternatives. And the family
appeared relieved, even excited, that they
had a "new home".
I packed them into the car marvelling at
their adaptability. They were all set but I
wasn't. I'm the St Vincent de Paul man.
Ever prepared, always one step ahead. I
realised that they had no food and it would
be a good bet any shops at Coolongolook
would be shut. So, off to Vinnies to pick
up some food. Dad thanks me for the
food and the foresight. I am so busy
congratulating myself that it isn't until we
get to the park that I realise they haven't
any linen or blankets. That revelation
leaves me with an empty feeling in my
stomach. They were so concentrated on
having the most basic need met -- a roof
over their heads -- that they weren't able
to take the next step and think of the need
for food or warmth. That should have been
I paid a week's rent, organised for some
blankets and headed back to Forster. It
was Good Friday and I had missed the
Stations of the Cross.
I had missed Jesus being condemned to
death, as people who may be homeless
I had missed Jesus carrying his cross, as
people each day struggle with life.
I had missed Jesus falling the first time,
as people stumble along through the
difficulties of life.
I had missed Jesus meeting his sorrowing
mother, as people agonise because of
the things they are not able to do for their
I missed Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus
to carry his cross, as we are all called to
assist those in need.
I missed Veronica wiping Jesus'; face,
many people lose face because of poverty
I missed Jesus falling again, though we
are surrounded by things that can weigh
I missed Jesus talking to the women of
Jerusalem, reminding us that we must
treat each other with respect and be
concerned for others.
I missed Jesus falling the third time, as we
see people continuing to persevere in the
face of hopelessness.
I missed Jesus being stripped of his
clothing, as people are humiliated in front
of the spouses and children who love
I missed Jesus being nailed to the cross,
though I recognise there are many who
bear physical, emotional, intellectual
and spiritual pain which is beyond our
comprehension and tolerance.
I missed Jesus dying on the cross, though
a little bit of us dies each time we are
made to feel a failure.
I missed Jesus being taken down from
the cross and placed in his mother's
arms, though all mothers mourn for their
I missed Jesus being laid in the tomb,
from where he shall rise to eternal life,
though I realise we all have little deaths in
our lives but we too can rise again.
I almost missed the Stations of the Cross
-- until I reflected on my encounter with my
Greg Byrne is the Pastoral Associate at
the Parish of Forster Tuncurry.
Students of St Joseph's Campus, Lochinvar represent Jesus speaking to Mary, his mother,
and John, at the annual ecumenical Way of the Cross at Kilaben Bay.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
SEASONS OF GRACE
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