Respect from afar

A national day of commemoration can be held anywhere.
Geography is not important, but intent certainly is.

 JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH 

Fr Ramesh Richards SJ (ninth from left) with The Cardoner Network volunteers at the Church of St Anthony, in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. The volunteers from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are assigned across Thailand for six months.

By Fr Ramesh Richards SJ – Rector, The Cardoner Network 

I cannot recall the last time I physically attended an Anzac Day Dawn Service in Australia. In recent years, the reason has been simply because I am out of the country at that time. In the last two weeks of April, I always run a mid-placement retreat for The Cardoner Network volunteers who are based in Thailand from January until they return home in July.

Every year without fail, one or two volunteers ask how we plan to commemorate Anzac Day. This year we had our retreat in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, and the closest Dawn Service was held in Sandakan in Borneo and flying there was not an option. Some of us watched the Service on our phones live at 2am local time and then went back to sleep.  

At 8am we celebrated our own Anzac Day Mass, thousands of kilometres from Australian shores. One of the volunteers commented that he found the first reading jarring as it was reserved for funerals in his South Australian parish. He had not heard that reading used elsewhere in other contexts. The Gospel for Anzac Day speaks about how a grain of wheat does not have much value unless it is broken and shared. We took the opportunity to reflect on the thousands of men and women who work tirelessly in various fields for the pursuit of peace in the world. 

I was waiting for one of them to say that as volunteers, we too are grains, sharing ourselves for the magis. I did not hear it, perhaps because the volunteers were far too humble. Perhaps they observed what many of them have prayed during their school years, the Prayer for Generosity:

“Lord, teach me to be generous, 
to serve you as you deserve, 
to give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labour and not to look for any reward, 
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.” 

But what I did hear from the volunteers was that wherever we may be in physical or geographical terms, we should never forget that we stand on the shoulders of many people, some of whom we might not know or have ever met, who risked their lives or lost their lives so that we may live to do God’s holy will. Lest we forget.

Banner image: the Petronas Towers, the modern architectural symbol of Kuala Lumpur. Photo: David McMahon