Recently Fr Emmanuel Nuh Mbeh mhm took up residence at Herbert House, Freshfield, UK, joining the fellowship of retired Mill Hill missionaries there. He’ll be active as APF-Mill Hill Mission Animator over the next couple of years.
It is August 1st and as I walk from the train station in Freshfield to Herbert House to begin my next missionary endeavor. Thoughts and prayers mingle and propel my mind and my mood.
I turned left on Victoria road! A silver coloured car pulled up and some enthusiastically greeted me. The man being driven introduced himself as David and the driver, Judas, and “I’m Emmanuel”. He said he was a pastor from Germany looking for St Joseph’s house. “Are you a priest or something?” “Yes, I’m a missionary.” I began to feel nervous, partly insecure and partly encroached. We chatted nervously as I kept thinking he/they should either be scammers, secret police following me, or genuinely God-fearing and pleasant, for he said a few times “Jesus loves you brother…” We parted as they continued to look for their Saint Joseph’s, about which I had no clue. I continued to be nervous at such an unlikely coincidence.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, God loved me into existence, in my baptism, my priesthood and missionary life. The movie “Pay it forward” was pushed down my throat as it were, years ago, back in South Africa: “You got to watch this, you will like it!” And I did! It was well intended – see how goodness, charity or altruism must be passed on!
Pay it forward! Pay LOVE forward! Pay peace, joy, goodness, care, graces forward! Pay magnanimity, ministry, missionary work forward!
My first impression was that Herbert House had five items to pay forward – hospitality, serenity, prayer, busy-ness and positivity. In short, PAY CARE FORWARD, for it is a care home – and they are jolly good fellows! The world was created good and out of goodness by love, for love and in love. So is procreation! So is missionary work!
Down the centuries and millennia, men and women have sacrificed their lives, perfectly or imperfectly for a good cause, for love. This propelling, this compulsion, this privileged burden always conjures up ‘paying it forward’. In a similar movie “The King and I”, which we watched on Sunday evenings back in Jinja Formation, the fun or humour is around innocent repetition and imitation of the king.
As I wholeheartedly joined in everyday for meals, prayers, the rosary, Eucharist, Adoration and teas, seeing the sunset years of many triggered the recollection and articulation of Peter Seawald and Benedict XVI in “Light of the world”. Indeed what one believes when one is three or thirteen, one comes back to believe at eighty-three or ninety-three albeit the learnings and unlearnings .
It is a grace to age gracefully! It is a grace, an amazing grace to live with the aged. And more so, to pray, learn and work with them. It is a grace to pay it forward.
The German philosopher Robert Spaemann was once asked whether an internationally renowned scholar such as himself could actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and worked miracles, that he rose from the dead and bestows eternal life on believers. That is the sort of things children believe in, isn’t it? Here is how Spaemann, now eighty-three years old, answered the question:
“If you want to put it like that, yes, of course. I believe roughly the same thing I believed as I child – the point is just that since then I have had more opportunity to think about my faith. In the end thinking about my faith has always strengthened it.”
What about the Pope? Does he still believe what he believed as a child?
“I would answer in similar terms. I would say simplicity is truth and truth is simple. Our problem is that we no longer see the forest for the trees; that for all our knowledge, we have lost the path to wisdom…” (Light of the world, Peter Seawald on Benedict XVI, page 167, 2011, CTS, Ignatius Press, San Francisco).
In the coming months and years, I will continue to pay it forward by loving and serving from Herbert House and especially as I muse every morning as we pray together this “Prayer of Our Lady of this House”:
Immaculate Mother of God, we choose you this day as Lady of this house. Guard it, dear mother, from sickness and injury, quarrels and enmity, so that we may live together in harmony and peace. Protect each member of our community. Watch over our going out and our coming in; and preserve us from unprepared death. Keep us all from sin and pray for us to God that we may remain faithful in His service, now and forever. Amen.”
Emmanuel Nuh Mbeh mhm