Last week I had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to England and Rome. The theme was the life of John Henry Newman. He was canonized last Sunday as a Catholic saint along with four other saints. We were a group of five men, Catholics as well as Lutherans interested in Catholicism.
The journey was important to me and my traveling companions in many ways, as Saint John Henry Newman was perhaps the first Protestant convert to Catholicism to be made a saint. St John Henry Newman was originally an Anglican priest who later converted to Catholicism, and was then ordained a Catholic priest. Later still he was created a cardinal. He strongly influenced the return of Catholic faith to Anglican England.
We first traveled to London, where we stayed in an Opus Dei center. We spent a day in Oxford, a day in Birmingham and a day in London. All the destinations we visited were related to Newman in one way or another. In Oxford we saw St Mary's Church, where he used to preach as an Anglican priest and filled the church hall, and Littlemore, where he was received into the Catholic Church.
Finally, it is the time to look back upon this year. We have received uncountable favors from Our Lady, so we thank our Mom for helping us. A multitude of events happened this year and I list some of those that really helped me and my friends to grow in faith.
1. The Youth Weekends.
The One Body in Christ Youth Weekends continued with a wonderful group time at Stella Maris. We learned about vocation in the Spring and we continued about family and social challenges in the Autumn.
People from various places shared their testimonies, lots of providences were given (every weekend we received more than enough food, for free!), as well as blessings and healings from adorations, worship and prayers.
Unfortunately, it could not continue after October, since the use of the buildings was banned by the authorities. Nevertheless, we always stand united as “One Body in Christ”.
All things must come to an end, and so did the World Youth Festival in Međugorje. On Friday night, there was a procession of Our Lady. Representatives from all the countries that took part in the festival walked in a procession after the statue of Our Lady. There were candles, flags and singing as she passed among us. The procession reminded us of her constant presence as a Mother to us all. After the procession, there was adoration again, followed by some musical theatre.
It was a blessing to hear catechesis from Fr. Jacques Philippe, who talked about relativism, faith, love and the Truth. We have also heard beautiful and touching testimonies from people who have experienced extreme conversions and now work as instruments of God.
A group of around 60 people from Finland and Verona, Italy, arrived in Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 30, 2017. Our pilgrimage was arranged by Father Gianni Sgeva CP. One of the main reasons for the pilgrimage was the World Youth Festival, which takes place at Međjugorje on August 1-6. This year the theme of the Festival is That your love may grow more and more.
I hope you liked my previous post about this year's St Henry’s Way Pilgrimage (to read it click here). In this post rI would like to share with you some reflections that I had during the pilgrimage (iplease note that these are only my personal opinion, so feel free to discuss them with me). I had the most intriguing question during the pilgrimage.
Who is the bad guy?
Firstly, I invite you to read the folk version of the Saint’s story:
The death-lay's version of the bishop's death was different from the vita. The bishop's killer was called Lalli. Lalli's wife Kerttu falsely claimed to him that upon leaving the manor, their ungrateful guest Henry, travelling around on his own in the middle of winter, had without permission or recompense, through violence, taken food, cake from the oven and beer from the cellar, for himself and hay for his horse, and left nothing but ashes. This is supposed to have enraged Lalli so that he immediately grabbed his skis and went in pursuit of the thief, finally chasing Henry down on the ice of Lake Köyliönjärvi. There he killed him on the spot with an axe. Lalli then proceeded to steal the late holy man’s hat, called a mitre, and place it on his own head. When Lalli’s mother questioned him about where he found the hat, he attempted to take it off, but with it came his scalp. Lalli then died a painful death.
However, on the way, we heard another version of the story, that Lalli was the good guy. And one tradition that certainly disturbed me was the locals has the tradition of choosing their “Lalli” and “Kerttu” of the year.
Note: I apologize if you feel offended about some comments that I regarding the local traditions.
Then, here come my reflections based on the question mentioned.
1. Do we really need to know who the bad guy is?
So far, maybe it is not so important for us to know the bad guy in the story. Before all, I remembered that we should not judge. Therefore, there is no need find out who was wrong or correct. Since our justice is always relative, who is Just, is exclusively Our Heavenly Father.
2. How do we know someone is right or bad (morally correct or incorrect)?
What are the parameters for good and bad? The answer is easy, to follow Jesus. However, God is Just and also Merciful. When we do wrong things, we turn up to the Sacrament of Confession, and He will always forgive us. We cannot decide someone is right or not based on only their acts, we can only say that the act is correct or incorrect.
Can we really say that Lalli was a bad guy because he killed Bishop Henry? Maybe not, he might be a good father for his family. Our justice is always relative, which if similar science, we compare with some “standards”. I think one way to avoid judgment, maybe set a good example for ourselves. Who are the best examples? The Saints! Then we don't really need to know who the bad people are and hiw bad they've been.
"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7)
3. If both sides (Bishop Henry and Lalli) were wrong, would there be a “better” one?
People love Lalli, especially the locals and those who chose him as the 14th greatest Finn. I don't understand the reason behind this. But I hope it is not that he killed someone.
Now this question, whic I reflected on by the end of my pilgrimage. Can we really say any of them is the “better” one if both of them were wrong?
Is there any intermediate word between good and bad? Not really right? I don't think one can step in the bad side one foot and another foot on the good side. Therefore, bad acts are always bad. Consequently, we can’t find a better one among bad things, there is no smaller intended sins and bigger intended sins.
To sum up, whether the legend was actually historical was not the center of my attention. The story of St. Henry, is a good example to see, that we did not change too much through years. We still commit sins due to material priorities, such as Lalli, who killed the Bishop for not paying according to his wife. We may do the same. Many times, we look for Heavenly Peace among objects and forget that we are aiming for an eternal life, where we don't need all these material things. We should always keep the Good as our direction, so we will not miss what we should do for the mission of the sanctification.
This pilgrimage taught me how to forgive; No matter how wrong we are, if we admi it, God will always forgive us. And who are we not to forgive those who have offended us, if God will forgive them?
Note: Thanks for Fr. Anders and all people who participated this pilgrimage, especially, the organizers. May God bless you all and see you next year! :)
This is a blog about being young and Catholic in Finland.
Yiran, or Maria Micaela. Born in China but baptised in Spain (2015), student in Turku. Participant of the Youth Weekends at Stella Maris. Cooking, running and photography are my hobbies.