This past week we, the Claretian community celebrated the feast of our father founder, St. Anthony Mary Claret (October 24th). How do you celebrate a man that continues to inspire men and women over the world? We are in 65 countries and growing, with 3,000 men religious, and 1500 women religious serving over a million people in the world.

In our tradition, a saint is celebrated on the day he or she dies but here in the delegation of Indonesia-Timor Leste (a delegation is a mini-province), we actually celebrated the life of Claret all month long at our seminaries/houses of formation.

It is impossible to follow St. Anthony Mary Claret for just one day, especially since he said “use all means possible” to spread God’s love.  And so we used “all means possible” that fully engaged all our senses from sight to sound, from touch and play to finally the smells and taste of a real feast.

We held many sports competitions.  We started with volleyball and they are very good at volleyball.  One way volleyball is unique here is that they are allowed to kick the ball (since the playing surface is hard, sometimes jagged with rocks and you can’t dive for the ball to save it, but you can kick it, this is a great way to recover a spiked ball). We also played basketball and while this is not a common sport in Indonesia our brothers from Timor Leste were pretty good in “basket” as they call it.  Still after 25-30 minutes of play the score was 14-14, which tells you we need some more practice. There were many games of futsall, a mini version of soccer (football) played on a space about the size of a basketball field and points are made when the ball hits the goal posts, not when it goes in a goal.  And of course we had football (soccer). For the first time in 3 years, the theology students beat the pre-novices (2-0), so this was a very happy day for us at the Claretian Seminary of Theology. 

Our senses were even more engaged with a month of Claret Idol competitions.  Some students put on plays, some played music, but as this is Indonesia, everyone sang, even me; I sang a song from the Beatles based on the Magnificat of the Blessed Mother, “Let it be.”  The brothers were singing that song for days!  At the end of the month, our seminary crowned the individual and team winners.  My team did not “taste” victory, but we did our best to add to the festival.

We built up our sense for the divine with special prayers and readings from the life of St. Anthony Mary Claret throughout the month, as well as inviting the greater community to join us for outdoor masses at our shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The brothers sharpened their memories with regular contests and quizzes on the life of St. Anthony Mary Claret, on the congregation, and on the lives of our brothers in the province.  These were the moments we lived Jesus’ word, “taste and see the Lord is good.”

Our celebrations spread to the larger Kupang diocese as 4 of our missionary students were ordained priests (with 15 others from the SVD congregation and the local diocese).  We celebrated the ordination on the 23rd so that our new priests could offer their first mass on our feast.  Over 3 days of preparation and 500 guests helped us to come together to celebrate the life of a little known (in this part of the world) Spanish priest, later bishop. 

As all true celebrations begin, we started with the mass of thanksgiving.  Besides nearly all of the 130 students in formation being present-(30 aspirants, 30 postulants, 25 novices, 33 philosophy and theology students from Kupang, only the 20 from Jogjakarta were not able to attend) we welcomed sisters from 5 congregations and priests, students and brothers from 3 other congregations as well as many of our own missionaries from all parts of Timor Island. 

After Mass the feast of Eucharist turned into an Indonesian feast with many of the traditional foods I have come to love (our home grown rice (nasi), fried noodles (nasi goring), local vegetables (sayur), meat skewers (sate), fresh roasted pork (we raise our own pigs), roasted fish (ikan goreng), cassava chips (krupuk) and my favorite Ice Buah  (Is buah- a sweet drink with lots of fresh chopped fruits).  

None of the senses were ignored, but just to make sure this was a true Indonsian feast , the brothers took turns singing and playing music before the dj played local music for the youth to dance.  One thing I love about Indonesia is that there are so many group dances, so there is not the worry of looking for a dance partner, everyone dances together, if you don’t know the dance the others teach you and everyone is included…I think St. Anthony would approve, though he would not have eaten as much as we did (he was simple with his food).

I learned a little more about St. Anthony this month.  I learned a little more about the Word of God, but I especially learned, to follow St. Anthony, to follow Jesus we must use our whole being, with all our senses.  It is true we cannot feast everyday, and some people never get to feast, for that reason it is our mission, as missionaries, to bring the feast of God’s Word and love to them that they may hear Him, that they may see Him, that they may smell and taste Him, and that they may touch Him and be touched by Him.    



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