Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Surprised by Joy: a Tribute to Our Sri Lankan Brothers (Gregory Vajira Silva and Jude Asantha Barrera)

On December 13th the friars of St. Bridget friary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said farewell to our Sri Lankan brothers Gregory Vajira Silva and Jude Asantha Barrera. For the past several months I had been teasing Gregory and Jude about how much I was looking forward to them finally leaving. From time to time I would sing the Christian Hymn "The Strife is Over the Battle Done" adapting the words of the opening line to the following: "The Strife is Over the Battle Done, now that the Sri Lankans are gone!!!" This good natured ribbing has gone on between Jude, Gregory, and myself for about a year and a half and represents the kind of joviality and frivolity that they brought to our friary (I may have helped instigate it a bit too :) What Jude and Gregory also brought was so much more than this, however. They brought gentle demeanors, serious dedication to their studies, and a devotion to our way of life that inspired the friars and many a visitor to St. Bridget's friary. On the occasion of their graduation celebration and dinner held on December 11th, they gave wonderful, heartfelt, and graceful testimonials about how much the opportunity to study at the University of St. John's in Collegeville, MN, has meant to them. I must say that after each of their speeches I was quite proud to call myself their brother. This past Sunday, December 13th, the day of Gregory and Jude's departure, I made reference to the both of them at a Mass that I celebrated for a group of young people preparing for confirmation. This Sunday, as you may know, was the third Sunday in the four week Advent Season and is referred to as "Gaudate Sunday" (which means "rejoice"). To practically illustrate what rejoicing and joy have been like in my life recently, I mentioned some of the ways that Gregory and Jude had brought joy to our friary over the last two years. Though they will be dearly missed by the friars of St. Bridget's, we "rejoice" at their return home and all the good they will no doubt do back in Sri Lanka. Pat, TOR