The simplicity and the very personal approach in sharing his personal journey of faith enabled Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi to relate and encouraged hundreds of youths of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa to ‘keep the journey, weak as we are’.
On Sunday, October 15th, it was probably the first time for many if not all of the youths and the faithful who gathered in the packed Mt. Carmel Cathedral to see a ‘cardinal’, a ‘prince of the church.’
Cardinal Mafi visited Saipan to lead the clergy of the diocese for their bi-annual retreat beginning on Monday until Thursday in Rota. But before, he presided the Youth Mass and at the same time the Mass for the Holy Spirit for the opening of the new CCD school year for the diocese.
Hundreds of youths, many of them part of the Pre-Confirmation and Confirmation programs of the parishes in Saipan, flocked to the Cathedral to see Cardinal Mafi who is the only cardinal in the whole of CEPAC and the Bishop of the Kingdom of Tonga.
His Excellency Ryan P. Jimenez DD, and the clergy of the diocese also concelebrated and joined in welcoming the cardinal.
Cardinal Mafi was elated that he is beginning what he called “a pilgrimage to Saipan” with ‘heaven’, that is with an encounter with the youths while referring the Gospel passage that says: “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the little ones”.
Since most of the youths present were on their way to prepare for their Confirmation, he emphasized the important of their catechetical formation which started at their own homes. He vividly recalled the day when Pope Francis announced his appointment as cardinal in 2015. “When I heard the news of my appointment as a cardinal, I thought of my dear parents.” he said. “”My father was a catechist. I thought of that first moment when my mother hold my hands, I was probably 4 years old or younger. It all begun in a small chapel in Tonga, my father and mother took me by the hand and led me to the church.” That was the beginning of his journey of faith.
For Cardinal Mafi, the journey of the youths also begun in their homes and their families regardless of the faults and defects of each family. “It’s the home, it all begun from there. No family is perfect even my own family.” He then shared with humility his own experience with his family. “I remember seeing my father hit my mother and she cried. But she remained faithful. There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but it all begun there.”
“So here we are coming together as is called by Pope Francis, the family of families.” Says Cardinal Mafi referring to the Eucharist as a Feast where we are gathered to listen to the word of God. “To celebrate this liturgy this Eucharist” he said “is the foretaste of heaven. And it is also said: ‘we are at our best in this liturgy!’ When we gather to celebrate the Mass, we proclaim who we are as Church.
“I wish you all the best! Keep the journey weak as we are!”