In just under a couple of hours I will be departing Lahore and Pakistan. I fly on Qatar Airlines via Doha to Romania.
I have been in Pakistan for a month. It has been a truly wonderful time! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with many friends. I stayed with my Columban colleagues in Sindh and in the Punjab. I visited each of the three parishes in which I had worked. I entered into pastoral activities. I joined in celebrating the installation of Archbishop, Sebastian Shaw. I experienced the growth and the challenges facing the Church. I attended the Loyola Hall Symposium on Christian-Muslim joint responsibility for the Environment. I joined with other Columbans from Britain, Japan, Hong Kong, Pakistan, the Philippines and the USA in discussing and planning for the work of Interreligious Dialogue in our Society. It has indeed been a very rich time!
I was especially touched by the welcome, warmth, affection, friendship and love of the people. My heart is overflowing! In fact, I am actually feeling quite sad to be leaving. It has been such a wonderful time.
But it is definitely time to move on! The many festal meals for lunch and dinner with friends have impacted the waistline! Once I found the courage to use the motorbike, I tended to use it to get quickly to places near and far, rather than walking. On one occasion, when another driver was needed for a group outing, I even drove the Columban car in the hectic Lahore traffic. I was nervous at first – a car needs more space on the road than a motorbike, which can whizz through the lanes of traffic! But I soon found my confidence and fitted in to the local style of driving! It was a bit of an adrenalin rush, but thankfully no scrapes! So all in all, my time in Pakistan which I have enjoyed so thoroughly has been a “disaster” for my “training” for walking the Camino!!!
However, Ash Wednesday has just started, for Christians, a time of fasting and penance in preparation for celebrating Easter. After my indulgences in Pakistan, I will certainly be doing penance in my first weeks on the Camino!! But I confess I am glad to do so. It has been such a wonderful time. I would not have it any other way!
However, I am not quite ready to start penance just yet! The sadness of my impending departure is tempered by the gladness that at the end of the flight I will be met by my niece in Bucharest. I will be staying with her and her partner in Romania for a few days, before moving on to Rome and then Spain.
To all my Christian friends, I wish you a blessed Lenten season as we journey together towards Easter. To all my other friends, I wish you blessings as we journey together through the pilgrimage of life. To all, myself included, as they say in the traditional Urdu farewell, Khuda Hafiz! (May God be your protector!).