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Pilgrims receiving the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick at the Immaculate Conception Church in Port Dickson on Feb 16, 2023.

‘We are God’s best vintage – each one is unique’

Text by Bob Ho
Photos by Dr Andrea Ban
MARCH 27, 2023

The elderly can age gracefully like fine wine as they grow closer to God. Golden Eagles of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist heard this from Friar George Ho, OCD, in his talk, “Humans are like wine”. They learned that unlike wine vintage which varies,  “we humans are all God’s best vintage. Each of us is unique!”

Friar George said: “Let’s not compare with others but store our hearts in the right place, so that our vintage will remain fresh and age like fine wine”. Otherwise, he added: “Comparing with each other only makes you a sour wine, which is vinegar.”

The talk was held at the seaside Champagnat Youth Centre in Port Dickson where 41 Golden Eagles journeyed on a one-day pilgrimage on Feb 16. The Golden Eagles is a group for seniors and it comes under the Family Life Ministry.

Friar George shared Pope John XXIII’s reflection that, “Humans are like wine — some turn to vinegar, but the best improves with age”. This resonates deeply with the group of seniors from the Cathedral of St. John The Evangelist, Kuala Lumpur. 

On the finer points of aging, Friar George advocates getting more attached to Christ as the new way of life. “Traditions and for most of the time, we are comfortable in our way of living. The need to go beyond and follow Christ in old age is still rather necessary!”

All the more so because of creaking bones, aching muscles, blurring eyesight, high blood pressure, uncertainties of tomorrow etc. Calling these are “our crosses of old age”, Friar George said instead of complaining about discomfort, “Let’s remind ourselves to cling onto Christ. He who makes all suffering sweet, and all burdens light.”

He quoted author Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart: “Once we give ourselves up to God, shall we attempt to get hold of what can never belong to us – tomorrow?”

Friar George said: “When we pray Thy will be done,” do we suppose He did not hear us? He hears indeed, and daily makes our business His. If my life is surrendered, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!”

Parish Priest of St John’s Cathedral Rev Fr Gerard Theraviam, in his blessings at the start of the pilgrimage, also encouraged members of the Golden Eagles to go beyond the pilgrimage and follow Christ even closer in old age. Aging did not diminish their raging desire to grow their faith together for a stronger love for God and for one another.

Fr Jestus Pereira and Friar George Ho were the celebrant and concelebrant at the mass in Immaculate Conception Church in Port Dickson.

The pilgrimage began with a holy visit to the Church of Immaculate Conception. They were met on arrival by Parish Priest Jestus Pereira and Friar George. It was an emotional reunion for those who have known Fr Jestus for years.

Fr Jestus celebrated mass, with Friar George as concelebrant. In his homily, Fr Jestus talked about his hospitalisation, including the time he spent in the Intensive Care Unit. He praised God for letting him continue celebrating mass.

After the Liturgy of the Word, Fr Jestus and Friar George conferred the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick on the pilgrims, followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Golden Eagles coordinator Christine Suan said she shed tears of joy when she felt her hands warming up during anointing. “That same night my years of trigeminal nerve pain disappeared. Washing my face is no longer a torment.” She gave “praise and glory to God the Highest and thank you Mother Mary for interceding for my healing”.

The pilgrims included three non-seniors. Brother Selva Francis, who in his usual caring ways, helped seniors cross the road to board the bus waiting opposite the church. Francis Tan, a Sunday school teacher at St Ignatius church and chess trainer, volunteered as the chaperone to the more elderly folks. Dr Andrea Ban, who journeyed with her mother Nancy, was the official photographer.

The pilgrims were glad to see Fr Jestus a second time when he joined them for tea after the talk.

It was a day well spent with the Holy Spirit and together as pilgrims. As one pilgrim, Retna put it “we all spent our retreat like a Family” with blessed smiles and a loving friendship.

Towards the end of the journey, Selva led the prayer thanking God for a spiritually enriching journey and keeping everyone safe.

Welcoming them home at the was Fr Gerard, who could not join his flock due to a meeting that included discussion on the ceiling repairs.

PRIESTS: Fr Jestus with Friar George.
MASS: A prayerful moment for the pilgrims.
HEALING: The pilgrims receiving the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick.
WINE: Spiritual enlightenment from wine talk.
SEA: God’s creation, the sea, makes a lovely backdrop for holy people.

Happy pilgrims