By Julianne Calzonetti
Arriving just as Rome felt the tremors of an earthquake that struck near Norcia, Father Christopher Clohessy quickly made an impact! The South African priest is a lecturer at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), where he lectures on various topics in Islamic thought, particularly Shi’a Islam. Filled with passion for the life he leads, his words at Mass and dinner at The Lay Centre Oct. 26 inspired his listeners.
Due to the safety precautions that had to be taken because of the earthquake, Mass was celebrated on the main floor of The Lay Centre as opposed to the upstairs chapel. It was an hour that provided peace and comfort, especially to those who have family close to the affected area. The Gospel reading was Luke 13:22-30, in which Jesus speaks of the narrow door.
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to… Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Lk 13:22, 30).
The path to God is not an easy one, and at times it can seem filled with trials, tribulations, and temptations, said Father Clohessy in his homily. Yet it is this same path that produces only the most marvelous joys and love, because it is God’s path, and the path to eternal life, he continued. When we can remember this, it is then that we continue on in confidence and faith, filled with the hope that lies ahead, he said.
After Mass and dinner, Father Clohessy spoke about his experiences with inter-religious dialogue. He said students at PISAI are required to learn Arabic, which is necessary to understand the texts studied. He said without knowing Arabic, students would only read an interpretation of the religious texts, rather than the texts in their original language.
Father Clohessy and Lay Centre residents also spoke of the challenges inter-religious dialogue presents. Such dialogue, he said, requires mutual willingness to communicate. The desire to create a fraternal community must be shared, he said.