I am touched by seeing the pictures of men, women, families, children going on tiny boats on the sea. Risking their lives to be in safety from war, terror, persecution. Looking at those tiny boats trying to face the waves the wind and the storm, my heart breaks. I just feel with them. Feel helpless for and with them. Wishing there would be ways to stop all this tragedy and bring them to safety.
It is so risky. So many died. I recently read two stories of tow different brave young women Sarah and Yusra . Both knew how to swim and jumped into the cold water and swam for hours when the engine failed to bring the people on the boat safely to the land. I am proud that both of them are now in my country, building a new future.
Then, recently for the first time I remembered that there were other men an women on boats centuries ago changed the face of Europe. In the early middle ages, when all of Europe was deeply bound by superstition, fear of spirits, heathen practices and fear of making the Gods angry and the constant need to appease them – there were men an women in Ireland who went into boats.
They risked their lives. However their reason to go on the journey was not out of fear. They did not flee from terror or war. They left their nice homes, families and friends and took the risk of a journey across the – because of love. They had heard and believed the message that God so loved the world that he came to safe and redeem. And that he wanted his followers to share his love in word and deed.
They did not want to live without sharing this love. And so they went. All over Europe. Starting little communities that cared for the sick, taught people how to read and write. They founded villages and towns. A lot of Europes education and knowlege came from them.
It was not easy. Leaving your home never is. Even if you choose to do it. Many did not return. They died in the sea or under the hands of the religious extremists of their days. Or simply got sick and lost their strength.
One of the travelers, Brendan the Navigator, wrote a prayer expressing his heart.
Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home?
Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?
Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy,
without silver, without a horse,
without fame, without honor?
Shall I throw myself wholly upon You,
without sword and shield, without food and drink,
without a bed to lie on?
Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?
Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness,
tears streaming down my cheeks?
Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach,
a record of my final prayer in my native land?
Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict?
Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean?
O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?
These men and women risked their lives. My life, our culture, the whole of Europe would not be the same if they had not taken the risk. I am deeply thankful for them.
I hope that now in gratitude we will not harden our hearts to those who are now traveling the sea, desperate to save their lives.
I hope that in gratitude we live according to the things they taught us: There is a God who is loving and merciful beyond measure. And he calls us to learn from Him and be like him.
There are more prayers these people of old prayed that are deeply touching.
And I pray them for all those who are out there on the waves… trusting the mercy of God.
God bless the path on which you go
God bless the earth beneath your feet
God bless your destination.
God be a smooth way before you
A guiding star above you
A keen eye behind you
This day, this night, and forever.
God be with you whatever you pass
Jesus be with you whatever you climb
Spirit be with you wherever you stay.
God be with you at each stop and each sea
At each lying down and each rising up
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows.
Each step of the journey you take.
And this century old blessing is one of my favorites:
Deep peace of the running waves to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.