Ever since the phenomena that was the final years of Mother Teresa, the faithful are always looking for the next jaw dropping saint, while those less theologically inclined and more enamored with pop culture are always looking for a saint with peculiar angle. In Father Richard Ho Lung the Jamaican priest whose family was ethnic Chinese; they have that and more. They have a future saint who lives among the poorest of the poor in Kingston, and a man who at one time competed with Bob Marley on the Jamaican music charts.
In Father Richard Ho Lung they have a priest who developed something called the Caribbean Mass which appealed to the rank and file as well as many progressive oriented Catholics in the western world. However the same priest appeals to adherents of orthodoxy with his stern lectures on morality, and the need to care for the poor, unborn and mentally handicapped. He does more than give lectures, the religious order he helped found personally cares for all of the aforementioned.
Candles In The Wind, The Father Richard Ho Lung Story is told to us by Catholic author Joseph Pearce ( St. Benedict Press) who is most often associated with his knowledge of famed English authors like CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and William Shakespeare. Some of us enjoy endeavoring in Pearce’s quest to prove that Shakespeare was secretly Catholic. There is nothing secret about Father Richard Ho Lung and through the gifted narrative of Pearce we see the life of the man from his own impoverished days in Kingston to his rising star status of today.
The Ho Lung family came to Jamaica in the 1930s and like many of the merchant class who came to the Caribbean; they found it harder than expected. From the 1600s through the 1800s the western world’s new found addiction to sugar coupled with the horrible institution of slavery brought untold suffering to the region. Today while much of the poverty still remains, the area has become a hotbed of tourism due to the climate and the hospitality of the island residents.
Richard Ho Lung was taught by Franciscan sisters and their Franciscan spirituality seemed a natural extension of the Buddhism of the Ho Lung family. Buddhism teaches one to search for the truth and respect nature. Young Richard was the first Ho Lung to see that Christ was the truth for which he was searching. Joseph Pearce chronicles a magnificent journey to Catholicism and eventually young Richard’s call to the priesthood.
Father Ho Lung faced his first challenge in trying to resolve his love for Jesuit spirituality and answering his call to serve the poorest of the poor. He felt he needed to help found his own order to help those who needed it the most. Pearce movingly describes that while Father Ho Lung believed in the Jesuit spirituality of reaching out as evidenced by his Caribbean Mass; he also felt that some Jesuits, like those Europeans a few centuries before, become enamored with the sugar of the world, which in this case meant excess modern zeitgeist.
Pearce describes the daily battles Father Ho Lung and his Missionaries of the Poor encountered along with the dismissive nature some who could have greatly helped showed. Those the missionaries nursed to health, those who died in their arms and those who were abandoned by their families. The stories can be heartbreaking and uplifting all in the same sentence. Yet the Missionaries of the Poor soldier on offending many to continue on with the work of Christ.
As I was about to post this story, I thought I would do a cursory glance on the internet to see what the other reviews said about this great book. All I found was the podcast from Kris McGregor, the Nebraska Catholic radio host who interviewed some years back. I shook my head and thought this is par for the course and typical for a future saint; a great book and few reviews. However, like Father Ho Lung (MOP)many will later come to see and believe, though they will surely wish it were sooner.