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Inspiration

Apostleship of the Sea

INSPIRATION...

       I don 't know how Christian got the inspiration in inviting me for this forum ... It is not I suppose for the sake of the French flag and National Feast Day!

       I may be right if I say that Christian got the inspiration after a morning with me on the waves in the port of HKG, visiting the ships and seafarers...

       The waves have also been very much part of my pilgrimage in life... Born in a small village along the sea in Brittany, my father fisherman and part of my childhood also with him in his fishing vessel... during vacations from a Jesuit school. The sea is often connected with leisure and vacation and many reduce it to shores and beaches and heavenly settings... The sea has its own life and power, in the times of tsunami or in the gentle waves... Speaking of inspiration, I feel like listening to a an empty shell which has kept in secret the inspiration of the waves... I can listen and marvel or wonder if its true or only a dream and then welcome the message in my inner ear and let go and make a step out of the comfort of a normal life...

       My father did his best to spare me from the burden of sea life ... Sea life is dog's life! Did he succeed? At the age of 24, were my first short periods on a fishing vessel many miles away from Brittany during 15 days... sharing the life of these fishermen... just to wash away the philosophy and theology lessons of the Jesuit seminary and check what kind of skeleton remains! This was in full agreement with those in charge of the formation, whose trust was telling me that the formation is "ongoing"... and the discovery of these priests who already experienced a living and working condition "sur le plancher des vaches" or "sur le plancher des vagues" as workers and seafarers... Their inspiration and lifestyle nourished mine and made me taste what it is all about to be a "bottle thrown at sea "... Where are the roots of a bottle thrown at sea ! ?

       Learning experience of the basic skills in electricity and applying in a French shipping company and testing my young energies in the heat of an engine room or on deck with cranes on a brand new reefer ship... This was in the aftermath of the 68th generation in France, where "inspiration" was running out of control and in the streets... Sometimes inspiration goes wild... and there are winds and changes that keep the spirit high, and when in the bottom of the wave, I just wonder if this has not been a dream...

       Inspiration is not only when I can tell myself "GO" but also when I experience the "LET GO"! This "let go" came after many struggles to promote and be proud of this inspiration guiding me on the high seas at the beginning of my profession... and the many letters written just to call the attention of those who remain ashore ... my family, the teachers and guides in the Jesuit formation and my companions friends... I have written many letters and wasted time in doing that and also a diary while sailing on containers ships between Europe and Far East... Keeping bridge and gangways... Letters from the gangways or the monkey and pilot ladders...

       Good surprise 2 weeks ago in the port of HKG to see a ship carrying not only the flag of her country but also a unique name LOVE LETTER!

       A letter is something special in a seaman 's life, at least my own seaman 's life... It has taken time to reach and to be written, it is hand written, , I have it in my hands, and can read it 1 or 2 times, and I can decide to read it between the lines, or between the waves...

       I am wondering if this change in communication has not been lost with the telephone, as instant and quick fixer of our communication needs... or even email...

       Letters to keep and touch the ROOTS and not let them getting rotten! Each one is responsible for this" keeping in touch" .. when everything goes well or when crisis happens.

       I still remember the inspiration coming to me when writing to my friends in France how we managed to pick up at sea 2 times Vietnamese boat people ... on our French flag container vessel... A way to let the tsunami of their ordeal at sea modify and bring upside down the comfort and routine of our life on board! And let the inspiration continue... For me, this was part of my decision, later on, to continue my seaman 's life for 12 more years no more on a sinking French flag but on flag of convenience with seafarers coming mainly from Asian countries, Filipinos, Indian, Sri Lanka China and Thailand... I came to HKG so many times from the sea, at anchorage or alongside in Kwai Chung or at Ocean Terminal, but always in a hurry... Short time meeting with friends with a drink, but knowing that in this port I could count on him or them... just to bring me a French newspaper or cheese, or come and have a visit on board... Even in a hurry, the broken pieces of the inspiration can take a good shape and help go out at sea again...

       Landing in the Philippines, Cebu!

       This was in 1991 after many passages and visits to seamen friends and their families... with the blessing of the Cardinal to continue my seaman 's life till retirement and to develop this welfare and Christian ministry among young maritime students, the seafarers and their families... It started by walking along the pier and looking at small cargo ships and people inside... a foreigner accompanied by 4 or 5 students... What is he doing? Some thought I was a Jehovah witness! It started with our first newsletter to describe the Vision and Mission ... It started with our feet... along the pier... This is where the inspiration is moving ahead... and then came the luck of 2 containers vans and the chance to put them on a corner of the parking in Cebu International port, near the ships... with a telephone so rare at that time ... and even a fax... and the company of a handful of young maritime students flexible enough to be part of this adventure which also brought them a scholarship!

       This was their place of living and learning what we usually call "value formation", which is supposed to be delivered at home but tested outside.. !! To pass on these values, they also need "companionship", so as not to get bored and discouraged... During this time, I, myself, was also living the last years of my seaman 's life and this was a big change and a possible path to crisis! What am I able to do after this seaman 's life? I had in memory how seafarers after 55 years old experienced sickness and difficulty to adjust to life ashore and at home ... Drinking, smoking and a wife being the captain at home and always supervising the movements of the breadwinner of the family... No way to escape from her and the children! Lost the inspiration... and death! There are killers and silent waves when one cannot share the inspiration or does not find a partner to welcome it and nourish it like a fragile seed or breeze!

       It seems that I found a new departure with these young companions willing to go for this profession and to listen from the veterans at sea and sharing themselves the stuff of our newsletter... and make life a reality in 3 steel boxes... at the marvel of outsiders who came to visit this new place destined for the welfare of seafarers... After saying "WOW" to the inspiration and life and network possible in these containers, I sensed that inspiration is very much connected with an act of faith and hope, when we expose ourselves to the winds and the waves of ordinary people, and discover a heart ready and willing "to go the extra mile ".

       I am used to tell these maritime students... "If you are afraid of changes, don 't go for this profession!"

       The experiences of CHANGES have been along the pilgrimage since the beginning... From the first time on board the ship, the comfort of a French environment, language, food and social conditions, the changes of weather and routes, the changes of events in the time of routine or crisis, the changes of the flag and of the human environment, the color, races and languages of crew members, the changes of " life after sea", the changes and delays in communication after such a long absence, the patience in paying attention to letters sent and received to build up companionship even during short time visit...

       After all these changes and transformations what name can I give to the inspiration guiding and giving fresh start? We need to discover its name in the different languages of the world...

       Maybe LOVE LETTER is the name! Knowing and trusting that there are surprising honeymoons and that " the day after the honeymoon" is borne there for the inspiration of the heart and the feet to move on...

       Roland Doriol sj - Hong Kong July 13, 2005

      

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updated 24 April 2019
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