Born under a wandering star

“I was born under a wandrin’ star,
I was born under a wandrin’ star,
Wheels are made for rolling, mules are made to pack,
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back,
I was born under a wandrin’ star.”

Recently I watched an Amazon commercial featuring a small white dog with a bandaged hind leg following a kindly young man walking in the park. He picked up the little dog and carried it in his baby pouch, while Lee Marvin’s gravelly voice sang in the background, “I was born under a wandrin’ star.” My thoughts flashed back to a day in 1969, the summer of my ordination. I picked up my sister, Kathleen, a registered nurse at Galway Regional Hospital, and we went to see the movie “Paint Your Wagon,” starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin who drawled out that song, “Born Under A Wandering Star.” I really enjoyed that movie in the company of my sister, even though the thought crossed my mind that someone might recognize me and wonder why a young priest with the consecration oil hardly dry on his hands was at the movies with a lovely young lady. Oh, what the heck!

I guess what grabs me about this song is that in some ways I, as a missionary with no real fixed abode, can identify with its message. As a missionary, I have lived and served in places like southern Massachusetts, the Bahamas, England, my home city of Galway and now here in Kalaupapa, Hawaii. Some of my Sacred Hearts Brothers and Sisters have touched down in Japan, India, the Philippines, Tonga and elsewhere on the globe. Cart wheels have given way to auto wheels and sailing ships to airbuses and, when we have moved on to our next mission, we have looked back fondly on our last mission which perhaps looked “better looking back.”

As Father Damien boarded the ship to leave his family and homeland in Belgium on his way to these islands of Hawaii, perhaps he too felt like he had been born under a wandering star, destined to preach the Good News of the Gospel wherever he might put ashore. As Mother Marianne left the shelter of her convent in the State of New York and took the train to the west coast of the U.S., then sailed to Aloha Land, she may have shared these same feelings of the missionary born under a wandering star.

Like the wise men of old, the missionary follows the star, often not knowing where it will lead him or her. Like the early Apostles, the missionary follows the star which sometimes leads to dark and dangerous places, sometimes to exotic spaces, and sometimes to historic locations where saints have labored and lived out their lives. Such is Kalaupapa and this is my home at this time. For I was born under a wandering star. 

Aloha.

 Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts