Often I am asked about “my holidays” when I return from a shift as chaplain to sea for one of the cruise liners going around the world in our days. And when I tell them it does not feel like holiday people don’t want to believe me.
Well, as a matter of facts, there is indeed the usual work load of a chaplain:
saying Holy Mass, conducting prayer services for passengers and crew, playing escort for land excursions. It means also being present 24/7 for a possible crisis or counselling, confession or any approach by passengers or staff.
On the other hand it is clear, that being on a cruise liner is indeed also a break from the normal routine of my work in South Africa and therefore has a sort of “holiday effect” of some kind.
What I discovered over the years is that the gap between the realities I know and partly work in and the “perfect world of luxury holidays” is widening and that it seems more and more difficult to bridge this gap or to just accept that those worlds live almost parallel to each other. The vast amount of food wasted on a cruise liner and the knowledge that at home kids go hungry to bed is difficult to comprehend. The way people often romanticise poverty while doing excursion in so-called third-world-countries is sometimes hard to swallow when overhearing it.
Giving talks about my work and engaging into discussions show how big the gap is between the realities people on board are coming from and the realities I know from my work.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the luxury of a cruise ship once in a while. It is nice to be pampered and looked after and to have the chance to eat and drink whenever I feel like it. I also know that I have to be home in both worlds, as only then, encounter can happen and gaps can be bridged and understanding and help can be born out of the worlds meeting each other one or the other way. But there remains still this little devil of doubt whether it always works to bring realities together which couldn’t be more different. The only thing I know is that I am trying hard and that I need both worlds to do what I see as my calling.