Welcome to my personal website, Gaudium Mundi (Joy of the World).
My name is Ashley Evans and I am an Irish Jesuit priest on mission in the education sector of Cambodia for the last twenty-five years. The primary purpose of this website is to pool information on my experience of education in Cambodia and to share reflections on the challenges it is facing.
I am trying to follow the good example of my compatriot, Tony O’Riordan, who has developed a personal website to communicate about his work among the refugees in South Sudan.
The Jesuit Mission in Cambodia is coordinated by the Korea Province of the Society of Jesus and so I am “applied” to the Korea Province. In the photo below, you can see standing at the back the Delegate of the Korean Provincial for the Cambodian Mission. Beside him you can see the Khmer Program Manager and in front is the Japanese Provincial who came to visit our new education project in its earliest days in 2014.
Before starting this new project in Sisophon, I taught Mathematics and Philosophy in Khmer to large numbers of Cambodian students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh for over twenty years. I have also accompanied many scholarship students of the Catholic Student Centre of Phnom Penh on their various formation journeys across all disciplines.
Latterly, I have been responsible for launching the Xavier Jesuit School project in Banteay Meanchey province.
What’s in a name? Why call the website Gaudium Mundi?
My fellow Irish Jesuit, Tony O’Riordan who is on mission in South Sudan, has explained why he chose the name Spes Mundi for his website. Like Tony, I was also inspired by the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Teaching expressed in the final document of the Second Vatican Council entitled ‘Gaudium et Spes Mundi‘.
However, I was inspired by a different passage to Tony. The passage that really moved me concerned the inner voice speaking within our human conscience. This anthropology opens up the possibility of real dialogue with committed Buddhists.
However on a deeper level, the whole point of Christian communication is rooted in the Word of God. When Jesus Christ returns to the synagogue of Nazareth, he is handed the scroll of Isaiah on which is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. (Luke 4:18-19).
When St Ignatius and his early companions began their “ministry of the Word” among the children and unlettered, they would often go to the local Church square. There, they would wave their hats and make noise to attract their listeners to whom they would explain simple doctrine and prayers. Sometimes the children listened, sometimes they played games, mocking or throwing stones at their enthusiastic preachers. St Ignatius was delighted with either outcome as the first led to the conversion of others and the second led to a deeper personal identification with Christ who suffers for love.
As I start to manage this personal web-page, I realise how inept my communication still is on the level of social media. But I hope learn and improve over time!
Dignity of Moral Conscience
16. Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law which they have not laid upon themselves and which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For, they have, in their hearts, a law inscribed by God. Their dignity rests in observing this law, and by it they will be judged. Their conscience is people’s most secret core, and their sanctuary. There they are alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths. By conscience, in a wonderful way, that law is made known which is fulfilled in the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Through loyalty to conscience, Christians are joined to others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems which arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationships. Hence, the more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and endeavour to conform to the objective standards of moral conduct. Yet it often happens that conscience goes astray through ignorance which it is unable to avoid, without thereby losing its dignity. This cannot be said of the person who takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is gradually almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.
The Excellence of Freedom
17. It is, however, only in freedom that people can turn themselves towards what is good. The people of our time prize freedom very highly and strive eagerly for it. In this they are right. Yet they often cherish it improperly, as if it gave them leave to do anything they like, even when it is evil. But genuine freedom is an exceptional sign of the image of God in humanity. For God willed that men and women should “be left free to make their own decisions” so that they might of their own accord seek their creator and freely attain their full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God. Their dignity therefore requires them to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by their own blind impulses or by external constraint. People gain such dignity when, freeing themselves of all slavery to the passions, they press forward towards their goal by freely choosing what is good, and, by their diligence and skill, effectively secure for themselves the means suited to this end. Since human freedom has been weakened by sin it is only by the help of God’s grace that people can properly orientate their actions towards God. Before the judgement seat of God everybody will have to give an account of their life, according as they have done either good or evil.