Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Last Days of December

The clean-up from this week's blizzard continues in Gloucester. A seawall was damaged in the Lanesville section of town. The weather reached 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) so much of the ice on the roads has been cleared up. Tomorrow is to be warmer so all the pathways will be cleared.

We conclude an end-of-year retreat tomorrow. We had a day of conferences and a few points and we closed with a moving reconciliation service tonight. From my experience, people still desire this sacrament - perhaps just not at the parish level. Students on KAIROS retreats have found the sacrament to be healing and powerful; retreatants find it likewise. Environment and atmosphere can lead to an increase in the desire for the sacrament. Also, a proper type of relationship with the penitent and priest needs to exist for the sacrament to flourish. It seems that I am often involved in this ministry and I like it. I wish more people had the space in their lives to receive the graces that are offered.

I watched the 3-D version of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia) today. I think Edmund and Lucy have evolved quite well over the years. I missed their older siblings, Peter and Susan. I find these stories very emotional. I am also amazed at the goodness that exudes from these characters and the Narnian creatures. It is not a pious goodness, but a real goodness that comes from discernment based on their relationship with Aslan. I want to reread the Chronicles again.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to a Christian Brother who has been visiting the past week. He is a good guy. He is studying gerontology in Canada and has come to the Boston area to meet with us three guys who made the long retreat with him in Australia in March. It was his first experience of the Spiritual Exercises and he was impressed. He made a comment today that struck me: this will be the last time on this earth that we will see one another. We do have to use our time well. We do need to take care of one another. This is all we have.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Photos: Snow and Creches

To see photos of Winter Snow and Christmas creches, please click on the link below:

Pics of Lights and Sights

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Season

Christmas Day has come and gone and all-in-all it was a rather pleasant day.

As I've mentioned before, I really don't mind the commercial season's build-up to Christmas. Many of the more popular Christmas songs are songs in preparation for Christmas day. It seems fitting to hear them before Christmas and not after.

At the same time, it is nice to fully celebrate the liturgical Christmas season. The Twelve Days of Christmas begins, not ends, on Christmas day. The Church also receives the "Gloria" back as it was omitted from use during Advent. It returns again when the angels in heaven sing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest). The angels sing at the nativity and in the presence of the shepherds who come to visit Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Certain Christmas songs make sense to be heard only in this season. Music is designed to help us appreciate the movements of our church year. It helps us worship aspect of God's work in and through Jesus.

Christmas is celebrated in the Octave (eight days), but also lasts until Epiphany, which is somewhere around January 6th when the magi from the East follow the star to Bethlehem to see the infant king. This part of Christmas makes up the Twelve Days of Christmas. This year, the Christmas season is truncated and Epiphany is commemorated on January 2nd.

In the Christmas Octave, we celebrate Stephen, the first martyr; John the Evangelist who was close to Jesus; the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered by Herod, the Holy Family and their flight into and out of Egypt, Thomas Becket, and Sylvester I. The rich readings highlight the major moments of early days of Jesus and his family.

In days of old, the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd) concluded the Christmas season. Christmas ends and Ordinary time begins at the Baptism of the Lord, which is on January 9th. This means we have quite a few weeks of ordinary time before Ash Wednesday (March 9th) and Lent (March 13 - April 21st.)


One of the guys in my community mentioned that one of his favorite movies was "Come to the Stable" with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm. It was made in 1949 so it was in a very different era. It was a cute movie and made me feel good. It portrayed a very different aspect of religious life, but the two women were endearing in their attempts to build a hospital in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

I will try to watch two films that have passed me by: "Going My Way?" and "The Bells of St. Mary."

Lastly, on Christmas night I was determined to get to bed early because of the impending blizzard. I decided to have two cups of decaffeinated coffee as a way to just savor the moments of the day. So I retired early, jumped in bed, and was awake until four in the morning as the coffee I made was extra bold with caffeine. Ughh!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Photos: Lights and Sights

To see photos of Christmas lights and other sights, please click on the link below:

Pics of Lights and Sights

Christmas message 2010

Yesterday morning, we had a Christmas party for the retreat house staff before they went home for their holiday vacation. It was a festive gathering as the retreat directors prepared a hearty brunch for the staff and their families. Throughout the morning of good cheer, light snowflakes blew delicately to the ground. A gentle wind made the flakes dance and swirl before landing on the bare ground. It gave us a preview of the white Christmas we long for. The purity of the snow makes us feel as if everything will be O.K. and that this Christmas will be like a happy day like the ones in our memories.

Throughout the day, the unexpected snow and winds picked up. Roads were slick and driving was somewhat dangerous. Fortunately, few cards were on the road. I think many people settled in early and enjoyed the safety of their homes. I drove a short distance to the blood collection center so I could give what may be perhaps a life-saving gift to someone.

Now I'm hunkered down in my room in a very silent retreat house. Guests are gone and I can hear the ocean's gentle roar. Occasional taps on my bedroom window tell me it is still snowing. A glance outside tells me the incremental snow will not pile up but that it will allow the earth to slumber. The lampposts cast a glow on the snow along the driveway that guides a person to the warm confines of this house. The presence of Christ is reserved in the adoration chapel directly below my room and his presence also recalls in my memory all the people who have graced the halls of this retreat house. We often say the prayers of retreatants are captured in our porous walls of wood. It thoughtfully holds their unexpressed longings. Though stillness deepens the silence, the stillness groans for its completion in God.

As I ready myself for Christmas, I am taking the time this week to appreciate the many stories I've heard during this past year. Finding time to listen to another's story is a profound gift to that person. I can't think of a richer way to live out my priesthood. I am enriched by a person's journey and his or her efforts to meet Christ along the way. With each story I hear, I find that I am more able to put on the mind and heart of Christ and to love the way God loves. I feel like I become a kinder, nicer man who can love more freely. I want to be in solidarity with those who are still searching, still seeking a more intimate relationship with God. I like who I am becoming.

I think of the powerful German movie "The Lives of Others" that shows the transformative power of listening. Lives are saved when we listen. We are forever changed.

I've listened to stories of many people across the world this year. I've developed a great affection for them and I want to honor them by remembering them well. I've directed many retreats and made my own 30-day retreat, which healed memories and opened my heart to Christ's abiding presence. I've grown in the ability to forgive others, and I hope this makes me more understanding and compassionate. I continue to be astonished with the miracles God has worked through my life. This week I intend to spend time recalling these significant events.

What do I want for Christmas this year? I want to hear more stories. The other day I passed by a shopping mall filled with thousands of people shopping for Christmas and I contrasted this with the 45 people residing at our retreat center. I want to hear their stories and I want them to hear the story of Christ. I want thousands more to come and spend time with the Lord. I want people to come and relate to God in a way that fits their unique style. May they discover Christ's presence in their lives as meaningful and satisfying.

I want people to be open to the possibilities of life. We close down too easily - often for petty reasons - and we shut out others with broad strokes. I want people to become enriched by others - by giving them positive regard, by honoring them and their positions (even if they fundamentally disagree), and engaging in a dialogue that allows a person to go beyond the words to deeper meaning and longings. We need this in partisan politics, in our fractured church, in our work and friendships, and in our broken families. When we give the gift of listening to one another, we create many new exhilarating possibilities for each other. We can see new potential and garner new hope when we allow Christ to liberate us from ourselves.

Our prayer can be flat or two dimensional. We think that our options are "either-or" instead of "both-and." We may go into prayer thinking that we want one thing and if Christ doesn't ratify what we want then he must not want us to have it. We lose sight of the fact that there might be ten other possibilities that we haven't yet considered. We can explore those nuances and dimensions that might further clarify God's will for us. Be open to new options that could surprise you. This openness will lead to greater satisfaction in your relationship with Christ. Conversations with your friends are not two-dimensional. Let your prayer conversation become as enriching.

Be bold enough to ask Christ for what you desire. As a child, you told Santa Claus what you wanted for Christmas and most of the time you received what you asked for. Try it out with Christ who is more generous than Santa Claus. It is not selfish or self-centered. Ask for what you want before your pray and check in at the end of prayer to see if you received the grace.

I want people to come to know Christ. He brings a lasting peace that we all want. He brings about a stillness within one's soul that helps make sense of all the swirling tumult of our lives. He brings about the real opportunity for us to be good and loving people who are generous and happy. He can do much more for us than we imagine.

Consider what our Christmas celebrations can be like if we can allow Christ into us as he would like. Our family gatherings could be meaningful, happy occasions marked with our listening to one another with respect and reverence. We will be delighted when it is reciprocated in return. If we listen for meaning rather than content, we become enriched and we develop a greater positive regard for the other. In honoring them, we become honored - and this is a tremendous gift.

If we can hear the stories of others and be moved by what we hear, imagine how our souls will be moved when the Word of God is born into the world and we listen to the soft voice that reaches out to us and tells us what we need to hear in the silent stillness amid the world's noise. Listening will fundamentally change you, and you will like it. I pray that I may grow in my ability to listen better to all who need to be heard.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Irish Christmas Music

Tonight I met a friend at Manchester-by-the-Sea to listen to a holiday version of Gaelic Christmas music. I had a terrific time. It was nice to be with my friend and I was very pleased with the atmosphere of the Landing restaurant.

The Session was conducted by eight musicians, mostly with fiddles. My friend played a recorder. All around the room people would get up and begin singing a song - mostly about their native Ireland. The crowd was primarily a middle-age gentle crowd that appreciated the good efforts of everyone who participated - good voice or those needing some help. Each person felt safe enough to sing and mostly they were good - and passionate. The Session leader was egalitarian. He wanted everyone to feel welcome to contribute.

The host could not have been nicer. He led a participatory version of the Twelve Days of Christmas that brought every table into the action.

The crowd reverenced each's effort at playing or singing. They were simply there because they enjoyed the music of their land. The tales were of old; duets were harmonized. I felt like I was in a folk singing cafe of the early 1960's. I can see the attraction of those venues because, even though the room was packed, an intimate setting was established.

Mostly, people came together because they were having fun. It was an non-traditional way for me to enjoy Christmas music and it was certainly moving. I will go back there again soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

White Christmas?

I have made some progress on decorating my room at Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House. It is festive with a few odds and ends. I'll post a photo of my pine-decorated fireplace soon. I can sense Christmas is right around the corner.

We ended a terrific Advent retreat this Wednesday. I feel so privilged to hear the stories of incredible men and women who are yearning for intimacy with God. I feel like my entire year has been one of grace. I feel so inwardly silent and settled. It's a great feeling. It helps me be present to others on their journey to Christ.

Earlier this week, I began watching "White Christmas." It was the first time I watched the film. I had no idea it was of long duration. It is a great story line. I watched an hour and a half before I had to stop watching it. Since it was on continuously the entire week, I knew I would have a chance to watch it again but ironically the satellite receiver's hard disk failed and we waited the week for the set to be repaired. However, once it was back on, "White Christmas" was continuously playing. To my delight, I saw the last hour and a half. It is the sort of movie that you make popcorn for a snack.

I hadn't been out to see a film in a theatre since I was in Australia. I went to see Harry Potter and thoroughly enjoyed it. Though it was dark and serious, it felt like because of the solid companionship of the three stars. When the last film comes out, I want to sit through a marathon of each movie and then re-read the series. My next film is going to be Chronicles of Narnia. I'm told the latest film, The Dawn Treader, is certainly worth taking in.

The retreat house has a little bit of break in schedule this week. We begin an Advent weekend retreat tonight that ends Sunday, then we have an off-week because of the Christmas holidays. I have an entertaining weekend planned. Friends from college will visit on Saturday and I will see other friends from the Boston area on Sunday. Then I have to cook a Holiday Strada for Monday. I don't even know what that is. I'm thankful for AllRecipes.com.

Hope you are all enjoying your Advent. I hear it is humid in New Zealand and rather hot in Australia. It is at the freezing mark in Gloucester, but a friend gave me a nice quote from the Scandinavians: There's never bad weather; there's only bad clothing. (or something like that.)

It is December 17th and we've already broken a record. We have not had any measurable snowfall in the area - a first! The weatherpersons say we might get some snowfall on Sunday night or we might not.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Ice is building up quickly on Niles Pond - a freshwater pond near the ocean. Gulls sit atop the ice while the swans still manage to find a few warm water spots. The temperatures have been below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) so several days straight and tonight the temps are expected to drop into the low teens. The days are sunny so while it is brisk, it is still pleasant if you bundle yourself correctly.

The setting is right for our Advent retreat. Darkness comes early and people huddle inside at the fireplace (though the house is warm.) The house is very cozy.

Our Canadien geese have returned. They seem to leave for two to three weeks and then return. The female had a leg injury but is getting stronger.

The two adult swans are pushing the signet out of its territory. He keeps getting isolated while the adults are trying to launch him into adulthood.

A coyote startled me the other day and quietly ran up the road into the thick brush. He was so nimble that I could scarcely hear his paw-steps.

It is a rich week of memorials and feasts - St. Nicholas, Pearl Harbor, the Immaculate Conception, John Lennon's anniversary, and plenty of events in the news. People need prayers.

Photos: Early December Day in Maine

To see photos of an early December day in Maine, please click on the link below:

Pics of Maine in Early December

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Last week, the Cape Ann Symphony Singers performed a Christmas concert at Fuller Auditorium in Gloucester. We sang in the second half of the show and we provided a fairly good rendition of the Alfred Burt Carols, a Hebrew song that yearns for good fortune in the new year, a musicological survey of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the Hallelujah Chorus. All went well except very few people stood up for Handel's Tribute to Christ our Lord.

Singing is part of Christmas and it puts me in a light mood. I like listening to Pandora.com. You can listend to over twenty plus genres of Christmas music. Today, I listened to the peaceful Christmas tunes. Lovely. Outside the U.S., Pandora is not available, but New Age on Sky.fm does the same thing. It makes radios almost obsolete.

It is getting colder in the Northeast and very dark. The sun sets around 4:15 p.m. and it looks so bleak outside. The skies are often grey and I feel like it is time to hibernate.

Anyways, we just completed a six-day retreat for priests. I was inspired by their commitment to prayer and their devotion to their priestly ministry. They represent much of what is good with the church. I wish more will come next year - even though we had a full house. I feel strengthened by their faithfulness to their prayer.

Today, I set up many of my Christmas decorations. I cut down some pine branches and lined them in my fireplace so that I get a healthy scent of pine each day. I placed some miniature lights on the pine which makes it look like a fire is radiating in the fireplace. I hung my stockings and a few Santa hats and I placed some decorations at the base of the fireplace. It looks fun.

I set up my Fontanini Creche too. The purists will chastise me for having the infant Jesus in the crib already, but I see the matter differently than them. If I followed their method, poor Joseph and Mary would be looking at an empty manger until December 24th. Then, miraculously, the infant will appear - as if it came down trascendently from heaven rather than from Mary's womb.

I figure Mary is pregnant at this time. If she and Joseph are in the creche, it is because she just gave birth to Jesus. He shouldn't be separated from the scene. He doesn't magically appear, but Mary bears him from her flesh. I like to contemplate the Nativity with the child in it - even if it is only Advent. His birth is what makes the season make sense so I won't hide him. I'll gaze upon him each day.

I attended my sister's wedding yesterday. She is in her early 40's and this is her second marriage. I wish her all the best. She looked beautful and she was so happy. I've never seen her be at such ease with her friends before. I'm happy for her.

I gave the last of my Australia gifts to my friends and family yesterday. I'm glad to have them all delivered. I bought a bunch of small stuffed animals. They added such space to my luggage, I had such a hard time getting everything delivered.

We begin another retreat on Tuesday. It is a lovely time for retreat as we are in the thick of Advent. Prayers and liturgies take on greater meaning for people during these fast-paced weeks leading up to Christmas.

Retreats make me pray much more thoroughly for others.

Advent peace!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This photo was taken by Peter Van Demark at the Cape Ann Singer's performance with the Cape Ann Symphoy. The holiday concerts were held on November 27th and 28th and included the following songs:

Caroling, Caroling, A medley of Alfred Burt Carols arranged by Mark Hayes,
Bashana Haba'ah, lyrics by Ehud Manor, music by Nurit Hirsch, arranged by John Leavitt,
A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Craig Courtney,
and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus,

with the obligatory Christmas Sing-a-long.

It was great fun!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Photos: Boston's Fanueil Hall

To see photos of Fanueil Hall in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, please click on the link below:

Pics of Boston's Faneuil Hall

Photos: Campion Center Glimpses

To see photos of Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts, please click on the link below:

Pics of Campion Center

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Reflection

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and the darkness settles early upon the land. I have taken out my Advent decorations to ready myself for the new Christian year that begins this Sunday. I know the candles will provide some relief from the darkness as we wait in hope for the arrival of Christ into our lives at Christmas.

As November is the month of All Souls, I think back fondly on those whose journey in this temporal life has come to an end. I am reminded of my own mortality and the brevity of life. Many of us have lost someone dear to us. Their stories will remain in our hearts until we join them in heaven. Until we do, I want to appreciate the struggles of my brothers and sisters and help them to realize that God gives much to them. I want to learn to be patient with others; I want to be patient in those areas where I want to see change right away.

I consider myself blessed. I began my year traveling to Australia to begin tertianship with eleven Jesuit brothers from across the globe. I marvel at the exciting times we had together and the bonds of friendship we forged. I am thankful for Adrian, the tertian director, and Joe, his assistant and the superior of our community, for their care for our spiritual development. I am grateful for what I have learned from the various communities of faith I encountered in Australia (Pymble, Sydney, Melbourne, Alice Springs, Seven Hill, Cairns, and Hervey Bay), in New Zealand (Opunake, Hawera, New Plymouth, Wellington, and Auckland), and in Honolulu, Hawaii. I especially pray for the loss of the 29 New Zealand miners in their recent national tragedy.

I am grateful to my Provincial for assigning me to Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester where I can direct the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I'll go anywhere he needs to send me. I'm very pleased with my small community at the retreat house and pleased with the dedicated guest directors who grace our hallways week after week. I can tell that many people come to know our Lord in the silence and stillness afforded by this magical place. I am honored to hear countless stories of grace alive and at work in the lives of many. I am grateful also for the people of Maine with whom our journeys have intersected. I am deeply enriched by their daily courage.

Tomorrow, I will travel to my family home south of Worcester, Massachusetts and we will share a happy traditional meal of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, vegetables, cranberry sauce, cheeses, and scrumptious desserts. It is my favorite meal of the year as November is a special month for me. I'm grateful for the good fortune of my family as we all endure our personal crises. We will focus on the good that is happening with us now and we will let our other concerns be diminished for the day. We soon set our sights on the wonder and splendor of Christmas.

Thankfully, Thanksgiving does not get such a commercial splash as the other major holidays even though there is an increase of pumpkins, pilgrims, cornucopia, and other harvest items on the markets' shelves. It does not become complicated like Christmas because we do not exchange gifts on this day. This means we get to appreciate the meaning of our national holiday with our hearts rather than with our senses. This has become our national holiday when we honor the time with our families and when we do that, we honor God.

The lights and sights of Christmas will hit us in the face on Black Friday when all the stores open to major sales and return to profit (hence, they are in the black, not in the red.) Radio stations will play Christmas and holiday music non-stop until Christmas day. Sparkling lights will soon adorn the lawns and windows.

Many purists lament the build-up of Christmas though they cheat by eating Christmas goodies way before December 24th. I, however, like the commercial Christmas season. For me, it does not wholly interfere with the liturgical Advent season. If these holiday traditions help people feel lighter and happier and help them dream of a brighter world, then I'm all for decorations and music. If these lights help people point to the mystery of the Incarnation, then I'm very happy. I want people to see the wonder in the season and the senses have a way of capturing information that feeds our imagination. All these symbols point us to the mystery of God's love.

I enjoy the gentleness of Advent. The soft lights that grow in longing anticipation of Christ's arrival makes me want to spend greater time watching the stillness of a flickering candle. The ancient Advent songs help me dream of Isaiah's prophecy of the peaceable kingdom in which no harm or ruin can come to anyone on God's holy mountain. The presence of Mary's motherhood helps us to realize the new life that is to be born within us. Yes, the Advent season is worth capturing. We are a people who live in the "now" and the "not yet" so we spend our time waiting, learning how to be patient.

The other days I read a quote from the protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in which he says, "A prison cell in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."

Christ will soon come to open that door. With his coaxing invitation, it is up to us to decide whether we will step out of that prison door into a new life of freedom.

For God's great salvific event, I am thankful.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November Skies

I took a late afternoon walk today as the sun was low in the sky. I realized that it was probably a good time of day to take my camera, but decided it was more than I wanted to carry. I made the wrong choice. I really wanted to be silent and to have few interrruptions so I could walk in the still part of the day. The air temperature was in the lows 50's Fahrenheit. I did not have to get bundled up. I do enjoy November days so much. It is my month.

Even though I live in a town of 30,000 people, I feel like I live in a remote part of Montana because few people come to this part of town during the off-season. The nearby pond is flush with wildlife. The noises of the ducks and aquatic birds are the only sounds one can hear. The tall reeds muffle the winds so that the low-lying sounds of wildlife are audible. With sheltered wind, the silence transports me to a gentle place inside my soul.

As the sun was getting ready to set, it lit off some pink and orange colors behind the clouds. I wish I had taken my camera. I marveled at how inexpensive and priceless beauty is. It is free. And that which we think must be beautiful can turn out to be something else once we take a closer look.

As a diversion my walk, I went to an estate sale from the property of A. Piatt, a popular politician of Gloucester in the 1940's. The estate was sold and most of the fixtures were to be sold. The house was in rather good condition, but it was old and dusty. It needs refreshing. The clothing and other articles were strewn around the house as if it were the room of a seven year old who threw a tantrum. I'm sure more items would have sold if they were dusted off or cleaned. The laundry could have been folded and neatly displayed.

In one room that might have been the dining room, the mosaic around the fireplace was stunning. The patterns of griffins delicately adorned the wall and mantleplace. The pattern went from floor to ceiling and had vibrant colors that gave me delight. The fireplace well was the deepest I have seen. But with all this beauty inside, the setting sun gast a pink glow on the ocean waves. The other guests and I were captivated by it and we imagined that there were great feasts held in this dining area.

I continued my walk to the lighthouse A house directly across from Black Bess was torn down this week and taken away in two dumpsters. All the time and effort to build it and it was gone in two days. This is the sort of place that tears down a 2 million dollar house to replace it with a 7 million dollar house.

I passed a familiar gentleman who also walks each day. He is a pleasantly handsome man in his 50's and he wears expensive walking clothers. I want to ask him if he is in pain because he is always grimacing. He makes sure to acknowledge me, but grunts instead of saying a greeting. I want to tell him I don't need for him to acknowledge me. I hope he can work out his anger in some way so that even a walk can be pleasant.

I contrast him with a man who was driving a larger truck on our small roads two days ago. He splashed me with mud water and the blessed man stopped to apologize. He was sincere. I forgave him easily and tried to let him know he didn't have to worry. I am lifted up by his kindness. I want to act like this man.

I then saw a car pass by me whose license plate read, "Imagine." I could not even see which state it was licensed, but it helped bring me to a more favorable state.

As I approached the lighthouse, I stopped to watch the final descent of the sun, and as I looked over my shoulder I noticed the rising full moon. It was as if the sun was handing off its light authority to the moon. They seemed to part ways and thank each other for its role in creation. It was a surreal moment when the seagulls were lifted up by the wind and hovered in place. Everything came to a standstill, and then the sun gave a flicker before it dropped out of view. I wish I took my camera with me.

I passed a couple who were walking their dogs that were adorned with bright green lights so cars could see them and avoid hitting them. The people though were wearing dark clothing and were difficult to spot. Hmmm. We do value our pets more than ourselves, but I can relate to their intentions. I sometimes bring a walking stick with me because if I car is approaching me, the driver may not necessarily move away to give me space, but he or she will swerve awy if I am holding a stick so the car does not get damaged.

I decided to extend my walk around the circle at Eastern Point. I'm glad I did. An owner was taking pictures of her dog, Ella, with the full moon as a backdrop. I volunteered to take a photo of the two of them with her Iphone. I wish I had my camera because the reflection on the still pond was sublime. I'll trust myself more fully next time.

Just as I was leaving, a duck crossed the road. I waited while she crossed, but then at least 15 others crossed the road as well. It took about 15 minutes for them all to cross. It was like a Snow White fairy tale where all the wildlife seemed to be in harmony with each other. And of course as I finally passed by the ducks, I saw a rabbit at the gates to Niles Pond Road. I'm happy he still is alive because I've seen the Fisher Cat and her two pups in this area.

Now it is dark.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sea Glass

I owe an apology to a friend in Maine. Two years ago as I was walking the beach at Prouts Neck, Maine with my friend, Madeline, and her husband, Ken, she hastened toward a spot on the beach to pick up a small blue glass shard that had been smoothed over by the ocean. She told me it was sea glass and blue is one of the rarest colors you can find. I was amazed that she could spot it at such a distance, but she was very satisfied. She told me all about it and I couldn't get my head around her fascination. She said, "you are underwhelmed, huh?" I was. I wasn't unimpressed with her ability to spot something that she found intriguing; I merely saw her find as a broken piece of glass.

A friend of mine was on retreat at Marie Joseph Spirituality Center in Maine one summer and his director told him to go look for sea glass as a way of getting his mind off the weighty worldly matters that beset him. He walked the beach for half an hour before he gave up. He had never seen sea glass before and did not know what to look for.

I have seen sea glass collections inside homes near the ocean. They are smooth by the ocean into smoky tints. The sand, rocks, and salt water quickly transform broken glasses into a soft-looking treasure. They have a soft look with pastel-like colors. Mostly, you find them in a collection in a person's bathroom near another collection of seashells. It is amazing how many people will decorate their bathrooms like an aquarium or like a seascape. I understand the water connection, but I seldom equate a bathroom with an ocean view. I think I hold a minority view judging by abundance of bathrooms dedicated to aquatic culture.

Well, as yesterday was a 60 degree day in Boston (Gloucester) with bright sunny skies, I went for a walk on the beach. I spotted a glass shard on the beach and said to myself, "This must be sea glass." It was a smoky white, stone-like piece of glass. I almost put it down, but saw another piece. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I noticed many other pieces of sea glass and I collected about 30 pieces in all. Some were clear, others white, many were green, and a few were brown. I even picked up a tiny cobalt blue piece - a gem in sea glass efforts. I seem to have an eye for spotting them.

I wondered where they came from and why there was so much of it around. It seems as if it is trash - broken bottles - beer and otherwise. I picked it up because even if it did not have a redeeming ascetic value, at least someone's foot would not get cut as they walked the beach. I have to admit that when I brought the sea glass home and placed it on a tray, it looked kind of nice.

I don't know what I will do with it, but it will one day make a nice display or gift for someone who collect them. It is fascinating that some stores will sell sea glass and some people make it into jewelry. I would love to hear my friend from Maine's thoughts on her fascination with sea glass.

I must admit that looking at my collection reminds me of the power of the ocean. In a short time, the ocean can transform something sharp and dangerous into something pleasant to hold and admire. Isn't this what God does with us. When we are immersed in God's overwhelming grace, our rough edges get smoothed over. What we might find as rough because beautiful in the sight of others who behold our jagged lives. God can quickly transform the most cutting of surfaces into something smooth, and we simply become part of the terrain - sometimes overlooked because we fit in so well; other times singled out for our beauty when we are added to a collection of like-transformed objects. We are treasured.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Wearying Wind

The past week has been amazing as Tropical Storm Tomas passed by New England. The sustained winds have been battering the shoreline incessantly. Typically, I fall asleep at night hearing very little outside noise but this week has been a constant drone.

It reminds me of the heaviness of the liturgical readings, which are all about the end times. It seems as if the constant pressure of the waves is both a reminder of the pressures of the world, but also the immense power of God to break into our lives. God's not going to stop trying. Only when we say, "O.K. I give in" will be be able to realize the gentleness of God's invitations.

Retreatants have spent a great deal of time on the rocks. In some ways, I can't blame them for wanting to behold such a spectacle, but they don't realize they are not safe. The enormous sprays of waves against the rocks have tremendous power to sweep anyone into the sea. The people think they are safe and they are not realizing that the wetness of the rocks on which they stand are from those rogues waves. When I tried to tell them to be careful and move away, they turned away from my advice. How come some people think they are impregnable to danger?

I have to say that my danger quotient rose this year when I went scuba diving. It was exhilarating. Now I want to bungee jump, hang-glide, and parachute.

I laugh when I daydream about this because I will become fearful when I'm driving a mountain road or a very long bridge. I tend to think that I am not fearful of heights as much as I am fearful of voids. When I'm driving up a winding mountain road, my stomach is queazy when I cannot see the land below. If it seems as if I am driving off into infinite, I fear that I will lose control of my ability to drive. The same with a bridge. If I cannot see the ground below, I feel a bit panicky. If I am driving up across a bridge and can only see the sky, I lose my sense of balance, but if I'm on the top of the bridge and can see the horizon, I am fine. I try to conquer this fear by placing myself in these extreme positions, but I always get this vertigo-like feeling.

Anyways, I still want to parachute jump.

Let me return to the ocean. One of the neatest things about watching the waves this week was to spot the rainbows in the mist. It is quite a phenomenon. I'm sure physics can explain why it happens, but all the reasons in the world won't explain the wonder one experiences when that prism bursts forth. Many rainbows formed from the fine spray - literally, nearly 100 per hour. Even the least sensate person would have been pulled off his chair to marvel at this natural feat.

Tonight, I am in Windsor, Maine at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. I would have to say that any and all Transfigurations are holy. This is a lovely spot though. It is between Augusta and Belfast in a tiny little village. It is very dark because there is no light pollution. It reminds me of my time at Sevenhill in Australia because there were no street lights to dim the view of the stars. Also, I can hear coyotes in the forest. I'm told they come close and will eat the free range chickens of our neighbors.

I'm in a lovely retreat center. This building is new construction with four bedrooms, two baths, a conference room, and a well-equipped kitchen. As you can see, it also has wireless. It is both lovely and comfortable. The construction is solid and contemporary. I recommend it to anyone who wants a week of silence.

Anyways, it is soon time for bed. I was remarking to myself today that good eating is one of the joys of life. I have to live less joyfully.

I wonder how long I can remain a vegetarian - once I begin.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Photos: The Battered Shore

To see photos of the shoreline battered by Tropical Storm Tomas, please click on the link below:

Pics of The Battered Shore

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Stormy Day

As I drove home in the early evening, freezing rain and a touch of wet snowflakes reminded me of what will soon come in great quantities. Winds and rains battered the retreat house throughout the night. Darkness settled early as daylight savings time has come to an end.

I lament the loss of my Ultraviolent Sunlamp. It is a helpful way of staying energized during the dark winter months. When I moved to Australia for tertainship, my Jesuit brothers moved my possessions out of the house and into a room at Cheverus where I onced worked. The sunlamp is a casualty of the move. The lamp replicates the sun's natural rays and provides the stimulus for keeping one alert and vibrant. It is especially good in the dark days of New England when cabin fever can set in. It is proven as a remedy for those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I don't have it, but I like the recharging effect this lamp provides.

Anyways, since a weekend retreat had ended, I was not expecting to be around for a meal at the retreat house upon my return. However, the lights on the in kitchen gave me hope that there might be warm leftovers. To my delight, the fragrance of the Yankee Pot Roast meal that was made by one of my brothers was truly a delight and an incredible gesture of goodwill. We enjoyed the nicest conversations around a meal that was well prepared.

I needed this at the end of this week. The New England Patriots lost in a terrible way to a promising, but mediocre Cleveland Browns. Also, the conclusion of a brutal U.S. election campaign ended on Tuesday. Masschusetts voted Democratic while various parts of the country voted Republican. I am glad the election advertisements are over because they lack civility and truth. Most of the campaigns are efforts to spin their own version of the truth and their intent is to win voters with the most minimal soundbytes imaginable.

I wonder if we ever had the ability to discourse during election campaigns. It is rare that conversation and discourse happens in any sphere of life. Most of the times, people think they are in conversation when they get to state what is on their minds. Real conversation involves a lot more listening and paraphrasing than we imagine. Conversation requires a lot of work and patience and we have to check out with the other person if we are understanding what he or she is saying to us.

I visited the tertians in the New England program yesterday. They are a terrific group of men. One of the tertians is sick right now with a brain tumor and is going through daily treatments. He is a lovely man. I was able to spend time with other friends and catch up on where they are in their life. I came away from that visit with tremendous contentment.

Anyways, when I awoke this morning I heard the Coast Guard helicopter making a coastal sweep of Gloucester. I realized that even though I am right on the ocean, we do not get any airplane traffic from Logan airport. Most of my nights are very quiet. Only the ocean's waves or a strong wind interrupts the silence. I feel so blessed.

The ocean, like God, can be overpowering at times. I try not to run from it, but it is sometimes hard to stay with it. I want to enter more deeply into the stillness. This is one of the graces of my long retreat - to stay with the stillness.

The sunlight that splays through the trees can create a surreal feeling. I find myself most happy to be alive. The falling leaves during this month of All Souls continues to remind me of the death of the world and my own immortality. I want to be ready for my death when it comes, but I don't want it to come too soon. I want to live because this is a good world that has been redeemed by God. I find much goodness in it and I find I am very happy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reflection: A Sunday Afternoon's Walk

This afternoon I took a leisurely seven mile walk as I had some free time on my schedule. A weekend retreat for women in recovery was ending and a pervading quiet was settling in at the retreat house. The gusty winds of the past few days have ceased and the outside temperature warmed up to 57 degrees (14 C.) The clouds over the ocean appear as if a fog covers it. The clouds are evenly white with gentle curves. It looks like a mid-November sky although it is much warmer day.

I can smell the moisture in the air. Precipitation will be light if there is any at all. The moisture allows me to notice the earthy soil as decaying leaves form a blanket or browns and fading reds on the ground. The pine trees' fragrance has a steady scent. The stillness from above makes me notice the overlooked aspects of creation below.

I listen to the Estonian computer, Arvo Part, on my IPod and set out for my daily exercise. My mind does its usual wanderings as I spend part of my time in prayer and some time noticing the beauty of the land. I tell Christ about what has happened with my family during the past week and then spend some time telling him about my Jesuit life. The graces I received in Australia are still strong and I continue to offer my thanks to Christ for rewarding me generously. I tell Christ about the events of my week and the people who have moved me or are in need of prayers. Walking while praying helps me get everything out. It does not replace my contemplative prayer; it helps me clear out the cobwebs so my prayer in stillness can be more focused upon Christ. Somehow these forward physical steps assist my spiritual steps.

People bring beauty into their lives. The great mansions of Gloucester and the small houses alike do well to keep up their properties and these seasonal decorations describe the houses' and owners' personalities. Most of these decorations are flowers, gourds, stalks, or other natural products that make for tasteful seasonal displays. I find it incredible the variety of late-autumn flowers that appear so fresh and at the height of their lifespan. I would have thought that any cold would have diminished their growth and beauty. Beauty seems to bring up in less than favorable conditions.

While I admire the beauty of these houses and properties, I am past the point of dreaming of having my own place. I have lived in many places and met some truly good people along the way. I like staying in touch with them and letting them know I still care about them, but I feel like I am more truly living for Christ. No place seems like home and yet everyplace seems like home.

It seems natural to want to feel rooted, to have permanence, and to feel secure. Right now, I would feel hampered by possessing my own property. While I do like to maintain and care for the houses where I am assigned, I no longer feel as if I want to build a home. On the contrary, I want to give away much of what I do have. Perhaps it is the season we are in when the daylight leaves us more quickly than we want and we think about the cycle of life more intensely. I also care less for building my own status or honor. I feel freer to let my life be more about living it for Christ.

I consider how much death is a part of life. I am praying for many people who are sick or in need of surgery or are merely having a difficult time with some aspect of their lives. I feel for them and want them to do well and to thrive. I want them to be healthy and happy and to know how much the Lord cares for them. I realized the sadness a person feels when a loved one has died. The memories of these people remain with us and always will, especially as we advance towards our own death. Life will continue without us and we have to choose each day how we will best live it.

Death does not need drama. I want to be ready for it whenever it comes and I want to live a long life with good health and caring friends. I want to make the best choices I can for my happiness each day and want to live and die well. I want to take the words of the preacher Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes to heart: enjoy life, recreate well, choose your own happiness. I want to live in the freedom God extends to us. I want to be true to the Creator's hope for me. To do anything otherwise would be to act falsely.

Death comes to us all. I choose to live for Christ and to bring his message to anyone who wants to hear it. At this stage in my life, I realize my efforts and activities are not worth all that much. I have diminishing illusions about the great work I can do. I am settling into the reality that Christ merely wants to be with me and that he wants me to live as joyfully as I can. That's all. If I can notice the ways God gives us so much and gives us each other and I live in gratitude for people and their gifts, then I am doing rather well and I will be content in life. Give me only your grace. That's enough for me.

I enjoyed my walk today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finally Fall

Today finally looks like Fall at Eastern Point in Gloucester. The roads are abandoned by tourists and visitors to the rocky shores of the retreat house. A stillness has settled upon the Point. The chill is clipped by the sun's midday warmth and the reddish leaves are clinging for dear life. A brisk wind will clear the foliage from its branches. The air contains a wettish fragrance that reminds me of an early spring day as it contains an earthy odor. I have no care in the world. I appreciate the transition in the seasons to help me with my transitions in life.

I took my refurbished mountain bike out for a spin this morning. It rides well. I passed a group of other bikers and I thought it would be fun to join a bike club.

I then passed a group of people who must have had a Corvette convention. They stopped at Niles Beach to sit by the ocean and talk about their cars. Ten cars lined the parking lot. The Corvettes had such variety to their kind because of the changes that were made to them over the years.

Last night, I went to my Tuesday evening rehearsal with the Cape Ann Singers as we prepare for our Christmas concert next month. We are singing a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas set to an international score; a compilastion of Alfred Burt Carols, a Jewish lament song, and the Hallelujah Chorus.

This afternoon, I will visit the elderly and infirm Jesuts at Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts before I attend a lecture at Boston College by Roger Haight on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

I'll first stop at the North Shore Arts Association to see the gallery of watercolors. A friends' teacher won an award for her painting of a parking lot - of all things.

I'll stop at Boston College to drop off a collection of The Jesuit Relations, a journal series that chronicles the first years of Jesuit life and exploration of the New World by the first Jesuits to Canada, New France, and the northern regions of the U.S.A.

Earlier this week, I have found my walking route of 4.5 miles. I listened to the Estonian composer Arvo Part and I have reread Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." Both are riveting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photos: Scenes around Gloucester; Around Salem, Massachusetts - the Witch City

To see photos of various places in Gloucester and scenes from Salem - the Witch City, please click on the link below:

Pics of Salem and Gloucester

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A National Holiday: Columbus Day

October 12th is the traditional day for celebrating Columbus Day, though the holiday always falls on the second Monday of October. Columbus is criticized for having the prototypical attitude of the European sailing captains and merchants who explored and exploited the Atlantic in the 15th century. He was a man of unusual ambition. He also takes the brunt of the criticism lodged against the European colonizers for the harsh treatment of the native populations of the Americas.

Four hundred years after Columbus' first voyage, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a national holiday to honor the landing in San Salvador. Harrison wanted to set aside a day that recognized both Native Americans and the many immigrants, including Italians, who were flocking to the U.S. in record numbers. This holiday would be the first one that was not a religious holiday or one that honored the Founding Fathers. It was to be a day that celebrated the ordinary people who were part of American history. It was planned to be a tribute to democracy as well: universal public schooling was recently instituted - a hallmark decision for democracy because it was designed to include everyone, not just the wealthy governing elite.

The first parade was held in New York City and its marchers were primarily 12,000 school children from each constituency. Public high school students led the way, followed by Catholics, then other private and national schools. The Native Americans were included in the procession. The parade was an attempt to universally unite every group who called themselves Americans.

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Two years before the national holiday was declared, U.S. troops massacred 200 Lakota Sioux people at Wounded Knee because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. The U.S. government acknowledge the tragedy of the soldiers actions. In a separate incident ten weeks later, eleven Italian citizens were lynched in prison. The Italians were put to death because of a public fears. Italians were almost as unpopular as the Native Americans. President Harrison was saddened by the events. It is conceivable that Harrison wanted to instill a spirit within the American people who could move beyond their own prejudice and to recognize the great contributions of its many diverse peoples.

The idea behind the holiday is much deeper than most Americans realize. We impose today's attitudes upon events that happened much earlier and that is intellectually dishonest. The goals of Harrison are certainly admirable. Columbus' landing was a momentous step in a world that would see monumental changes within a short period of time. Such a discovery rarely has happened in human history and for that alone, it is a holiday worth remembering.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It is finally Autumn

The cool weather has moved into New England as a very warm September has ended. The nights are crisp and the days are still warm. You can see many people walking around with cardigan and sweatshirts to take the chill off their bones. I'm still mostly in short-sleeved shirts.

The rains have come. We need the rain, especially as the precipitation from last week's Tropical Storm Katrina did not quench the grass's thirst. The surf is pounding violently on the rocks. It becomes a metaphor for God's everlasting quest to get through to our consciousness. It is persistently rhythmic.

To capture the stormy events outside my window, I took a bath where I could just immerse myself through my senses. It set my day right. Now I'm off to work feeling very refreshed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photos: Sunrise, Sunset

To see photos of the sunrise at Gloucester and sunset on Cape Cod, please click on the link below:

Pics of Sunrise, Sunset

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Relaxing Times

Just finished another retreat and now I'm in some relaxing days. I'm still sorting through the stuff I took out of my moving boxes and finding a lasting location for them. I'm slowly getting settled.

I visited Cape Cod this weekend to see two friends from Virginia and my aunt and uncle. I wanted to see my relatives because they are the grandparents of the boy who took his own life seven weeks ago and this was my first chance to visit with them. I have to spend longer time with my mother as well. My (deceased) sister's birthday is Saturday and we always remember her in some way.

Down the Cape I was able to hit a few golf balls with some instructions on how to improve my swing. It was very helpful. I was going to call a friend who directed a retreat with me last week. He was the one who gave me a ride in his Porsche. He was to meet his wife down at the Cape.

Today I visited the Jesuit Community at Boston College. It was so fun to see so many friends again. We really are hospitable to one another. And gracious. Bill Russell and I went out for a walk to see the new Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and the Blessed Peter Faber Jesuit Residence in Brighton. The school and new community houses look great. The weather was also superb.

I caught a stomach bug so I just intend to go to bed early and sleep it off.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Photos: Picturesque Rockport

To see photos of the the Art Colony of Rockport, please click on the link below:

Pics of Rockport

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Photos: The Pounding Surf

To see photos of the surf kicked up by Hurricane Igor, please click on the link below:

Pics of Igor's Mighty Surf

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Dark Night's Walk

I had a very comfortable sleep last night and I arose ready for my full day with retreatants.

The food here in Gloucester is very good. The other night we had lobster tails and a delicately cooked steak to greet the tertains as they began their 30-day retreat.

My mailed package from Australia via Honolulu arrived and I have been able to sift through the contents. It brings back many fond memories of my time in Australia. Gee. I wish that continent was closer.

I watched the frisky seals splash on the rocky coast of Gloucester. It seems that every day I visit the ocean something is different about it whether it is the color of the sea, the height of the surf, the crashing waves, or a rock that has split open from the constant pounding. I even notice something different about the forest when I pass through the many acres.

Tonight I walked along the silent road that leads into and out of Eastern Point. The moon is very bright so it was able to light the way. I liked it when the beams of light filtered through the branches. It was somewhat haunting. The air temperature is perfect with cool nights and warm days. I could smell that someone lit a fire in the house fireplace as the chill might have necessitated it for some people who like very warm houses. I then walked by another house where a group of friends were having a cookout. Even though I was full, the smell of chicken sizzling on a grill always scintillates my taste buds.

I walked to the mansion-museum that was having an open house for the neighborhood. I arrived late and was able to talk with a few folks. As I arrived a man picked up his guitar and sang "The Girl from Ipanema" for me. How lovely. I had never been serenaded like that before. He teaches music at Philips Andover and he has played in a band called Beatlejuice (even before the movie came out.) He was a lovely fellow. His best friend, Delp, was the lead singer in a band called Boston in the 1970's and 80's. He then played a melancholy song about his cat who died recently.

I am settled in for the night and will begin to pray over my homily for Mass on Monday.

Tomorrow the Jesuits honor men who have jubilees. The celebration will be at Boston College High School and it is always a good time to honor who have given much of their lives in service to the church. Good on ya, jubilarians.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Few Days of Rest

The first retreat of the fall season has completed and I feel very good about what happened. I very much liked being with the retreatants. They are just good souls.

I am tired though. I have moved into my new room after living in a temporary room for a week. I have been unpacking and getting rid of boxes. I am amazed at how much stuff I have. I wish I gave more of it away before I left Maine. Last year, I threw away many papers and gave many books as gifts to people and I whittled down my possessions. I really don't buy much, but I receive much along the way. I believe it when they say that when you are generous, you get so much more back than you could ever anticipate.

The past two days of silence have been very good. I laughed at myself today when I left the property to get silence. Silence is pervasive here, but the busyness of unpacking has its own sort of chatter to it. I took a short ride to Rockport for a change of scenery. I passed by many stores and could not bring myself to go in because why would I go into a store? I don't want to buy anything. I don't need anything. I have so much that is intangible and invisibile that fills me up.

The tertians arrived today. I already knew five of them so it was good to have a meal with them and catch up. I wish I had more time with them, but they entered into silence this very night. I'm glad they will be with us for a month as they make their 30-day silent retreat.

At Mass with the tertians I began thinking back on my own experience of tertianship. I could see Adrian's and Joe's faces in my imagination. I miss my brothers. I wish our friendship could continue in a physical realm. We stay in touch by email, and I lament we cannot see each other with great regularity they way we did in Pymble, Australia.

I thought of our long retreat where we presided at Mass each day and the directors provided homilies. Church is more egalitarian there. I brought to mind the parishioners at the Canisius Chapel and the way we celebrated Mass with a different style. I could almost smell the sweet flowers on the trees at Canisius College, and to imagine that the plover eggs have hatched into little chicks. The aroma of the vineywards at Sevenhill was so full, and the kangaroos that popped out after dinner was always a treat. God has been so good to me then and continues to be. I have such good memories of the miracles God worked in my life.

I feel sated. God is enough.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Photos: My New Residence and a few neighbors

To see photos of Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, please click on the link below:

Pics of Eastern Point Retreat House

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Settling In

I have enjoyed the past few days in Gloucester. The end-of-summer weather has given us some cool nights and some warm days - perfect for sleeping. Yes, I have been tired because the move was rather quick, and though I am living out of boxes, I am getting sufficient rest. It is unbelievable that I both live and work here.

I can sense that I am more connected with the province because I am an hour closer to most other communities. This makes quite a difference in the ways in which we relate to one another. I will be glad to visit once I have a few days off. As soon as we finish this retreat, we begin another two days later.

The walking is quite nice. Yesterday, I walked to the beginning of the Eastern Point peninsula and met some interesting people along the way. In the middle of the deep harbor waters of Gloucester was a large cruise ship that contained more than 2,500 passengers. The downtown area was swarming with tourists.

I also walked past the Beauport Sleeper-McCann House which is an early American house with a sea captain's room, an early American kitchen, a green and white dining room that overlooks Gloucester Harbor and many rooms are decorated like stage sets that showcase an historical theme. They invited us to a neighbor's gathering later in the month.

The retreat is going well and I'm glad to be spending time in this valuable ministry. The lives of many people are difficult and so many people carry much heaviness. We all find relief when we decide to unburden ourselves by telling others our stories.

Earthquake Relief in Christchurch, New Zealand

The people near Christchurch, New Zealand are still experiencing great challenges. Five days of frequent aftershocks and another earthquake on a different fault line is taking a toll on the inhabitants. Many people have had successive nights of undisturbed sleep and there is some toll on families who cannot weather these challenges. Current estimates of the cost of rebuilding are around four billion dollars.

Donations to Caritas for Christchurch earthquake relief can be made by:

• Phoning 0800 22 10 22 to make credit card donations or

• Donating online using a credit card at www.caritas.org.nz or

• Posting to Caritas, PO Box 12193, Thorndon, Wellington 6144, New Zealand.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Day in Gloucester

Hurricane Earl has downgraded to a tropical storm and it whizzed through Portland without much fuss. It rained between 11 pm and 2 am and then fizzled out. When I awoke this morning, the skies were bright and the grass was well watered. I packed up my possessions that I brought with me to Australia and I headed to Gloucester.

As I was arriving, I was pinching myself to really ask if I was going to live in such a beautiful place. The Harbor was teeming with many sun-worshippers who are sucking up the last bit of summer sun. The grass is so green and the water is a vivid blue. As I drove into Eastern Point I realized the immense silence of the place. I recall thinking that my life is going to be very happy here.

As I exited from the car, I smelled the seawater and recalled the other scents of the place. I just walked around to breathe in the memories again.

I was welcomed and greeted warmly by John Murray, the superior of the community. After a short conversation, I picked up my temporary room and settled in. A nap was calling me too strongly and I dozed for 40 minutes and then went out for a walk.

The community is very lovely. They prepared a nice meal with stuffed clams, but not with much bread as an ingredient. We ate a moist roast chicken and had a berry pie a la mode. At the end of the meal, I setteld into my room to write about my day. I would do other things, but the soothing ocean is making me sleepy and I will head to bed very soon. I think I'll sleep soundly and well.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Life in Portland

Since I have been back in Portland, life has been good. I have been adjusting to the East Coast time zone and have been awake until 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. each night (morning.) Fortunately, I have been awaking at 7:30 a.m. so something is kicking in. Each day is better.

I have enjoyed the leisure days in Portland. I have not seen my family yet, but that will come. I have been on the phone with them often as they are in a difficult spot once again. I have seen some friends in Portland and have connected with my former colleagues at Cheverus High School. A few nights ago, I went on a cruise with them around Casco Bay. It was the most pleasant night to be on the bay. I posted some photos a few nights ago.

Two nights earlier I visited a friend on Long Island in Casco Bay. It was a great time. We went swimming, had a nice meal, toured the island, and I blessed their renovated shed. The cruise back to the mainland was also pleasant as I met a teacher from Biddeford High School who had my three nephews as students.

There are too many good people to see and not enough time. I soon have to head down to Gloucester and I need to get acclimated to the time change. As I have returned I find it so remarkable that there are so many good people striving to do the best in the world. Their goodness really makes my heart feel warm in gladness for who they are and for what they mean to me and to others.

We celebrated the last meal of an elderly Jesuit who is about to retire to Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts. He is a good priest and has done much of the weekend cooking for us. The Jesuit community is in good shape as they begin a new academic schedule. The Jesuits of Cluster 28 have reconfigured themselves and they are primed for the fall season; the Cheverus community is all set to begin another academic year.

All is good.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Around the Island

Today was a simple tour around the island and it made the day go so well. I began with a walk down to Waikiki Beach and a little wading in the water. I had a nice breakfast at a coffee shop where a former SCUBA diving instructor and I talked about diving in Hawaii and at the Great Barrier Reef and then we talked about the brevity in life and how we are to best use our time in light of it.

Clem and Alice picked Dave and me up for a tour of the island. We first drove past the extensive boulevard of shops surrounding the Waikiki beach area. The shopping promenade extended a great length and then we drove down the grassy mall at the end of the beach, right below Diamondhead mountain.

From there, we passed Jim Nabor's (Gomer Pyle) house, as well as the places where Tom Selleck and Jack Lord used to live. We then began to circle the island stopping at a few choices spots for sight-seeing, having lunch, and stopping at the military memorials. It is so interesting to see the largely self-contained life of the military and the fraternity they share (is that O.K. to use even with women in the Armed Services?) I have great respect for the way our military carries out its policies and care for its members. Loyalty is a life-long bond among the personnel.

We ate at a golfing club house and then set out to get a shaved ice at Manamoto's on the north part of the island. Let me tell you about this shaved ice. First, they put Japanese red beans marinated in sugar (Azuka) at the bottom of the cub, then fill it with vanilla ice cream, then form a rounded ice patch on top of that in which you pour three flavors onto it and cover it with condense milk if that suits your taste. (It does not mine.) I chose tangerine, pineapple, and coconut cream. Yummy.

Largely, we went to the north shore because the great surfing waves are there. They sometimes swell to twenty feet or even higher. The great surfers of the world come here just to ride the most magnicent waves in the U.S. But today, the water was so still and placid that I could have dropped a penny into the water to make a wave. We laughed because of the disappointment, but it was great fun to tour the island of O'ahu.

I even saw two mongoose. I have no idea how to make it plural - mongeese? or mongooses? or simply mongoose? No idea.

I'm still waiting for someone to teach me to dance.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who Will Dance with Me?

I've been hanging out at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu these past days and have enjoyed the warm temperatures and bright sunshine. I'm not enjoying the redness of my skin that comes from all this sunshine though. At least suntan lotion is less oily and greasy than 20 years ago.

Last night, we went out for dinner at the Koko Cafe at Waikiki Beach so we could watch the fireworks from our dining platform. Friday was Admissions Day so it was a state holiday. I chose the seafood buffet. After dinner, I convinced the group to sit in at the Warrior's lounge as a three-piece band was providing the entertainment. It was quite a hoot.

There were ancient warriors on the dance floor and they were doing a nice job keeping themselves limbered. Though many of the dance steps were from the type of dancing done nearly a century ago, they were still out on the dance floor gracefully lighting it up. Many of the dancers were confident and with great style, but the best part was that they were enjoying the evening. I'm sure many of them will be sustained by their dancing for the next few days to come.

The dance steps I know are a free-form style that everyone did to rock music in the 70's. I don't know a single dance step pattern. I just wanted to be on the dance floor....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Saying Goodbye

On August 19th, seven quick months will have passed since a fresh batch of tertians arrived from Asia Pacific, the U.S., and Europe. We have often heard formed Jesuits tell us, “tertianship was the happiest year of my life,” and we echo the same sentiments as we leave the solid bonds of friendship we have forged during our trials and experiments. We leave contentedly knowing that we have made many good friends in Australia and we are sad that we cannot spend more time with you. You have made your communities feel like our homes and though we are leaving, we know that you will not be far from our hearts and prayers.

I can remember our first days in Pymble. We were all exceedingly kind to each other as we tried to learn something about the men with whom we would spend the next innumerable hours in conferences and faith sharing. Language was a barrier, and we relied upon what was common to us in order to communicate – our Jesuit heritage. Adrian Lyons was such a kind, patient, humble presence who permitted us to take care of ourselves as we settled in and integrated. Joe Sobb would make us laugh as he would demand that we lavish much deserved attention upon him. From the start, we knew we were in good hands and would profit greatly from the wisdom of our directors.

Our days in Gerroa were days of exploration in which we marveled at the great expanse of the ocean that is ubiquitous in Australia. We were filled with adventure as some of us went scouting the kangaroos, koalas, and platypi that we heard so much about, but we only found upside-down dead wombats on the roads. Days of sharing our stories were sacred, but the need to rest was so overwhelming. We watched great Australian films like Kenny, Footy, and a documentary on Gallipoli, and we were introduced to The Bill and Midsomer Murders. Though the time we spent there was short and we were knocked out of sorts because we could not bring our computers with us, we look back on that time as pivotal for setting the tone of the whole year. We knew we would move to a depth in our lives that many had not been able to do in other experiences.

We then began our conferences with Michael Smith and Marea Richardson on Love, Celibacy and Sexuality and Eileen Glass on Multicultural Communities. We negotiated ways to relate to one another as individuals and as a group that developed unique characteristics and we built confidence in the ways each person would contribute to the larger group. Adrian and Joe brought us through the Autobiography of Ignatius by using selected chapters that highlighted a unique aspect of Ignatius’ life and then we began our self-study of the Constitutions and Complementary Norms. All of this was leading to our main event of the year – the Spiritual Exercises.

Back at Pymble, Kevin Huddy attended smartly to our needs and provided us with helpful directions in which to navigate the heavily congested highways of Sydney. Brendan Kelly peppered us with kindness as our knowledge of his wisdom and care for the novices increased every day. Peter Beer set out to tend to his Lonergan papers while Des Purcell kept rearranging the flora across the edges of the lawn at Canisius. The “Golden Oldies” would shower us with questions about our countries and would tell us their stories of happy ministerial moments. Often we would get the community to join us on the front lawn for a game of Frisbee or Bocce Ball during recreation time.

Arriving at Sevenhill at vintage time made for a memorable month in the Clare Valley. The fragrance of the grapes, the fullness of the orchards, the dancing kangaroos, the dominating presence of the bull, and the fertile ducks helped us settle nicely into our routine at the College or at La Storta. The long walks through the golden trails helped us realize that God has been so good and generous to the earth, even though we often prayed for rain for the parched land. Ian Cribb joined Joe and Adrian as retreat directors and homilists and we realized that these men not only liked us, but loved us. What more could we ask for during such a vulnerable time of grace?

A highlight for many of us was the Seder meal on Holy Thursday we celebrated under Joe’s guidance. We encountered a Saving God who was delighted to lead his people out of bondage, but saddened that his Egyptian children had lost their lives. The significance of the meal took a solemn turn when the Fourth Cup was offered – a symbol of our daily Eucharist. Never again will we be able to look at Holy Thursday or any Eucharist in the same way.

Celebrating Easter with the Sevenhill congregation was a happy occasion. We also celebrated Ian’s 60th birthday on Easter Sunday and we honored Joe on his 70th birthday a few weeks earlier. We met the Adelaide area Jesuits and Greg O’Kelly at a great feast at the conclusion of our retreat and we visited the Archbishop of Adelaide. Though many of us were sad to leave Sevenhill, we noted the silence that fell over us because we knew we had just spent a transformative month of privilege that will not be repeated in our lifetime.

During the week afterwards, the group split up for holiday – with some traveling the Great Ocean Road back to Sydney via Melbourne, while others went north to Alice Springs, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and King’s Canyon. A few individuals made their own trips. I had always heard that the great inner portion of Australia was sunburned, but Alice Springs and the whole area was a vibrant green with lush vegetation and overflowing streams.

Our next journey was to direct the Retreat in Daily Life at selected schools and parishes across the country. Felicity Flynn set up the assignments and helped us process our experiences at its conclusion. Some of us went into the farmlands west of Sydney, while others went down to Adelaide and Melbourne. A few lucky ones were sent to Hervey Bay and Runaway Bay, where the subtropical warmth makes every day a bright and happy one. We were so moved by the lives that were touched by God on this retreat. It makes us wonder what the world could be like if more people were able to dispose themselves to the workings of the Spirit in such honest and trusting ways.

Adrian then led a discussion on approaches to faith that he worked on during a sabbatical in the U.S. when he wrote “Imagine Believing.” Sandie Cornish capably directed us on a four-day workshop on faith and justice issues that contained voluminous data and information on the social needs of the church and the world. After a week when we concluded our examination of the Constitutions, Michael Head guided us on an informative outline of key events in the history of the Society following the death of Ignatius and in events leading up to the suppression and restoration.

Our last experiment was looming. Many of us believed that this experiment was designed to fill some time since the bulk of tertianship was over, but we were far wrong in that premature assessment. Our ministry to the disadvantaged turned out to be wholly significant to the unfolding of our long retreat into the real world of poverty and need. Several of us were sent to Greg’s diocese to cover parishes and provide talks, while others worked with ethnic or specialized communities. One directed the 30-day retreat at Campion House, while another directed religious sisters on retreat in Pakistan. I had the surprise good fortune of living among the people of Taranaki, New Zealand and serving as their parish priest. For me, the depth that I was able to enter into the stillness of my soul and also into the lives of the local people came as a cherished surprise that I will long treasure. Upon our return, we spent four days of keen listening to one another as we told our stories of the ways that these people enriched our ministry.

And here we are on a five-day retreat to conclude our time together. The silence of the retreat refreshes us as we process these grace-filled seven months. We have confidently placed our trust in one another and we honor the unique person that God has called to the Society. We will soon disperse and we will miss each other a great deal. We will miss Adrian and Joe and all the Jesuits at Pymble. The novices have departed, so it will be a quiet place over the next few months. Come and visit them because they appreciate your presence.

Our hearts are heavy and light at the same time. They are heavy because we will miss you and the generous hospitality and companionship you have provided us. They are light because we have met you and we will carry you forward with us in our future ministries. We are proud of you and you have earned a warm place in our hearts and we will remain connected through our prayers for one another. Please let us know about the significant events in your lives. We hope and pray that we can meet you again – for we are your brothers and we ask for your prayers as we venture forth in the hopes we will soon be professed in this least Society of Ours. Brothers, until we meet again….

John Predmore SJ August 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Last Hours in Australia

So, here it is. I awoke this morning alert and refreshed and I'm ready for a glorious day. The temperatures are about 72 degree Fahrenheit with an ever-so gentle breeze. Full sun occupies the sky with an occasional wandering cloud. I fed the rabbit today, said hello to the kookaburras, fed the plovers and checked on the developing eggs, and I walked around to aborb all the freshness of the early spring flowers. It is wonderful to just be here and appreciate all of it.

We had a final Mass for tertians and said goodbye to Joseph from China. I will miss him. After breakfast, I packed and cleaned my room. It is cleaner than when I arrived. It smells and looks so good. I realized only this week that the room I am in has one of the better views. I can see the bush in the backyard, the sunrise at night, and I can scan over the rooftops of the neighbors fine houses. I get steady daylight which makes me happy. Lots of small things make me happy.

I will miss Joe and Adria, the Canisius community, the edginess of Sydney, the companionship of the Jesuits and many good tertians who really became my brothers while I've been here.

I'll spend the rest of the day just lingering and remembering and savoring and appreciating. It is all good. It is all so good.

Fair Australia, until we meet again.

Last Day in Sydney

I can't believe I am at the very end of tertianship. Tomorrow I leave Sydney and head back to the U.S. I will, for sure, be glad to be home, but I also feel as if I have had the most privileged time I ever could have during these last seven months. I've seen much of the country, met some very warm people, have established good relationships, and I have strong bonds with many of my Jesuit brothers.

It is cruel to send us back when spring is about to burst open onto the scene. We have been waiting for it for a period of time and it is about to happen. We want to see the plover's eggs hatch into young birds. We want to see the bush regenerate. Small purple creepers are adorning rose bushes and there is a tint of fresh green everywhere. The lingering sunlight makes us yearn to be outside on the lawn once again after dinners where we can play croquet or throw a frisbee or just spend some one-on-one time together.

I am all packed and ready to depart. We had a final dinner tonight; earlier this morning I made cinnamon crumble coffe cake and a tasteless 97% fat free chocolate chip muffin cake.

I feel good. It has been an amazing year for me. I will miss my brothers and that makes me sad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Five Day Retreat

I am in the middle of my five day retreat and technically I am breaking my silence by entering something into my blog. I have a week and a day left in Australia and I'm very sorry to see my time here ending so rapidly.

We ended four powerful days of faith sharing about our last experiments. I think many of the guys including myself saw this last experiment as filler time, but we were very wrong. We now see this as one of our most formative cornerstore experiences of the whole year. The sharing also allowed us to go so much deeper in our relationships than we had been able to do beforehand. We could clearly see how God was working through the situation of each person's situation.

We had a few other days of conferences before the retreat. We focused on interfaith dialogue with a skilled Jesuit instructor. We also had a little downtime when we could go out for a meal or watch a movie. By the way, I wish I had lost weight while I was here. In terms of movies, I recommend two foreign films: The Swedish film "As it is in heaven" and the German film "The lives of others." Both are powerful.

During one of the films I had some potato chips - Lamb and Rosemary flavored chips. Quite interesting.

So, here I am on retreat and I am marvelling at the miracles that God has worked in my life. I do believe God has done miracles with me. I end feeling so happy, generous, compassionate, and appreciative of St. Ignatius, his sons who are my companions, the church, and the Christ who continues to call the best out of me.

No. I don't want to leave here yet, but I realize that I have homes all over the world.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

St. Ignatius Day Weekend

We experienced a very prayerful St. Ignatius Day weekeend. Six tertians came to the Newport Beach villa for some relaxation after a couple of days of sharing about our recent apostolic endeavors. Newport Beach is on a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The tertians are amazed that in the middle of winter folks are swimming and surfing. We took a walk along the beach before we returned to the house for Mass.

Villa was relaxing as our Thai tertian cooked Pad Thai for dinner while our Chinese tertian made some pork dumplings. After we had Mass, several of us watched the movie "Precious," which was not uplifting but was disturbingly moving. After dinner we watched "Shutter Island."

I cooked some eggs and pancakes and then I led prayer on the Feast of St. Ignatius. We had more sharing, though nicely brief. We all realize we only have three weeks left of our program together. Afterwards we went to Palm Beach and climbed the bluff to reach the lighthouse.

We returned to Pymble to help set up for the gathering of Sydney Jesuits who would celebrate the day with us.

On Sunday, I said Mass at Rose Bay in the Vacluese section of town. It was a lovely 19th century French chapel at a school run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. It was quite an elite school and my homily focuses upon the futility of holding onto our possessions and the virtue of giving away what one has.

Another Jesuit and I walked along a trail that was at South Head. It forms the southern entrance to Sydney Harbour. I wish I brought my camera. The sky was so sunny and temperatures were around 20 degrees Celsius so people were swimming and sunbathing. This is mid-winter. Daylight is increasing and people are feeling just a little freer as they are outside more often.

It was a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Warm Thoughts

I do miss the people of New Zealand. I was so delighted on Sunday when I celebrated my final Mass of my time there. I was so pleased with those who decided to show up, come back to Mass after a break, or were friends from other faith traditions who came to honor me. I was so touched. I was honored by the musicians who came forth to put together a special liturgy for me - complete with St. Ignatius's Suscipe (Take, Lord, receive), the Gloria, and other fine tuning. I will always pray with a warm heart for my friends in New Zealand.

My travel back to Sydney (Pymble) was uneventful and I am now trying to adapt to the new time schedule. I awake every morning at 5:15 because my body is on New Zealand time. It is very good to see my Jesuit confreres. We will only have three weeks left together. This makes me as sad as I am to leave New Zealand.

In a month, I will return to New England in the United States and I will become a director of retreats at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. My time in New Zealand has prepared me well. I look forward to that ministry.

Anyways, day by day I just want to enjoy the presence of my Jesuit brothers. My heart aches when I meet good people and have to leave them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Last Hours in Opunake

I am virtually all packed; the house is clean and restored to the way I found it. I just returned from lunch with Sister. We ate at the Headlands Restaurant, a trendy upscale restaurant in town. It was very nice. The church organist owns and runs the place. I may return there tonight as a priest friend is coming over for dinner.

I visited the Club Hotel last night to see parishioners. We later went to a bar with a Karaoke set up. Many folks did a nice job, but it was not on my docket to perform.

I wanted to say goodbye to the mountain today, but when I awoke it was dreary and threatened to rain, but now the storm is passing over and the tip of the mountain is emerging from the low-level cloud cover. The cows are still active in making noise. I feel so content, so happy that I came here. I would like to stay longer, but there is a time for every action in life, and this time has come to its end.

I will miss the people. I look forward to praying with them at Mass tomorrow morning.

I head back to Sydney!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newborns

I visited a farm of friends is Pihama and was able to get an up-close and personal look at dairy farming. I am amazed at the technical sophistication that goes into such a profession. The standards were all at excellent levels and the precision was so exact on so many aspects of farm life. My friends were grateful for the warm sunny days because on days like this you can almost watch the grass grow.

New Zealand farms are industrious and ingenious. The provide the technical know-how for much of the world. (The other night I met a man who is restoring and rebuilding an old car, an Indian motorcycle, and doing some other smaller activities – all by hand. If he needs a stand, he won’t go to the market to buy one; he will make it himself.) I watched cows getting milked on a rotary platform that was very efficient. One cow that was new to the herd was anxious and scared. I had never before witness such power and determination in a cow. Most of them are rather sedentary. I always laugh when I see calves running around. It is hilarious because most images of cows are of slow-moving animals, but in my back yard when the owner’s truck comes around, a whole herd of cows come running for their feed. They are so buoyant, but awkward.

I saw newborn calves – just born today. Their umbilical cord was still attached and hadn’t yet dried up. They were able to hobble around and the hungry ones blurted out noises so loudly. At birth, they are close to 60 pounds. A cow has to be mighty durable to carry one of those to term. Their fur is so soft and they are adorable.

Anyways, I am fascinated by what I have learned. I also had a very nice dinner and friends with my friends.

These are my last few days in Taranki. I head back to Sydney on Sunday. I will miss the rhythm of life and the warm hospitality that I have experienced here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Poem: The Sea Eagle by John Predmore, SJ

The grace of the sea eagle makes me think of you.
As I look up and see you are near.
How I wish to glide through life in the same way.
You are solitary, but your gaze is directed downwards.
To have my head in the clouds
and see you more nearly
is what I seek.
No, I want to fly alongside you
and frolic without limits.
Tumbling, swerving, stretching into new boundaries,
joining others who are lifted up -
just the breath of air to sustain us,
passing time through the brightness of day.
This is our moment.
Stay aloft over those frothy surfs.
Savor the thrill.
When day is done
just come and rest with me on the rocks
with our shadows left in the memory of the day
and feel the tickly of the splash upon our faces
knowing with a content heart how good it is.

Poem: I will not rush by by John Predmore, SJ

Too often I have rushed by you,
doing many things about you,
for you.
Meanwhile I’ve missed you
and searched for you,
but now
I know you are here.
You always were.
You’ve always wanted me.
You’ve tried to get to me,
But I passed by.
I am here
And so are you.
I won’t go
(Maybe I will –
sooner than I want.)
As I’m learning to stay by your side
without moving
without running away.
You overwhelm me though you try not to.
I’m frightened of who I might find inside myself,
but I’m in your great stillness.
You affirm me
and ask me to stay
and I feel the tingle in the tips of my toes
that makes me want to reach up to you,
but I’m just sitting
on a rock
in the sun
by the beach
beaming that you remain by my side.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ranking of My Favorite Beatles Albums

My ranking of my top 18 US-released Beatles albums (1964-70)

1. Abbey Road
2. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. Rubber Soul
4. The Beatles (The White Album)
5. Let it Be
6. Revolver
7. Magical Mystery Tour
8. Meet the Beatles
9. Help
10. A Hard Day’s Night
11. The Beatles Second Album
12. Yesterday and Today
13. Introducing…The Beatles
14. Hey Jude
15. Something New
16. Beatles 65
17. Beatles VI
18. Yellow Submarine

Photos: Wellington - A Capitol City

To see photos of the capitol city of Wellington, please click on the link below:

Pics of Wellington city

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poem: After the Museum by John Predmore, S.J.

I wrench my shoes from my bruised swollen feet
and release them from the day’s tension.
Toes pointing upwards, red and throbbing,
gasping for their fresh freedom.
They soldiered valiantly
and bore much weight
for they had to carry me home.
Now they rest, raised up, steaming hot.
“We are weary,” they cry proudly.
“We’ve toiled well.
Stretch us. Unbind us. Let the air be our salve.
We must ready ourselves for another tomorrow.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wellington - A Capitol City

I very much like Archbishop John Dew of Wellington. He is very solid and a great host.

I began my trek through the Capitol by touring the Parliament Buildings. Like most museums, the tour was free. We first started out in the Beehive, which is the office of the Prime Minister and his staff. He is out of the country right now (in China) to build better economic ties. So far he has secured an agreement with the Chinese to finance ocean agriculture in New Zealand. He is due back on Monday to tell the nation about his trip. He is very well-liked and well-regarded. Initially, he was thought to be inexperienced, but he has shown comfort in the way that he handles the domestic and foreign affairs of state.

Anyways, the tour took us to the Parliament, which now only consists of the lower house. The upper house was done away with in 1950 because it seemed like redundancy in government and it was an efficient way to cust costs. One amazing feature of the building is the modern reinforcement of the building to make it earthquake-resilient. The New Zealanders have exported this type of foundational work to other countries to help them prepare for such natural disasters. We concluded the tour with a brush through the Parliamentary library.

I walked along the waterfront afterwards and noticed that it remains a vibrant commercial and marine waterfront, but it has some great artwork peppered along the walkways. Speaking of walking, I am exhausted because I walked 28,000 steps yesterday and another 26,000 today.

The waterfront walk was great. I love the colors that the city uses all along the park. They are bright and vibrant and connote a great use of energy. I like that the city produces this artwork for its residents and does not seem to pander towards tourists. The result is a sense of civic pride and confidence. It is a city on the edge too, with a sharpness to some of its architecture. It does blend a polynesian style into the English-style architecture and it seems to work fine.

The city was active with runners and exercisers. A great hoarde of people of all ages, many in their 70's, were running. The people seem fit and healthy. Twenty percent of the population smokes, but fifty percent of Maori's smoke (mainly women) so the other parts of the population seldom smoke. This is great.

I was so tired so I stopped to have an apple-rhubarb-ginger muffin and a flat white decaf to revive my spirits. It turns out I didn't need it. This loud group of tweeners with braces on their teeth, their mother, and a toddler rode on this cart-type bicycle and screamed the entire way and dang their bells to notify anyone in front of them that they were arriving. Well they had no need of those bells with the ferocity of their shrill voices and laughter. Everyone knew where they were. I even paused a few times to let them pass and get way ahead of me, but damn it, they kept turning around and looping back and forth. Oh, they were a noise menance. After the silence of Opunake, their screams pierced through me.

On my return, I visited Te Papa museum and I was absolutely stunned. This is a World Class Museum on five floors. It contains many historical pieces about the Maori and European history, and it shows contemporary artwork that has been showcased in places like Venice, England, and the U.S. My feet were throbbing because I wanted to stay in the museum longer than the 2.5 hours that I did, but I needed another coffee to revive my slow-moving legs. This is certainly worth a visit. Come to New Zealand.

From there I went to Cuba Street Pedestrian Mall to do some shopping, but then it dawned on me that I really don't have money. I do notice that when I shop, I am always looking for gifts for others. I never think about what I might want for myself. When I observed that about myself, I kept being drawn to the artists section of drawing pens and pencils and some parchment. I think I will etch out something while I am here.

I had a nice dinner with the Archbishop and a North Carolinian who is here to help parishes with stewardship. The Archbishop and I began talking about the KAIROS retreats for secondary school students so he set up some appointments with me for the next day to make a pitch. The meetings went very well.

I toured the Botanical Gardens, which were very hill. They were quite nice, but it is midwinter so I wasn't expecting many flowerings shrubs or trees, but some were still blossoming.

Afterwards I took another lengthy walk around the city. Since it has Massey and Victoria Universities, it is a youthful city. I like the way that the hills are used and buildings are connected. It fits together very well. The space has a translucent quality that it invigorating. I also like how the houses emerge from hills and arise from the land. They make bold statements to say, "I am here." I did not find any run down section of town or dilapidated housing. It all seems fresh and well-maintained.

Think about New Zealand as a possible vacation. It is worth the trip.