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.