Friday, April 29, 2011

Photo: Manhattan in early spring

To see photos of springtime in Manhattan, please click on the link below:

 Pics of Manhattan in Spring

Photo: Wild Turkeys

To see photos of wild turkeys that showed up on my lawn the other day, please click on the link below:

 Pics of wild turkeys

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Egyptian Dubber

On the bus the other day, Hibba, a beautiful young woman with long dark hair sat next to me. She told me she was on her way home to Egypt. She is a technician who dubs films for the Egyptian motion picture academy. She was in the Boston area to do some free-lance work and to visit some friends. She endured our cold spring. I told her that we in the U.S. are impressed with the peaceful revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and the events in Libya and Syria.

Hibba gave me her perspective on the peaceful uprising. She is delighted. She said, "I finally feel like an Egyptian. It is our country now. Up until now it was someone else's country." She spoke of the ways in which there was no life or pride for the common citizen. Most times when someone ate something that came in a wrapper, the person would throw the trash on the ground because someone else would pick it up. It was someone else's country, not their own. Egyptians are respectful and clean people. Nowadays, no one will leave any trash around because they take care of their environment and have a sense of belonging to one another.

Hibba said 40 percent of the country (of 84 million) is uneducated and illiterate. When she returns, she will begin one-on-one tutorials with some friends to help them learn to read and write. Many of these types of individual care and concern for one another are happening now.

"We have hope once again," she says. "For many years I have wanted to leave Egypt," she continues, "but now, I want to stay and work in my country. Many people are like me. We want to make a difference. We want our people's voices to matter."

Hibba also spoke of the conflict in Libya, "Qaddafi is crazy," she said. "Everyone knows that. Qaddafi hires mercenaries to fight for him. It is a small country - only 6 million people, but they share our border." She joked about Bahrain, "There are calls for millions of people to come out and protest, but the country only has 500,000 people. Egyptians want to go there to help them get to a million people."

Hibba believes Cairo and Alexandria and other cities can be among the most beautiful in the world. Her favorite city in Europe is Geneva. She thinks Egyptian cities can be as beautiful. Their weather is much better than Europe's.

"Cairo never sleeps. In the U.S., all stores close early. I like waking up at 3 a.m. and going out to eat. You can always get food. The city is silent at this time, and it is so beautiful."

I earnestly hope that Egypt can start anew and find a way to liberate themselves from their oppressive past. Hibba says, "some of the older people are doubtful, but I know it will take time, maybe twenty years or so, but this change is good for us. We are excited about our future."

Our prayers are with you Hibba. We want you to prosper.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wild Dingoes on Fraser Island

Here is some sad news from a part of Australia where I stayed. Fraser Island is a 75 mile sand beach island off the coast of Hervey Bay, Queensland.

BRISBANE, Australia—Officials say they will destroy two dingoes that mauled a 3-year-old girl on an Australian beach.

Environment Department general manager Terry Harper said Tuesday that one of the dogs blamed for the attack had been captured and that officials were looking for the second one. He said the animals would be humanely destroyed.

More than 200 dingoes live on Fraser Island, which is a popular tourist spot. Attacks on humans are relatively rare, though visitors to the island are warned not to feed them and to leave the animals alone.

Easter Surprises

On this Easter Monday, I awoke to find not a Phoenix or a Peacock (symbols of the resurrection), but two wild turkeys at my doorstep. The young female was smaller, but rather plump. The male was bold and much larger with a developing goblet. They walked along the yard as if they were in a victory lap. Occasionally, they would swoop down and pluck a nutritious earthworm from the ground, but they would stand erect immediately and continue their dance.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday morning reflection

Stillness hovers over Eastern Point Retreat House this Holy Saturday morning. The light drizzle keeps the retreatants indoors. The atmosphere is subdued but not somber. The water-saturated land can drink no more. The ocean rests. The waves cease. This is a liminal time - for waiting and for waiting for nothing. Lent is over and the Holy Week Services have begun. Upon waking this morning, I felt no reason to arise and no reason to stay in bed. I have lost my good friend and while life does not seem bleak, I feel a gaping hole in my day. I feel no compunction to do anything meaningful because many events seem devoid of meaning. I know it will change and yet I won't deny what is happening in the present.

I've worked hard in the lawn clearing out the tangled vines this Lent. I made great progress and the land is looking more beautiful. It is ripe with possibilities for enhanced beauty. I'm covered with scrapes and bruises and sore muscles but it is the activity I chose for one of my Lenten observances. I rushed to complete my work and as I moved closer to Easter I realized my work, like all work, remains unfinished. I am not the architect or the master gardener. Much of life remains unresolved, incomplete, and un-reconciled. It is a good way for me to spend this Holy Saturday.

I think of what we did together over the past year. We spent a time of great fun in Australia as we heard stories from other tertians across the world. Many beautiful people were brought into my life from Sydney, Melbourne, Clare, and Hervey Bay. We went to New Zealand (Aotearoa) together and had a sacred time just getting immersed into the lives of the people of Taranaki and Wellington. Upon my return Stateside, we settled into Eastern Point Retreat House to begin a privileged time of listening to stories of many good people who want to be closer to him. I marveled at all the people he entrusted to me. Through them, he made me a nicer and kinder man. He continually brought me out of myself so I could more faithfully do what he asked of me.

We spent a picturesque autumn season in New England and we endured a hard winter. Now, we await spring that doesn't quite seem to have arrived yet. Even though Easter is later in the calendar this year, it seems cooler than prior years. I've prayed the holy liturgy each day in his honor. I've buried loved ones and I've prayed with those who were or still are sick. We've held the sacred stories of many people who hold the weight of the world on their shoulders and we've encouraged them to give that heaviness over to him so that he can take it to the cross and bury it with him. I'm told him of my own heaviness that I somehow cannot quite give over to him.

I have tried to love my Jesuit brothers more fully. I can see many beautiful aspects of their lives. I can see that they are truly disciples of Jesus Christ. He radiates through them and gives them some amazing graces. He has been generous to them and they are generous to the church and their ministries. I am grateful to be their brother and I hope I do some of the good that they do. I realize that much of our work will remain unfinished because it is really his work to do and he is happy to have us as a part of it. I think of Ecclesiastes 3 when the preacher writes that we are to find happiness in the toils of our labors. Seek happiness. If we seek, we will find it. I'm sure of that which is why I try to choose to be happy each day. We are given by God as gifts to ourselves and we are to freely give ourselves to others.

I sense he is inviting me to spend the day thinking about what we did together throughout the last year. We are to recall together those times in which he was present to me regardless of whether they were filled with pain or happiness. I'd like him to re-member the events of my life and re-order them into a way that is life-giving and healing. I want to recall those times when he merely beheld me and told me that I am beautiful to him and I'd like to tell him again that I find him beautiful and that I'm grateful that he would choose to bother with me. Our best times together are when we reverentially behold each other and find wonder in one another. These times are sustaining. I'll try not to rush through the day.

Intellectually, I know that our steadfast, saving God will raise him from his death tomorrow. I know that. I believe it. I never will understand the Resurrection, but I know it happens. I feel something changed within me and as I mature I begin to look forward to the events of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection out of necessity. I know I will feel the consoling presence of Jesus Christ who will want to share with me the joy he feels in his great victory over sin and death. He will want me to join him in his joyful song and dance. I know my heart will be lighter, my heaviness gone, and that I will have a greater appreciation for all that is beautiful and meaningful. I will feel great assurance that he lives.

He will take care of his church and the people of God. It means I can be free from the anxieties that beset the church. If I trust in him and believe in him then I realize the limitations of my power and the power of others. I know he will take care of those many people who carry angst, anger, deep grief, or confusion  in their hearts. I know that he can provide meaning for them. Our task is both radically simple and extraordinarily difficult - we have to be open. We may have to let go of our strong will and our firmly held opinions in order to let another's perspective be heard. We are to be open to the growth that he desires for us. Know when it is time to embrace rather than cling tightly. Mary Magdalene had to learn that lesson right away when the Risen Lord tells her, "Do not cling to me." The time is right to give him a little bit of room to enter more fully into our lives.

Yesterday during the Good Friday Scriptures, we heard Christ say, "It is finished." Yes, his life had ended. However, it is not finished....

He is Risen! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tis the Season

I found myself alone at the retreat house tonight. I thought about staying in and cooking up some pasta, but since it was Holy Week and I worked hard today I decided to go to a local tavern to watch the Boston Celtics game. I planned on having a simple but filling cheeseburger, but I could not pass up the terrifically prized Lobster Roll. It was my first lobster of the spring season. It was so tasty and sparsely mixed with mayonnaise. Mmmm.

I worked in the yard today to continue to clear the overgrown bush. It was raining and drizzling but the thick layers of trees provided great shelter. As soon as the piles of wood trash is cleared the lawn will look beautifully manicured. The wood chipper will arrive this week. I hope to line some of wet paths with the crushed wood chips. My Lenten devotion has gone deeper and with more twists than I could have imagined.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Liminal Time

April is a deceptive month. We think that because March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb that April will be lamb-like as well. Well, it if often cold, rainy, and raw. We are waiting for warm springlike weather to come and stay. April this year seems like a month of waiting because the crocuses have come and gone and the daffodils and jonquils are in bloom, but we want more quicker. Normally, people are happy to get outside during the time of year because Easter has already come, but we remain waiting for another week.

Signs of the fullness of spring are around. I was greeted by a paralyzing deer tick the other day. I have to be careful as I continue my forest-clearing project. I am deep into bushes these days as I'm now clearing a path near the labyrinth and shed. I have to say that it looks inviting. I'm pleased with the transformation of the lawn.

While we have had retreats in April, I have not been assigned to them. I have plenty of work to do and yet it is awkward to live in a house silently when I am not directing. We have a Palm Sunday weekend retreat before we take a break before the Holy Week retreat.

Holy Week always takes on an active dimension for me. In some ways I fear it even though I know the outcome. I don't like seeing Jesus go through his pain and I realize there's much disorder in my life. And so, I just wait for the week's events to unfold anew.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rain

We had lots of needed rain today. I actually enjoyed staying in and listening to the torrential rain fall on our flat rooftops. I took an umbrella and went down to the stations of the cross area that I cleared in the bush. Yesterday I dug some irrigation ditches so the water has a place to run-off. It drained quite well, except for the main conduit. Once there was drain-pipe between the two main trenches, but it has long sealed over. Seepage is impossible. We received over two inches of rain and the bush floor is highly flooded. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are borne out of stagnant water so I have to work quickly to fix the drainage problem.

Last night I attended the Jesuit Gala in Boston. It was an event to raise money for the elder and infirm Jesuits at Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts. The night's honorees were John Brooks from Holy Cross, Al Kelly from Fairfield, and Don Monan from BC. The three of them were long-serving presidents who transformed the schools in the 1970's and 80's. They brought the schools into contemporary institutions of advanced learning and service. Over 1400 people attended the event that was hosted by Mary Richardson, formerly of WCVB's Chronicle.

Tonight I attended a lecture from Sr. Meg Guider of Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry on the present and future of women relligious. Meg compared the present realities of diminishment with the new lay movements of service. In the long run, Meg inspired religious sisters to be present at significant moments in church life like the World Youth Day so young people can behold their witness value. She is optimistic of the future of religious life as institutes continue their return to their founding charisms and engage in the critical moments of the day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Critters

The past few days we have had cloudless skies and bright sunny weather with temperatures in the 50's (Fahrenheit) and it is helping new life come out. Small insects are visibly crawling around; spiders seem to be abundant already; crickets are chirping loudly each night and early dawn. All sorts of birds are returning. Robin redbreasts are chirping up a storm. Our two Canadian geese are back and the seagulls are obiquitious. The swans are only seen one at a time, which means that the other is taking care of the eggs that will soon hatch the signets. Frogs and turtles are around. I don't like it when the turtles eat the young signets. It is sad.

As I was getting into my car to take a short drive to the market this evening, I could hear yelping and howling in the nearby forests. The small critters are hungry. Young rabbits are chasing one another and the squirrels and chipmunks are frolicking once again. Even domestic cats are sensing the burgeoning life in the wild. During my short drive, I could see the eyes of cats before I could see the cats' bodies. Mostly they look as if they are on the prowl.

I'm rushing to get some work done at the Stations of the Cross. The clearing is now quite wide and I'm hoping that the strong sun will dry out the marshy forest floor. The sun can now reach areas that has not seen direct sunlight in years. Fortunately, ticks are not out yet, but I expect them anyday. I'm doing some fine detailing on the path's edges. It is coming along nicely.

The fragrances of this time of year tell me that we ought to be celebrating Easter, but when it comes, it will come if fragrant glory with bright colors and sprigs of green everywhere. With temperatures expected in the 60's all week, we are on our way to having plants and flowers burst forth.

I wish Lent was over.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Odors

Yesterday, I took a long walk along Gloucester Harbor. The fragrance of earthiness is breaking into the atmosphere. Daffodils and tulips are plunging their way out of their winter tombs and not even a mighty snow will dissuade them from their ascent to glory. Reds are visible in the spiny vines that line the roadways. Glowing greens tells us that picker bushes are beginning to make their move. The warming sun is making the tree buds potent. While all seems still, life will burst forth in three weeks. Even this morning, I came across another sign of spring as I wiped a spider's web off my forehead as I checked out the path to the Stations of the Cross.

Traffic in increasing. A greater number of cars swing suddenly into the parking lot of Niles Beach without the courtesy of any intentions of doing so. Walkers are returning and they have picked up their pace. Ocean lovers trespass our property with their parked cars so they can get get a nostril-full of ocean air. Dog walkers generously leave their unwrapped offerings behind because nature is so vast on the Point.

I had a break-through yesterday with the Stations of the Cross. An area that was extremely choked with vines made a few stations impassable. For days, I have been chipping away at this entanglement making it look a little less daunting each time. Yesterday, I removed the remaining large trunks so I can remove the broken trees. A pathway will be restored. More clearning is needed, but I have reached the tipping point. As soon as the rains stop, I'll clear the rest and the land will be passable again. I am not foolish in thinking the vines will not grow back; I know I will be diligent in pruning.

On Friday night, I watched a French film called, "Les Choristes (The Chorus)." My fellow tertians watched it during our time in Australia, but I was never able to get around to watching it. I wished I watched it with them because I wanted to talk with someone about it afterwards. It is powerful. It is much like "Mr. Holland's Opus" in that it shows the transformative power of music to bring joy to a broken person and dreams to fulfillment. It is a theme that shows up again and again, but the story is a wrenching one. I recommend it. It was released in 2004.

On Saturday, I attended a healing workshop at Boston College. I was struck by the generosity of BC to host this at no cost to the participants. Three hundred people attended. Each workshop had quality presenters. It seems Boston College is moving towards its goal of becoming the national center for theological and pastoral studies. I am proud of their work to be involved in the lives of dedicated ministers.

Yesterday, Eastern Point Retreat House held a day of recollection for married couples. Diana Villegas was the presenter. It gave the spouses a chance to reflect upon their spiritual lives together and the role prayer plays in keeping them "beholding" God and one another.

I attended a concert at St. Paul Church in Harvard Square that featured three choruses and an ensemble. Since it is late-Lent, they performed J.S. Bach's St. John's Passion.  I was so happy for the director because over 500 people attended the concert. Support came from all over.  The soloists were phenomenal, especially the Evangelist who narrated the story. The power of music and poetry has enormous power for the spiritual life.

I topped the day off with dinner and dessert with two Jesuits friends who are tertians in the New England program. I had quite a restorative weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Slogging Throught It

I have good memories from last night's storm as I arise this morning. I sat in the fireplace room of the retreat house and lit a gentle fire. I only placed two logs in the fireplace so the fire could set a nice mood. Too often, retreatants will set a large, fast, furious fire, but those to me are not as interesting as the gentler ones.

The house was empty and quiet. It was the first time as fire was lit in the house when retreatants were not around. After this week of directing, I looked forward to that space alone. I live in silence all the time, and you learn the different qualities of silence only by being in the silence. In this one, I could just relax and let go.

I read a book that I have been slogging through since September. It is an engaging book but sometimes you are meant to read a particular book at a particular time. It gave me great enjoyment just to let myself be pulled along into the story. Now I have excitement to finish it soon. I enjoyed my recreation.

The rain came down in big droplets and they clanged on the roof and the patio stones. Soon, the drops became smaller and their sound was less noticeable. It hadn't begun to snow until after I went to bed and fell asleep, but the anticipation of it was soothing. It felt like I had permission to sleep in. I was carefree with no place to go. It was like having a snowday.

To no surprise, I awoke to a front lawn that was covered with heavy, wet snow. It was only about 1/4 of an inch thick. This type of snow won't rattle the crocuses, daffodils, or tulips. It is an easy snow to take. I remember the April 1st blizzard of 1997. I thoroughly enjoyed the extra time that day gave me. This snow will be gone tomorrow when the temperatures reach 50 Fahrenheit. I already put away my gloves, scarves, and hats in defiance of winter.

Spring is comnig. Easter is just three weeks away. All is O.K.