Thursday, November 29, 2012

A visit to a Neighbor

I went to dinner tonight at the house of two religious sisters who live nearby. I received directions from one of the priests in the house. He told me to cross the road as if I were going to the apartment, take the first left and 3/4 of the way up the road I would come to a house that has a large awning. The house number was 22. There would be little space for a garden, but there would be a grape trellis with no real yard or grass. Everything was exactly as the priest said it would be.

I knocked on the door and it popped open. I saw the lighted Christmas tree and realized I had indeed found the place. It was so easy. I said hello, stepped inside, and a man came out to greet me. We said hello and he invited me in for coffee. He was a Christian. He said it was almost time for wine. He showed me the Christmas tree up close and talked about his family. When I started to ask if he was there for the dinner with the two sisters, he had a blank look on his face. I told him who I was and he was so pleased to meet me. It was obvious to me that I was in the wrong house, but he wanted me to have another cup of coffee.

It turns out that his uncle sold his house to the Jesuits to become the Jesuit Center. He was pleased with how we have developed the property and expanded it. He asked me to come back some time for a glass of wine. I will. He is such a very pleasant and welcoming man, but I told him I had to go because I had no idea how to get to the house where I was expected for dinner fifteen minutes ago. We laughed and I went on my way. What a nice guy!

Guest Submission: Article by Phil Tanny


Mr. Tanner asked to submit this article as a guest. He is working on ways of bringing Catholics together in Maine. His contact information is below:

A Simple Plan To Heal The Catholic Community

As you know, the Catholic community has been shaken in recent years by a regrettable wave of debate, discord and division.

This article suggests a way to bring the Catholic community together, a plan which any Catholic interested in unity can begin to implement immediately.

The solution is simple, if not always easy.

When we're ready to heal and unite our Catholic community we have the choice to...

Shift the focus of Catholic discussions to topics that most Catholics can agree with, and act on, together.

Here are two examples of where we might begin.

Unity Topic #1: Catholic Charities

All Catholics, and non-Catholics too, respect Catholic Charities, the Church's impressive public service wing.

This wide agreement is ripe ground for a healing, and those serious about unity will grab the opportunity to make Catholic Charities a more central part of our conversations.

The army of Catholic bloggers leading discussions across the Web can help by refocusing much of their writing away from unresolvable divisive topics, and towards celebrating and raising money for Catholic Charities, a very Catholic project that all Catholics agree on.

After all, it's hard to make a case that arguing with our fellow Catholics is more important than feeding hungry kids, right?

Unity Topic #2: The Tobacco Companies

As Catholics we are drawn to moral crusades, it's in our DNA.

But too often we have chosen to target each other for judgement, instead of uniting and aiming our considerable moral warfare skills at very real enemies who are far more deserving of our attention.

The tobacco companies kill approximately 100,000 of our fellow Catholics here in the United States each and every year, plus millions more around the globe.

100,000 of our fellow U.S. Catholics killed for profit. Each and every year.  By people who are already very rich.  And who plan to get even richer by selling us more deadly products deliberately designed to be highly addictive, and...

We ever crusading Catholics seem to have little to say about it.

We should fix that.

Instead of going to rhetorical war with each other, we have the choice to invest that same time, energy, passion and talent in to fighting those who are killing hundreds of our fellow Catholics every day.

Every time we rise to speak, put pen to paper, or type our next blog post, we have a choice.

Fight each other, or fight the devil.

A great many lives could be saved if 77 million American Catholics came together as one to confront the tobacco companies.  It could be Catholics that lead the charge, set the example, and celebrate the victory.

None Of Us Need To Surrender

Changing the focus of Catholic discussion to these kind of uniting topics would not require any of us to change our beliefs on controversial issues.

Each of us can still follow our conscience in our personal lives on topics like abortion, contraception, gay marriage, Church leadership issues, and so on. Nothing changes here.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, none of us have to admit ideological defeat.

We just have to admit that repetitive emotional squabbling with our fellow Catholics on unresolvable hot button topics is not really persuading anybody of anything. Nothing is being accomplished by all the adamant speeches.  Nobody is winning.

We just have to admit that endlessly arguing with our fellow Catholics is weakening our ability to address pressing here and now real world problems, where we could achieve impressive victories, by working together as one.

A Healing Solution

If we really want unity and a healing in our Catholic community, we just need to talk about topics that divide us much less, and talk about topics that unite us much more.

It's the very same common sense plan any of us would use when our relatives arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. On such occasions sensible families try to skip the topics they'll never agree on, because debating those controversial subjects, yet again, accomplishes little but ruining the dinner.

If it's Catholic unity and a healing that we really want, it seems we can really have it, any time we're really ready.  Nobody is stopping us but us.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, we can rebuild our unity by working together to expand our support for Catholic Charities, and by joining forces in a historic moral crusade against the death for profit tobacco companies.

There's plenty for us to agree on, plenty for us to work on, plenty of dragons for us to slay together.  We could soon be so busy serving others that we'll find we just no longer have time for arguing with our fellow Catholics.

Let's redirect our considerable moral energy towards fighting those world changing battles that we can only win....

If we fight hand in hand together.

-------------

Article by Phil Tanny of http://Catholic-Unity.org

PS: Please feel free to republish this article.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Satisfaction

I have been waiting for a whole week to get a return call from my dentist to replace the temporary cap with a permanent crown. He mentioned that it would only be a few days before he called me in again. I received a call this morning from his secretary to say that it would be another week before he could see me. I didn't trust the message and decided to wait around for another call. It happened. She asked if I could come in at 6:45 p.m., which I thought was late, but I gave my day over to it.

My dentist trained in Greece and he has been practicing for 33 years. He is a nice guy, speaks English well, and is competent. The temporary fillings made me a little suspect about the quality of his work, but my gut said to trust him. As of 6:48 p.m., I have a crown that fits wonderfully and feels so good. I am very pleased with the quality of his work. Besides, he is a likable guy. I would certainly recommend him to a good friend.

It sure is an exercise in patience to try to communicate in English. The people do as well as they can, but I realize I have to increase my proficiency in Arabic. English speakers who learn Arabic say that it takes at least three years to grasp the language and proficiency is a ways off. Still, I am learning to trust the insufficiency of language and be patient with the goodwill that surrounds me.

Since it was my day off, I was planning to go to Umm Qais. With the call from the dentist, I decided to hold back. It was a good thing I did. After an 7.5 hour sleep last night, I slept for 2 hours today and now that it is nearly 10:00 p.m., I am ready to go to bed.

It was a lovely day with temps in the high 60's and bright sunshine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ramblings

When I awoke a few days ago, I experienced pleasant dissonance. The morning after a rainy day made it feel like it was a late April spring day. The weather was very warm and there was promise of new growth since the water replenishes life. I sat under the trellis and did my morning prayers as the sun warmed the day. It felt like a long cold New England winter was finally over, but fall is just beginning in Amman. I'll take it.

I do like the rain. I get very excited and no one can understand why. I enjoy having lots of green leafy things around me. I have to get a plant for my room so it feels alive. I'm still looking out for something distinctive that will perk up my room.

I like the cold as well. No one can understand this. I feel like I breathe well and deeply. I am warned by everyone to wear more clothing so I don't get the night sickness again. I have to listen to them since I've been sick three times already. Now, I'm hot because I feel like I am wearing too many layers. I laid down rugs in my office and bedroom so the floors would not be too cold in the morning when I rise. It makes a nice difference because I love to kick off my shoes and be free.

Sometimes I get the sensation that eyes are upon me. I discovered why today. This is not paranoia. We turned the heat of this weekend, maybe prematurely, but the feral cats from the neighborhood find my bedroom window an inviting place to be. They feel the heat from the indoors and from the steady sun that beats down upon the place and they just bask in it. Since they are anxious, whenever I move, they jump down from their perch.

Last week I attended a Thanksgiving Dinner on Friday. Thanksgiving Day was pleasantly quiet and I slowly worked on a few projects. I was glad for the effort and result. I completed the tricky Advent/Christmas schedule of masses.

The meal was terrific: turkey, ham, a light carrot casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, lumpy mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, green bean casserole, and a few tasty tidbits. Desserts were a dish deep apple pie, lots of chocolates, a strawberry cream cake, and dates and cookies with ice cream.

It was the first time I was able to wear my silk jacket. It is a great color. I received complimentary  comments on the fashion.

When I was at dinner, several teachers were there. It dawned upon me that I feel like a first year teacher without a classroom. As a parish priest, I have to run to five different worship sites for Mass and I have to take everything with me. It keeps one feeling unsettled, but everything gets done. It is an image for me to hold in my mind so I always remind myself to be gentle to myself.

On Sunday, since it was very warm outside, I treated myself to a gourmet pizza at lunchtime. It was a three-meat pizza, but it was far from overloaded. Thank God. Toppings are sparse on the pizza, which I enjoy. I sat in my favorite restaurant and had a pie while watching the neighbors pass by. Since it felt like April, my spirits were buoyed.

I upgraded the music player that was in my room. I went to Radio Shack to purchase an atomic clock. Since they didn't have one in stock and ordered one for me, they felt bad they had to call me back to the store. Therefore, they discounted any item for me in the store. I got a good deal and did not pay much for the speaker system. I have been enjoying much better quality music.

I'm delighted to not have to be caught up with Black Friday or Cyber Monday advertisements. I never really bought into it, but the U.S. media does influence consumer patterns a great deal.

I conducted a choir rehearsal Sunday night. It went so well. Choir members who were afraid to sing learned to open up their mouths. We did some stretching and voice techniques and then learned some new songs. They were delighted with what they were learning. They really took to Dona Nobis Pacem because it is a song sung in rounds. I couldn't stop them. They walked out the door singing the song. They were skipping as they walked out the door.

My sock woes continue. I noticed two pairs of socks had holes in them. I did a load of laundry on Sunday and one of the socks that did not have a hole in it disappeared into the machine. I placed aside the ones I would darn. They are good socks. I've had them for at least 8 years.

I had a week of feeling well. I'm thankful for that. Speaking of feeling well, a friend said he wanted to walk daily and asked if I would be his partner. I agreed. The first day he overslept. We decided to go later in the day at 2:30. He never came. Life in Jordan.

Last night, I went to a hotel to meet a man who is the father of three Cheverus students I know. We went to the lounge on the top floor of the Grand Hyatt Amman and had a perrier. Later on his work colleagues stopped by and also had a perrier. We then went out to dinner at a posh restaurant (Fahkr al Dinh) off the Second Circle. It was lovely. Almost twenty-four hours has passed and I still feel stuffed.

At the restaurant, I felt as if I was at a swank Boston or New York hotel. Most of the patrons were very well dressed with very expensive suits. It was quite an evening. One of the nicest appetizers was a steak tartar, but it was made with lamb. Very smooth tasting. I can tell this is the place to see and be seen in Amman. It is where many deals are brokered. It is quite a different environment from the one in which me and my parishioners live. It is good to experience both worlds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vigil of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.


It is the vigil of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and I find the atmosphere at the Jesuit Center on Jebel Hussein to be serene. I’m the only person in the building and not much activity is happening out on the streets. Some workers are setting up for the Abdali market below the Center, but the street noise on Al-Razi is quiet. I know I am projecting, but if feels like everyone is settling in for a quiet evening. The cold air (70 degrees) has hampered outdoor activities so the streets roll up earlier when darkness descends.

The Arab culture is aware of, but isn’t quite sure how to celebrate Thanksgiving. The markets sell frozen turkeys and all the ingredients that are used to make a traditional dinner. Fall decorations meagerly dot the mall-scapes, but there aren’t many maple or oak trees here so colored leaves are a foreign decoration for many families. I’m trying to make a few by doing some watercolors, but I am a novice at this craft.

Exteriorly, it will not feel like a holiday in Amman. We’ve been invited to dinner on Friday by a very kind parishioner, but the day itself will be devoid of football games, hearing about traffic jams, turkey drives, meals at shelters, and time with family and friends. We won’t have the two and a half days off that mark the fourth week of November, but we’ll make sure to slow down tomorrow. It is my favorite holiday of all.

I am not fretting what I don’t have because I feel very full from what I do have. I have your friendship and care to support me. I am grateful for the many emails, cards, and Skype sessions that have helped me in my transition during these two plus months. I am touched by your concern for my well-being and your interest in knowing what my life and ministry are like. I’m grateful for your prayers, especially in my three bouts of illness and during a confronting culture shock. You give me reason to thank God for each of you.

I feel like St. Paul in many of his salutations in his letters. This one is from Philippians.  “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ… And this is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more…” I feel like a missionary in the line of St. Paul.

I’ll tell you what I do miss. I miss being with you when you or a loved one is in the hospital or facing an uncertain medical test. I wish I could be there when a loved one has died or even when a pet had died. I miss sharing your sorrows and fears and your dreams, hopes, and achievements. I miss being there for your birthdays or significant celebrations. I miss singing in the chorus, landscaping, going to coffee houses or museums, and I miss retreat direction. I miss being there as each day passes and we grow a little older. I miss the ordinary things of being with you, having a phone conversation, or going out for a meal. I miss being with you in the ordinariness of your lives.

In our Constitutions, Ignatius and the first founders stress the importance of the “union of hearts and minds” of its members, and you are part of that extended family. I feel secure of that in my work. I’m proud of the many of you who support me and the Jesuit mission in prayer. This is not easy work. It is not an easy place to be. What is easy is that I know Jesus Christ is present to me and to the many people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, or otherwise, who are bearing with suffering or are caring for neighbor in a loving way. It is easy not to think of oneself when others are in such demand.

I am navigating my way. I have the solid support of the Jesuit community in Amman and in New England. I have four co-pastor friends who are my brothers in mission and I’m grateful for their hospitality and good counsel. I have dedicated parish leaders who want a vibrant, meaningful prayer and worship life. I see generous Christians who genuinely want to care for one another. I’m humbled by the goodness I see.

The Middle East is complex beyond belief. Sometimes portrayal of life here is too simplistic because many forces operate below the surface. Tension here is real. We are safe and we know there are undercurrents among the people that can go in any direction. We have solid planning in case anything harmful develops. We are prudent and we are not presumptuous. We know danger can surface in unexpected places, but we know that we, as American Catholics, are not targets of anger. The people are grateful for the work we do for its citizens. Much of the tension is between classes. In fact, many of the situations that are present in U.S. politics are present in this society.

The Amman mission is a “school of the heart.” It teaches one how to survive with limited resources. It causes us to dig deeper into ourselves and into the heart of Christ. We are a small group and we are dependent upon one another. Daily Mass and our one mission keep us united in fraternity. We want to preach the good news of the Risen Christ in a kingdom and region that accepts and tolerates Christians, but has governmental preferences and services for their Islamic citizens. It creates a way of life that I cannot yet describe.

The poor are all around. Refugees from Syria and Iraq and poor workers from Egypt come looking for subsistence work and safety. The tragedy with the poor is that they often do not know what resources are available to them to pull them up from their station in life. Too many make decisions that keep them in their current state or in a downward spiral. Regardless of who they are, I want them to know of the freedom and dignity that are available to them through God. I have no idea if I am making the right choices or making a difference. This is a place where effectiveness cannot be measured and I have to suspend many of my expectations and assumptions. I have no idea what my preaching does for people. The language barrier is immense, but I hope they can see the goodwill and the prayers I have for their happiness. Love and suffering. This is what we all have in common. Love and suffering.

I’ll end now. I just meant to give you a brief update and to say many, many thanks for your care and support. As I say Mass in the morning, I will lift all of you up in prayer. That should set your day right because I am eight hours ahead of you. Know that I will pray for the happiness and warmth of your gatherings tomorrow. I wish you and your loved ones many good moments throughout your day so that you can savor the great love that you have for one another – even in the midst of family arguments, estrangement, and heartbreak. It hurts a great deal because you care a great deal. Enjoy the small details of your day. Linger on the good that is there. I’ve witnessed a great deal of your goodness and I will tell Christ how happy I am to know you.

Thanksgiving blessings.

John

No holiday for us

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and while it is in the consciousness of many people in Amman, it is not a holiday that is celebrated widely. It will be a work-day for us, but I'm sure we give it its own flare.

After going to the dentist today, I visited one of the local Latin-rite pastors. He is a hoot. His last name is Hizajin, which means he is from a sheikh class in Saudi Arabia. He is from a powerful family. He has the gift of conversation. I learned much about the history of the area and of local tribes. He is a man of passion too. He has a very caring heart and he is always looking out for the Christians on the East Bank. I had a delightful time talking with him.

After a delicious lunch (grilled lamp chops), I took a ride to the Taj Mall. The others in the house did not want to go because it is a wealthy shopping area. I wanted to go merely because they talk about it a lot and I want to experience what it is like. I realize if I ever wanted to feel like I am at home, I'll just go to this place. Most of the stores are American and many are high-end. I like it because it has advanced standards. Smoking is not allowed indoors and the construction of the building is very solid.

On my way to the mall I passed through a tunnel. It is hilarious because whenever a native driver goes through the tunnel, they blow their horn the entire way. It seems like something a child would do. I wonder if the driver is happy he is doing it. If so, good for him or her.

The first store I entered was Pieces of Africa. It had elegant, exotic carvings and ornaments. I spotted a chess set with intricately carved pieces. I would feel like a tribal king playing chess on the soft stone base. Quite nice.

The next store was similar to a hallmark store. All the stuffed animals were of goats, sheep, and vultures. I thought it was an odd combination, but the themes worked. One that that i noticed is that the store clerks always stand very close to you as you look at an item. Because of space boundaries it feels intrusive, but they don't mean it that way. They just want to describe the item to a customer so they can make a sale. I'm a terrible shopper and a good browser.

What's with all the smurfs in Jordan. They are in every mall and in many stores. Their distinctive blue is seen everywhere.

It is still an odd sight to me when I see two men holding hands in public. One security guard was holding the hand of another when he was gladly giving instructions. It is quite innocent and friendly.

I passed by a Nestles' tollhouse store and I thought I might come back and buy three small cookies. It is the first cookie store that I've seen. Most bakeries have cakes and pastries, but no chocolate chip cookies. Then I walked to the food court and I saw all those fast food restaurants. I was sorely tempted to buy chicken tenders at Popeyes or Kentucky Fried Chicken or one of the three other chicken restaurants, but then I realized that I just came from lunch, I really wasn't hungry, and that my real objective was to visit the Starbucks across the street. Once I convinced myself of that, I realized that I still had a full belly. It is amazing what marketing can do to make us feel hungry. At the mall, they are building a P.F. Chang's, which will be open this winter. The supermarket also has many products you can't find elsewhere, like Coke Light and Ginger Ale. I keep wondering if I really want to make Amman conform to my American standards. I also want to be mindful of those who really cannot afford many of the items that we prefer to have.

Starbucks. It was a three-level building and it was just like visiting a Starbucks in the States, except they don't yet believe in decaffeinated coffee or Skinny Vanilla Lattes. Nothing is diet. Anyways, I ordered a Flat White, which I haven't ordered since Australia. It was very good. I had it served with an apple caramel tart since I won't have pie tomorrow. It was my Thanksgiving treat to myself. I felt so good sitting there. When I looked around I saw five other Anglos. I felt like I was back home. Even they were playing a Dean Martin Christmas song on the radio. (Earlier this week, I saw my first Polish  Christmas ad on TV.) I like that most of the sections at Starbucks on non-smoking. Two of the levels are completely smoke-free, while the third level has a third of the floor for smokers. I hesitated going there because I thought the second-hand smoke would be everywhere. It is nice to find this place.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stale Bread

Every day when our daily bread gets stale, we place it in a paper bag near the trash can in the kitchen. I have been diligent in doing so because I figured our chef collects them to feed the birds when he takes his family on a picnic on Fridays. With six children, I'm sure each one of them would have fun calling the birds nearer to themselves and daring to see who could get the closest. However, I was more than surprised to learn that he collects the bread to give it to the Egyptian trash collectors each week so they can have something to eat!

I visited one of the government hospitals to visit a parishioner's daughter. I am very thankful for the hospitals in the U.S., though I never stayed in one. These hospitals are certainly adequate, but the patients stay three in a room separated by a flimsy curtain. The beds do not have white linens or blankets. They have whatever blankets and sheets are available. The pillows are soft square foam blocks inserted into pillowcases. No phone, no TV, no amenities. I would be bored stiff if I couldn't get up and walk around. There is a doctor for the day. You just have to try your luck. I only was able to see one section of the hospital and the guard who brought me up to the patient heavily smoked a cigarette all the way to the her room.

On the way back to the Jesuit Center, I spotted an ambulance with its sirens going off. I tried to pull over, but no one would let me through. No one would budge for the ambulance. Drivers don't want to give up any space possible. The same happens for police cars. No one moves over because they will lose their coveted spaces. Unbelievable.

So, I came back to the Center and wrote three letters to put in the post. I asked our receptionist for the price of a stamp for these Amman-based letters. He looked at me quizzically and went to get the Center's director. He said, "No problem, Father." I figured I would pay him for stamps later. Instead, the receptionist was asked to drive to these three places to drop them off. Jordan does not have mail delivery and people don't send letters. Oh, I felt bad for making this guy drive to those three places. I would have done it according to a more lenient time schedule. I'm learning every day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A First

Well, it is now two months that I am in Amman and I had something happen to me today that I was not expecting. Two 40-ish Arabic speaking men driving along Al-Razi street pulled their car over, rolled down the windows and asked me for directions. I laughed, but I heard where they wanted to go and gave them directions anyways. In the few Arabic words I know, I did my best.

Also, I chuckled when I realized how much this culture is based on texting. I gave a parishioner a letter last night with my email address on it. I told this parishioner that we have to communicate on a few items on that letter. I asked if we could touch base by email. When I returned home, I had a text message providing me the email! Argh! I've lost.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Too soon

Yesterday was a very good day, but I wrote too soon. After having a great meal, my body rejected it in the middle of the night. Nothing of what I took in is life. I am weary today. Sipping on purified water is all I can do. I was looking forward to eating a pre-Thanksgiving dinner tonight. At least I won't be going outside. This is the third day of demonstrations.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy (Islamic) New Year

Today was very pleasant. I awoke to the sound of silence. Everything outdoors was eerily quiet and indoors no one was moving. I enjoyed the opportunity to work on needed paperwork to get organized. I now have a comprehensive list of parish contacts. I realized early in the morning that today was the Islamic New Year.

Major demonstrations were planned for today and tomorrow. It would be safe to get out of the house after 2 p.m. when the demonstrations are broken up. Protests are done in my region - Jebel Hussein while a make-shift marketplace is set up right below my residence.

In the afternoon, I trekked out with two others (because solitary travel is not advised) to the arts store that I could not find yesterday. I found it, but it was closed as I expected. We went shopping at a local grocery store and mall. I met a very nice elegant older couple who arrived two weeks ago. They have such charming faces and they are enthusiastic about being here for their two year mission service.

After shopping, we ate at La Mirabella, a French restaurant in a very comfortable, clean setting. They have the best sweets: French pastries and Zalatino nougats and nuts. Very yummy. Their display is very tasteful as well. It was a good day all around - in contrast to yesterday's mishaps.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My day off

I only worked until two p.m. on my day off. Somehow, the atmosphere felt very relaxed. In the afternoon, I wanted to check out the Radio Shack on Garden Street because I need a clock that tells accurate time. I saw one that I like - an atomic clock - but it was the floor model and was already broken. Most items that one buys in Amman are pre-broken for us. This clock was too far gone. The other models were nice and I may get one. I'm just hoping it is accurate. The store will call me tomorrow if they have one in stock at the other store.

From the outside, Radio Shack looks like a regular U.S. store. It has many brand-name products but everything was laid out on the floor. Some of these smaller stores do not realize that being tidy and organized helps with efficiency. I wish the same franchise standards could be used.

Many products, of any type, are inferior. Boxes are opened and the contents stuffed back in. I found the only one unopened box of Bounce laundry static-free sheets. The opened ones are fine, but I just want to buy something that feels right.

When I bought a Lemon clock from Ace Hardware, a U.S. company, I thought I did well. However, it is Chinese-made. Well the numbers are a great size, but the first clock was off by three minutes a day. The current clock is off by 1.5 minutes. You can't return them and get your money back. They will make sure you try every clock first before they give you a store credit. Well, I also discovered that if I wanted a clock that was in the 12-hour format, that would cost about 5 JD more. It is very difficult to buy exactly the item you want. Everything is close enough. It is just plain wasteful.

We are on a new search now. We are looking for electric blankets to warm us in the winter. We can't find any here and the nights get cold. Last night I had such a chill, but I think it was a low-level virus again. It is gone now, but I'll see if I'm better tonight because it will only be 10 Celsius.

No success of find gloves.

My drive to Radio Shack today was miserable. It is only about 7 kilometers away from where I live, but it took me 1.25 hours because of the protests. It was awfully miserable. I don't know why these drivers push on so forcefully. I saw many two-lane highways become three and then traffic doesn't move because everyone is jockeying to get ahead. No one does. Everything is slow down. And the people who are in the left land and make a right turn are incredibly abusive, but it is all too common an event. They see nothing wrong with it.

Two days ago, I drove to Abdoun-Sweifeih. I was very frustrated because I was extremely low on gas and I drove around for 45 minutes to locate a gas station. Against my will, I asked directions five times, and I was misled. Some areas of town have too many stations; this particular section of town does not want the stations to be in their neighborhood. How frustrating.

I drove on the scariest street to get to Radio Shack. My GPS gets me wherever I need, but I went down the steepest hill I've ever driven. It was very narrow and filled with holes. I thought I would tumble down and flip over.

Since my efforts to locate an artist warehouse on Mecca Street was fruitless, I went to City Mall. It is actually a decent mall in that many American stores are in it. I realize the American retailers make me feel at home even though I don't buy anything in them. I did find a decent bookstore, Virgin, and they also have some decent CDs and movies. I'll browse through them sometime, especially for Christmas music. I even entered a small hallmark. I was curious as to what I might find in their religious section, and it is mostly Christian.

I realize I still don't feel like I am home yet. My bedroom and office are sterile. I need a few living plants to give me the essence of life. I also need to attend to beauty. I can add decor that will make my places feel like I am adding my own style to them. I've identified a few things that will add a sparkle and personal touch to my place.

After leaving Radio Shack, I really had to use a toilet. I went into this one open office building and found a men's room. I'm glad number one was my only call, otherwise I would have had to squat without benefit of tissue. Then a few hours later when I was at City Mall, I was surprise not to find a water hose in the toilets. They were merely American style. I was very happy. O.K. T.M.I.

My office heating/air conditioner is now working. I'll survive the winter.

I'm going to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. That will be very nice. I think we are attending another dinner next week. Then on December 3rd, we are hosting a dinner in honor of Francis Xavier.   All in all everything's O.K. A few daily frustrations with a few daily graces.


Should President Obama reach out to the Catholic bishops? By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.


One group of Americans that took a beating in the recent election was the U.S. Catholic bishops. Many of them were not shy in expressing their opposition to the administration and their preference for a Romney presidency. They also fought and lost a series of state referendums on gay marriage.

Some in the Obama administration may feel that the election shows that the bishops can be ignored as leaders without followers. But it would be a mistake to count out an institution that has been around for 2,000 years. In fact, this is a situation where being a gracious victor is not only the right thing to do, it makes good political sense.

I disagree with those who believe that Obama is anti-Catholic or waging a war on religion. After all, his administration has given at least $2 billion to Catholic groups like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, a significant increase over the Bush administration. But clearly the bishops and even progressive Catholics are worried about the government putting new conditions on these monies. For example, Health and Human Services decided not to renew its contract with the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services because MRS would not refer trafficked people to contraceptive and abortion services. Some say this was decided by political appointees, even though HHS civil servants recommended renewing the contract.

Since MRS does such a good job with trafficked people, could not HHS find some other way to provide contraceptive and abortion referrals while allowing MRS to continue its work? A little creativity here would respect the bishops’ conscience problems while still achieving the administration’s goals. The administration needs to commit itself to such creativity because although many progressive Catholics are upset with the bishops, these same Catholics love Catholic organizations that serve the poor and marginalized. Any threat to these institutions will upset Catholics, including Hispanics, who supported President Obama’s reelection.

The bishops also objected to HHS mandate that requires employers to provide free contraceptives to their employees through their health insurance policies. The original proposal in January attempted to exempt churches while covering religious hospitals and universities. The February adaptation exempted religious hospitals and universities from paying for contraceptives in their insurance plans but required their insurance companies to provide contraceptives free anyway. The administration argued that the cost would not be passed on to the employer because covering contraceptives is cheaper than paying for births, especially problematic births.

Since the bishops object to the contraceptive mandate for any employer (including Taco Bell), there is nothing that the administration can do to satisfy the bishops completely. But it could adopt the solution proposed by the Catholic Health Association, which wants a complete exemption for religious institutions with the government providing free contraceptives to the institutions’ employees. This solves to conscience problem for Catholic employers while still getting free contraceptives to their employees. It is a win win.

If the administration could not implement such a solution without legislation, then there two minor changes that would deal with at least some of the issues raised by the bishops.

First, the four-part definition of “religious employer,” which was meant to exempt churches, is seriously flawed. It requires that the employer “(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets;” and 4) be a church as defined in the Internal Revenue Code.

The first three parts of the definition are unnecessary and could pressure Catholic parishes to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics. This presents the image of the pastor turning away non-Catholic homeless people from shelter in the church basement when it is freezing outside. It could also threaten inner-city Catholic parish schools that educate Black students. The IRS has lots of experience distinguishing churches, which are exempt from filing 990 information returns, from other organizations. HHS should not add to the IRS’s definition.

Second, the February adaptation, while exempting hospitals and universities from paying for contraceptive coverage in their insurance policies, requires their insurance provider to give free contraceptives anyway. This might work for normal insurance, but many of these institutions are self-insured. They are the insurance company, so they will still have to pay for contraceptives. HHS hopes to find a solution to this problem, but in the meantime, HHS should simply exempt religious hospitals and universities that are self-insured when the contraceptive mandate goes into effect in August 2013.

Will these changes get the bishops off the administration’s back? No. But they will show that the administration can be gracious in victory and takes seriously the problems faced by Catholic institutions.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He is the author of a trilogy examining church organization and politics: “Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church” (Harper & Row, 1989), “A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops” (Sheed & Ward , 1992), and “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church” (Harvard University Press, 1997).


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is there a plan B? by Thomas Reese, S.J.


Is there a political plan B for the bishops?
By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

National Catholic Reporter, November 11, 2012

As the bishops gather in Baltimore this week for their annual meeting, they like everyone else in the country will be talking about last week’s election. The U.S. Catholic bishops took a beating at the polls. Not only was President Obama reelected, despite their attacks on him, the bishops also lost on state referendums on same-sex marriage.

Like all Americans, the bishops have a constitutional right to participate in the political process. They can debate the issues, criticize candidates and publicly express their views. They can even endorse candidates as long as they don’t do it on church property and don’t use church funds in supporting a candidate or party. In fact, they can even run for president as did Rev. Pat Robertson and Rev. Jesse Jackson. The U.S. Constitution does not forbid this; Roman Catholic canon law forbids it.

But what is constitutional is not always effective or prudent. Clearly the political strategy of the bishops is not working. A majority of Catholics voted for Obama and gay activists won every referendum. The Missouri and Indiana Republican senatorial candidates, who took the toughest positions on abortion, were also defeated when the Republicans were expected to win these races.

So where do the bishops go from here? Some of the bishops will blame Catholic pro-choice politicians and urge excluding them from Communion. The nuns, priests and theologians who urged voters to consider a wide range of justice issues will also be blamed. These bishops will see no need for a change in political strategy. “The bishops need to be tougher; dissidents need to be punished; full speed ahead!”

Many bishops, who stayed quite during the election, are tired of the notoriety that the political bishops invite. They prefer that their parishes be free of partisan politics. But since the media has trouble covering silence, the political bishops get all the ink and airtime. This makes it look like these bishops are speaking for all the bishops.

Hopefully, behind closed doors, some bishops will acknowledge that the current strategy is not working and ask, “Is there a better way? Is there a plan B?” Here I am writing as a political scientist, not as a priest or theologian. I am not challenging church teaching; I am questioning political strategy.

The first step in plan B should be “listening.” The bishops need to listen to those Catholic voters who ignored their advice and find out why. The whole premise behind “No Child Left Behind” is that when students fail it is not always their fault. Teachers need to examine how they teach so that the students can learn. Bishops need to listen.

Second, any new strategy needs to be realistic. Granted the current political situation, what is possible? Political strategy cannot ignore data. In the last election, Republicans ignored poll data and truly believed they would win the presidency and the senate. The great wave of Republican voters never appeared.

What is the data the bishops need to examine?

First, it is clear that there is an approaching tsunami of young voters who will eventually make same sex marriage legal in most states of the union. The likelihood of stopping this tsunami is very low. As the older opponents of gay marriage die, they are replaced by younger voters who have friends who are gay. This is a new world. If you know you are going to lose a fight, you want to fight in a way that does you the least amount of damage. Tactics that enrage their opponents will make it more difficult for the bishops to get the exemptions they desire under this new reality.

For example, after the bishops spent $1 million fighting gay marriage in Massachusetts, it was not surprising that gay activists fought exempting Catholic foster care and adoption services from serving gay couples. They saw it as political payback. Ultimately, the bishops may be forced to treat same-sex couples the same way they treat divorced and remarried couples whose marriages are not approved by the church. The church does not like these marriages but they are acknowledged as legal under civil law.

Second, despite all the efforts by the bishops and by pro-life activists, the country is just as divided on abortion today as it was decades ago. Public opinion polls show people do not like abortion but they do not want to make it illegal. No one has come up with a strategy to change the public’s mind. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion would still be legal in most of the country. Those living in a state where it is illegal could easily drive to a state where it is legal.

If making abortion illegal is an impossible dream in the current political environment, what is plan B? Plan B has to be working with politicians of any stripe (including pro-choice politicians) in supporting programs that will reduce the number of abortions.

The bishops must reach out to all politicians and groups who are willing to support programs that help women to keep and raise their children. It is possible to agree with politicians on some things and disagree with them on other things. Simply aligning the church with Republican politicians, who promise to do something about abortion but then cut programs that help women, is a failed strategy. Instead of making things better, it makes them worse. Plan B means returning to the consistent ethic of life promoted by the bishops in the past.

Some bishops will reject such a strategy as pragmatic and not prophetic. But we live in an imperfect world. Granted the impossible dream of making abortion illegal, then the moral imperative is to do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions.

The bishops also need to put aside tactics that are counterproductive. Using excessive rhetoric, like comparing the president to Hitler or Stalin or accusing the administration of waging war on religion, makes it difficult to form coalitions to reach achievable goals.

Banning pro-choice Catholic politicians or Catholic voters from Communion is counterproductive. Such banning is not the official position of the church, but enough bishops are doing it (and few bishops are criticizing the practice), that many see it as church policy. Any time you have to use power rather than persuasion in a political debate, you have lost. It also reinforces seeing abortion as a Catholic issue based on faith rather than a human rights issue based on reason.

Banning pro-choice politicians and gay-marriage supporters from Catholic universities is also counterproductive. It makes the bishops look weak rather than strong. It tells the world that the bishops think their arguments are so weak that they cannot allow students to hear their opponents. Any strategy based on censorship rather than persuasion has failed before a word is spoken. The church should be on the side of free and open debate because “Catholic tradition maintains,” in the words of Benedict XVI, “that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation.”

I do not claim to have an infallible strategy for the bishops, but after such a momentous defeat, it is time for the bishops to reexamine their political strategy. The current strategy is not working and there is no indication that it will work any better in the future.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.]

Monday, November 12, 2012

The First Rain - Yuck

We received the first bit of rain this weekend. Though clouds have threatened rain for the past week, we finally received a few moderate periods of rain. It was mostly light rainfall, but as you looked at the streets you would have thought flooding was possible. Torrents of water rushed down the jebels looking as if soap was foaming up in the stream. Often these rains carry mud with it so it is not a clean rain. The rain highlights the litter that is on the ground. I laughed that everyone was bundled up as if it were 25 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm told I ought to be cold because summer is over, but it is hovering around 66 degrees Fahrenheit so, to me, short sleeves are still permissible to wear.

I'm sure the soil is benefiting from the rain because everything is eerily dry, but it is unaccustomed to rain that most of it run off and goes down into the wadis. I want to catch some of it so it can be used for irrigation of our gardens. I'm hoping that soon some of the browner plants will show tinges of green again. Maybe I have to wait for spring.

The clouds make everything very gloomy in ways I've never seen before. The monochromatic houses look mud-washed during the day. I'm just grateful for the colorful lights on the city buildings at night.

In the midst of it all, my new Sunday night tradition has taken a hit. I've enjoyed setting aside Sunday nights after evening Mass to come home and relax in silence. Everyone is gone and I can relax with popcorn. I've found an ESPN channel that shows a football game and the past three weeks have featured the New England Patriots, except for the bye week. But eating the remnants of popcorn, I chewed on a kernel that hit something in my mouth strangely. It felt like I hit a null piece of a tooth. Later this week, I realized my onlay cracked and fell out. I've lived in a some fear about the quality of Jordanian dentistry. Fortunately, one of my parishioners is a dentist who seems like a very responsible man with his craft. He referred me to the dentist next door to get a crown to replace the onlay. He seems good enough. I'll know for sure next week when the permanent crown is installed.

I miss the comforts of home, but I think I'll be O.K.

After the dentist this morning, I went to the supermarket to pick up some toiletries. As I was checking out, the cashier sent me to the customer service desk. I thought I had violated a protocol because I didn't buy food, just toiletries. The security man asked for my ticket, examined it, and then gave me a selection of cards from which to choose. He asked me to scratch a certain area that was highlighted "heater." He said, "Good. I need your license please," with a deadpan expression on his face. Two men came rushing over and asked me to sign some forms. Then minutes later they returned with a heater that I had won. They wished me congratulations and finally smiled. It was good timing as the air conditioner/heater just broke in my office yesterday.

Fortunately, small things keep taking care of themselves. I had to be extra patient while these events unfold. I know fear is not faith. I must becoming more trusting of matters I don't understand.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Photo: Archbishop Maroun Lahham and 50 Sisters

To see photos of the Religious Women conference held at the Jesuit Center today, click on the link below:

Pics of Archbishop Maroun Lahham and 50 Religious Sisters of Jordan

Growing the Jesuits’ faith dimension

In a letter to members of the Society of Jesus, Superior General Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ has urged all Jesuits in this Year of Faith to give renewed attention to the service of faith as a key element of Jesuit identity and mission. To foster a renewal of faith in the Society and animate the faith dimension of mission, Fr Nicolas has also established the Secretariat for the Service of Faith.

‘Our mission as companions of Jesus has always been the service of faith’, said Fr Nicolas. ‘Ourdeepest desire is—to use the words of Pope Benedict XVI—to help humanity “rediscover the way of faith and the joy of the encounter with Christ.” I wish to invite the whole Society to take to heart the call of the Holy Father and to seek ways of participating meaningfully and with greater personal and communal engagement in this special year for the Church.’

Fr Nicolas said it was his hope that every Jesuit would spend some time – perhaps even his annual retreat – in prayer and reflection on the meaning, implications and calls of this year.

The Year of Faith was announced by Pope Benedict in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei. He declared the period from 11October 2012 to 24 November 2013, as ‘a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord’, steering the Church into a time of reflection and rediscovery of faith.

In his own letter, Fr Nicolas reaffirmed the need for a renewal of faith, echoing the Pope’s concerns on ‘a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people’. The Society, according to Fr Nicolas, is also affected by this crisis. He alluded to concerns and challenges that emerged from Procurators’ reports and those he mentioned in his de Statu Societatis Jesu, the State of the Society of Jesus address, given on the 70th Congregation of Procurators in Nairobi, Kenya in July 2012.

One suggestion on the service of faith that came out of the meeting in Nairobi was an assessment orexamen on faith life, conducted as an individual or institution. It is hoped that these reflections will help the Society support all those in Jesuit schools, institutions and parishes to cultivate a joyful and profound relationship with Jesus in the service of the Church, and in the context of cultural and interreligious dialogue.

Fr Nicolas offered some questions in the letter to guide Jesuits in their reflection and assessment, and asked Provincials to gather the summary discussions and submit them in a year’s time. These discussions, along with those from Jesuit apostolates and institutions which will be canvassed in 2013, will help discern the future direction of the Society in regard to the faith dimension of Jesuit mission.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In search of...

In search of gloves. I am about to embark on a quest for a pair of gloves. I'm not sure what they will look like. They don't need to be winter gloves - maybe more like driving gloves, however if they were a bit thinner, it would be better. They will not be plastic or rubber gloves because that will seem rude. I think this is going to be quite an adventure - looking for a particularize pair of gloves in a language where I cannot communicate well. Also, the merchants want to make a sale. Even if I find them, I hope they are not outrageously priced.

I want to wear these gloves for the upcoming cold and flu season. Just about every parishioner wants to shake hands regardless of whether they are coughing or not. In country Filipino custom, after the priest shakes their hand, they pull your hand to their head to bless them. It is superstition,  of course, but a cultural habit. Instead, I take their hand and place it on my head, which freaks them out because they "are not worthy...." I play with their custom and they don't know how to take it, so we laugh.

Ironically, many of them during the rite of peace will look at each other and will nod when they give peace. They keep their hands to their side, but then they walk out of the church door and demand to shake hands. The irony.

Not only that, but because communion is received in the mouth, they sometimes bite or at least give my fingers a good licking. There's little that I can do about that. Sometimes they stand far away from me and lunge their head forward to receive the host - and they take my fingers with me. A good case of Purell will do, but at least if I can put on some gloves before and after Mass, I'll find a way to reduce the spread of nasty germs. Of course, since I'm new to these germs, I will catch every one before I build up immunity. This will be a long winter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Pools of Hisban

Today was election day in the U.S. We knew that we would either be very happy or very sad so we scheduled at trip that would get our minds off the elections.

We travelled to Hisban, a small village before arriving in Madaba. Hisban is mentioned only once in the Bible and it is in the Song of Songs, "Her eyes are like the pools of Hisban." This was the third week in a row we searched for the place and we were happy to have found it.

We first visited the village on the top of the hill, Tel Hisban. Tel means hill. It was a combination of an old Christian village, Roman fortress, and Marmaluk protectorate. St. Andrews University did some recent excavation and set up some signs to point out various places of interest. The language seemed a bit hyperbolic and focused only on certain populations while neglecting others. It is true that the victors write the history books.

We then visited the pools of Hisban. We were pleased to run into some farmers who were washing their radish harvest in the streams. The water was pure and refreshing. The radishes were deliciously spicy. We bought a small bunch from them because they kept feeding us. It was the only civil thing to do. The valley that is fed by the stream is very fertile.

Afterwards, we sought out the pools is Hisban. We identified where they might be, but we travelled along the road in case they were further ahead.We doubled back and we met some crab farmers. They were catching half-dollar sized crabs that they will grow and eventually sell at a profit. I hope they leave some there so they can reproduce. Also, it is a shame that so many people litter everywhere they go.

The pools are quite extraordinary. I love water. I love rain. I felt excited when i saw the clear pools that must have delighted frolickers over the centuries. I can see how they grip the imagination of a person who lives in an arid climate. While I love lush vegetation, my assignment is to a dry and weary land. Go figure.

We ate lunch at Haret Jdoudna, the courtyard of the Grandparents. It was quite tasty and filling. We were only a small handful of restauranteurs because we are no longer in peak tourist season. Afterwards we toured some excellent archeological sites that are in the center of the city. They are filled with great mosaics and of abandoned churches. We saw a Roman Road that was quite impressive. I'm sure the Roman empire in all its glory was quite something to behold. The last mosaic we saw as taken from Macearus, the site of the beheading of John the Baptist. It pre-dates Christ and is the oldest known mosaic. This land is fascinating.

To see photos of Hisban and Madaba, click on the link below:

1. The Village of Hisban

2. The Pools of Hisban

3. Lunch at Madaba and tour of the Mosaic Museums

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Change in Status; Bond

Yesterday, I received residency.

How I feel about it hasn't sunk in yet. Today, I spent the lion's share of the day getting my 10-year Jordanian driver's license. I am now as fully incorporated into Jordanian life as fully as I can be. This means that instead of paying 50 JD to get into Petra, I now pay 1 JD. That is quite a significant reduction. I also have a personal telephone and a separate business mobile phone. It is a lot of work getting a little bit done.

I must say that Jordanian efficiency is pretty good. The officials are able to quickly direct people to the proper place. What surprises me is that the people don't stand in queues the way Americans do. Instead, the crowd around each other wanting to get their stuff done first. It is multi-tasking taken to the extreme. So, rather than having an official spend time with one person from start to finish, he or she has to fend off a multitude of offending questions. I just want to say, "Wait your turn." The officials do their best and they don't get angry, which is a great credit to them. It appears like mayhem  at times, but it is not too far different from the way of our ours act.

Last night, I went with Fr. Al and Fr. Michael to Baraka Mall to the Prime Cinemas to watch the James Bond Skyfall. The cinema was very clean and very well appointed. We were all pleased because it is more comfortable than some U.S. theaters. I wish more people attended the movie, but it was a Monday night, which is the second work day of the week. It would be a slow movie-going night.

I was impressed with the movie. I like Daniel Craig more and more as Bond. In Casino Royale, he was a little bit more of a thug with no feelings. Not so in this film. He certainly showed he is a complex man with deep feelings. It was great to see the formative aspects of this character's life. I love the scenes of Scotland. (I have always liked rain. I miss it so much.) I was surprised at some of the scenes, but I should have been quicker on the analysis. I was very pleased with the whole experience.

Afterwards, we picked up a few items at Baraka Mall and had a coffee at Gloria Jean's. They do need to purchase decaffeinated coffee so I can get some sleep.

After a long day when I was ready to turn in, someone came to me to ask if he could begin a two-week retreat right now. What could I say? Yes, of course.

Now, I'm anxiously awaiting election results.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A hurdle cleared?

Sunday nights are fast becoming my popcorn nights. I find some comfort in the familiar by making popcorn. It signifies the end of the week just occurred, but I know the start of the week is fast paced. When I rise on Monday mornings, I'm hitting the floor running. So, this sabbath break is welcome.

I feel like I cleared a hurdle this week. I had decent conversations with 3 of the 4 pastors of the churches where I serve. We talked about various pastoral and spiritual needs and we were all grateful for the conversations. We each realized it is good for us to be in continuous conversation. It is a welcome relief.

I also made necessary contacts at the Philippine embassy. These resources will be helpful for me in determining the various pastoral and sacramental needs of that community as well. The long and short of it is that I do not feel as if I am alone. I have a generous team of people who can navigate the streams of life together.

Fr. Michael has returned to the community after visiting the States for three weeks. It is good to have him back. After I christened the new Diwan (the greeting parlor), we began to have morning coffee and a chance to chat at 10:30 a.m. It is a time when we can relax, but also communicate small matters among the team. This also prevents people from stopping in during lunchtime to ask questions of the priests.

I had a burger this week that was so tasty. The Jordanians were born in Chicago and they opened up shop at Abdoun section of town. The burgers were great. They cooked them medium-rare perfectly, but they served it with a salad that was excellent. I would be happy to return just for the salad. After chatting with the staff, I went into the only real Mexican restaurant in Amman. The owner is from California where he runs a Middle Eastern restaurant on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. He was such a pleasant man.

Fr. Al and I stopped in to see our friend in Jebel Webdeih who runs the pizza restaurant. He has not received his long awaited tables, but his chairs are in. He detailed his walls with artistic renditions of Italy and he has painted the sidewalk where outdoors tables can be set up. He has a nice plan for outdoor lamps as well. Fr. Al and I will probably go there this week to help him with his business. He has a very pleasant personality and he doesn't smoke. I like when the chef does not smoke as he looks over the food he is preparing.

The U.S. elections are Tuesday. Everyone knows that. Ohioans feel curses with all the ads. Australians are saturated with news as if they are a U.S. colony. A dear friend in North Carolina sent me two election buttons. They read: Vote Ignatius - 2012. She says that we need a man of integrity to run our country and world.

As a political news junkie, I'm not sure I'll sleep Tuesday night, but I'm glad Wednesdays are my days off. I don't know that I"ll sleep in, but there's so many important signals in this election. I find it to be a pivotal election. I do pray that politicians and the system breaks enough so they can converse and be enriched by one another. Politics used to be described as the "art of the possible." I think today we are in "times of the impossible." We cease to try to advance a local, national, or international platform. We have to work together as one nation with various philosophies. It can work. I has worked. Still, I want my candidate to win.

I'm proud of the parishioners. They are making necessary adaptations as we go along. I'm doing a two-minute catechism before each Mass. They are responding well to it and are asking that I continue it. They know how to care for one another. I sense we are all striving for the same goals. We want to respect one another and not find fault when someone who is hurting creates an offense. I feel good about the direction we are heading.

Well, it is 9:00 p.m. Since we did not fall back on our time the way the U.S. did, we are now 8 hours ahead of the East Coast. That means I'll never be able to watch online a full game of U.S. NFL football. At least the Patriots have the week off.

On towards a new week. Forward!