Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My niece, Brooke

To see photos of my new niece and of the Sisters of Notre Dame Retreat House in Ipswich, Massachusetts, please click on the link below:

Pics of my new niece and her brother

Pics of the retreat house chapel in Ipswich

Prayers for 30-day retreatants

Please include in your prayers the intentions of the retreat directors and their retreatants who are beginning the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. A new group arrived in Gloucester today to settle into the place as the silent part of their retreat begins Thursday night after dinner.

We received the group tonight with a festive preprandial (drinks and hor d'oerves before dinner) and then had a tasty meal of grilled sirloin steak, strawberry covered asparagus, and a potatoe lasagna. We introduced ourselves by giving a brief biography and by naming the graces we seek for the retreat.

St. Ignatius, pray for us.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Extended Daylight for Gardening

Yesterday, we enjoyed a day that had the longest amount of daylight for the year. It is a blessing because I can be planting neophytes in the garden or maintaining the newly trimmed lawn. This week a friend donated lots of clippings from her English-style garden in Maine. I waited a few days before planting most of them because of the incessant rain that plagued the Northeast. I started a new garden at the front of the house where large bushes once covered the area. I hope this new garden takes root and beautifies the entryway to the retreat center.

This morning I was privileged to say Mass for the Contemplative Leaders in Action, an initiative of the Jesuit Collaborative. These young men and women spent two years in prayer and training for leadership in our Jesuit way of proceeding. This morning's Mass was the final event of their program, which concluded with a weekend retreat at the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The stained-glass windows in the main chapel are multi-colored and take in the afternoon daylight. A real treasure is their hand-painted Stations of the Cross. I was very moved to meet these young companions of Jesuits who dedicate a larger part of their year in Ignatian formation. It is good to see eager youthful Christians who want to make a difference in their corner of the world.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back in Gloucester

Isn't it ironic that you can be someplace and enjoy it so much that you don't miss home until you arrive back home? It makes you realize how much you like living in a certain place.

Well I enjoyed my time in Tampa-St. Pete very much. God was abundantly present to me each day that I was just glad to be where I was and not yearn to be in a different place. As I arrived back in Boston, I enjoyed the hour-long train-ride through the North Shore to Cape Ann. I live in Gloucester. It feels like home.

The train ride provided excellent scenery. The ocean-front property in Revere and the bustling city of Lynn gleamed in the late-afternoon sun. The coasts of Swampscott, Salem, and Beverly looked festive while Prides Crossing and Manchester looked pastorally reflective. The taxi driver to the retreat house was animated with his chatter about the Red Sox, especially Jacoby Ellsbury because he is part Native American.

The property of Eastern Point looks immaculate. While I was away, the tree-cutters removed the brush from the property. I feel so grateful that the business manager and his staff were able to organize the removal of all the debris. The property looks well maintained. I just want to spend many evenings out there because of its beauty. The sunset sparkled through the tall pines this evening as if they were glowing embers from a dying fire.

I had terrific hosts and I was proud of my retreatants, and I'm glad to be home. Isn't it great to be a "both, and" people?

Back to New England

My trip to Florida is ending this morning. I was stricken by an outer ear infection the past three days and have suffered greatly. It drained me of much energy and I slept most of the past three days. As I get ready to board the airplane, I am feeling quite better. My ear still has sharp pain radiating from it, but the intensity has lessened.

I am grateful for my hospitable hosts. I wish I had been a better guest. I needed rest and care and they provided me with both. We went out to dinner at a tasty Italian restaurant on the St. Pete's harbor the other night. It was very festive. We sat outside as it was cool enough. Lots of people strolled the waterfront district and enjoyed the sights. Former Governor Charlie Crist walked by a couple of times. He is a handsome man and very tanned. His wife (I presume)is a beautiful woman.

I was half-hoping to find a way to get to Orlando to see the Hogwart's Exhibition at Disney World. That will have to wait for another day. My rest was more important even though my ear needed magic to heal.

I am very grateful to my hosts. They were splendid company and very generous in their hospitality.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Photo: Lassing Park at St. Petersburg

To see photos of Lassing Park at St. Petersburg, please click on the link below:

Pics of the seashore at Lassing Park

Photo: The Red Sox at Tropicana Park

To see photos of the Boston Red Sox when they played Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Park, please click on the link below:

Pics of the Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tampa Bay

I have spent the week at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Tampa directing a week-long retreat that is mainly comprised of religious sisters, many of whom just finished their academic year. It is quite a nice building that sits on a large parcel of land on a river that leads to Tampa Bay. Many oak trees and cypress trees dot the property and they are covered by Spanish moss, which looks nice but is an insidious parasite. Strange looking ducks come out at night and I’ve discovered a white raccoon in the drainpipe that feeds into the pond where alligators once lived. I haven’t been able to get outside much because I have been rather busy. It has been hot with no sight of rain on the horizon. But alas, as I type this I see lightning in the distance and a few drops are falling.

I’ve had a full load of retreatants to see this week plus presiding at Mass each day. We’ve offered the sacrament of reconciliation and had a couple of guided meditations. It has kept me busier than I ever thought it would. Preaching twice takes some time too and of course I have to update my blog. It has been a pleasant experience though I know that I am good and tired¬¬ – a tiredness that is well-earned.

Tonight the retreat center staff went out for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant near the bay. It was quite lovely and a fitting way to say thanks to the hard work and dedication of the retreat directors. I have enjoyed coming to know the retreatants. They always grow on me so much.

Otherwise, tonight is a terrific night for Boston sports.

The Boston Red Sox beat Tampa Bay Rays with Josh Beckett pitching a one-hitter.

The New England Revolution drew a tie in their soccer game.

And The Boston Bruins just won the Lord Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 4-0. This is their first cup since 1972.

And now it is pouring in Tampa.

St. Petersburg, Florida

My first days in St. Petersburg were very nice. I stayed with a friend who is a guest director at Eastern Point Retreat House. She invited me to direct a retreat at Tampa's Franciscan Retreat Center. Though the weather in Detroit was in the high 90's, it was about 80's when I arrived in St. Petersburg.

I was amazed at the many connections that my hosts have with Detroit. I brough them some bread from a bakery in the Woodbridge section of town near Wayne State University. She and her husband know the bakery well. She is a Ph.D. graduate of Wayne State University. Her husband worked for the Detroit Free Press for a number of years.

I arrived on the night they were celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary.

Her husband works at the reputable Poynter Institute that trains and provides many professional services for journalists. I encountered Poynter Institute at the Nieman Foundation's workshops in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the Vice Presidents, Roy Peters Clark, publishes books and articles to help journalists view their craft from different angles. Check out their website You will find something interesting to read each time you visit their site.

I am enjoying the food in Florida. Pecan pancakes, Georgia peaches, navel oranges, and other rich fruits do not pass by my lips. I haven't been swimming or kayaking yet, but I will do that once I get settled for the retreat. I look forward to directing and being of service to the Franciscans and their associates.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Photo: Tampa and the Franciscan Retreat House

To see photos of Tampa, Florida and the Franciscan Retreat House, please click on the link below:

Pics of Tampa, Florida

Photo: St. Petersburg, Florida and the Pelican Grooming Dance

To see photos of St. Petersburg, Florida and the Boyd-Lake Maggiore Park, please click on the link below:

Pics of St. Petersburg, Florida

Photo: Detroit on the Move

To see photos of Detroit including the chapel at University of Detroit-Mercy, please click on the link below:

Pics of Detroit, Michigan

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Motor City on the Move

On my way to Tampa, I stopped in Detroit to visit friends that I met during theology studies. Detroit has been going through very difficult economic times with a great population migration from the city into the suburbs. On this trip, I noticed that Detroit is becoming a very green city. It looks like a city of vibrant parklands as every corner seems to have fairly well-groomed lawns as a result of demolition of abandoned properties. The buildings that were visible eye-sores are gone and the plots of land appear as an emerald necklace. I kep thinking that this is a city on the move. It does not know where it is going, but it is surely taking steps in an unknown, but positive future. It is heartening to know that it is doing something.

My friend showed me the work of a neighborhood artisan who is creating captivating landscape designs in the Woodbridge and Corktown neighborhoods. In two sections, he created a small park to create a flourish on the vacant, adjacent grassy lands. In another section of town, he created a snazzy walkway next to between a new and old building. The pathway links the two structures and it has become a gathering place of pride within the neighborhood. Community gardens are found around the inner city. People are always outside doing some creative, constructive act. Many people are busy about their gardening. I wonder if Detroit can become a farming city. Rebirth seems to an action that is occurring and it seems right. It will take a few years before the form of the rebirth is visible, but I hand it to the neighborhood people who care enough about their town to make a positive difference.

I enjoyed my visit with my friends and catching up with their dreams, hopes, and heartaches. Having friends is what our lives are all about. It is great when we can nourish these times together.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Carmina Burana

The Chorus North Shore, in its 80th season, performed Carmina Burana tonight at the Fuller Auditorium in Gloucester. We were accompanied by a 44-piece orchestra that made the music come alive. We had a great time performing after five months of rehearsals. Music is awesome for the soul. It keeps one young and happy. Three talented soloists and the North Shore Youth Honors Program performed with us. I find it fascinating how Sonja Dahlgren Pryor pulled it all together with apparent grace and ease.

I will miss Monday night rehearsals with this group, but I hope to stay in touch with several of the chorus members throughout the summer. I will remember Sonja and Mary as they have surgeries later this month.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Incredible Sky

As I turn the lights off in the house and surround myself with darkness, the lightning over the ocean lights up large portions of the space. Continuous bursts flash from the south in the direction of Boston while spider-like lightning takes to the skies over the ocean. The web is stunning as it begins low and works its way higher until it vanishes. I know I would not like to be a fisherperson on the ocean tonight. The power of the wave and of the electrical storm would terrify me. I'm glad I'm on safe land in a house that is built like a fortress. The night sky has changed dramatically each half hour. The intensity is becoming less, which is good because it is time for bed.

Movie recommendation: I heard of Shadowlands starring Debra Winger and Anthony Hopkins, but I didn't understand enough of the story to be drawn to watch it. If I had known it was about C.S. Lewis and his life with Joy Gresham, I would have been all over it. I was deeply moved by this film and have greater respect for C.S. Lewis. I want to watch it again sometime soon because it is powerful and has a great script. It was well done and I cared for the characters. I love the line, "we read so we are not alone."

Photos: Eastern Point in May

 I took some photos of the last day of May. Click on the link below to see the photos:

Photos of Eastern Point in May.

Photo: Eggs

As I mowed the lawn today, I uncovered these eggs. I wish I knew which animal laid them. They seem to be left alone. I covered them over for protection.
Click to enlarge.

A Rare Night

This is a rare night indeed. I am all alone in the retreat house tonight. It is eerily quiet with only an occasional unrecognizable noise. Tornadoes are in the forecast - another rarity for New England. The ocean skies to the east are bright with breaks of blue skies while the western clouds are foreboding.

I called it an early night for the lawn-work. It was a good day because the lawn mower and wood chipper have been serviced and were made ready for us. I was excited for the chance to get to use them, but I had to put my desires on hold so I could go to my spiritual direction meeting this afternoon. In some respects, I felt foolish for wanting so badly to get outside to do some exhausting lawn work.

I first mowed the high grasses in an area once lined with apple trees. The grass was growing so high I was afraid the lawn mower would not cut much of anything, but to my delight the blades breezed through the rugged field. I was taken aback when I uncovered a ground nest of large eggs. They were so neatly laid that it looked like an artist arranged them for a photo shoot. I think I'll take a photo of them in the morning. I'm wondering if they are eggs for a large bird like a duck or turkey. Strangely, nothing was around to protect them. I thought that they could even be turtle eggs. I quickly covered them up so predators won't find them to easily.

The wood chipper is quite a machine with an 8.5 horsepower motor. It is loud and takes some time to use well. I never dreamed that the chipper would be the total answer to the massive woodpiles that I've created, but it will make a decent dent. Tomorrow I will use it with some wood that has been seasoned. It might go quicker than the vines I tried to shred today.

There's a lot of work to do and the work has tired me out.

So, I'm spending the night alone inside the house. The place will be dark and I will enjoy sitting in the chapel with only the vigil light as the bright spot. I'll respect the quiet of the house meaning that I will not turn on a television or radio. I'll treat myself to a juicy orange and sip a cup of tea and then I'll retire early.

This is a very pleasant night.