Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Pope's powerful words

Pope Francis' document delivers wake-up call on evangelization

Over the last eight months, Pope Francis has revealed his fresh vision of the church’s role in bits and pieces – a homily here, a press conference there and an occasional conversation related by a third party.
In a document released today titled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), the pope offers a much more complete look at his approach to the church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world.
It is a remarkable and radical document, one that ranges widely and challenges complacency at every level. It critiques the over-centralization of church bureaucracy, poor preaching and excessive emphasis on doctrine, while encouraging pastoral creativity and openness, even calling for a much-needed “pastoral conversion” in papal ministry.
Along the way it delivers a stinging condemnation of the excesses of free-market capitalism and its “trickle-down theories” that have failed to deliver economic justice. More than ever, the pope says, the church needs to stand with the world’s poor and its peacemakers.
Papal documents are usually tough to digest, but this one is a must-read for anyone trying to understand Pope Francis and his papal agenda. It offers real insight into a number of crucial topics, in language that is both easily understood and captivating.
I’m still studying the 51,000-word text, but here are some highlights (emphasis mine):
-- Evangelization today demands an "ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred." The pope declares: "I dream of a 'missionary option,' that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self- preservation."
-- On the need for joy in evangelizing: “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter…. An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!”
-- On being close to the people: “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”
“A church which ‘goes forth’ is a church whose doors are open…. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.”
-- The role of the bishop, Pope Francis says, is to foster communion and “point the way” to the faithful, but at times to “simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence.” And that goes for the pope, too: "It is not advisable for the pope to take the place of local bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound 'decentralization.'"
“It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.... The papacy and the central structure of the universal church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion.”
The pope notes the possibility of a greater role for bishops’ conference, saying: “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”
-- The church needs to preach salvation, not doctrine. An imbalance occurs, the pope says, when the church speaks “more about law than about grace, more about the church than about Christ, more about the pope than about God’s word.”
Evangelization must be an invitation to respond to God’s love and to seek the good in others, he says.
“If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”
-- On the need to keep the doors to the sacraments open: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
“I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best.”
-- The church’s internal “wars” -- the tendency to form groups of “elites,” to impose certain ideas and even to engage in “persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts” – are all a counter-witness to evangelization. “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?”
-- On “excessive clericalism” that keeps lay people away from decision-making in the church: “Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service.”
This has implications both for understanding the all-male priesthood and for respecting women’s legitimate rights in the church, the pope says: “The reservation of the priesthood to males … is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general…. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.”
His other remarks about women will no doubt provoke questions about follow-through -- for example, that "we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church" taking into account the "feminine genius," and that "pastors and theologians" will have to study "the possible role of women in decision- making in different areas of the church’s life."
-- “Cultural diversity is not a threat to church unity.” Pope Francis, in fact, seems to hint at greater openness to diversity, saying that European culture does not have a monopoly on liturgical and other expressions of the faith. “We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.”
-- On the church’s closeness to the poor: “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.”
The pope says economic injustice today requires deep structural reforms.
“Today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? … Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape…. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘disposable’ culture which is now spreading.”
We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”
-- The pope is not just critiquing an economic system, but its effect on the spiritual lives of the faithful:"The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience."
-- The document strongly defends unborn children, "the most defenseless and innocent among us," and says the church cannot be expected to change its position on the question of abortion: "It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty."
-- The pope’s document lays out the contours for what the church calls “new evangelization,” but the text includes a caution about turning this into a grandiose and impractical program: “How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals! But this is to deny our history as a church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work…. Instead, we waste time talking about ‘what needs to be done’… We indulge in endless fantasies and we lose contact with the real lives and difficulties of our people.”
Evangelization, he says, is primarily about reality, not ideas: “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.”
The document is called an “apostolic exhortation” and that’s what it does: it exhorts, it lays down principles and it points to new paths – in some cases, insists on new paths – but it does not offer a detailed program of action. The pope clearly wants the whole church involved in filling in the details, which should make the coming months and years very, very interesting.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Church is weak

The Church is weak, but faith can overcome

Fr General Adolfo Nicolás has told members of the Society that the Church today may be beset by weakness, but the gift of faith continues to provide a beacon of hope.

Fr Nicolás has written a letter to members of the Society around the world in response to ex officio letters received from Jesuits and lay partners around the world outlining the experiences of those working on the ground.

Fr Nicolás says reflections of people in the letters have brought to light what he describes as the ‘interior weakness’ of the Church today.

‘We do not experience today, as we have in the past, a strong, firm and credible Church, but a Church beset by weakness, debilitated by scandals, at times using a language that the majority of God’s people do not understand’, he writes.

‘Our presence as witnesses of faith is fragile. We seem to lack passion, precisely where the problems of humanity are more complex, and we appear to be at a loss in the ability to offer orientation or more lasting solutions.’

Noting the upcoming conclusion of the Year of Faith on 24 November, Fr Nicolás outlines three dimensions of faith that can guide the actions of the society – faith as a gift; faith as an attitude to life; and faith as a mission.

‘In the history of religions there has been a struggle – even a real confrontation – between those who underline human freedom and human action and those who hold that we completely depend on the Gift (Grace) from God to be able to change and grow’, Fr Nicolás writes.

‘Christianity, after all the scholastic discussions were over, has made the creative synthesis with which all Jesuits are familiar. In Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis clearly states that “faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time”.’

Faith, he writes, allows us to live in hopefulness, because we understand that the goodness of God can never be submerged in the sea of evil and sin.

‘This attitude of faith, of hoping against all hope, gives direction to our lives. Thus neither sin, nor adversity, nor a bad Superior, nor failure, nor undeserved ill fame “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39).

‘This is why the best examples of living faith come from the poor, the suffering, those made to feel marginal, who “in spite of everything,” live their faith with joy and hope.’

Fr Nicolás again pointed towards Pope Francis’ words in Lumen Fidei in pointing out that God united his history to ours in Christ, and that our mission as Christians is to recall the historical healing of Jesus in a way that can transform the future.

‘As Lumen Fidei reminds us, “this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as a remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope”.’

Image: Fr General at Campion, USA. Image by John Gillooly (via sjweb.info).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flowers and Haircut

At Mass, people will bring foodstuffs or flowers to offer to the priest as a thank you for remembering a loved one during the liturgy. At the end of Mass, a certain group of parishioners automatically collects the bounty and takes it home. How odd to take it without asking the pastor first. Well, two women came over to persistently ask me while I was shaking hands with parishioners as they were going out the door and they asked me what I  was going to do with them and did I want them. I said, "yes, of course I want them because the donor wants me to have them, but I will give you one bunch because you are making it very obvious you want them." They gave me the smaller bunch and I put them in my office. They have given me great joy because they are bright and beautiful and because I respected the donor's intentions. Now, I wish they wouldn't give me anything, but it is always good to reserve the right to take what the community gives so I can give it to people in the community. Each day I come across the flowers, I'm struck by their beauty and I'm glad I have them to gaze upon just for their own sake.

I started a new painting, a landscape that has a still river running through it. I think there is much to learn in landscape painting and I wanted to stick with a similar theme to what I created last time.

On Saturdays, a woman comes in to paint this huge canvas of two dancers. She is doing a marvelous job with it. Her two sons just come and stand by me and ask lots of questions. They like my painting and they are curious about the length of time it takes me to draw and to paint. The are inquisitive and precocious and they love that I am a priest. They want me to draw biblical scenes.

The play is demanding great quantities of time. We open in two weeks and I have a lot of Arabic songs to learn and I have to figure out when it is time for me to speak my few English phrases. Thank God I worked myself into a lesser role.

Communication. It doesn't exist between me and my barber. Most Jordanians have very short hair because I don't think barbers know how to cut regular hair. They only know crewcuts, which I now have, or a shaved head, which is close to what I have. I have decided today that I am going to make myself look very different from now on. I have no idea what hairstyle befits a balding man. I will rule out the comb-over, but I haven't given up the idea of a ponytail and a shaped beard. I'm not Jordanian and I don't need a hairstyle that is imposed upon me. I'll have to sculpt my face in a certain way that says, "I don't conform to the way you want me to look." I'll give this some thought. Any ideas?

Art in Jordan

In Jordan, a Traveling Gallery Brings Paintings to Children

AMMAN, Jordan — Art education might not seem like the greatest concern for Jordan, a country plagued by a dearth of water, oil and other national resources, nearly 30 percent youth unemployment, high poverty rates and an overwhelming influx of Syrian refugees. Still, believing in the inherent value of art and its potential to enrich daily life, the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman is working hard to make art accessible.

In 2009, the national gallery started its Touring Museum. Still going strong, it aims to foster art appreciation and to increase visual literacy among Jordanians who have little exposure to fine art.
Run in cooperation with the Education Ministry and financially supported by the Ministries of Culture and Planning and International Cooperation, the program brings together government agencies, museum professionals, artists, students, parents, teachers and school administrators to give disadvantaged children unprecedented access to art.
On a recent sunny day, elementary and middle school children in Ajloun, a town 45 kilometers, or 30 miles, northwest of Amman, watched with rapt attention as the artist Suheil Baqaeen gesticulated wildly at several paintings propped against a row of easels, pointing out their colors and forms. “Red, blue, mountains, circles,” the students clamored in response to his questions about what they saw in the works.
Following an animated discussion about the basics of visual art, the children picked up the pastels that the program provided and began energetically creating their own masterpieces. Although they were free to follow their imaginations, many copied or reinterpreted the works on view or else chose to depict the landscape surrounding their school, dominated by Ajloun Castle, a medieval fortress.
The atmosphere was uproarious as children ran back and forth to the row of easels, proudly holding their drawings next to the originals for comparison. A few of the older boys at first acted as if they were too cool to draw. Yet, in the end, they, too, produced thoughtful depictions of their homes, their friends, and the rolling hills of Ajloun.
For many of these children, Mr. Baqaeen said, “today is their first chance to see art and their first opportunity to pick up a crayon.”
Despite pervasive poverty — 14.2 percent of families live below the poverty line, according to the most recent Central Intelligence Agency statistics — it is not necessarily a lack of financial resources that prevents parents from buying their children art supplies. Rather, it is often “a lack of awareness that art exists,” Mr. Baqaeen said.
“If families can purchase a soccer ball, why not a pack of crayons?” he asked.
Touring Museum seeks to change that through weekly dynamic workshops like the one in Ajloun.
Every Tuesday, Mr. Baqaeen and Khalil al-Majal, the program director, fill a van emblazoned with the Touring Museum logo with a couple of dozen paintings from the museum’s permanent collection and a trove of art supplies and drive out to children in underserved communities across the country. In addition to schools in poor or rural areas, they visit orphanages, rehabilitation centers, refugee camps, youth centers and juvenile detention centers.
Parents and teachers are encouraged to attend the workshops so that they can see firsthand what a strong impression the art makes on the children.
“I want the J.N.G.F.A. to be alive and to reach all kinds of people,” said Khaled Khreis, director of the national gallery, referring to it by its initials.
“That’s why we bring the art outside the museum’s walls and into different communities.”
An acclaimed painter, Mr. Baqaeen is motivated to lead the Touring Museum workshops by his conviction that any child with artistic inclinations and drive should have the opportunity to foster their talents. Exposure to the canon of art history and the ability to recognize art’s formal characteristics are an important part of that process, but Mr. Baqaeen’s greatest gift to future Jordanian artists is the sense of awe and possibility he instills through his own infectious passion for art.
“Art is a fundamental part of life, something that enriches life for everyone,” he insists.
Dina Fleihat, a poised, 14-year-old student who spoke excellent English, said after the workshop that she was “thrilled” the Touring Museum had come to her school: It helped her “understand what art is.”
The discovery of art has not steered her away from her dream of becoming a surgeon, but it has inspired a second dream: “I wish to visit a museum one day,” she said, beaming.
As far as Mr. Baqaeen is concerned, that response proves the program’s success. According to his logic, if Dina makes it to a museum one day, and he is confident she will, she is far more likely to expose her own future children to art. Apply that model on a large scale, and the next generation of Jordanians will have a greater awareness of art.
If it inspired only a few of them to dream big, that would be a considerable contribution to society, he said.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Children's Book Recommendations

A friend wrote me about a line of children's books that she has fallen in love with and I want to share it with you!

Here are sections of her email (that I edited for the blog.)

“I've come to realize that a high number of books that I have loved for my kids (and great children's books that I discovered even before I had my own kids) were books from the UK company Usborne Publishing.

You can find some of the Usborne titles from time to time in bookstores, but the bulk of the access to Usborne books in the United States is through their direct sales program. (Think "Tupperware" or "Pampered Chef" parties)

A friend of mine, Meredith, recently became an Usborne books consultant and I have to admit that she's gotten me slightly obsessively hooked on scouring through the website and catalog finding books that I know my kids (and I) would love.

Meredith has been kind enough to set up an on-line "book party" which allows all of my friends and family to shop on-line for these books.  

But, if, like me, you're thinking about Christmas gifts, or if you just love to find new and interesting children's books to share with the little ones in your own life, you might want to take a look: https://x3218.myubam.com/shop

Oh, and here are just a few of my favorites:

LOTS of people ask me for children's bible recommendations.  Years ago I discovered the Usborne Children's Bible (my first awareness of this book publisher) ~ great, colorful illustrations and some of the best language I've ever found for the scripture passages told to children... I've often looked high and low for it at area bookstores:

and a whole line of super-cute-make-your-toddler-giggle board books: That's Not my Puppy... That's Not My Dinosaur... That's Not My Pirate (another huge favorite)... That's Not My Tractor... etc...

"First Encyclopedia of Science" https://x3218.myubam.com/p/2714/first-encyclopedia-of-science-il  A great resource for my all-things-science-loving-5-year-old! (they also have encyclopedias of dinosaurs, seas and oceans, space... )

Got me through an obsession with astronauts... They have a whole line of "Look Inside" books

Seriously cute sticker books like this one: https://x3218.myubam.com/p/2581/build-a-picture-monsters-sticker-book and so many more themes, I'm sure you'd find one for the child in your life!

Usborne is also partnered with Kane Miller books... and who can resist that classic: "Everyone Poops" https://x3218.myubam.com/p/757/everyone-poops  They also have "The Gas We Pass" and a whole series of books about a tenacious toddler princess learning to do things like say please and go to the potty that I'm eyeing for my own tenacious little toddler princess! https://x3218.myubam.com/p/809/i-want-my-potty

Gavin is learning to read and he loves to read some of their phonics readers to Leah.  This title is "Big Pig on a Dig" and there are a bunch of fun rhyming books: https://x3218.myubam.com/p/455/big-pig-on-a-dig  
(I'm also looking into getting him this reading set for Christmas as he's so excited about his reading these days: https://x3218.myubam.com/p/1078/very-first-reading-set)

We just ordered this one: "The Story of Hanukkah":  
 https://x3218.myubam.com/p/525/story-of-hanukkah-yr1  because Gavin is fascinated by the stories of his friends who celebrate Hanukkah.  And I'm excited to pull out this new book when the season of Advent begins: https://x3218.myubam.com/p/2582/big-book-of-christmas-things-to-make-and-do  Gavin is lately into seasonal themed Craft projects and I'm thrilled that he's expressing his creative side!

Anyway, I could add a few more and could also list all of the books that I look at and wish I was buying, but I'll stop there for now...

Thanks for putting up with my lengthy email!

May the blessings of this holiday [Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas] season of gratitude, family and community, faith and hope fill your hearts and your lives!

Lots of love,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Philippine Relief Organizations

The Jesuits express deep concern and prayers for the victims of super Typhoon Yolanda (“Haiyan”). Thousands of people lost their lives; other untold thousands, their homes and properties. It has already been acknowledged that this typhoon is the worst this year, and perhaps the worst natural calamity ever to strike the Philippines. Some estimates put the death toll over 10,000. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) today reported nearly 2,900,000 families have been affected, some 24,000 houses damaged and major infrastructures devastated. Many parts of the Visayas still do not have electricity and communications, water, food, shelter and other basic necessities. Travel to and from some affected areas is still not possible.

The country still reels from the Zamboanga City siege and the earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu a few weeks ago. Evacuees in those afflicted regions are still homeless, and yet now new cries arise from people suffering in other calamity-stricken areas.
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) through its Director, Fr. Xavier C. Alpasa, S.J., is coordinating all our efforts to assist victims of Yolanda.

  • Funds can be transferred through its bank (BPI [Loyola-Katipunan Branch], Peso Checking Account # 3081-111-61, Dollar Account # 3084-0420-12, Swift Code: BOPIPMM, Routing #: 021-000-21).

  • Checks can be made out to Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, Loyola House of Studies, Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights, 1108 Quezon City.

  • The Philippine Jesuit Foundation (PJF) in New York also accepts donations. Please ask your contacts and friends to indicate in the memo “Yolanda Calamity Fund” to avail of the free service fee. PJF Donors can also earn tax credit for every donation made.

  • Bank transfers in the U.S. can be made through our Merrill Lynch bank (Account # 176-04A01). Checks in the U. S. can be addressed to The Philippine Jesuit Foundation, 39 East 83rd Street, New York, NY 10028, through Fr. Victor R. Salanga, S.J. 
Other agencies recommended by Ambassador Olivia Palala are listed below:
1.       National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC)
          Account name: NDRRMC Donated Funds
          Contact: Ms. Rufina A. Psacual at (632) 421-1920; 911-5061 (up to 65)
          Email: accounting@ocd.gov.ph   Website: www.ndrrmc.gov.ph
2.       Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
          Account No. 3124-0055-81
          Contact: Ms. Fe Catalina Ea at (632) 931-8101; mobile: (632) 918-628-1897
          Website: www.dswd.gov.ph
3.       Philippine Red Cross (PRC) www.redcross.org.ph; Tel. (632) 527-0000
          Bank accounts for Donations
Banco de Oro   Peso: 00-453-0018647; USD: 10-453-0039482;
Swift Code: BNORPHMM
Metrobank   Peso: 151-041631228; USD: 151-1-15100218-2
Swift Code: MBTCPHMM
Philippine National Bank   Peso: 3752 8350 0034; USD  3752 8350 0042;
Swift Code: PNBMPHMM
Unionbank of the Philippines       Peso 1015 4000 0201  USD  1315 4000 0090
Swift Code: UBPHPHMM
Per PRC website, “For your donations to be properly acknowledged, please fax the bank transaction slip at PRC nos. +63.1.527.0575 or +63.2.404.0979 with your name, address, and contact number.”
For further updates, go to NDRRNC website at www.ndrrmc.gov.ph

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Good Day

I had a very productive meeting to start my day, which made me feel great. As an American, I'll always presented like acting like the wiser, more tolerant, patient older brother, but I was able to steer the conversation to higher ground and achieve what was needed. A good start.

I was very impressed with Jordanian drivers this morning. The were kind and followed decent road patterns. I attribute it to: (a.) it was early in the morning, (b.) it was in the more prosperous west end, (c.) people know the difference between right and wrong, and (d.) few people were on their mobile phones. It was a relief.

I headed over to a store that sells bathroom fixtures because we needed a few replacements parts from our renovations. After five minutes in the store, I realized that I had quite an urge to use a toilet. I just received confused looks when I asked the Arabic-speaking sales staff if they had any public toilets. I even motioned for what I needed, but in the end I had to find another place to go.

While I was buying some supplies at City Mall, I took a break and went to a Starbucks. I was very disappointed when they ran out of pumpkin lattes. With a dejected look on my face, they told me they had cinnamon spiced lattes and my face developed a smile. The whipped cream on top capped my nice morning.

The kingdom is bustling with energy today as Jordan prepares to meet Uruguay in a World Cup qualifying soccer (football) match. Flags are being waved everywhere. It is very good to see the kingdom rally around the team the call Nashama, "the brave ones." Most feel Jordan doesn't stand a chance, but the game has to be played to determine the victor. Now, if the Jordanian team can stop chain-smoking, they'll have a better chance.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ups and Downs and Ups and Downs and Ups

Yesterday, I laughed so hard and cried as well when our custodial cleaner came into the office. She just received hearing aids and discovered how many sounds she missed. She was walking around covering her ears because everything seemed too loud. She sheepishly evaluated her own noise level and deemed she was very loud.The poor thing. I'm glad she can hear her son and is not missing out on conversations, but the noise levels are too high. I hope she does not get discouraged, but it is delightful that she is a new woman again. She is enjoying that she has the gift of hearing restored.

It reminds me of a comment my father made this summer. He said that he felt bad when I was 9 years old and received a pair of eyeglasses. Apparently, I sat in the back seat of the car and gleefully pointed out all the things that were apparently not visible before getting the glasses. He said I laughed and laughed and wanted everyone else to see what I could now see. My father felt badly that they did not discover my poor eyesight earlier.

It is beginning to look like the fall season here. Temperatures are still around seventy-five Fahrenheit during the day, but some leaves are now being shed from their trees. For many, it is coolish, but I feel great. I have the freedom of wearing short-sleeved shirts and light clothing. Very nice. We do not have Daylight Savings Time clock changes, so we are now eight hours difference between East Coast USA and Amman.

It is very interesting to watch the Egyptian workers around the Jesuit Center. Their methodology of work has not changed since they built the pyramids. Everything is done by hand and it is time-consuming, but their steadiness and their ability to work together is admirable. They seldom tire, they never take a break, they start early in the morning, and they are always cheerful. They are quite impressive and other nationalities can learn a great deal from them. They were once the proud rulers of the world; now their stature is of low-class immigrants.

Nothing is ever easy, though. Though they are tremendously excellent workers, they fail to think. They set up shop in our driveway and do all their preparation work in the center of it. We ask them to move to a corner away from the path of the cars, but they simply do not understand the concept. They will bend iron rods there and they will mix cement. The driveway is sufficiently large where they can have plenty of room to do their craft and allow foot and car traffic to pass, but they insist of doing it right in back of the cars. They are bewildered when we want to pass because the concept that they might have to move cannot be considered.

Yesterday, we went to Balad, the old downtown area, to get supplies for the play. It is always quite an adventure. I was with four Arabs yesterday, but men would still walk up to me, stand still, and stare. I would look back at them as well and then wink. They have no idea how to respond to that so they move on.

It was awful to see the penned up animals in tiny cages: birds, rabbits, pigeons, turkeys. Mostly, they were right next to the butcher shops.

The men here treat women horribly. The three women in our group were gawked at as if they were the very first women men have seen in their lives. It is just so rude. We do see hints and pockets of women getting more rights, but I think the cultural revolution will occur when society demands that women are treated differently.

The Christian faith gets so messed up here. It takes on the societal aspects of Islam. The cultural ways they practice their religious rituals gets ported over to Christians who think they have to act the same way, but they don't. They are free from those constraints, but the cultural pressures are huge.

It is expected that an adult gets married by a certain age and they cannot move out of the family house until they are married. Wealthy, successful adult women have to stay at home in the family homestead if they are not married. If a man is 40 and has not married, shame is heaped upon him until he buckles under and marries a women he does not love. It is very difficult for Christians to marry because a man has to first establish his career and by the time that happens, all the women Christians are married off so he doesn't have a great pool from which to choose. Christians want to be able to love their spouses, not have an arranged relationship.

I am a huge mismatch here in Amman, which is the best reason I am here. People are filled with great angst and they know the society does not benefit them, but they don't know how to live with ease by charting their own course.

I am indebted to this great group of German women who formed a knitting circle to makes hats, scarves, and socks for Syrian refugee children. Over 240 pairs have been made already. We plan to have them delivered to the camps this week.

As I finish my vanilla rhubarb cough drops, I realize just how much I enjoy them.

The Philippines has been hit by a massive Category Five Cyclone that has devastated parts of the country with already over 10,000 dead. This is going to take them a great while to recover and of course, we can never bring those dead back to life. I hear another massive storm is on the way. This poor country is going through much hardship.

After Mass this morning, we had a small party. I enjoyed it very much. It is our third one and about 40 people came, which thrilled me. They love gathering like this and the food was great. The first time, we have about six people; then we had fifteen; today, those 40 stayed around, took photos, ate, and enjoyed a great time. I'm so glad to be able to do it because the Filipinos need to come together to enjoy the support of the larger community.

I decided that I would be like a Boston driver today since they are so friendly and considerate. I drove slowly and patiently to church and I stopped when someone was in the wrong lane. They, of course, yelled at me for existing, but I don't mind their juvenile rantings. It is kind of fun. As I was doing it though, it really paid off. As I saw a reckless driver, I stopped, while he ran right into another car that was parked on the side of the road. About 30 feet later, I stopped when I saw aggressive drivers, and bam! They hit one another. I thanked God. I also noticed some very kind drivers on the road and I tried to extend as much generosity as I could to others. The covered women often look scared to be driving, which makes us all vulnerable.

I was talking with an Arab friend and asked about driving lessons. She told me that the lessons are very strict and they are the same rules of the road as we have in the U.S., Most people fail at least six times because they do not understand the fundamentals. Jordanians see it as a revenue producer, but I hope they continue with strict standards and decide to finally begin enforcing these rules. The country needs it badly, but you knew that I was going to talk about driving, didn't you?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Latin Patriarchate's Building

Israel's Interior Ministry destroyed beta back to the Latin Patriarchate

البطريرك فؤاد طوال بين انقاض المنزل الذي هدمته اسرائيل في القدس

The Israeli Interior Ministry to demolish a house inhabited by a Palestinian family of 14 people in the city of Jerusalem on the outskirts of the entrance to the city of Bethlehem, arguing that it is built without a license, according to the Latin Patriarchate, which owned.

The Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, visited the place of the destroyed house Tuesday and solidarity with the safety Mahmoud Abu Tarbush who had inhabited the house with his family of 14 people.

Patriarch Twal said to reporters, "This house is built by the Israeli occupation in 1967. "

Waddell Patriarch on the house in the aerial photograph explained that it took on June 16."This is a legal precedent against humanity, this house belongs to the Latin Patriarchate, and we have not reached ordered torn down, and will not tolerate such injustice and things will go back to normal. "

He said the Patriarch, "We came here to see what happened to Lands Patriarchate, land is identity politics and outlet must be our affiliation to the land, this land is sacred in the past and in the present and will remain a land sacred, and the Ministry of the Interior and Municipal were aware that the house of the Patriarchate. "

And seal the patriarch said, "We are a group peace and the right will not tolerate it and we will go to the Israeli courts and the world," referring to the first time that demolishes Israel has a beta of the property of the Patriarchate, and explaining that it sent letters of protest to the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of the Interior and Israeli consuls Western countries.

For his part, the safety of Mahmoud Abu Fes (48 years), told AFP that "soldiers from the Israeli army and horsemen and their dogs came last Monday at five in the morning and they told us the decision of demolition under the pretext that the house built without a license, I told them that the house built before the year 67, but They proceeded with demolition indifferent to me. "

As for his wife Rouwaida Abu Fes who was sitting she and her daughters in a tent pitched the Red Cross in the place she told AFP "break IDF soldiers door of the house and entered upon us, and what rejected out one of the soldiers hit me and then took me out and hit my daughter amounting seven years old. "

She added, "my sons slept in the open but I girls Venmana when my sister, and we got in the second day of the Red Cross tents. "

For his part, the Patriarchate's lawyer said Mazen Coptic "We'll file suit against the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli Interior to rebuild the building and a compensation claim for the loss because he built a year ago 67 letters were sent to all consuls and aerial photograph of the house that built by the Israeli occupation. "

The lawyer Muhannad Jabara, who is defending the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, he said, told AFP that "the Jerusalem municipality launched a frenzied campaign in recent times before and after the municipal elections until proven Mayor Nir Barkat as a right-wing more than the right candidate. "