Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Since I have my new pedometer that tracks my steps, I decided to walk to lunch today over at Jebel Weibdeh. I was excited because I would also walk to choral rehearsal tonight, but sadly that was cancelled. I had a choice to make on my return. I could walk up the larger set of steps or the shorter route. I chose the stairway with fewer steps and I could 119 consecutive steps. In the U.S., the steps often zigzag with landings where a person can stop, but on these jebels the steps go straight up with no landings. It is a great cardiovascular routine. Next time I'll reserve the strength to go up the longer flight.

I was wondering if I ought to have a St. Patrick's Day party at the parish because it would be held on the First Sunday of Lent. As I walked along, I saw a shamrock and picked it up. Confirmation! We will have it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Some parts of my day

The drive to church today was detained for a while as a herd of goats was crossing the street. I certainly would not want to be a goat-herder or shepherd in the inner city. Few would give you much room for your livelihood.

Well, the move to the new church location is proving to be quite good. It is peaceful and restful for the congregation and many say that there is a sweetness about the area. I'm glad they are receiving it so well.

I had a restful couple of days at Tala Bay south of Aqaba earlier this week. The temperatures were in the mid-80s and the location was simply perfect. It seemed very tropical at the hotels who seem to do everything right. I'm told that Egypt, just across the sea is able to undercut many Jordanian prices.

I very much like walking the streets. I pass by a group of soldiers each night as they guard a ministry building that I pass on my way to the Messiah chorus rehearsals. They seem to like to connect with me. I think I sing too loudly as I listen to my IPod and they find western music a curiosity. Also, a number of hijabed women who come to the Center are very happy to connect. They are very pleasant and cheerful. Many come to take classes as part of the Jesuit Refugee Services, but they do want to establish a friendly connection. That is quite nice.

I have my first painting exhibition this Thursday night at our Studios. I have three portraits in a display called "Faces." The mayor of Amman will open the ceremony and many artists from the Middle East will show their products. It is quite exciting.

After mass the other day, a group of Arabic speaking Catholics came into the church for a baptism. They knew English fairly well. I chatted up the grandparents and held the baby. Then the parents came in and we chatted. All the while, the baby was not smiling. I remarked about it to the dad, who said, "He's Jordanian. We do not smile." We all had a great laugh.

I told a few people that I'm trying to introduce a new fad to Jordan. It is called "the unexpected smile."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A change to my schedule

I try to hold to a fairly consistent routine in my week so that I don't forget to do anything essential. Being a priest who is always in transition makes it difficult to hold to a rhythm and without any support staff, my routine is my crutch. For instance,

Fridays are morning mass, Sunday mass, baptismal and confirmation classes, then choir rehearsal.
Saturday afternoons are masses at the shelter and at Weibdeh, then a spirituality class.
Sunday morning is another mass, the choir house, then an evening mass, followed by laundry.
Monday morning is a lengthy spirituality group, and if very lucky, 1.5 hours at the studio before the Messiah concert rehearsal.
Tuesday is morning mass, a standing meeting, and homily preparation, then another evening group.
Wednesday is my day off when I can usually paint, and then chorus rehearsal.
Thursday is preparation for the weekend masses.

All other times are answering many phone calls and emails.

But this morning, I changed my routine around when I went to the studio to paint as my first priority of the day. It felt like I was cheating the boss. The studio was quiet with some rock classics on the radio station. I couldn't get to the studio last week because of the art show, so it was a delight to be back.

I worked on a portrait of an old man, then switched to a colorful portrait of a woman in defiance, and the third one I put on hold because it is a self portrait. I look at the form and it looks like me, but it is awkward to be painting one's very self. I'll do it tomorrow. I know I can't avoid it any longer. Who would want such an image hanging on their walls? After all, I'm not quite hands-on. I bought an easel so that I can paint at my house instead of fighting the traffic that wears down one's excellent good mood.

I was actually mostly happy with the driving home today. I liked it when two women pedestrians were standing on the side of the road and they clapped their hands with me as I was singing in the car.

A parishioner mentioned something after mass today that I have been feeling all this week. She said, "I feel badly enjoying this beautiful weather because so much rain is needed. Though, it is nice to have all the same."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Parish Move

The parish move went more smoothly than I anticipated and I was very pleased with the response of the congregation. Over 85% of the parishioners came over and I suspect a few more will come next time as they get used to the change. I'm grateful for the generosity of many.

Temperatures were in the low 60's today and the strength of the sun is powerful enough that we could sit outside for our 2nd Sunday party at Rainbow Street Church. I was talking with a few parishioners before mass and one Filipina said that I was always happy and that I was a hands-on priest. I kept asking what that meant, and then I realized she was saying handsome. I guess I never thought of that.

A few parishioners have asked me for jobs and visas, but this past week three people suggest that I arrange a spouse for them.  I suggested they come to our Valentine's Day party next week.

I feel like I am well known in Amman. Everywhere I go, people seem to know who I am. One woman parishioner of the Arabic-speaking community says she likes my homilies because they come from the heart. Her sister knows mutual acquaintances and he brother works with a few parishioners. Even my barber ran up the street to catch me to deliver a note a local doctor wanted to give me.

I had dinner with a few priest friends and the bishop to honor the bishop of his titular feast day of Maroun. It was quite a tasty meat-filled dinner and the conversation was quite good even though it was 98% in Arabic.

As I conclude my day, I realize that I really like my parishioners and the Catholics I met in the city. Soon, I'll probably begin a monthly mass in Aqaba and at the Dead Sea. I've finally secured good contacts. O.K. Time for bed. No time for rest as the Spirituality Group starts on Monday morning.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Rest in Peace, Dan Harrington, S.J.

Rev. Daniel Harrington, SJ, an eminent scholar, author and professor of Sacred Scripture at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, died at Campion Center in Weston on February 7, after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 73. 
Fr. Harrington’s dedication to Biblical scholarship was reflected in the more than 60 books he authored, shedding light on Scripture and the life and times of Jesus, and his decades-long tenure as the general editor of New Testament Abstracts, summarizing literature on the New Testament from hundreds of books and journals throughout the world. He also wrote “The Word” column for America magazine for three years.
A longtime faculty member at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Fr. Harrington – who held two degrees from Boston College – returned to his alma mater in 2008 as part of Weston Jesuit’s re-affiliation with BC and joined the newly established School of Theology and Ministry (STM).
In November, after Fr. Harrington had announced that 2013-14 was to be his final year of teaching, STM hosted a tribute that was attended by family members, friends, colleagues, and current and former students. Among the speakers was best-selling author and media commentator James Martin, SJ, who described the powerful impact of Fr. Harrington’s teaching.
Fr. Harrington’s Introduction to the New Testament class “changed my life,” said Fr. Martin, who dedicated his forthcoming book Jesus: A Pilgrimage to Fr. Harrington. “Today, I feel like I see the gospels through Dan’s eyes. What I mean is that I see the gospels with both the eyes of faith and a critical mind.
“In a sense, Dan’s teaching was very much like Jesus’ use of the parables, communicating complicated truths to us in simple ways. And as with Jesus’ parables, this was a great act of charity and love.” 
Fr. Harrington’s five decades as a Jesuit was also marked by his pastoral service to the faithful. Every Sunday for more than 42 years, he celebrated Mass at St. Agnes Parish in his hometown of Arlington, Mass.; he also presided at the noon Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s in Cambridge for more than 20 years. Fr. Harrington delighted in telling fellow Jesuits that a parishioner once said him, “You know I used to think you were boring until I started listening to you.”
The son of an Irish immigrant, Fr. Harrington was born in Arlington and attended St. Agnes Grammar School where he was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  He won a full academic scholarship to Boston College High School where he also played hockey and baseball. Citing his positive experience with his Jesuit teachers, he chose to enter the Society of Jesus upon graduation and was in the first class of novices to enter the Jesuit Novitiate in Gloucester in 1958. 

In 1962 Fr. Harrington studied philosophy at Weston Jesuit School of Theology where he met Fr. John J. Collins, S.J., then editor of New Testament Abstracts (NTA), who enlisted his help in writing abstracts and book notices. He would be associated with New Testament Abstracts for more than 50 years, serving as its editor from 1972 until his death. After studying philosophy, Fr. Harrington studied Ancient Near Eastern languages at Harvard University, where he received his doctorate. While studying at Harvard, he took courses at Hebrew University and the Dominican École Biblique de Jerusalem. Fr. Harrington completed his theological studies at Weston Jesuit in 1969. He was ordained in 1971 at St. Ignatius Church – in the very shadow of Boston College – and after serving as a professor of sacred scripture at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Illinois, became a faculty member at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in 1972.

He is survived by his brother Edward, of Braintree, Mass.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A restful day

I thought I might get to sleep early last night as the parish had a stressful day of having the last mass at Sweifieh Church. I thought an early to bed night was in order, but I slept so very well.

I treated myself as a brand new day with a coffee at Cafe Strada, the finest coffee house in Jordan, and it is terrific that it is right around the corner from the church where I say morning mass. The coffee was so good and I gave myself half an hour to simply enjoy relaxation.

When I arrived to church, a woman said she saw me walking around the city. Most people don't do it for leisure.

Morning mass was very good. This church's liturgy is well organized and enjoyable. I also like that people are really opening up to me about their lives. The walls that were once there are no coming down quickly and people are turning to me for all sorts of needs or simply to tell me the woes of their lives. It is an honor.

A woman after mass thanked me. She said her heart was aflutter and that she received chills throughout her body.

A kindly man then approached me and he began speaking to me in Arabic sign-language - way over my head. I got him connected with people who could converse with him. I wish I knew what he was saying, but he was very patient with loving eyes. His two sons were very patient with their dad. My heart went out for him. All I could do was to give him a bouquet of flowers.

After Mass I went to the Pork Shop to look around and I bought some sandwich ham and two packages of bacon. Those will be treats to have. I then popped into the art supply store to resupply my paints and I impulsively bought an easel so I can paint in my office. I just cleaned my office so there seems to be some room to clutter it up again.

I then noticed a business card in my car from one of my parishioners. He is from an educated, wealthy Jordanian family and I stopped over to see his business. His eyes sparkled from the moment I arrived to the second I left. He seemed delighted to have me there. I'm just different from native priests and he was able to see that I was just there to simply visit him. I had no agenda. He was a hoot as he told me his life story and he remarked on his character. We laughed. It was a pleasurable visit.

I then was going to head to a music store to see if there were any instruments I could buy for the women's shelter, but as it started raining, I decided to head home because people drive poorly here in the rain. They drive poor on any day, but it becomes worse in the rain. It was awful. I just don't understand the attitude of the drivers. I also do not want to understand it.

When I came home, I cleared out the refrigerator and cut up some vegetables for soups and salads. I prepared the fixings for a chicken, cheese, broccoli, roasted onion and garlic, and corn frittata. Then I made some soup.

On my way to mass I brought our warm-overs to my widowed barber. He should eat for a week. I think he eats poorly and he likes being thought of each weekend. While he was there, I talked with a Lutheran doctor who was getting his haircut. He said, "I always see you walking around the city." He is a very nice guy.

Once I arrived at the church, a man was waiting to tell me that a 47-year-old woman who ran the silk flowers store across the church died suddenly of heart failure due to excessive smoking. We mentioned her at mass. She would always wave for me as I did my walk around the neighborhood.

Mass was fun. Since it was Candlemas, we blessed the candles and we lit them for the Creed. Two different women came up to me to say thank you. They were visibly moved because the liturgy was richly prayerful for them. It was clear they encountered the Lord.

As I was walking home, I went back to my barber. He is teaching me many Arabic words so we can converse better. I got a haircut and he just seemed so happy.

When I came home, I made some brownies and did two loads of laundry. The dishes are all washed and now it is time to catch up on some liturgy preparation before the week begins. I'm interiorly smiling because of all the goodness I received today.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Moving On Day

A new month. Chinese New Years. A new day.

Sometimes as pastor of a church, one has to make difficult decisions for the good of the parish. As the English speaking parish is growing and diversifying, I chose to bring a close to our worship in West Amman and transfer our worship over to an old section of town called Jebel Webdeih. Such decisions are challenging to make and puts the pastor in a lonely situation.

The new place where we will worship will have no event preceding or following our mass. We will therefore be able to come together as community and enjoy one another. We will have socials and lectures after mass and we can build a community from our great diversity.

All the sad, I recognized the parishioner's sadness, anger, hurt, confusion and also their hopes, joys, dreams, and visions. As I said in my homily today, "Onwards and Upwards." I'm so contented with the graciousness and magnanimity of the parishioners. God's grace seems to be abundantly present in this process.

A new day. Hoorah!