Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Final Week

This is the final week of classes at the Mexican American Catholic College for languages. It has been a good week.

I'm struck that everywhere I go the hunger for God is great. So many people want to be heard and understood. Even in my restful times on the weekends, the ministry doesn't end. I am forever and always a priest.

I think of some of the older people I have met. Even though they have lived well and are enjoying full retirement, there's still a ministry to help them process their retirement and their approaching mortality. Many attend church hoping to find some word nuggets that will help them put in perspective their life and their need for faith. Some get it and some are still struggling. They especially need help when illness or the death of a spouse hits. They find they are ill-equipped to deal with the new reality. They miss their spouses a great deal and have a challenging time coping with being alone.

Even some middle aged people question what life is about. If they have not been successful, they wonder why they should continue to exist because they doubt they have the capacity to make more prudent decisions for themselves. Especially, if they find themselves alone, they may not want to deal with illness or injury by themselves. Some cannot see a reason to go forward.

Every person of distinct backgrounds want to be respected by others. What we have in common is much greater than what sets us apart. I'd like to see us connect with each other in ways that makes the bonds more meaningful.

Many people simply want to be seen, heard, and known by others, and it is especially good if God sees, hears, and knows them as well. We want our lives to mean something. I cannot imagine what life would be without faith. I live for God and for God's kingdom and I'm glad to be one of God's priests. I'm thankful for the Society of Jesus and the work our Company does. Somehow we make the road a little lighter for others. May we all come to find God's presence a little more central in our lives.

Friday, June 24, 2016

John the Baptist

I especially love this feast day. I love when, in the readings, Zechariah writes, "His name is John." I feel stirred to life as Zechariah is able to speak again.

I love the symbolism behind the feast day when John must decrease so Christ can increase. Nearly two decades ago when I was entering the Jesuits, I sold my condo on this day. It was great symbolism for me so that Christ could increase within me.

This is a day that I am missing being in Jordan. I miss the people and the food and the great historical sites. Today, the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal's resignation was accepted by the Pope since he is past retirement age. He was a good leader and fought for the rights of Christians in the nation of Israel.

Well, I'm now in my third week of Spanish language studies with one more to go. We have been through the most turbulent part and now we are gaining confidence in speaking and in choosing the correct verb tenses. I am grateful that the masses I said this week were in English so that I could concentrate on my studies. Next week I'll have three masses in Spanish plus the graduation ceremony and the confessions. The pastoral work here is just as much as it is in English.

I feel relieved this week and I can gather enough energy to make it through next week. I am enjoying my time here and yet I look forward to being back home. I hear the Boston weather is terrific.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice. Since Christmas, we have been experiencing an increase in daylight. This day is bittersweet because once we have arrived at our destination, that is, increased light, it automatically begins to lessen. Daylight now gets shorter.

John the Baptist's feast day was placed near this date because he is the one who said, "I, like the light, must decrease so Christ may increase." The mass for Christ is set for December 25th, as the victory of light over darkness.

How fleeting is time!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Two Full Weeks

I have finished two weeks of language class and it is going well. This week was extremely full as I was called upon to preside every day of the week at mass and to perform other sacramental duties. As a priest, I am getting a lot of experience with the masses and with speaking in general and it is a lot of extra duties. In some ways, I'm given preference and I'm getting more work than anyone else, but it id good for me to get the extra assistance. It leaves me with little free time.

This weekend, I retreated to Austin where I took in some fun times. We went to Esther's Follies on Sixth Street and we were thoroughly entertained. We laughed for 1.5 hours straight. Sixth Street is a place of live music and street entertainment because the University of Texas is right in the heart of Austin. It is quite the happening place. It is a destination of good food, homespun music, and lots of drinking. I bypassed the drinking and the food, but it is a tourist mecca.

Earlier today, I saw a road runner and a couple unique birds. Deer run around the property day and night. There are so many critters in this part of the world that do not seem to fear humans.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Finished the First Week

We finished our first week of language classes and we are on a well deserved break. The novices and scholastics took off for the city of San Antonio as quickly as they could. I have some some friends, former parishioners of Amman, Jordan, who are now in Austin coming to collect me for the weekend. We all need a break.

We have all done well. The classes are fun but it is work. We had oral presentations today and we each had strengths and areas of improvement. We are urging each other on and encouraging each other well. There is a nice community dynamic in the college.

I've been put through the paces. As a priest, I'm called upon for ministerial and priestly duties. I, therefore, get lots of practice time, but I do not get free time to do my homework. I squeeze it in after my evening walk when I'm plumb tired.

All is good. We have a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Even though some of us are at different levels, we are not far off in our comprehension and speaking abilities. The playing field is level and we like that we are in the same process together.

I simply do not know how I will get my homework and my homilies done for next week.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Classes have been going well. This is the third day and all seems to be manageable. I thought that the third day would have been much more difficult, but today was actually fun. We listened to the teacher speak and we asked and answered questions as best we could. The whole time was spent listening and responding in the language. I don't think any of us thought we would maintain such a degree of interaction and comprehension. The classes are fun and a bit of enjoyable work. It is much better to get homework done right away because the feeling of accomplishment washes over us, which sets us free to do more study in the evening.

One of the professors wanted to speak with me about saying mass. I read to her the priest's parts of the mass and she said, "Padre Juan, you are ready." That was nice to hear. She was excited. She wanted me to start practicing tomorrow, but we have to have English masses for those Spanish speakers that are learning the language. Regardless, it was good to have affirmation.

Tonight I took a walk with a woman from the class to St. Mary's University, run by the Marists. Only the novices have cars. The rest of us did not rent a car. Actually, we set out to find the Starbucks in the area because we want good coffee. We do not have a Dunkin Donuts nearby either. The cafe was closed but the walk was worth it.

The area that surrounds us at MACC is working class. There are lot of automobile parts stores and sole proprietorships in the area. These are not places of beauty, but as I wander the area, I do find pockets of well-groomed homes and manicured lawns. I've discovered a couple of restful and recreational parks that are well attended.

As I'm trying to lose weight, I see how deceptive the world is, especially to those who are poor. As I walked along the strip, I saw many mom and pop eateries and most of them did not look like places I would want to enter, but right next to them are shiny, clean fast food joints, that simply do not offer healthy foods. I can see the draw to these chain fast food places because you know the standards you will get.

I went into HEB, a local supermarket chain, and I waked with eyes wide open. First, so many of the poor patrons were severely overweight. One has to be very disciplined to eat well and not be lured by the appeal of the many specials. In one sense, it is trickery of the poor and those, like me, who were unaware. All you can eat specials, great values on products, larger quantities of food at value prices tease us beyond our consumption needs. The carniceria was loaded with red meats. You could not buy two ground beef patties. Instead, you were tempted to buy ten pound bags for a cookout. It is a challenge for us to make good decisions when all the advertising tells us to buy more. Food is pleasurable and we have to get as much of it as we can because we deserve it. I do not see any ads inviting people to a healthy lifestyle. I am edified by how much I learned about the ways I am seduced by tasty, non-nutritious foods.

I'm please with my progress. It takes great work, but it is worth the effort.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Spanish Class # 1

I arrived in San Antonio, Texas for an intensive Spanish class. I want to speak the original language of Ignatius of Loyola and to give the Spiritual Exercises in the original language. I want to help out the People of God that speak Spanish and do not have enough church representation.

The flights were O.K. I did not like the woman that sat two seats behind me and sneezed for over 300 times. I was talking with BC High Arrupe parents and we were annoyed with her. At one point we stopped and counted. The flight was over 3.5 hours. She was nonstop. The flight was not.

My arrival at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio was warm and welcoming. The facilities are clean and comfortable. It reminds me though of a Catholic compound. We need key codes to enter each building and exit them. My bedroom has a straight key. Most of the buildings and gates are coded. The area surrounding us seems relatively safe, but it reminds me of life in Amman when even the seven parcels of the garden were locked.

At first blush, a month seems like a long time here. The compound is small and we are relatively isolated. A WalMart and an HEB is nearby to walk and I'm not much of a shopper. 

I thought I was misplaced into a higher class than I should be, but we'll see how that goes tomorrow. We have several Jesuit novices with us, which is very nice. A bishop from Kentucky has joined us. He decided that he should know some of the language since so many Spanish-speaking Catholics are in his diocese. How good of him.

My goal is to enjoy the language and the people around me.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Medical Anniversary

Last year on June 6th, I was singing in the Brahm's Requiem when I had an attack of diverticulitis that led to surgery. I will always remember the events of that day as I knew immediately that I would require surgery, which happened on June 17th. I marvel at the human body and how quickly it acts to protect and heal itself from the trauma of surgery.

This year, I'm singing in Mozart's Requiem, but I have been making certain that I care for my body much better than I did last year. I've learned how to eat well and I've learned how not to be swayed by scrumptious advertising. I want to be lean and fit the way I am supposed to be. It is not yet time for my requiem.

A friend of mine had a diverticulitis attack a few weeks ago and had a minor procedure. Her colon re-sectioning is scheduled for June 6th, the anniversary of my attack.

Following major surgery, one generally gets an appreciation for the gift of life, which is fragile. The medical intervention has awakened me to the blessings of the day and I give thanks to God for life. I want to spend more time in enjoyment and less with work. The gifts of music and art make my life more meaningful. I guess this is wisdom and maturity.