Saturday, May 22, 2010

We have had quite a busy few days: and Chaper is not even half over. Here we are all pictured with the Bishop of Long Island after Mass on Friday

One of the first things we did was to welcome our new novice, Br. James-Paul

Sister Jean, Minister Provincial of CSF spent a couple hours knotting the new ropes for the four brothers who were professed today.

At noon today, Br. Jude, the Minister Provincial of the Province of the Americas opened the liturgy where we professed four brothers; it has been many years since we professed four men at once.

From right to left, we professed Brother James, Brother Maximilian Kolbe, Brother Ambrose Cristobal, and Brother Simon. Pictured at the far left of the photo is Brother Jacob, one of our first year novices.

Here the Brothers are signing the documentation of the vows they have made.

Following the Profession (with an amazing sermon by Br. Richaard Jonathan the Novice Guardian, we all went upstairs for a terrific Mexican lunch of soup, salad and tamales! There was a huge cake.

And then it was back to work in the Chapter room; what an exceptional day it has been.

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pay Attention!

One of the keys to a happy life is to pay attention to people and circumstances. Tripping obliviously along does not bode well for the spiritual life either.

But I don't always pay attention. Sometimes it is because I am tired. Other times I don't pay attention because what needs attending to is beyond my ken and unavailable to me.

For instance, Saturday I was returning from a short run and, relishing the golden sun on Mt. Sinai harbor, I decided it would be the perfect evening to inaugurate the canoe for this season. Br. Max was willing, so we wrestled the craft upside down onto our shoulders, hiding our heads, and bumbled like an enormous sow bug down the hill from Little Portion to the little bit of marsh which is our "beach." Cars slowed way down when they saw the four-legged green thing alongside the road.

We opted for the shortcut to the harbor, and blundered through sticker bushes, over fallen logs and through sharp bladed grass. Finally we reached the harbor.

"Uh-oh," said Max.

"What's wrong?" I asked peering from beneath the canoe.

"Tide's out."

"The tide?!" I stammered. "I never thought of that."

Being naturally impatient I tried to slog through the mud and grass to reach the water. Max held back, laughing. I sank up to my knees in viscous, odoriferous muck, only saving my shoes by clenching my toes tightly. I admitted defeat.

"But I am not carrying this thing back up the hill until we get out on the water," I vowed.

So we stashed the canoe in a bramble thicket, deciding that nobody would be inclined to grapple with it and the menacing vegetation. And if they were, they would be welcome to the boat.

Sunday Br. Derek announced: "High tide at 12:45." We were learning to pay attention to new things.

Unsurprisingly, the canoe was still there. We slid it easily into the water and glided out across the grasses to the open water--several feet above the muddy sea floor. There is a line in Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows" at the very beginning, when Water Rat says to Mole as they set out in a boat: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing--about--in--boats; messing--" So begin their adventures and misadventures together. Reading them today I am reminded of the friars sometimes. But that line of Water Rat's has stayed with me from childhood. It expresses the epitome of pleasurable leisure.

So we paddled lazily, sometimes bumping into things, watching egrets, herons, ducks, geese and swans. Max saw a school of fish. We marveled at a jelly fish. We speculated on the happiness of the people who lived in the huge water-side mansions compared with ourselves in our canoe. Surprisingly (but why should it have been?), we knew some folks on one of the lobster boats and shouted greetings.

"Look at that!"

"Look at that over there!" we told each other. There was much to see and pay attention to.

Sometimes being told to "pay attention" can be threatening or chastening. But as we prepare for Pentecost this Sunday, it can be an invitation too. Consider yourself invited to take note of the breath-taking beauty around you, unimagined riches right in our back yards.

Alleluia. The Spirit of God fills the whole earth; holy widsom, herself unchanging, in Christ makes all things new. Alleluia.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Little Portion Friary

Home again, home again!

When I arrived late Monday evening, I pushed open the door of my room, to discover the unmade bed just as I left it in a rush in January. The half-full coffee cup on the bedside stand. The bathtowel at the foot of the bed.

No photos of that!!

A bit Dickensian: Miss Havisham came to mind. Since I left in winter the room had been left shut up tight, and the stale air reinforced the sense of possible spiders and dust everywhere. The only change was the presence of five huge packing boxes in the middle of the room: my drum, a favorite painting, a few books, and a suitcase of sweater and liturgical garments.

So Tuesday was devoted to unpacking, changing linens, getting organized.

Wednesday I washed windows: always try to reintegrate in friary life as quickly as possible!

The rest of the week has been bits of this and that. The highlight was the Confirmation of my friend Terry (she is the secretary at Little Portion).
It was great fun going off to the Cathedral and standing next to her as the Bishop anointed her and said a prayer. I was full of memories of my confirmation. Was it 1971? My word. A former curate from our parish was my sponsor. I was extremely nervous and keyed up. In those days Confirmation was also First Communion. We'd gotten some pretty heavey duty instruction on the significance of it all. So when the moment came to receive Communion I was holding my breath. Trying to drink from the Chalice I coughed explosively, spraying myself and everyone else with wine. Which made me laugh with mortification, and earned me a lecture to take the Sacrament seriously from the Rector. What a memory. Terry survived the day with great aplomb.

Later we had a delicious red velvet cake!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Entertaining Angels Unaware

Every Friday night the brothers go out with a team from St. John's parish in Sao Paulo to distribute food, water, dry socks and blankets to the homeless. Nine of us squeezed into a VW van, which was loaded with huge vats of soup, plastic bottles of
water. we sat on folded blankets. They follow basically the same route in and around the neighborhood near the Anglican/Episcopal parish of St. John, stopping at every heap of refuse or muddle of blankets to shout "Good Evening!" Soon enough a beaming face would appear, and the team busily gave them basic survival supplies. Twice we were warned off with an expletive; but nobody blamed them--sleep is precious enough in a noisy place like Sao Paulo. The amazing thing to me was how delighted most of the people were to see us. One man wanted his picture taken with us. By 2:30 a.m. we'd given away all we had. We learned that other outreach teams have been visiting the same people; welcome news in one way, but it will mean a revised strategy.

Brothers are involved in direct service to the homeless in every SSF province around the world. Some are also involved in citizen's organizations that work to end poverty. In New Zealand I was asked if my vow of poverty meant I liked poor people
to be poor. Far from it. Degrading poverty is a sin. Religious poverty is about radical sharing. At every meal I pray: "...and make us mindful of the needs of each other and the poor." Some people have challenged us about enabling addicts; we
should be getting them to face the consequences of their actions and pushing them towards sobriety. Yes; but if they are dead from exposure or starvation, what is the good in that? In my own work with homeless people since 1983 I have learned that for
every "hopeless case" there is another ready to do the necessary hard work to get out of the bind of homelessness. But you just can't tell which is the one when you first meet.

We got up at noon, and I was feeling drained by the crazy sleep schedule. Then the door bell rang and three of Br. James' friends from across the street swept us off for a meal. Laughing, teasing, joking.
I felt I could have been in New York or
San Francisco--just got to crack the code of their lingo. But the bond of friendship, the joy of giving and receiving brightened the day.

As it did the night.