Friday, April 27, 2007

Getting Closer by the Day

If you go to the Institute website ( you will see a link to a General Chapter and a countdown clock, telling the number of days that are left until the Chapter begins. I don't need a clock to tell me that; the uber-hyper activity here in Rome gives me plenty of signs.

Today was filled with another set of meetings. Thankfully, Massiso, the fix-it guy at the Motherhouse, began working on the "tent" in the Main Chapel, with the help of Paul Wolfing. We will monitor progress. He has to finish tomorrow morning, since the school next door is having a Confirmation Mass in the afternoon in the chapel.

This morning I worked on finalizing the Excell spreadsheet showing all of the liturgical activities, along with their details (who does what when, etc.) plus devising several handouts to the Brothers dealing with various aspects of the upcoming liturgical life. Then I asked Br. Edwin Arteaga to interpret for me as I met with the two sacristans here - Br. Francisco from the Canary Islands (70+ if he's a day) and Br. Vincenzo (Italian and 74 years old) who have "overseen" masses here for years. Neither of them spoke English, and Edwin (a very lively 70 himself, with a great attitude and a wide range of experience in Colombia, Israel, and many other places, speaking about 6 languages fluently) even became flustered as he tried to interpret between Italian, Spanish, and English. At one point, he was looking at me very sincerely as he told me in Italian what Br. Francisco had said in Spanish, until Br. Francisco tapped him 0n the shoulder and reminded him, in Spanish, that I only understood English. We spent 90 minutes talking about the upcoming events of the Chapter, and the details of the opening ceremony and opening Mass. Br. Vincenzo fulfilled all of my expectations of the Italian language as, at times, he spoke to me in very fervent Italian (only some of which I understood), waving his hands about like a traffic cop and using facial expressions that only a long-time expert in non-verbal communication could muster. If I wasn't so aware of the sensitivity of some of the topics (like what elements should be part of a procession) that we were discussing, I would have enjoyed the experience more.

Here is a picture of the JPII Chapel. It's a large room at one end of the main building where Mass is held each day during the "winter" by a Romanian priest who says the Mass in Italian and is the "voice of the vatican" to all Romanians on Vatican Radio. The room has these red lounge-like chairs that seem a bit out of context, and it's also the room where many of the popular paintings of De La Salle are hung.

Later in the day, there was a meeting of Preparatory Commission. We looked over the entire first week, day by day, in order to make sure that everything was being covered. Meanwhile, occasionally I would pop into Br. Lorenzo's office to see if the 256-page Liturgical Resource book that I had submitted more than a month ago had arrived yet from the printer. The printer promised that it would be here this week, and here it's the last possible day that it could be delivered before the Chapter itself. The one-hour meeting turned into a two-hour meeting. We covered more details than I thought existed for any event, and we emerged relatively unscathed.

Right after, I went to see Brother Rodolofo, who is the Postulator-General (in charge of all of Brothers who are being considered for sainthood - if I survive this next 5 weeks I might be a candidate) and a very good organist. I asked him to play the organ in the Main Chapel for our two initial services, and we went over each service step by step.

When all that was over, it was almost time for dinner (19:30) and after making changes on documents related to the liturgical life of the Chapter, in preparation for meetings tomorrow, I went to a very nice dinner in one of the large dining rooms where the Chapter delegates were now asked to have their meals. (The meals so far had been held with the Motherhouse community in their dining room.) More Brothers from the States had arrived and we had a great time, telling stories and reminiscing about Brothers past and present.

At the beginning of the dinner, I heard in the background two names that I immediately recognized, since I'd emailed them a number of times over the last nine months. One was Br. Ferdinand, a young Brother from India who will be the other member of the official Liturgy Team. The other was Br. Paul Petry, the Provincial for the District of Brazil, who will be helping out in the area of liturgy and music. It was really nice to finally meet them and to spend some time chatting. We arranged to meet tomorrow morning to get to the work of what was ahead of us.

It appears that everyone here is able to both appreciate the company of some very interesting characters and to be able to get down to some serious work. It should be an interesting time, to say the least.