Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Day 2 of the Chapter

Here it is the second day and already it seems as if we've been at it for a week. Thankfully, last night I slept like a log until my alarm woke me at 7:00 AM, and then I scrambled to get ready for the first session, which started at 8:30 AM with the Liturgy of the Word. We had as our guest today, Rev. Eric Law, an Episcopal priest whose expertise is in the area of cultural diversity. He had suggested that we shape the whole day as a Liturgy, and so we would start with the Liturgy of the Word in the large Chapter Hall.

I ran around getting last-minute readers and people to read the psalms (in different languages), also finding out that Eric Law had shaped his comments around the readings of the day, instead of the Feast of St. Joseph - this was an option for today and one that we, as Brothers, would have chosen since St. Joseph is the Patron of the Institute. (Are we starting a theme here of ending up with the "wrong" readings for our Masses?)

Before I knew it, 120 people were in the hall, the place was called to order, and we were off. The Liturgy of the Word went fine.... We started out with a sung version of "Let us remember..." in three languages and went right into the readings, singing the responsorial psalm (Taize - Ubi Caritas) and singing the Alleluia (tune of "Seek Ye First"). The "homily" would be the rest of the day. Eric Law did four 0ne-hour presentations, interspersed with small group discussions. He was okay, but most of the information was fairly straightforward, and the material not as engaging as I had hoped. The Brothers likely enjoyed the small-group sessions more.

The Secretariat staff, and Br. Lorenzo (on the right in the picture, talking with his sister, whom he invited from Mexico to be an assistant secretary), have been putting in lots of hours in order to make sure that things run smoothly. They've set up office space right outside of the room where the four communications people (and myself) are located, and they seem to be busy about many things. Lorenzo maintains a calm in spite of all the demands and impresses me with his efficiency, generosity, and fraternal spirit. I guess that's why he's the Secretary General.

When we finally finished with the presentations at 6:30 PM (I'm falling back into Western time measurements, I know), we adjourned to the Main Chapel where we went right into the Offertory and the rest of the Mass. This time, it was considerably shorter than last evening. During the doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, my Indian compatriot, Br. Fernando, had organized an Indian devotional segment. It lasted maybe 4 minutes - while Father Dennis held up the body and blood of Christ, three Brothers walked out, knelt down, and offered fire, incense, and flowers, as Fernando sang prayerful Indian phrases (Blessings to you; We offer you...) to the accompaniment of a guitar. It was all very new, but also quite impressive, to most of the people there. And good old Br. Vincenzo again served the Mass and helped to give out communion. He knows some French and lots of Italian. Somehow, we seem to communicate with gestures, facial expressions, and smatterings of English, French, Italian, and God-knows-what.

After dinner, a couple of Brothers told me that we needed to provide more language variety - so far, both Masses had been in English, and tomorrow the talk would be in English, and my instructions have been in English. If we keep it up, there's sure to be some sort of negative reaction by the other language groups. Although we didn't have much choice regarding the celebrants - and the 35-minute homily by Archbishop Miller didn't help - I will make a conscious effort to diversify the languages from now on. Starting tomorrow, Masses will be held in language groups until May 15th, the Feast of the Founder, which will be celebrated in French. So we should be good until then.

Fernando and I also gathered up the Liturgical Resource books and the Magnificat volumes from the Main Chapel and the Chapter Hall in order to distribute them among the various prayer spaces for the three language groups. Already, the number of liturgy resource books has been reduced by people "borrowing" them for different purposes. We'll see how long it will be before we run out of enough copies.

During one of the breaks, I ran across the street to get something from the grocery store, only to find out that the place was closed, along with every other store. Apparently today was Labor Day in Italy, and so they took both Monday and Tuesday off. And Thursday will be another holiday (which, of course, must mean that Friday is free also). So I think that Wednesday will be the only day in Italy when anything is open for shopping. What a country! I'm not being critical here; just bemused.