Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Day 3 of the Chapter

There are three "blocks" of housing on the Motherhouse grounds. The "A" block is the main building where the offices are and where the main communities reside. The "B" block is the "La Salle Hotel" which functions fully as a hotel, offering fine accommodations for a very reasonable price, with breakfast thrown in. And the "C" block is the block for Lasallian Studies, which is usually filled with Brothers or other Lasallian groups involved with programs of study or reflection that last anywhere from a week to five or six months or more. My room is on the top floor of the "C" block. The whole place was converted some time ago, and they tried to make as much room as possible. So I believe that I have a converted bathroom, taking a clue from the windows. (Subsequent questions confirmed it.) The living space is about six feet wide by 10 feet long. It's a bit crampled, but as they say, "All rooms are the same once the lights go out."

The only cause for concern is the rather generously sized bathroom (about 40 % of the whole room). Well, not so much the bathroom, but rather the shower. I'm not complaining, of course, but it seems that the water-pressure on this block is extremely sensitive to the vagaries of use by the other 65 occupants of the block. And being on the top floor isn't any help. When I take a shower in the morning in a shower that's like a circle quadrant, not only is there limited maneuverability (I won't get into details) but there is a sort of water-dance that you do, depending on who else happens to be turning faucets on and off, who's flushing a toilet, and all the rest. Both the water pressure and the temperature of the water changes quickly and radically. One minute things are fine, then it becomes a warm trickle (literally a trickle) untill suddenly a burst of cold water shoots out before you have a chance to jump out of there way (and where could you jump?). Then you're fumbling blindly with a jock-stick sort of faucet, trying to get find a temperature a little more bearable, and three seconds later the whole thing starts again. I'm seriously considering sponge-baths.

Enough about domestic matters. This morning we had our first English language Mass in the CIL Chapel. It was very nice - a more intimate group speaking in a language we all knew, some nice songs, a good presider, all the elements were there. (Sorry that some of the pictures are fuzzy - I try not to use the flash.) I did have to scramble between the main chapel sacristy, guarded by the presence of Vincenzo, and the CIL sacristy in order to get things in place (I had also been assigned as sacristan for the English language group) and make sure everything was ready. But it's fine and I'm happy to do it. This is where we will have all of our language group Masses. Later in the morning, I found out that the Spanish group was not as happy with the teacher from a nearby Spanish seminary who said their Mass. We'll have to see what can be done about that. There must be a few priests around here somewhere.

The main speaker for the day was Mrs. Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland (some years ago) who served as High Commissioner for Human Rights for the U.N. and is now involved in all sorts of world groups and affairs. She gave a good overview of where the world is situated in terms of human rights, education, the political sphere, etc. She made some very good points and didn't hesitate to take some jabs at the United States, where she currently lives and which she fully appreciates. For example, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by every single nation in the world except of two - Somalia (where there is no government to speak of who could ratify it) and the United States (because a couple of details - like not being able to execute criminals under eighteen years of age). Education and fostering a culture of human rights is a big part of the answer, she told us. And we could do alot by simply advocating for the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights as we approach the 60th anniversary (next year on December 10th, I believe) of its genesis after World War II.

After her talk, the members of the Chapter were invited to break up into ad hoc talking groups and come up with some questions for President Robinson, which would be collected, collated, and then presented at the next session. She subsequently spoke for another hour, answering those questions along with others from the floor.

In the early afternoon, I had a meeting with the Liturgy Commission, where we addressed some of the upcoming events on the calendar (the Discernment Week next week; the Friday prayer during the Superior's presentation, etc.) and looked as logistic concerns (e.g., how to facilitate prayer in the small groups; solution... I'm preparing a prayer structure guide that group leaders could use with the Liturgy Resource book).

During the afternoon there were small-group meetings, according to language, where they addressed a series of questions on the topic of the reality in the world today. Later in the afternoon we all came back and there were reports from each of the language groups, which had collated the small-group responses into single reports.

By that time we were ready to stop and get ready for supper. At the meal, I sat at a table with John Johnston (who's here for a week of the chapter before returning to Memphis to address his serious medical concerns) and his good friend Claudio, whom he'd met in 1971 here in Rome. Claudio has been a member of the Sant'Egidio community in Rome since his student days and has dedicated his life to them and their mission. He was a fascinating conversationalist and an example what a dedicated Catholic can do with his life. He and his wife live in Trestavere, where the community's main church is located. They are all lay people who study the gospel, do service, and pray once a day together in a single location. Their influence is now worldwide, and they are called in to serve as mediators for various governmental crises throughout the world.

After dinner it was back to work for a while, with a meeting of the Central Commission (which today I was asked to attend daily) at 20:30 followed by a visit to a presentation / party by the Pacific Asia Region, with singing, slide shows and even some dancing. Finally back to the office to do this blog and then I'll go to bed too.

Here I thought things would lighten up a bit. But it looks as if starting at 7:00 AM for Mass (which means getting up at at least 6, of course) and attending a nightly meeting at 8:30 PM will become my new pattern. Then there are the prayers in between to prepare for. I'll save that information for later. That's it for now. I'm a bit tired.

And there's that shower tomorrow to think about.