Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10 - Second Day of Discernment

It's in the nature of days like this that nothing much happens - at least on the outside. The environment, schedule, and circumstances are shaped in a way that will encourage reflection, prayer and serious consideration of what has gone on before this.

At the English language group Mass this morning, we were invited to reflect on the conversion that God is calling the Institute towards. These were written on note cards, brought up to the altar, and remained there until after Mass when I was supposed to burn them. Instead, in a more contemporary twist, I went and found a shredder and shredded them to bits. When I asked Br. Lorenzo where the ones from the Spanish language group were, he said that he'd already burned them in the yard somewhere. I had half a mind to go look at the place where he did that, since I wouldn't have known where to start, fearing that one of the Ethiopean gardens would come running at me with a stick and a garden hose if I tried to burn the cards in the nearest convenient spot. But all's well that ends well. The French language group did not use the note cards; I don't know how they completed the exercise, but I presume they did so. It was part of the retreat. (Oh, no, we're not supposed to call it a retreat. They're days of discernment!)

For the morning, I worked on the liturgies that are coming up, plus some resources for future prayer services, and I spent some time talking with Br. Leonardo about various things, also giving him a copy of the book I had written on De La Salle and his spirituality, something that he had asked me for. His main job is working with the Holy See. Anything where the Institute needs to contact or work with its departments, Leonardo is the man. From the look of his office, he's very efficient at it too.

Instead of going to lunch - too much food around here - I decided to go downtown to a music store in order to find a good music stand to use. I walked down to the bus station and noticed another music store across the street. Taking my life in my hands, I crossed like the Italians do (actually I followed in the wake of a few determined Italians, and that worked). While they didn't have what I needed, there were a couple of other items that I did get (e.g., a reasonably priced guitar tuner) and then waited for the 49 bus to take me to the Vatican.

Once there, I began to walk in what I thought was the right direction. After about half a mile I thought that the surroundings did not seem very familiar. Soon it became apparent that I'd gone in the wrong direction. So out came the map, whence I found out that I had zigged when I should have zagged. Back I went and finally found the right street. Upon arriving at the store, it was well and truly closed, complete with metal door lowered down and locked. Of course, if was 2 PM and everyone was home having dinner. Now what?

Well, there's lots to do in Rome. So I walked over to the Vatican, stopping for a walk-in pizza and beer and later for some Amaretti cookies (they're very good, but expensivo). Getting to the piazza, I planted myself in the middle, ate my cookies, and watched the tourists. They were either dead-tired, bubbling with excitement, or fiddling with some sort of camera. Looking over to the side, I saw that there was a photo exhibit of the photographs taken by the official Vatican photographer for the last 50 years or more. He's the guy you always saw running about JP II with 15 cameras hanging from his neck, taking as many shots as he could. I went to the exhibit (free) and enjoyed the pictures that he had picked out to display. You could really see how JP II aged during his pontificate; but of course all the pictures were flattering. There were signs all over that the photos may be shipped all over the world - but it was in some tortured English that I don't now recall. You'd think they'd ask one of the 1500 English-speaking priests how to write a normal sounding declarative sentence. (Maybe I should have said something.) In any case, I moved on and meandered back to the music shop, where I found a good stand that I may pick up tomorrow. It wasn't quite portable and I didn't want to make my way back on the Metro lugging a music stand up and down escalators.

I returned back at the ranch just in time for the 5:00 PM Central Commission meeting. It was announced that this would likely be a short meeting. As was pointed out afterwards, that usually means that the meeting will end up being longer than thought, and this was no exception. We were there for over an hour. Different issues, lots of discussion, ending with general agreement on how to proceed.

Dinner was in silence, with the usual noise in that large echo chambe of a dining room (great for singing, awful for making yourself heard across the table) making dinner seem anything but silent.

For the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament this evening, it was decided that we would try to use some music to cover up the creaking of the pews and to provide some atmosphere. So I found some good background music (Hilliard Ensemble singing Latin chants and meditation piano music) and tried various locations in the chapel before deciding on a spot near the sanctuary.

The service proceeded as planned. About 15 minutes from the end, at 9:45, one of the Brothers went up, whispered to Lorenzo who was sitting by the sanctuary, and then walked over to the ipod I had rigged up and promptly turned it off. I think that after over an hour of the music, he'd had enough of it. And I must say that the silence was fine by me. It's all about owning the liturgy, and the Brothers seemed to be getting the hang of it.

One interesting note, I took several pictures during my foray of these little cars called Smart cars. They seat two people only, seem to run on a lawnmower engine (although designed by Mercedes), and can be parked nose-in. They're the tiniest cars I've yet seen, and I run into old models (or ones like it) and new ones. They're now being sold in Canada, and they will soon be made available by Chrysler in the U.S., so I'm told. They certainly are interesting looking. But paying over $20,000 for them seems a bit steep. Maybe it's cheaper when you use Euros.

More pictures at