Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 13 - Discernment Ends and Work Begins

I think that I'm getting Chapter fever. It's around 7 PM and as I was sitting at my desk working on one of the liturgy projects, I had the acute feeling that there was a meeting somewhere that I was supposed to attend, so I did a circuit of the Motherhouse - a furlong of walking at least - looking for a meeting. Now is that crazy, or what? I think it's because I haven't had a block of time like this in the evening when there wasn't some kind of meeting or event to go to, and that includes the discernment days. Perhaps I'll find our later that I did miss a meeting. At this point, the word "whatever" comes to mind.

So far it's been a busy day. Today we finished the days of discernment and took first steps toward the decisions part of the Chapter. This morning at 8:30 AM we began in the chapel with the Liturgy of the Word, prepared by the English language group. I purposely removed myself from the direct planning of this liturgy, since each language group should feel free to organize "their" liturgies as they prefer, and it helps the group come together as a united body - sort of like the old dictum that community is built in the kitchen when folks cook together (but let's not stretch the analogy too much). After some rousing singing (We Are Marching in the Light of God - in three languages, Kyrie, Laudate Omnes Gentes, Alleluia), there was quiet time to reflect on the readings and begin the final phase of consideration and discussion. After an appropriate pause, individual regional leaders were invited to come forward, take one of the candles that had been burning in front of the banner of the Founder (these were chosen from the table of candles used at the evening prayers) and invite the Brothers from their region to follow them in procession to the place where they would have a regional conversation about the results of this phase. It was all quite solemn, but relaxed. The USA/Toronto Brothers and the Canadian Francophone Brothers combined, with Br. Tom Johnson and Br. Louis Paul Lavallee taking up their candles together to lead the Brothers out. As they bowed in front of the altar, Louis Paul's candle fell and went out. Tom relit it from his and off they went with the Brothers. One Brother said later that it was a great little symbol for everyone involved, since efforts are beginning to combine the Canadian Region with USA/Toronto. At lunch I heard that they have not had any vocations in 40 years, but that they are among the most forward-thinking and hard-working Brothers on the continent. It reminds me of something that Br. Armin said on a video when he was Visitor of the Philippines - something like "There is no one too poor that they have nothing to give, and there is no one to rich that they have nothing to receive."

After the Brothers silently perused the cards in the hallway, they moved to their discussion rooms and established their own rhytmn for their conversation until 12:30 PM, when the Mass would conclude with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At that time, everyone assembled once again in the foyer of the Motherhouse. This time, however, unlike the more quiet assembly from the Opening Ceremony in the same location two weeks ago, the group was very active - loud even - with conversations happening by everyone with everyone else; a good sign, I think. Then, when Br. Alvaro went to the Chapter Staff and picked it up, people quieted down immediately for the procession, with Br. Alvaro saying something like: "Brothers, let us go forward in faith." We took up the Laudate Omnes Gentes again and thence processeth to the chapel. Once there - and it took a while for everyone to make it in - we did the general intercessions, in three languages of course, and then on to the rest of the liturgy. The choir sounded great! However, at one point it was clear that I needed to lead the congregational singing with the handheld microphone, plus direct the choir, plus read from the book. I ended up waving the book around to keep the rhytmn while sharing the microphone between myself and the choir. In between I was also trying to take some pictures. Sometimes it would be good to have another arm, or two.

Just before we went to the chapel for that 12:30 PM Liturgy of the Eucharist, Br. Lorenzo came into the communications room where I was working and said that the Mass tomorrow morninbg at the Casamari monastery at 7:30 AM is one that we should fully prepare. He just spoke with the monks. So please put together a Mass for the 100 Brothers going there and organize everything. I think that he could tell by the look on my face (some panic, some "concern" over the late notice, some "when in Rome") that this was a bit of a surprise. But he smiled and said that it would be marvelous. Of course, this sort of distracted me during the subsequent liturgy, since I was working out in my head what I would have to do this afternoon to get it all done and printed up by tomorrow at 6 AM when we would leave.

So for lunch I ran into the dining room to speak with a couple of Brothers who would be involved in the Founder's Day Mass on Tuesday, had a quick bite, and then went right to work on the mass for tomorrow. I did go back, however, for the celebrations for today (birthdays for Br. Edwin Arteaga and Br. David Hawke, 29th anniversary of ordination for Fr. Dennis, and tomorrow 60th anniversary of robing for Br. Gerard Rummery - he doesn't look that old). A couple of hours later it was ready to be printed. As a result, I missed most of the Aula Magna session at which the Brothers considered the outline for Phase 4 of the Chapter. When I came in, the questions to the Central Commision and the Moderators - polite, but probing the details - were still going on. Eventually, all questions were addressed and the assembly broke for the afternoon and not planning to resume until Wednesday morning, when the harness is put to the plow (is that the right expression?). The point was emphasized that we (the Central Commission) could not predict the exact details of the schedule into the next few weeks, but that we would have to see how the theme groups developed their reports, and so on. It's all about staying open to the Holy Spirit and allowing the Brothers to form the kinds of results that they determine by consensus and discussion. It's a little risky, I know, especially with a deadline - in terms of time - looming, but it's the only way to stay faithful to the principles that they've set out for themselves.

Then it was back to work, getting the Founder's Day liturgy programs completed, one for each language group. Sr. Margaret, the Guadalupanes Sister who seems to work all the time with the other staff in Br. Lorenzo's area, pointed out some Spanish errors on my final drafts, for which I was very grateful, and now everything will be able to be printed out in good time (I hope).

This morning also, in the middle of the morning, as others were in their meetings, my cell phone rang and it was Bishop Gardin, asking about the liturgy on Tuesday. His English wasn't bad, but I could tell that he wouldn't be able to express himself best in that language. I walked out to Lorenzo who chatted with him in Italian for five minutes and then completed the call. I asked him if I needed to know anything from the conversation and he said that everything was covered, so I went back to work. The expression "too much information" has all kinds of contexts, and this was oneof them. What I needed toknow I already knew.

Later this afternoon, a group of Brothers (mostly young or in better health than me) spent a good hour or more playing soccer, tennis, and other strenuous sports. The soccer field was about as big as a couple of volleyball courts, but that made it all the more enjoyable because the action was constant. The ball was never "out" - although I did almost get knocked "out" with it a couple of times.

This evening I spent most of my time working and getting ready for tomorrow and the day after. But as a nice diversion, Roch had a little BBQ on the roof of the Motherhouse at 7:30 PM. It was just him and the volunteers, along with another resident in the house. Later on, Fr. Adriano, the house chaplain, stopped by. Conversation flowed between Italian, French, and Spanish, with a little English thrown in now and then too. I understood the English.

I might just get to bed early this evening, which would be rather unique. But I'll make up for it tomorrow, since the bus leaves at 6 AM sharp, and once we get to Casamari Abbey, wherever that it, I'll have to get my bearings for the Mass at 7:30 PM. I don't know who the celebrant will be, what the customs are, what ministers we will need, or anything else. Who said that Liturgy was an adventure?

More pictures at