Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15 - Feastday of Our Founder

Although the official Church feastday of St. John Baptist de La Salle is on April 7th, the day he died, many in the Lasallian family celebrate it on May 15th, the day he was proclaimed Patron of Teachers in 1950. Besides, he died on April 7th, 1719, which was Good Friday that year, and that date usually falls on a day within Lent or Holy Week, so his feast is often "co-opted" by other priorities, and May 15th falls nicely at the end of the school year, allowing students and teachers a break when they need it.

But before the day even got started, my festive spirit was challenged. Although I got up fairly early, my morning ritual tooklonger than usual because of the shower (you may remember the "water dance" entry from before) which, when I turned it fully on, produced only several drops, literally, of water. Then I heard my friend the water pump turn on outside of my window, and the water increased a bit. After a while, there was fine trickle of hot water, which, when combined with the cold at just the right angle of the nozzle, was sufficient to begin. Of course, at the appropriate time - when ready to rinse - everything stopped once more. I could count the drops coming from the shower head through my eyes squinting through the soap. Now what? Cold water was aplenty but not exactly my favorite choice. I could have done better with a bucket and a Dixie cup, and was thinking of options like that when the trickle began once again and I somehow managed to finish. Apparently, this problem only occurs in Blocco C, this particular building on the property and the one used by CIL students and guests of the hotel. Blocco A, the one where most of the staff and administration lives, works fine. It calls to mind a principle I'd heard one Brother say, regarding air conditioning in our schools in hot climates: "There should be a rule that the offices are the last building to be air conditioned." Although I'm not complaining - well, maybe sort of - you would think that the hotel would want to solve this little (!?) dillema, especially since studies have shown that the quality of the shower is a primary factor in why people choose some hotels or motels over others. Oh, well, on with the day.

I brought the programs (three languages, three colors) to breakfast and set them on a table to be folded. Some Brothers volunteered to help do so - as I had hoped - and they were done in short order. The Mass to celebrate the Founder would begin at 11:30 AM, and I had scheduled a choir practice in the Main Chapel at 9:00 AM. When I arrived there around 8:45 AM to set up for the practice, the organ was going and I thought that it was Br. Rodolfo practicing (I'd seen him earlier with our requests for the music at the mass). I went up there to speak with him and found instead Br. Andrea and a group of kids from the school. I tried to communicate with him, to no avail, but picked up the fact that the school was having a mass in the chapel at 9 o'clock and that they would be done by 10 AM. Great, there goes my choir practice. Off to my office to make a sign saying that the practice would now be at 10. Then run around to tell folks about the change in time. On reflection, I realized that we probably should simply have changed the location, since some Brothers had set up a meeting at ten, knowing that the practive was at nine. A half hour later I return to find that the Mass was just at the homily. So I snuck into the side aisle and made a sign to Fr. Adriano to stay aware of the time. To his credit, he wrapped up the homily in short order and moved on. When I came back at 10 AM, they were going through communion so I thought that we would be okay. But here, down the hall, come 100 or more real little kids (first and second graders from the school?) and they began lining up. What now? I asked one of the Brothers to ask what this was about and found out that they would just have a "short" prayer service after the mass. Okay, so we will have to move to another location anyway. Off we went to the CIL chapel, leaving Br. Peter to kindly tell choir members where to go. We practiced for a good 45 minutes and were ready for the Mass.

Then off I went to make sure the chapel was set up, the sacristan (Br. Vincenzo) all set, the readers ready, the cup ministers assigned to their proper places, the music in place, the programs and liturgy books arranged, and so on. I'd also seen all of the Councillors and Br. Alvara and Br. Bill Mann to ask them to be in the procession as we went in for Mass. With the help of Br. Freddy, we were set all at around 11 AM. I popped into a Central Commission meeting that had been going on - I'd been too busy to attend - and picked up on the topics discussed. I asked Lorenzo, quietly, which language the bishop would be saying the mass in, since up to then all of our information had said "Italian" but I'd heard from others that it would be in French. He said "French" and off I ran to tell Vincenzo about it; he wasn't happy (you can tell by the gestures, even if you don't know the language). Then it was out again to meet up with the bishop and whatever priests showed up.

The bishop arrived about five minutes before the mass was to begin, and he went right to the room where he would vest. When I went in there, I saw Bishop Gardin and four priests (Fr. Dennis, a Rwandan priest in the house, and two priests from the SOLT group who live in a section of the house - SOLT: Society of Our Lady of the Trinity). On our way to the chapel, another elderly priest was waiting for us; it was Fr. Flanagan, the Founder of SOLT who lives with his group on the third floor. So we would have five extra priests. I just hoped that Vincenzo had enough chairs on the altar.

The music began right as the group got to the chapel and off we went, with me rushing down th aisle as the music is playing in order to get to the choir, singing their hearts out in the area next to the sanctuary. Everything went very well, I must say. I'd arranged to have the first reading done in Vietnamese and the second reading done in Arabic (everyone had the readings in their programs in either French, Spanish, or English). The bishop said the homily in French, but the translations were passed out after the Mass. It was fairly short, thankfully. I have yet to meet a Brother who will say that a homily was too short.

At communion time, the four Brothers whom I'd asked to serve as cup ministers came into the sanctuary and stood there while the priests took communion. Then four of the priests took the cups and promptly walked down to the front of the sanctuary, leaving the Brothers sort of standing there. I quietly told the Brothers "thank you" and off they went to join the rest of the congregation for communion. This came about because I hadn't known a) how many priests would show up, b) if they would want to be ministers, c) what the bishop preferred, d) and pretty much most of what might happen. Part of the liturgical adventure. I'm just sorry for the Brothers, since they were generous enough to respond to my request. You have to flexible in Rome, I'm finding out.

At the end of Mass, Vincenzo walks out with a big cope and while the organ is playing the postlude, we watch the bishop take off his outer vestment and put on the cope and then process out the side door to the statue area. I gesture to the Brothers to follow either out to side doors or the back. (It reminded me of a scene from "Keeping Up Appearances" - a British comedy series - where Hyacinth gestures directions to her relatives, waving her arms about like a banshee.) As they're leaving, I grab a resource book and make my way through the crowd to the outside where everyone is quietly gathered around the statue. Maneuvering my way to the front, we start the Taize "Ubi Caritas" and sing it twice. On my way out, I'd asked Br. Jean Luc if he would read a verse from one of the psalms, in French, after the Ubi Caritas, which he did. Then one more refrain and we're ready for the benediction ceremony. I began to hand the microphone to Br. Donato, the Visitor for Italy, but he looks to me and gestures that he's not going to speak. Okay, now what? I look over at Br. Alvaro on the other side with a questioning look ("So, do YOU want to go next?") and Br. Alvaro communicates with his facial gestures to Br. Donato that he wants Br. Donato to say something. That does the trick, and off goes Br. Donato like a pro, speaking for three or four minutes in Italian, gestures and all. After that it's Br. Alvaro's turn, and finally we get to the bishop who says a few kind words in Italian and begins the blessing.

Positioning myself behind the statue was good thing from a photography perspective. Br. Marcellino and Massimo were holding strings to some drapery that would reveal the statue at the right time. It sort of worked - which of course made for some good pictures. The statue was revealed (applause, applause) and it was duly blessed. Then we went for our social and dinner.

The dinner was a long affair - a good two or three hours I think - with a number of courses. Everyone was in good spirits. The cake had a picture of De La Salle on it, and I don't know if it was made of frosting or not. But it was real tasty. The Brothers thought that it was probably a picture that had been embedded and would be removed, since cutting into the Founder wasn't something that anyone was going to do. Toward the end of dinner, Br. Paulo Petry took me over to his table and introduced me to the Ambassador from Portugal - a graduate from our schools there - who was their guest. He'd wanted to meet the person who created the photomosaic of the picture of the Founder and was effusive in his praise. We exchanged cards and I said that I'd be happy to give him more information about the process, or to help him create one. Later, in garden I took a picture of the two of us, just for reference sake on my part.

After the dinner, it was down time for most folks. I took a good long nap, emerging around six o'clock to go through my photographs and see about tomorrow's prayer service. Dinner at 19:30 had about half of the people there. Most, I figure, were either out on the town or weren't interested in a dinner so close to the last big meal. Finally, after dinner, four of us went to a nearby gelato place - the one next to McDonald's - to finish the day in good Italian style.

Happy Founder's Day, folks.
More pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/gvangrie/ItalyMay15