Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17 - Theme Groups Begin

Today was the day that the theme groups really got to work. There was one fairly short session in the Aula Magna at which the procedures for the theme groups was finalized. The prayer to begin the session was done by Br. Freddy, who used one of the Bhanyans that he had brought with him from India. Two other Brothers (Denzil and Michael French) helped out with the music, while Frank Burns was called upon to do the short readings. Everyone had a copy of both the Indian words and the English translations. As a short, repetitive chant, it went very well and established a prayerful atmosphere for the morning. Plus, Freddy's voice is well fitted to this music and he throws in all of the half-tones and quarter-tones that the Bhanyan deserves.

Once that began, the rest of us were pretty much on our own. I had a bunch of things to do on my computer for future liturgical activities, but at least the pressure wasn't there to produce something within the next day or so. I did put together prayer packages for the theme groups to use at the end of the day (suggested prayer formats, an example of a prayer, and so on). It's really up to the theme groups, however, to set up how they wish to proceed. When I checked in with a couple of the elected coordinators of the theme groups at lunch, I found out that they had taken the bull by the horns and had already set up volunteers to lead their group prayer times.

The theme groups will have a little more than two days to get all of their work done. When I went around to the groups to take some pictures it was clear that they had dug in with both feet and even with the translation challenges they were moving quickly to the heart of their subject areas.

After lunch, I had wanted to go with Freddy to the candle place to get some wicks, etc., but then remembered that the place was closed until 4 PM or so, and that Freddy did his exercise in the late afternoon. So we'll go tomorrow morning instead, since the theme groups will still be at it then. The plan for the candles has changed somewhat. Now we're thinking of taking all of the candles that the Brothers have brought and turn them into large candles for the various Regions of the Institute. I went online for an hour or so to educate myself about candle making, and as long as we use a double boiler, I found out, we will lessen our changes of blowing ourselves up or starting a major fire. I'll just take it one step at a time.

This afternoon I decided to take a walk in the neighborhood, something I hadn't had a chance to do before this day. That walk turned into a walk to the Vatican, which took about an hour and 15 minutes. I had wanted to visit the souvenier shop there, and when I finally got there found it to be shut tight. Later I discovered that while the Rome diocese celebrates Ascension Thursday next Sunday, in the Vatican they celebrate it on Ascension Thursday (today), and so the stores were all closed. Seems kind of funny that where the Bishop of Rome lives they celebrate it one way while where he is bishop they celebrate it another way. Anything for a day off, I suppose.

On my walk, I was struck by some of the more interesting aspects of Italian life: gas stations on the sidewalk, where people simply pull over for gas; scooters for whom traffic lights do not apply, running the lights and maneuvering through people crossing the streets; scooters parked all over the sidewalks in front of apartment buildings; impeccably dressed people skirting strewn garbage on the sidewalks as they pass graffitti-filled walls of buildings; and so it it goes.

I went into several stores looking for some inkjet or laser forms to make clear, large labels. Several stationery stores I found didn't have them at all. At one place the proprietors were watching a very loud soccer game on television. When they asked me in Italian if they could help me, I did the best I could with gestures and Italian-like noises. Finally, he seemed to understand and in rapid Italian gestured down the street while saying "MaccaDonalds" - indicating, I suppose, that I would find what I wanted down the street near McDonalds. Well, I found the McDonalds but kept looking for another stationery store. Hence ending up at the Vatican. From there I tood the good old 46 back to the Piazza De La Salle and so back home for the evening meal.

Roch said that he would like to go to Frascati tomorrow evening, and that I should drive. That will be another brand-new adventure. It will also help intensify my prayer life, no doubt.
More pictures at