Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19 - Crunch Time & Mostly Making Candles

Today was the day that the theme groups needed to complete their work so that their lists of challenges, horizons, and lines or action could be translated into the three languages over the weekend for presentation to the general assembly on Monday. Some of the groups met into the late afternoon to complete their work, although "officially" the afternoon was free. A number of the groups also decided to provide their texts in the three languages through the people in their groups, much to the relief of the the Brother translators who were ready to work through the weekend. It was clear during the morning break and during lunch that all of the groups were solidly into their work and would come up with some significant results.

For myself, Freddy, Paul, and Roch, the day revolved around the candles. There was a Liturgy Committee meeting at 8:30 AM at which we reviewed the changes in the liturgy schedule during the last two weeks of the chapter and also began to brainstorm about the closing ceremony. It's two weeks away, but it's best to be prepared. Some good ideas were raised and will be pursued over the next week of so. One idea was to "send forth" the groups of Brothers by Region, just as we processed into the "tent" at the beginning of the chapter. For this purpose, having candles to carry our, perhaps sung to "We Are Walking in the Light of God" in the three languages, was quite appealing. So that meant creating the candles was now a must.

I went into the Main Chapel and gathered up the various candles that were still set on the table that we had used for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacramento. I went in after a Mass for 400 students and parents from San Giuseppe, who were holding their baccalauret there at 9 AM - something that Br. Marcellino told me about at 8 AM. He said that the would take down the material hanging from the columns for the "tent" effect (apparently, kids would fool around with them - probably true) but would put it back up afterwards. I brought the candles down to "The Den" which is the room in the basement where the English Brothers gather to socialize. There's a living room area there and a kitchen, and I would use the kitchen for the candle making. Afterwards, I walked around the garden area of the Motherhouse and found that it had been turned into a parking lot for the parents attending the baccalaureate Mass. Most of the cars were very small - it looked like a "tiny cars" convention" - but some were quite nice (Mercedes, BMW, etc.). How they got the cars in there I don't know, but all of the paths in the garden had become parking places. To top it off, at one corner of the property, where there is a grotto to Mary, a group of young kids from the school next door were having some sort of graduation ceremony as well. It was rather cute to watch them interacting with one another and with their teacher, with the kids dressed in their uniforms and the parents proudly watching from nearby.

Back to the candles... Paul and Br. Roch came down to help with the process, and we soon had a bunch of the candles melting down to a very hot wax. We concentrated on the white candles, because we wanted to see how much white wax we could create. While the candles were melting, I went back to the Purim store to get a number of things (spaghetti boiler - good for collecting the wax; sieve - good for getting out impurities; and small sauce heater/pourer - good for pouring the wax). When I got back, most of the candle wax had been rendered into a liquid. We used a little wax to set the wick and found our that the wick promptly became loose and wouldn't be set back in place. So I asked Br. Marcellino for some super glue (using hand gestures and pantomime) and we super-glued the wicks to the middle of the glass jars. Then, when we poured the wax, we discoverd that the wicks wouldn't stand up staight but melted into the wax. Yikes! Now what? Freddy and Paul devised a way to take pieces of coat hanger and tie up the ends of the wicks so that they would stand up straight. Then, when we poured the wax, we found out that it spilled all over the sides, both inside and outside of the container. Well, that would have to be taken care of later.

I returned to Purim to buy a few more candle wax containers, since we would have more wax than was needed for the six candles. During that time, Freddy and Paul poured in the reddish wax that came from melting a number of the other candles, plus some dye that we had bought from the candle store. When I came back, stage two was almost done. As an aside, by this time there was wax everywhere - the tables, the flour, the sink, the appliances, my pants, the table, and so on. It's amazing how messy something like candle-making can get.

Once the second batch was put in, we took a two-hour break to let things harden up. When I returned two hours later, the other folks had left and were nowhere to be found, but the candles needed to be completed. So I set to work and finished them up several hours later, with a top layer made up of the left-over "white" wax and the candle that we'd had burning in front of the picture of De La Salle in the Aula Magna (which I replaced there with a new one). By that time I was well and truly bushed, plus my lower back was giving me fits to the point that I could hardly stand up straight with excruciating pain, and so I joined the Brothers who came in for a little social before dinner.

At dinner, about 70% of the Brothers were elsewhere, probably on the town somewhere. After dinner I returned to The Den to finish the work and to begin cleaing up. One of the things that I discovered was that a portable hair dryer is a candle maker's best friend. With it you can clean up both the sides of the container plus the table, the floor, and anything else that needs to get wax removed. A hair dryer and a bunch of paper towels are all that is needed.

Later in the evening, Br. Gerard Rummery and Anton de Roeper came in for a bit of relaxation and we had some wonderful conversations before moving off to bed and beyond. One of the memorable phrases that I heard, when we were talking about the various nuances that the French language entails, is, "When you get into a good French sentence, you can hardly find your way out." Or words to that effect. The point is that one can be very nuanced with French, in ways that wouldn't apply in English, which makes translations rather tricky.

I must say that I find Italian quite interesting to listen to. While waling over to Purim, I overheard an elderly Italian couple arguing, or so I thought. They were walking behind me and were using loud Italian, emphasizing every other syllable - so it seemed - and REALLY emphasizing about every fifth syllable. It was this smooth, yet jumpty and melodic phrasing that was both striking and appealing. When they passed me, they were arm in arm, just having a conversation. What a language!

At the morning break, I was speaking with Michael Avila and Michael Sanderl and they were talking about taking the bus to Sienna tomorrow. I expressed an interest in this, and before I knew it I was helping to organize it. Roch and Paul were interested as well, and Roch managed to secure one of the vans for our use. So by dinner time, there were nine people committed to go to Sienna tomorrow - and I'm driving. That should kick in all of my past bus driving experience! Now I'll get to experience a bit of Italian driving as well. This should be fun. Stay tuned.
More pictures of today at