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| June 2006 »
Last night the big entertainment in the country was the football (soccer) game between England and Hungary--which England won 3 - 1. The news for the past week or so has centered on a key player who broke his foot just as the World Cup hoopla is beginning to build. As many may know, the World Cup is a MAJOR event outside the United States. I wonder if we will ever get involved?
My day began a usual until I got to my temporary office where I noticed that my laptop had shut down. I thought this a bit strange until I hit a key and noticed that it came back on as though it were running on the battery. Aha. The AC Adapter was not lit and the computer was down to a little over an hour before going completely dead. I didn't have time before class to do anything, but right after class I got on a school computer and went to Dell in the UK. After much searching I finally found a number to call and ordered a new adapter for a rather painful amount of money. I paid a few pounds extra to expedite shipping and decided to download the necessary files to my little SanDisk which I could plug into one of the school computers and do my class notes, etc.
Such were my plans. The school computers are on a Lennox system and my material is on Windows. No computer in the place will recognize the files on my disk. So there will be no pictures on this blog until I get my laptop recharged, class notes are in a word processing form that I've never used before, and email has to be accessed via the internet. I knew Camelot had to end sometime. :-)
So, other than the "tragic" day, all is well. I have completed half of the course and still have the students attention and enthusiasm, so I guess I really don't have anything to complain about.
It is Tuesday evening here in Canterbury. We did have a clear to partly-cloudy day, but the storm clouds are rolling back in and the temperature is dropping into the upper 30s(F) tonight. I am half finished with my class and the time is really flying by. As the students comment on how much they are learning, I am thinking the same--but I'm not talking about the Moral Theology Class. I'm thinking about all that I have personally learned in just a brief two weeks. I have already mentioned the intercultural aspects of the place, the sense of history in this country, the richness of the Franciscan movement, etc. in earlier postings on this blog. These still continue to impress me. But there is a lot more.
I guess, in a nutshell, I am feeling grateful and humbled by the warmth and acceptance of the community and for the opportunity to teach (and be) here. Wonderful things are happening in this Centre for people all over the world. Sisters, Brothers, Priests, and Lay men and women are being given the opportunity to learn about the rich Franciscan tradition and to experience good theological discussions in a way that many could never do in their home countries. To have the chance to be a part of all this is wonderful. I am especially grateful to our provincial administration for allowing me to accept the invitation to come here.
I'll close with a couple of more shots from Canterbury (on the left) and Herne Bay (on the right). The architecture in the city and along the beach are two examples of what one sees in this part of England. The very, very old along side the more modern makes for a very broad spectrum of history captured in stone and wood.
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY to all back in the States. And HAPPY JUBILEE to all of the Friars celebrating a major anniversary of Profession or Ordination today.
Yesterday, Sunday, we finally got a rain-free, but partly-sunny day and I managed to spend it out taking pictures and seeing some sights. After Eucharist I hopped a coach (bus) and went into Canterbury and walked the streets taking pictures and had lunch in a quaint old tavern. The price seemed reasonable for a noonday meal, until I realized that the Pound is worth twice what our US Dollar is worth. So, in effect, the meal cost me twice what I paid. Ouch!
"Downtown" Canterbury is the old city which is within what was the city wall. There are many old buildings and very narrow streets. The scene on the left (remember you can click on the picture to get a full screen image) is a busy side street. On the right is the Royal Museum and Free Library. Here the old buildings are not torn down and replaced with new ones. Rather, the incoming business adapts to the shape and look of the building. So, you may see an old Tudor building with a Pizza Hut sign over the door; or a MacDonalds arch. There are more modern buildings on the outskirts, but even there you find old, maintained structures.
Mid afternoon, Sr. Margaret, the Assistant Principal for the Centre, took me to the coast of the North Sea about thirty minutes north of Canterbury. At the left is a picture taken from a park along the shore in Whitstable where we stopped the "tea and cake." Because it was the first fairly warm and sunny day of May, everyone seemed to be out enjoying themselves. From Whitstable we drove on a short distance to Herne Bay. Here the shore line is long with beaches which were crowded with families. The picture at the right is a shot of the shore at Herne Bay. If you look closely in the distance you can see the ruins of a castle that dates back to Roman days. Yes, the sense of history here is way beyond that of the States!
I have many more pictures of the two outings, but I'll save some for the next few days.
Today we had a rare treat. An Ethiopian priest from London joined the two Ethiopian Capuchin Friars studying here at the Franciscan International Study Centre to celebrate a Eucharist according to the Coptic Rite. This, I found out, is one of the oldest rites in the Catholic Church. It is very inclusive in the sense that everyone plays a part; priests and laity. The proper celebration is led by two priests and deacon who chant the entire liturgy back and forth with each other and the congregation. While I got lost trying to follow the sequence, since it was in a foreign language, I did find it very soothing to listen to the cadence of the music, smell the heavy incense, and look at the vestments and gestures of the service. Once again, I am impressed with the intercultural aspects of this place of learning.
I have completed my first week of a three week course. I am teaching two hours per day; five days a week. The class is developing very nicely. They seem to want to learn that material and are putting effort into the course. This make for a very enjoyable classroom.
Last evening we had a staff dinner to thank those teaching and working at the Centre this year. I just happened to be here at the right time. I figure that I am reliving the Gospel story about the workers hired at various times of the day. I arrived late, but got to celebrate the appreciation meal right along with those who have labored all year. (Of course, I am offering a full term of classes within the three weeks that I am here.)
The weather report is calling for more rain this weekend, but I do hope to find enough sun so that I can get into Canterbury and take some pictures. Sunday I am to go out with one of the Sisters on staff to see the coast. I'll let you know how that turns out next week.
By the way, I did not take any pictures of the Eucharist today out of respect for the Liturgy. I would have felt rude intruding as though it were a spectacle.
Michael asked in a comment to yesterday's entry in which I mentioned the topic of conversation in class concerning care for an elderly parent: how would a man who is a priest or brother handle the situation? Actually, almost everyone in the class is a Religious and a part of our discussion was how we would address the situation both as a man or woman from a particular culture, and as a member of a Religious community. Most communities would see to it that arrangements are made if a parent of a member is in need. This is actually a very real issue for Religious today because our parents are living longer and we come from small families which means we have less siblings to turn to help. But no friar is going to be asked to leave his parents uncared for. We support those who gave us our lives and reared us when they grow old and/or infirm and need assistance.
Remember that comments, questions, concerns, etc. are welcome on this blog either through email or through a comment to an entry. We can discuss issues while I travel. So let me hear from you. (Of course, if you would prefer to ask or discuss something off the web, just email me and I'll answer in that forum. The blog is for public discussions only.)
Little did I know that when I came to England to teach for a few weeks I would miss the debut of one of our prospectives as a featured commentator in the Cincinnati paper last Sunday. Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but a comment by Michael Charron, who made a Come and See weekend last March, did appear in last Sunday's Enquirer. It seems Michael was at a Theology on Tap gathering at Tickets sports bar in Covington, KY on Thursday, May 11, where the "The Da Vinci Code" was discussed. If you are interested in reading the article, and reading Michael's comment, go to: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060521/COL05/605210307/-1/columnists.
The fact that I am using a slightly old picture tells you that I have not been able to get out and take any new ones so far this week. The weather has been very chilly, rainy, and windy. Just the walk from my dorm to the Centre--about 30 seconds worth of easy walking--has been noticeably brisk. So far I have avoided getting caught in one of the major downpours. This area of Kent is suffering from a drought due to two dry winters, so I guess I shouldn't begrudge them a little water.
I continue to be impressed with the group I am teaching. Their participation and varying insights make for very interesting classroom discussions. This morning, for example, we used the situation of an elderly widow needing attention while her two married sons agonize over how to address her needs and still remain supportive of their own families. Needless to say, the varying cultures viewed the situation very, very differently. The role of the elderly in the broader family structure proved to be the area of greatest difference within the cultures represented in the class.
If any other prospective Franciscan (or any of the friars, etc.) has a debut or is involved in anything he would like to share with others, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see about putting it in this blog.
My American version of English is causing a few smiles as I try to communicate with the locals. I have become very aware of differing vocabularies as well as pronunciations. For instance, we would yield while merging into traffic, the British would give way. We might have to take a detour, they would take a diversion. We fix a clogged drain, they fix a clogged plug hole. I would say that it is starting to rain again (something I have said MANY times since arriving here), they would say it is starting to throw down again.
I have also noticed that many things are smaller. We Americans have bought into the idea of large sized everything--cars, appliances, etc. Washing machines here hold what we would consider a rather small load. Also, dryers are less frequently used, it seems. Yesterday my room turned into a "hanging garden" as I stretched a cord across the room to dry my laundry. I cannot remember the last time I hung up laundry to dry! I found it rather thought provoking as I realized just how automated we have become in the States.
I am likewise very aware of how young the USA is. There is a plaque hanging in the entrance to the Centre commemorating, in 1974, the 750th anniversary of the Franciscans arriving in England. That means that the Friars arrived here in 1224--while Saint Francis was still alive. Columbus didn't stumble into our continent until 1492. It makes one stop and realize what a young "up start" our country is in the history of the Western World.
Finally, I am finding it very insightful to listen to the national and world news. Hearing a report on what is happening in Washington, for example, from a foreign perspective sheds a whole new light on events back home.
I think that I have finally overcome my jet lag. I remember being told that it takes one day for every hour difference. That being the case, yesterday, Monday, was my fifth day here and I slept very well last night.
After being out of the classroom for three years serving as the Vocation Director for the Province, it feels good to be back to teaching. The class is bigger than I expected from the initial roster. There are five taking the class "for mark" (for credit), and six auditing; for a total of eleven. Not only is the class composed of men and women of faith who really want to learn, it is a very intercultural group with a wide age span. There are four Temporarily Professed friars: two for Lithuania, one from England, and one from South Africa. There is one lay woman from Germany and the rest are Sisters: two from Nigeria, one from the Philippines, two from Kenya, and one from Korea. And each person brings his/her personal and professional experiences as well as cultural identity. What rich variety for a Moral Theology class! I expect some good conversations.
I cannot remember ever living is such a diverse setting. Yesterday at the Sunday Eucharist, which included many besides the students and staff of the centre, we very comfortably incorporated African music and dance into our worship. The entire congregation, including the non-centre folks, joined in as though we were singing a more traditional hymn. Even the group of concelebrants represented a mixture of Franciscans, Capuchins, Conventuals, and Diocesan priests from four continents.
My prayer last evening centered on the richness of both the Franciscan movement and the universal Church. What a blessing we Catholics have in belonging to a truly universal Church. And what a blessing to be a Franciscan within that Church. The Body of Christ has many, many varying parts, as does Franciscanism. These are things that I already knew, I guess, but now I am experiencing them much more concretely. I feel very blessed by this opportunity.
To anyone thinking of joining us Franciscans, I can assure you that you will be joining a richly diverse and culturally dynamic community.
Last evening our dorm, Kolbe House, hosted a supper for the Temporarily Professed Franciscans and some of the lay students. (I am told that the house hosts parties for various groups throughout the year.) I felt very blessed to have arrived at the house in time for this gathering because it gave me a good chance to meet informally with some of the students of the Centre. Our meal was prepared by three of my housemates: a Singaporean Diocesan Priest, an Ethiopian Capuchin, and an American Franciscan. The guests included student friars from England and Ireland, two young lay women from Germany, a young lay man from Hungry, and a Conventual Postulant from the States. All associated with the Franciscan Family in one way or another. What a marvelous experience of the breadth of the Franciscan Family. As I went to bed last night I thanked God for this opportunity to experience such a culturally diverse mix of Franciscans.
Yesterday afternoon the sun came out so I hurried down the street to get some pictures of the locality and the Cathedral from the vantage point of the University of Kent campus. As soon as I left the house it began to cloud up again, but I managed to get the house on the left which sits literally right on the street. (Driving past it demands courtesy from the drivers from both directions.) I also got a few shots of Canterbury and the Cathedral before the rain returned and forced my to give up.
I start classes tomorrow morning. I'm certainly looking forward to teaching Moral Theology to an internationally diverse class. With my American accent and rather limited cultural experience, I have a feeling it will be challenging for both me and the students.
Click on any of the embedded photographs to get a larger image.