Friday, August 30, 2013


It is customary here to try to burn as much land as possible during the dry season. Sometimes this can get a bit annoying, but for the most part I don’t mind. I was once told that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory and occasionally I become convinced that this must be true. There must be a half-dozen or so distinctive smoke scents which I instantly recognize as familiar. The smells usually don't bring up a specific memory, but they do  I guess that two of these must be the smell of burning kunai grass and the smell of burning dry coconut fronds. In any case, the smoke smells can sometimes be pleasant, sometimes remind me of camping and roasting marshmallows, and frequently remind me once again that there is something familiar and home-like about waking up in this country. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Evangelical Penance?

I found this blog post about "Penance, Evangelical Style" from a Pentecostal blog, and thought it was worth re-posting. I think it connects with some thoughts that I made in another post about Reconciliation and Rededication a while back.

Reading this made me think about cases where churches that were iconoclastic and got rid of all images, will now not hesitate at all to put religious art in their buildings, whether it be a simple cross, nature imagery, or a picture of Jesus. 

Whether it is specific Sacraments or God-glorifying art in churches, it seems there have been many elements of Catholicism that were swept away at certain times and then inevitably creep back in. The argument that people have certain "felt needs" for aspects of Catholicism certainly wouldn't be enough to make them true or good, but I think it can also be fair to say that if they are true and good it would make sense that they are missed once they are gone. 

Term Break Adventures: Halopa, Kefamo, Ukarumpa

Yesterday we started our third and final term here at St. Fidelis Seminary. For the last two weeks we had term break. I spent the first week of the break near Goroka at Kefamo Retreat Centre, where the Capuchins were kind enough to allow me to join them on their annual retreat, and then stopped off at Ukarumpa, the place in PNG where I used to live, for a few days before returning to Madang by PMV (public motor vehicle).

I’ve had quite a few little potentially blog-worthy sound bites stored up in my mind which I will now try to write up. (How good does a thought have to be before it is “blog-worthy”? I shudder as I ask that question.)

Sunrise during the walk up

On St. John Vianney day there is a nearby local parish that usually celebrates Mass with the seminarians here at St. Fidelis. This year we walked up to Halopa. It was a pretty significant up-hill journey. Despite the fact that we started well before the sun was up and the heat came out, I was completely soaked in sweat by the time we got up there.

St. John Vianney is known as the patron saint of diocesan priests. In the Catholic Church priests can either be “diocesan priests”, which means that they “belong” to their diocese, their local church, or they can be a “religious priest”, which means they “belong” to their respective religious order (such as the Jesuits, Benedictines, or Franciscans). Most of our seminarians at St. Fidelis want to be diocesan priests. John Vianney was a Frenchman who had considerable trouble passing his Latin classes when he was in seminary, and once he was finally ordained he was placed by his bishop in a troubled, rural, and generally undesirable parish. St. John Vianney stayed there for what I think was the rest of his life and radically committed himself to the spiritual well-being of his flock. By the time of his death the small town of Ars had undergone a radical moral transformation and people came from all around to repent of their sins and experience God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The outside tent set up because the parish church building
wasn't big enough to hold everyone. It did get sunnier not
long after this picture was taken
 I was quite glad to see that people in Halopa parish gathering regularly to pray for the seminarians. Community is incredibly important to most Papua New Guineans and I think it means a great deal to the seminarians for them to feel supported by the broader Church. I think they will generally take it for granted that God’s calling on their life is connected in an intimate and unbreakable way with God’s work in the Church.


As noted, I spent some time on retreat with the Capuchins. It was good to slow down and spend some time trying to listen to God. I think I must be extroverted, because once I stop talking to anyone but God, I can become tired very quickly.

Still, it is good to feel things slowing down inside of me. And sometimes I feel called to just try my best to place myself in a position of openness to God without seeking an answer to a particular question or energy, inspiration, or motivation for any particular mission. I certainly always have questions and there is always work to be done, but sometimes I think I can be slowly formed into who Christ has made me by being in the presence of God.


Ukarumpa, in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea is the main center for SIL in Papua New Guinea. I graduated from Ukarumpa Secondary School in 2006 and visited when my younger brothers graduated in 2008 and 2010. My family no longer lives in Ukarumpa.

Ukarumpa is a relatively transitional community so it is something of an odd experience to return repeatedly to a place which experiences minimal physical changes but a far more rapid turn-over of people. It is probably a healthy thing to remember how easily one can be forgotten. It is also probably a good thing for me (an oldest child) to go through the experience of repeatedly listing the names of my younger siblings in order for people to know who I am.

Still, I was surprised by the number of faces I recognized during my time there, and I had the pleasant experience of catching up with a number of people and even got to speak in a couple of classes at my old high school. 

Anyways, that's my update for this week. Anything else will have to wait until later. Hope everyone is well. Peace.