Monday, October 14, 2013

The Present Form of This World


There was distant, silent lightning lighting up the horizon shortly before I went to bed last night. This morning shortly before 5am we were hit by one of the most intense lightning storms I’ve been in in a while. Intense rain was pounding on the roof and at one point there was less than a second between lightning strikes, with a near constant rumble of thunder. Although I could have been imagining things, at one point I imagined that the sound I heard was the tin roof moving not from rain but from the sound waves of the latest rumble of thunder.

I always find thunderstorms beautiful. It slowly wound down, though there was still lightning, thunder, and rain as I went into the chapel around 5:45. By the time we emerged after prayer and Mass at 7:30, the chapel was surrounded by an awesome post-storm stillness punctuated by the singing of a select but growing number of songbirds.


I took an unexpected trip into town last Saturday and as we were driving out I saw part of a small fight along the main road going in and out of Madang town. It appeared to be breaking up and I only saw a couple seconds of it, but some images from it stuck with me and have continued to stick with me throughout the last couple days.

These sort of fights are unfortunately common. This one was happening at 2:35pm on a Saturday afternoon in a very public area. One man got thrown to the ground and then two other men from opposite sides of him threw fist-sized stones at him from about 2-3 meters away. They appeared to throw them as hard as they could, and I saw one of the stones hit the man squarely on his back. He staggered up, and began to run away. They didn’t seem to pursue him too seriously. I saw his face for the first time as he got up staggering right after that hit he took on the back. A large bit of my reflection has been trying to describe his face at that point. It undoubtedly showed intense emotion. It disturbed me. I can’t say anything more with confidence, even though I want to know what he was feeling then or at least describe the impression of emotion it conveyed to me then.

I have often resented the term “sheltered” when it is applied to me. Perhaps because it implies some sort of complicity in the structures that allow some of us to see so little of the evils that dominate the lives of other people. If that is where my resentment comes from then it cannot be justified. Whether “sheltered” is the most precise term or not, it is true that I have witnessed events like this only rarely, whereas many people, even children, live lives that are shaped by violent events like this one.


I have also been in town more frequently because we have a student in the hospital. He has suddenly had very serious difficulty breathing after appearing to recover from pneumonia. Any prayers for him would be appreciated. My short presence in the emergency ward of a third world hospital has sparked more reflections. My BA in International Relations still doesn’t provide satisfying answers about why the world is the way it is.


May God have mercy on us and bless us. Please grant us all the strength to let go of pride and sin and to open ourselves to the love of God that carries with it peace and justice. Christ who healed the sick, Christ who suffered violence, Christ whose family was poor, be with us and save us! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

October Update

In the past few weeks:

  •      The rains have come. There was a legitimately “dry” dry season this year. We even switched to drinking well water (which has a somewhat salty taste). We’re not yet to the point of rain every day, but we should have enough rain water stored up in our cistern to last us for a while.
  •       We celebrated the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th. This involved the mandatory mumu of pig meat and vegetables all pressure cooked with steam in a big hole in the ground, and the obligatory purchase of a 16 litre tub of ice cream for afterward.
  •       It has been play-off season here at St. Fidelis. We usually play sports on Wednesday afternoons, and are split into four teams. Most of the semi-finals have now been played and the various teams will be facing off in the “grand-final” for each sport: soccer, touch rugby, volleyball, and basketball. My team will be proceeding to the grand final for touch and soccer.
  •       Our school year started in February and ends toward the beginning of November, so while the school year probably feels like it’s just ramping up in the States, here we are winding down. Or perhaps more precisely, my students are winding down. Some are acutely aware of the number of days left in the school year. In all fairness, some of them have been boarding here all year, and thus have been away from their home for at least 9 months at this point. Family matters in this country, and even men in their 20’s are willing to admit that.
  • I have been reading: history books on the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reformation by Henri Daniel-Rops, finished "Something Beautiful for God" a second time, have been working through a "Newman Reader" which is a collection of various works or excerpts from works by John Henry Newman, and started reading Oscar Wilde's "A Picture of Dorian Gray". In the Bible: Philippians, Judith, 1 Maccabees. I have also glanced over or read in full a couple of sermons by St. John Chrysostoam after discovering a sizable collection of the post-Nicene fathers in a musty box in a closet.