Monday, March 2, 2015

HE SENDS THE SNOW LIKE WHITE WOOL


 
We must pray for the folks back East! The succession of killer blizzards! The bitter cold! The suffering!

People think Los Angeles traffic is non-pedestrian friendly. Well, let me tell you I have never in 25 years experienced anything like the death-defying dash I took across the intersection of Providence Highway and Legacy Place, hard by the I-95 offramp, in Dedham, Massachusetts yesterday afternoon.

Nothing could have induced me to make a run to Whole Foods in the first place except the survival need for half-and-half to put in my coffee in the morning. (Oh yes, and then there was actual food....).

Anyway, just to situate my fellow Angelenos, my foray would have been akin to trying to navigate the nightmarish Wilshire/Santa Monica Blvd. interchange in Beverly Hills, or that terrifying San Vicente/Fairfax/Olympic monstrosity I still haven't fully fathomed, or the fiendish Temple/Beverly/Virgil vortex in Silver Lake if there were ABSOLUTELY NO SHOULDER, BANKS OF DIRTY SNOW EXTENDED ABOUT A FOOT INTO THE STREET IN ALL DIRECTIONS, AND PEOPLE WERE ALLOWED/ABLE TO WHIZ THROUGH AT 70 MPH.

And in order to even reach the intersection you had to cut over a six-foot high bank of snow in the CVS parking lot and descend on foot on a kind of ice slide into the middle of the street.

And the walk light didn't work.

And the temperature was about ten below zero.

A family of a father, mother and three small children--probably also hapless, carless inhabitants of the local Holiday Inn, or else refugees--were fortuitously also trying to cross. Whoever they were, I'm convinced the six of us were the ONLY people in weeks insane enough to assay this perilous voyage. After standing there for several minutes, backs huddled to the snow,  in desperation this stalwart crew simply inched out against traffic, the guy holding out his hand to the encroaching hordes like a traffic cop.

"I'm following YOU!" I cried gaily, cravenly and clearly hoping that if a car hit, it would take out one of their toddlers instead of me.

Shaken to the core, once safely in Whole Foods and trolling the aisles of overpriced food, I seriously wondered if I'd have the courage to cross back, especially since I'd lost the brave family and would no longer have anyone to cushion the way. I kept thinking of that Shirley Jackson short story about a woman at a traffic light who, trying to decide when to cross, becomes paralyzed with neurotic fear, hours pass, and I'm pretty sure is still standing there today...

However, I am not a pilgrim for nothing. On the return trip--alone, quaking--I waited five minutes for the light to change and sprinted across the intersection like a crazy person with my bag of meager provisions. I am NOT going back, though, and can only hope that my garbanzo salad, pomegranate kefir, and Italian rosemary crostini will last me the next three days.

Way more to the point, my room faces east and I awoke the next morning to a stunning, slow-motion sunrise.

Seriously, New Englanders are hearty folks and they have been through the wringer this year.

My heart goes out to the and the parishioners at St. Margaret Mary and St. Denis's have given me a beautiful welcome. I hope to see more of them tonight at Lenten Mission Talk #2. Thank you to Frs. Linehan and Burke!




Friday, February 27, 2015

THE LOYOLA MARYMOUNT INSTITUTE FOR FAITH, CULTURE AND THE ARTS

 


Here's this week's arts and culture piece.


The Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts was founded in 1991.

Theresia de Vroom, a member of the original board, has been director since 2006.

“Adding on to what my predecessors started, I began to change what we were doing. Our mission became interdisciplinary and open dialogue about faith, culture and the arts, all the while representing the mission of the Marymount tradition and the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Over time, we were able to bring in a Nobel laureate, an artist-in-residence, and a publisher.”

The Institute offers lectures, film screenings, internships, a chapel-center for peace and prayer, and a sculpture garden. All the events are open to the public and free.

“There’s a place for academic discourse and we do that sometimes. But mostly I want everything that comes through here to be accessible to anyone: Catholic, non-Catholic, student, faculty and the community-at-large, including your granny.”

For example, the Institute has featured several events with the noted writer-activist Wole Soyinka in conversation with other leading scholars and thinkers. They’ve had actors Patricia Clarkson and Alfre Woodard, and playwright Beth Henley. They’ve screened Chinatown by the renowned Hollywood film-maker Robert Towne and Teza, by the Ethiopian film-maker Haile Gerima.

Elias Wondimu, who had already founded Tsehai Publishing, came to Soyinka’s first talk.

“That’s how we met,” Theresia says. “I’d thought of starting a press but I didn’t know how. Elias joined us in the fall of 2007 and we established the Marymount Press. In conjunction with Tsehai, we published our first book a year later.”

In 2008, the Institute did an African marketplace based on Soyinka’s poem “SAMARKAND: Markets I Have Known.” They wanted to highlight the art that comes out of the marketplace and staged the event in the sunken garden in front of LMU’s Sacred Heart Chapel.

“The diversity in our city and university community was represented at the market place. We had mariachis; we had Aztec dancers. We also did the original medieval consecration of the church in which they have to expel the secular as if it were the devil. It was the middle of the night. We had the Easter fire blazing. Our then-President Fr. Lawton did the hyssop blessing with the aspergillum outside the church. Then four Orisha priests broke the kola nut, which is the communion of the Yoruba and poured the palm wine which Fr. Lawton accepted as a gift from them. Talk about an inter-religious moment.”

That Eucharistic thrust is part of the reason Theresia, an ace cook, personally prepares the food for the book launches, many of the events, and in this case, our afternoon interview.

The Marymount Institute is an activist press. Their commitment is to tell human stories and to produce books that are excellent across the board.

Theresia: “So far we have published plays, academic books, and spiritual books. We have a meditation on “Piers Plowman,” a 14th-century poem that’s about a poor man who meets and learns the lessons of Jesus.”

Elias: “If you select any of our books and compare it to a similar book by, say, Oxford University Press, I’ll guarantee that ours is not very far away. The quality of the stock, the photographs, the cover, the layout.”

Perhaps the least visible and most important work of the Institute, however, is the mentoring. Students are invited to participate and collaborate in every step of the publishing process. In so doing, they learn what it takes to create a book, from the editing to the art.

“We tell the interns in the interview, ‘We’ll trust you. We’ll give you an assignment. And whatever you return will determine what you get next.’ You can see their faces change. Right away they want to step up to the plate.”

Recent graduate Sara Martinez designs the posters and book covers. “She’s a genius,” says Elias. “Her mother’s Filipino; her dad’s Mexican. She went from being a shy student intern to a full-time staff member now supervising interns, and designing all these books.”

“I remember she was working as a summer intern. She comes on time; she goes on time. Every afternoon around 3 her phone rings and she panics. I say, ‘Why?’ ‘It’s my father,’ Sara replies. ‘He’s come to pick me up.’ ”

They didn’t know till then that Sara lived in Irvine.

“My father drove me in every morning from Orange County,” Sara adds. “He dropped me at work, went to a movie or a bookstore, then returned at 3 to bring me home. I owe a lot to my parents.”

Elias adds. “This is our dream. To mix it up, to change the world by presenting something that’s not yet available in this form, to empower students and push them out to the world.”

Then he gestures to the feast prepared by Theresia—seared salmon, frisée salad, fresh raspberries and cream—over which we’ve been chatting.

“Besides, where else do you get to be a student where someone cooks you a beautiful meal?”

MARYMOUNT INSTITUTE PRESS/TSEHAI PUBLISHING
WILL BE BRINGING OUT MY FOOD MEMOIR, FAMISHED, NEXT YEAR.



LOYOLA MARYMOUNT INSTITUTE FOR FAITH, CULTURE AND THE ARTS

The Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts was founded in 1991.

Theresia de Vroom, a member of the original board, has been director since 2006.

“Adding on to what my predecessors started, I began to change what we were doing. Our mission became interdisciplinary and open dialogue about faith, culture and the arts, all the while representing the mission of the Marymount tradition and the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Over time, we were able to bring in a Nobel laureate, an artist-in-residence, and a publisher.”

The Institute offers lectures, film screenings, internships, a chapel-center for peace and prayer, and a sculpture garden. All the events are open to the public and free.

“There’s a place for academic discourse and we do that sometimes. But mostly I want everything that comes through here to be accessible to anyone: Catholic, non-Catholic, student, faculty and the community-at-large, including your granny.”

For example, the Institute has featured several events with the noted writer-activist Wole Soyinka in conversation with other leading scholars and thinkers. They’ve had actors Patricia Clarkson and Alfre Woodard, and playwright Beth Henley. They’ve screened Chinatown by the renowned Hollywood film-maker Robert Towne and Teza, by the Ethiopian film-maker Haile Gerima.

Elias Wondimu, who had already founded Tsehai Publishing, came to Soyinka’s first talk.

“That’s how we met,” Theresia says. “I’d thought of starting a press but I didn’t know how. Elias joined us in the fall of 2007 and we established the Marymount Press. In conjunction with Tsehai, we published our first book a year later.”

In 2008, the Institute did an African marketplace based on Soyinka’s poem “SAMARKAND: Markets I Have Known.” They wanted to highlight the art that comes out of the marketplace and staged the event in the sunken garden in front of LMU’s Sacred Heart Chapel.

“The diversity in our city and university community was represented at the market place. We had mariachis; we had Aztec dancers. We also did the original medieval consecration of the church in which they have to expel the secular as if it were the devil. It was the middle of the night. We had the Easter fire blazing. Our then-President Fr. Lawton did the hyssop blessing with the aspergillum outside the church. Then four Orisha priests broke the kola nut, which is the communion of the Yoruba and poured the palm wine which Fr. Lawton accepted as a gift from them. Talk about an inter-religious moment.”

That Eucharistic thrust is part of the reason Theresia, an ace cook, personally prepares the food for the book launches, many of the events, and in this case, our afternoon interview.

The Marymount Institute is an activist press. Their commitment is to tell human stories and to produce books that are excellent across the board.

Theresia: “So far we have published plays, academic books, and spiritual books. We have a meditation on “Piers Plowman,” a 14th-century poem that’s about a poor man who meets and learns the lessons of Jesus.”

Elias: “If you select any of our books and compare it to a similar book by, say, Oxford University Press, I’ll guarantee that ours is not very far away. The quality of the stock, the photographs, the cover, the layout.”

Perhaps the least visible and most important work of the Institute, however, is the mentoring. Students are invited to participate and collaborate in every step of the publishing process. In so doing, they learn what it takes to create a book, from the editing to the art.

“We tell the interns in the interview, ‘We’ll trust you. We’ll give you an assignment. And whatever you return will determine what you get next.’ You can see their faces change. Right away they want to step up to the plate.”

Recent graduate Sara Martinez designs the posters and book covers. “She’s a genius,” says Elias. “Her mother’s Filipino; her dad’s Mexican. She went from being a shy student intern to a full-time staff member now supervising interns, and designing all these books.”

“I remember she was working as a summer intern. She comes on time; she goes on time. Every afternoon around 3 her phone rings and she panics. I say, ‘Why?’ ‘It’s my father,’ Sara replies. ‘He’s come to pick me up.’ ”

They didn’t know till then that Sara lived in Irvine.

“My father drove me in every morning from Orange County,” Sara adds. “He dropped me at work, went to a movie or a bookstore, then returned at 3 to bring me home. I owe a lot to my parents.”

Elias adds. “This is our dream. To mix it up, to change the world by presenting something that’s not yet available in this form, to empower students and push them out to the world.”

Then he gestures to the feast prepared by Theresia—seared salmon, frisée salad, fresh raspberries and cream—over which we’ve been chatting.

“Besides, where else do you get to be a student where someone cooks you a beautiful meal?”





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DUSK AND DATELINE BOSTON

ST. MARGARET MARY

Here's a poem, recently sent by a reader, apropos of answering our call before IT IS TOO LATE.


DUSK

Evening, and all the birds
In a chorus of shimmering sound
Are easing their hearts of joy
For miles around.

The air is blue and sweet,
The few first stars are white,--
Oh let me like the birds
Sing before the night.

-Sara Teasdale


Just in case anyone's reading from the Boston area, I'll be giving a series of three talks on Lent at St. Margaret Mary in Westwood, Massaschusetts, starting Sunday night March 1 through Tuesday night, March 3. The parishioners of nearby St. Denis are also in on the fun, and so can you be!

St. Margaret Mary Alocoque was apparently a cutter who, not to put too fine a point on it, carved the name of Jesus Christ on her chest. My kind of gal. I look forward to learning more about her.

And of course I'm excited to be going back to my old hometown--under very different circumstances than those that held for most of the time I lived there.

THE DOORWAY OF THE "LOFT" WHERE I LIVED
FOR SEVERAL YEARS DURING "LOS ANOS OBSCUROS"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

MARTIN SHEEN AND SISTER ROSE PACATTE: ACTIVIST CATHOLICS


HE PRAYS THE ROSARY!

For this week's arts and culture piece, I interviewed LA's own Sister Rose Pacatte about her new book on LA's own actor and activist Martin Sheen.

The piece begins:

Sister Rose Pacatte, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, is the director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles.

In her recently-released book, “Martin Sheen: Pilgrim on the Way” (Liturgical Press), she details well-known actor Sheen’s early life: one of 10 kids, a mother who died at 48 while saying the rosary, a hard-working father who was loving but stinted on the compliments. Many of the children, including Martin, suffered from alcoholism.

We learn of Sheen’s combination heart attack-nervous breakdown on the set of “Apocalypse Now” (he was only 36 at the time), his recovery (“The only two things of value that the United States has exported to the world for free are jazz and AA”), his return to the Church and, most of all, his decades of activism on a wide range of social justice issues.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


Friday, February 20, 2015

JUST FOR TODAY I'M GOING NOT TO COMPLAIN


WOMAN IN BREUER CHAIR WEARING OSKAR SCHLEMMER MASK
CIRCA 1926

Since getting unexpectedly ejected from my living situation of the last four years (adventure! fun!), I have been just a teeny bit "time-challenged" as in from the moment I wake till the moment I go to sleep I am "busy."

Lots of travel, prep for travel, recovery from travel, deadlines, admin.

I went to the tax guy yesterday (self-employment tax: adventure! fun!)

But that the Lenten season is upon us has not been lost on me. And this morning I thought: I am going to try to "fast" this Lent not from sugar, not from meat, not from swearing, but from COMPLAINING.

Every morning for years, as part of my morning prayer, I have read a little bookmark called "Just For Today."

It begins, "Just for today, I will try to live through this day only. and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime."

Which, every day, strikes me anew as genius.

Anyway, it goes on from there and some of the things are easier than others but this is the one where I always always think: Whoops, didn't do too well on that one yesterday. Again:...

"Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anyone but myself." [emphasis mine].

I mean enough said, right?

I often think of St. Therese of Lisieux, who apparently made it a spiritual practice to complain about nothing. She suffered terribly from the cold in the unheated convent, but apparently refrained from even putting her hands inside her sleeves to warm them so as not to make a show of the fact that she was suffering.

She was no humorless faux martyr, though, which is what makes her especially attractive to me. Certain people drove her crazy: she writes about them with affection and humor in her autobiography. She didn't try to force herself to not be driven crazy by them. She just tried to love them anyway, through Christ; to be kind to them even though she felt not an iota of spontaneous feeling.

That is the kind of "spiritual warfare" I thoroughly endorse. Real warfare is always done in silence, in secret, away from the eyes of the world. It doesn't announce itself or make a show of itself or claim special powers such as would garner notice or praise.

And it's hard--so hard you think you'll die. In fact, you do die. Very slowly. Very painfully. It's hard to suffer and now show it, whether our suffering is "small" or "large." Probably everybody's worst suffering consists simply in the zillion petty meannesses, setbacks, annoyances, frustrations, discomforts and fears that come our way in the course of any given day.

But I know for myself if I can refrain from complaining, the result is that I'm more open to recognize the also inevitable small kindness, the word of support, the moment when miracle of miracles I am able to be kind to someone else, especially someone who--perhaps unbeknownst to them--has hurt me.

The "Just for Today" bookmark ends with the St. Francis prayer--which always calms me down and always brings me back.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace."

Wishing you all a rich and fruitful Lent.

And seriously, I am ENJOYING the leaf blowers!

EDWARD HOPPER
WOMAN IN THE SUN, 1961



Thursday, February 19, 2015

ART AND WORSHIP

THE SOWER
V. VAN GOGH

"Art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God."
--Ingmar Bergman


THE SHIP THAT FLEWWILLIAM TRAYLOR

Two paintings to the glory of God.
Wishing you all a rich and fruitful Lent.

If you're in L.A. come on down to the Catholic Literary Imagination Conference at USC Friday and Saturday. Panels, workshops, etc. I'm on a panel called The Writer in Los Angeles Saturday from 11-12:15.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DEATH AND RESURRECTION IN OCOTEPEQUE







Recently I spent a week with the Catholic organization Unbound on a media awareness trip in the Honduran town of Ocotepeque.

So many reflections and sensations crowded in that unpacking them will take months. But perhaps the main thing takeaway was this: There is death and there is resurrection; and then another death, and always, another resurrection.

We drive the urban streets and mountain roads. There are half-finished buildings, potholed streets, piles of trash. There is also always an hibiscus bush, a bouquet of purple bougainvillea, a chipped aquamarine wall with a jaunty parrot painted on it.

Beautiful young girls lounge suggestively in doorways and the cycle of continuing poverty unfolds almost before your eyes: another handsome young man whispering promises he won’t keep; another child born to a 15-year-old mother.

One afternoon we visit the community of San Marcos and meet a 35-year-old woman named Reyna Isabel de Jesus.

Reyna has two children—Yuri, 14, and Lilian, 10--at Casa Hogar, the home Unbound runs for kids age 5 to 18 who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned. She also has two at home, Javier, 5, and Nazareth Milagros, 2. Another child lives with the mother of its father. A sixth lives with a relative.

Reyna cleans house from 7 to 5 six days a week, with a half-day on Sunday. She walks an hour and a half each way. During the November through February coffee season, she picks, as she has since the age of 5. She brings the children with her. Javier picks now, too.

She makes about fifty dollars a month.

The room she rents—in a building at which 56 people share one bathroom—costs fifty dollars a month.

That means she has to move frequently.

“Do you have any dreams for yourself?” another journalist asks.

I train my eyes on the windowsill: a stick of deodorant, a plastic bottle of shampoo, an eighth of a bottle of dime-store perfume.

Reyna sits silent.

“It would be nice to have a dream,” she says finally.

But later in the conversation she also says “The children keep me going.” She also says, “The children give me faith.”

The children bring suffering and they bring joy. The children weigh down and the children keep the mothers, the world, all of us, going. To unravel the threads of poverty is impossible. Culture winds itself around politics, biology tangles with economics, and in the middle, as always, is the yearning human heart.

Christ summed it up best: “The poor you will always have with you.”

One thing is for certain: the incredible work of Unbound. The sponsored children with—at last--school supplies and shoes and a dollar for the cybercafé where they may walk 45 minutes each way to do their homework. The elderly with—at last—basic medicines, a cane, a wheelchair. The seeds for a garden, the patched-up wall, the running water, the mothers’ groups that shore each other up and teach each other to make pottery from local clay and take up collections when one of the kids is sick.

Everywhere we go people smile, wave, yell, affectionately rap on the window of the Unbound pickup truck: “Hola!” “Que tal!” “A Dios”…

Later that week I see Yuri, Reyna’s 14-year-old son, at Casa Hogar. He has soulful eyes and a beautifully expressive face. “Tell him we saw his mother!” I tug at the interpreter’s sleeve, thinking to make Yuri happy; that he’ll be hungry for news.

Instead, Yuri shows no affect whatever. Instead, he turns and walks away.

I feel terrible. I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have asked how Yuri feels about his mother before blurting out that we’d seen her. .

But later we see Yuri at the gate of his school, waiting for the armed guards to let him in, a slight young man with a ramrod-straight back in his neat blue shirt, pants and tie.

The children keep me going.

Yuri wants to be a priest.


"THEY KNEW HIM IN THE BREAKING OF BREAD"...
DELICIOUS SOUP, CHICKEN AND RICE PREPARED BY LOS MADRES....


Sunday, February 15, 2015

THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE: MY FRIEND JEANNE McNULTY





Welp, I am back from my Honduran adventure--more on that later (travel tip: do not ever, under any circumstances, enter the U.S. through customs at the Miami International Airport--why with a 2 1/2 hour layover I barely had time to grab a venti Starbucks and reach my seat before takeoff and at that I ceded my Group 2 boarding!)

And today I'm off to Santa Maria on the Central Coast,  to participate in the blessing of the new house of hospitality/free clinic of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker.

Meanwhile, this week's arts and culture piece is on a dear friend of mine from Spencer, West Virginia: Jeanne McNulty, Order of the Consecrated Virgins.

Here's how the piece begins:

The Holy Father has decreed 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life. That gives me a chance to write about a woman who has helped to shape and sustain my own prayer life.

For 39 years, Jeanne McNulty has lived in a “holler” (hollow) in Spencer, West Virginia: praying, embracing a simple lifestyle, gardening, gathering firewood and reaching out to folks in her rural county by nursing the sick in their homes.

There are small hermitages in the woods there where, for a small donation, folks, including me, have come to spend time in deep solitude, take long walks, or sit quietly in the straw bale chapel which houses the Blessed Sacrament.

Jeanne is a member of the Order of Consecrated Virgins (Canon 604) and a secular Franciscan.

Born in Pittsburgh, she was raised a cradle Catholic. She underwent a faith crisis in her last years of high school. “I wasn’t at peace within myself. The only thing I knew was to sit still for long hours before the Blessed Sacrament. There a great calm spread over me. I really felt the presence of Christ, who seemed to say in my inmost depths, ‘I want you.’”


In my case, thank God SOMEONE does.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.



I ALSO CONTINUE TO BE DAZZLED BY THE AFTERNOON LIGHT
IN THE HILLS OF ECHO PARK.
THIS IS AN "ORDINARY" TREE WITH GREEN LEAVES
THAT APPEARS TO BE GILDED!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

HONDURAS UPDATE




I'm in Ocotepeque, Honduras for the week with the Catholic organization Unbound and before I forget--I say become a sponsor of a child or old person pronto!

I'm going to, the minute I return home.

It's unbelievable how much thirty bucks a month means to the folks here who use the money for, among other things, school supplies, food, medicine, clothing, and/or a roof.

I'm going to work up a piece for The Tidings when I return home with more info on the incredible work and spirit of this great organization. Processing the five days I've spent here will take weeks.

On a more personal note, I was holding up quite well till Day Three of non-stop travel, people, and visits. The printed schedule said we were to return to the hotel by 5 at which time I had planned to enjoy a precious hour "to myself" when I could take a much-needed walk. When I realized that wasn't going to happen, and that I was going to have no free time that day whatsoever, and that we were also going to miss Mass, I could feel myself caving. Then I snapped.

"So what time are we going to get back to the hotel?" I keened. "I cannot do this again tomorrow." .

And it was true. I really couldn't have.

What I've learned is that when you say to normal people, "I can't function if I don't have time to myself," what they hear is "I'm a selfish whiner making an unreasonable demand" and what they figure is "Just push the laggard: she'll fall in with the rest of us if she has to."

But I am not kidding. After a certain amount of time with other people I go into mental, emotional, spiritual and nervous-system overload to the point where my system simply crashes. I can't hide my discomfort. I'll become visibly agitated. Then, depending on the situation, I'll get belligerent. And finally, I'll become catatonic. I'll just close my eyes wherever I am and, like one those bugs who rolls themselves into a ball, refuse to participate: in line at the bank, in the middle of a conversation, at your wedding. Heck, at my wedding.

Most people, i.e. extroverts may find it a little extra trouble to be with people for 12, 14, 16 hours a day, but what the hey. In fact, they ENJOY being with people for 12 hours straight. They don't even think about it.

For an introvert like me, 12 hours of people is like running a marathon. You have to practice. You have to prepare and pace yourself. You feel like throwing up halfway through. You stagger through the finish line, if at all, sweating and shaking. Then you collapse and have to recuperate for a few days.

Anyway, at the risk of appearing selfish, weak, and standoffish, I opted out of Afternoon 3 of visits with the people of Honduras. People who suffer extreme poverty, a government that does nothing for them, and hardships unimaginable to a person from the First World.

I got dropped at my hotel and I got to simply lie on my bed and be for an hour. I fell asleep. I woke and had a cup of coffee and then I set out on a walk: to the commercial strip, to the hilly streets above the city, and then down and around again to an area near the church where I wandered about, delighting in the random sights: an old green wooden door, a high adobe wall behind which grew a tree with vibrant orange flowers, a red-tiled roof sprouting air plants.

By this time the sun was setting and I found a low wall and just sat: drinking in the light and the mountains. Smoke drifted. A jacaranda tree bloomed. A man walked by with his young son: Buenas. Buenas. On a telephone wire right above me perched a magnificent bright yellow bird. Black markings. A notched tail. Suddenly it flew spreading its wings to reveal a thrilling expanse of golden chest.

That was when I truly "felt" Honduras: its land, the people I'd met, its beauty, its suffering.








So all was well. That little bit of solitude and inner silence set me right.

The next morning we got to celebrate Mass with the children at Casa Hogar. I sat in the back with three small boys beside me, sharing their hymn sheet. Arlin, the special needs kid, played tambourine.

At the petitionary prayers, one girl prayed for the people who didn't have a roof over their heads like she did, who didn't have food to eat like she did, who didn't have access to an education as she did.

Above the alter hung a crucifix with the lacerated Christ who these children knew well.

At the Sign of Peace, they circulated: smiling, touching, embracing us,

The whole trip would have been worth that one half-hour.



ARLIN (SEE PREVIOUS POST) WITH HIS TAMBOURINE
WAITING FOR MASS TO BEGIN.
HIS TIMING AND RHYTHM WERE GENIUS.
A THOUSAND THANKS TO THE UNBOUND STAFF IN OCOTOPEQUE: HENRY, MIRIAM, LUIS,
NOE, NARESLI, CLAUDIA, AND THE GREAT MAYRON;
TO ELIZABETH AND BECKY, HIGHER-UPS FROM UNBOUND HQ IN KANSAS CITY;
TO MY CO-JOURNALISTS JD, LIZ, AND SARAH, AND
TO THE CHILDREN OF CASA HOGAR