Monday, 15 November 2010

I'm Still Here...

Howdy all.
I feel a brief apology and a slightly less brief explanation for my silence might be in order--in case anyone's still around who cares.

I do apologise for my lack of attention to my blogs lately. I've had a busy sort of year, between new a new shift at work, a new job/promotion, more responsibility, less energy, a mission trip to Haiti, running our recent Halloween for Hunger food drive for our parish, plans for a new Catholic outreach project here in Hamilton, as well as the general throes of life and marriage. On top of all of that, it seems that returning from Haiti, in particular, has caused certain unresolved issues in my past to manifest in a sort of depression, which has played out, by and large, through far too much sleeping and not enough desire to do any of the things I need to do, and that I love to do. This blog, as well as Barque of Peter, and my art, have all, unfortunately, become the main victims of my busy life and psychological malaise.

That was then,of course, and this is now. And hopefully now will yield something different. I have and am taking steps to put my life back in order. The step, though, that most concerns you, dear reader, was actually taken by my beautiful and loving wife, who as an early Christmas present, bought me an HP Mini laptop with a Rogers Internet Stick, for the express purpose of getting me back to blogging! Because she's just awesome that way! And it is on this very laptop (which even happens to be a wonderful shade of my favourite of hues), that I am currently composing this message to you.

So here's the plan:
As I mentioned, there are various steps I am taking to get my life heading in the way I think God wants it to go. Some of those steps are significantly more immediate than others, and some are significantly more personal than others. In a nutshell, I'm intending to pursue a vocation to the Permanent Diaconate, and will contact the Diocese regarding that by week's end. I'll be old enough to start formation for the Diaconate in May, so it seems an appropriate time to get those ducks in a row. Saturday, Melissa and I are getting formation on becoming Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, so that we can serve more faithfully and purposefully in that most important aspect of the Christian Faith: the Eucharist. Over the next little while, I plan as well to join the Lay Dominicans, something I've been discerning for quite some time. On top of that, I mentioned a Catholic outreach above that I want to bring to Hamilton. I would love to see that kick off by Lent of next year, but it may wait until the following September, depending on certain details. Hopefully I can keep you more informed in the coming weeks and months.

So in all that hectic business, thanks to my new laptop, I'll have opportunity to blog during various periods of downtime previously unavailable to me: namely, break time at work! That's 45 minutes a day that I truly have nothing better to do than to write about the truth and beauty of the Church that Jesus founded! That's the sure thing, time-wise, on top of any other spare opportunity I get, like now, for example, while I sit in my car waiting for my wife to finish a tutoring session.

So expect new articles here and at Barque of Peter on a much more frequent basis! Next up for here, I'll continue to tell you What I Saw in Haiti. Over at Barque of Peter, I'll be returning to the series I'd begun on the Eucharist.

May God richly bless you as he has Melissa and me.

Friday, 12 November 2010

What I Saw in Haiti: Chapter 2

"Di Bonjou Se Lizaj."
I do apologise for the lack of updates to my Haiti adventures. It took a lot longer than I expected to get into the swing of things upon my return. One of the main factors for the delay was a cockroach infestation that was being dealt with after my return--and which, scheduling-wise, went a bit shakily. But the bugs are now dead or dying (I hope), and I again seem to have some time to continue. Thanks for your patience--assuming you're all still out there...Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?
In my first chapter, I mentioned Père Philippe, and his dream of twinning parishes in Hamilton and Haiti, and how in 2008 this dream became a reality when St. Margaret Mary, of Hamilton, twinned with the parish he founded, St. Gabriel, in Beau-Sejour. And now, I was planning to go and visit our twin parish with a team of five, including my priest, Fr. Bill Trusz.

In the wake of the earthquake, however, many saw this planned venture as a hopeless waste of time. After all, in the midst of such devastating tragedy, what could we really hope to accomplish? We weren't engineers, or doctors, or anything that seemed at all "useful". Wouldn't it be better, people repeatedly asked, to just send money? The logic of their question weighed heavily on our minds, and caused no little amount of second guessing. My own wife often wondered whether it would be better (and safer) if I just stayed home. But I felt a call to go, and I felt I had to respond. When we settled on the purpose of the mission as being to teach First Aid, we started feeling the first glimmers of actually having a legitimate reason for going. The snag, of course, was that of the five of us, only one of us, Nassrin, was qualified to teach First Aid. On the one hand, we couldn't just send her alone, but on the other hand, what would the four of us do that weren't teaching? We still felt useless, despite Père Ronal's insistence that he wanted us all to come.

Despite our doubts, we did feel God wanted us to go, and so we pressed on in our plans, hoping that God would reveal the reason that all five of us were travelling to Haiti, and what we could contribute to the mission and to the people of Beau-Sejour. Part of this preparation, and in turn, part of the answer, came again from Père Philippe, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule to teach us some basic phrases in Créole.

Language is an interesting thing. Not only is it our principle means of communication, but it can at the same time be our principle form of alienation. This is the lesson in the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Common language and understanding can bring great unity to people--but when you take that away, the frustration and loneliness resulting from the inability to communicate can be overwhelming. This is the obvious fact about language. But there are subtler aspects to language as well, which serve to highlight not only differences in the words people use to express different ideas, but even differences in those very ideas. In other words, language is an important clue to what is important in a culture. And the little bit of Créole that the team learned from Père Philippe helped us to know that what was important to the people of Haiti, was our presence.

The first thing Père Philippe taught us was a Haitian proverb: "Di bonjou se lizaj." It means, "Saying hello is good manners." To the people of Haiti, especially in the rural areas like Beau-Sejour, everyone is family. Respect, love, and service are key aspects to their relationships--indeed, they are essential to their very survival. Every time you see someone, you stop and say hello--and not simply Hello, but that greeting takes on a dynamic expression. Recall my description of Père Philippe himself, when he would greet a person and make them feel like they were his brother, even if he had only just met them. It is not a particular good quality of Père Philippe's (though it does certainly make him a wonderful person and a wonderful priest), rather, it is a cultural way of life for his people. In fact, he told us that if you do not greet another person, you are considered rude, or perhaps learning delayed.

Père Philippe also taught the team a series of phrases about food and eating. Food is obviously an important and integral aspect of every culture, being a basic human necessity. However, how a particular culture approaches the issue of food says a lot about the prosperity of a nation, as well as the culture's understanding of the really important things in life. Whereas we in North America, with the availability, and indeed over-saturation of food, struggle with things like obesity and the opposite, eating disorders of various sorts, and so often need tragedies like the Earthquake to prompt us to share from our abundance with those who are less fortunate, another Haitian proverb reveals their attitude toward the little food that they have: "Manje separe pa janm fini"--"The food you share never ends." The people of Beau-Sejour depend very much on subsistence farming. Whatever they can produce from the mountainside is their dinner, and so this principle of generosity and solidarity is again a truth of survival and yet more--it is a truth about peace.

While we were in Haiti, we met some Brothers who truly lived this proverb. Les Petites Frères de Ste. Thérèse is a Religious Order uniquely Haitian. Their mission is in part to run the parish schools around Beau-Sejour, but it is also one of farming--trying to revitalise the soil denuded of trees, and eventually to re-tree the mountains in order to make Haiti a place of good harvest. In this venture, they encourage a co-operative gardening project among the residents of Beau-Sejour. Those who help tend the gardens may reap the harvest with the Brothers in order to help feed their families and others in need. In this way, this shared food really does never end, but through the tender hearts and green thumbs of the Little Brothers, the harvest of crops as well as the harvest of souls will indeed be plentiful.
Again, sorry for the significant delay. Coming up next, we get to the good stuff: the departure and arrival in Haiti!.