Volcanoes National Park – in the rain

One of the things I definitely wanted to see on the Big Island was Kilauea, one of the still active volcanoes. Even though it was raining lightly, we decided to go to see some of the indoor exhibits in the morning, hoping that the forecast that showed the showers ending at noon would be correct. We enjoyed the visitor center, especially the ranger presentation on the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawai’i, and braved the crowds at the Jagger Museum. We were also able to walk along a trail with numerous steam vents.

After lunch, it was still raining, so we decided to drive the Chain of Craters Road, a 19 mile road that descends 3,700 feet to the ocean. It used to be longer, but a 2003 lava flow covered the last ten miles. Because we were getting only intermittent drizzle, we walked the Devastation Trail, which goes through an area that was buried by cinders in a 1959 eruption. We could see the plants slowly making headway. My daughter Trinity, who spent a semester in Hawai’i with Cornell’s Sustainability Semester program, recognized some of the plants. We were also able to see a pair of large birds, not too far from the path, eating berries. (When we find out what they were, I’ll come back and edit.) Although there was a sign nearby instructing visitors to leave the berries for the nene, we know these were not nene.

As we continued driving, we would encounter patches of rain forest juxtaposed with lava flows, some with signs dating them. Some of the flows were pahoehoe, which is smoother or ropy in texture, while others were jagged a’a. You could see areas where the road had to have been closed for long stretches until the lava cooled enough to allow the road to be cleared. As we continued to descend, we reached an overlook where you could finally see the ocean. The showers had finally ended, so we decided to try the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph trail, which takes you along relatively flat flows to see petroglyphs carved in 400-700 year old stone. We were about half a mile in when the wind picked and the hardest rain we had seen all day blew in. By the time we made it back to the car, we were drenched to the skin.

I felt very intrepid for braving the elements, but I do regret that we had to turn back before reaching the petroglyphs. I had wanted to pray there for my daughters, both of whom have very special connections to Hawai’i. While I would pray to my God, it would be in keeping with the tradition of the natives of Hawai’i, who for centuries have visited the petroglyphs to pray for their children.

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Darkness

We flew into Hilo last night, picked up our rental car, and drove to our home for the next two nights, Volcano Guest House, which is not far from the entrance to Volcanoes National Park. We are staying in “The Upstairs” of the main house, which is a conversion of the bedrooms of the now-grown children of the house into a two-bedroom mini-apartment.

The house where we are staying and the cottages and other outbuildings are built to be as self-sustaining as possible, with solar hot water heating (with electrical back-up for rainy days or heavy use), rain water catchment, and wood stoves, with electric space heaters and extra blankets and electric mattress pads for chilly nights.

One of the accoutrements is a (hand-cranked) flashlight. That seemed a bit curious, but last night we understood why it is necessary.

Last night, we experienced the most darkness we had seen since the flood in September 2011 left us with no electricity for several days. Given that our bodies aren’t adjusted to Hawai’i Standard Time yet, we awoke about 2 AM, which constitutes sleeping in until 8 on Eastern Daylight Time, to total darkness. Because it is raining, there was no moonlight or starlight. There are no streetlights and the Volcano Guest House buildings are carved into the rain forest with as small a footprint as possible.

Coincidentally, I have read been reading/hearing a lot about darkness lately. The darkness near here that makes the Mauna Kea observatory one of the finest in the world. The threat to the Kopernik Observatory in our hometown from the light pollution of gas wellpads and flaring right across the border in PA. The Dark Skies initiative that reserves certain places to retain as much of their natural darkness as possible. The imagery of the light coming into the darkness at Easter Vigil services. A cover article in a recent Time magazine on Barbara Brown Taylor and the spiritual lessons of darkness.

Enveloped in the darkness, we were able to get back to sleep, awaking with the still-rainy dawn to the songs of unfamiliar birds.

Saint John XXIII

Today, the Catholic church canonized Pope John XXIII along with Pope John Paul II.  Although John Paul was pope for about half of my lifetime, it is John’s legacy that most shaped the church that I know.

Because I was born in 1960, the only church I have known is the Vatican II church. I don’t remember when the Mass was in Latin rather than the vernacular and the choir was the only one singing the responses. I grew up with the expectation that I would continue to study the Bible, theology, spirituality, and doctrine and be responsible for developing and acting in accordance with my own conscience. It would have been very different if John, elected at 78 and not expected to do anything of substance, had not had the vision and inspiration of the Spirit to convene the Council of the world’s Catholic bishops and invite observers from other faiths. He wanted an “aggiornamento” or updating of the church, to open the Church, which had not changed  significantly in the centuries since the Council of Trent in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, to the modern world. This is the Church in which I was raised and which I continue to live out in my life to the best of my abilities.

Much of the secular media coverage talks about how the Church is “making” these two popes saints, but that is a mistaken characterization. Rather, the Church recognizes that these men are saints in heaven. God “makes” saints. Alleluia!

 

One, Two, Three Popes…

From an Italian blog that I follow. I hope that Francis will find the wherewithal to follow the example of John XXIII. It is said that, had he been elected instead of Benedict after John Paul II’s death, he would have chosen the name John. Perhaps that is a sign of things to come.

Attenti al Lupo

++ PAPA FIRMA DECRETI, WOJTYLA E RONCALLI SANTI ++ http://www.Ansamed.info

The canonization of both John XXIII and John Paul II will take place this Sunday, April 27, in Rome, and the event is expected to attract million of people to the epicenter of Catholicism.

Though both popes will be elevated to sainthood on the same day, their impacts on the Catholic Church and its more than a billion followers worldwide could not be more different.

I am not sure many people remember John XXIII, who after all, died in 1963. He was a stocky little man with a prominent nose and a gentle voice. he was considered a “transitional pope”, being 76 years old when he was elevated after eleven ballots to the Throne of Peter.

Regardless, during his short-lived papacy (just under five years), he did much to open the Church not only to the world but also to the future. In calling the Second Vatican Council…

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The rest of the Triduum

In the Catholic liturgical year, there is no starker contrast than the juxtaposition of the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday night.

Good Friday is the only day all year when Mass is not celebrated. The commemoration service is traditionally held mid-afternoon and begins with the clergy processing in and lying prostrate before the altar. It continues with readings, including the reading of the passion narrative from the gospel of John and then moves on to the veneration of the cross, in which all present process to a plain wooden cross and venerate it in some way, according to local tradition. At Holy Family, we bowed before the cross; other parishes genuflect or touch or kiss the cross. Then, after praying the Lord’s Prayer, communion is distributed from hosts that were consecrated on Holy Thursday night. The church is unadorned – no flowers, only the simplest altar cloth, which is removed after the service concludes, and the empty tabernacle with its door left open.

When we arrive at Holy Family for Easter Vigil, although the church is only dimly lighted, it is bursting with color – long bolts of cloth, each a different hue, radiate from a central point high in the sanctuary out over the congregation – flowers banked in several locations, not only the traditional white Easter lilies but also red and blue hydrangeas, orange lilies, pink azaleas, and light green mums – the altar draped in white, which is the color of Easter. The tabernacle, still empty with its door open, is the only visual reminder of the first two days of the Triduum.

We begin with the service of light, where a new fire is kindled and used to light a new Easter candle, whose light is spread to the candles that the congregation holds. After the Easter Proclamation is sung, we extinguish our candles and proceed with an extended liturgy of the word, including the singing of the Gloria and Alleluia, which are not used in Lent. Speaking to my daughter’s and my heart, the homilist chose to concentrate on Mary Magdelene’s place as the first witness of the resurrection, in a time and culture when women were not allowed to testify in court, chosen by God to go and tell, which is the apostolic mission.  In place of the creed, after new holy water is blessed, we renew our baptismal promises and are blessed with the new water. We continue on with the liturgy of the Eucharist and, after communion, the tabernacle is finally filled and the door closed.

One of the most powerful elements in these liturgies is the music, which is not only enhanced by the participation of our choir, cantors, and instrumentalists but also by the participation of the people. Because none of the liturgies of the Triduum are obligatory, the people who choose to participate are those who are steadfast in their commitment to celebrating as a community. On Good Friday, I was especially moved by people joining in with the choir singing the spiritual “Were You There?” and the Taize prayer “Jesus, Remember Me” during the long procession for veneration of the cross.  The Easter Vigil brings some music that is only used at that Mass. I was especially moved by the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) and a sung form of the Exodus reading about the horses and chariots of Egypt being cast into the sea to protect the fleeing Israelites, by Rory Cooney. The elements of light and water re-appear in the much of the music, with more songs about the Resurrection appearing after the Easter gospel is read. The music was extra festive because a trumpeter joined the choir, organ, and congregation for many of the songs.

I wish a blessed Easter to all Christians, continued blessings of Passover to all Jewish people, and peace, love, and light to all people!

Remembrance

We just returned from Holy Thursday Mass. Fittingly, the focus of the homily was remembrance. The 4,000+ years of remembrance of the Passover, the almost 2,000 years remembrance of the celebration of the Eucharist, and the remembrance of our call to serve one another, symbolized by the washing of the feet. The twelve whose feet were washed were a cross-section of the community, diverse in race, ethnicity, and gender, with an age range of at least six decades.

There were other personal remembrances for me, especially of my former parish, which was the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. This made the Holy Thursday liturgy especially significant for us and it was always my favorite liturgy of the year. I was remembering our music ministry at Blessed Sacrament, which was brought to mind by the fact that some of the musicians this evening, including my daughter, were music ministers at Blessed Sacrament back in the day.

I was remembering the sculpture of Jesus, seated as though at a table, holding the bread and the cup, which dominated the wall behind the altar. It was such a welcoming presence; during times in my life when I felt unwelcomed by some in the Church, it was a comfort to meditate on it.

At communion, I was remembering that on Holy Thursday, instead of the usual hosts, we consecrated tiny individual unleavened breads that had been baked by one of our long-time parishioners.

The Holy Thursday liturgy ends with the Blessed Sacrament being placed on an altar of reposition, instead of in the main tabernacle of the church. Tonight, the church had placed a glass tabernacle in a simply but beautifully decorated space along the side wall of the church. I was holding in remembrance my favorite tabernacle, which was the one we used at Blessed Sacrament after our major renovation. A liturgical artist made a natural linen-colored square-based tent for us, decorated with piping that matched the red, blue, and green color accents painted in the tower of the church. On Holy Thursday, we carried the tabernacle in procession before the Blessed Sacrament and set it on the altar of repose. The Blessed Sacrament was placed inside, incensed, and then the tent flap was closed. I loved the symbolism, because the word tabernacle comes from the word tent and reminds us of the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant was housed before the Temple was built in Jerusalem. Like the Passover remembrance, the tent-tabernacle reminds me of the profoundly Jewish roots of Christians and the love and respect to which we are all called.

Father John Dear: “The Nonviolent Life”

Earlier this week, I was privileged to hear Father John Dear speak at a local church. He is on a national book tour, speaking about the concepts in his most recent book, “The Nonviolent Life.” Although it was wonderful to hear him speak about his travels, including his recent trip to South Africa to visit important social justice sites there and to meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it was most moving to hear him speak about the nonviolence of Jesus, as we began Holy Week, and how we can live that nonviolence in our own lives.

He emphasized that nonviolence has three components that we need to carry out simultaneously. The first is nonviolence toward oneself. It seems that that would be easy, but so many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves, judging our own worth in harsh ways that we would not inflict on another person. This being the first principle in the nonviolent life was a powerful reminder that peace within ourselves – and peace in our spiritual practice and relationship with God, if that is our tradition – is essential to bringing that peace to others.

The second component is to be nonviolent to all people and to all of creation. For those of us who are Christian, we are taught these Bible quotes from childhood. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is much more difficult to live them, though, especially when our world is embroiled in multiple armed conflicts and many are intent on retribution against an enemy. It takes a lot of strength to respond nonviolently to violence, but we have the example of Jesus to follow, as well as more modern examples, such as Ghandi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day.

The third component is to be part of the global grassroots nonviolence movement for the rest of one’s life. That does sound daunting, except that it doesn’t mean that one has to travel to other countries or take on every justice and peace issue. It can mean supporting local efforts to combat hunger or advocating for legislation to stop capital punishment or war or joining the fight for fair wages or equal access to education. Personally, I view my work fighting against unconventional fossil fuels and global warming as social justice work, which, in John Dear’s language, is also the work of non-violence. Likewise, this would encompass the advocacy work for or against legislation on the national level that I participate in as a member of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

It can be discouraging when one is working on such a big issue as ending violence. It was hopeful to hear Father Dear speak, because there are so many instances that he spoke about where nonviolent methods lead to important change. If it happened in those times and places, it can happen again here and now, especially with so many of us joining together at the grassroots level to work toward nonviolence, justice, and peace.