Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back from Gerroa- Ten Days of Paradise!

Well my friends, the last ten days have really been a treat for many reasons. For starters, even though I've learned to love the ocean over the years (I grew up on one of the Great Lakes... but an ocean it was not!), I've never been on the water for more than a few days. Ten days at the beach, especially a quiet, clean, and scenic one like this, was like heaven.

The intention behind this time away was to really get to know one another at a much deeper level so that the twelve of us can support and challenge each other in this last phase of Jesuit formation. This involves the sharing of our "outer story" or the one that a biographer might write about each of us, as well as the "inner story," - our more private and personal experiences and the meaning that we make of them. We spend the better part of each morning making time for these stories, prayer, and liturgy. And then we spent the rest of each day as we liked... enjoying the beach, going for hikes and excursions, reading, and doing the cooking for the evening meal. Let's just say it was a balance I could get used to...

It has been a real treat getting to know these guys and hearing about the very diverse backgrounds we're coming from: the U.K., Singapore, Micronesia, Switzerland, Bavaria, the U.S., Poland... and enjoying people's amazing culinary skills! It's a bit late, so I might leave it at that for now. The one mishap was that I accidently my brand new digital camera, so will have to rely on the sharing of my brothers' photos for a while. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Growing into the full maturity of Christ... and off for ten days in Gerroa!

At our first conference with Adrian Lyons, the tertian director, there was a passage from our morning prayer that struck me as essential for all people who follow Christ. It is from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4. What strikes me is the call to not only live as disciples who seek to imitate Jesus, but more to become the living presence of Christ in the world. I invite you to read this passage below:

Ephesians, 4
I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
2 one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Therefore, it says: "He ascended 3 on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men and women."
What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended into the lower (regions) of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
4 And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, 5 for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, 6 to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants... Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, 7

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.
If you have thoughts about what it might mean to grow into the full maturity of Christ, please share your comments!

Today the fourteen of us leave Pymble, north of Sydney, for a villa house at Gerroa, on the beach. It won't be all fun and games as we will spend a good part of each day telling our story, inside and out, and building a deeper sense of community. As the 12 tertians are coming from many corners of the world, I imagine that our experiences will be quite diverse! And then along with the sharing, there should be a good amount of beach time, frisbee, BBQ, etc. All this to say that I will be offline until the 1st of February.

By the way, if you haven't found the recording of the Kookaburra on the site, not the one listed the maniacal laughter of the Kookaburra, but the other one, give it a listen. You have to wait until the middle of the recording for it to really get going, but it's a kick!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some highlights from Obama's Inaugural Address

Going over the transcript, these are the lines that spoke to me as a group of us listened to the live speech in the middle of the night here:

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

"Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction."

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply."

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more."

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

"Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny."

"At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you."

So, tell me about your experience? What do you hope for? What are you willing to give of yourself to achieve your aspiration?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Day in Sydney

On the first full day here, even though I was up at 4 am, I felt rather driven to explore Sydney while we have a few days free. Six of us took the train into the city center and spent the better part of the late morning traipsing around the botanical gardens, the Opera House, and then over the bridge. It was a spectacular day... blue sky, quite warm, though with a good stiff breeze blowing. Several times during the day, I just had to pinch myself that I'm actually here... seeing the famous Opera House up close after seeing it umpteen times in photos and on TV. Sydney is a gorgeous city, and I'm delighted that we'll have more time to explore it over the next several months. (see pictures below)

The twelve of us have nearly all arrived... one more to go, provided that his Visa issues are cleared. It's a great group so far-- diverse, friendly, easy-going, and very gifted. I think we're going to enjoy one anothers' company as much as we will also learn from one another.

A group of us are planning to gather in the middle of the night to watch the inauguration... and not just the guys from the States! This new president has really swept up enthusiasm and hope for change across the globe. It feels fairly unprecedented to me, and while I want to be somewhat cautious and measured in my own expectations, it is hard not to be moved by the soaring and exuberant sentiments being expressed by people all over.

We begin our program tomorrow, and then in a few days will head to a Jesuit villa house a few hours away to begin what we call faith sharing... getting to know one another and a more substantive level and building community. I feel excited and ready to begin...

MLK, Cockatoos, and 15 hours lag...

For starters, I am struck by the coincidence of timing of Martin Luther King Jr's anniversary and the innauguration of the first African American president of the United States... how marvelous that in this very auspicious timing, we realize how much a country's culture can shift within a short period of time. So that even if we are far from seeing an end to racism in America, we nonetheless are aware of a new and powerful possibility... for the overturning of ancient biases.

MLK was a Christian prophet who understood that Jesus himself lived as an outsider, and that he had to work from the margins to bring about transformation at the center. MLK may also have anticipated that unconventional means would be needed to galvanize a people to change, just as Jesus understood this. May his sacrifice continue to bear fruit in greater equality, not only in the US, but in all nations. And may Obama, his family, and his leadership team be kept from harm as they attempt to serve the country during these difficult times.

On a less lofty note, I manage to get six hours of sleep this first night, but woke up to wild cockatoos sqwauking raucously in the Eucalyptus trees out back... roosters don't hold a handle to these birds when it comes to a pre-dawn ruckus!

And finally, I am still trying to make sense of being 15 hours ahead, and the fact that I will be watching the innauguration tomorrow in the middle of the night. Will head into Sydney today for a little look-see and hopefully have some picture for posting!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day One Down-Under!

This being my first blog posting and all, I feel a certain performance anxiety about setting the right tone to hook you just so... so what? Well, so that you might be tempted to check back once in a while, maybe to comment yourself, maybe to add a thing or two about what's important to you.

For starters, I am a 40 year old Jesuit priest from Upstate New York, and I am spending from late January thru early September of 2009 in Australia, completing that last formal stage of my Jesuit training. This will include living in community and studying with other Jesuits from around the world, doing several months of pastoral work/service, and making a month long silent retreat.

My intention is to use this blog a medium to post reflections on my experiences, to offer commentary on scripture readings, and to offer a conversation space for things I am passionately interested in... the emerging Christian community, adult development, transformative learning, transformational leadership, the Integral movement, etc. But I'll need more than a little help to keep this relevant, entertaining, and worthwhile.

As I just landed this morning and am limping along with just a few hours of sleep in the last few days, maybe I will leave things where they are, in their very rough and unfinished state...