31 July 2008

En route

I'm using an Internet terminal here in the Honolulu International Airport and it must be the cheapest Internet available in any airport anywhere: $0.20 per minute. That's right, just twenty cents per minute! (It saves me the trouble of taking my laptop out of my bag.)

Theoretically, in forty-five minutes I will leave this land of Paradise and depart for the Windy City where, God willing, I will catch a train just two hours after landing to Effingham. I hope my flight will be on time. If not, I'll have to find something to do in Chicago until 8:15 p.m. Or somehow find a car rental that will allow me to leave their car in Effingham, though I've not yet had any luck with such a search.

Last night I was working on a blog post concerning my prayer at the tomb of Blessed Father Damien of Molokai (which will be finished during the flight) and I wrote that I was "content" ("ready" is perhaps too strong of a word) to leave Hawaii. I was quite truthful when I wrote those words yet today my heart is heavy and I do not want to leave.

The weather is gorgeous, the people are wonderful, the Faith is strong and vibrant here. And my fingers have returned to looking "normal." I can actually put all of my fingers together; the swelling is gone. But it shall soon return. And I shall soon return to Effingham.

Please pray for a safe flight. I don't expect the landing will be as smooth as Captain Callahan's yesterday.

Mahalo, and God bless you.

A destination reached

Upon landing at the airport in Kalaupapa we were met by Gloria from Damien Tours who was driving an old school bus. Climbing on board I felt like a little kid again, and my excitement and joy at finally being on Molokai and I my way to visit Father Damien’s only made me feel more childlike.

Joe and I were also met at the airport by four other persons for the Damien Tour who flew into Kalaupapa.

Gloria – a former patient - drove us into Kalaupapa where we collected four others who rode mules down the 3.8 mile path weaving down from the cliffs above Kalaupapa. Their guide down the trail, whose name I regret to say I cannot remember, then took over the tour and guided us around the island and drove us around at the same time. He was an excellent tour guide.

Kalaupapa is the second leper colony on Molokai. Mother Marianne Cope established Kalaupapa because the living conditions Kalawao – the first leper colony – were too difficult and she realized she could get supplies into the colony sooner from the new location, which was also more livable.

Kalaupapa, a very quaint and quiet place, is still home to sixteen former patients. Around eighty other people live at Kalaupapa. These others are workers and park employees, etc.

We stopped first at the local bar which serves alcohol beginning at 4:00 p.m. Being too early for a drink, we stopped for a rest room break and to purchase sodas, water, chips or ice cream. You’d be hard pressed to find any other food items to buy on the island.

We stopped next at St. Francis of Assisi church. We were given time to explore the church and to pray. Holy cards were available to us, as were a few pamphlets and movies. The movie Molokai, being filmed on island (along with Jurassic Park II and Jurassic Park III) comes very highly recommended by the residents of the island. I have yet to see it but I will watch it soon.

St. Francis of Assisi parish currently does not have a resident pastor, but is served by visiting “supply” priests. Some come from Belgium (Father Damien’s home country), Hawaii and many other places. Perhaps I could be one someday. If nothing else, Kalaupapa would be a perfect place to take my annual retreat (which I’ll probably be looking into).

Next to the church was a one room building that had pictures and articles relating to Father Damien along the walls. There was even a small green lizard of some kind climbing one of the walls.

We next stopped at the local book store which offered several good titles and even a few t-shirts. If you go to Kalaupapa, bring cash to buy books because credit cards are not accepted (and I don’t expect you’ll find an ATM). I wish I had known this before leaving Honolulu.

After touring Kalaupapa we drove to the site of the first settlement at Kalawao, the destination of this little pilgrimage.

Blessed Father Damien’s original grave is located just to the right of the church of St. Philomena. In 1936, his remains were brought to Leuven, Belgium, near the town of his birth. In 1995, Blessed Damien’s right hand was sent to Hawaii, where it was buried in his original grave.

I cannot begin to describe what joy and peace flooded my soul as tears welled in my eyes as I knelt to pray at his grave. I asked Father Damien to show me how to be a good and holy priest, how to give myself generously and completely to the people entrusted to me, how to give myself in imitation of Christ. I’ll have more to say about this later.

I touched the two rosaries I have been carrying with me these past four weeks to his grave. One is from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. and has the coat of arms of Benedict XVI on the centerpiece and other the has a second class relic of St. Anthony of Padua in the centerpiece. These rosaries I also took the grave of Blessed Mary MacKillop, though I didn’t think to touch them to her grave.

After praying at his grave, I did what Christians have done for two thousand years: I picked up a rock (a lava rock), touched it to his grave, and put it in my backpack.

That’s about all I’ll say for now; it’s time for bed.

A delightful flight

I left the house this morning at 7:00 in order to arrive at Hawaii From Above – located at the airport - and meet Captain John Callahan at 8:30. When traffic flows well the airport is only a twenty-minute or so drive, but wet roads early in the morning can result in a few accidents (Hawaiians aren’t known to be the best of drivers, spending much time simply enjoying the weather or the views).

Very soon after I entered the eastbound lanes of Interstate H1 (the other two are cleverly named H2 and H3) I encountered heavy traffic moving very slowly. I felt as though I were back in Chicagoland.

After driving for nearly thirty minutes I finally discovered the cause of the slow traffic: an accident in the left-most westbound lane. As in Chicago, so in Honolulu. As soon as the gawkers passed the accident traffic picked up and moved well.

After only one wrong turn (the boys who travelled with me in Hawaii quickly learned that I almost always make one wrong turn but that I also always find my destination), I arrived at Captain Callahan’s at 8:00. Having arrived so early I had time to begin this blog post and also to listen to the news (which I haven’t caught in almost a month).

From my car I could see the plane on which we would be flying: a Cessna 337 Skymaster. It sits six people. I’ve never before wanted to fly on a plane so small and yet somehow this morning I wasn’t at all nervous about the flight.

I met Captain Callahan and his assistant Cyndi. I also met the other man, Joe, who wanted to go to Molokai and whose presence made this morning’s trip possible. Sandy at Hawaii Adventure Hiking arranged for the two of us to fly with Captain Callahan; Cyndi flew along for the ride and to walk along Molokai while Joe and I went on the tour.

Captain Callahan is a most excellent and accomplished pilot, having flown the military version of the Cessna 337 in the Viet Nam war. Both takeoffs and both landings were perfect and completely smooth. I was very impressed!

The views from the plane were phenomenal! We even drove straight through a few clouds, and I could see clouds from above and from the side. It was amazing!

I would highly recommend Captain Callahan to anyone. As Cyndi said, I’m now a lover of small planes. I’d love to fly in one again soon.

You could be Hawaiian if...

...you're driving around in the evening with the windows in 72 degree weather and you feel chilly.

I guess I'm ready to move here :)

30 July 2008


I've just returned from a fantastic day on Molokai! I'll write up a post about the day later tonight, but for now enjoy some pictures taken from the plane, of the island of Molokai and of the leper colonies.

Wedding intercessions

Several of you seem to have stumbled onto my blog today looking for General Intercessions (Petitions) to be used at a Wedding Mass. I've seen this request before over the past several months and have composed a set of petitions that you might use:

For the bishops of the Church: may they be ever zealous in supporting, encouraging, and strengthening all married couples as they share with the world the love of Christ, we pray to the Lord.

For all civic leaders: may they work to safeguard the rights and dignity of marriage, we pray to the Lord.

For N. and N.: may their married love be for the world a sign and witness to the love of Christ for his Church, we pray to the Lord.

For all married couples: may they daily grow together in holiness and lead each other into the heavenly kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

For those of us gathered here: may we always be a source of support and love for N. and N. as they live out their committed love, we pray to the Lord.

For those who suffer in body and soul: may they be relieved of their pain and share in the glory of Christ, we pray to the Lord.

For our beloved dead: may they come to share at last in the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb, we pray to the Lord.

29 July 2008

Praised be Jesus Christ!

In his infinite goodness, God has seen fit to make it possible for me to visit the island of Molokai tomorrow, where I will take a tour of the island and pray at the tomb of Blessed Damien of Molokai, the leper priest, who will soon be canonized.

I want to publicly thank Sandy at Hawaii Adventure Hiking for her tireless help in arranging this more. Mahalo, Sandy!

It's been no small ordeal trying to get from Oahu to Molokai. It was looking as though I would have to take a ferry (or plane) first to Maui and then fly to Molokai the next day (no flights go directly from Oahu to Molokai in time for a tour). Sandy was able to arrange it somehow that I can fly right into Kalaupapa National Park from the Honolulu airport.

And here I was beginning to wonder if my hoped for pilgrimage to the leper colony would take place.

This explains a lot

When I had the pilgrims here in Hawaii - and when I was here last May - I tried my best to locate the Damien Museum that I kept seeing on maps of the island. It was supposed to be next to the church of St. Augustine by the Sea at Waikiki, but it was not there.

I just stumbled upon this article which helps clear things up.

A musical treat

When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old
He was gentle and brave he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valor he rode through the land

No charger have I, and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride
Though back into storyland giants have fled
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
Against the dragons of anger the ogres of greed
And let me set free with the sword of my youth
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth

Six quirks meme

Some days back Jeff, of Thursday Night Gumbo, tagged me for the Six Quirks Meme (and I forgot to answer it).

The rules, I think, are simply to offer six quirks about yourself. Here goes:

1. I only rarely actually leave my house on the first try. More often than not I have to go back inside before leaving to collect something I forgot to bring. Sometimes twice. Fortunately, I never actually start the car before remembering what I've forgotten.

2. I can't stand the taste of olives, but I love olive oil.

3. I have the ability to tap on tables, fidget with various instruments, and even hum songs without realizing it, and hence driving those around me crazy.

4. I almost always carry a pen with me but almost never have any paper with me on which to write.

5. I can watch a movie, read a book and carry on a conversation with someone all at the same time, and still know what's going on in each.

6. If I can't have a Dr Pepper in a restuarant, I'll more likely have a water or a lemonade than another soda.

I think that does it. I'm sure others could offer plenty of other quirks.

If you want to be tagged, you are. Sorry this took so long, Jeff!


I just discovered this morning that the Holy Rood Guild once again has incense. This is great news, and just in time!

28 July 2008

FSSP Priest

Over in the comments at What Does the Prayer Really Say?, Paul Geers, president of the Latin Mass Society of Quincy, informs us that Fr. Father Deviller, FSSP, will be arriving at the chapel of St. Rose of Lima from Rome in late October.

A rainy day

It's largely been an overcast day on O'ahu today, which, given that I actually slept in until 8:30 a.m. (!) helped contribute to a bit of a lazy day.

I was able finally to print the letter to the pilgrims I wrote Saturday night. I also found the pilgrim's addresses and have the letters ready to mail. Now I just need a post box.

A few hours ago I decided to take a drive up to the North Shore and back. It wasn't raining when I set out but it didn't take long before it did start raining.

Rain here in Hawaii is nothing at all like at home in the Midwest. There, it only rarely showers but more often than not pours down. There's nothing like the sound of a good rain rolling in over the prairie as the rain pounds on the ground.

In Hawaii, the rain is very fine and calm, almost more like a heavy mist than rain. This helps make Hawaii the land of rainbows.

Driving around this afternoon I saw quite a few rainbows, and even managed to take a picture of one:

It was much more vivid and vibrant in reality than this picture shows.

Pictures of O'ahu

More pictures here.

What I've been up too

Yesterday morning I left Waipahu for Honolulu with the intention of arriving at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace to concelebrate the 7:30 a.m. Mass. After Mass I was going to my friend Ian and his family for a morning at Hanauma Bay.

Coming from Waipahu on H-1 (one the three Hawaiian "interstates") I saw an exit for "Honolulu" and another for "King Street." I knew that King Street ran very close to the Cathedral and so I decided to depart H-1 sooner than planned. I should not have done so. The King Street exit took me farther into Honolulu than I thought and I had to work my way backwards through one-way streets and dead ends.

I eventually arrived at the Cathedral, but not until 7:45 a.m. I waited around and concelebrated the Mass at 9:00 a.m.

The principal celebrant at that Mass was the Most Rev. Edmundo M. Abaya, Archbishop of Nueva Segovia. His Excellency was in Honolulu on a "begging tour," imploring the generosity of the Hawaiian people who are served by many Filipino priests, many from the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. Archbishop Abaya struck me as a quiet man and one of kindess and humor.

Concelebrating the Mass with me was Fr. Pascual, a priest of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia and a former Parchial Vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

After Mass, I hopped in my car and drove to Hanauma Bay but was not permitted in; the car park was full.

Not quite knowing what else to do, I decided to continue driving along the windward side of Oahu to take in the scenery on a truly beautiful day.

Later in the afternoon I returned to my friend's house for a bit of rest.

In the evening I returned to Honolulu to have dinner with a Catholic Mom in Hawaii and her family. It was a great to be with Esther and Joey again (who still hasn't updated his blog) and Esther's husband and relatives. I spent four hours or so with them chatting away, and I even blessed their new cat, Honey. Thanks, Esther and Joey!

In a bit I'll post a few of the pictures I took yesterday driving around.

Extraordinary Form comes to Diocese

There has been much sad news from my beloved home of Quincy these past many months, but now some good news is emerging: the Extradorinary Form of the Latin Rite is coming to Quincy.

In 1999, my home parish of St. John the Baptist merged with our neighboring parish (just a few blocks away) of St. Rose of Lima. The two parishes became All Saints parish, keeping both churches and other properties to be held by the new parish.

As you know, my home of St. John's was sold to a Protestant ecclesial communitiy, which has caused no small amount of hurt.

The property of St. Rose of Lima has been on the market for quite some time (since late 2005), without any real prospective buyers. Recently, the Most Rev. George J. Lucas granted permission for the property to be used as a chapel for the extraordinary form. This is happy news indeed!

A priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter will staff the chapel beginning around November 1st. There is official word yet as to who will come or the Mass schedule, though I've heard rumblings of a daily Mass and two Masses on Sunday mornings.

It seems I'll now have an easy way to learn the extraordinary form, with a trip home, as well.

Cathedral campaign a success

I'm very happy to say that the Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope campaign to restore the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois' Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has succeeded overwhelmingly.

Shaun Riedell, director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship and Development, said that the Built in Faith, Renewed in Hope campaign is close to completion, with $9.28 million pledged. Over $2.1 million has already been paid.


The Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope campaign's original goal was to raise a total of $7 million dollars. Over $2 million was raised from Cathedral parishioners and major donors; the remainder was raised from Catholics in parishes in the 28 counties of the Springfield diocese [more].
Let us offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the generosity and faith of the people whose goodness has made this dream a reality.

27 July 2008

Spiritual waves

This morning my friend Ian and I went driving around the southwestern side of Oahu and, after grabbing a bite to eat, settled for the early afternoon at White Plains Beach (which is, I think, part of Eva Beach).

It was a very nice beach and almost inaccessible to tourists as it isn't easy to find (which makes it even nicer).

I'm not the best of swimmers and I'm rather a coward by nature (or perhaps overly cautious and worrisome) and I still have memories of that shoulder dislocation last May (a "classic situation" that I do not wish to relive). Consequently, for the first several minutes of our stay at the beach I remained where the waves reached only my knees. Being so close to the shore is safe, comfortable and allows me to be more in control than not.

This is how I often live my life, on the fringe where things are calm and predictable. I have had very little control over most of the key elements of my life - many of them quite sad - and so I like to what little control I can. At the same time, though, I can feel the Holy Spirit urging me to surrender.

Finally, after much urging and convincing from Ian, I ventured out to just beyond the point where the waves broke and the water remained mostly about shoulder level.

It took some time but I became accustomed to bouncing along with the waves, though the occassional wave did take me by surprise. I'd never ventured out so far into the waters, which prompted a bit of theological reflection (I am a priest afterall, even if on vacation).

I couldn't help but notice the rythym of the waves, one after another, generally in a gentle repetition. Many of the trials and joys of life come in a similar pattern, do they not?

It reminded me very much of the spiritual life. If we are to grow in faith, hope and love, we cannot remain beyond the point of the breaking of the waves where it is "safe" and "comfortable." Here we remain closed to the Holy Spirit because we refuse to give him control over our lives, trying as we do to maintain our grip on life. On the fringe we grow stagnant, we whither and eventually die.

We must, rather, "put out for the deep," allowing the waves of the Holy Spirit to buoy us along. The Spirit has his own rythyms and unless we accept his movements in our lives we cannot grow. We must surrender to him and move where he wills.

All of this, of course, requires trust, both in the waves and in the "Lord and giver of life." And trust is not always easy, but it is this simple trust that the Lord requires of us.

Where will the waves of the Spirit take me? I cannot yet be certain. I feel drawn now to great youth ministry and to greater ministry through the Internet, particularly with this blog and with podcasting. I can also feel the tug of the Spirit to return to writing, both to finish a few papers that are well past due, and to resume work on several articles and books that I have begun.

What holds me back? Why do I not simply plunge in? I do not know, but I shall use these remaining days in Paradise to ask the Spirit's guidance and to implore from the Lord the gift of courage, courage to abandon myself completely to his will.

26 July 2008

From soccer star to priesthood

There have been several posts in the Blogosphere recently about Chase Hilgendrink, the pro-soccer player who is entering the seminary.

I only recently learned that he was born in Quincy and live for the first few years of his life in Ursa, a small town in Adams County, of which Quincy is the seat.

Sad news from home

The Quincy Herald-Whig is carrying the sad story that Granview Church will begin using the facilities of the former St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - my home - this weekend for servies.

A pilgrimage concluded

I have received the happy news that my fellow pilgrims arrived safely back in Effingham. May the Lord now grant them a restful sleep!

As they recover I am writing a letter to them that I hope to finish up in the next day or so. After they receive it in the mail I'll post it on the blog.

25 July 2008

We have arrived back in Honolulu at 12:04 p.m. after a safe and uneventful flight.

I have now "abandoned" the pilgrims in the airport and am at my friend Ian's house, where I will stay until Thursday afternoon.

My stay in Hawaii is twofold: to rest and recover from three weeks of travelling and to reflect upon the experience of WYD 2008.

Personally, it has been a time of many graces and I know that through it the Lord is calling me to break away my outer shell, to become more "personable" and open. These past twenty-some days has been an opportunity to "return to the joy of my youth," as the Psalmist would say.

It is this youthful joy that the Lord is now calling me to give to the world, yet this is now easy task. In the words of Rich Mullins, "there's a lot of love locked up inside of me that I'm learning to give."

I hope to use these days in Paradise to pray about this and to ask the Lord for guidance, particularly from St. John Bosco and Blessed Damien of Molokai, whose grave I hope to visit.

Please continue to pray for the pilgrims. They should be flying out of Honolulu in about an hour and a half, to arrive in Chicago about 6:00 a.m. It is a flight that I physically could not make and I hope they can rest well on this flight.

24 July 2008

A new nickname?

Throughout my life I've not really been given many nicknames, save one or two used in high school that have since fallen by the wayside.

Over the past few weeks, though, a new nickname seems to have emerged from the high school kids: Papa D.

What do you think?

Over heard

I visited the British Lolly Shop this morning to pick up another Dr Pepper and over heard two Sydney-siders discussing the weather. As expected, it is a rather dismal day out, chilly and rainy.

One of the gentlemen remarked how lowsy the weather was and the other replied, "The pilgrims have taken the good weather with them." It seems so.

Yesterday afternoon there were still scores of pilgrims running around the streets of Sydney, but this morning their numbers seem to have decreased significantly. We depart this afternoon.

After purchasing a Dr Pepper I took the escalator down to the Fudge Shoppe where I purchased a good amount of confectionary treats for a very good price.

Now I hope the rain lets up a bit so we can take one last meander through the city.

WYD 2011 Dates

Madrid, July 23 (CNA).-The governor of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, has announced that the dates for World Youth Day 2011 will be August 15-21. She also assured the public that local officials would support the event and ensure it would be a success.

"I am sure Madrid will be ready to welcome the Pope as he deserves for the next World Youth Day, which will be held in the Spanish capital in 2011," Aguirre said in response to the announcement.

She said she shared the sentiments of Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, who said the event would "have important repercussions for the social, cultural and general life of Spain."

Aguirre said she was "very happy" that Spain was chosen as the host city for the next World Youth Day and that "it will be a great opportunity for the young people of Madrid, whether they are Catholic or not, because the Pope is a worldwide authority."
Our Lady of the Southern Cross,
Pray for us!
This beautiful image of Mary, Our Lady of the Southern Cross, was unveiled recently in the Cathedral of St. Mary in Sydney. Pilgrims who prayed before this image - having also met the usual requirements - were granted a plenary indulgence.
I visited the Cathedral again this afternoon to pray for safe travels as we journey home tomorrow.

Drawing to a close

In just over twenty-seven hours time we will depart this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit to return to the United States of America. As is often the case with my travels, I don't really want to leave.

Australia is a beautiful country and the Sydney-siders are very friendly and helpful. Plus, the winters aren't bad at all!

There are, however, a couple of things I miss from home:
  1. the ban on public smoking, and
  2. free WI-FI.

The bright side, for me, is that before returning to Illinois I will be returning for six days to the land where my heart has settled: Hawaii. My fellow pilgrims want to stay with me during my stay in Hawaii, but such will not be possible, as enjoyable as it would be (and I mean that in all seriousness).

I am mostly packed already, having remaining basically my Mass kit and a few other necessities.

I ask your continued prayers for our return journey, and especially for me. The weather here has been cloudy and raining, and it seems it will be the same tomorrow; my fingers are feeling it, though, thankfully, my knees are not. Nevertheless, a nine hour flight is a daunting prospect under such conditions. Please seek the intercession of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, patron saint of those with arthritis.

23 July 2008

A little pilgrimage

As previously said, yesterday we took a little pilgrimage to the Shrine of Blessed Mary MacKilllop in North Sydney.

From our hotel we walked to the train station and took the train to North Sydney, from which we intended to walk to the Shrine. I called the Shrine yesterday morning for directions but something went wrong. Either I missed part of the directions or they were wrongly given.

This caused no small bit of consternation from the pilgrims, but after a quick stop at a parish we walked by we were on our way to the Shrine, back the way we could just come.

Every pilgrimage has its own difficulties and opportunities to embrace the Cross of Christ. Little pilgrimages are no different.

We were greeted at the Shrine very warmly and led into the church. A larger group was at the tomb so we sat down and prayed, waiting for our opportunity to visit the tomb.

When the larger group finished they sang the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in very simple but moving tones. I’m going to have to look for it. We joined them in the prayer and afterwards visited the tomb.

Blessed Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842 and she died in Sydney in 1909. Her motto was something like this: “Never see a need without doing something about it.” Would that we would follow her words!

The holy card that we were given also had a quote from Blessed Mary, one that seemed most appropriate given the frustrations of our journey to her tomb:

Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them cheerfully, remembering whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid, love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you in all your life.

After praying at her tomb we continued along to the giftshop where I purchased a book on her life.

To get to the giftshop it was necessary to pass through a courtyard in which a group of Sisters apparently used to sing and play musical instruments:

Still in Sydney

Our original pilgrimage plans called for us to depart Sydney for Melbourne this past Monday morning, to return to Sydney Friday in time to catch our flight to Chicago through Honolulu.

I was concerned with these plans from the time we made, simply because the drive to Melbourne itself would take up a full day easily. That would mean that we would spend basically two days driving to be in Melbourne for two days. I wasn’t sure if I could do that. It turns out I wasn’t the only one with these concerns.

My group from St. Anthony’s – minus one – chose Sunday evening to remain here in Sydney until Friday. The group from St. Mary’s – with whom we have been journeying – chose to continue on as planned and safely arrived in Melbourne.

This required a few logistical needs which were, thankfully, easily seen too.

Those of us in Sydney have spent these past few days both resting and site-seeing. Monday we walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge (not of us climbed the bridge). Tuesday we went to Bondi Beach. Yesterday we went to the Shrine of Blessed Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first Blessed. Today and tomorrow we’ll be taking very quiet days of rest and free time to wander about.

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all a bit tired and in need of a break.

Father! Over here, Father!

At the closing Mass for World Youth Day 2008 I was privileged to distribute Holy Communion to a few of the thousands of faithful gathered for the Mass. It was a tremendous experience.

As the Holy Father prepared to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, one of the Masters of Ceremonies and his assistants directed the priests who wished to distribute Holy Communion to proceed from our seats to receive a ciborium with hosts to be consecrated. These contained far too few hosts, at least for the section to which I was taken.

As I distributed Holy Communion, I was surprised not by the number of people who came forward, but by the order in which they approached.

As might well be expected, as I began to distribute Holy Communion the faithful came forward in whatever manner they could, circling around one another as they attempted to move away from the rail after they received so that others might come forward. There was the usual jostling and even a few outstretched hands, a beautiful gesture of their desire to receive the Lord.

But after a few moments the faithful organized themselves in two lines, just as they do in churches throughout the world. This amazed me, and pleased me. It demonstrated for me the reality that people, by nature, desire order and not chaos. It also showed that people have a reverence for our Eucharistic Lord that involves order and chaos.

It didn’t take long for me to distribute each of the consecrated hosts in my ciborium and as I returned to the altar I was deeply moved. Walking along the aisle, many of the faithful - thinking my ciborium full - called out to me, “Father! Over here, Father!” Their desire for the Eucharist led them cry out in longing. Would that it were this way in our parishes!

My heart broke because I could not give the Eucharist to them. I wanted to direct other priests to them, but none were near (others later were directed to these sections).

Pictures from an interview

One of the boys was kind enough to post two pictures he took of my at one of the many interviews I gave at WYD 2008:

Papal quotes

Sandra Magister has done us the great favor of compiling some of the Holy Father's most poignant remarks made during his visit to Australia for the World Youth Day 2008.

21 July 2008

More pictures

I've posted pictures from the Mass with the U.S. Bishops, the Youth Vigil, and the Closing Mass of WYD 2008 (more and more).

I'll soon be making plans to attend WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain.

I'll post more reflections when I have a bit more time to compose something worthwhile.

The voice of the shepherd

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI says of his first predecessor Saint Peter:

This is how he comes to the sheep “through Jesus”: He takes them not as his own – Simon Peter’s – but as Jesus’ “flock.” It is because he comes through the “door,” Jesus, it is because he comes to them united with Jesus in love, that the sheep listen to his voice, the voice of Jesus himself – they are not following Simon, but Jesus, from whom and through whom Simon comes to them, so that when he leads them it is Jesus himself who leads.1
Has this not been the experience of these past few days here at the World Youth Day 2008? Indeed it has.

Whenever one sees Benedict XVI or hears his voice one cannot help but see that he comes not in his own name but in the name of the Lord.

Last night, flipping through the channels some of the boys stumbled upon a documentary on the life of then Cardinal Ratzinger. I was in the room – an “L” shaped room - away from the television and the boys at the time busy with other things paying little attention to what was going on about me. They stopped on that particular channel, apparently – as I soon learned - to do a little experiment of sorts. After just a few moments I said, “It’s Papa,” and moved toward the television so that I could see. Sure enough, it was.

The boys wanted to see if I could recognize Pope Benedict XVI simply by his voice. They were surprised that indeed I could. They said, “You knew his voice even when he spoke in German!”

My response: “Of course I did; he’s Papa.”

The experience of these past few days has not been that of listening to and following after Joseph Ratzinger, but rather of listening to and following after Jesus Christ, who used Pope Benedict XVI – the humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard – as his instrument to teach us and lead us in the ways of faith. This Pope Benedict XVI has done well.

Throughout these next few days here in the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit we will be reflecting on the words that the Holy Father spoke to us. We know that the purpose of a pilgrimage is to embark upon not only a physical journey but, more importantly, a spiritual one and to return home changed. His Holiness reminded us that he who is baptized and confirmed has been changed forever. It is my great hope that together we will come to a deeper understanding of this foundational reality of the Christian faith to return home changed as witnesses to Christ filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we return in this way the World Youth Day 2008 will have been a great success.

1 Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, trans. Adrian J. Walker (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 277.

A new sitcom?

Throughout these past days I’ve been travelling with another priest of my Diocese, Fr. Chris. Together he and I have had several experiences fitting for a sitcom. Here are two.

Back in Cairns we went shopping for various odds and ends that would be necessary for the pilgrimage, especially upon our arrival in Sydney.

When happened upon a store that sold mobile telephones and, needing a few, we decided to pop in look at their rates. The store front was glass, as was the door. Together Fr. Chris and I both approach the door and stop before it waiting for it to open as glass doors so often do. We stood there looking at the glass door. The glass door didn’t move. We stood there looking at the glass door, rather dumbfounded. The glass door didn’t move. Finally we noticed the sign on the door that said, “PUSH.” We then felt like two stupid Americans travelling in a foreign land.

Yesterday here in Sydney after the conclusion of the Papal Mass, Fr. Chris and I walked to our van (we weren’t about to walk through a crowd of 500,000 people to get back to the hotel). Upon arriving at the van we placed our vestments in the back and proceeded to the front. We opened our doors at about the same time and, without saying a word, both looked inside, closed the doors, and crossed the front of the van to open the opposite doors. He, the driver, and I, the passenger, first went to the wrong doors. Again, we felt like two stupid Americans travelling in a foreign land.

Ah, the stuff of life from which good sitcoms are born!

18 July 2008

In the news again

The Crescat informed me that we've made the news again, this time in Honolulu:

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Hundreds of pilgrims from the U.S. mainland stopped in Hawaii on their way to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and whether they stayed one day or several, they made the most of their island visit. Twenty-five people from the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., led by Father Daren Zehnle, were the first. They were in Hawaii July 3-7 and stopped by the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu for Mass July 6. Afterward, wearing shell leis given to visiting Massgoers, they took photos by the statue of Our Lady of Peace before heading to Waikiki to hike Diamond Head, a volcanic crater that is one of Hawaii's most famous natural landmarks.

17 July 2008

More pictures

I've managed to find a way to upload my pictures at the mall now. All I needed was my USB flash drive. It's too simple.

Here are pictures from the Aquarium and the Wildlife World and from the Welcoming Ceremony at Barangaroo (I love that word).

In just a few minutes we'll be leaving to collect a few minivans for next week's venture down to Melbourne. I'll be driving one and am not quite sure yet what to think about turning (they drive on the left side of the road). St. Christopher, pray for us!

This afternoon we'll be returning to Barangaroo for the Stations of the Cross.

Keep your prayers coming!

Papal message at the Welcoming Ceremony

The Holy See has published the text of the Holy Father's message to the youth at yesterday's Welcoming Ceremony in Barangaroo. It is well worth a read!

On the Papal Arrival

Yesterday morning a couple of the boys and I went to what is called “Paddy’s Market.” In effect, it’s a place filled with lots of vendors peddling odds and ends, mostly clothing, jewelry, cheap stuff and fruit. Only one store caught our eye, one that sold aborigine boomerangs and other artworks. I bought two boomerangs and two wooden vases. I also bought a carving of the Nativity at one of the other shops.

At 11:00, the pilgrim group made our way back to Barangaroo to await the arrival of the Holy Father. It was amazing!

We arrived about two and a half hours prior to the scheduled arrival of the Pope (who left at the end of the welcome ceremony ten minutes later than scheduled). Most of the pilgrims took the extra time as an opportunity for a bit of a rest.

Il Papa set sail from Rose Bay on what was termed a "boatorcade." It was truly impressive to watch on the jumbotrons. Not only was the sea filled with police boats of every kind, but no fewer helicoptors patrolled the skies.

During his inaugural homily, Benedict XVI said, “The Church is alive. The Church is young.” He was quite right.

Young people from every continent and seemingly from every nation filled the harbor area and the sounds of singing and dancing came from all directions.

Wandering around Barangaroo looking for souvenirs and food, I stumbled upon a group of the Missionaries of Charity. They astounded me with a gift they handed out to priests: a second class relic of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta!

Because we were present so early we found good “seats” right up against the rail but these were quickly lost when the Holy Father arrived. When he did the “aisles” that were mostly barricaded off flooded with pilgrims – many of them not very polite – who wanted a picture with the Pope no matter what.

The happy side of this is that some of our pilgrims managed to be pushed to the very front of the lines and took some truly excellent photographs and were deeply touched. I think they now understand why I love Benedict so much. Though I was greatly disappointed - and even a bit more - but the kids were thrilled to be so close. I have my time right at the rail in Washington; I keep consoling myself with this thought.

It was so good to see His Holiness and to hear his voice again! My heart lifted and my eyes watered at his arrival. Papa had come.

He preached quite a while today – a bit more than I thought he would - but the homily was very good. The summation: "Jesus is close to you! Feel his healing embrace, his compassion and mercy!" I can’t wait to hear what he says on Sunday morning.

Benedict XVI urged us to “step forward into Christ's loving embrace; recognize the Church as your home. No one need remain on the outside.”

Reminding us that Jesus “is not far from any of us,” His Holiness noted that “Christ offers more indeed” than the secular world, that “he offers us everything.”

It is this message that I hope falls on fertile soil in the hearts of the youth that have come me. Please continue to pray for them, that they might open themselves ever more to the immense love of God and his divine will for their lives.

After the Pope departed, our group split up so that we might return to the hotel more easily. As you can well imagine, the crowds were immense and everywhere. Singing continued. Dancing continued. Shouts and yells abounded. It was glorious!


Yesterday morning we took things rather slowly and celebrated Mass at 11:30 a.m. After Mass, we split up into various groups for the afternoon.

Two of the chaperones and I made our way to the Sydney Aquarium, after a brief lunch.

Nearly the first exhibit in the Aquarium featured - to my great delight - the platypus far better than the zoo. At the Aquarium, the platypus tank was well-lit, but not enought to hurt the platypus' eyes.

Happily, the platypus was not only awake but moving around. It is a strange looking creature and almost rather ugly. They're also very swift, at least in the water. I was able to take several pictures and even a couple of videos.

The rest of the exhibits at the aquarium were pretty standard (we saw a barramundi which I had for dinner a few nights ago) save two: the seals and the oceanarium.

Each of these exhibits were made up of two glass underwater tunnels through which you could see the sea creatures swimming to your left and right and even above you! The seals talked with each other and looked at you as they swam around you, playing with each other and with you. Up above the seal tunnels you could watch the seals playing on the rocks. One of them - clearly an entertainer - climbed up a ramp and went down it like a slide.

The tunnels of the Oceanarium were breath-taking. Fish of all colors and sizes, sharks and stingrays swam all over. You could look them in the face and even see their undersides. It was simply amazing!

As I journeyed through the two tunnels I couldn't help but recite of the propther Daniel: "Seas and rivers, bless the Lord. You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord."

Half-way through the aquarium we bumped into two of the boys who somehow bypassed the seal tunnel. The other two chaperones continued onward while the boys and I went back to the seal tunnel. We never found the ladies again near the aquarium (but they made their way safely back to the hotel).

After the aquarium we returned to the hotel to drop off a few things and so I could don my cassock to go in search of a picture with a koala.

To do so we went to Wildlife World. It is filled with native Australian creatures of every kind, from insects to reptiles to marsupials. On the roof were the koalas.

In New South Wales it is illegal to hold a koala, both for the animal's safety and for the human's. We were, though, able to pet a koala; they're very soft.

The Australians are very nice people and are perhaps not the shrewd businessmen that many Americans are. A picture with a koala cost $20 and you could buy additional pictures for $5 each. The boys and I - at the photographer's suggestion - took one group photo and three individual photos. When choosing the pictures that we wanted, we chose only the three individual photos and paid for them all at once, for a grand total of $30 (only $10 each). That's a deal I don't think we could have found back home.

Everywhere I've gone with the kids I haven't failed to give them food. Yesterday was no exception.

As we were leaving Wildlife World we stumbled upon something that none of us had seen before but that we each loved: a french fry vending machine.

With our curiosity peaked, we simply had to give it a try. In just 100 seconds, the machine cooked your fries and gave them to you in a nice plastic bowl. You could even get ketchup or BBQ sauce with them. When we tried them we decided that they needed salt, which happily came with the ketchup. We just might try to get some in Effingham.

Somehow after dinner we had several meals left over so one of the boys decided that we should look for homeless people to give them to. We'd seen a few when we arrived in Sydney but were unable to find any last night.

We then went to the Vocations Expo to look for rosaries and spent quite a while at the U.S. Vocations booth where we ran into Bishop Silva of Honolulu. We thanked him for the wonderful stay we had at the St. Stephen Diocesan Center and he kindly took a picture with us.

After buying a few rosaries, we called it a day.

15 July 2008

More pictures

I've posted some pictures from around Sydney and more, Sydney's Cathedral of St. Mary, the Blue Mountains and the Opening Mass for World Youth Day 2008.

Some of the kids have posted the following pictures of me:

Meeting Quincyans in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

At Mass in the Cathedral of St. Monica in Cairns, Australia.

Meeting George Cardinal Pell after Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Sydney.

At Sydney's Zoo.

God will not fail us: Cardinal Pell's homily

Zenit is kind enough to provide a transcript of the powerful homily delivered by His Emincence George Cardinal Pell at last night's opening Mass of the World Youth Day 2008.

A few snippets:

Earlier in this Mass I welcomed you all to this World Youth Day week and I repeat that welcome now. But I do not begin with the ninety-nine healthy sheep, those of you already open to the Spirit, perhaps already steady witnesses to faith and love. I begin by welcoming and encouraging any one, anywhere who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep distress, with hope diminished or even exhausted.

Young or old, woman or man, Christ is still calling those who are suffering to come to him for healing, as he has for two thousand years. The causes of the wounds are quite secondary, whether they be drugs or alcohol, family breakups, the lusts of the flesh, loneliness or a death. Perhaps even the emptiness of success.

Christ’s call is to all who are suffering, not just to Catholics or other Christians, but especially to those without religion. Christ is calling you home; to love, healing and community.

Secular wisdom claims that leopards do not change their spots, but we Christians believe in the power of the Spirit to convert and change persons away from evil to good; from fear and uncertainty to faith and hope.

Our task is to be open to the power of the Spirit, to allow the God of surprises to act through us. Human motivation is complex and mysterious, because sometimes very strong Catholics, and other strong Christians, can be prayerful and regularly good, but also very determined not to take even one further step. On the other hand, some followers of Christ can be much less zealous and faithful, but open to development, to change for the better because they realize their unworthiness and their ignorance. Where do you stand?

Whatever our situation we must pray for an openness of heart, for a willingness to take the next step, even if we are fearful of venturing too much further. If we take God’s hand, He will do the rest. Trust is the key. God will not fail us.

Don’t spend your life sitting on the fence, keeping your options open, because only commitments bring fulfilment. Happiness comes from meeting our obligations, doing our duty, especially in small matters and regularly, so we can rise to meet the harder challenges. Many have found their life’s calling at World Youth Days.

To be a disciple of Jesus requires discipline, especially self discipline; what Paul calls self control. The practice of self control won’t make you perfect (it hasn’t with me), but self control is necessary to develop and protect the love in our hearts and prevent others, especially our family and friends, from being hurt by our lapses into nastiness or laziness.

WYD 2008 news links

Cardinal Pell celebrates World Youth Day Opening Mass with over 140,000 people

World Youth Day Opens in Sydney

World Youth Day: Fight your fat egos, says Pell

In Pictures: Pilgrims gather for opening Mass

Cardinal Pell Kicks Off World Youth Day

Generation Y Forgot to RSVP

Fight our fat relentless egos: Pell tells pilgrims

A pilgrimage day

It's been a true day of pilgrimage, sometimes offered well and sometimes not.

I left with our seminarian early this morning to go to #1 Grafton Street, where we were told to go to receive our accreditation for Masses and such.

At #1 Grafton Street, on the South end of Sydny, we were told to go to the Opera House, on the North end of Sydney.

Upon arriving at the Opera House, we entered a large stairway filled with priests, Bishops and seminarians (and probably a few deacons, too). It wasn't long before someone made the announcement that anyone who e-mailed a photo to the WYD organizers previously should proceed to the top of the stairs to receive their accreditation and official IDs.

I turned to hand our seminarian my hot chocolate so I could retrieve my letter from Bishop Lucas from my backpack and proceeded up the stairs, thinking he was following me. When I reached the top I realized he wasn't behind me; there was no turning back and I no longer had my hot chocolate.

I reached the desk to pick up my ID only to be told that it wasn't ready. I e-mailed the photo some six months ago or more. Nobody seemed to know why it wasn't ready and I was told to join a line of some 100 priests who waited to take their seat at one of only four computers.

After moving through the line over the course of three hours and chatting with a few priests from Germany I finally received my accreditation.

I then tried to find our seminarian.

While I waited in line an announcement was made that seminarians needed to register at Hyde Park. Unable to find the proper location at Hyde Park I was informed by the registration tent that seminarians were registering North of Hyde Park in the WYD Cross and Icon tent. North of Hyde Park I was informed that the Cross and Icon were not near Hyde Park but were still at the University. After searching for an hour and a half I gave up and returned to the hotel hoping to find him there. He wasn't there.

After quickly freshening, one of the pilgrims and I boarded a water taxi to Barangaroo for the opening Mass of WYD.

The Mass was powerful. Some 140,000 pilgrims attended the Mass. I was one of who knows how many concelebrants. Cardinal Pell preached an excellent homily, the text of which I hope will soon be posted.

It's been a long day, all in all, and I can't really think well enough to post thoughts of any real significance on the Mass.

We'll be taking a quiet, lazy morning and I hope to put something together for you then.

14 July 2008

Just because

Image source: AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, HO

God likes me

I nearly forgot to mention this!

Two days ago walking through the mall not far from our hotel we walked by a British candy store. I just happened to look in a saw a familiar logo in the refrigerator: Dr Pepper!

I think God sent it here ahead of me :)

It's expensive here and tastes a bit different, having more of a cherry flavor to it. But it's still good! And it provides plenty of good banter with the kids.

Local help needed

I'm looking for a religious goods store in Sydney to purchase rosaries, holy cards, medals, etc. Can anyone help?

A few observations

Most of us today went by train to north to the Blue Mountains just outside of Katoomba (those who stayed behind went to the Maritime Museum and to the Botanical Gardens). Both groups walked well more than five kilometers today and will no doubt feel it in the morning.

Katoomba is a charming little town lined with shops and cafes on the way to the Blue Mountains. After bush walking through the national park, we broke off for lunch and I stopped at a little cafe with only six tables in it most. I had a ham, cheese, tomato and pineapple sandwich. It was delicious!

The Blue Mountains themselves are simply stunning and breath-taking. Mountains. Forests. Waterfalls. What more could you want? It was well worth the climbing down some 900 steps. You'll see what I mean once I'm able to post pictures.

The Australians continue to be very warm and hospitable and seem genuinely glad that so many pilgrims have come. More pilgrims, of course, continue to pour into the city with each passing hour and we've done well thus far to avoid most of them. That all will end tomorrow.

In the morning, I will travel with one of our pilgrims (who'll be a server at the Papal Mass Saturday morning when His Holiness consecrates the altar for the Cathedral) to collect our credentials. He's not yet 18 and will need a chaperone to arrive at the Cathedral for the Mass; I hope to be that chaperone. We'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow afternoon His Eminence George Cardinal Pell will celebrate the opening Mass for World Youth Day 2008.

More to come.

13 July 2008

Back in Sydney

First things first: it doesn't seem as though pictures will be posted for a while because the computers in the mall aren't formatted for America cameras or flash drives. There is WI-FI in the hotel, but it is terribly expensive (we haven't found it free anywhere yet). I may see if we can pool our resources together and get a day's worth of WI-FI because there are quite a few of us who want to post pictures.

We arrived in Sydney yesterday morning and after checking into our hotel we went to the Cathedral of St. Mary. After touring around the magnificent gothic structure, we sat outside on some side steps and prayed the rosary. Afterwards we spent a quite evening simply settling in.

Sydney is a beautiful city with wide streets, open parks, and wide sidewalks. The people are very friendly and seem genuinely happy to be hosting the World Youth Day 2008.

This morning we went to Mass in the Cathedral of St. Mary in Sydney. George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, celebrated the Mass and greeted pilgrims aftewards. I was able to introduce myself and one of our boys took a picture, for which I returned the favor.

After Mass we went up to Circular Quay and took a ferry to the zoo, which is one of the finest zoos in the world housing some 3,000 creatures.

Well prior to our departure from the U.S., I said to Bishop Lucas, "Bishop, if I don't see a platypus after being in Australia for two weeks, I'm not going home." I don't remember if he had a response or not but today it wasn't looking good.

Now, I've been fascinated by the platypus since I was a boy and my aunt watched a nature program about them. I've never seen one before and have always wanted too.

There were two places in the zoo that were supposed to house a platypus, but after three visits to the sites no platypus was found. The signs at the exhibits said the platypus was shy and often went "upstairs" to an area unaccesible to the public.

Just before we left the zoo without having seen a platypus one of the boys I was with insisted that we go to the office and speak with a zoo employee. He said something like this to her very politely:

"This man travelled over 9,800 miles to come to Sydney and really wants to see a platypus. He's been to the exibit three times now and hasn't seen one and has to leave now becuase his group is leaving. Is there any way he can see a platypus?"

Now, he tried to get me to speak with a zoo employee several times throughout the afternoon, thinking that if I asked they just might actually take me "upstairs." I frowned on the idea, but he insisted repeatedly and so I gave in.

The zoo employee very kindly called someone who works with mammals and explained that there was someone "very keen" on seeing a platypus.

After the telephone conversation, she told us to go back to the platypus house and check the dark section of the tank because the platypus liked to rest in the dark waters after eating.

We went back - rather skeptical - and to my great surprise and delight there was the platypus! It was rather small but I'm still very happy to have seen it! I suppose now I have to go back to Illinois ;)

Tomorrow a large group of us will be traveling to the Blue Mountains for a day of "bush walking," aka, hiking.

11 July 2008


I should've done this before, but I didn't think about it. Links to pictures I've taken areas follows:

Hawaii: here, here, here, here and here.

Cairns: here and here.

I have more pictures on my laptop and I'll try to post them tomorrow once we arrive in Sydney.

A bit behind

It seems that wireless Internet is a bit of a luxury here in Cairns, and it sounds as though it will be in in Sydney, as well ($27 for a 24 hour period). Consequently, posting might not be quite as frequently as expected and pictures will come slower, too.

Nevertheless, below is a post I wrote on the plane from Honolulu to Cairns and then forgot about:

There is something about being in Hawaii that brings out my good side, a side of my personality that not many on the mainland get to see. It is, really, only my immediate family and my close friends who see this side of me, for reasons that may become more clear, and may not.

I am grateful to the Lord for letting my fellow pilgrims see this side of me, and to such a great extent. Some of the kids have been rather surprised and caught off guard by my goofiness, that at times borders on the simply hilarious. They have been taken aback at how much fun I can be, thinking me previously to be serious all of time.

There is a line in one of Rich Mullins’ songs that goes, “And if you laugh I know I can make you like me, ‘cause when I laugh I can be a lot of fun. But If we can’t I know that is frightening, so just hold on, just hold on.”

Life without laughter is indeed frightening, and almost unbearable. But with laughter life is filled with joy and purpose and meaning and in this way becomes serious, through laughter.

Throughout my college years my friends frequently told me that they could never quite be sure if I was “six [years of age] going on sixty, or sixty going on six.” One minute they found me studious, solemn and serious, and the next they found me playful, laid back and, well, goofy. I took this then as a high compliment, and I still take it so today.

These two seemingly opposite aspects of my personality have easily been seen during these past few blessed days in Hawaii when I easily adapted to the culture of the island, a culture that seems to fit my personality and enhance it more than the culture of the mainland, in much the same way as does the laidback culture of Italy.

Not a few of the pilgrims expressed to have witnessed an unexpected side to me and that they now realize that cannot judge a person by the way they see him “at work,” as we have discussed here before. Because when I celebrate the Holy Mass I am solemn and serious they did not think that I can also be as much fun as the next guy, and often enough even more fun.

The ancient Greeks spoke of the eutrapelos, the “man at play.” It was this playing man that they took to be the epitome of humanity, a notion that, most sadly, we have all but lost today.

The eutrapelos looked at life seriously, but not too seriously. He was a balance between a boor (who is too serious too often and does not laugh) and a buffoon (who does not know when to stop laughing and be serious) and in this way was a man of great virtue. This is, I think, something of what my friends meant when the remarked that I was “either six going sixty or sixty going on six.”

In no way do I mean to say that I have reached the level of the eutrapelos; indeed I have not. If I had, the pilgrims would not have been so surprised – and very happy – to see the goofy side of me.

10 July 2008

Just a quick note

I've lost track of days now and apologize for not posting over the last few.

Monday morning we flew from Honolulu to Sydney, leaving a bit late due to a strike in Sydney, and arrived late Tuesday evening in Sydney too late to catch our flight to Cairns. Qantas Airlines, though, was very much on top of things.

They put us up for the night at the Hotel Mercurio at the Sydney airport, with breakfast and dinner included (the staff of the hotel was also excellent). (Because our Qantas flight from Honolulu was an hour late, they also gave each of us a $10 food voucher to use in the airport; when our American Airlines flight was an hour late they gave each us a free set of headphones for the flight.) Qantas placed us on two separate flights that next morning and we safely arrived in Cairns Wednesday morning and early afternoon.

We expected the weather in Australia to be a bit chilly, but it is chillier than we expected, which means a few of us will be shopping for a new coat. The Aussies are extremely friendly and their sense of humor is simply fantastic!

Yesterday we went to the Great Barrier Reef and, despite winds of 30 knots (!) and much sea-sickness (from which I thankfully did not suffer) had a great time. The reef is simply stunning. I'm not sure what else to say about it until we get some pictures developed.

Several of the kids went snorkeling with underwater cameras. I stayed out of the water. It was too chilly for my arthritis which, despite vanishing in Hawaii as expected has expectedly returned in Australia (which means my energy level - which seemed endless in Hawaii (I wore some of the kids out but remained fine myself!) is lesser now. Considerably. But I still have enough energy for each day, by the grace of God.

Last night after teaching a few of the boys how to do laundry (there's something you probably didn't think your parish priest might teach you!) we went for dinner and I took them a gelati shop not far from the hostel where we are staying. They had never even heard of gelati and since I hadn't failed them yet with introducing them to delicious food and beautiful scenery they agreed to come along.

It was absolutely heavenly! I had chocolate and raspberry and it reminded me very much of my Roman holidays and tasted perfectly authentic. The lady at the shop told us she would be up at 4:00 this morning making more gelati and would be eating by 9:00 a.m. I'll be eating it shortly after Noon. And again after dinner.

We're taking a bit of a quiet day this morning, giving time for others to sleep, rest and do their own laundry. This afternoon we hope to visit the Cathedral of St. Monica and celebrate the Holy Mass there.

07 July 2008

A great reunion

Yesterday morning we pilgrims attended the Holy Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. I wasn't able to visit with Bishop Silva as he is on the mainland at the moment, but I did meet Fr. Jerry. He is a Jesuit who spends most of the year in Chicago and helps out in Honolulu in the summer. I'd like to work that out!

It was a wonderful experience and a great joy to be present with this local Church again. It brought back so many memories of the Damien Day last year. Tears filled my eyes as I gave thanks to the Lord for bringing me back to Honolulu. My heart has found its home here.

After the Mass I met a couple who has lived in Hawaii for twenty years, but are originally from Quincy. We Quincyans get around!

A great many of the faithful asked our kids before the Mass who they were and where they were heading. The enthusiasm of the Church here for World Youth Day is unbelievable. The faith is alive, vibrant and strong here.

After Mass I was able to visit with Easter of A Tribute to Our Priests. I was also able to meet here husband and their children.

On my return to Hawaii we hope to get together for a meal. Hopefully we'll be able to catch up with Esther, that Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

After Mass we ate a quick picnic style lunch and split up for the day. I took a van full of boys to the North Shore to stop at Matsumoto's, the original home of Shave Ice. After waiting in line for nearly an hour - and much doubting by the boys as to the quality of what they would receive - we ate our shave ices and all were very pleased and agreed they were the best they'd ever had. And a large cost only $2.00!

Next we were going to go to Waimea Falls to walk through a rain forest up a mountain to a waterfall on top were we could swim. Sadly, the water fall was dry due to a lack of rain so we went back to Waimea Bay for the afternoon.

As the boys were digging a hole to bury one of them in the sand some one came over and tossed a crab in the hole. The boys tossed the crab to the side only to be picked up by a little boy. He spent quite a while playing with the boys, teasing them with the crab. It was hilarious!

After playing at the beach we journeyed to Honolulu to regroup for dinner. We then returned to St. Stephen's Diocesan Center to pack up. I highly recommend the center.

Now I'm sitting in the Honolulu airport waiting for our flight to Sydney later this morning.

06 July 2008

Two observations

I’ve always been a “people watcher,” being fascinated with the way and manner in which people interact with one another. As might be expected, the World Youth Day pilgrimage has offered much opportunity to watch people.

I’ve been particularly struck thus far by the group of boys that have come (perhaps because I’ve been with them more than with the girls, but maybe not). What I’ve noticed is how very easily a group of boys – and, presumably men, too, though I’ve not quite noticed it yet (I will be watching) – forms a society among themselves. It almost happens automatically without any real thought being given to it.

I noticed this especially when it comes to the switching of seats in vehicles so that everyone has a chance to sit in the most uncomfortable seat rather than relegating it to any one person.

Leaders and organizers arise almost instantaneously from within the group and workers, too.

On one seems to question the society which emerges because as it emerges each boy seems to find his role in the group without really even searching for it or clamoring for it.

I’ll just chalk this one up as another difference between the sexes.

+ + + + +

Driving last night from Waimea Bay to Waikiki the boys in my vehicle and I had a very good discussion about a great number of topics of faith, ranging from exorcism to sin to heaven and hell to priesthood to faith itself and the role it should have in life.

What especially struck me is that they wanted to turn the radio down rather low in order to partake in the discussion. The Holy Spirit surely animated that part of the drive on the Kamehameha highway.

It simply proved what I’ve been suggesting all along: the youth are yearning and hungering for solid spiritual food, for people who will honestly present to them the Church’s teaching and the faith of Jesus Christ, for people who sincerely believe what they say. It is as Pope Benedict XVI has said: they hunger for the simple faith that reveals the purpose and meaning to life.

The fields are ripe for the sowing. The soil of their hearts is more than ready to take in the Word of God but they need someone to present it to them.

They also need to be separated a bit from their ordinary life to muster up the courage to toss aside the “cool” image and speak of the desires of their souls. When they do they listen and absorb well.

A brief update

UPDATED: Pictures added

I'm sorry for the delay in the posting here these last few days. Travel has kept me busy and by the end of the day, there is much laughter and discussion with the pilgrims and then it is time for bed.

Yesterday morning we went to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, a very fitting venture for Independence Day.

I was particularly struck there by the presence of a man who not only wrote a book or two about Pearl Harbor, but also a book on Blessed Damien of Molokai. He was offering coins of Fr. Damien, with his image on one side and his church at the leper colony on the other.

I find it be a sign of many divine blessings on this pilgrimage that the Holy Father Benedict XVI accepted Fr. Damien's second miracle on the very day we landed on Oahu. Tomorrow morning - after Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace - we're going to try to visit the church of St. Augustine by the Sea on the shores of Waikiki to visit the Damien Museum.

This morning we went to the Aloha Stadium for the island's largest swap meet. Here you could find anything and everything for any variety of prices.

Afterwards we went to the Dole Plantation and toured the grounds. It was simply beautiful and amazing!

We took the Pineapple Express around the plantation and then took a short guided tour.

This train of the Dole Plantation takes you through the fields and has a recorded tour explaining the growing and harevesting of pineapples, the history of the plantation and many other things besides. If you ever the chance I highly recommend visiting the plantation.

Our guide explained how to choose a pineapple in the store to us and even told us how to grow a pineapple, which can grow in any climate and even indoors. I know what I'm doing when I get home.

After the tour the guide struck up a conversation with us and asked where we were from. When we told him that we were on our way to World Youth Day in Sydney he lit up and the excitement and enthusiams he had for our pilgrimage was evident to behold. We tried this morning to impress upon the kids just how many people are praying for this pilgrimage and I think this brief encounter helped reinforce it.

Inside the plantation's gift shop I found my favorite sign so far:

The group of boys that I was with hadn't yet eaten lunch so we ate a late lunch there of kalua pork sandwiches with pineapple on top (they're the best!), fries, pineapple juice, and pineapple ice cream with pineapple chunks.

It wasn't long before we discovered that we had too much pineapple all at once. Several hours later we were ready to see a pineapple again.

In the late afternoon we went driving on our way to Sunset Beach and the North Shore. On the way we passed Waimea Beach where the boys saw a big rock in the ocean and people diving off of it into the ocean. They insisted upon stopping there and so we did. We spent an enjoyable several hours there and were able to see the sunset into the ocean and were even treated with several rainbows throughout the afternoon.

To the close the day we returned to Waikiki for a bit of evening entertainment wandering along the sidewalks and to await the other half of our pilgrimage group who went to a luau.

When we returned the other group found me very giddy and laughing hysterically. While wandering along Waikiki we found what is perhaps the strangest thing I've ever seen: Basketball Man.

The kids found a video of tonight's performance on Youtube but I can't seem to find it. I'll have one of them get it for me in the morning and I'll post it then.

04 July 2008

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Catholic World News has confirmed that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has approved the second miracle required to canonize Blessed Damien of Molokai. Wahoo!

While I'm in Hawaii with the WYD pilgrimage we'll visist the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace where Fr. Damien was ordained and also the church of St. Augustine by the Sea where the candlesticks and altar cross used by Fr. Damien are kept.

Back in paradise

Just a quick note to say that we are now on Oahu and are doing well. We're all rather exhausted after the bus ride and flight so I'm off to bed and will post more later.

03 July 2008

The first leg complete

After an uneventful - the best kind - bus ride to the airport we are all ready and waiting to be board the plane. Sadly, we have a bit of a wait yet.

The check-in procedure was, by far, the easiest and fastest I've ever experienced. I suppose this is one of the benefits of traveling with eighteen high school students!

The "normal" passenger check-in was very full and backed up so we were very kindly directed to go through the first class check-in. We simply presented our IDs, checked our bags, and off to the terminal we went. The entire procedure maybe took twenty minutes.

If the rest of the journey continues in this fashion, we're in good shape!

02 July 2008

My cute nephew

My little nephew, Matthew William, must be one of the cutest kids around:

(That's his great-grandma Millie -my father's mother - in the background watching a video of Matthew flying a kite.)

He'll turn two years old on July 15th, the opening of the World Youth Day 2008. He also very much looks like a Zehnle boy and has my eyes (I received them from Mom).

Last night he discovered that he could pour a liquid from one cup into another cup - and back and forth again - before drinking. It was very amusing, both for him and for us.

It was a good, brief and simply visit with my family last night from which I returned just after midnight this morning.

It's been a long day of packing, reconfirming, and arranging binders of essential medical information and what not.

I think I've answered all of my physical mail and e-mail (that won't hold for long) and my desk is - surprisingly - clean and clear.

I have a few more details to see to as I try to ready for my office to be occupied by the visiting priest - may God bless him richly - who will fill in for me in my absence.

Next I must make a back-up of my laptop which will come along for the pilgrimage as a place to dump pictures. Since there'll be twenty-five of us tagging along I'll also be emptying the laptop of all non-essential files, both for privacy and extra storage space.

We begin the pilgrimage later tonight or, rather, very early tomorrow morning.