Rain, earthquakes and cockroaches!

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Peet shoe dryer

Well, it’s a rainy, rainy Saturday afternoon. When I say rain, I mean RAIN. It’s all part of winter here in Costa Rica. It seems you have to be ready at any moment for the rain. I’m pretty well equipped with water-resistant hiking boots, waterproof jacket and of course a decent umbrella… or paraaguas as it’s called here. On the recommendation of one of the FrancisCorps volunteers (Tom) I got a shoe-dryer that keeps your shows from getting moldy in the wet weather. I’m sure some of the volunteers are going to think I’m a woose! Jordan!

As if the rain isn’t enough, yesterday we had an earthquake. That’s not that unusual in Costa Rica, but this one was stronger than most. Reports state that it was either a 5.9 or 6.0 grade. The saving feature was that it was relatively deep in the ground, some 70km, so it had less of an effect. I was on the second floor of the friary in the tv room when the earthquake hit. It’s kind of an open concept loft kind of space that is open to the living and dining room below. Well, it took me a few moments to figure out what was going on and then quickly got out of the building. Fortunately there are no reports of serious damage or injury.  All of our FrancisCorps volunteers are fine (well, as fine as they were before the earthquake!)

The honeymoon about being here is also pretty much over. I’m more than half-way through my time learning Spanish and I realize how little I know. It’s kind of frustrating. One of my good friends, Tony, a Marist Brother living and ministering in East Timor told me that when you first learn a new language there’s a natural high at the start when you start learning new words and verbs. It is quite liberating. But then, you get to the point where it becomes hard again as you try to speak correctly. On the other hand, I was in chapel the other day and starting laughing because as I was praying the psalms I realized I knew what they meant and I recognized the tenses being used. That was kind of cool.

The walking to school is also proving to be tedious at times. I had pictured in my mind a nice urban saunter through San José when in fact the journey is through a few pretty grimy areas. And most of the 35 minutes it takes, I’m rushing to get to school on time or back to the friary for lunch (our main meal). Thankfully last week I was able to eat later and took the time to get a haircut and stop into some stores and talk to people.  The other thing that really had me down for a while is that although I’m walking about 7km a day… I don’t seem to be losing any weight! I don’t know. I’m not eating that much! A very kind visiting friar, Jimmy McCurry said: “Just make it your goal not to gain any weight.” I can live with that.

The other interesting thing I have noticed is how Catholic this place is. At church there are so many young people. I don’t know if it’s because of the friars or what. The same is true of the Order’s vocations… the guys are young and very enthusiastic. It’s quite impressive. Speaking of churches.. I’m helping out this weekend (and last weekend) at a small chapel near the airport that offers the areas only English mass. Last week there were about 50 people. It was kind of cool.

Church wise… well the things that really have my attention are three:

First of all, most Canadians would probably not have heard this, but there’s a big problem with the Church in Philadelphia… USA! The civil authorities are going after some 30 priests who they consider to be abusers after the Archdiocese apparently ignored the problems. There’s a lot of confusion. However the woman who was the head of the Church’s review board for such cases wrote a powerful and important article. It’s a little long… but really, really worth reading to understand what went wrong in Philadelphia and also the problem that exists in the whole church! Here is a powerful excerpt:

The solution to the sexual-abuse scandal rests on being honest, acting promptly and transparently, being open to constructive criticism, and being committed to protecting minors. If Philadelphia’s bishops had authentically followed their call to live the gospel, they would have acted differently. Instead, they succumbed to a culture of clericalism

Here is the link to the whole article: Commonweal article on What went wrong in Philadelphia.

Another interesting development is about Liturgy. The Holy See has issued an instruction on how the permission to use the Tridentine Form of the mass, aka “The Extraordinary Form”. It makes clear a lot of questions people had. It seems that basically anyone, anywhere can walk into any church with any priest and expect to be allowed to celebrate this form of the mass. The only condition is that they can’t be associated with any persons or groups that challenge the legitimacy or validity of the normative or “ordinary” form of the Mass as most of us know it.  In my mind, that would exclude a lot of people, including some cantankerous cantors, who I know are all about mocking the Mass and the way we celebrate the Eucharist in our parishes.

Anyways.. here’s a video report about. In my mind it is much ado about nothing. This is not something people want or are interested in. People want good music, preaching that connects to their lives and a community that cares about their kids, is inclusive and reaches out to the marginalized.

In contrast to all the hype about the ExtraOrdinary form of the Mass, we in Canada are supposed to be preparing for the Revised Roman Missal (which isn’t really a missal but a sacramentary, because it doesn’t contain the readings… but hey, why get technical about these things. It’s like saying the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated. Ok, whatever).

We are supposed to be implementing the Revised Missal in November. The National Liturgy Office in Ottawa was supposed to start putting out resources in the first week of April. We are halfway through May and nothing has appeared. Strange? Recently I’ve discovered that our National Liturgy Office employs only about 3 people. I know money is tight, but you think our bishops would give Liturgy some priority and some resources.  The other thing I noticed in preparing resources for our parish is that the Bishops have commissioned some music to go with the Revised Missal. Interesting thing about these 4 new Mass Settings is that 2 of them are by members of the National Council for Liturgical Music, who presumably would have chosen the Mass Settings. I don’t know, but to me, it doesn’t really pass the “smell test” of transparency and accountability. Refer back to the “Philadelphia” issue!

Nothing has come out of the Archdiocese of Toronto either to assist with this major event in the life of the Church. There is a musicians workshop for which I have mandated all of our parish musicians… but nothing more. It seems that after the Priests’ Seminar workshops the Archdiocese lost its steam. Who’s on top of this issue? When will we have time to review material, prepare ourselves and then offer it to our parishioners? In the summer? Nothing much new happens in parishes in the summer.  My plan, at this point, is to offer a workshop for parish ministers and other interested persons in June with contraband resources from an undisclosed country that has great liturgy training publications. ;P

Well, it’s still raining cats, dogs, parrots and cockroaches here in Costa Rica! (Don’t get me started on cockroaches. They are big and sometimes they fly! I had 7 of them in my shower one night. Not pretty. And I REALLY don’t like bugs.] Better get back to my studies. I have to review the irregular verbs. They’re causing me trouble. Hasta luego.