Sunday, July 20, 2008

World Youth Day, Part II: Papal Mass

Just back from the Papal Mass which concludes World Youth Day, which took place at Randwick Racecourse, a massive horse track about 4k from downtown Sydney. The event was enormous -- I don't know if they hit the 500,000 they were predicting or not, but it sure looked full. (Click to get the big picture.)

Probably the coolest part of the liturgy itself was the bringing of the Gospel book, which was danced and sung by people from Fiji. I'm downloading a video of it onto Youtube. I'll post a link when it's done. Suffice it to say, experiencing how other cultures pray and celebrate -- just amazing.

Speaking of other cultures, I love this banner which hung above the altar area. The image actually comes from an an aboriginal woman. I guess she and her son were out on a boat a few years ago, and he said, look, mom. And she looked, and she saw this huge white dove floating above the land. She identified it as a vision of the Holy Spirit -- Australia is actually known, by the way, as the Great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit. So she went home and painted it in exactly the way you see it here. The dot-style is very aboriginal. Someone explained to me that the dots represent the dust from which we come and to which we fade. The red background, to my mind, functions as an image of this great land, which is oh so red at its heart.

In his homily, the Pope prayed for "a New Upper Room", that is, a new experience of the Holy Spirit coming down upon us and sending us out into the world, as had happened to the disciples at Pentecost in the Upper Room. A neat image. He also asked us, What is the world we are leaving for the next generation, a question that haunts.

I have to say too, being able to give out communion while the choir sang "Taste & See", a song from my own ordination liturgy, was really powerful. I was sent into the middle of an area, and I just stood in one place, turning round and round while people of all kinds of different walks of life came up from all sides.

Of course, there were funny moments in the liturgy, too. Like the walking. Not at the event, but to get there and to get home, oy vey did we walk. Honestly, when I got off the train finally to go home, my leg hurt in places I've never felt before.

Understatement of the Year.

There was also the pre-liturgy vibe, which was sort of telethon meets tele-evangelist meets motorcycle rally. We had two "hosts", a man and a woman, who would come running up on stage and try to get people wound up with "Are you ready to meet the Pope?" and "I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you, ARE YOU READY?", followed by faux-meaningful interludes that ill-suited the occasion.

My favorite moment, though, was when the male host introduced the Pope's arrival onto the course at Randwick in the Autopapa. "AND NOW...." he hollered, (I kid you not), "PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR HIS HOLINESS, POPE BENEDICT... the SIXTEENTH!" I just needed "SO LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!" for the moment to be complete.

Immediately prior to the liturgy, former Australian Idol Guy Sebastian and others sang some Christian rock songs, including the WYD "theme song", "Receive the Power," which is impossible to get out of your head once it's in there. Impossible.

Sebastian's sentiments were genuine, and his passion laudable. Still, I wanted to shake him a bit when he said "This isn't a performance, this isn't a show, we're praying here," immediately after he had just made a costume change.

Guy Sebastian: third song, second outfit.

The one other challenge of the day, I'd say, was language. The Pope has a wonderful tradition at World Youth Day (and every Sunday he's in Rome, too), of speaking a few brief, nicely prepared words to welcome people in different languages. He begins, that language group cheers, he says some nice things, and then he's on to the next one. People really enjoy it.

But today the language choices were almost entirely European. The Pope spoke in French, then Italian, then German, then Spanish, the Portuguese, then English. It was great, but as I'm sitting there surrounded by Africans and Asians, I couldn't help but wish for something in Swahili or an Asian language. To be fair, the prayers of the faithful included ones in Arabic and I think Chinese (maybe Vietnamese).

Also, the Our Father was sung in Latin, which I just didn't get. The youth don't speak it, and frankly neither do a lot of the rest of us, and of all the prayers of the mass, I'd say the Our Father is the one that most embodies for people our sense of unity. We hold hands, sometimes we sing, we've just done the sign of peace. Doing it Latin really shortcircuits that. I don't know. Color me "Huh?"

Having said that, as I sit here in bed, considering ice for my legs and a chocolate milkshake for my stomach, I have to say, it was a great, great day.

Next World Youth Day will be in 2011 in Madrid. And at the end of the liturgy, I found out the guy sitting next to me was a priest from Madrid named...Ignacio. Could it be a sign?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

World Youth Day: Part I

A few up close impressions of World Youth Day (I flew in today):

Please God Make Them Stop Singing and Put Them to Work.
One of the big sources of buzz this week has been about how young people in public spaces are spontaneously singing and dancing. Some find the whole thing a bit ridiculous. Others think it wonderful. "Wouldn't it be nice," I've heard more than once, said wistfully, "if we all enjoyed life like that?"

I had my first taste of "Now is the time on Sprockets when we sing" on a train headed into town this morning. A group, I think, of Portuguese males from Brazil were shouting a song as we rolled along. I have to say, between its march-like/barroom cadence and the hearty-har-har quality of the men's voices, basically begging for another group of testosterone-bound creatures to compete with, I felt like I was at a soccer match or Yankees/Red Sox rather than a youth festival (let alone a religious one).

Walking with the 100000 or so pilgrims to Randwick Park (above -- click on it to get the full effect), where they are camped out for the night , a similar phenomenon: lots of flag waving and national cheers. It was the Aussies, of all people, who did most of it. I say "of all people" because many Australians that I've met do not like one bit all the American flag waving and nationalism. But like something out of a rugby match, there their young people were, yelling "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy! Aussie! Oy!" I was spared "USA! USA!", thanks be to God.

It all felt very male and not exactly the right spirit for the day. It isolated groups from one another, created us's and them's where the point is a strange and myriad (and miraculous) sort of we. I'd rather have had them all singing "I'd Like to Make the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony" or, God help us, "It's a Small World", than this. Group leaders, adults, where were you?

Actually, here's my real idea: get these kids to do service work. We call them pilgrims, and I'm sure that some are operating on a pretty thin budget. But I don't know, to me, you want to do the Christian thing, service has to be a part of it. It's not just liturgy. And seeing all their energy, all their positive well being and their strength -- well God, to think what they could have done for Australia this week, or maybe last week. So WYD planners, listen up. Take this thing to the next level.

You Can't Get There from Here.
If you need anything from World Youth Day (as I did today), don't speak to anyone attached to World Youth Day itself. They have no clue what is going on at their own events, and they will lead you astray. I spent four hours today walking around Sydney trying to find the right office to get a very small, simple ID just to be able to attend the WYD mass tomorrow. Four hours, with lots and lots of walking, through crowds. Even at the Randwick race track, I really didn't get anywhere until I hopped a fence, entered a restricted area, and was accosted by two police officers. It sounds bad, I know, and I was told soon after that another guy who had done a similar thing was handcuffed. But those guys were great to me, and they took me to Kathleen, an amazing young woman helping with the overall production (not a WYD person, but the group they hired to do the event). And just like that, all was well. I was taken to the accreditation trailer, which I could never have found on my own, let alone reached, as it was in this restricted area, given my proper identification, and put on a bus aimed towards home. All the support staff was just great, and if you think of it, say a prayer for them. They've been working 17 hours days all week, and they will be there with the pilgrims all night. Kathleen told me she'll be sleeping in her car. Yet they were all most helpful.

The view from inside Randwick (again, take a click for a better view).

As for the WYD staff -- well, I don't know what to say. It's definitely an impossible event, there's no doubt of that. But at the same time -- when you hear that priests, who represent just a wee part of the total number at the event, had to wait 7 or 8 hours in line to get this one bleeding piece of paper -- well, it's just buggered.

Friday, July 18, 2008

And in Other News

If you're looking for something fun for the weekend, check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, an online musical starring Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) and Nathan Fillion (the nice doctor from the movie Waitress) and written and directed by Joss Whedon (writer/director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Serenity and writer of the movie Toy Story). It's funny and it's free!

Great Photos

Caption: And with that, the Pope began singing "Amore."

I don't know who he is, but everybody seems to be taking pictures of him.


Caption: And then they took "Pope Benedict" back to Greenvale.

Tertians Chun Ng and Raymond Manyanga finish first and second in the 1K World Youth Day marathon.

The people of Australia turn their back on tertian Mars Tan. He accepts the insult happily as a delayed grace of the Spiritual Exercises.

(OK, I know, it's not from Australia, but still.)

Actually, this is my nephew Jimmy at his all-pirate birthday party.

The wind-blown look.

The "I'm the King of the World" look.

The rakish new friend of your grandmother's.

Atheist chic.

And my personal favorite:
Caption: When do we eat the kangaroo?

Heard in Sydney

Yesterday the Pope made his way to North Sydney to visit the shrine to Mary MacKillop, founder of the order of the sisters of St. Joseph (the Josephites) and someday soon to become the first Australian saint. People lined the streets to see the Pope's motorcade. And one bystander apparently held a sign saying "You are Peter."

A friend of a friend was at the scene, and overheard two ladies discussing the sign.

"Who is this Peter?"

"I don't know. I think he must be someone who came with the Pope."

A true story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seen in Sydney

Seen in Sydney: teenagers wearing shirts with the slogan "Does this shirt make me look Catholic?"

The Answer: Yes, yes, it does.

Other T-Shirts to be purchased at World Youth Day:
Got mass?
I'm with Father Stupid.
WWNDD? (What Would Napoleon Dynamite Do?)
I went to World Youth Day and all I got was the sacraments. (Back: And that's all I needed.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HOW R U? B16

The Melbourne Age reports this morning that the Pope is sending mass (no pun intended) text messages to pilgrims each day of the World Youth Day festivities. Yesterday's text:
Young friend, God and his people expect much from u because u have within you the Fathers supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus - BXVI.

Rumored possibilities for today:



In Other News:
On the same page of the Age (no rhyme intended) is a story about a drunk driver (here the term is "drink driving", actually) whose blood alcohol percentage was .462!!! Has to be a record.

Monday, July 14, 2008

WYD SYD 2008

"I wonder how my White Sox did?" (From the BBC News)

This week, young adults are coming to Sydney from all over the world for World Youth Day. Here in Melbourne, even, we've seen a lot of people wearing flags from their home countries as well as lots of World Youth Day gear (T-shirts, sweatshirts, fleece, jackets, flags, faux-Aussie "outback" hats).

I will be going to the Pope's big mass on Sunday. Until then, if you're interested in how Australia is perceiving the whole event, here is a link to a transcript of a video from Australia's in-depth news program, the 7:30 Report. (To watch the video itself, click one of the links under "Video" on the right hand side of the page. OR, go to the homepage and scroll down the list of stories on the right hand side until you get to "Sydney Braces Itself for World Youth Day".)

I'll try to add some more color commentary in the days to come.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poetry in Cartoon Form

Cartoons by Michael Leunig, great Melbournian cartoonist. (Think Gary Larson with a political edge/spiritual agenda.)

From July 10th's "The Age," Melbourne's Newspaper. (The iPhone has just been announced in Australia.)

The man on the left is John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia, whom George Bush called "Man of Steel".

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Said Hanrahan


"We'll all be rooned [ruined]," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook [bad]," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke [middle of nowhere]
They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

"We want an inch of rain, we do,"
O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
To put the danger past.

"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

John O'Brien (Australian Bush Poet)

Appleton: The Finale

In 1850, two years after Appleton officially closed all its ladder shops and became Appleton, the population was 619.

Today, the city has a population of 77,000. Manufacturing is a big part of the region's business. And the city has many interesting little facets. For instance, the Fox River, around which the town was built, actually flows north its entire course. Very unusual.

In 1925, the city had its first Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, for her book So Big, the story of a man whose life was so scarred by the death of his mother when he was a baby, that his entire life the only words he ever spoke were the ones she used to say to him when they were playing: "So Big." His family had to learn to understand how he was feeling by the way he said the words -- "SO BIG" for angry, "so big" for tired or blue, "So big?" to indicate a question. Apparently it's based on a true story -- and the man not only learned to survive, but became Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of Defense, Commander James von Stumpenheisel. It's really an unbelievable piece of work.

Edna Ferber and her hair.

Speaking of writers, Mike Lowe, editor of the great parodic magazine The Onion, is from Appleton. Check out these great bits.

Other famous Appletonians include Senator Joseph McCarthy, who supposedly called his pursuit of communists "the Red Scare" as a reference to his own background -- he was a kid from Appleton (apples, red) bent on scaring communists away. The whole notion of Communists as "reds" comes from McCarthy and this bit of wordplay of his.

Appleton boasts the nation's first hydroelectric station, which opened as far back as 1882, providing 12.5 kilowatts to light two paper mills and a home, known as the Hearthstone, which is now one of Wisconsin's major tourist destination (along with "The Wonder Spot", near the Dells, where gravity goes crazy!).

How is this possible???

It also boasts the 3-15 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a minor league baseball team associated with the Seattle Mariners, and a diocesan secondary school called Xavier High School, named after Jesuit saint Francis Xavier. The library in Appleton was the first in Wisconsin to have a webpage, and in 2004 the city was rated one of the top 10 most secure cities in the country. The city in fact still has a 10pm curfew for all residents, 11pm on weekends. And in 1986, Sports Illustrated put Appleton on its cover and declared it to be "Sports City USA."

The coldest it's ever been in Appleton is 32 degrees below zero; the hottest, 107 degrees above zero. Weirder still, the two events happened on the same day -- Monday.

So that's Appleton! May it be a great great place for my sister and her family to call their home.


It's late Tuesday night here. I am working with a group of young people from the US, Australia and India who have come to Melbourne to volunteer for a week while on the road to World Youth Day in Sydney. A fantastic group of people -- I will send photos later!

The rest of the week, I'm going to post some good Aussie poetry. Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What's in a Name?

Given what we've heard, you'd think the name of the town would be Lawrence -- or maybe just Larry. But as a little town began around the university, Amos Lawrence coined the name Appleton.

It's not for the apples. (Are there apples in Appleton?) It's also not for Samuel Appleton, the Boston merchant who donated $10000 to build the university's library -- though don't tell him that. Supposedly, in order to get him to give the money, Lawrence told him they'd named the town after him. And thus began the work of university advancement. (Just kidding, Julie.) Appleton spent the rest of his life, in fact, telling people the town was named for him.

But according to historical record, Reeder Smith named the town Appleton, in honor of Lawrence's wife, Sarah. (Her last name was Appleton -- she was Samuel's cousin. She was actually the first American woman on record to keep her own name. Why Smith would name the town after her remains a bit of a mystery...)

In 1850 there were 619 people in the town. None of the women took their husband's names. Today there are 77000.

Famous Appletonians

Title: Very Nice to Meet You. I'm Your Daughter's New Boyfriend. Where Do You Keep the Liquor?

Lawrence of Appleton

Shortly before Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Boston textile merchant Amos A. Lawrence had the bad luck of having someone default on a loan. The collateral had been 5000 acres of land in the wilderness of Wisconsin. He decided to try and build a college on the land, thinking that would draw people to the area, and with them raise the value of the property to the point where he could sell it at a profit and be done with the Midwest forever. At about this time a Methodist minister named Reeder Smith came to Lawrence, hoping to get a loan to help start a seminary in Michigan. Lawrence convinced Smith to forget the seminary and start this school.

And so, in 1847 began the Lawrence Institute, later Lawrence University, later Lawrence College, now, once again, Lawrence University. (Their motto is, We finally made up our mind.) Amos Lawrence insisted that the school support religious freedom and not push any particular religious agenda. What is more, from its founding the school was a coeducational institution -- it was actually only the second school in the entire United States to be open to both men and women. (Oberlin College being the first.) Lawrence also boasts the first ashram on a college campus (1875), the first appearance of the Dalai Lama (1900) and the first university appearance of the Beatles, in 1963. (Their first song was, Love Me Do.)

And you're wondering, what does this have to do with Appleton?

Today's Famous Appletonian:

Greta Van Susteren, of FOX "News". (Yes, that's where that accent comes from.)

And yesterday's famous Appletonian was none other than Harry Houdini, otherwise known as Erich Weiss. Ken and Katie, well done!