Thursday, July 25, 2013

Myeongdong Cathedral

[More photos on Flickr.]

An oasis of quiet surrounds the oldest Gothic church building in Korea, located in the midst of the bustling Myeongdong neighborhood. There is construction for an expanded plaza going on in front, so the fences and walls block its view from the street. One approaches up some shallow steps that lead up a low hill. On either side, on the fence surrounding the construction side, are large billboards with photographs and a write up of the Cathedral's history.

The Cathedral is built on the spot where the first Korean Catholic community in Seoul gathered in the late 18th century. The story of the founding of the Church in Korea is fascinating.

It is a striking, red-brick building, the spire soaring up to the heavens. In the plaza there are people lounging about, talking quietly, reading, or just sitting. It's about 6 p.m. and not at all crowded. I push the side door to the Cathedral open. Mass is in progress. The faithful have just exchanged the sign of peace, and the Lamb of God is being recited. I slide along the back wall until I can see down the central aisle. The priest, in red vestments (the Feast of St. James) is at the tabernacle, retrieving the ciborium. The faithful start lining up to receive. I kneel, as the organ starts playing a familiar melody, and a solemn, yet lively song in Korean rises to the vaulted ceiling. There are at least 150 or so people at this 6:00 p.m. weekday Mass. A lady in a bright red dress emerges from some back corner, and mutters something loudly to herself and fiddles with her umbrella. It's a cloudy day outside, but no sign of rain. "Crazy lady," I immediately think. She shoves aside the brass post and rope that seals off the end of the nave (a sign in Korean saying, I'm guessing, something to the effect that no tours should take place during Mass) and heads up the aisle. A group of tourists clusters nervously in the back pew and one takes out a hymnal and peers at it. The hymn changes. All along the great pillars of the church are large TV screens and an electronic display with the number of the hymn, facing the side aisles.

It is so peaceful. I pray. After Mass is over, I go up the aisle and pray Vespers and sit in the quiet. Soon, people start gathering again for the 7:00 p.m. Mass.

I pick up a brochure from the rack at the back of the church, take a few photos and head outside. The entrance to the crypt is from the outside. The crypt chapel is divided into symmetrical geometrical sections by various retaining walls, giving it the feel of a maze, or something in Hogwarts. Behind the altar are the relics of the Korean martyrs. The tabernacle door has a built-in monstrance. Adoration! There are at least a dozen or more people scattered throughout. I find a corner and pray my rosary, praying especially for the intercession of Andrew Kim and his companions for seminarian friends of mine of Korean descent.

Panel with a photograph from 1896 showing the construction of the Cathedral
Outside, dusk is approaching. Behind the church building is a beautiful statue of Our Lady, a gift from France, for the 100th anniversary of the parish, in 1948. A bank of votive candles (covered by glass from the breeze and elements) shimmers.

As I head out down the stairs, a black official looking car is parked at the bottom of the stairs. I spot two clerics and a few others. I suspect one is the bishop, by the amount of bowing and deference the others are showing him. He gets into the car and it drives off.

I turn round the corner and head back into the sea of neon and noise. 

Half a Day in Seoul

Approach to Incheon
Mind your step! 
1453 KST KE656 from BOM touches down at Incheon International Airport.
1530 I've cleared immigration, customs, have put my bags at a left luggage place and gotten some Won.
1553 I'm on an AREX commuter train to Seoul Station. 4550 won, 53 minutes. Everyone is buried in their electronic devices, except me (not claiming virtue. I couldn't figure out how to purchase a local Wifi plan on the phone) and an elderly gentleman who stares out the window.
1650 Seoul Station. One elevator, two escalator, and a short walk later, I get on a #4 subway and hop off two stations later at Myeongdong.
1715 I'm in my room on the 12th floor at Hotel Prince, right outside the subway station.
1805 I walk down the narrow, crowded pedestrian lane across the street in the Myeongdong area (a major shopping district. Neon lights. Crowds. Wares being peddled. Noise.)
1815 An oasis of quiet -- Myeongdong Cathedral and the surrounding square/piazza. (See next post)
1925 Walk back through the shopping bazaar -- even louder and more garish at night, to find dinner. Rue the fact that I forgot to take the extra host out of my mom's refrigerator, so I am unable to say Mass today.

Buried in their devices 




I had hoped to be able to go to Gyeongbokung Palace as well, but that was too ambitious. An hour or so spent at Myeongdong Cathedral was totally worth it.

And I have a new passport stamp too ... :) 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Such a bizarre flight path!

Weather? Air space restrictions? Let's see what the flight out does ...

Tracking KE655

Bizarre flight path. I'll be on KE656 to Incheon in a few hours ... the long way home!

(sent from my mobile phone)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pope Stamp Brazil!

... in honor of WYD. The Holy Father is on his 12-hour flight from Rome to Rio right now ... Anyone at WYD want to send me a postcard with this stamp? Much obliged! :) 1.8 Brazilian Real is only 80 cents US!  Maybe I'll just get a sheet directly from Correios Brasil ...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dramatic scene at the Mount

Lightning struck the bell tower of Immaculate Conception chapel at the Mount last night. Several hours later, with the help of 20 firetrucks and 82 brave fire-fighters, the blaze was contained. Thankfully, the damage does not seem to have extended beyond the bell tower, to the interior of the newly renovated chapel. Praise God!

Last night (Photo courtesy Dr. P. Hochschild) 

In the morning.(Photos courtesy J.P. Heil) 

"Then the Prophet Elijah arose like a fire ... "

Carmel Ashram, Baroda
On Thursday, I went out to the Carmel Ashram in Baroda to say the morning Mass for the sisters in Baroda. A small, modern, concrete chapel. The cloistered section behind a grille to the left of the altar, and a narrow nave for the faithful. After Mass, one of the ladies showed me to the refectory near the sacristy. "Breakfast is waiting for you Father." There was bread, eggs, a thermos of tea in a round serving tray sort of thing that rotated back into the cloister. After chowing down on the fare, I went back to the chapel. The sisters were chanting the morning office, the cloister curtained off. At the back of the church, three ladies were praying the Rosary in Malayalam, the rising and falling, rapid-fire staccato a strange counterpoint to the chant. I prayed Lauds and left.

Breakfast, in the round turn-table tray thingie
In the afternoon, Mother Superior called me. "But we didn't get to meet you, Father! Please come back!" So, I went back this morning. On the Carmelite calendar it is the Feast of St. Elijah. The readings were the account of Elijah's fleeing in the desert to Mt. Horeb (1 Kg 19) and the Transfiguration (Lk 9). "After breakfast, you can meet us in the parlor." (Or, as it would be spelled here, "parlour.") After Mass, in the sacristy, I heard a knock on the turntable-tray-thingie. It turned, and there was a key in the tray. "Father," a voice came from beyond, "this is the key to the refectory. I will put the key to the parlor there." I went to the refectory. One of the faithful came in to chat with me -- a retired gentleman, who is taking theology courses at the local seminary, and is very keen to understand the vocation of the laity.

Map showing Carmel foundations in India
After breakfast I went to the parlor and first had a long talk with one of the postulants, across the grille. She too is a convert from Hinduism, of Gujarati background, raised in Bombay. We shared conversion stories and vocation stories. She was baptized in 2002. There were accounts of incredible graces and movements of the Holy Spirit in her story. It was truly a holy conversation. Afterward, the whole community came in to greet me, and we chatted amiably for a while. I will be back on Monday and Tuesday to say Mass for the sisters. "Father, then we will get your First Blessing and kiss your hands, through the Communion grate!"

God is good! St. Elijah, pray for us! Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch. Blessed are those who saw you, and those who have been adorned in love; for we also shall surely live. (Sir 48:1, 11) 

Dedication plaque
Statue of St. Theresa of Avila on the grounds

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A (non) visit to Carmel in Baroda

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. (It's actually an Optional Memorial. But why wouldn't one exercise the option to celebrate and honor Our Lady as well as the Carmelite order?) There is a Carmelite convent in Baroda, it turns out. Contemplative, Discalced Carmelite nuns. The real deal.

The Carmelites of Baroda (Photo from their website)

My priest friend from the Cathedral parish (who's my go-to with the pastor for getting in on the Mass schedule) said I would be welcome to go to the feast day Mass, which the Bishop of Baroda was going to celebrate.

Carmel in Baroda is in Makarpura, some 10 km of traffic away. Directions in India being a bit, um, imprecise, I built in extra time, and eventually found myself outside a low, grey, concrete building with a cross on top. In small letters on the gate was written, in Gujarati and English, "Carmel Ashram." There were chairs lined up in front outside, and the grounds were full of people. A bright red garland of flowers hung around a statue of Our Lady outside. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication, and I arrived about an hour or so after Mass had started. From within, I heard the sound of the Sanctus (rather, the hymn which passes for the Sanctus here), so, I wound my way back home, taking a different route. It's amazing that Google Maps and a GPS enabled smart phone really do help with getting around in Indian cities! However, Google didn't know about the construction that blocked this route. Nor does it have much advice for the chaotic traffic, which requires much intestinal fortitude to endure ...

I am hoping to be able to offer Mass for the sisters later this week ...

Screen Shot of Carmel Ashram from Google Maps
Incidentally, the earliest cloistered Carmelite convent  in India was founded in Mangalore in 1870. Of the six sisters who came from Palestine to found it, three died. Of the remain three, one was Mariam Baroudy, or Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, a mystic and a stigmatist who manifested many extraordinary charismatic gifts. Last December, on our class trip to the Holy Land from seminary, we visited the Carmel in Bethlehem and venerated Blessed Mary's relics. It was there that I first learned that she was part of the group that helped found the Carmelite presence in India. (The Indian Carmelites webpage doesn't mention her name in the history of the Mangalore Carmel, for some reason).

Sanctuary of the church at the Carmel in Bethlehem  
Relics of Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified, at the Carmel in Bethlehem
Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! St. Theresa of Avila, and Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified, pray for us! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI

One of the delights of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in English is to be found in the Appendices. There is an appendix that is dedicated to prayers for the priest for preparation for Mass and thanksgiving after Mass. (The prayers are suitable to be said by anyone, and memorizing one of these is a wonderful way to get into a habit to prepare to assist at the Holy Sacrifice, and to give thanks to God for the great gift of the Holy Eucharist.) Among these is the "Universal Prayer" attributed to Pope Clement XI. I had first heard this a few years back, at a daily Mass. One of our priests recites this at the end of Mass. I found it to be really beautiful. It is available in the handy "Laudate" Catholic app (on Android), and I had made a habit of praying it after receiving Holy Communion during my seminary days. It is even more beautiful now to pray this after having celebrated Mass as a priest. 

This translation is the same as in the Missal. The Latin text with a literal translation is also available (pdf link). 
I believe, O Lord, but may I believe more firmly
I hope, but may I hope more securely,
I love, but may I love more ardently
I sorrow, but may I sorrow more deeply. 
I adore you as my first beginning;
I long for you as my last end;
I praise you as my constant benefactor;
I invoke you as my gracious protector. 
By your wisdom direct me,
by your righteousness restrain me,
by your indulgence console me,
by your power protect me. 
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts to be directed to you,
my words, to be about you;
my deeds, to respect your will,
my trials to be endured for you. 
I will whatever you will,
I will it because you will it,
I will it in the way you will it,
I will it for as long as you will it. 
Lord, enlighten my understanding, I pray:
arouse my will,
cleanse my heart,
sanctify my soul. 
May I weep for past sins,
repel future temptations,
correct evil inclinations,
nurture appropriate virtues. 
Give me, good 'God,
love for you, hatred for myself,
zeal for my neighbor,
contempt for the world. 
May I strive to obey superiors,
to help those dependent on me,
to have care for my friends,
forgiveness for my enemies. 
May I conquer sensuality by austerity,
avarice by generosity,
anger by gentleness,
lukewarmness by fervor. 
Render me prudent in planning,
steadfast in danger,
patient in adversity,
humble in prosperity. 
Make me, O Lord, attentive at prayer,
moderate at meals,
diligent in work,
steadfast in intent. 
May I be careful to maintain interior innocence,
outward modesty,
exemplary behavior,
a regular life. 
May I be always watchful in subduing nature,
in nourishing grace,
in observing your law,
in winning salvation. 
May I learn from you
how precarious are earthly things,
how great divine things,
how fleeting is time,
how lasting things eternal. 
Grant that I may prepare for death, fear judgment,
flee hell,
gain paradise.
Through Christ our Lord.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Benvenuto tra gli ultimi

Lampedusa. A tiny island, part of the Republic of Italy. Closer to Tunisia and the African coast than Europe. This was the site of Pope Francis' first Apostolic journey outside Rome today.

Lampedusa is the destination for thousands upon thousands of refugees and migrants, mainly from Africa. In recent years, some 20,000 have died in the attempt to make the journey to Europe. This was a "thorn in the heart" of the Pope, and he chose to come here to pray, to express solidarity, and to awake consciences.

This certainly is a Pope of powerful symbolic gestures, like the Prophets of the Bible! For his first official visit outside the Vatican, he went to a juvenile detention center. And now he comes to visit poor refugees. He meets them, and hugs them. He casts a wreathe in the waters in memory of those who died. He prays for them, and along with tens of thousands of the faithful, he celebrates Mass. A Mass in which the wood of refugee boats is used to make the lectern, the Crozier, and even the outside of a silver-lined chalice.

"Lampedusa, the chalice of the Pope carved from the wood of boats. 'The blood of: "
Cartoon by Italian cartoonist Mauro Biani, titled "Transubstantiation."

One banner captured it so well. Benvenuto tra gli ultimi "Welcome among the last ones." The last ones, those on the periphery, the margins, that he has spoken about so much. A Church that looks outwards, and isn't sick, self-referential.

The liturgical colors of the Mass were purple, for repentance, for mourning. The liturgical texts were for a Mass of Reparation. The Pope asked forgiveness of the migrants and refugees present. And he wished the Muslims among them a Happy Ramadan, which starts at sundown today. He thanked the local citizens and community of Lampedusa for their solidarity and efforts to save the lives of those who come here. Just this morning, the local Coast Guard rescued over 100 souls from a boat coming from Libya. And he asks all to have the courage to help those who are seeking a better life.

Yes, this warms our hearts. But it should absolutely provoke us. Prick our consciences. No, pierce them.
The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.
He likens all of us to the priest and the Levite who walk by the way side, in the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Of course, one cannot but think of the rancorous political discourse concerning immigration that is going on right now in the US. The Pope today made no policy prescriptions. No doubt these are complicated, and difficult. And the domain of the lay faithful, to work out in the public square along with others of good will. However, he reminds us, powerfully, that at the heart of these issues are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, whom Christ commands us to love. He calls us all to the virtue of solidarity. To be our brothers' keeper. (Incidentally, an excerpt from Archbishop Gomez' book on immigration was published by the NY Post this weekend.) 

I can only imagine what the scene would have been like had he been at the U.S.-Mexico border and apologized to the economic migrants and others who come here, those whom we label so blithely, "illegals."  

But it's not just others' indifference that he reminded me of. No consolations here. No chance to rest content with insidious pride. "Well, you're better. You don't think that way about them." So much of our discourse centers on us having the right attitude and thoughts about all the issues, when it's what we do that matters in the end. I think back to an encounter in Rome's Termini station just over a week ago. Of an angry, anguished old man who wanted money to fill his anti-asthma inhaler. I interrupted his canned speech, and he angrily tore open his shirt and pointed to a scar from surgery, and spewed a torrent that I could barely follow. I offered to buy him some sandwiches and a cold drink. "Ma non ti do soldi, mi dispiace." He picked out what he wanted and mumbled an angry thanks and disappeared, when a woman appeared, her face pleading. "Qualcosa da bere, Padre. Ho sete." And I froze. Not another one! I will be here forever! Termini is crawling with beggars. How will I make my train? "Per piacere, Padre. Solo un succo ... " Her face is still etched in my mind. 

"Adam, where are you? Where is your brother?" 
We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of “suffering with”: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!
Thank you Papa Francesco, for your courage, your simplicity, and your reminder to us of the least of our brothers and sisters, of the virtue of solidarity.  

This morning, even as the Holy Father was on his way to Lampedusa (we're a few hours ahead of Central European Time here), I offered Holy Mass using the Ritual Mass for Civil Needs: for Refugees and Exiles, very grateful for the ability to join in prayer, in the mystery of the Eucharist, with Pope Francis, and so many thousands, millions of displaced peoples. 

O Lord, to whom no one is a stranger
and from whose help no one is every distant,
look with compassion on refugees and exiles,
on segregated persons and on lost children;
restore them, we pray, to a homeland,
and give us a kind heart for the needy and for strangers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

Vatican Insider's coverage of the day (Italian)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Back online!

Nearly five years after having suspended the blog ...

Things have changed!

I was ordained a Deacon in May of 2012. I was ordained a priest just about a month ago, in June. Five very intense and amazing years at seminary at the Mount are behind me, in the most intentionally Christian community I have experienced. Parish ministry is still ahead, as I enjoy some extended down time to visit family in India.

The Catholic blogging world has changed. Twitter has exploded. Facebook too.  Google+ didn't exist in 2008. Blogger's template is so much slicker and sleeker. I don't even recall all the hacks and modifications to the template code I had to do in order to get a 3 column layout, back in the day! I miss the sort of frontier, pioneer, amateur feel that Catholic blogging had then ... :) Everything's on Patheos now, it seems.

Frankly, I'm not entirely sure if I really want to resume blogging. Under the Mount's blogging ban (which, I recall the Rector telling me not too long ago, he was going to revisit), my energies focused on Facebook. Sharing links, articles, photos, comments, with Twitter generally for retweets and occasional event updates. I kept a private, unlisted, password protected, limited readership seminary blog. Its archives show my diminishing attention: 270 posts in 2009. 61 in 2012. 128 in the four and a half months of 2008 that it was up. Only 5 in the 5 months of 2013 that I was in seminary.

There's also the pseudonym. Gashwin served his purpose in my pre-seminary days, when I was a lowly lay minister, and wanted to avoid having my real name splashed across the interwebs. Well, as a parish priest (and even as a seminarian), that's unavoidable. Do I keep Gashwin? Retire him? Link him up to the "real" virtual me on FB and G+?

In 2008, I thought I would resume blogging the very day after graduation ("Deacon Night" as we call it at the Mount). The day after graduation, I was actually winging my way to the Twin Cities for one of my best friends' ordination to the diaconate. After that there was Ordination prep. And travel.

So. Let's see what happens now. And, after work actually starts in a few weeks.

But, for now, with a quickly updated look, the blog's back.