Friday, November 10, 2017

Pope Francis' "No Complaining!"

The above sign can be found on the door of Pope Francis' private apartment at Saint Martha's Guest House at the Vatican. From Italian to English, the sign reads:
                                               IT IS FORBIDDEN TO COMPLAIN.

I don't believe the sign is an infallible pronouncement of the Pope on faith and morals. It is simply his sense of humor (lol). Francis is challenging those who complain to stop and count their blessings. ("Can I hear an Amen!") 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Immortalized in my poem, "Kikiriki" on All Saints' day:

   Nameless characters from our own unique histories can sometimes touch our lives in many ways. I am grateful for the memory of this gentleman, affectionately described by a local calypsonian as 'Mile-a-Minute' whom I remembered as a child growing up in Trinidad. I recall this hawker selling peanuts (kikiriki in Croatian) as he shuffled over and over his route until it got dark and he returned home. Here is a poem I created this summer in Krk, Croatia. Enjoy it today on the Feast of all saints (November 1st):
hunchbacked Creole
selling peanuts around the Savannah
in my island home
"Ki ki ri ki"
unknown word for English speakers
simply associated with a Trini hawker

Fifty years later on a visit to Krk,

island on the north of the Adriatic
i see him again
transformed into a Croat
"Ki ki ri ki!"  "Ki ki ri ki!" he shouts

how strange to think of that ole' Creole

selling peanuts by another name
"Ki ki" I called out, "Ki ki ri ki"
Some "kikiriki" for me in remembrance.     (c) RYM, 2017.

After reading my poem created this summer in Croatia, my friend Jean wrote me this note:

"I can remember the character you described in Trinidad as an oldish man, of Chinese origin, in an outfit of cotton cloth: trousers with little shape and a shirt with long, shapeless sleeves which doubtless kept him cool as he covered the distance (3 miles circumference) several times, perhaps finding new buyers when he stopped and/or heading off would-be thieves of his hard-won earnings or his as-yet-unsold wares! Hence his sobriquet "Mile-a-Minute". He may have by now joined his ancestors. May his soul rest in peace! As John Donne would say, "Rest of his bones and soul's delivery!" 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Learning the wisdom of Political responsibility

   "Thus, says the Lord, to his anointed Cyrus whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him and making kings run in his service." (Isaiah 45:1) The quote shows the honor this Persian king received from one of Israel's foremost prophets. Cyrus was exceptional, even for us today. At the end of the Babylonian captivity, this King approved and supported the return of the Jews to their homeland and the re-building of Jerusalem. No other secular king is singled out in Biblical literature and had done such for the Jewish people. He gained such respect that the ancient prophet Isaiah called him "God's anointed one." He promoted cultural and religious tolerance among the nations conquered by him. 
   The history of religions has always been inextricably linked with political, economic and social events affecting the world. For us Christians, we remember the words of Jesus: "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" His opponents were trying to trick him to give a contrary statement against the political establishment of the time. His response was "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." As believers, we do our best to be good citizens: we pay taxes, obey the laws, contribute to the common good and play our role in the political process. But we know as well, it is dangerous to canonize the State or any form of government. And should a conflict arise (as it frequently does) there is no doubt where our primary allegiance must lie. 
   All of us live in the human city, but as St. Augustine points out, our final destination is in the "City of God." Any authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. Our goal is to reach our fulfillment more fully and demands prudence from those who exercise any office of authority. 
   How we long for rulers like Cyrus, whose example Jesus himself would have been pleased!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Poetic Scherzo

"I look to the sea
 a regatta captain
 urging his kayaks on to sail
 Daj. Daj!
 Heave ho!
 Veslaj. Veslaj!
 Row. Row your kayaks quickly
 On the water!
 Veslaj. Veslaj!
 And so, did we ...
 on to breakfast morning!"

(Diary, August 14th 2017, @Don Ronaldo)
(photo taken this summer 2017 on the Bay of Rijeka which inspired this poem)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

On Burns & Novick's documentary, 'The Vietnam War' ...

   September 17th-28th 2017: Burns and Novick's Vietnam War documentary was riveting, "part historical narrative, part cultural exploration, part therapy" as one writer notes. So much pain, so much tragedy! This series is a tremendous reflection for future generations to come. I encourage many to view the series. My own experience at that time revolves around my cousin Steve who actually joined the Navy in the 70's. I wanted to follow him and nearly did, even enlisting. When Mother heard about this; she ordered me back to Trinidad where I was born, saying "you might be mistaken for the enemy!" (I am part Chinese.) In many ways, she saved my life. She certainly did not want to lose her first-born son. I obeyed. I was 18 years old. Two years later influenced by the peace movements of the time and when the war finally ended; I joined the local monastery, choosing to dedicate my life to the pursuit of peace rather than an American dream. 
   Yes, we were young, idealistic and believed we could change the world. As an older man today, I am more realistic. I still believe in peace even though I left the monastery 30 years ago.

In memoriam +Steve V. who died in 2016.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stanley Francis Rother (March 27th 1935-1981), martyr

   On September 23rd 2017, (Rev.) Stanley Francis Rother will be beatified in Oklahoma City. Pope Francis formally recognized him as a martyr on December 2nd 2016. "Padre Apla's," the Tz'utujil translation of his middle name, Francis, had dedicated his priestly life to the indigenous Tz'utujil people of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. He was murdered at age 46 by three unknown assailants who broke into his parish rectory on July 28th, 1981.
   I had first read about his life when I was studying theology in the 1980's and was saddened about his death. An ordinary life of a devout and compassionate priest turned into an extra-ordinary example! Stanley had volunteered in 1964 to work in Guatemala and immediately fell in love with the people and place where he was stationed. He mastered Spanish and the Tz'utujul language to minister to his parishioners who responded to his care. He established a farmers' co-op, a nutrition center, a school, a hospital clinic and a small radio station which was used for catechesis. A 'farm boy' himself, he enjoyed the simplicity and integrity of the native peoples who worked hard to earn a livelihood. The civil war and anti-Church climate in Guatemala were escalating and many innocent people lost their lives in the ongoing conflict between an authoritarian government and leftist guerrillas. The American Father Stanley was caught in the middle. Returning briefly to Oklahoma, the devoted priest decided to return to his adopted people asking for the prayers and financial help of his own family and friends. He believed that "a shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger ..." He died for his convictions and love of the people he tried to protect. His martyrdom joyfully proclaimed God's love for the poor of Santiago Atitlan.
   Perhaps we may never understand such bravery; but, we can always admire and connect with his love of others in the midst of danger, especially widows and orphans for whom all of us are called to help. 
   May Blessed Stanley, (a.k.a Padre Apla's) be an inspiration to all of us. How grateful we are for his example!