Saturday, June 27, 2009

Commit random acts...

You've probably seen this New-Agey bumper-sticker proverb on a Eurovan in your town: "Commit random acts of kindness and senseless beauty."

I think I've mentioned before that a coworker of mine had this as a screen saver. While she was away from her desk, I changed it to "Commit random and senseless acts." I don't think she thought it was funny.

To me, at the time, it seemed like an invitation to trivial, feel-good efforts. Now, the statement seems to suggest that our charitable acts should stem solely from some spontaneous emotional impulse and not some deep-seated moral investment.

It's not the message people on our culture need. It's no more than an off-shoot of "if it feels good, do it." If anything, we need to commit intentional acts of kindness and meaningful beauty and leave lives of impulsivity and senselessness behind.

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Iconography for Tabernacle

When the daily chapel at St. John's was remodeled last year, there was some debate about where the tabernacle was going to go. A significant contingent insisted on moving it to a new adoration chapel. An equally significant contingent pressed to keep it in its original place. The latter got there wish. However, the tabernacle itself wasn't much to look at anymore. It looked like a little cupboard with a bit of Mother of Pearl around the edge. I had hoped to see something more dignified eventually.

Today I walked into the chapel to find that, indeed, Fr. Henry and the building committee had indeed planned for something more ornate. I'm not even really sure how to describe it. Tryptych? Miniature iconostasis? I don't know. Nonetheless, I think it's quite beautiful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blogging from a Palm Pre

Not the easiest thing to do.

UPDATE: Here's the awesome device of which I speak.

I'm currently listening to a mix of the Pandora radio stations I've set up. The sound quality is fantastic, and I can plug it into the little cassette adapter to listen to Pandora in my van.

No, it's not 8-track adapter, and the van isn't a Dodge with shag carpeting in the back.

Anyway, it's quite cool. I'm still learning how to use it. One advantage it has over th iPhone is that it does multitasking. So I can have Pandora running and launch other apps. It's been updating my email all day. I used to disable my Treo's update options because it constantly notified me of new emails. This phone doesn't vibrate or give me a tone when I have new emails, which I like. Anyway, very cool. If I didn't have to have my calendar and Outlook contacts with me all the time, I'd never buy something like this.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blogger Malfunction?

Anyone know why Ironic Catholic and Korrektiv seem to be offline (at least for me)? I'm wondering if IE 8 is blocking them for some reason.

BTW, please keep Jane O'Hannigan and the rest of the O'Hannigan clan in your prayers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I've been meaning to post photos but have been a bit busy with Servant School matters. We completed our first year (aspirancy, for those of us seeking diaconal ordination) with a retreat over the weekend. So far, I haven't had a weekend without something going on related to work or deacon formation. Busy, busy.

Anyway, one thing a traveler to Israel will encounter are reminders of the War of Independence and of the current tensions, even if you're no where close to the Palestinian territories. For example, a peak outside the hotel-room window from the David Intercontinental will show you two reminders of such a events.

Right next door to the hotel is a mosque. I have commented to a number of friends on this mosque, but I had no idea of its significance until just before I left on my latest trip.

During the War of Independence (or the Catastrophe, which is how Palestinians and even some Arab Israelis refer to it), snipers would get in the minnaret of this mosque and fire at the people in Carmel market, which is located only about 1000 meters from the mosque. This is the Hassan Bek Mosque, and it's actually located in Jaffa, which is now part of the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo. It's still a matter of contention, as the Wikipedia story indicates.

In the background, you can see another important site, the Dolphinarium. I meant to get a better shot, but here's one from the Crown Club lounge in the hotel.

On June 1, 2001, a Hamas suicide bomber detonated his charge outside of this disco, where a line of teenagers was waiting to enter. There are businesses operating there, but it still looks like a war zone.

I would have liked to take pictures of some of the memorials of the seige of Jerusalem along the pass at Bab el Wad. However, I haven't had a chance to drive directly to those locations. This page on Latrun shows one of the destroyed vehicles you might see as you drive up the pass.

Another interesting site is in Jerusalem itself, just north of the Old City. It's the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame, which was built by the French during the 19th century as a hostel for pilgrims.

During the War of Independence, both sides soght to control it, since it was built like a fortress. As you look at it now, you can see where the west wing was rebuilt with very new stone following its destruction by the Arab Legion during the war.

I recently read about some disputed properties in Silwan, which is an Arab neighborhood southeast of the Old City. Apparently, the name comes from the Greek word, Siloam. I mentioned previously my walk through the Kidron Valley to the Pool of Siloam. Anyway, the news reports I'd heard indicated that several Arab homes were bulldozed. Destruction of homes used to be the penalty for families of suicide bombers, but in this case, the city of Jerusalem claimed that the homes had been built illegally. I'm in no position to say one way or another. However, when I walked through the Kidron Valley last July, this fenced area was not there, or at least wasn't in the form it was this time. I suspect that the bulldozed homes stood on this plot, but I'm not certain.

I managed to get up close and personal with the Pillar of Absalom, and the tombs of Hezekiah and Zechariah. I'll post those soon, along with a shot of the Valley of Hinnom from west to east. Believe me, it doesn't look like fiery Gehenna anymore.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Prayer Request

Ever since I was a six-year-old on my Schwinn in a highway-patrol uniform, handing out tickets on Fairchild Air Force Base (made out on an office phone-message pad), I have wanted to be a cop. For various reasons, that dream never took flight. However, I recently (okay, recent as in six months ago) applied for reserve officer positions for a couple of local law enforcement agencies. The week before I left for Israel, I was contacted by one to schedule an oral board. Typically, the board is the third step in the initial employment process, while in this case, it's the first. I'm a bit unclear on whether this one will be as rigorous as they usually are. So if you would please pray for me for my upcoming board this Wednesday.

One way or another, I figured I needed to give this one more shot. I even shaved off my beard and moustache in preparation. Imagine my horror when I discovered that I still have no lips. Fortunately, lips aren't a prerequisite for POST academy.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


My head, hitting the desk.

I landed back in Boise yesterday following a 21-hour flight from Israel that began at 12:30 AM. Having slept some on the longest leg, I thought I would be just fine until bedtime. That, however, turned out to be 5:00 PM yesterday, and I managed to sleep (with occasional moments of consciousness) until 6:30 this morning. I knew I was wiped from the trip, but I had no idea I was that exhausted. Still feeling it a bit.

I have more photos and a few video clips of very poor quality (with some narration, also of very poor quality) of my latest foray into the Old City. I'm very sorry not to have captured my harrowing encounter with the contingent of Arab schoolgirls on video so you could see just how terrifying it was. I will post those in the upcoming days, along with some additional stories about my adventures at Shabbat, as well as some experiences with my very Orthodox and learned Jewish colleague whom I trained this last week. If you ever want to feel unschooled about scripture, talk to a middle-aged religious Jew who spends four hours a day studying Hebrew scripture.

Grace and peace to you all.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Oy, weh!

While I love my opportunities to travel here to Israel, I don't travel anywhere particularly well. The biggest casualty is sleep. I always wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 AM. If I don't have to be somewhere early, it's not a big deal because I can go back to sleep eventually. However, if I have to be "on corporate time," I'm usually wiped by the middle of the trip. Count today as a wipe day. Tomorrow, I'm sleeping in. Of course, tomorrow I also leave the hotel and won't stop until I catch my red-eye flight to New York.

I can tell you truly that Israel is a fascinating place. I overheard a group tonight who I believe were US foreign service employees. (Note to US foreign service employees: remember that some of us are English speakers and can understand what you are saying.) One thing I heard that I can confirm is that most US citizens who come to Israel would think, "Hey, I could live here!" And truly you could, as long as you recognized the additional stress of being a target of your neighbors. Living in Israel is a compromise between having a very communal social life and accepting the dangers of living in this context.

One of my colleagues (the one who invited me for Shabbat) is going to be attending a Bris ceremony tomorrow and a Bar Mitzvah tomorrow evening. Last Shabbat evening (5 days ago), it would have been traditional for people to gather and say prayers for the one who is tommorow being circumcised. There is an expectation of community among Jews that isn't present in American Catholics--that we share these basic milestones of life. For Catholics, baptism should be the first, with first communion and confirmation to follows. It may once have been that we kept similar communal celebrations (as seems to be indicated by some more traditional adherences in some parishes), but we have nothing equivalent to what the Jews have in that regard. This is a point where we have dropped a very important social component of our faith.

I could mention a few others, but my point is that while Israel has many political and cultural contentions with which to struggle, the average Israeli probably has a closer connection to his or her community than the average American. I can only point to the next closest Catholic on my block by sheer dumb luck. How pathetic is that?

Monday, June 01, 2009

My Trial at the Lion's Gate

If you're familiar with scripture, you might remember the passage in John 5:2 concerning the pool by the Sheep Gate. This gate (also formerly called St. Stephen's Gate) is now known (and has since the 16th century) as the Lion's Gate. It's just up the hill from Gethsemane and is along the Via Dolorossa.

Anyway, as I made my way up toward the gate, I encountered my most formidable obstacle in the entire time I have been in the Holy Land—a gaggle of Arab school girls. I was petrified, and they were quite fierce, as the picture below attests.

UPDATE: Probably not too clear, but one girl is helping her much younger brother who is distraught, while the other noticed that I was pointing the camera at them and started waving.

The encounter began as follows: I was approaching the gate. I noticed a contingent of similarly clad individuals of apparent female gender (Arab dress) and of a diminutive stature. They began to wave at me and say in unison, "Shalom," but as I drew nearer, they began to act silly. No, really, they were being silly. Naturally, I began to grin, and they passed by. After a very brief interval, I turned to take a photo of the retreating mal(beni)feasants.

Okay, I have to admit that I love these children, Arab or Jewish. They're just beautiful. While it's understandable that we have differences, it's shameful when we forget our shared humanity.