Category - Faith

1
How My God Has Changed
2
Nick Rahoy, My First Island Friend and Mentor
3
A Few Things to Share on Aging
4
So, Why Those Empty Pews?
5
Be Careful Who You call Heroes
6
“Somewhat”: A Lesson to be Learned
7
Farewell, Nico
8
Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions

How My God Has Changed

Black and White: The Faith of My Childhood

Once upon a time, my God was an imposing figure, important but one that remained outside my life except in those holy times and places reserved for him. He entered my life in mass and communion and in those other actions defined by the church as sacred: the sacraments, blessings and prayers. We all knew he loved us, but the love seemed to be both distant and conditional. We could hear his commanding voice beckoning us to stay away from sin and inviting us to move closer to him. God was something distinct from me and the rest of his creation, always summoning us to follow his standard. The sanctuary lamp in a dark church was a symbol of this God, a living presence in the house dedicated to him that was forever inviting us to recall his presence even after we left church.

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Nick Rahoy, My First Island Friend and Mentor

It was in August 1963, shortly after my arrival to begin teaching at Xavier, that I met first met Nick, along with John Rulmal, on the Gunner’s Knot. Nick was one of several Yapese students who had boarded at Yap for the voyage to Chuuk. Air flights were few and planes were small in those days. Over the next four or five days as we crept eastward, Nick began exposing me to the new world of Micronesia. It began with demonstrating how monkeymen were carved from wood, and it went on to other things—how spirits of the dead take possession of people, and why island women once had to stay in special huts during their menstrual period. By the end of the trip, we were good friends. Nick was not just a personal mentor on island life, but one of my very first Micronesian friends.

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So, Why Those Empty Pews?

Once upon a time all the Sunday services were filled—or at least so we imagine. Where did all those former worshipers go?

Let’s go back to the 1960’s when the drop-off in church attendance began. The ‘60s was a time of social revolution when people protested on all kinds of issues: Black rights, the Vietnam War, and free speech. By the end of that decade, however, the clamor was for the freedom of the individual person from social conventions and anything else that might confine it. “Give me the freedom I deserve to become whatever I wish. Let me be me!”

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Be Careful Who You call Heroes

“Heroes” is what the press in many places would often call them. In the Big Apple they often went by the name of “New York’s finest.” They are the men and women in uniform who serve our city, our island, our nation, in the eyes of Americans. These uniformed heroes included police officers along with firemen and members of the US military. In past months COVID-19 nurses and doctors have joined their ranks as well. All of them deserve the highest honor their fellow citizens can bestow on them, since they put their lives on the line to provide the security and comfort that we enjoy. 

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“Somewhat”: A Lesson to be Learned

Year ago, when I was teaching at Xavier during my first assignment in Micronesia, my students baffled me with the response they would make to nearly all my questions. Did you understand the algebra lesson we did today? “Somewhat,” they would reply. What about the short story we read last week? Were you satisfied with the ending? “Somewhat” was the usual answer.

Well then, let’s talk about your own family break-up you were telling me about a few days ago. Do you feel that your father was to blame? “Somewhat,” was the response.

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Farewell, Nico

Everyone used to call him Nico, but I preferred using first names. So I asked him one day why his parents had named him Adolfo. He smiled as he reminded me that Spain was involved in a violent civil war when he was born, and that the leader of one of the nations strongest in its support of the “Catholic side” of the war was a guy by the name of Adolf.

Nico, Adolfo, or whatever you want to call him, was the provincial of Japan about the same time I was superior in Micronesia. That was how we became friends. At the weekly semi-annual meetings of the superiors in the assistancy, I came to know and like him more and more during our time together.

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Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions

Last year sometime I had just finished a short talk at a Rotary Club meeting on the film we were making on the homeless people here on the island. (The film is finished but can’t be released until this lock down is ended.) One of the men raised his hand to ask a question. “You’ve lived a long life and have done a lot. Why don’t you just settle back and enjoy retirement?”

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