Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sri Lanka 1

After four flights, I have finally arrived on the other side of the globe.  No photos yet, but they are coming.  It is indeed a beautiful place.  The Indian Ocean is literally right outside my window.  I can hear the surf pound as I write this.  Yet, there are slums within a stone's throw of here.  That is the case in most places on earth...natural beauty and squalor are never far from each other.

I am immediately reminded how truly blessed I am to live in the States and to have as much as I do.While the 55K my wife and I combined earn each year puts us right smack in the middle of American income, it puts us in the super-rich category world-wide. Daily bread means so much more to most people than it does to me. The Lord's Prayer has a sense of urgency to it.  "The fierce urgency of now," as Rev. King put it. I have never gone hungry for lack of food even one time in my 47 years.  Not once!

Providentially, I sat next to Bishop Stephen (I didn't catch his surname) from southern India - Kerala - on the flight from Munich to Mumbai.  At one point we were both praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. How beautifully catholic our global Church! We spoke of many things - vocations, evangelization, his challenges, the sending of the 72, Holy Orders, and cultural differences.  Mostly, though, we simply traveled the Way together silently. A Bishop and a Deacon traveling as so many have done together in early Church history. I was honored to be in his company.

Oddly, I often spend a great deal of time speaking with bishops on my journeys, though these encounters are never planned. The Bishop of Da Lat Vietnam had just returned from his ad limina visit when I spoke with him last summer at some length. There really is something beautiful in the relationship of bishops and deacons, especially to those who know Church history well.  The serendipity (of course I had to use that word when writing of Sri Lanka!) of these meetings with bishops is surely one of many ways God speaks to me along the Way.

Brother Denzil arrived at the Colombo airport in his white robe just as he promised. We had an enjoyable drive to the novitiate, about 45 minutes from the airport. The conversation was my primer for my stay. I learned about the Catholic population here (about 7%), colonization (Portugese, Dutch, British), the war (30 years of conflict), the army personnel along the roads (the armed patrols always look so young to me wherever I go - essentially teenage boys with big guns!), the Christian Brothers' presence in Sri Lanka, my duties here, the house schedule, etc. He took me for a tour of the place, especially the chapel directly above my room.

We already had many laughs together too.  From the photos I sent of myself ahead of time, he thought I was very tall. Now that I think of it, I was standing next to two people significantly shorter than I in both photos; one with my wife and the other with Bishop Grosz. The poor Brother got a taller bed out of storage for me thinking I was at least 6'2"!!!  (I'm 5'11").

He introduced me to some of the other Brothers here.  One aged Brother, half blind and half deaf, quietly reminded me to learn Sinhala because it is God's language! Another Brother fixed my electrical outlet for me so I could use my American power adapter.  Another Brother personally invited me to lunch and walked me through the unique foods of Sri Lanka.   I am always impressed by the humility and gentleness of the Christian Brothers wherever I am.

I was particularly impressed with the three preschools the Brothers have set up in the slums of Colombo, naturally...that's what they do!

Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, is found wherever the Church proclaims the Good News.