19 April 2014

Holy Saturday

From Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings for Holy Saturday morning - from an unknown Fourth Century writer:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

13 April 2014


I was quite disappointed when 2000 rolled around.  They called it the new millennium.  It wasn't, of course; the new millennium began on 1 January 2001.  I didn't waste time arguing, however.  Only the first day I went back to work - Wednesday 5 January, 2000 - I took the same old diesel 'bus; wore the same baggy clothing; worked in the same buildings of concrete and steel.  For those not born in 1942, my disappointment may be surprising.  They had not seen futuristic drawings of 2000, with people in skin-tight clothes, commuting by personal helicopter, working in sweeping-line skyscrapers.

Oh, OK, I wasn't really disappointed.  But it is true that for one born in the first half of the twentieth century, there was a magic about the idea of "the year 2000."

2000 did bring a big change to us, however.  Adele turned 18.  At 18 she could go job hunting with the dole (what Americans call unemployment insurance) as a backstop.

Close friends of ours, to whose children our children had been close, had moved to Wellington years before. Adele asked them if she could stay with them whilst she hunted for a job.  Great!  they said.  So she did.  It did not, in fact, take her long to find work as a barista - hard job, on your feet all day, punishing to the wrist and elbow joints - but a job.

It was, in a way, a major event in my and Susan's lives.  We had been married two years when Johnny was conceived.  From that point to September, 2000, our world had revolved around our children.  Now they were not with us any longer.

Not physically, at least.  I think your parenting never ends.  A few years later Adele was to return to live with us for a while.  But in a deeper way, we have, I know, continued to be of great importance in our children's lives - and I do not merely mean emotionally.  This will, I believe, continue all our lives - and, I am convinced, after our lives on earth have ended, when, please God! we will be in a position to intercede for them.

Nevertheless, things were very different now.  And there was a danger we faced, a danger that every couple faces when the last child leaves home.  I have seen it more than once.  The couple's complete focus and concentration has been on their children.  Now they are gone.  What do they do as a couple?.

Sometimes they drift apart.  I don't know that I ever consciously thought of this.  Nevertheless, I did something that was as though I had thought about it.

I go on retreat each year.  You are encouraged, on retreat, to make resolutions.  These may be like "New Year's Resolutions."  They may be fairly vague and general, and, if so, are likely to mean not very much in the way of action.  We are encouraged to make concrete resolutions.

On retreat in 2001, I prayed about this whole business of my relation to Susan.  I came home from retreat and told her that I wanted us to determine genuinely to seek to orient our lives to one another.  In particular, whenever one of us had an activity to do that was away from home, the other, if possible, would accompany him or her.  Susan, at that time, was involved in the Creative Memories scrapbooking activity, which took her into Auckland one evening a month.  All right, I would meet her there after work, and go home with her. I, on the other hand, had my orchestra activities.  Susan would attend all the concerts, some of the rehearsals.

And so forth.  We have done this since then.  I think it has been of great importance to us.

In 2002, however, we did something that was, on the surface, at least, not at all in harmony with this resolution.  We took separate vacations, and to virtually opposite sides of the world.

05 April 2014


Well, Supernumerary :-)

Susan came home from her Opus Dei retreat in August, 1999.  I seem to recall her being a little hesitant in telling me what was on her mind.  But she did.  She wanted to become a member of Opus Dei.

I should clarify here that there are (for lay persons) three types of Opus Dei membership:

Cooperators are not, strictly speaking, members of Opus Dei.  They are involved in some regular way with Opus Dei.  They need not be Catholics, or even Christians.  Typical cooperators go to Opus Dei retreats, pray for "The Work," perhaps contribute financially.  Susan and I were Cooperators.

Numeraries (and Numerary Assistants and Associates) are celibate.  Clearly this was not what Susan meant.

Supernumeraries - so-called, not because they are somehow superior, but because they are in addition to the numeraries - may be - often are - married.  They live the same sort of life as any other Catholic lay person - except that they have norms they are expected to follow, including certain patterns of daily prayer, attendance weekly at Opus Dei meetings, attendance at an annual week of theological education - and they have two bishops.

Most Catholics are under the authority of the bishop of their diocese.  His is the government of the diocese, and he is the primary pastor, in Christ, of Catholics in that diocese - lay persons, clergy, religious (i.e. nuns, monks, sisters and brothers in religious orders).

Opus Dei is run as a 'personal prelature.'  It is, so far, the only body in the Church that is so organised.

'Prelate' is just another name, in this context, for the bishop.  Opus Dei has its own bishop - currently Javier Echevarria.  The 'prelature' of the bishop of Auckland - Patrick Dunn - is the diocese of Auckland - extending from a little south of Pukekohe to North Cape.  His prelature is a certain area.

The prelature of Bishop Javier is the persons of Opus Dei.  That is why it is called a 'personal prelature.'

Susan wished to become a supernumerary of Opus Dei.  Her bishop would be Bishop Javier, except for matters directly relating to the diocese, in which case Bishop Pat would be her bishop.

It was not a difficult decision for us to make.  It was, I must say, a little scary.  It would (has :-)) involve extra expenditure of time and money.  Our lives would have to become, to an extent, organised more around Opus Dei.

I was delighted.  I knew it would be good for both of us.

I knew it would be good for me - for my relationship with Susan has, through our marriage, not always been characterised by the freedom that should have been its nature.  There have been times when I have felt that Susan did something because she thought she must simply follow me.

Which meant not only that she was not free; neither was I.  Both of us have, I think, been freed, not from one another, but for one another in this.

I am still only a Cooperator.  There are several reasons for this, but I have not felt any strong pressure to seek full membership.  We have both been deeply blessed and helped by our respective memberships.

Susan joined Opus Dei in, I think, October of 1999.  September of 2000 saw the flight of the last of our children from the nest.

29 March 2014

Moving on

Johnny lived with us (sleeping in the out-building where I now sleep) from the beginning of 1998 - end of 1997, actually, I think.  Helen, still at home, was in her third and final BMus year at Auckland University.  Eddie, likewise, was still at home, and (I think) in his 7th Form year at college.  And Adele was commuting on the 6:05AM 'bus with me to St Mary's in Ponsonby.

By the end of 1998 - in fact, from the same day, 14 November, 1998 - only Adele was still at home.

Johnny, at some point - perhaps he can comment on this post - began negotiations to find a job working at a hotel in Sydney.  My own involvement with this must clearly have been slight, since I remember neither when he said he was doing this, nor the name of the hotel he landed a job at.  But land a job he did.  He told me and Susan that he would be moving there in November.

Helen's situation I know more about.  New Zealand universities (like, I believe, English universities) award a Bachelor's degree after three years' study.  One may then seek to enrol in a Master's programme.

More common, however, is to tack on a fourth year - the 'Honours' year - to one's Bachelor's.  This is not, technically, I believe, an additional degree.  If your Bachelor's degree comprised three years' study, you have a Bachelor's degree (Bachelor of Music in Helen's case); if you do the fourth, Honours, year, you don't end up with two degrees; you have a BMus (Hons).

Helen elected to do her Honours year - at Victoria University in Wellington.

Why (you may ask) Wellington?


We became Catholics at the end of 1995.  At the beginning of 1997, Helen attended the Hearts Aflame Catholic Summer School - which was held, that year, in Wellington - and met Robert.  She attended again in January, 1998.  This blog is not the place for me to detail the history of Helen's and Robert's relationship.  Suffice it to say that as Robert is now Helen's husband of 14 years duration, this must have had something to do with her decision.

Not, however, everything.  Uwe Grodd had been Helen's friend and flute tutor before she went to University; and her flute teacher at Auckland University.  It was an excellent idea for her to choose some variety.  And Alexa Still had been flute tutor at Vic; was now the principal flute at the New Zealand Symphony, and would be in Wellington that year.  Bridget Douglas - who now occupies that position - would be Helen's teacher.

University didn't start until the beginning of March, 1999 - but Helen moved to Wellington in November.

But the 14 November date was determined by Eddie's wedding.  He and Eveline were married that day - and, naturally, moved to their home (at the time, in Waimauku).  I suppose it may not have been that actual day that Helen and Johnny both left - but it must have been within a day or two that Helen left for Wellington, Johnny for Sydney.

Susan and I were not yet alone in our house.  Adele was with us - and would be for two more years.  Yet it was a major event in our lives.  I suspect it must have been a major even for Adele, as well - perhaps of greater import for her than for us.  Our family had been tightly-knit, and the children's relationship with one another of great importance for them.  Adele was bereft of three people whose lives had always been part of hers.

Whether connected with this quasi-orphaning or not, I don't know, but by the end of 1998, Adele was very ill with what turned out to be glandular fever.  The long days commuting on public transport, the pressure of school, all combined to make it impossible for her to contemplate continuing at St Mary's.  We were able to get her enrolled in the New Zealand Correspondence School, which she continued in for the next two years.

1999 continued for Susan and me as previous years had done.  Each year we each attended an Opus Dei retreat.  Susan's came home from her retreat in August, 1999 with something on her mind.

22 March 2014


It wasn't easy!

Well, part of it was the money.  In 1990 - or whenever it was that we were told that we needn't give up our US citizenship to become Kiwis - the cost was $130/adult, children free - $260 for our family.

In 1998 - I think we started the process in early 1998 - it was $260 per person, everyone pays the same - $1300 for the family :-(  Now it would be $1645.70!

And the fee is non-refundable :-)

Friends of mine, who have applied for citizenship, have said it has taken them a couple of months.  We applied, probably in January or February, 1998.

It took over a year.  I think my citizenship was granted at the end of March, 1999.

The reason for the long delay, a friend who knows about these things told me, was that we had (a) lived in New Zealand on two separate occasions as permanent residents - from 1973-1976 and then from 1984 to the time we applied; (b) we had lived in New Zealand for quite a long time before applying for citizenship. Both things meant that they had to search a great many details about out history - police records, I suppose - and that in 1998, most of those records were paper records and getting them would require using the post - snail mail.

For the matter of that, I think we were required to get police clearances from the various parts of the world we had lived in.

So we waited.  The grant of citizenship finally came through.  Did we receive it in January or February, 1999? About then, I think.  The oath-taking ceremony took place in March.  Johnny, of course, had New Zealand citizenship by birth.  Helen, Eddie, and Adele were to accompany Susan and me to the ceremony in Pukekohe in March.

Eddie forgot :-)

He did attend his own ceremony later - perhaps April or May.

I may say that the whole thing moved me.  Although Susan and I were adults, when we left the United States, we had lived in New Zealand for all but eight of the 26 years between February, 1973 (when we arrived) and early 1999 (when we became citizens).  Those eight years had been spent in Yap, but even during those years, our orientation was more towards New Zealand than towards the US.  Our church membership - which was definitely constitutional for us - was at the Reformed Church of Avondale.  Our correspondences with friends our own age were with New Zealanders - 'specially Ross Jackson and Richard Flinn.  We had few ties with the US, strong ties with New Zealand.

So this was making official what I felt had long been implicit; we were Kiwis for long before we were citizens. Singing the national anthem is something I cannot take for granted.

We were now all citizens, in any case.  A good job, too - because well before the ceremony took place, the centrifuge had built up speed.  14 November, 1998 saw a great flight of birds from the Jensen nest.

15 March 2014


1998 was, in a way, the Year when Everything Changed for us.

For one thing, Johnny moved back to New Zealand - to Pukekohe, in fact.

Johnny had moved to Seattle in June, 1995.

He had, I am sure, a number of reasons for this.  I myself may have been one - for I was surely at times a rather over-bearing father.  Then there may have been the attraction of wanting to see what his 'roots' (in that his parents are from America, and his mother from Seattle) were like.  I suspect, too, that for people brought up in New Zealand, the very idea of 'America' has a certain draw.

For whatever reason, Johnny moved to Seattle.  By 1997, I think he felt he had quite enough of living on his own, working two jobs to make ends meet, and finding that Americans are, after all, just people, like people everywhere.

Moving back to New Zealand was not entirely simple.  A fair bit of manoeuvring had to be done to make it happen.  He hadn't a job, for one thing.  Nevertheless, he managed it.  He could live at our house (in the outside room where I am typing this!).

Johnny's second job in Seattle had been working at a motel, and I think he was somewhat drawn to the 'hospitality industry.'  He came back either just before or just after Christmas.

And very quickly got a job - working at a hotel.  Johnny will tell me which one it was - was it the Langham?  Or - I think this might be right - the Copthorne.

Helen had started - I think!  She will correct me if I am wrong! - her University studies in 1996.  The normal Bachelor's degree is three years - so 1998 was Helen's last year at Auckland University.  She would earn her Bachelor of Music degree - and what would she do at the end of that time?

Eddie, on the other hand, was finished with high school - and started University (Bachelor of Science, Biology) at Auckland.

Adele was still in school - for another couple of years at most!

It is still unclear to me what the US law is concerning United States citizenship and foreign citizenship.  When we first moved to New Zealand, it appeared to be the case that US citizens who took out foreign citizenship automatically lost their US citizenship.  This seemed not a good idea to me.  In addition, there was a significant cost.  Applications cost $130 per adult (children were free).  So we did nothing.

Now I could see my family in centrifugal motion.  In a year, where would they be living?

Susan and I, at least, had US citizenship by birth.

Johnny was a New Zealand citizen by birth - and had the right to US citizenship by inheritance from his parents.  Helen, Eddie, and Adele had no citizenship by birth (birth in Micronesia did not and does not confer citizenship) - they had US citizenship by inheritance from us.

I had been told by someone - an American citizen who seemed to know what he was talking about - that US citizens could acquire foreign citizenship under certain circumstances - one of which was that they were permanently living in the country whose citizenship they wanted to acquire and that living there as non-citizens caused difficulties.

I decided it was time for us to try to become New Zealand citizens.

08 March 2014


I can't afford it.

I don't remember how much that first retreat cost, the one in September (I think it was), 1997 - might have been $150.  It started Friday evening and ended Sunday late afternoon.

But in addition to the cost of the retreat, I would not be able to work for Rob in my Saturday job - something like $250 lost income.  I said to Sue that we could not afford it.

It is odd how an expense, or a time-consuming undertaking - something, anyway, that has a cost to us - may seem overwhelming when it is a once-off thing - but taken for granted when it becomes a habit.  Annual Opus Dei retreats are now part of my and Susan's lives - and, proportional to the current value of money, just as expensive as that first one was to be.  But the thought of that first one was daunting.

In August, it may have been, we had a friend over for lunch.  Alan was telling us about some character-formation things that he had undertaken during his life and how much they had meant to him.  Somehow I began talking about this retreat, and how I couldn't go - it wasn't only the cost of the retreat; it was the lost income.

Alan was a friend.  Alan was not in that category of what I might call 'very close friends.'  I don't think we ever had had him over for lunch before, and certainly never again.  He lives, now, in Australia, in any case.  My acquaintance with him had simply come from his having done some contracting work for us at the University.

How much lost money from work would I have?  About $250, I told him.  If I paid for the retreat, he said, he would give me the lost money from work.

It was wise of him, I think, to offer to pay only for the lost income - that is, not to pay for the retreat as well.  If I were sufficiently committed to pay part of it myself, the retreat might do me some good; if it was just a gift ... well, it might not mean so much.

I was, nevertheless, stunned by his offer.  I had, I think, more reasons for not wanting to go on that retreat than simply the money.  The whole business was an unknown - frightening, in a way.  But, as I said to Sue, apparently God has spoken.  I cannot say 'no.'

I will not describe too much of the retreat's details.  There is, really, not much to describe.  The retreat was for men.  The retreat was called a 'silent' retreat.  This did not mean some sort of extreme game of communicating only by gesture or writing.  It simply meant that we were there for God, for prayer, for meditation.  If you needed to ask someone what time it was, ask.  We were encouraged to spend some time with the priest - on that my first retreat, a Father Ed from Boston - talking with him, going to Confession.  'Silent' meant that it wasn't the place to discuss our jobs, sport, politics, our families, etc.  We were there 'on retreat' from the routine things of life.

During the retreat, there were about five half-hour meditative talks from Father Ed.  There was daily Mass.  We did a few other communal things - a talk or two by the Opus Dei men running the retreat; the Rosary; Stations of the Cross.  But much of the time we were left alone.  We might pray in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  We could go for walks in the neighbourhood.  During meals, we took turns reading aloud at table from selected books - religious, in a way, but not devotional.

But what was overwhelming to me was just being still - not something I am very good at :-) - for two days, and just being in the presence of God.

I came home to Susan overwhelmed, and babbled to her about it - and told her of a woman's retreat that would happen shortly - October, I think - and that I wanted her to go.  There was no more talk of not being able to afford it now.  She went - a little uncertainly, I think.  When she returned, she was not uncertain.

Since then, Sue and I go on retreat annually.  I wouldn't miss it for anything.  It is a habit - a consciously-formed habit.

1997 saw another important thing happening.  At the end of December - whether before or after Christmas, I don't recall - Johnny came home from Seattle.