26 October 2009


Today is Labour Monday - no, that is not a Sacrament - not even a sacramental - I only mention it to explain how it is I am able to write a bit on a Monday.

It is, indeed, a bit of a marvel that I am able to write anything, three-day week-end or not. This has been an extremely busy week-end. Susan and I spent all of Saturday and much of today shifting furniture between the house and the 'sleep-out' room that is my bedroom-cum-office.

And Sunday was the day of ... well, Sunday was the reason for the title.

About a week ago Eddie told Susan and me that he intended to be baptised. This was news of mixed import to us, as Eddie had been baptised when he was an infant. So I understood that what he intended was to go through a form of adult baptism. By the end of the week, Eveline had chosen to follow him in this step. Eddie wanted Susan and me to be present.

It has been a bit of a stormy week for us all, debating, considering, and, finally, deciding that we would go to the event. Although no re-baptism is possible for a person who has once been validly baptised, I understood that this was Eddie's way of affirming his determination to follow Christ. That is a determination that I most emphatically want to support. I suppose one can view this as a renewal of baptismal vows.

It had long been the plan for Sue and me to spend yesterday with Eddie and Eveline - our monthly lunch with them - and the baptism was to be at his church's evening service, at 5PM.

Calling it a 'church service' is, perhaps, a bit misleading. It was indistinguishable from a Christian rock concert. I must confess that the volume of the band was such that I genuinely think a steady exposure would be damaging to one's hearing. Thankfully, the noise ... er, music :-) ... didn't last too long.

There was a sermon (on faith) - I have heard worse from Catholic priests. It was a bit of a trip back in time for us - the standard evangelical sermon urging (rightly!) faith in God, followed by a call for decision.

The baptism itself - looked like about twenty persons were baptised - was fully-clothed, full immersion - full-on! I couldn't hear anything of the words used in the baptism, so I don't know whether any there who had not been baptised before were in fact baptised now or not - that is, I don't know if it was baptism "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." I hope for their sake it was, and, indeed, I prayed then, and since, for all those who were baptised.

This morning Sue and I went to Mass, as we usually do. It was, in style, quite a contrast! Well, of course, it was a week-day Mass, not a full Sunday Mass, and there were only about 20 people there. There was no music, but, had there been, it would not have threatened anyone's hearing. And Father's 5-minute homily did not end with a call to persons who wanted to determine to follow the Lord to raise their hands!

All that is true, but the deep difference was stark, and real. Eddie will read this post, and I do not wish to be writing a sermon to him, nor to give the impression that I am not very glad we decided to go to his re-baptism ceremony. I am deeply glad that we went, and pray for him and Eveline and their children. Nonetheless, last night during the baptisms, I had a sudden thought: what is happening here is John's baptism. These people are undergoing a baptism of repentance - and well they, and each of us, should. If the formula was Trinitarian, even although the minister performing the baptisms made clear, in his speech, that he did not believe in baptismal regeneration, then this was valid baptism for the unbaptised. Nevertheless ... what I thought of was John's baptism.

At the end, after the sermon, Sue and I left. There had been some good music - that of it that could actually be heard, of course! - and wonderful zeal, and a sermon that I could well take to heart on believing God and trusting Him. Still - something was missing.

Not something, actually; Someone. This morning God condescended to give Himself to me Bodily, in His full Substance. I cannot forget that. I cannot do without that. I can readily contrast some points of Protestant worship with Catholic to the credit of the Protestant. There is much that they do well that we do not (though I would either have to find a congregation with less powerful amplifiers, or else wear earplugs :-)). They can give me Jesus spiritually. They can give me His Words. They can tell me of His love.

I am thankful for what the Reformed Church gave me. I am thankful for what the Baptist Church gave me before that. I am thankful to Eddie and Eveline for inviting me. But there is something that only the Catholic Church can give me. The Catholic Church gives me Jesus. I cannot do without that. It is my prayer for Eddie and Eveline, and for all men and women, that they come to know Him Whom to receive is life eternal.

17 October 2009

Harry Potter

I was going to write something this week-end - honest, I was! But time has crept up on me. Tomorrow is our 'Family Concert.' We play for 'subscription concerts' each year - those are ones you have to pay more for - and one Family Concert. The Family Concert is ... cheaper. The subscription concerts cost (depending on the seat) $30 or $40, for adults. The Family Concert seats are $15.

So I suppose it's a matter of 'you get what you pay for.' We try to deliver the same quality performance for the Family Concert as for the subscription concerts, but they are much shorter - and are aimed towards young people. This year we are playing:

  • Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" - written for children but definitely not for children to play! It ends with a fugue that goes at a lightning pace. There is narration from a local actor named Robert Mackelenberg.
  • Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" - just the dance section, but a local young dance troupe is supposed to be dancing (I haven't seen them yet).
  • John Williams' "Hedwig's Theme" from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

So I expect it is the last piece that will be the most popular. At rehearsal last night our conductor - Rupert d'Cruze - asked if anyone had a stuffed owl! "Yeah, right!" I thought. To my astonishment, someone - our second horn player, Christine - said that she had - "If the children haven't destroyed it by now."

Well, it just goes to show you what amazing things some people have in the back room.

09 October 2009

That injury

The last time I posted anything about my childhood, I spoke of an injury connected with my two rooms.

My bedroom was a smaller room - an original dressing room, I suppose - off a larger room, but the two rooms were separated by what is called a 'french door.' This is a door that is a wooden lattice with little windows in it.

Somehow - I really don't recall how, but I think Peter and I were wrestling over something - I kicked my bare right heel through the glass - and partially severed the Achilles tendon. I don't really remember what year this happened. Perhaps about 1956, in which case I was around 14.

Naturally, this is pretty serious! Nowadays there are not many general practitioners about, but then, at least, Dr Patrick was our family doctor, for just about everything, and he sewed up the tendon, under local anaesthetic, applied a plaster cast to it, and told me he would take it off in six weeks.

Note that I called in a 'plaster cast.' Today that immobilising device would be a prefabricated form made of aluminium or plastic; then it was layers of gauze bandage coated in Plaster-of-Paris. And we lived on a farm.

Walking through muddy ground pretty much did that cast in in considerably less than six weeks - about four weeks, as I recall. It began to dissolve. Back to Dr Patrick, who took it off, inspected the healing wound, and showed that, whilst medically he may have been a terrific doctor, as a judge of character - in particular, 14-year-old male character - he was a complete failure.

He told me he would leave the cast off and I should just be careful for a while.

In my humble opinion, telling any 14-year-old boy to 'be careful' is risible naivety; tell young Johnny Jensen the same is utter madness.

The very next day, wearing gumboots, I found myself chasing Wayne Farrens across a newly-ploughed field - for a while.

Then I was not chasing Wayne, but was on my hands and knees, and in considerable pain.

All that Wayne knew was that I was not chasing him any longer.

With a severed Achilles tendon, you don't walk. So I crawled back to the (pretty busy) highway, crawled across it, crawled up our fairly long driveway, past Peter (who looked at me with contempt; he later told me he thought I had probably done something like fallen down and skinned my knee and was now wanting sympathy), and into the house.

When my mother came, she knew immediately what had happened. Angrily she pulled the gumboot off. When I stopped yelling, I said that I had thought she would cut it off. "Those gumboots cost ...!!!" - well, I don't know what she said they cost, but it was clear that she wasn't going to destroy them, 'specially to spare the feelings of stupid child who couldn't keep out of even obvious trouble.

That time it was (I was later told) two and a half hours of general anaesthetic (real ether - you wouldn't like it). I begged to be taken home that night, and was allowed. Dr Patrick told me sternly that this time it would be in a cast for eight weeks, and that if I did it again, he would have to shave more off the ends of the severed tendon and I would be lame for life - and serve me right.

Non-dissolving stitches, too. They took six months of regular visits to the doctor to be removed, and to have me lie under a UV lamp for healing. I remember Dr Patrick pulling the end of one stitch out, and me yelping, to which he responded by asking, "Did that hurt?" "Yes!" "Well, good! Maybe it will teach you to be more careful next time."

I have a big mass of scar tissue there now that is easily injured and slow to heal, to teach me, indeed, to be careful.

04 October 2009

That new church

I mentioned in the post about the Samoa tsunami that our church is being pulled down, and thought I might fill in a few details.

I think it was in about 2000 that Father Martin Bugler (pronounced, as he carefully told us, Bugg-Ler - not like a man who plays the bugle!) - I suppose after consultation with the parish council - announced that it was time to build a new church building. Actually, he had talked about renovating the existing building, but after discussions with the bishop, had said we would build a new building entirely. Father Martin thought it possible we might begin the very next year.

We are beginning, at last - some nine years later. I am not surprised. Money considerations have been the primary reason for the delay.

Last Sunday, the 27th September, was our last Mass in the old building. During the week they have been setting up to use the hall as our church - probably for about a year, I am told. The old church - built in 1879 - is still standing but I presume will shortly be knocked down.

I confess I view the event with some sorrow. This is not principally nostalgia for the old building - although I personally saw no reason why it could not have been renovated and enlarged - but because the proposed new building is ... well, let me just say that a church building, whilst needing to be useable by the people, should be so built that it speaks of the glory of the Kingdom. I am not of the school that thinks only the gothic can properly be a Catholic church. They wanted this church to be a bit 'rounder,' a bit more 'communitarian.' From the little I know of architecture, the basilica style could have achieved the same ends - glory and usefulness - but I should reserve my judgement until I have seen it. There is not, in any case, anything I can do about what will be built - and I had made my views known during the planning stage. Now I look forward to the completion. I suppose it will not be done until sometime late next year - perhaps about Christmas, 2010, which will also mark the end of fifteen years that Susan and I have been communicant Catholics.

03 October 2009


Disasters are news until you see some of their effects in person.

Saturday Mass today - in the nuns' convent chapel, since they are in process of tearing down our church to build a new one (we will have Sunday Mass in the church hall for a year, I think) - and Father Ikenasio is saying Mass.

Father is from Samoa - and I had been told that some members of his family had been lost in the tsunami.

It is still news - until Father came into the chapel this morning. I remembered, then, but still didn't think too much of it. Father was a little hesitant at first. A little slow off the mark. A little ... shaky.

A sudden intake of breath - and he apologised to us.

Father's homily consisted only in thanking us for our prayers and concern. He has not been able to get much in the way of details, but Susan tells me that so far he has been told that seven family members are dead. They are all on his father's side (his father and mother are safe) - and he has not been able to get information about his mother's family. Many dead were people - young children, often - who were sleeping in communal houses near the sea - swept out to sea.

I don't watch television, nor listen to the radio, or I suppose I would have been bombarded by these images since the disaster happened on Tuesday last. Seeing Father today... well, I don't know what to say, but to pray.