25 May 2014


It is, surely, a sign of approaching senility when a man who announces his distaste for travel to his fiancée, declares his wish never to change his routine, emphasises his determination to stay at home, speaks of his desire, not simply to visit his relations in America – that, after all, might well be credited to a praiseworthy familial piety – but as well to do so via Tonga and Samoa.


That, at least, may have been Susan’s view.


We did it that way, anyway.  I think it actually cost more (a bit); certainly took longer.


But I enjoyed it – even the delays.


Such as our departure.  I don’t remember exactly what time we were supposed to leave Auckland – maybe 10 in the morning.  In fact we didn’t leave until something like 4 in the afternoon.  The reason?  Air Pacific – which is now called Fiji Airways – had only one aeroplane – and something was wrong with it (our return flight was by Air Pacific but on a Qantas ’plane) – I don’t remember what.  The engine dropped off or something J  Anyway, they had to fly in a part – or perhaps a new engine – so we could leave.


Which we did, landing in Tonga and then Samoa, briefly, going on to Honolulu.  Sue especially remembers chatting with an American whom we picked up in Tonga.  He was in charge of something like the insurance for the King of Tonga, lived in Honolulu, and had to fly to Tonga every three weeks or so.  He was, she says, pretty drunk by the time we left Tonga.


We had to stay overnight in Honolulu, because our flight arrived in the evening, after the last flight to Hilo – and doing so was a wonderful thing, because we stayed with Ken Rehg.


Ken had been one of my closest friends when I was a linguistics graduate student.  Most of the rest of our fellow students were no longer in Honolulu; Ken was.  Ken picked us up at the airport, bedded us down in his house, and drove us to the University the next day.  It was a trip of many reconnexions – in the linguistics department itself (George Grace, Bob Blust, and I think I ran into Anatole Lyovin, who had been my teacher and was now a Russian Orthodox priest); and Sue and I wandered around the campus a bit, reminiscing.


We had only a short time there, however.  In the afternoon we were off to Hilo.


This also was reconnexion time.  We stayed at my father and mother’s house in Hilo – but an astonishingly wonderful reconnexion was with Greg Trifonovitch.


What can I say about Greg?  If I almost owe my Christianity to Candace, I do, perhaps, also to Greg and his Baptist church.  Greg had been a graduate student when I was, though a couple of years ahead of me.  In the two years from September, 1968 until September, 1970, my life had pretty much gone to the dogs – and come back up again.  As I have written earlier, I came to Christ at the very end of December, 1969.  Quite apart from my expectation, September, 1970 saw me return to the University as a student – and a new Christian.  I remember how excited I was to tell Greg (who I knew to be a Christian) that I had become a Christian.  His reaction was little disconcerting: “What?!  That’s impossible!  My adult Sunday School class has been praying for you for two years!”  How little our faith may be that our prayers will be answered.


My first few years as a Christian were ones in which I struggled through many uncertainties, since I had had no Christian background to work against.  Greg, again, with his wife Bev – now gone to be with the Lord – was my great help and support.


And when, in the summer of 1974-5, I was called to Yap to give instruction on the new orthography we had developed, I stayed at Greg’s house in Honolulu both going and coming, Greg advised me to put a proposal to them to hire me to help.  In March, 1976, when Sue, Johnny, and I moved to Yap, it was to do a job which would not have happened had Greg not encouraged me.


So it was that, when we went to the Big Island, we, knowing that Greg and Bev had retired there, determined to see him.


We drove to their house south of Hilo – ‘volcano side’ – one evening, past what Sue still thinks of as the ‘monkey trees.’  Large tracts of bush, these were, which were inhabited by tree frogs which made the most amazing noise.  I think I recall we went to see Greg twice, once in an evening, and once during the day.  The day trip was because we had heard that C-J – Charles-James Nice Bailey (that is genuinely his full name) – was living near Greg.


He was!  He lived in a house shaped like a large letter ‘O’ – rooms all ’round, with a central atrium or area – and the rooms mostly were filled with books.  C-J was a memory from when Susan and I had been together in Honolulu.  He was surprised to find we were Catholics now.  C-J, a native of the American South (South Carolina, perhaps, or Virginia) was Greek Orthodox.


And we spent two or three nights on my father’s farm in Pa’auilo, with my sister.  Her son Kaleo made us the most amazing coffee – from the beans on their coffee plantation, which he roasted in a frypan there on the stove.


San Francisco – well, the connexion with the flight to Chico was supposed to be enough time.  It was – barely.  We arrived at San Francisco airport – where we had never been before – to find that gate to the small ’plane to Chico was nearly a mile distant.  We were told to take a taxi.  I didn’t know where one was, nor exactly how to instruct one.  We ran.  We got there to find someone telling us to hurry!  Hurry!  so we did, and made it.  I don’t remember when I was last so panicked.


And in Chico we spent a week.  There was far too much that happened, in that one week, to retail it.  Peter took us to Oroville, where he and I had lived through our last years in intermediate school and our high school years.  We went to Mass.  Edna, Kathleen, and Kathleen two sons Zach and Joshua came and spent – what?  a couple of nights? – in a motel.


And Candace came out from New Jersey.  Susan had last seen Candace in, I think, 1982; I had last seen her in 1970.  This was in a way the height of the trip, for both of us.


San Francisco, a less panicked flight to Honolulu, Air Pacific to Samoa – where we had to overnight at Aggie Grey’s – and wandered around Apia.  Stop in Fiji on the way back, and home.


I have gone into some detail about this trip.  I confess I do not find descriptions of people’s travels interesting, and, except for those of you whom we saw, do not expect this post to interest many.  But it was important, I think, for me in that it brought me back to much of my early life in a way that will not likely happen again.  I have been asked, at times, whether I would want to go to Yap again.  I have said I would not wish to – and that is probably fundamentally true, except for this: that a large portion of my adult life was oriented around Yap, its language, and its people.  Yet … it is different from what the trip to Hawai’i and California in 2003 were.  This is partly because the people I connected with on that trip were my family and persons I had known when quite young; but partly, also, because it had not, after all, been all that long since I had seen some of them – my brother in 1997, for example; Edna and Kathleen in 2002.  Sue and I left Yap thirty years ago.  Some of the people we knew then are still there; many have moved on, or died.  I do not know whether I would not simply find such a trip more upsetting than anything.  I shall not worry about it, in any case; it is unlikely to happen J


One other thing happened to us whilst we were in Hilo, however; Adele returned to Pukekohe from Martinborough.



17 May 2014

Blogging by e-mail

I have, I hope, set up my blog so that I can send posts to it by e-mail (using a secret address J - those of you who are authors may apply to me to find out the top-secret address!!).

I am hoping that this will make it more convenient for me to post – possibly more frequently.  I am trying out this one sitting at home, whilst Susan is at an Opus Dei thing in Auckland.

In order to put some news into it, I will comment on the recent stressful business of FAR.  FAR stands for Faculty Administrative Review – and perhaps the link I have put in on the word FAR above.  FAR is definitely going to mean a major job change for me.  I have worked for the Business School (Faculty of Commerce as it was first called, later Faculty of Business and Economics) as System Admin since 2 December, 1985.  From sometime in September this year, I will be doing one of the following:

-          Working for ITS – the central IT group for the University

-          Working for some other part of the University (unlikely)

-          Be made redundant and trying to find work – at my age, almost certainly contracting rather than permanent – somewhere

The FAR project is affecting administrative personnel, but they are also including computer support people, because the University is centralising its computer people.  I won’t know my fate until sometime after mid-July, when they make some decisions.

Anyway, this is my first test post, and just to make it more fun, I will include a picture here, to see if it also gets posted:

This is what the union are using.  The majority of admin staff are, indeed, women.  Oh, yes, and in the above list, in either of the first two cases my pay would drop.


03 May 2014


Naturally, it was not reasonable for Susan to go to the canonisation ceremony for Saint Josemaría.  It was to be held in Rome - much too expensive to consider such a trip.

I said she should go.  There was to be a group going from New Zealand.  They would be housed inexpensively in Rome in a place called Domus Croata (ok, that site is in Croatian; it's the only one I could find!).  I knew we would have to borrow the money, but I wanted her to go.

I did want her to go for her own reasons; I had, however, an ulterior motive.  I had seen my brother in 1997 (I think it was), when he and his wife visited us in New Zealand.  I had discovered something then that I had not realised theretofore: I discovered that I loved my brother.

'Discovered' is the right word.  I had last seen my parents and my sister in, I think, 1980, during the trip I had made whose consequence was that we returned to New Zealand in 1984.  When I last saw my brother, I don't know; perhaps not since 1966, when Edna and I moved to Hawai'i.  At that time I was 23 years old - still not much more than a child.

Of course one loves one's brother and sister, barring any positive reason not to; nevertheless, at 23, I don't think it is a matter one gives much thought.  And during the years between then and 1997, I had done a fair amount of growing - perhaps, one may hope, maturing.  Still, realising that I had a brother whom I loved came as a bit of a shock.

Sue was talking of going to Rome.  I decided that I wanted to go to Hawai'i.  I wanted to see my father and mother - by the time I went (late September, 2002) ages 88 and 87, respectively - and my sister.  I hoped that Peter could come to Hilo to meet with me.

The event was infinitely better than I could have hoped.  Peter did come - and so did Edna and our daughter, Kathleen.  Although there was a sort of official state of forgiveness, of letting bygones be bygones, between me and my ex-wife and our child, I felt in need of sealing matters with a meeting, a touch of hands, a look of the eyes.

So it happened.  Sue went to Rome.  She may like to post separately about her experience there.  I believe they had only two weeks for the whole trip, and part of the time, of course, was spent in travelling to and from New Zealand.  I believe they were able to visit Florence - Sue can say.

The experience for me was an unexpected joy.  I stayed at my parents' house in Hilo.  Peter, I believe, stayed in a motel somewhere.  But we saw one another quite a bit.  And Edna and Kathleen stayed in a hotel.  We met in the hotel's bar, had only a few hours together.  I had a little over a week in Hilo and had to come home.

The impact of the visit may be measured by the fact of what I said to Susan, when she and I were together again in Pukekohe.  I told her that I wanted - insisted, in fact - that she and I go - together, this time - to Hawai'i - and to California - the following year.

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.

02 March 2014

Opus Dei

Being a Catholic was entering a whole new world, and one that we knew nothing about.  No doubt I had seen books about Catholic things before; I had as little interest in them as I would have in books about Zoroastrianism.  Susan began bringing home books from the Pukekohe library about Catholic things, books that she thought might interest me.  One that she brought home was about Opus Dei.

I was puzzled reading it.  The author was a priest - an American Jesuit who had worked for years in, I believe it was, Chile.  This man had pretty negative views about Opus Dei.

What puzzled me was that all the factual complaints he had about Opus Dei were about things which I thought positive from a Catholic point of view: they were intensely loyal to the Pope, were against the ordination of women, were 'traditional' (whatever that might mean) in their views on sexual morality.

There was other material that I could agree to viewing askance - except that it was all innuendo.  I don't remember any details now, but there were facts about the popularity of Opus Dei in Spain during the Franco era - and, knowing very little about Franco, I was prepared to accept the generally negative view of his rule of Spain; there were facts about the amount of money that certain Opus Dei-sponsored organisations (of a political lobbying nature) had; there were facts about the practices of Opus Dei (such as the practice of corporal mortification by full members, made notorious by Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code) - a practice I knew to have a long Catholic pedigree.

I became curious - but, still, doubtful.  I found Opus Dei's website.  It looked very attractive - but I was very much aware of the way in which any organisation was able to make itself look good.  I saw contact information on the website - with a certain amount of trepidation, I wrote a letter to the contact address.

There was no response.

One day, I think in July or August, 1997, I saw a glossy magazine at the back of the church (left there, as I found later, by Father Frank Roach, our priest at the time).  The magazine was about Opus Dei.

I determined to try again to make contact.  This time, I telephoned.

There was a response this time.  The person I spoke to said that Father Joe Pich (it's a Catalan name, pronounced 'pick') was going to be in Auckland; he could meet me at my office if I wished.  Would I mind meeting a man who was involved in Opus Dei first, to talk to him?

OK.  But I admit I was uneasy.  What was I getting myself in for?  Was this some 'cultic' organisation which, once in, I would never get free of?  Well, I had agreed to meet them.  I would.

Peter - the man I met - was quite normal - deceptively normal?  I thought.  Was this simply the way they sucked people in?  He seemed interested in sport (I wasn't).  He was a lawyer, working somewhere in Auckland.

The time came for my meeting with Father Joe.  I had in my mind the sort of person he would be:

-   he would be tall (he was)
-   he would be thin (he was)
-   he would be dressed all in black (he was)
-   he would be grave and saturnine (he was cheerful and light-hearted)

I was, if not captivated, at least very much drawn to him.

Opus Dei, he told me, was having a retreat for men coming up soon.  Why didn't I come to it?

23 February 2014


In March, 1997, I talked to Father Aquinas McComb at the Newman Centre about the possibility of counselling.

My family know what behaviour issues I had.  I had genuinely believed that becoming a Catholic would somehow take care of these.  It did not do so.

Perhaps psychological counselling would help.  I had thought that Father Aquinas would recommend me to a counsellor.  In some respects, I had thought of him as 'liberal' - his Masses were low-key, rather open and not 'specially traditional.

I was still retaining a distinction in my mind that belongs rather to the world of politics and ideology than to faith.  Father Aquinas surprised me by recommending, not a counsellor, but a special Mass for healing.

Father Aquinas, in other words, was a Catholic.

The form of Mass he recommended was, I believe, originally an Anglican idea.  It is, in fact, controversial amongst Catholics.  Father referred to it as a Mass for healing of my family tree - here is a link to one site that is positive about it.  The Mass was something done by Father John Moss at the Catholic Charismatic Centre.

I visited Father John - perhaps in May?  He asked me to write, first of all, a bit of a history of myself, including in it any connexions I might have had in the past with occult matters (I was rather surprised when I did so to discover how much of that there had been), and also describing what I knew of my family's history.

I did this, and sent it to him.  Father wanted us to bring with us our children - and anyone else we might want to accompany us.  We were only finally able to make a date in, I think, August of 1997.

Naturally, Johnny couldn't come as he was living in Seattle.  Sue and I, with Helen, Eddie, and Adele, and, as well, two of our friends (who later became Catholics) showed up.  Father began Mass as usual.  He then prayed for the release from any occult spiritual influences, influences from drug-taking, influences from past family history.  He then burned my statement (which, he said, he had not read).  Mass continued as normal.

Grace is not a feeling.  On the other hand, it is not merely, as some think it, a change in God's attitude towards you.  It is invisible, intangible, unable to be sensed - and real.  Responded to, it changes you.

I cannot say things suddenly became different.  I was, and am, still John Jensen.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that was a moment of change, of conversion that has continued to the present day.

That same year, 1997, saw the introduction of an influence in our lives that has been of vital importance to both me and to Susan.  It began with my attendance at my first Opus Dei retreat.

16 February 2014


Newman wrote, near the end of his Apologia pro Vita Sua:

FROM the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no changes to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any difference of thought or of temper from what I had before. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.
In a way, I could stop here.  When I was received into the Church, I had a feeling of having come into port after 53 years of journeying.  That feeling has never changed.  I can echo with deep conviction Newman's words above.

Nonetheless, I started this series as memoirs - records of things that have happened in my life that I have thought my family and friends might find of interest.  Many of these happenings are well known to my children, at least, since they were the results of their own growing up.  The most important ones may not be easy to write about at all, for they have been the internal changes in my that have, as I believe, resulted from my becoming a Catholic.

I speak of becoming a Catholic as end end of a journey, the beginning of a new life.  In a way, 1996 saw the final end of something which we had started in 1980: home-schooling.

Johnny was the first of our children to go off to a conventional school.  In 1991 (I believe it was), he started Fifth Form - now called Year 11 and roughly equivalent to the US Junior Year in high school - at Rosehill College.  Helen started the studies that led her to the Bachelor of Music at University of Auckland in 1994.  The same year, or possibly 1995, Eddie started Fifth Form at Tuakau College.  Now Adele was alone at home.

Adele will be visiting us here from tomorrow - only for two weeks - the first time I will have seen her in almost nine years.  I wonder if she will agree with me in this, that 1995 must have been a shattering year for her.  We left the Reformed Church, which had been her church home as long as she could remember.  For most of her life she had been home-schooled together with her siblings; now they were off to institutional education, or, in the case of Johnny, living overseas.  Adele wanted to attend school.

At the beginning of 1996, she started Third Form at St Mary's in Ponsonby.

This was no longer home-schooling - but it must have been very difficult for her.  She left the house with me at 6AM for the one-hour 'bus ride to Auckland; then transferred to an across-town 'bus - a similar journey brought her home only by about 5PM.

For me and Susan it was likewise a major change.  The three children slept nights at home; they were not there during the days.  1996, then, our first year as Catholics, was also the year of the beginning of end of our family as a nurturing environment for children.

It was also a year of a considerable shock to me.  This is not the place for details of my bad behaviour - my family, reading this, will know what I mean - but becoming a Catholic was supposed to be the cure of this.  By the end of 1996, I knew that things were not to be as simple as that.

26 January 2014

New beginning

Yesterday, 25 January, ended the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2014 - which begins on the 18th January, the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter and ends on the 25th, the feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

God, in redeeming man, chose to do so not as a collection of atoms, but by uniting men in one Man, His Son Jesus - as, indeed, He had created man in one man Adam.  In God's own being is exhibited the mystery of unity in diversity - three Persons, one God - and their union is the union of love.

I had been brought up with no slightest trace of religion - and my conversion at the end of 1969 was strictly personal; yet it could not remain so, and over the ensuing 20 or so years I grew increasingly to see that this 'atomic salvation' - this 'just me and Jesus' life of faith - was not enough.  Israel was a unity - based on faith, cult (way of worship), and law.  When Israel was divided into two nations, although God did not simply abandon those who were not in union with Judah, it is clear that His people was Judah.  Indeed, the prophets promise the end of that division - in the Messiah.

I soon saw that I must join 'a church.'  It was a move in the right direction - but a move that made me begin to think about the whole question of where the 'new Israel' - the Church - was.  As I have explained in earlier posts, from September, 1993 I grew increasingly convinced it was the Catholic Church.  All the baptised are, to be sure, in a union with this Church - but a union that the Church itself describes as 'imperfect.'  Perfect union is the union of love and that union is a union of faith - believing the same things - of cult - worshipping in the same way - and of law - submission to that Church as Christ's Rule and Kingdom between His first and final coming.

Now, Sunday 24, 1995, this was to reach its consummation.  I and Susan, Helen, Eddie, and Adele, were to be reunited with the Body.

We had been attending Mass for one year now.  We were used to the service.  At Communion time, we went up with arms folded so that Father could bless us.  Today was rather different.  We were invited up at the beginning of Mass.  Father presented us to the congregation.  We were then asked to make the following statement of faith - words from my memory, but the substance is this:
I believe and hold what the Church believes and teaches
The asymmetry  is essential.  I believe the teachings of the Church on the Church's word - for I believe it is the mouth of Christ.

We then received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Father Jude had been given faculties from the Bishop to administer the Sacrament.  Each of us had chosen his Confirmation saint - and were named by the saint.  Father, in anointing me, said to me, "Francis, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" - for my Confirmation saint is St Francis de Sales, who was the Bishop of Geneva at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, and brought thousands of Calvinists back into the Church.

After our Confirmation, at Communion time, we received the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist - the first time.

Dear friends of mine from the Newman Centre at the University - Sister Kate Franich, two lay women whose names, I am embarrassed to say, I have forgotten - and, I think, Father Aquinas McComb, the priest there at the time.  They came to our house for lunch after Mass.  Sister Kate I still see in Auckland from time to time.

That evening we attended Midnight Christmas Mass - the first time we had entered Mass as Communicant Catholics.  A journey that had started for me that had started on Sunday 28 December, 1969, had, as I supposed, ended.

It was, after all, not only an end, but a beginning.

25 January 2014


I went to Confession today.  Today is Saturday and for at least the last fifteen years I have gone to Confession almost every Saturday.

When I was a Protestant, I was told that 'auricular Confession' - detailing your sins and expressing your sorrow with another human being listening - was unBiblical, even, perhaps, anti-Biblical.  Does not John tell us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9)?  To be sure, James tells us "Confess your faults one to another..." (James 5:16), but perhaps that only means I should admit to you that I have wronged you if I have, in fact, done so.

I knew only that Confession 'to a priest' was a requirement of the Catholic faith.  I understood that it is not the priest himself that I am making my confession to; it is Christ.  "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:21).  I had read quite a lot of Catholic theology before I entered the Church.  I even knew that it was not always necessary to receive the Sacrament to be forgiven.  Perfect contrition - which isn't as terrifyingly difficult as it may sound; it means sorrow for sin because of love of God, rather than simply because of fear of Hell, for example, or sorrow for hurting others - perfect contrition forgives sin.  For the non-Catholic, who does not know of the requirement for the Sacrament at least for serious post-baptismal sin, perfect contrition forgives his sin.

Nonetheless, the norm for dealing with sin is the Sacrament.  I think it has only been gradually, over the years I have been a Catholic, that I have come somewhat to understand the point of Confession as a Sacramental act - and therefore as involving the Church.

We are all in this business of life together.

The universe is a vast echo chamber.  My actions, my thoughts, my failures to act, traverse the spaces between the stars - and they affect every human being; some more directly than others, of course.  Even my 'private' sins - my evil thoughts, my laziness, my unforgiveness - affect everyone with whom I come in contact; and, through them, others, and so on.

This is easy to see simply on a human level.  The state of my heart affects the type of person I am, and that has its effects on others.  But there is a level, invisible to the eye of man, the spiritual level, that is far more important.  None of my sins is private - and as a corollary, none of my good deeds is private, either (which should shed light on the much-misunderstood Catholic practice of indulgences - though that must be for another time).

But the world is one - in Christ.

I don't think we understand this very well, really.  As a Protestant I thought of my relation to Christ and my salvation.  But John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world..."  To be sure that means that He loved John Jensen and Susan Jensen and Tom and Dick and Harry.  And it is also true that the giving of His Son does not mean automatic salvation for everyone.  This also is a mystery, for this one has heard the good news and received it; that one has heard and rejected it; this other one has never heard at all.  The Calvinist knows that it is a mystery: he says that God simply chooses some and leaves others.  This, to my mind, is hardly an explanation, and not, indeed, very helpful.  Nonetheless, it is true that everyone who has ever existed - even those who died before Jesus of Nazareth came into being - is somehow in Christ.

And the Catholic Church is the Body of Christ:

Roman Catholicism[edit]

1 Corinthians, from the Douai Bible, 1749
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. — 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
The first meaning that Catholics attach to the expression "Body of Christ" is the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes with approval, as "summing up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer", the reply of Saint Joan of Arc to her judges: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."[7] In the same passage, it also quotes Saint Augustine: "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man.... the fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does 'head and members' mean? Christ and the Church." In light of all this, the Catholic Church calls itself the "universal sacrament of salvation" for the whole world, as it dispenses the sacraments, which give the grace of Christ himself to the recipient.
Saint Paul the Apostle spoke of this unity of Christians with Christ, referred to in the New Testament also in images such as that of the vine and the branches,[8] in terms of a single body that has Christ as its head in Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12-27Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23Colossians 1:18 and 1:24.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ."[9] The Catechism spells out the significance of each of these three aspects.
To distinguish the Body of Christ in this sense from his physical body, the term "Mystical Body of Christ" is often used. This term was used as the first words, and so as the title, of the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi of Pope Pius XII. In that document, Pope Pius XII clearly states, "the mystical Body of Christ... is the Catholic Church."
Which means my sin is always against Christ - and Confession is, therefore, a Sacrament - the giving to me of grace from Christ - which is nothing else but to say that it is perfecting my union with His Body.

I went into the Confessional with Father Jude that Saturday the 23rd of December with fear and trembling.  I was supposed to confess all serious sins committed since my baptism, in August, 1970.  Yet from discussions it was also clear that I wasn't expected to spend hours with Father.

I spent perhaps ten minutes.  After the Eucharist, Confession is the best thing about being a Catholic.  I always go with reluctance and some dread.  I always leave ... well, I will not attempt to say what it means to me, but it is a sad day when, occasionally, I am unable to go to Confession that week.

That Saturday each of us went to first Confession.  The next morning, Sunday the 24th December, was Christmas Eve.

18 January 2014


A Catholic friend on the Internet had advised me to avoid going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).  Sue and I and the three of our children who intended to become Catholics were, after all, already Christians.  We were not catechumens.  In traditional Catholic practice, we were Christians who had never been in full communion with the Church - but because we were baptised, we were Christians.  We would, in fact, be received in the The Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the full Communion of the Catholic Church.

My friend's reasons, however, were not of this technical nature.  We were well educated in the Christian faith.  We knew the Catholic faith (or thought we did) from personal study.  We ought, my friend said, to be received privately, by discussion with a priest.

This might, after all, have been done.  I was not in favour of being received into the Church that way.

It was clear from talking with Father Jude that he expected us to go through RCIA.  I told my friend that I had spent the first twenty-odd years of my Christian life doing my own thing.  I was determined, in becoming a Catholic, to do what the Church said - even in matters such as this which were not dogmatic.  It was time for me to learn some docility.

RCIA was quite an experience.  I do think that my friend was correct when it came to the question whether RCIA would give us any information about Catholicism that we did not already have.  It did not.  The wonderful Sister Margarita (if I have her name spelt correctly) was the leader of our programme, which began, I think, in August or September, 1995.  We met Sunday evenings, and each of us had a sponsor - a member of the parish who was there to be our friend and guide.  There were two other candidates for entry into the Church - both of them wives of non-practising Catholics.  Both (eventually, in one case) entered the Church; neither, sadly, has persisted in Catholic practice to this day.

The five Jensens were, perhaps, a little bit overwhelming for the rest.  Sue and I were adults, of course.  Helen was virtually so (18).  Eddie (15) and Adele (13) were certainly not shrinking violets.  Jensens talk ... quite a lot.

We were scheduled to be received into the Church on Sunday, 24 December, 1995 - but that depended on the question whether our marriage was valid.  Our marriage was not valid if I was, in fact, still married to Edna.  The marriage tribunal in San Francisco was the court that had to decide.

On Friday 22 December the decision arrived - by Telex.  My first marriage had not been valid (on the grounds of lack of due discretion - a short way of saying I had no real idea of what I was doing).  Sue's and my marriage was valid Christian (sacramental) marriage.  (Our marriage was not yet licit - meaning that it had not been undertaken according to the law of the Church; it was made licit shortly after our reception by a marriage blessing by Father).

Saturday 23 December was a day of retreat - prayer and meditation - and, for each of us, our first general Confession.