Saturday, December 31, 2011

the planting of the Lord

I've been praying for Haiti with Isaiah today.  Join me?  There are quite a number of passages that strike me in this context, but for today I'd like to share Isaiah 61:1-4 as a prayer for the new year.

 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

raising up the former devastations and
reparing the ruined cities

Thursday, December 29, 2011

three weeks of puppies

Is there anything better than a lapful of warm puppies?

Maybe having more than a couple of minutes with them, but right at the moment. I'll take that moment of bliss.  Too bad I didn't have a camera with me, but I was just taking the trash out between dishes and Compline, so I wasn't planning ahead.

In honor of the puppies (whom I can still hear squealing and doing their little puppy yips outside), I'm posting a puppy progress report.

Here are a few photos from my first real one-on-one encounter with a puppy on December 12.

Could anything make anyone happier?  Yes, I was a little blissed out.

Here are a few from December 20.  You can see how they've grown in just a week!  They had just started venturing out from their little nook in the backyard.

I think I can, I think I can!
nuzzling mama
The Three Musketeers

What's over there?

The Three Musketeers heading off for adventure
 Last, but not least, a few more puppy bath pictures from Wednesday (12/28).  Surely you're not tired of puppies yet, are you?

shampooed puppy
I'm sooooo outta here!
Mom, he got me all wet!
puppy #3 pushes his way in and puts his head in my sleeve
puppies in the sun warming up and drying off together
pile of puppies
As Charlie Brown would say, happiness is a warm puppy.  Or three.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

all before lunch

Shape of my day:

Morning Prayer
get ready to go downtown
hear squealing and investigate: the puppies are being bathed
newly-bathed puppy eyeing the dirt
move wet puppy to sunny spot far from mud

moving a dripping puppy

go back inside and clean off habit; puppy had already found the mud

once at the cathedral, offer to help
end up reading the gospel and concelebrating
hear my first children's sermon on the Holy Innocents - that's what I call a challenge
my own challenge: with a two-part chalice (2/3 for wafers, 1/3 for wine), take wafers, dip them in, remember the French words, don't drip wine into wafers - and when you do, figure out what to do next...
anoint and bless dozens of children

walk over to the old convent grounds, where the Sisters have set up a party for the children
enjoy their singing and dancing
take lots of pictures

Look what I got!

eat the first bright orange cheese puff things I've had in years and remember someone during a high school religion class party trying to stuff as many of them in his mouth as possible, keeping count; wonder why they stick to my teeth
take more pictures while gifts are distributed
as requested, bless a stuffed pink bunny named Sabrina

Sabrina, the blessed bunny
start getting picture requests
pick up trash
head home
be welcomed by jumping dogs
have a mango for dessert at lunch

And I wonder how I got my habit into this state today? (-:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

uncensored prayer

I've just read the most amazing article.  It's not easy to read - very painful, in fact - but it's powerful.  It's a story of wrestling with God following years of abuse and ensuing hell - and the most real relationship with Jesus I've heard described. 

Some of the most powerful lines:

The day came when my years of compressed pain and anger erupted all over Jesus.  I screamed at him, wanting to hurt him as badly as I hurt, and to my complete shock, he screamed back – his love.  And that’s how I learned to pray.

And that is real prayer. 

Hesed - steadfast, covenant love.  It's not a delicate thing.  In fact, it's stronger and more durable than anything else.  It's the kind of love that does not leave our side when the worst happens or when we are at our worst. 

You see, he wouldn’t give up on me.... Why? Because he loved me just as I was. In fact, he made me just like I was, knowing how I’d turn out, which is totally insane.

I feel like that some days.

I'll be rereading this.

Here it is:

And here is a book she has written which I intend to get at some point:

Uncensored Prayer by Joy Wilson

Monday, December 26, 2011

I hope they remember

I've just read a wonderful blog post and was taken back to last year's pageant at St. Luke's-San Lucas. I've recently shared in it again oh-so-peripherally by a youth group member asking about a costume possibility I'd mentioned last year. Impressive memory, that one. And she did a great job last year; I'm sure she will again this year. It's not often you can count on your youth group to run a pageant, but ours did and was fabulous. I mostly worked on costumes with the youth, which was loads of fun.

shepherds and animals at the manger
The blog post that reminded me of this starts as follows:

We had the pageant rehearsal today. I hope they remember. So went the Tweet from a fellow priest who apparently spent the day not, as much of America did, doing last-minute shopping, but going through the annual ritual of reading the elegant, weighty words of the birth of Jesus according to Luke as interpreted by those under the legal drinking age.

I responded to her Tweet: I suspect God looks as us and says, "Gee, I hope they remember."


I recommend the post for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the description will make you laugh.  Here is the link for those of you who are interested:

It ends as follows:

In the witness of those who are under the legal drinking age, dressed in tinsel and fuzzy sheep ears and bathrobes and whatever else seemed appropriate (or whatever didn't result in a temper tantrum), the children will ask us to remember. Remember feeling your life, freely. Remember crying when you needed to cry and laughing when you needed to laugh. Remember when make-believe was real. Remember when a snowflake or a crown of tinsel or box of new crayons could make your soul sing. Remember that you are loved, just as you are, no matter if you get the lines right or not. Remember that we are part of a bigger cast, that God isn't really that into solo artists.

After the nativity story is told through their little incarnate selves, they will bow and the congregation will clap. I think applause after the story of God's incarnation is quite appropriate. If it takes children to get us that exuberant about God With Us, so be it. I hope in that moment they know the feeling of God's message of, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

And I hope we will all remember.

a child is born

detail, Christmas picture hanging in the Foyer Notre Dame

 En ce temps-là parut un édit de César Auguste, ordonnant un recensement de toute la terre.  Ce premier recensement eut lieu pendant que Quirinius était gouverneur de Syrie.  Tous allaient se faire inscrire, chacun dans sa ville.  Joseph aussi monta de la Galilée, de la ville de Nazareth, pour se rendre en Judée, dans la ville de David, appelée Bethléhem, parce qu'il était de la maison et de la famille de David, afin de se faire inscrire avec Marie, sa fiancée, qui était enceinte.  Pendant qu'ils étaient là, le temps où Marie devait accoucher arriva, et elle enfanta son fils premier-né. Elle l'emmaillota, et le coucha dans une crèche, parce qu'il n'y avait pas de place pour eux dans l'hôtellerie.
-- Luc 2:1-7

Joyeux Noël!

Christmas altar candle and flowers
 The Eucharist at the cathedral was lovely.  It was at 9AM Christmas morning, so we were up bright and early for Morning Prayer and a special breakfast before heading downtown.  It was my first time concelebrating here, too, which was lovely for me and astonishing (as I later heard) for the acolytes.  It's a new concept most anywhere, an ordained sister at the altar with the other priests.  I was glad one of them came up to me later on to ask me about it; the priest in charge also made a welcoming and explanatory announcement at the end of the service.  The bishop said he would put his sermon on the diocesan website, so I may post a link for those interested. 


We then proceeded to the Foyer Notre Dame to serve Christmas dinner.  The Foyer ladies and employees were there along with friends and neighbors, including a number of entertaining children.  I enjoyed rice and beans, fried plaintain, mixed vegetable salad, cake, and Coke.  That fine turkey was also there, cooked first on the stove and the pieces then roasted further in the oven, and the people who had brought us the Christmas cake mix had also given us a large canned ham, so it was quite a feast.  We served cremasse to the guests, a traditional festive drink that tastes rather like a cross between eggnog and hard sauce.  I've been promised the recipe, as it is usually homemade - it sounds rather like one of those recipes for which everyone has their own special twist.  This particular kind had raisins at the bottom of the bottle, for example. 

Christmas candle wreath with reflection

Back at home, we cleaned up the kitchen and lit the candles for vespers along with the little Christmas tree and the electric candle in my beautiful traditional paper house (more on that later, perhaps). 

After such a dinner, we didn't need much, so the perfect Christmas supper was cheese and crackers, hot chocolate, and grapes. 

Christmas supper
Somebody remind me to tell you how they make hot chocolate here
- even when you use a packet, it's really good!

There were not so many dishes this time, as you might imagine, so I had time to talk to my family.  They were all still at the dinner table, three generations in one place, so they put me on speaker phone, and we had a great conversation with much laughter.  That, too, made it seem like Christmas to me - not quite like being there, but as close as possible. 

Italian tenor singing Jingle Bells
with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other Muppets
on television in Haiti
And then a final humorous moment.  I sat down after Compline to look at my Christmas pictures, astonished that we could possibly have had electricity all weekend (and here it is back again midday today!).  One of the sisters had turned on the television, where they were broadcasting Christmas programs.  And what should I behold after a while, but an Italian tenor singing Jingle Bells with the Muppets.  It was very funny in its unexpectedness.  

So I went to bed with a light heart, far too late but knowing that today would be a day off, time to rest and enjoy, to relax in prayer, to do a little hand wash, and now to play on the computer since the power has come back on again.  Life is good.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

OPST Christmas concert

OPST Christmas concert 2011

Friday, December 23, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinité's Christmas concert.  The OPST, associated with the Holy Trinity Music School and cathedral, is the only philharmonic orchestra in Haiti.  Since the concert was held in a conference hall, (the Salle Ste Cécile having been destroyed during the earthquake), I was able to sit right up front and watch the musicians.  They had a guest conductor for part of it who led us all in the final verse of a Christmas carol, which was much fun, but I especially enjoyed watching Père David César, the priest in charge of the music school, as he was clearly enjoying himself as he directed. 

Between this and the Christmas cookies I made today, I am finally feeling as though it is really Christmas Eve.

* * *
I wrote this much earlier and had hoped to post it along with a very short video clip (complete with music), but I've given up on that.  The bandwidth here isn't up to such things.  Maybe next summer I will publish a series of OPST video music clips.  Meanwhile, use your imagination to hear their Christmas music.

Wishing you all a blessed and holy Christmas season.  Joyeux Noël!


I was admiring this fine fellow yesterday as I saw him wandering around the old convent grounds, where we had parked on our way to a wedding.   He had fluffed himself up and looked, more than any other turkey I had ever seen, for all the world like one of those cut-outs my grade school teachers used to put on the bulletin board.  So of course I had to take a picture.  Isn't he impressive?

kodenn - dinde - turkey

A little while ago, I heard a sister saying something about kodenn (turkey in Kreyol).  Sure enough, we are having turkey for Christmas dinner at the Foyer Notre Dame, our home for elderly, indigent women with no one to care for them.  I should have guessed: turkeys are being sold on sidewalks around town, and I haven't seen so many before. 

Then I put two and two together. 

Well, at least he has been relatively free range. 

holy birth

Thanks to Ruth at (a Haiti blog which I recommend to you), I have just read a moving post about the Incarnation.  Here is an excerpt.

The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation. It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state. So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our editing.

But this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places, the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?

This is the stuff of God.

There is something Godly in the waiting, in the mystery, in the fact that we are a part of it, a partner with it but we are not the author of it. How you know that there is life coming and the anticipation is sometimes exciting and other times exhausting, never-ending. How there is a price that you pay for the love love love.

I was fortunate to give birth to three of my tinies without complications. I find myself thinking of those experiences often during Advent; they are still very fresh for me...

There wasn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.

And yet it was the moment when I felt the line between the sacred and the secular of my life shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?

I am reflecting this afternoon on Mary and her experience as we wait with awe and wonder for that birth which we celebrate tonight - and which we celebrate, too, as Jesus is born in our own hearts in no less a messy, holy way.

Thanks be to God, who reaches us in the most human of ways and brings that presence into each moment, in love, making the ordinary holy.

If you would like to read the whole post, here it is:

Christmas candle

How do you decorate a candle for Christmas? 

I thought of ribbon - but it's flammable, even if we had some around.

I tried coloring on a white candle with a crayon.  No luck.  Colored pencil, no.  But - aha! - the colored pencil can cut a pattern in it.  White on white, I thought?

And then inspiration struck.

Here is what works really well:  use your nice, sharp colored pencil to dig out the shape you want. Then melt your crayon, drop by drop, with a candle and drip it into the holes you just made.  Trim with your fingernail while still soft.  For holly berries, you can make nice round drops and not trim them at all if all goes well.  Melt together a couple of pieces of red and green rosary cord for trim at the bottom.


decorating a Christmas candle with melted crayon

I do suggest putting a piece of newspaper under all this before you begin, as little pieces of candle wax go in all directions. Not that I did so.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

star light, star bright

How do you know the sky is clear and the stars are bright?

When you can take a photo of your favorite constellation with your little point-and-shoot camera.

Orion (center) and other stars of the Eastern sky over Haiti
Does anyone know what the bright one on the lower right is?  It's definitely a star, since it twinkles, but it's as bright as a planet.   I need Sr. Esther!

Rigolo Thérapie

This evening, I was doing the supper dishes with another sister as usual and listening to the radio.  And, also as usual, she was listening to a comedy hour and laughing in such a way that my spirits were lifted just listening. It was contagious.  I rarely understand a word of the program, as the Creole is much too fast for me, but the funny voices they use cross the language barrier and make me laugh anyway.  Tonight she explained to me that the radio show is called Rigolo Thérapie - along the lines of laughter being the best medicine - and that it's one of the most popular programs in Haiti. 

I looked it up just now and found an article on it.  Here is a blurb from it for those of you who read French:

Rigolo Thérapie, plus populaire que jamais
26 août 2010

Avant tout de chose, rappelons qu’en Haïti la radio est le média le plus suivi, loin devant la presse écrite et plus encore, de la télévision. A Port-au-Prince, il y a une émission de radio que tout le monde connait. Sa particularité : elle fait rire, beaucoup rire! Et elle permet ainsi d’oublier les difficultés quotidiennes et les catastrophes qui se succèdent dans le pays. Et c’est un grand succès!

Rigolo Thérapie” est une émission quotidienne diffusée en direct, entre 18h et 19h, sur Caraïbes FM. Très populaire avant le tremblement de terre, elle est devenue l’émission incontournable après. Pourquoi ? Parce que les gens avaient besoin d’oublier, de penser à autre chose et surtout, de rire!

...L’émission est née en 2004 en réponse au climat qui régnait alors. Ce fut au moment où Aristide et son gouvernement furent renversés. Le pays vivait une période insurrectionnelle où la population, par peur, restait calfeutrée à la maison. C’est dans ce contexte que Marc Anderson Brégard et Peterson François Junior ont eu l’idée de créer une émission qui avait comme seul objectif de détendre les auditeurs enfermés chez eux.

It says, among other things, that radio is the media most used in Haiti, and that such a comedy program helps in forgetting the daily difficulties and the catastrophes that keep happening again and again.  The article goes on to explain that the comedy program mentioned began during the difficult time in 2004 when people were afraid to go out due to the violence surrounding the political insurrection. There was a clear need to give people something to relax while stuck at home, and so Rigolo Thérapie was born.  Following the earthquake, its popularity skyrocketed.  If ever there were a need...

Rigolo Thérapie comedians
It makes sense to me.  In fact, I wonder if perhaps that is why we laugh so much here.  I noted not long after my arrival that I had laughed more in a week than I had in quite some time at home.  It helps to live with a sister who laughs a lot, of course, but I notice more laughter here in general.  Given the disasters that have happened in the past few years and the ongoing misery, one might expect things here to be done with a heavy heart - and of course they often are.  However, sometimes you either have to laugh or cry, and the choice is to laugh.  It seems to me one more sign of Haitians' resilience that laughter is so often the choice. 

I believe, too, that laughter is a gift of God to us, one more sign of God's love and grace. 

I'm looking forward to laughing even more as my Creole improves. 
- - -
The radio station website, for those of you interested, is

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I've learned something new today, which makes it a good day.

Another new food!

Apparently this is a yam.  It looked to me like a piece of wood, but it's in the potato family.  When cooked and chopped, it looks like potato and it tastes rather like potato crossed with a turnip.  Turns out I've been eating it for weeks in soup, as a matter of fact - I suppose I just thought it was a potato with a slightly different consistency.

I decided to do a web search, and I found that they grow up to 450 pounds - that's not a typo - in Jamaica. (  Good grief.   I wonder if they grow anywhere near that big in Darbonne, where this grew... I always thought a yam was a sweet potato, but apparently there are quite a number of kinds. 

So I turn to the easily available information from Wikipedia (though I do realize its accuracy is questionable).  Allow me to share:

Yam tubers can grow up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length and weigh up to 70 kg (154 lb) and 3 to 6 inches high. The vegetable has a rough skin which is difficult to peel, but which softens after heating. The skins vary in color from dark brown to light pink. The majority of the vegetable is composed of a much softer substance known as the "meat". This substance ranges in color from white or yellow to purple or pink in mature yams.

This maximum yam size is much smaller than the other article indicated, but never mind. I have no idea which is the more accurate version.

Furthermore, apparently I have reason for my confusion as to yams and sweet potatoes:
In the United States, sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), especially those with orange flesh, are often referred to as "yams." In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the soft sweet potatoes "yams" because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, soft sweet potatoes were referred to as yams to distinguish them from the firm varieties. Sweet potatoes labeled as "yams" are widely available in markets that serve Asian or Caribbean communities. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires sweet potatoes labeled with the term "yam" to be accompanied by the term "sweet potato."

Anyone have any good recipes to share?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent in the hill country

mountain goat in the hills north of Port-au-Prince

"The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats,
and the stony cliffs for the rock badgers."
-- Psalm 104:19 (or 18, depending on your translation)

hill country to the north of Port-au-Prince
"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth."
-- Luke 1:39-40

Where do we find refuge?
What will we find if we take time this week to go to the hill country as we, too, prepare for that birth? 
 What will our greeting be?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
- Ps. 139:13b

Saturday, December 10, 2011

stone soup

Stone Soup 12/3/11 - pet tarantula?
No, I will NOT bring one back for you. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

weather report

So I'm guessing we won't have a white Christmas, then?  It doesn't give the chances of snow in the next few weeks, though, so who knows...

of theodicy and pumpkin

I've had questions of theodicy coming at me right and left. How not? They seem unavoidable in a situation such as the one here in Haiti.  Why? Why? Why, God?  I've started a book called When Suffering Persists.  So cheerful.  I don't expect it to give me answers, but at least it gives me another base from which to think so as to spend less time going around in circles.  I think in the long run it all boils down to trust - including the trust needed to take the next step, to do the work before me without needing to fix it all or to have the answers first. 

It reminds me of a quote I copied earlier this year from a novel.  The protagonist has been puzzling over something:

preparing to make soupe joumou
"She stopped.  It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it.  In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin.  That brought you down to earth.  That gave you a reason for going on.  Pumpkin."
 -- The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, p. 95 (Alexander McCall Smith)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

neighborhood morning song of praise

Through north and south and east and west
All roosters, let God’s name be blessed.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Cows mooing, I don’t know quite where,
Praise God and cast on him your care.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

You dogs and goats I now can hear,
Join our song, for our God is near.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Sing well before the rising sun,
In sunlight, till the day is done.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

hungry puppy

I have many serious and interesting topics about which to write.  Tonight, I'm writing to you about puppies anyway.  They don't have a thing to do with Haiti except insofar as they are Haitian puppies, but they are adorable and very much a part of my life here: I hear them whenever they are awake and squealing, and mama and papa often lie under my window and bark at who knows what at any possible hour.  Watchdogs, after all.  So here are the watchpuppies, for your enjoyment.  I tried to post one of the videos I made, too, but no luck, so I'm including one screen capture below among the photos.

As the puppies start to wake up, mama arrives to check on them.   They promptly go back to sleep.

They seem to be fine and, deciding they will be all right despite my presence, she leaves again.  They wake back up.

The puppies tumble over each other as they emerge from their napping pile, wander in their den and engage in a bit of wrestling accompanied by much squealing. 

One hungry puppy, crying for mama, spots her as she sticks her nose through a decorative hole in the concrete barrier from the other side.  Just checking up again.  

I try to coax one out with limited success. Eventually one gets brave and comes all the way out of the little den. Then another investigates, while the third one hangs back. 

 Mama sticks her head back through the hole, and nuzzling commences; then she lies back down, comforting her puppies having been checked off her to-do list.

One puppy, however, isn't just crying for mama; he's crying for dinner.  And that hole through which mama was looking is just the perfect size for a puppy door.  So through the hole, over the edge, then plonk, on the ground.  Mama looks rather surprised as this determined puppy picks himself up and finds his dinner.

Tummy's full, all's right with the world.