Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Tynong

What is the loneliest place in the world?  I will tell you.  Picture to yourself an immense dark room.  There is no light, save for a tiny red glow floating feebly at the further end.  Yet its puny radiance enables you to pick out an ornate table, with a sort of box standing on top of it.  On either side gleam tall, cold, brass candlesticks, standing stiff like frigid sentinels.  And as you realize where you are, and slide to your knees, you feel a Presence.

Yes, reader, the loneliest place in the world is an empty Catholic Church.  Whether in the dimness of an immense cathedral, or smothered in the smoky smallness of a tiny chapel, there is always the same atmosphere of silent solitude.  Here dwells One, Who for 2000 years has voluntarily shut Himself up in our tabernacles, in order to be near us.  And we have abandoned Him.
Who can even begin to measure the self-abasing love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?  Almighty God conceals His Infinite Majesty under the appearance of a tiny piece of bread!  And Jesus desired that He should be placed in the Tabernacle, amongst us, close to us, so that we may not fear to approach Him.

"Come to Me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you!"  Such is His silent plea.  He has come to help us in our trials, to be with us in Person, but do we turn to Him?  Oh, how the Divine Prisoner must strain against His chains when He sees so many souls sitting sullenly in a swamp of sins and all the sorrows spawned therefrom.  "Come to Me!"  They are deaf to His call - either they refuse to hear Him, or they forget to listen.  Dazed by the demands of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, their wills grow steadily colder, and turn away from their Saviour, Who pleads still, even though His Voice is drowned by the clamour of His enemies.

Day after day, week after week, year after year - aye, century after century, Jesus waits in the Blessed Sacrament.  He is hidden in the tabernacle, but His Eye beholds all the souls of the world.  He sees them, hundreds of them, as they daily hurry past His door, intent upon their business, caught up in a tortuous whirlwind of worldly worries and care.  He watches them with loving, sorrowful Eyes.  He pities these souls rushing here and there, ever in pursuit of happiness, and never finding it.  Our Lord holds out His Hands to them, eager to draw them apart from the brutal bustle of the world and give them peace.  But they hasten on, ignorant of the true Source of Happiness within arm's reach, unaware of the consolations they could have for the asking, if only they would turn to Him!

True, on Sundays His House is visited - perhaps by many, or perhaps only a few.  He welcomes them all eagerly, and sets out His richest graces, ready to pour them in abundance upon His guests.  But here again, His Love is slighted.  Souls do not think to open their hearts to Him, to tell Him all their troubles, to ask for His graces.  They sit there, wrestling with worries, unaware that the all-powerful, all-loving Sacred Heart, only a few feet away, has an avalanche of grace, strength and consolation all ready to pour down upon them, driving away all their cares, if they would only ask Him.

And what about when these souls receive Holy Communion?  Here is a fresh proof of the sublime love of the King of Kings, for He does not come to be ministered to, but to minister.  He comes, the Source of Grace, with all the graces He sees each individual soul needs.  He is omnipotent - by His mere presence in that poor weak, sin-infested soul, He can turn all its sorrows into joy.  But forgetfulness, ignorance, and even neglect paralyse His action, and He, respecting the freewill of His creatures, is obliged to leave much work undone.

What a pitiful condition He is in!  Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is consumed with a scorching desire to heal us, to console us, and yet He cannot reach us, for we do not approach Him.  Let us kneel before Him, and console Him in His loneliness.  Let us turn to Him in every trouble - He will be much more anxious to hear the tale of our miseries that we could ever be to recite it.  And we may be sure that His Sacred Heart will not be unmoved - no, He will not let us leave without His blessing.  Let us visit Him, the poor Prisoner of the Tabernacle, the Loneliest of all Captives, as often as we can; and let us open wide the doors of our souls so that He may fill them with the graces He is so anxious to bestow.  And when we cannot visit Him, let us often turn our thoughts to Him and send our guardian angels to greet Him on our behalf, so that at the Last Day we may have the inestimable joy of hearing these words from His Lips:

"Come, ye blessed of My Father, and possess the Kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning . . . for I was in prison, and you visited Me."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

St Dominic's College - Term 1

Life continues at St Dominic’s College, even if our dear readers do not hear about it.
With Term 2 now under way I thought it best to give an account of our goings on during Term 1.

Firstly, let us cover our inter-house competitions. Never missing an opportunity to celebrate a feast day - we scheduled the drama competition for the feast of St Joseph, March 19th. Our girls performed some very humorous and excellent impromptu plays about the 3 Dominican Saints – Blessed Ceslaus, St Peter of Verona and St Joanna. As in previous years the girls were given one hour to read the life of a Dominican Saint and prepare a dramatization within their team. The girls had the audience in stitches as they pulled out balls and pegs and props and involved all of their team members to enact the life of their saint. Even parts of the Dominican habit appeared on stage –how on earth did that happen? Our girls are definitely not slow!! Bologna won with 52 points, Prouille came second with 50 points and Calaroga came third with 48 points. I am glad that I was not the judge as it would have been very hard to make the final decision!   

One of the saints needed to sail on a
ship - so the girls improvised...

On April 30th, Feast of our Holy Mother St Catherine (which, of course, is first class for us), festivities included the choral-speaking competition, which was held at the hockey club. This year we invited the priests, friends and family for the occasion to have a few extra people in the audience. Many lunch hours and recreation times were spent preparing for this great event. Each team was given the test piece “Vespers” by A.A. Milne to perform and each house captain selected a poem of their choice as well. Calaroga won the competition and chose “Please Don’t Read This Poem” by Kenn Nesbitt as their second piece, Bologna came second with “Jim Who Ran Away From His Nurse, And Was Eaten By A Lion” from Cautionary Tales for Children and Prouille came in third with their choice of “Television” by Roald Dahl. It was interesting to note the variation of style and performance of each team thereby bringing out the personality of each house captain.

On a different note, St Dominic’s now has its very own official chess club which meets every Friday afternoon. William Maddren from the Wanganui chess club comes to give us free tuition for one and a half hours. We all put on our analytical caps and engross ourselves in this fascinating game. Firstly, he gives us instructions for 45 minutes and then we play a serious game.  This is a dream come true as I was a fanatic chess player as a child and I know the benefits of playing the game. The girls will also be able to sit examinations at different levels and gain badges and certificates accordingly and there will be opportunities to compete in competitions against students from other schools if they wish. It is a great game to develop thinking and analytical skills and I am grateful that the girls are able to profit from this opportunity. We have already seen the girls thinking more carefully before making moves and the tutor remarked at how well behaved, silent and respectful the girls are. He said it usually takes him 2 years to get the students to that stage. I always believe that you have to make the most of every opportunity as you never know if or when it will come again!
Learning how to make expert moves

As Mother Rose related we have received a grant for new sports equipment and as Head of Department this year I have decided to do 5 week blocks of different sports. We began the year with a module of softball and then 5 weeks of badminton. Everyone had a great time loading into the red van to drive to the sports centre down the road as it always happened to be raining on Thursday afternoons when we were scheduled to play. We enjoyed badminton so much that we plan to buy our own nets and equipment to use at school. Even the Sisters could not resist playing. The competitive streaks have been coming out. We are now in a 5 week block of playing netball. We were able to register a junior team in the interschool competition and our new netball uniforms are due to arrive next week. The girls have just finished their grading rounds and are due for their first official game. May they play as well as they did last year!

The girls have also had the experience of watching the beauty of nature in their own classrooms. Bob, "the Butterfly man", who lives down the road, provided at least 150 cocoons for the girls. Bob spent much time stringing the cocoons to fishing line and then hanging a selection in each classroom. Each day the girls would marvel at the emergence of the beautiful monarch butterfly as it hatched from its little home. It was fascinating to watch the butterfly slowly gather its strength in order to take its first flight.

The solar system - right in our
own classroom!
Saturn - up close
A couple of class outings were organised for the Form 1&2 girls as well. After studying the solar system and the stars in science class, one evening they went to the local observatory with their form teacher and Father Laisney to look at the moon and planets through the 24 cm telescope, the largest unmodified refractor telescope in use in New Zealand. Although the clouds prohibited them from seeing too many planets, the girls were delighted with the largest and most detailed view that they had ever seen of the moon. The class was thoroughly facinated with the night skies ever after finishing that astronomy unit. They are now planning on attending a session at the Ward Observatory on the 6th of June, in order to witness a sight that won’t be seen again until 2117. (It is the last chance for them to see it in their lifetimes...) This event is the transit of Venus across the Sun. The transit of Venus warrants attention for its rarity alone. It makes a blue moon seem commonplace: the last transit was in 2004, but the one before that was in 1882.

Transit of Venus

It has special significance for Australasians, because it was on a voyage to observe the transit from Tahiti in 1769 that Captain James Cook charted the coast of New Zealand and east coast of Australia.

In astronomy, a transit occurs when a planet or other body crosses the face of the Sun. When Venus transits, it is visible as a dark spot creeping across the Sun in the space of a few hours. You have to be in the right place to see it, and this time New Zealand is one of those places. We pray that we will have clear skies to witness this event - the last time we'll ever have to see it!

At the end of term they went on a field trip to Palmerston North because they had been studying energy resources and New Zealand landscapes in Geography. The girls went to the wind turbines and they did a part of the Manawatu Gorge Track. Everyone had an enjoyable afternoon. 

With regards to the apostolate, the Children of Mary have really blossomed this year. We received 6 new aspirants on March 26, Feast of the Annunciation. The sodality now counts 16 members. They prepared a spectacular altar of repose for Holy Thursday with many hands on deck. This year we had holy week off from school and so we were able to complete the setting up during the day rather than having to stay up late into the night.

Setting up the Altar of Repose - a work of many, many hours...

The finished altar - much better in person though...
Girls sing a 'comic' farewell to
Father Fortin
Farewell afternoon tea
  The girls have also offered to help with the Church flowers when needed and they have been put on the roster for Church cleaning. On Anzac Day we went on our last outing with our former chaplain, Father Fortin, to Lake Rotokare and Dawson Falls. Father has taken up his new post in the Philippines. 

Outing to Lake Rotokare
Fun on Anzac Day
Our new chaplain is the young and dynamic Belgian priest, Father Bochkoltz, who has taken on this new task with great enthusiasm. Amazingly enough, the girls cannot wait to go out on their first hike with Father, even though they supposedly hate hikes.  

Welcome afternoon tea for Fr. Bochkoltz

During the May holidays four senior French students, accompanied by their French teacher and two Sisters, experienced the joy of immersion in a different culture and language in New Caledonia – also known as "my little Pacific paradise." An account of our adventures will be given at a later date.