Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Children of Mary

Updates on Children of Mary, Wanganui 
After a farewell to Reverend Father Michael Fortin, who left for the Philippines, the Children of Mary received its new chaplain, Reverend Father Louis Bochkoltz.  There was an official welcome for Father on May 2nd, at which we celebrated his arrival by an afternoon tea and singing competition – girls vs Fr Bochkoltz. Each team had a limited amount of time to sing a line from a song (no repetitions allowed) and if they took too long the opposition won.  This continued to go back and forth for at least 20 minutes until finally…. (We admit defeat, Father!)

On June 29th, Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, we attended Mass as a sodality.  This was followed by a breakfast of croissants and pain au chocolat.  This was a combined celebration of our chaplain’s 3rd anniversary of his ordination as well as the 7th anniversary of the Children of Mary in Wanganui which actually fell on July 2nd, a few days later.  Our sodality president used her artistic abilities to make an amusing card for Father and we all contributed to a spiritual bouquet for him.
Masses and meetings later came our “surprise trip” (Father loves to give surprises) – a hike organised by Father Bochkoltz and Sister Madeleine.  Though planned for July 16th, Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, it was postponed to the 20th due to the inclement weather.  It had cleared by the 20th and the sky was the colour of Our Lady’s mantle.  Although some of the girls were no longer able to come, there were still a good number of us to make the hike an enjoyable event.

After Mass and breakfast, we set off for the Ruahine Ranges, a two hour drive from Wanganui.  Though some of us “almost died” (definitely not our energetic chaplain who took great delight in capturing the difficult moments on his camera), the hike was worth it. We were literally climbing to get to the top. We even encountered ice on the track and had to tread very carefully in order not to slip.

Upon reaching our destination – Rangiwahia Hut - there was a magnificent view of Mount Ruapehu covered in snow.  Our sodality chefs made us crepes while we took in the breath-taking surroundings from the hut veranda. After lunch we sang songs and played a memory game and then packed up.

After a quick descent, and a noisy drive home, we ended the day with fish ‘n’ chips and games - these were thought up by Father, of course! All in all it was a splendid day and one we will always cherish.


On August 10th, we assisted at Benediction and Rosary as a Sodality and then made our way down to the tennis club for some festivities in honour of our Patroness, St Philomena.  The Fathers and Brothers joined us for the occasion.  The room was beautifully decorated with a red and white theme – the tables were covered in white tablecloths and there were red and white balloons and serviettes. 

The menu consisted of pizzas and chips followed by dessert.  After the meal we were divided into teams of three to compete in different games prepared by two sisters on the council.  Everyone had a wonderful time and was reluctant to go home.  The next day we all assisted at the Mass in honour of St Philomena.  May we grow more in virtue like her each day!
We all agree that the Children of Mary never stops being interesting and the spiritual benefits make it even better!  We are all very excited about the prospect of a future branch of our sodality being established in Auckland by one of our former members and the possibility of another sodality in the Philippines.  May Our Lady bless these holy apostolates with many members.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spiritual Reading

St Bernard of Clairvaux said that "Spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and paradise won."

Spiritual reading is devoted to the reading of lives of saints, writings of Doctors and the Fathers of the Church, theological works written by holy people, and doctrinal writings of Church authorities. It is different from lectio divina which focuses on Holy Scripture.

All the founders of religious orders have strongly recommended this holy exercise and most have included it in their daily horarium (timetable).  In addition to the assigned daily time for the sisters' spiritual reading, our community is also blessed to have reading during our meals in the refectory.  This is an ancient custom, in which one of the religious reads while the others take the meals, so as to elevate their minds and hearts to God. {For those of you who might worry about the sister given this task- how will she ever last until she gets her food too - never fear!  She does not faint out of weariness!  She is relieved half-way through the meal by the second reader, so that no sister has to read for too long...}

 In our Dominican Constitutions, it is written that "After Grace...the Lector shall read some verses from the Holy Scripture...For the remainder of the time, she shall read some instructive and edifying book chosen by the Prioress."    This is a delightful job for a sister, but also a serious duty.  The constitutions go on to say: "The Lector must always bear in mind that she has been chosen to minister spiritual food to the Community, while they are being refreshed corporally.  This act of charity is a privilege, and the Sister appointed must endeavour, both by careful preparation, and by clear, pleasing reading, to make the subject as profitable and intelligible as may be to the hearers."

The opportunity for the sisters to listen to spiritual classics in the refectory is priceless.  In this way, they are able to listen to hours and hours of good books each week, that they would otherwise not have the time to read on their own.  A variety of reading is chosen and one is always interested to see what is coming next for table reading.  Just this year, our sisters have been edified by numerous books in the refectory, among others - the lives of our Holy Father St Dominic, our Holy Mother St Catherine, as well as the Angelic Doctor St Thomas Aquinas.  They have also thoroughly enjoyed such books as Merry in God, about a saintly Jesuit in World War I, and have equally heard with pleasure A Catholic Teacher's Guide...  Suffice it to say, with some books it is a temptation not to wait until the next meal to continue hearing the reading, and not to peek between meals to see what happens next in the book!
Pope St Pius X recommended spiritual reading as a means of holiness and explains:
"Everyone knows the great influence that is exerted by the voice of a friend who gives candid advice, assists by his counsel, corrects, encourages and leads one away from error. Blessed is the man who has found a true friend; he that has found him has found a treasure. We should, then, count pious books among our true friends. They solemnly remind us of our duties and of the prescriptions of legitimate discipline; they arouse the heavenly voices that were stifled in our souls; they rid our resolutions of listlessness; they disturb our deceitful complacency; they show the true nature of less worthy affections to which we have sought to close our eyes; they bring to light the many dangers which beset the path of the imprudent. They render all these services with such kindly discretion that they prove themselves to be not only our friends, but the very best of friends. They are always at hand, constantly beside us to assist us in the needs of our souls; their voice is never harsh, their advice is never self-seeking, their words are never timid or deceitful."
 Spiritual reading is not just something that is useful to those who are in the convent or monastery - but is also essential for those who live in the world.  St Alphonsus explains very well the necessity of this reading, daily if possible, and the advantages it offers to the soul.

"To a spiritual life the reading of holy books is perhaps not less useful than mental prayer. St. Bernard says reading instructs us at once in prayer, and in the practice of virtue. Hence he concluded that spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and paradise won. We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions, and particularly in our doubts; but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us lights and directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will. Hence St. Athanasius used to say that we find no one devoted to the service of the Lord that did not practice spiritual reading. Hence all the founders of religious Orders have strongly recommended this holy exercise to their religious. St. Benedict, among the rest, commanded that each monk should every day make a spiritual reading, and that two others should be appointed to go about visiting the cells to see if all fulfilled the command; and should any monk be found negligent in the observance of this rule, the saint ordered a penance to be imposed upon him. But before all, the Apostle prescribed spiritual reading to Timothy. Attend unto reading. Mark the word Attend, which signifies that, although Timothy, as being bishop, was greatly occupied with the care of his flock, still the Apostle wished him to apply to the reading of holy books, not in a passing way and for a short time, but regularly and for a considerable time.
Spiritual ReadingThe reading of spiritual works is as profitable as the reading of bad books is noxious.
As the former has led to the conversion of many sinners, so the latter is every day the ruin of many young persons. The first author of pious books is the Spirit of God; but the author of pernicious writings is the devil, who often artfully conceals from certain persons the poison that such works contain, and makes these persons believe that the reading of such books is necessary in order to speak well, and to acquire a knowledge of the world for their own direction, or at least in order to pass the time agreeably. But I say that, especially for nuns, nothing is more pernicious than the reading of bad books. And by bad books I mean not only those that are condemned by the Holy See, either because they contain heresy, or treat of subjects opposed to chastity, but also all books that treat of worldly love. What fervor can a religious have if she reads romances, comedies, or profane poetry? What recollection can she have in meditation or at Communion? Can she be called the spouse of Jesus Christ? Should she not rather be called the spouse of a sinful world? Even young women in the world that are in the habit of reading such books are generally not virtuous seculars.
But some one may say, What harm is there in reading romances and profane poetry when they contain nothing immodest? Do you ask what harm? Behold the harm: the reading of such works kindles the concupiscence of the senses, and awakens the passions; these easily gain the consent of the will, or at least render it so weak that when the occasion of any dangerous affection occurs the devil finds the soul already prepared to allow itself to be conquered. A wise author has said that by the reading of such pernicious books heresy has made, and makes every day, great progress; because such reading has given and gives increased strength to libertinism. The poison of these books enters gradually into the soul; it first makes itself master of the understanding, then infects the will, and in the end kills the soul. The devil finds no means more efficacious and secure of sending a young person to perdition than the reading of such poisoned works.
Remember also that for you certain useless books, though not bad, will be pernicious; because they will make you lose the time that you can employ in occupations profitable to the soul.
In a letter to his disciple Eustochium, St. Jerome stated for her instruction that in his solitude at Bethlehem he was attached to the works of Cicero, and frequently read them, and that he felt a certain disgust for pious books because their style was not polished. He was seized with a serious malady, in which he saw himself at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. The Lord said to him: “Tell me; what are you?” “I am,” replied the saint, “a Christian.” “No,” rejoined the Judge, “you are a Ciceronian, not a Christian.” He then commanded him to be instantly scourged. The saint promised to correct his fault, and having returned from the vision he found his shoulders livid and covered with wounds in consequence of the chastisement that he had received. Thenceforward he gave up the works of Cicero, and devoted himself to the reading of books of piety. It is true that in the works like those of Cicero we sometimes find useful sentiments; but the same St. Jerome wisely said in a letter to another disciple: “What need have you of seeking for a little gold in the midst of so much mire,” when you can read pious books in which you may find all gold without any mire?.....  To some the reading of books on Mystic Theology may be pernicious (also); for it may incline them to seek after supernatural prayer, and to abandon the ordinary method of mental prayer by considerations and affections: thus they may be left without one or the other.  For no one should seek to attain the prayer of contemplation unless God clearly calls him to it.  Hence, St Teresa after death, appeared to one of her nuns and directed that the Superiors should forbid the religious to read her books of visions and revelations, saying that she had become a saint not by visions and revelations, but by the practice of virtue.

But let us return to the subject, and consider the great blessings that the reading of spiritual books brings to the soul.
In the first place, as the reading of bad books fills the mind with worldly and poisonous sentiments; so, on the other hand, the reading of pious works fills the soul with holy thoughts and good desires…..
In the second place, the soul that is imbued with holy thoughts in reading is always prepared to banish internal temptations. The advice that St. Jerome gave to his disciple Salvina was: “Endeavor to have always in your hand a pious book, that with this shield you may defend yourself against bad thoughts.”
The same St. Jerome recommended Demetriade to avail herself of spiritual reading as of a mirror. He meant to say that as a mirror exhibits the stains of the countenance, so holy books show us the defects of the soul. St. Gregory, speaking of spiritual reading, says: “There we perceive the losses we have sustained and the advantages we have acquired; there we observe our falling back or our progress in the way of God.”
In the third place, spiritual reading serves to make us see the stains that infect the soul, and helps us to remove them.
In the fourth place, in reading holy books we receive many lights and divine calls. St. Jerome says that when we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us. St. Ambrose says the same:  “We address him when we pray; we hear him when we read.”
In prayer, God hears our petitions, but in reading we listen to his voice. We cannot, as I have already said, always have at hand a spiritual Father, nor can we hear the sermons of sacred orators, to direct and give us light to walk well in the way of God. Good books supply the place of sermons. St. Augustine writes that good books are, as it were, so many letters of love the Lord sends us; in them he warns us of our dangers, teaches us the way of salvation, animates us to suffer adversity, enlightens us, and inflames us with divine love. Whoever, then, desires to be saved and to acquire divine love, should often read these letters of paradise.
How many saints have, by reading a spiritual book, been induced to forsake the world and to give themselves to God! It is known to all that St. Augustine, when miserably chained by his passions and vices, was, by reading one of the epistles of St. Paul, enlightened with divine light, went forth from his darkness, and began to lead a life of holiness. Thus also St. Ignatius, while a soldier, by reading a volume of the lives of the saints which he accidentally took up, in order to get rid of the tediousness of the bed to which he was confined by sickness, was led to begin a life of sanctity, and became the Father and Founder of the Society of Jesusóan Order which has done so much for the Church. Thus also by reading a pious book accidentally and almost against his will, St. John Colombino left the world, became a saint, and the founder of another religious Order. St. Augustine relates that two courtiers of the Emperor Theodosius entered one day into a monastery of solitaries; one of them began to read the life of St. Anthony, which he found in one of the cells; so strong was the impression made upon him, that he resolved to take leave of the world. He then addressed his companion with so much fervor that both of them remained in the monastery to serve God. We read in the Chronicles of the Discalced Carmelites that a lady in Vienna was prepared to go to a festivity, but because it was given up she fell into a violent passion. To divert her attention she began to read a spiritual book that was at hand, and conceived such a contempt for the world, that she abandoned it and became a Teresian nun. The same happened to the Duchess of Montalto, in Sicily. She began also by accident to read the works of St. Teresa, and afterwards continued to read them with so much fervor, that she sought and obtained her husbandís consent to become a religious, and entered among the Discalced Carmelites.

But the reading of spiritual books has not only contributed to the conversion of saints, but has also given them during their whole life great aid to persevere and to advance continually in perfection. The glorious St. Dominic used to embrace his spiritual books, and to press them to his bosom, saying, “These books give me milk.” And how, except by meditation and the use of pious books, were the anchorets enabled to spend to many years in the desert, at a distance from all human society? That great servant of God, Thomas a Kempis, could not enjoy greater consolation than in remaining in a corner of his cell with a spiritual book in his hand. It has been already mentioned in this work that the Venerable Vincent Carafa used to say that he could not desire a greater happiness in this world than to live in a little grotto provided with a morsel of bread and a spiritual book. St. Philip Neri devoted all the vacant hours that he could procure to the reading of spiritual books, and particularly the lives of the saints.
If you ask me what book is most useful for you who are religious, above all I counsel you to read the books that you find best calculated to excite your devotion, and to move you most powerfully to unite your soul to God.  Of this character are the works of St Francis de Sales, of St Teresa, of Father Granada, of Rodriguez, of St Jure, of Nieremberg, of Pinamonti and other similar books…In general, I advise you to lay aside works that are hard to be understood, and  to read books of devotion written in a plain and simple style. Be careful also to read the subjects that you know will contribute most to your perfection. Among the rest, read frequently the lives of the saints…
Oh! How profitable is the reading of the lives of the saints!
In books of instruction we read what we are bound to do, but in the lives of the saints we read what so many holy men and women, who were flesh as we are, have done. Hence, their example, if it produce no other fruit, will at least humble us and make us sink under the earth. In reading the great things that the saints have done, we shall certainly be ashamed of the little that we have done and still do for God. St. Augustine said of himself: “My God, the examples of Thy servants, when I meditated on them, consumed my tepidity and inflamed me with Thy holy love.” Of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure writes: “By the remembrance of the saints and of their virtues, as if they were so many stones of fire, he has inflamed with new love for God.”
St. Gregory also relates that in Rome there was a beggar called Servolus; he was afflicted with infirmities, and lived on the alms that he collected: he gave a part to the poor, and employed the remainder in purchasing books of devotion. Servolus could not read, but he engaged those whom he lodged in his little house to read for him. St. Gregory says that by listening to these spiritual readings Servolus acquired great patience and a wonderful knowledge of the things of God. Finally, the saint states that at death the poor man besought his friends to read for him; but before breathing his last he interrupted the reading, and said: “Be silent, be silent, do you not hear how all paradise resounds with canticles and harmonious music?” After these words he sweetly expired. Immediately after his death a most agreeable odor was diffused over the room, in testimony of the sanctity of the beggar, who left the world poor in earthly goods, but rich in virtue and merits.

But to draw great fruit from spiritual reading:
It is, in the first place, necessary to recommend yourself beforehand to God, that he may enlighten the mind while you read. It has been already said, that in spiritual reading the Lord condescends to speak to us; and, therefore, in taking up the book, we must pray to God in the words of Samuel: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Speak, O my Lord, for I wish to obey Thee in all that Thou wilt make known to me to be Thy will.
In the second place, you must read not in order to acquire learning, nor to indulge curiosity, but for the sole purpose of advancing in divine love. To read for the sake of knowledge is not spiritual reading, but is, at the time of spiritual reading, a study unprofitable to the soul. It is still worse to read through curiosity. What profit can be expected form such reading? All the time devoted to such reading is lost time. St. Gregory says that many read and read a great deal, but, because they have read only through curiosity, they finish reading as hungry as if they had not been reading. Hence the saint corrected a physician called Theodore for reading spiritual books quickly and without profit.
To derive advantage from pious books it is necessary to read them slowly and with attention. “Nourish your soul,” says St. Augustine, “with divine lectures.” Now to receive nutriment from food, it must not be devoured, but well masticated. Remember, then, in the third place, that to reap abundant fruit from pious reading, you must masticate and ponder well what you ready; applying to yourself what is there inculcated.
And when what you have read has made a lively impression on you, St. Ephrem counsels you to read it a second time.
Besides, when you receive any special light in reading, or any instruction that penetrates the heart, it will be very useful to stop, and to raise the mind to God by making a good resolution, or a good act, or a fervent prayer. St. Bernard says, that it is useful then to interrupt the reading, and to offer a prayer, and to continue to pray as long as the lively impression lasts. Let us imitate the bees, that pass not from one flower to another until they have gathered all the honey that they found in the first. This we should do, although all the time prescribed for the reading should be spent in such acts; for thus the time is spent with greater spiritual profit. Sometimes it may happen that you draw more fruit from reading a single verse than from reading an entire page.
Moreover, at the end of the reading you must select some sentiment of devotion, excited by what you have read, and carry it with you as you would carry a flower from a garden of pleasure.

~from "On Spiritual Reading," The True Spouse of Jesus Christ - St. Alphonsus Liguori

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Through the Penguin-Box. A Dominican Sisters of Wanganui (in Tynong) production.

Dramatis Personae:
Wrong Note
Alexander the Great
Hasty Generalization
Non Sequitur
The Third Declension

I hope that has served to put you in the right frame of mind to imagine out our St Dominic’s Day play. Mother Catherine asked for it to be translated into blog format so that our readership could have a kind of vicarious experience of at least part of our delightful day’s festivities. Here’s how it began:

NARRATOR: Alice, as you all well know, once fell down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. After many adventures, she managed to get out again. Well, the tale that is never told – but will be today – is what happened the SECOND time she fell down – this time, into a penguin-box at Phillip Island while she was looking under the boardwalk when she wasn’t supposed to, but the same kind of thing happened. Despite the fact that Lewis Carroll made much of her being a sensible girl, she did have an awful lot of troubles staying out of holes and Looking Glasses and things like that. Anyway, let’s see what happened to her and how she Got Out…

That was how Alice found herself in the first of the Five Lands: the Land of Literature. Here, she met three very weird characters, Simile, Onomatopoeia and Metaphor, who only ever spoke in the literary styles they were named after. This made life a bit difficult for Alice, but fortunately Prose came along and explained what to do:
PROSE: You’ll have to journey through a whole lot of foreign lands, encounter many dangerous foes and then eventually fight the Horrible Monster Nobody Speaks Of. If you win, you get to go home. If you lose, well – I’m Prose, so excuse me if I speak plain – you die.

This alarmed Alice, but she did want to be home for dinner on time, so being a sensible kind of girl she got on with what she had to do, and asked for help to get out. This is what she was told:

PROSE: Well, uh, this IS the land of Literature. You’ll have to get the clues from those characters and work it out. Prose can’t tell you everything, you know.
ALICE: Could you help me?

SIMILE: Your way to the next land is like a snake in the sun

ONOMATOPOEIA: gurgle gurgle

METAPHOR: Follow that which makes a path of dancing stars, ever aiming for she who ever watches the heavens with a glistening eye.

Alice liked reading, so recognizing that all this meant a stream was no trouble for her. She found one nearby, followed it, and came to the border of Literature Land. She crossed it, passing into a place full of horrible noises. She wondered what it was, and the answer was quick in coming.

WRONG NOTE: I’m afraid it’s me.

And this was how Alice met the neurotic-depressive Wrong Note in Music Land, who felt that he never fitted in amongst all the beautiful music around him. This led to a great deal of wailing and crying by the Wrong Note that poor Alice had to put up with. Eventually, she had had enough.

ALICE: Calm down. Calm down! (WRONG NOTE calms down.) Now listen here – it seems you have a bit of a complex.

WRONG NOTE: I beg your pardon?

ALICE: A complex. A stagnant mindset. A persistent negative thought cycle. A complex.


ALICE: Now, I don’t know how you managed to get this complex, but I’ll tell you a little secret. Wrong notes don’t actually exist! They can be right notes as long as they fit into the music at the right time. It’s rather like catching a bus or a train, really.

And with this sage advice, the Wrong Note quickly learned to stay in time and from then on managed to fit into the glorious sounds of Music Land. He was so pleased that he merrily took Alice to the next border as a kind gesture, and thus it was that she crossed into the next Land – the Land of Ancient Mistakes. She made a bad entry, though.

Because she felt disoriented and was (understandably) fascinated by a Time Machine she walked past on her way in, she carelessly bumped into a tall, forbidding snake-handling lady.
OLYMPIAS: Touch me not, peasant!                                      .       ALICE: Oh, I’m frightfully sorry. I was just going…                                . OLYMPIAS: Silence! Did I give you leave to speak???
It was a bad start. Alice tried to use her personal charisma on Olympias of Epirus, but it was to no avail.

OLYMPIAS: Such outrageous conduct! I shall have you flogged! Alexander! Alexander!

And that was how Alice met Alexander (not the Great yet - for he was still a teenager, transported through time into the Land of Ancient Mistakes with his mother, still studying Aristotle and behaving in a generally teenager-ish way). The shock of this caused Alice to faint.

OLYMPIAS: Very strange girl.


ALICE (returns to consciousness): Pardon me, I don’t usually faint. But I think I’ve got my head around this now. Just one question – are you – this is a bit awkward – are you alive?

OLYMPIAS: Of all the ridiculous questions!!!

ALEXANDER: How dumb is she???? (sotto voce) Are we alive or dead, Mum?

OLYMPIAS: I’m not quite sure – we got moved here so long ago I don’t really know what happened – I think there was a time machine back in Macedonia and we got in. Where is that time machine, anyway?

ALICE: I just walked past one on my way in.


ALICE: Yes, and it looked quite new too. Would you like me to show you the way?

OLYMPIAS: Well, yes, but there’s one problem (looks around sheepishly) – we can’t get in. There’s something on the door about not getting in unless you learn from the people around you. Aha! Maybe you could open the door!

Alice did this easily.

ALICE: Now, I don’t know if I’ve broken some rule by letting you in – I have a feeling you probably needed to learn something by yourselves – so here’s some parting advice: Olympias, try and get a good sleep, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t kill half-relatives, tempting as it may be. And Alexander, go see a doctor if you get a fever.
The Time Machine took off, revealing a note that directed Alice to head North to the next Land. She did so, crossed yet another border, and immediately felt dazed and confused. Little did she realize at the time she had entered the Land of Logical Fallacy.

 ALICE: I…I feel confused.

NON SEQUITUR: So you should! Everyone here is - you’ve probably spent too much time with cats! (laughs maniacally)

HASTY GENERALIZATION: Nah, I reckon she’s confused cos she’s a girl. All girls I’ve ever seen are confused, so she must be confused too.

ALICE: Who are you people???
NON SEQUITUR: Uh Uh – can’t tell. Telling you would turn you into an orange (laughs hysterically)

HASTY GENERALIZATION: Nah, I reckon she’s stuck because she’s wearing an apron. All apron-wearers I’ve ever seen get stuck here.

After participating in this non-productive conversation for some time, Alice (who was a smart girl) cottoned on to the idea that she was up against some Logical Fallacies. From there, it was short work to correctly identify the Fallacies, thereby disabling them of their confusing powers.

Having done this, she came across the following sign:
You need to get to your Final Challenge.
Your Final Challenge lies to the East.
Therefore, you need to go to the East.

ALICE: 3 terms, 3 propositions, no excluded middle, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da … I do believe it is valid! East it is!

Upon arrival in this final Land, Alice almost completely lost the power of language, only able to stammer out words like “I hasten”, “I overcome”, “I have” (which may be familiar to those who have read the first few chapters of Paterson and McNaughton’s Introduction to Latin, Book I). Two cloaked figures appeared next, and proceeded to mock Alice in her disability. Being supervillains, they soon felt compelled to reveal their identities.


ALICE recoils in horror.

VI: Our little visitor is impressed, I think. Shall I introduce you, dear chap?

THIRD: If you like.

VI: My dear, I present a nightmare come to life: The Third Declension.

THIRD (bowing): at your service, madam.

VI and THIRD together: And you’re in the Land of the Unseen Translation (laugh maniacally)!!!!

Alice was then sent to the Examination, which consisted of an (unsurprisingly enough) Unseen Latin Translation, full of words Alice had never seen in her life, let alone know how to translate into English. The discomfort was acute. She slumped at the desk. It looked like it was all over for her. However, she came to life, talking and writing furiously, finished her paper with a flourish and flung it at the two monsters.

ALICE: VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT; I have, you have, he has, we have, you plural have, they have; VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT; I have, you have, he has, we have, you plural have, they have; Ha-ha! I’m finished!

VI: What did you say??? You’re supposed to have lost the power of language!

ALICE: I haven’t, as a matter of fact. You didn’t think your very name would come to my rescue, did you? And do you know what I think, O VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT? I think your problem with the world – and why you became a supervillain - is that you’ve lost an old and dear friend, haven’t you! Where’s your stem? What was her name? Ama- or was it Supera-, or perhaps Festina-? Come on, you can tell me.

VI: How…how did you know?

ALICE: Come now, everybody knows that just being the ending of a Latin verb makes a verb lonely. You need a stem and an ending! As for The Third Declension -your main trouble is that people don’t understand you – am I right? So we have one lonely supervillain and one misunderstood one. I do hope think you aren’t original supervillains in any way – you’re the oldest plot devices in the book!

Having neutralized the power of the Latin verb-ending and the Third Declension, Alice easily persuaded them to take her to the portal back to her own world. Triumphant, she stepped across the threshold. But her last thought was not of success or self-aggrandizement. She simply wondered:

ALICE: I never did see any penguins down there.


Any resemblance between characters, real or fictitious, and those in this production are entirely the intention of the author.

BUT, no animals were harmed in the making of this production.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventures in the Pacific

   On the little islands of New Caledonia, found north of New Zealand, situated on a hill in Noumea stands a beautiful statue under the title of Notre Dame du Pacifique (Our Lady of the Pacific).  It was under her mantle and protection that I entrusted our first senior French class trip to New Caledonia during the month of May.  Two Sisters, our senior French teacher, and four pupils embarked on an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime to a place now known as my “Pacific Paradise”.  The main aim and objective of the trip was to fully immerse the teachers and students in the French language and culture.  Our other intention was to sing the proper for the Sunday Masses and the Ascension Thursday Mass for the faithful of New Caledonia.  We also learnt some polyphonic pieces to sing at the Offertory and Communion.
Much thought, preparation and fundraising went into the organization of this trip.  The idea of a trip to a French-speaking country is one I have had for quite some time but one which I was not able to work on due to other commitments and financial constraints.  Ideally, I would take the students to France and one day, God willing, I will - but for now this little paradise meets my requirements for the pupils’ advancement in French.   New Caledonia is serviced by our priests here in New Zealand and is a part of the Asian district.  As a priest is scheduled to go every 6 weeks to New Caledonia from New Zealand and his passage there for the month of May worked in perfectly with our school holidays, we were able to get a good deal for flights and the bookings were made.
The day before departure, as I was hurriedly doing last minute preparations and finishing off booklets of songs and prayers in French, I encountered difficulties with our computer and printer system at the convent and had to make many trips back and forth to the school office to use the computer and printer over there.  I was also told that day that I was very courageous to be taking the girls at that particular time to New Caledonia as the weather was terrible with continuing storms and rain.  I was a little bit perturbed and anxious about what to expect but I asked Father to offer a Mass for a safe and prosperous trip and fine weather, and from the moment we arrived to the day we left we had sunshine and fine weather, except on one occasion.
Setting off on Friday, May 11th with possibly bigger suitcases and more clothes than needed (one must remember there were 6 females travelling) we left our farewell committee of Father, Sisters and parents for a day of sightseeing.  We drove the scenic and longer route to Auckland via Lake Taupo and Rotorua.  We arrived in Auckland by 7pm in time for a 3 course meal provided by the couple who take care of the chapel in Auckland and discovered that one of our air mattresses had a hole in it.  No matter how many times we pumped it up it continued to deflate.  The girls arranged themselves though for the night on the other air mattress and the sofas provided and our alarms were set for a 4.30am rise.  
We were driven to the Auckland airport at 6am the next day and deposited with all of our baggage for the 8.30am flight to Noumea.  The line for checking in was quite long and by the time we got through to customs it was time to board the plane. 

After a very smooth flight and landing we disembarked the plane – we had to walk on the tarmac – to experience the heat of Noumea, quite a change from the New Zealand temperatures.  Not a drop of rain or a cloud was in sight.  As we cleared airport control and collected our baggage we met with our hosts and collected our rental cars.  We loaded into the vehicles and took in the beautiful scenery which surrounded us.  Palm trees, rolling hills and right hand driving – it took a little while to get used to driving on the 'wrong side' of the road and using my right hand to change the gears and to keep up with the car in front -  but we managed it.  We also remarked that people drive really fast in New Caledonia.  It was a lot to get used to all at once.
Upon arriving at our destination we were treated to the nicest steaks you have ever seen, served on the biggest plates imaginable. Our host was a retired chef and he certainly knew how to cook and present his food.  We were treated like royalty from day one with the most exquisite French cuisine you can imagine.  If you were to look through our photos, you would find that numerous of them include pictures of food and its presentation.  We even went so far as to eat snails, and oddly enough, really liked them.   
Our Saturday was spent settling in and on Sunday we were treated to fresh croissants – biggest ever seen - and pain au chocolat fresh from the local bakery.  Father arrived on Sunday afternoon and Mass was offered at 5.30 that evening.  After Mass we felt like Hollywood movie stars with nearly every member of the parish coming to shake our hands and introducing themselves.  It was the first time that the majority of them had ever seen religious sisters before.

Our weekend activities included a visit to the local fish and produce market - to teach the girls how to 'purchase' in French.  Being a seafood lover, I found this very interesting as they have a very different variety of fish in New Caledonia and fresh seafood in abundance.  It was rather fascinating looking at the different sorts of fruit and vegetables that can be purchased and comparing the prices with those of New Zealand.  It was very difficult to get used to the new currency too and to make the conversion in your head.  The girls had great fun buying jewellery and souvenirs for their friends and relations and just seeing what was on offer. 

Glorious oceanic views in this Pacific Paradise
We spent Monday in Noumea visiting the Cathedral of St Joseph and the statue of Our Lady of the Pacific. After lunch, Father drove us to a private swimming hole, which turned out to be most calm and peaceful.
On Tuesday we spent a day with a family from the parish. They live half an hour from the chapel in a private estate.  They practically have their own beach as only those residing in the estate have access to it.  The girls had great fun swimming out to see the coral and swimming amongst the tropical fish. 
It was a dream come true for one of the girls and it was her favourite day over all.  The only disadvantage was the cuts and grazes the girls had to their arms, feet and legs from the direct contact with the coral.  There were a few trips to the doctor on our return to New Zealand for antibiotics but everyone would do it again, only avoiding contact with the coral next time.                              
On Wednesday we went to the aquarium and zoo in Noumea.  The girls had their first experience of ordering food in French.  Next door to the aquarium was the fast food chain called “Quick”, opposition of McDonalds but with more reasonable prices.  I gave the girls 1000CPF to spend on lunch.  They were all rather scared, but the experience was great for them as they used their basic French to order and everyone was able to make themselves understood.
"I learnt many new words," wrote one of the pupils,
"and after 3-4 days, I began to think in French!"
Ascension Thursday was a very busy day with a very early rise.  We had to drive three hours for Father to offer Mass at Houailou.  After breakfast we set off in two vehicles. One and a half hours later we discovered that the tyre on the rental car was flat.  Father and Allan, our senior French teacher, tried to change the wheel but to no avail - one of the bolts was too tight to budge.  The road-help was phoned and in the meantime two natives drove in to give us a hand.  Within 10 minutes they had the tyre off and the spare put on and then we waited around for the road help who had apparently come in a 4WD but found that it was fixed and so left again without informing us who they were.  We then drove to the nearest petrol station and had the tyre repaired and replaced and sped off again for the chapel.     
We were two hours late for Mass but fortunately had the priest with us.  Lunch was served at 3pm.  A splendid feast had been prepared for us and faithful from all corners of New Caledonia had come to assist at Mass and partake in the festivities.  We were told that it was the 30th anniversary of the first Mass offered in New Caledonia, but Fr Laisney who said the first Mass, told us on our return that it was only 29 years - as he celebrates 30 years of ordination this June.  It was worth celebrating anyway.  We could not stay long with the tribe as Father was scheduled to say Mass at the Noumea chapel as well, in the evening.  We had to sing the evening Mass too, so we set off again at 4pm and got back just in time for Mass to begin.  Dinner was very late that night and so was lights out, but it was a day to remember.

The next day was spent in the south at La Riviere Bleue with a family from the parish.  We were fortunate in that everything was free that day.  We were able to catch the bus which took us on the tour and we were able to get off and on as we pleased.  It did rain quite a bit down there, unfortunately, but we were still able to do some walks and we also spotted the native bird known as the cagou.  It is a bird that has wings but does not fly.  It also barks. 

"What impressed me most," wrote one of the pupils afterwards, "was the beauty of the islands...sunny beaches, rolling hills, green forests... It was beautiful..."

We found a 1,000 year old tree to our immense delight

It was planned that Saturday would be spent with another family exploring the south, especially going to see the Madeleine Waterfalls but it had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.  Nevertheless, the girls had fun shopping all morning at the hypermarche and tasting crepes at the creperie.  In the afternoon we rested, as we were all very tired.
Mass was earlier on the second Sunday. It was also our host’s birthday so many parishioners were invited to celebrate the occasion - we had a wonderful time practicing our French with the visitors.  The festivities lasted the whole day – a typical French celebration!
Monday was a restful day with a visit to Noumea to do some last minute souvenir shopping.  Tuesday was an early rise as we were invited to spend the day at Bourail with a lovely couple on their 16 hectare property.  We visited the NZ cemetery, explored the property from the back of a utility, and went horseback riding.   The views of the coastline and mountains were breathtaking.  Wednesday was spent with some ladies of the parish, opening presents and enjoying a good laugh and a last minute visit to one of the families for a last peek at the coral whilst the tide was low.  We then spent the evening making crepes, cleaning and packing.

"I think that the cemetery for the New Zealand soldiers from WWII," wrote one of the girls after the trip,
"was well-maintained and shows a deep respect for the soldiers..."
Our final day in New Caledonia is one we will never forget.  With tears in our eyes, we said goodbye to our hosts and boarded the plane 5 minutes before takeoff as we experienced difficulties at the check in.  Our Fijian did not have a copy of her ticket and they would not let her check in.  Finally, they realized she was a New Zealand resident and it was no longer a problem.  We all rushed through to customs and had to quickly fill in our departure cards.  Then someone set off the beeper.  You can imagine my heart rate at this point.  The return trip went smoothly and we arrived safely in Wanganui in good time for everyone to have a good night’s sleep in preparation for school the next day. 

The success of this trip has inspired ideas of student exchange between New Zealand and New Caledonia.  At present, we have one young lady visiting for a month and attending our school, with two more coming later this year. 

Our first young lady from New Caledonia (right) to visit
New Zealand, with one of our pupils.

May the planting of seeds in our first trip continue to bear fruit for the future.  The Dominican friars were some of the first missionaries to the Asian/Pacific region and we, their little sisters, desire to continue to spread the flame, lighted by our Holy Father, Saint Dominic.
Notre Dame du Pacifique, priez pour nous!