Ash Wednesday comes for me after a two day meeting at the national office at The Episcopal Church in the Philippines where we had very productive conversations. The part of the conversation that I found most interesting was the presentation from the Dean of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary where I led a retreat for the students in September. The seminary is working with The Episcopal Church in the United States to fund scholarships for seminary students from Myanmar. I was amazed to learn that the seminary had students from Myanmar, and I pointed out that the seminary must’ve done a good job in assimilating the students, because when I led the retreat the students from Myanmar did not stand out and seem to blend in very well with the rest of the group. There was also a lot of discussion on the upcoming Lambeth Conference where bishops from the Anglican Communion gather every 10 years. The positions that different bishops take on theological issues is of concern to the seminary because discussions there may or may not affect whether or not Myanmar will send students to the Philippines in the future. This made me realize how important relationships within the Anglican communion are, and it’s given me a wider focus beyond The Episcopal Church In the United States, which is why I think it’s important to participate in groups like the Joint Commission on the Philippine Church that I just attended.
My three day silent retreat was wonderful. I, of course, went with all sorts of expectations. I was going to write. I was going to read Richard Rohr. But then when I got there, all I wanted to do was sit in the garden, look at the statue of Mary, and pray. Every morning, I spent three to four hours just sitting contemplating and it was really quite wonderful.
My favorite part of the retreat was at dusk when I would sit on the veranda and watch the sunset. Every night as soon as the sun went down, the bats would come out and flit back-and-forth between the mango trees. For some reason, I found that experience spiritually profound. I think it’s because I think my life will unfold on a course that I deliberately plan out, and when I watch those bats, I realize that life isn’t like that. What the bats do is they send out sonar, and based on the information they get when the sound waves bounce back, they change course to avoid collisions. When I watch the bats, their life seems chaotic and sporadic, but then I realize that they are more in tune with the presence of God than I might be. These are the kind of insights that a spiritual retreat can afford me and so I am grateful for being able to set aside the time to heighten my awareness of the presence of God in my work and my life. See video of bats here.
I will be here in Manila until Saturday morning when I land at Honolulu and then immediately head to ‘Iolani school to attend the ordination of Andrew Arakawa to the priesthood. Andrew was a parishioner at Holy Apostles Hilo and I remember the first day he walked into church. It’s hard to believe that several years later I’m going to go and watch the bishop ordaining him a priest. It makes me realize how wonderful the spiritual life can be and how fortunate I am to be aware of that. The Cathedral ‘ohana has been an integral part of that journey and I am grateful for all of you.
I will return to the office on the morning of Monday, March 2. Until then, please take care.