Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World AIDS Day Dec 1

The pandemic of AIDS is felt all over the world, but San Francisco has been at the forefront of the pain and suffering in the Western world's experience of living and dying with this disease. The city of San Francisco and parts of the Church here have been instrumental in time with combating with compassion and medical research those who have suffered and continue to suffer.
Holy Redeemer Parish in the Castro established the first AIDS Hospice in the world across from their church, while members of the parish began another world first outreach to the Gay and Lesbian community who lost so many of their loved ones, especially in the 1980's and 90's. Some of those founding sisters and brothers are still in action today.

The city has buried over 18,000 family members due to HIV-AIDS.

These pics are of the city's AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.

The Memorial is a major subject of  Mark's academic research and hopefully will become a new project that the City may adopt. The Grove begins with a quiet walk from a Circle of Peace through a to a Circle of Friends, where the names of those who have died are memorialised. As one can see by the squirrel standing at the edge of the names, all are welcome here. (Double click to enlarge).

This page is dedicated to those across the world who are or were victims of HIV-AIDS, and to those who love and care for them.http://www.worldaidsday.org.au/

Day trips

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful"
- William Morris.

Now that gets your attention does it not? That was a little saying with a big message I took away from the Oakland Museum of California. I wonder whether it applies to spouses and kids?

This museum was helpful in appreciating the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed so much of  San Francisco, as well as the history from the indigenous people then through the Gold Rush and the power of the railway magnates that shaped the modern San Fran.

With my host Nick, a "Leader of the Parish gang", I made my way around the Bay coastline to Sausalito for lunch. We trekked the Muir Woods, the memorial place of the signing of the 1945 convention of the United Nations, before making our way to Bonita and the Merin headlands. The Woods are a haven of Coastal Redwoods, cousins of the giant Sequoia Redwoods which are located further inland. The Redwoods are up to a thousand years old. Pic left is the Coastal Redwood with it's inland cousin's circumference visible to the right. Makes me feel young...and small!

The Bay area is quite beautiful even on a misty day, and often reminds me of parts of Sydney, though this time of the year the climates are normally opposite.
I am trying not to waste my time outside while the weather lets me walk. I keep the museums etc for wet days.

This page is dedicated to those from home who need the rain to stop so they can have a harvest this year. Lord, enough of the tears, please.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chilling out in San Fran

I have spent the last couple of cold days wandering around local sights. The sunshine is wonderful but it is still  cool. 


I recently visited the San Francisco Archdiocesan Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption.
 http://www.stmarycathedralsf.org/. It too is not old, opened 1971, and possesses some interesting architectural aspects including the thousands of aluminium rods that are suspended above the altar, taking in and deflecting light ever so gently.

I was lucky enough to experience an organ recital, so managed to hear the instrument in perfect peace. 
That is a pic of the magnificent organ on it pedestal which matches the four pillars that hold the cathedral in place.

The pic to the left shows the main entry and baptismal font area. The afternoon light brings out the colours well. (Double click the pic). 
I then finished my day with a quick visit to the Macy's Christmas display in Union Square downtown. I watched ice skaters and shoppers getting into the spirit while I kept my Visa card out of sight of the shops. I could feel it sweating in my pocket, but I never gave in.

This page is dedicated to those who despair over the Christmas period, especially those who have to work on Sundays. Pace e bene.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland

This 2008 consecrated Cathedral for the Diocese of Oakland is quite unique. It uses the ancient elements of water, fire, wood, sand and light to build a glass and wooden cased structure that is the bishop's seat for the Oakland Diocese. This Cathedral has 17 different language masses - a reflection of the mixed cultures that comprise this complex diocese. http://www.ctlcathedral.org/parish/parish.shtml

It is shaped in the ancient Christian symbol of a fish. This symbol is most easily recognised in the ceiling (pic below). One can also see the seated and blessing image of Christ in the pixel light of the Omega window behind the altar. They are the organ pipes to the right an left of the window.

Being along way removed from what I experienced in Europe, I imagine that this Cathedral building is not everyone's 'cup of tea', but it does have some very beautiful and moving features. An highlight for me was the Mausoleum which is housed below the Cathedral building.

To enter the Mausoleum (pic above left), one enters past flowing water that comes from the Baptismal font in the cathedral entrance above. Then there is a gradual down slope to a catafalque (pic right) where the coffin or cremated urn is placed before being interred into its designated place in the walls of the Mausoleum. This catafalque was an altar from the previous parish church of St Francis de Sales which was subsumed into this new cathedral. The light surrounding the main altar of the cathedral above passes down onto this catafalque, so we experience here the moving symbols of the waters and light that we experience from our baptism to our earthly death and heavenly welcome. 
The final part of the cathedral that impressed me was the new garden (pic left) in memory of the innocent who suffered from clergy abuse. It was thought of and designed by survivors of abuse. The last words of the plaque here say..."Never again".

This page is dedicated to the victims of clergy abuse. Never again!

Thanksgiving Day

I was fortunate this day to concelebrate mass at Holy Redeemer with guest priest Fr Kirk, a retired Franciscan. This is an amazing congregation and the interaction of the priests and the community within the liturgy is truly special. The pic left is with Fr Kirk and then the empty church from the sanctuary.

Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated with parish friends and was a lavish celebratory affair.  Much food and frivolity mixed with a room full of friends with enormous courage and faith. I felt right at home.

The pic is of Mark, one of our hosts Jim, and Rose. Do not be deceived by the look of Rose. She is whatever age and still lectures at the University of San Francisco. Sharp as a tack is our Rose. Mind you, she does not look too impressed here with Mark's idea of Thanksgiving fun!

The pic right (double click) is why I travel everywhere with my camera. I stole this shot from the boy's fridge postit. Love it, and this is for you because you are reading my Blog. Thank you.

Following Thanksgiving Day is the biggest retail day of shopping in the year for the USA. Incredible. Shops open at around 3-5am with some people camping in car parks to get the first bargains. We began our day at 7am by walking to an electrical shop for the mighty bargain. We failed miserably but I was really taken by walking past a doggy Hotel. Some people have too much money and too few brains...honestly. Next to this 'hotel' and in so many streets here  are any number of homeless men and women under plastic sheets sleeping on the streets.
This page is dedicated Nick, Jim and Ian who welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. It is also dedicated to the homeless; to those who spent Thanksgiving alone on the streets.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fighting the Cold

It is still freezing here, about 7 degrees. I  have a cold that I am finding difficult to shake, and also keeps Mark awake in his room as he hears my head cold snoring. I sleep well though!

I visited several holy places to ask for Divine assisitance  with the cold,

I have visited the sixth of the 21 Missions founded by Fr Junipero Serra  (statue in cemetery left) in this area. The Mission of San Francisco de Asissi, better known as Mission Dolores was founded in 1776, five days after the Declaration of Independence, on 9 October. It houses the Basilica (above) which Pope John Paul 11 visited in 1987, and also a cemetery containing thousands of Indian graves, as well as many of the city's early notarieties, most of whom were relocated into a common grave.

The Episcopal (Anglican) Grace Cathedral (right) was also interesting with its French Gothic style and magnificent stained glass windows. It was built from 1928 to 1964 on the site of the previous cathedral which was destroyed by earthquake and fire, as is the custom here apparently.

My trip to Berkeley University was also interesting (pics below). I was lucky enough to get to lectures and presentations on two local ecclesiastical landmarks, one being Mark's Holy Redeemer parish Church and then the Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light. I will be visiting that Cathedral tomorrow I hope.

This page is dedicated to all those women and men who are working on or contemplating a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Blessed Junipero Serra is one of the patron saints of religious vocations. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walking San Fran

I began my day with Eucharist at Mark’s parish church in San Francisco, the Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) in Diamond Street. Go to http://www.mhr.org/ for an insight into the parish. The pic left is Mark across the street from the unassuming church, and the pic right is the stained glass window of the MHR. The other pic below is of the renovated interior after mass.

This parish was founded in 1900, 30 years younger than St Mary’s at Young. For me it represents the great possibilities and the great successes of the Catholic Church in the western world. This has come about through much pain and suffering and now is a life force for the communities of inner city San Francisco and beyond.

The guest priest today was Rev Thomas P Bonnacci CP (Passionist). He is running a Lenten retreat here next year and is no stranger to the parish. He was excellent. I would even go so far as to say his homily was the best I have heard in the last six months of my sabbatical...and I have heard a few!

The theme he chose for the Feast of Christ the King was twofold: squeeze every drop out of life that we can, and, remember the repentant thief who died with Jesus, in love called Him by name, and did not call Him 'a name'. Excuse the pun, but Fr Bonnacci nailed it! Brilliant and timely, so I had to share.

As Mark is studying I spend the days on my own at the moment, so I went exploring some of the more familiar sights, thus the turning around of the Trolley Car and that crazy winding Lombard Street. We did both manage to get to the “Grease Sing-a Long” in the Castro Theatre which was a hoot. Grease is the ...(other) word!

This page is dedicated to the parish community of the Most Holy Redeemer, San Francisco. “There are no complacent or indifferent people in the pews there. They are committed to a better world and a better Church to serve it.” Fr Steve Meriwether PP.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To San Francisco

Leaving the warmth of Florida for the wet coolness of San Francisco is not without its challenges. Firstly these kids, Rhys and Brooke tried to stow away in my luggage from Florida. Honestly, what would the Aussie government think with me being accused of people smuggling?
The challenge continues because I do not really have cool climate clothes and nor do I want to spend $$$ buying clothes I do not need later. Nor am I going to spend my time here indoors. There will be a solution and all will be revealed over the next four weeks.
My plan here is to stay with my old Aussie mate, Mark (not in his years old but in length of time I have known him - see Blog 1 when I left Australia in June). That had to be clear in case he reads this Blog! I will base myself with Mark and move out to the various places I want to visit and have not seen in the past, including Alcatraz (pic on the right). I am planning some local trips but essentially want to get to Vancouver, and perhaps Alaska. What am I saying? I am freezing now!

Mark is from Tatura in Victoria originally but has been an architect in Sydney for all of our friendship. He has now begun a life changing adventure to study architecture, liturgy and theology amongst other things, at Berkley Uni in San Francisco. I look forward to sharing our common interests together. The pic on the right with his twin sister Julie will really let me know if he reads the  Blogs or not. He should not have left me at home alone with my camera! Sorry Julie.

Wherever I go here, the whole Christmas thing is excessssssive.  Carols in the taxis even. Not that I am not moved by the birth of Our Lord, but really, things are so premature in San Francisco. They need more donkeys and less inns.

This page is dedicated to all the priests and people of the Canberra/Goulburn Archdiocese who are effected by the clergy moves which have just been announced in my absence.
I am not opening my mail just in case!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leaving Tampa

With one day to go before I leave for San Francisco, the weather has turned on the real charm. It is the best time of the year here I am told. Not too hot or humid.

Robin and I have been tripping around in between school children responsibilities and schedules, but mostly I just spend my time working, as one can see from the pic above right.

We went to Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands which are less than 10 kms from Dunedin. They are beautiful beached and mangrove islands despite the not so welcome sign about rattlesnakes. There is plenty of wildlife including this Aussie Gopher tortoise which happened our way. He has a great smile (double click the pic).

We also visited Tarpon Springs, the alleged home of the world's biggest sponge fleet, and the now also infamous 'Spongeorama'. This is a Greek sponge fishing village which has the whole Greek-Mediterranean thing going on. The food here is authentic Greek and we had several toasts to all the Theo's, Nick's and Costa's we know. I could return here easily. 

This page is dedicated to Robin and Brian, Brooke, Drew and Rhys who have been my wonderful hosts for the last three weeks. Fair winds and following seas.