Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts

24 May 2018

Guernsey and its Little Chapel

Visit to the "Little Chapel" is part of a tour we did as part of our one-day visit to this island, which is not part of the UK though it uses the pound sterling, accepts most laws and standards and lets London run its foreign policy and defense.

Description of Little Chapel from the Visitguernsey website:

The Little Chapel was a work of art and labor of love built by Brother Déodat, who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. The version you see today is actually the third version.

The first, measuring a tiny 9 feet long by 4.5 feet wide, was criticized, so Brother Deodat spent the following night demolishing the building. He soon set to work again and, in July 1914, the grotto was completed and officially blessed. This survived until September 1923; Brother Deodat demolished it in that month because the Bishop of Portsmouth had not been able to fit through the doorway.

He soon set about the construction of a third chapel - which we see today. The building operation proved laborious, collecting pebbles and broken china to decorate the shrine. Then suddenly the Little Chapel became famous, thanks to an illustrated article in the Daily Mirror. Presents poured in from around the world and Islanders brought colored china to Les Vauxbelets with the Lieutenant-Governor offering remarkable mother-of-pearl.

In 1939 Brother Deodat returned to France because of ill health. After his departure, the care of the Little Chapel was entrusted to Brother Cephas, who continued to decorate the building until his retirement in 1965. In 1977, a committee was established to restore the chapel and today it falls under the care of The Little Chapel Foundation.

There is no charge to enter the Chapel as it relies totally on public donations.

Tribute to the crew in kitchens and restaurants at the end of the cruise!

10 November 2016

Book review: Hunan Harvest (1946) by Theophane Maguire, ****


Diary of a young American Passionist missionary who is sent deep into China to preach and help. Theophane is just twenty-five years old when he travels to Hunan, learns the language and starts four years of intensive work against all odds.

According to the Passionist Historical Archives, Father Theophane Maguire, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1898-1975) was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania. He attended St. Joseph's Jesuit Prep in Philadelphia. There he became interested in the Passionists and decided to enter the novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On August 13, 1917 he professed his vows and received the name Theophane. He was ordained on October 28, 1923 and quickly was assigned to the Passionist mission in Hunan, China. After he returned from the mission in 1929 he wrote Hunan Harvest which was published in 1946.

Back in the United States he went to Pittsburgh and eventually to Union City where he was editor of Sign magazine. Later in Pittsburgh he did fund-raising and worked at the retreat house. His later years were at the Passionist monastery, North Palm Beach, Florida. His last days were spent at the Passionist infirmary of Brighton, Massachusetts.


Unique book by an ardent Christian missionary in one of the least known provinces of China. Magire writes well and draws the reader into the harsh reality he experiences every day.

He is very dedicated to the people of Hunan, but even more to their souls, which he wants to "harvest" for Jesus Christ. It is an attitude one often finds in Christian missionaries around the world.   While he humbly serves his superiors and is truly compassionate with the Chinese, he does betray a kind of complex of superiority. He writes (p.24) that training of missionaries in the local languages is a good idea because "it is a matter of results, which in this case is to be reckoned in souls. We were to deliver a doctrine entirely new to these people. We were to deliver a message that is supernatural. It is opposed to beliefs that are rooted in centuries of obstinate tradition. it slashes at old habits and widely observed superstitions." Well many Chinese are superstitious indeed, but I am not sure they are more so than Westerners on average, and in any case the incredible wealth of Chinese culture can hardly be dismissed as just a matter of superstition,. many would argue that religion itself, any religion, is superstition.

While he does endure lots of suffering, one can see he and his colleagues are often privileged compared to their fellow Chinese helpers: for example he is depicted as traveling on horseback while his Chinese companions are on foot.

At the end of the book, he seems to worry more about the future of Christian proselytism in Hunan than about the horrors of the civil war or the gathering storm of the Japanese invasion.

Another interesting aspect of the book is that he pays a lot of attention to the minorities of China, especially the Miao people whom he met on several occasions.

He is also a careful painter of scenes of everyday life in rural China where warlords called the shots and the rule of law enforced by the state was nowhere to be seen: the Emperor is far away, as an old Chinese saying goes.

The book is also valuable because it contains lots of drawings that convey a sense of the atmosphere where father Maguire worked for four years. I reproduce them here.

01 May 2011

8. - 1 MAY: Kunming Western mountains, flight to Chongqing

Morning to the Western Mountains, it’s May 1st, officially Workers' Day in China, so EVERYONE is out enjoying the sunshine and the city parks. There are so many Chinese tourists, and not a few foreigners, that it is literally difficult to move around in the park.

Hundreds of souvenir stands line up the walk from the parking lot to the site, and with tons of junk I spot a few nostalgic items, like Mao’s little red book, sold here in countless versions and many languages. I have already a few copies at home from my last trip, so I pass, and anyway prices are going up for the real ones, printed when Mao was alive. I suppose they must be getting scarcer, even though billions must have been printed during the Cultural Revolution.

Interesting talk with our guide Xu. He says Kunming is becoming a sought after destination for retirement: good climate (between 15 and 30° C year round, they don’t use much either heating or A/C), less crowded than the big cities of the coast, lower prices. Lots of effort to clean up the air, many scooters are now electric, cost about 400 euros and 5-6 euros per month in recharges. There is fresh fruits available year round, the red earth is rich and fertile, also lots of tobacco as cash crop. Quite a few from the West are moving here as well, he says, though that is more surprising to me.

I see a lot of police around, Xu says it’s because of drugs, we are near the “golden triangle” here and there is smugglers coming in from Burma.

Short visit to old downtown Kunming, just a street or two with a few old buildings and a live pet market that are included in all the tourist itineraries. Nothing much at all. Kunming is a new, vibrant and growing city, pretty impressive.

I am irritated by some of the comments of my companions who express regret that the good old times are gone, when homes in China were made of wood, there was no electricity, no cars, no plumbing... the usual litany of "it was better when it was worse".

More interestingly, I meet a couple of friendly old ladies, it is very hard to understand each other but they speak a few words of English and make it a point to underline to me that they are christians. They can say so more or less openly now, but remember well the times when they feared for their lives...

06 January 2010

9. - 6 JAN: Axum

Whole day in this town, a symbol of Ethiopia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the terrace of our hotel we can enjoy a great view over the main field of steles. Among them, the famous Rome obelisk, returned in 2008 after seventy years spent in the eternal city. It is a magic site, very few people around, and this allows us to fully enjoy our visit. Unfortunately the sun is already too high to take good photos, so I'll have to come back at sunset. A small museum completes the educational aspect of the site. I especially appreciate a sign by the ticket office: "The fool wanders, a wise man travels".

I am struck by a Swedish couple walking around with their two kids, a boy and a girl aged perhaps 4 and 6, each with their little backpack, following diligently in their parents' footsteps. The answer to my many friends who have children of similar age and don't travel to Africa because it is "dangerous" for them.

From here we walk across the street to the Church of Our Lady of Zion, which is actually two Churches, one new and one very old, where legend has it that the ark of the Covenant if guarded by a single monk appointed to this only function for life. Well... Lots of people sitting around here, some musicians playing away with their trumpets and deums in the courtyard and a few faithful inside. One monk takes out a few old bibles for us to look and photograph.

Our next stop is the ruins of the palace allegedly built by the Queen of Sheba, supposedly an ancestor of the Ethiopian imperial family, just out of town. Not so interesting for the uninitiated to the arcana of archeology I must say. By 4 o'clock in the afternoon I decide to go back to the stelae for optimal sunset light photography. Indeed, the effort pays out: a warm amber light soon begins to envelop the monuments, and there is no one around at all.

In the evening I decide to attend the orthodox Christmas ceremonies at the small Church of Enda Iyesus by the stelae field. It is a highly suggestive setting. The warm evocative candle light mixed with cold cheap neon creates a surreal atmosphere. Many priests are celebrating mass, and quite a few faithful are attending, many stranded outside.

A few youngsters are visibly happy about our presence that perhaps for them is a welcome distraction from the boredom of the liturgy. The main priests at first refuses us entry, but then relents after we tend a monetary offer. I try not to disturb the proceedings and take quite a few pictures from the sidelines.

02 January 2010

5. - 2 JAN: Lalibela

Get up very early to try and get to the monolithic Lalibela churches and find room to witness the orthodox Christian ceremonies. Our hotel is a bit far from the center, so we had agreed with the guide to tell the driver to be ready at 5. Mistake: should have told the driver directly. As it was, there was miscommunication between the two and by 5:30am we start walking. It takes about half an hour to get to the main churches. The cool morning air makes walking rather pleasant and we join thousands of pilgrims who are also on their way. It is still pitch dark.

By the time we get there the small spaces inside the Churches are already overflowing with the faithful praying and singing. Most of THEM can't make it inside, so I guess it is only fair that we, visitors, should stay out. No sweat, this is not really a problem, for two reasons. Anyway, many of the functions actually take place outside, in the courtyards around the churches, so we are not missing all the action. In fact come noon most of the action is outside, with musicians and drummers attracting the pilgrims attention in the open spaces by the churches.

26 August 2007

22° g - 26 AGO: Eua, messa e riposo

Domenica, tutto fermo! Mattinata alla messa cantata, più composta e formale di quella di Esi, ma comunque interessante. Pomeriggio alla pensione, con le mie letture, e a giocare un po’ con la figlioletta di Taki.

03 January 2006

7° g - 3 GEN: Hama - Krak des Chevaliers - Damasco - 220km - 4 ore

Alle 8.00 visitiamo Hama e le famose nurie (enormi ruote in legno, molto simili ai mulini a vento, che venivano utilizzate per portare l’acqua del fiume sui canali di irrigazione). Qui sappiamo che nel 1982 le truppe governative, per sedare la rivolta dei fratelli musulmani, uccisero circa 20.000 persone.

Krak des chevaliers
Arriviamo in tarda mattinata al Krak des Chevaliers, imponente struttura crociata da non perdere in qualunque viaggio in Siria.

Poi a Malula, dove visitiamo la chiesa di St Tecla di rito bizantino ed ascoltiamo la recita del Padre Nostro in aramaico, la sua lingua originale, che è ancora parlata in questa zona. Interessante altare concavo di foggia pagana ripreso dai primi cristiani.

10 July 2005

Book Review: Ladakh - Crossroads of High Asia, by Janet Rizvi, *****

This highly readable volume offers the first authoritative account of the history, religions, culture, and social conditions of Ladakh, the land often celebrated as the last outpost of Tibetan civilization. Relatively isolated from the rest of India as well as from Tibet by the world's highest mountains, Ladakh stands at the crossroads where Islam and Buddhism met and blended to produce an entirely unique culture.

Writing with feeling and personal knowledge born out of years of study and years spent in the region, Janet Rizvi presents much more than a mere coffee-table pictorial guide.

18 August 2003

12° g - 18 AGO: Esfahan

Se siete a Esfahan di domenica, come a noi è capitato fortunatamente di essere, passate per il quartiere armeno e visitatene le chiese. Noi siamo stati fortunati ad incappare in una cerimonia annuale... delle uve, in cui siamo stati invitati a partecipare alla distribuzione dell’uva ai fedeli. Facile qui conversare con i fedeli alla fine della cerimonia, soprattutto le ragazze hanno molta voglia di comunicare. Ci rivedremo con alcune di loro per un qualyan in un baretto presso uno dei ponti lungo il fiume.

10 August 2003

4° g - 10 AGO: gita a Qara Kilise e Santo Stefano

Lunga gita verso il nord, stancante ma ne vale sicuramente la pena. Le strade in Iran sono mediamente buone o molto buone. Paesaggi brulli ed aridissimi, montagne che si impennano drammaticamente dalle valli deserte. Arriviamo fino al confine con l’Azerbaijan, la polizia ci fa perdere un sacco di tempo per i necessari permessi dato che siamo in zona di frontiera. Ma la fatica viene ripagata dall'obiettivo della gita...

06 April 1980

Easter day procession at Jasna Gora

Get up very early in the morning. We are out of the hotel by 5.30 or so. It is VERY VERY cold!

The processions at Jasna Gora start at six o'clock, but they are not as impressive as we expected. Not so many people. Hundreds, not thousands. And it is Easter day.

Rather frugal arrangements, maybe resources are limited. Surely they must be. Yet we expected to find a lot more enthusiasm in the wake of the Polish Pope's recent visit and continuing commitment to change in Poland.