Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Brief Visit

A friend from Jordan came to Boston to visit her son on his birthday, and she accompanied me on a visit to my mother. When I arrived at the nursing home, my mother was sleeping soundly in her wheelchair. She was zonked and it was 2:00 in the afternoon. The nurses said she slept soundly in her bed the night before, but after lunch many of the residents nap before the afternoon activities begin. She was out.

I held her hand and they were frozen. I asked my mother if she wanted a blanket and she said she was very cold. I brought two over to her - one to cover her chest and hands, the other to cover her legs. She was grateful, but she did not lift her head because she was exhausted. She was warming up.

I sang parts of songs to her and she completed them. I mentioned some of her favorite foods and she finished my sentences. I mentioned names of family members and she said something about each one of them. We talked about movies and she said, "O, yes, I like that one." I mentioned songs and she said, "I like so many." She never lifted her head.

My friend talked to her and she spoke back, but she was too tired to raise her head. I did not intend to see her before my surgical procedure on Friday, but I wanted to visit with her before my procedure. She usually rises about 2 p.m. In my haste, I forgot to bring communion to her, but it was providential because my mother was too exhausted for a visit. However, she was warm because of the blankets, she was coherent, and she was tired. Poor thing.

I was off to visit St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer where I would say a prayer for her in the Abbey Church. It was a lovely visit.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Four Weeks Later

I visited my mother last night after not seeing her for four and a half weeks. She seemed fine. Her memory did not seem to slip, which was encouraging. Losing the sense of time is a bit confusing for her though.

My mother talked about being imprisoned because she was saying things like, "I tried to reach you, but they would not let you see me. They didn't even tell you I was looking for you." I figured that was how she was processing my absences, but she also said she hadn't seen the rest of her family for the longest time. I kept telling her, "You've been released. You are free now. I'm sorry that happened, but let's enjoy that you are now free." She seemed comforted.

We shared a cup of ice cream and then the staff was preparing for dinner. It came time for communion and she asked if she was permitted to receive because she hadn't fasted all day. I said, "You are fine."

So, she received quietly. Then she burst into laughter. She said, "I remember the first time I received Jesus. I embarrassed my friends because I did not know how the host would taste and I started choking because it stuck to my tongue." She kept laughing and I thought it would be a good way to leave for the day.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Mass Stole to Celebrate Laudato si.

A mass stole to celebrate Laudato si’

The Jesuit mission in Cambodia has designed a new mass stole to mark the second anniversary of the proclamation of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’ on June 18.  Intended for use by priests during Ordinary Time, the green stole is meant to integrate the spirit and teachings of Laudato si’ into the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
“We hope that this new stole will be helpful in guiding us in praying and caring for creation, our common home,” said Fr Gabriel Lamug-Nañawa SJ, Country Coordinator of Jesuit Service Cambodia, who was part of the team that designed the stole. The other members were Techie Mendoza, a guidance counselor from the University of the Philippines; Tess Rapadas, a former teacher of Miriam College and environmental advocate; and Fr Joey Rapadas, Vicar General of the Diocese of Ipil, Philippines.
The mass stole has been an important part of the liturgical vestment worn by priests for many centuries.  It is a specific mark of their office as God’s ordained servants.  It also helps the congregation focus on the theme of the celebration by displaying the appropriate liturgical color and religious symbols to help guide attention and prayer.
The Laudato si’ stole, which was put together by Talleres de Nazareth in the Philippines, has three features. The first and most visible is the coming together of several colours forming the whole length of the stole.  Eight pieces of cloths, mostly in different shades of green with varying textures, are cut into small pieces and sewn together, giving the stole an earthy feel and a refreshing sense of nature.
“These different shades and textures symbolise the different elements of nature, highlighting the richness and diversity of plant and animal species, habitats, peoples and cultures that are all intimately integrated and united in a single unbroken chain,” said Fr Lamug-Nañawa.
Each stole is unique and different as the pieces of cloth are cut by hand and differ in size, shape and sequence.
The second feature is the crucifix from Cambodia, with the Christ on the cross having an amputated leg.  For many in Cambodia, this crucifix symbolises Christ’s compassion for and identification with victims of war and those who have lost their limbs and their sense of dignity and hope.
“The crucifix provides consolation with the assurance that Jesus accompanies and labours with the people,” said Fr Lamug-Nañawa, adding that creation itself is now marginalised and counted among the poor.
“Through the same crucifix, Christ labours and groans with creation that is violated, with creatures that are poached and driven to extinction, with indigenous peoples who have their lost lands and livelihoods, becoming environmental refugees. Christ's body bears the pain and the injustice that we ourselves are wreaking upon creation.”
Finally, the words “Laudato Si’ Mi Signore” (Praise God our Lord, our creator and redeemer) are stitched on the stole.  The text is shaped like a fish or a leaf, depending on the viewer.
Fr Lamug-Nañawa said, “Besides reminding us of the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical, it tells us that our approach to creation does not begin with trying to solve its many problems.  Rather, we are first thankful for all creation, turning to God with praise and gratitude for everything that exists, for existence itself, for God's labouring that makes all creatures beautiful and fruitful. We hope that this stole will inspire greater awareness, empathy, love and responsible action towards God’s creation.”
Fr In-don Oh SJ, Delegate of the Korea Provincial to the Cambodia Mission, will gift the new stole to the Jesuits in the mission when Fr General Arturo Sosa visits from July 14 to 17.

Main and bottom image: Jesuit Service Banteay Prieb Coordinator Fr Kwon Oh-chang SJ, Country Coordinator of Jesuit Service Cambodia Fr Gabriel Lamug-Nañawa SJ and Cambodia Mission Treasurer Fr Rudy Chandra Wijaya SJ wearing the Laudato si’ stole

From the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference Newsletter, July 31, 2017.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Burundi Choir

Yesterday I was pleased to spend the day with many scholastics and novices from across the country. Some scholastics are in Omaha to do some practice teaching before they go to Regency, and the novice from the Northeast province and English-speaking Canada were returning from their month-long history course in Denver. We had tasty pizza and chicken wings.

A couple Scholastics and novices knew me. One man spent a year in Amman as a Fulbright scholar and joined Dozan wa Awtar, the singing group I came to know and love. Anyways, it was great fun to get to know them.

I love the range of conversations that occur in a larger Jesuit community.

Downtown Omaha is quite fun. A woman was carrying her pet squirrel on her shoulder and all the visitors to the City were wide-eyed when they saw this spectacle.

This morning I returned to Benedict the Moor parish and I was told the Burundi choir would be singing in KiSwahili. They are certainly animated. I love the movements, the ululation, the mix of voices and the age ranges of people who performed in the choir. We had great fun worshipping this morning. I offered mass for a friend in Cornwall, England who suffered a heart attack.

The people politely applauded my homily again and they told me they might not let me return to Boston. We'll see what next week brings.

After some correcting of papers, I plan on visiting a friend for dinner in greater Omaha.

I'm told my mother is doing fine.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Return to Creighton

My arrival at Creighton was quite pleasant. After a smooth and on-time United flight, a Jesuit friend collected me at the airport and got me settled into Ignatius House, which is a separate house behind the main Jesuit residence. It fronts the Jesuit Gardens where people relax during the day and come to watch the fireflies at night.

I decided to preside at a nearby church that is visited by mostly African Americans. They have a social justice outreach to the Nigerian and Burundi immigrants. I enjoyed meeting the people who make the parish work. The music has a bit of Gospel added into the more traditional base of Catholic songs. They really let go for the communion piece. It is great fun. I was told my homily was a hit and people accepted me right away because of the words I spoke.

The two orientations and the faculty meetings went well and I had a reprieve the first day of class because students needed their orientation. So, my first week of classes was only four days. I found myself behind even before I began.

I presided at the opening school liturgy and people were pleased with my remarks during the homily. We were off to a good start.

I've enjoyed meeting the students who are very engaged with their studies. They ask so many questions and want to share what they know. I love their spirit.

I met a friend for coffee and I'll join her and her husband for dinner on Sunday night. I've been walking quite a bit as well, but I've been eating too much. The salad bars are great, but there's also good steak.

Last night I saw a performance of Billy McGuigan at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He performed many songs from the 50's, 60's, and 70's from artists like Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel, and some Motown hits. The "Twist" in his music was the Big Band sound that they added to the arrangements. It was a fun night of classic rock music.

This morning I walked to the Josyln Art Museum, which is near campus. The museum is presenting a special collection of French jewelry. I did not expect to spend much time there, but the curator did a terrific job of explaining how the wearing and production of jewelry was tied to the social and political events that were occurring in France at the time. I was surprised to realize how changeable jewelry fashions can be.

With that entertainment done, I set out to work on an article and get some other written work accomplished.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All She Needs is a Smile

My mother was suffering from a cold when I visited her yesterday. She said she had been weak for days and was having difficulty breathing. Despite her illness, she was calm and relaxed. We sat and talked about her mother and some of the people in the home with her.

A man strolled his wife's wheelchair to a nearby table so he could feed her strawberry cream pie. He knows me from earlier interactions. I would bring a chair over for him to sit next to his wife, or I'd offer him desserts when I get up to get one for my mother. He is a former construction manager and he has been active all his life.

His wife's illness has thrown his world upside down. They been married for 60+ years and he said he remained faithful to his vows of "in sickness or in health." She has been in the nursing home for eight years, three years in the memory care unit. He visits often, probably daily.

He told me about the small events he started to notice about her dementia even before she was diagnosed. He was very patient with her, but he realized something was wrong when she could no longer order a meal from a menu. Overnight, he did a 360 in his work schedule so he could tend to her. It gave him time to reflect on how well he was a father to their children. He provided for them, cared for them, but his regret is that he did not spend more time with them.

My regret is that I did not ask him about his name. I also did not tell him I would be gone for the next month. He was so effusive in telling me his story, but when his wife finished the pie, he got up to take her for a stroll. He is carrying quite a burden and his burden is weighing heavy on his shoulders.

A heavy burden falls on his daughters. They realize their mother has dementia, so did her mother, and likewise her mother, and her mother before her. The daughters have great sadness that this is in their future and they are approaching their 60's. Their mother showed evidence in her early 70's. Poor, dear souls.

My mother enjoyed some Ensure for her dessert because she wanted something to share with me.

Then we prayed and I read some Scripture to her. I felt like I was doing missionary work. I read a passage about Bartimaeus and she had a number of questions, but then I read the Beatitudes and she said, "I really like that. That makes me feel good."

So we read a few passages and she listened intently. I wondered why we do not read books to our parents the way they did to us when we were children. I'll have to try that when I return. Reading Scripture to her was like reading it to someone for the first time. There was intrigue, curiosity, the centrality of the person of Jesus, and lots of questions and facial expressions.

The other gift to her was just to spend some time in silence. We sometimes think we have to fill up the time, but my mother was not asking for conversation.

My mother was restful though, and after some silence, she was waving to a non-verbal woman who gets shunned by everyone else. The woman has a beautiful smile, but she annoys some people because she wheels her wheelchair back and forth. They say unkind things to her, so my mother makes a point of reaching out to her and bringing a smile to her face.

She asked, "Why are people mean? She is a kind woman and does no harm to anyone. Why do they treat her like that? All she needs is a smile."

Then a staff member came over to take my mother to the toilet, and my mother asked her, "She is a nice person, and people treat her badly. Can you make sure she is treated nicely?" She replied, "That is why we put her near you. You accept her and you make her smile. You are a nice lady."

(I leave for Creighton University on Saturday and I will not see my mother for a month's time. I'll check in periodically, but I will miss her and the fine people at the center with her.)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight loss and weight management are among the most difficult efforts to undertake in our middle-age years. Last year, I embarked on a lifestyle change to move closer to my personal weight loss and health goals.  

Not to overly spiritualize my activities, but I started my prayerful discernment on Holy Thursday and my program lasted until the Feast of the Guardian Angels – a six-month process. As I was previously unsuccessful in losing weight, I turned to the Lord for prayerful assistance. To my surprise, when I asked the Lord if He wanted to help me, I heard a resounding “yes.”

I did or could not accept that I was destined to be as overweight as I was, and I wanted to return to a healthier weight range -. The greatest motivator was my desire to reduce nagging pain from hip arthritis. The relief was measurable and I have postponed possible surgery for years. In those six months of my weight loss program, I lost 72 pounds. Over the next nine months, I put six of those pounds back on and I discovered that weight maintenance is much more difficult than a weight loss regime.

What have I learned?

·      We can lose weight. We do not have to accept ourselves as we are. We are not big-boned, we are overweight.

·      Weight discrimination exists. A slender person naturally gets taken more seriously than one who is overweight.

·      Most men think it is fine to be 60-100 pounds overweight. They think they are carrying only an extra 30 pounds, so what is missing is our self-awareness. We need greater awareness of our nutritional needs.

·      We make food a god and we become subservient to it. It is something we seek daily – the pleasure. However, we already have a God to worship.

·      We think going hungry is bad, while it is a natural to build an appetite and to wait for a meal. The continuous supply of surplus food tempts us to make poor decisions about what we eat.

·      We terrifically underestimate the number of calories we consume at each meal and an average portion size is triple the amount we need. We are unaware of the calories that exist in a particular food item.

·      Hiring a nutritionist is an investment in mission. It creates a healthy lifestyle that our doctors will endorse. My nutritional education has been an adventure in learning and discovery.

·      Know that it is not easy all the time; it is a lifetime change, and we resist change.

·      We are what we eat. I don’t want to be a person of gluttony or surplus; I want to use the gift of food rightly. We often have different values in place of good health.

·      We are controlled by so many messages and stimuli about food that pull us off track. We have to recognize the signals that are being communicated to us so we can choose prudently.


How is weight management being responsible to others?

·      We become more available for ministry when we are less drowsy, possess more energy (especially after the afternoon meal), and sleep better. We can work more clear-headed and longer if we are at our ideal weight. Our work is very important to us and we can assist others more greatly if we maintain appropriate levels of energy. Eating too much has a negative effect on our energy.

·      When we overeat on a regular basis, we sleep poorly. Being overweight affects sleep patterns and we wake up in the middle of the night because we are not sleeping well. Then, after a heavy meal, we need a nap.

·      Jesuits are trained to discern spiritual matters, but how are we able to discern spiritual matters if we cannot first discern earthly matters? We must become more aware of the factors that influence our choices.

·      Ignatius inserts his “Rules for Eating” into the Spiritual Exercises for a reason.

·      We have greater accountability to the Society of Jesus, or to family.

o   We are fiscally responsible when we take appropriate care of our health.
o   Health care costs are lowered.
o   There are unintended health benefits, like reduced pain for arthritis or joint ailments; skin ailments disappear, mood is brightened.
o   Pain is greatly reduced in places like one’s back, hips, and knees.
o   The list of prescribed medication drops.
o   Sleep is greatly enhanced and one sleeps more deeply and instantly.
o   If one requires a daily nap, nap time is reduced because we breathe better.

·      Eating simply and modestly is a way of identifying with our poverty. We do not need food in excess or with richness at every meal. Our poverty is not the same as being poor who are targets of harmful advertising campaigns and are tempted to buy food that fills them up cheaply. Fruits, vegetables, and meat are expensive.

A Disciplined Lifestyle

The process I used was to count calories, but that was only a vehicle for my better understanding of nutrition. I thought I knew the fundamentals of healthy eating, but I was just beginning to become enlightened.

I used a free phone application called “Lose-It,” which meant that I had to record after each meal or snack the calories of the food I ate. The number of calories in some food really frightened me, so I cut out most white foods like breads, rice, and potatoes. The pleasure they brought is not worth the calories I want to take into my body.

A major breakthrough for me was in relating to numbers rather than to food. I began to see food as a collection of energy numbers rather than pleasurable food sources and I wanted to keep my numbers manageable. I still have much joy in eating.

Since my trick is to see food as calories, I will not eat certain foods because their pleasure is not worth the calories. For instance, I will not eat mashed potatoes, but if I choose to eat then, I simply have a spoonful of potatoes. Typically, we eat sizes of six or seven portions and then cover it with butter or gravy. They are tasty, but they cannot be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The application takes into account one’s age, height, current weight, and the pacing of one’s goals. For a man in his mid-fifties, a normal calorie intake is around 1,800 units.

Balance your calorie counting with exercise. Finding walking routines can be helpful.


Analysis

As I observe a customary meal at a Jesuit community, the following patterns are established: 

The day begins with a full hearty breakfast. (600 calories)
An office mid-morning snack (400 calories)
An American sized lunch with dessert (800 calories)
A mid-afternoon snack, two cookies (600 calories)
Cheese and crackers before dinner with a glass of wine (600 calories)
Dinner with dessert and a glass of wine (800 calories)
Evening snack (300 calories)
2 sodas for the day (250 calories)
Total: 4,350


Dealing with Restaurants the society’s temptations.

Society gives us subtle and overt messages, like:
·      You deserve to treat yourself (each day)
·      Enjoy the pleasures of life by eating sumptuously
·      Get a great value, discount, or a coupon to your favorite restaurant
·      All-you-can-eat at a great price
·      Super-size me. Get the larger portion. It is a deal

Know that restaurants give you portion size that are triple what you require. Portions are difficult to control in restaurants, and we want to be polite with our dining partner. Meals are cooked to be flavorful, so they have lots of added ingredients, which adds calories and excessive amounts of sodium and sugars.

A low-end restaurant meal is 1600 calories; the average range is 2,200, which exceeds one’s daily limit; then we add a drink, appetizer, salad, entrée, wine or two, dessert, coffee or cordial. We double our daily intake at a single sitting and we have not cut back on the other meals during the day. Restaurants are skilled in tempting us with value, size, tastiness, mood setting, and excellent marketing.

An average meal ought to contain: 3 ounces of protein; 3 ounces of starch, and 6 ounces of vegetables.

Demand that restaurants prepare vegetables as skillfully as they prepare meats and other dishes. They can do it. In fact, they want to please you. For example, I ask for my vegetables to be prepared al dente without any butter or salt, just a slight drizzle of olive oil and some coarse pepper. Vegetables can be tasty when they are not overcooked. Welcome the vegetables to your plate.


How can we approach a healthy lifestyle?

·      Eat what makes you feel good, not what is pleasurable or pleasing. It means that you have to adjust your attitude.

·      Know that it is OK to feel hungry. We are not built to be continually satiated.

·      Ask specifically for what you want. Do not take just what the restaurant offers. You are the consumer and you might as well get what you want. Instruct them to cook your vegetables to your liking. Ask for a second vegetable instead of a starch, and if possible, ask them to steam your vegetables and to withhold the butter.  

·      Take care of the social traps of eating. Find other ways of spending time with people: walk, have/drink coffee;  sharing a meal does not have to center around food, though we are a Eucharistic people.

·      Eat anything you want, but keep it balanced. Look at your meal for the week: If you stumble today, put it in the context of a whole week. Make sure you get back on track, but do not beat yourself up over it.

·      Make sure you eat snacks. Do not deprive yourself, but the trick is to plate it. Take as much as you want, but do not go back for more. Put the snack items away in the cupboard or the refrigerator and enjoy what is on your plate. Be deliberate and take no more.

·      We can be derailed if we let ourselves change our standards in mid-course. We are strong enough to say to ourselves, “Yes, I can have deviate from my plan, and I’ll get back on track,” but then it is difficult to do so because we find that we are addicted to sugar, which has us sneaking back for me. We sin because we are strong, not because we are weak.

·      Don’t eat because of a routine; eat a later breakfast; eat when you are hungry. Find your rhythms and adapt to them. Babies eat every three hours; so do we. We get hungry on our own schedules.

·      Use custody of the eyes – Tell yourself, “No,” but don’t feel guilty for making choices. You do not have to have the dessert because it is on the tray. You will be offered another slice of Boston Cream Pie at some point in your future. The world is not going to run out of your favorite sweets. Tell yourself, “I will have this again. It might be six months from now, but I will treat myself with my favorite dessert.”

·      Food is pleasurable, but constant over-indulging takes away the joy. Treats are not meant to be had every day. Splurge when you want but keep desserts for maybe once a week, a Sunday meal. It is supposed to be a treat, not an everyday staple.

·      Give yourself time to eat food: enjoy it; chew. Give your body time to digest the food and to get full.

·      Get excited about eating well and eating vegetables. Your changed attitude will keep you moving forward.


Food Choices

·      Limit juices and soda, and drink sparkling or tap water.

·      Desserts – two bites is enough; three feeds a sugar addiction. Be aware that sugar is addictive and we lose the battle if we indulge too much.

·      Carbohydrates: Oust them from your diet in a weight reduction mode: cheeses, rice, breads, pasta, white foods, potatoes, fried foods, skins. They have to go.

·      Watch for Sodium levels, fiber, sugars. Avoid condiments. Learn how to read labels.

·      Find low calorie snacks: pretzels, popsicles, hummus, rice cakes, sugar-free candies; vegetables – you cannot eat too many vegetables.

·      Avoid salad dressings and sauces: Be abstemious with them; dip your fork into the sauce. It will give you enough flavor for your salad or entrée.

·      There are plenty of good options at meals; actively choose and do so wisely.


Social Implications

The social implications were the hardest part of the whole program because I had to reprogram everyone to my needs. It was a challenge to stand up for myself.

I am an accommodator, which goes like this: I please you. I eat whatever you serve with the double portions even though you will not eat it when you made it personally for me because you are on a diet. I please you; If I reject what you offer, I reject you. It goes against my values of hospitality, especially my Italian heritage.

Accept that people will not like to see you at an average weight. They think you are too thin, even when you are still overweight. Tell them it is OK to ask you if you are well or sick.

Change your attitudes towards eating and hold fast to it. Also, know that many people will be hostile to the change you are making. They will not want you to lose weight and they will actually ask you to eat more so they can relate to you as the person you used to be or the person he/she is.

Communicate your needs to your friends before you go to a restaurant or home, especially if they insist on paying for the meal. They want to give you the best and they want you to indulge. Let them know what you eat and do not eat. Explain to them that you eat modestly and that you prepare a different portion size than they serve. Ask if you can prepare your own plate. Otherwise, they are going to feed you too much and make you overeat. It is about communicating and respecting boundaries and asking others to respect yours.

Be aware of food bullies, those people who push food with the message: Try it. I made it. Accept me.        

Community eating is difficult because the cook will prepare foods that the men want to eat. They want the men to like their cooking. Cooking healthy gets put on the back burner. Ask for the community to have healthy meals, and you can have an unhealthy option, rather than having it the other way around. Let the community help you.

Keep asking for help and do not overly pre-occupied with food. Consult a nutritionist, nurse, primary care physician; food support group. There is a lot of help for you when you decide to accept it, but it is a matter of your will.

Conclusion

Though I have shed weight to reach my desired goal, I know it is much easier to go through this with a community of support. Weight maintenance is harder than weight loss. I am happy to assist you with support in your weight loss and weight maintenance goals. I want to continue to be successful and I need encouragement along the way, and it is good to talk through our processes. I have learned a great deal and my primary care doctor said I have probably added another four years to my life by caring for my body. I’m more than happy to support your efforts. Do you want to give it a try? I’d like you to do so. Let’s do this together.