“Peace on earth, good will to men” are the words of the old Christmas song echoing the hymn of the angels. Isn’t this everyone’s wish as we again celebrate the event that was said to have ushered in the New Age?
My own recurring dream is of Isaiah’s vision: people slowly climbing the mountain trails to meet on the top. There all of them–Syrians and the French, investment bankers and the homeless, Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses, Republicans and Democrats–will join the feast that unites us as brothers and sisters. We may not be quite there yet, but what a vision! Sleigh bells and Santas and Yule fires are fine as warm reminders of what was, but my own heart these days leans to the future and that ascent up the mountain to the bonding party.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working here on Guam since last June. The Dededo parish in which I reside is a multi-cultural community with Guamanians, Filipinos, a few Koreans and Micronesians of every stripe. Each Sunday I do a mass for the Chuukese here after skipping off to the next parish to celebrate a mass for Pohnpeians. I also do my share of funerals in this parish, a place that I half-jokingly refer to as the death capital of nation. The real challenge, though, is waking up in time to do the 6 AM morning prayer and mass a couple of times a week. The challenge gets tougher during the novena before Christmas–missa de gallo, it’s called–when the time is pushed up to 5AM.
But there are plenty of other things to do here. This past semester I taught a course at the seminary on Pacific church history–a course the students seemed to enjoy and a reminder to me of how much I missed the classroom. Outside of class, I found myself meddling in school administration, suggesting new directions and more programs for the local university. Together with a Spanish friend of mine here, I’ll be organizing a few public presentations next semester on the history and culture of this island. There are always talks to give to different audiences–one last month on FSM Independence Day, another at a conference on the political future of Micronesia, and one to be given at the Catholic Men’s Conference next month.
As a bonus, there has been enough time to do some serious writing. A booklet on the early Spanish mission in the Marianas has just come out, and another on the German era in the islands is due to appear soon. So will an autobiographical study called “Learning to Pray” that will be published as a monograph in the Jesuit Studies in Spirituality series. Next up is a study of tourism in Micronesia offering lessons learned there to other places. I’m also hoping to do a video documentary on the first settlement and early history of these islands–life here as it was for the first 3,000 years.
Peace on earth begins in our own families and communities, extending outward from there. It also penetrates deep into our hearts, bringing an inner joy that can’t be lost. It’s this peace that I wish you this Christmas.
Santa Barbara Parish, Dededo, Guam.