The official blog of Rev. Francis X. Hezel, SJ

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Why Hang ’em High?
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Christmas Eve, 2011
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Christmas Preparations in Oceanside
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Christmas 2011
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Why Blog?
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A Stranger in His Own Land
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Where FSM’ers May Be Found
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The Internet & Changing Island Culture

Why Hang ’em High?

If casual conversation is any gauge, Americans seem to want their justice system to do one thing, and only one thing: punish wrong-doers harshly enough to teach them and everyone else a lesson.  “Crime doesn’t pay” is presumably the lesson.

Two 13-year olds toss a shopping cart off a bridge and badly injure a woman?  Put them away for 20 years.  A drug dealer is caught making a deal across from a public high school?  He should get the maximum sentence for threatening young people.  Barry Bonds is convicted of perjury over steroid use–something that may be unfair but is no threat to others?  Teach him a lesson and put him away in jail.

I found myself arguing with a woman Read More

Christmas Eve, 2011

Christmas Eve here in Oceanside.  A half hour of confessions in the early afternoon-–a nothing assignment compared with the hours we used to spend in the box in Chuuk and the afternoons of penance services on Pohnpei.  Mass at 4 PM in a crowded church, with Christmas mass celebrated in two other locations at the same time.  Here as everywhere there are crowds who haven’t seen the inside of a church in months, but people who seem to cherish even these occasional ties with the parish.  The traditional Christmas hymns, a homily that tries to speak to our lives on the day after Christmas as much as on the day itself, and communions that seem to go on forever.

Right after mass a visit to the hospital here in town to see a woman with one leg amputated and another Read More

Christmas Preparations in Oceanside

While I was in the gym working out the other day, I heard a voice coming from the other side of the alcove.  “Hey, Tony, whatsamaddah wichya?  You can’t even do one push-up?  Dere’s a guy 93 yeahs old doin pushups.  Whatsamaddah wichya?”

At that I stopped my 20 push-up routine and looked around the gym to see who this 93-year-old wonder might be.  I scanned the gym before I realized that there was no one doing push-ups but me.  (Gulp!)


The face of suburban poverty is becoming real here in Oceanside.  Read More

Christmas 2011

As you may know, I’ve been in New York for the past year–working for several months at our Jesuit weekly magazine, America, before moving to Long Island to begin a stint of pastoral work in our parish at Oceanside. The parishioners here are warm and welcoming–and so made my transition much easier. But they’re also transplants from Brooklyn and rather old. So we often chat about the old Brooklyn Dodgers and the traumatic day the decision was announced that the team would move to LA. You have to love the people here. The other day one of the parishioners brought me a pair of lined winter boots, thus capping off a large winter wardrobe provided over the past year by family and friends. Another man, a warm and gregarious Italian, looked me in the eye and told me not to worry. “You have a family here, Father,” he said. “You belong to us now.”

Still, you won’t be surprised to hear that every morning I wake up with thoughts of Micronesia, and it’s the last thing I think about before falling asleep. Read More

Why Blog?

Why blog?  To keep in touch with our friends out there, some might say.  But it could also be to while away lonely hours in front of their computer, they might admit.  Yet, there’s another class of bloggers: old-timers who feel the compulsion to share life’s lessons with others.  That’s where I fit in.  Years ago in Pacific Island Monthly there was a regular column by a retired minister who had served many years in Papua-New Guinea.  If anything had gone wrong there recently–and usually there was plenty–he took the liberty to point it out and suggest what could be done to correct it.  Joe Murphy, the former editor of what was once Guam’s only newspaper, might do the same thing in his own tongue-in-cheek fashion.  Both could be called bloggers before the invention of the term. I used to wonder how these people, both as white as I am, could get away with it.  Why didn’t they let local people solve their own problems? Read More

Where FSM’ers May Be Found

Hawaii (9,000 FSM citizens as of 2008)

  • Oahu
  • Big Island (Chuukese in Hilo, some in Kona)
  • Maui (Pohnpeians working on pineapple plantation)

Washington (perhaps several hundred, as many as 800)

  • Seattle & Tacoma
  • Vancouver (Chuukese)

Oregon (perhaps 1,500-2,000)

  • Portland
  • Salem and through Willamete Valley

The Internet & Changing Island Culture

Many years ago when I was a fresh young face in the islands, I was astonished at how seldom people disagreed with one another.  Not that I grew up in a neighborhood in which people screamed and cursed at one another all day long, but there certainly were minor arguments between people that sometimes spilled over in public.  Imagine my surprise when I came to Micronesia and found that no one seemed to disagree with anyone else… at least in public.  Where were the arguments, the minor debates, the give-and-take needed to get to the truth of the matter?  Everyone appeared willing to accept at face value whatever came out of another person’s mouth.

Read More

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