Friday, December 17, 2010

term 4 in review

Huka Falls in Taupo

Although it may sound a little disconcerting to all you frozen and snowy Americans, Rich and I have just begun our summer holidays this week! (I'm not gloating, I honestly do miss the snow like crazy). The final term of the school year was incredibly busy and blessed. This post is a hurried attempt to hit upon some (possible) points of interest.

You may recall that our theme was "Temptation". Many of our weekly meetings focused on issues related to stealing, lying, cheating and gossip - in all the subtle and not-so-subtle forms that these sins can take. Tahu (the junior youth group) had their turn at an overnight retreat this term, the theme of which was purity. It was a fabulous and FUN weekend - deep, well-received, beautiful....and bursting with silliness as well.

one retreat game involved being fed chocolate pudding
through some pantyhouse as fast as possible

another contest involved crafting an elaborate hairstyle
using only clothespins (aka "pegs")

there was also a competition regarding how many pegs could be 
affixed to the face of a willing participant.....

Tahu also benefitted immensely from a guest appearance by Deacon Henk (recently dubbed "Deak-y" by Bernadette). Our parish deacon is Fr. Michael's "real life" dad, a charismatic and holy man with a heart for service. He has been assisting with Lighthouse this term, but made a special visit to Tahu for Advent. He led the junior group in a guided meditation on the Nativity, teaching them how to use their imaginations to enter more deeply into prayer. They really enjoyed the experience and were very grateful to the Deacon for the time and love he put into his visit with them.

Lighthouse enjoyed a mini-golf outing with ice cream sundaes for winners and losers alike. Towards the end of the evening, one of the young men boasted that he could get a hole-in-one on ANY of the 18 holes. Naturally, I was a bit dubious. He and his friends assured me that he could and asked me to select any hole on course. I picked. He plunked down a ball. He positioned his club carefully, checked and rechecked the lie of the green and then swung. Immediately, his three friends sprang into action, scooping up the ball, tossing it down the green, one to another, until the man closest to the hole threw it squarely into the cup. Hole in one! This is what we LOVE about Lighthouse!

Lighthouse youth are not ALWAYS joking around -
they can be as fervent as they are fun

We're thrilled to welcome Glen Brennan as a new partner in our ministry. Glen is one of the amazing Lighthouse "graduates" I mentioned meeting shortly after our arrival in New Zealand. He's been doing youth ministry with NET in Australia for the past year, returning only late last month. Since then he's been helping out with everything we have done, including assisting Richard with the men's group. Glen is a deeply prayerful and astonishingly humble man. He is a fabulous role model of authentic and strong masculinity for our young men. We cannot state enthusiastically enough how excited we are that he's back and that he is so willing to be a huge part of this ministry.

We really need a picture of Glen's WHOLE face, 
but for now, this is the most complete portrait we have. 
He's the one not giving a thumbs-up.

We've also been really gratified to see a deepening appreciation of the sacrament of Confession among the youth this term. It has never been a struggle to entice these youth to go to Confession, thanks to the grace of God and the groundwork laid by our capable forerunners.  However, we have been filled with joy to see that the youth are going more frequently, preparing more deeply, reaping more graces, truly loving the Sacrament more fervently. Fr. Michael has told us that he knows the ministry is bearing fruit based solely on how seriously the youth are taking Confession. Naturally, he says no more than that vague statement, but it is more than enough to confirm what we too are noticing.

Christmas party for both youth groups and parents -
hot dogs at our house and a trip to the beach afterwards
(there were a lot more partygoers than this photo shows!)

So, it's summer break for us now. We'll be sightseeing, planning for next term, attending Parachute with youth (a huge nation-wide Christian music festival),  and - who knows! But I do think that first on the agenda will be coming up with some kind of special Christmas post for our blog next week....

Friday, December 3, 2010

advent meditation

Maria has been invited to play Mary in a Christmas pageant being held at our church on the 15th. She's been practicing for her role, as well as for her participation in the caroling portion of the gala, which will feature classic seasonal favorites such as:

"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way!
 Christmas in New Zealand on a sunny summer's day!" 
(only Maria says: "a summy summer's day")

Apparently, there's also a Kiwi version of the first Nativity, which I invite my readers to piously reflect on as you read.....

Joseph tenderly finds his wife a suitable place to 
bring forth her firstborn Son. 
Mary wraps the Infant in swaddling clothes and
the Holy Family is overcome with joy and wonder, 
which they diligently hide behind solemn and serious faces, 
lest they be inundated by a bunch of pesky shepherds and angels. 

 Finally, unable to contain her love and joy any longer, 
Mary gives in. She holds the Christ Child to her lips, 
covering his Holy Face with her motherly kisses. 

Joseph gladly follows suit. 
However, being a brand-new foster father, 
he really does not understand that newborns have no head control.
He holds the Infant by the stomach and a leg.
But little baby Jesus honors his earthly father
by holding his tiny head upright to receive the kiss.
Thus, his first miracle is performed. 

Mary gazes adoringly, lovingly, joyfully upon her Child. 
Every possible holy musing fills her mind and heart. 
She radiates all that is good and pure.

Joseph walks by eating a yogurt-frosted rice cake. 
Mary realizes she is famished from labor and all those holy thoughts. 
She's certain Joseph will not mind sharing just a bite or two.
But Joseph is hungry too -
after all, he walked the whole way to Bethlehem -
Mary got to ride the donkey.
Joseph tries to get his rice cake back.
He's a little shorter in stature than Mary.
Realizing he may not get another single bite of his treat,
he bursts into tears.

Happily, in the end, it's something they can laugh over. 
By the time the angels and shepherds show up, 
they're all smiles. 
A happy and holy ending.

I like the American version of Jingle Bells better, 
what with the references to snow and all. 
And I DEFINITELY prefer the Gospel version of the Nativity story. 
Then again, maybe Little Miss "Summy Summer's Day" 
has also gotten her Nativity story a bit muddled. 

For Advent. we're working with both our children 
and the parish youth on staying focused on the 
TRUE meaning of Christmas. 
We're also working on ourselves in that regard.
May your Advent be blessed with an unwavering focus 
on the real reason for all the bustle and excitement. 
We wish you a beautiful season of preparation 
for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ!