Saturday, June 25, 2011
Follow this link for motel information for the MSJ Society Gathering, August 11-13. A cluster of motels are located the M-59 interchange with M-53. St John the Apostle Church, our host, is nearby at 18401 Canal Road, Clinton Township, MI 48038
Sunday, June 19, 2011
A couple of years ago (during my first attendance at the Annual Assembly in Belleville), I immediately sensed the peace and joy of being in a place made holy not only by the miracle involving Our Lady, but by the fervent prayers and devotion to Jesus of those who flock to that special Shrine. Since I love walking in the quiet of the night, and since the Shrine affords ample opportunity for doing so, I set out that first year to discover.
What I discovered that year was a grotto (a replica of the one in Lourdes, France in which our Lady appeared), and an enormous fountain and sculpture dedicated to the Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the news given to our Lady that she was chosen to give birth to Messiah). In the pool attached to the fountain there are four “Angelus” bells that appear to be floating over the surface of the water! The bells are rung in the morning, at noon, and in the evening to call the faithful to remember our Lord’s incarnation (becoming human by taking upon himself our flesh).
You can’t imagine the peace and closeness that one feels walking around these grounds. While I’ve been deeply touched by the proceedings of each year’s Assembly, I think it’s these midnight walks on the grounds that I’ve come to look forward to most. Even nature itself seems to feel safe in those surroundings! That first year, as I walked near the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, a deer walked in front of me (no more than ten feet away) with perfect ease. I’m certain that she saw me before I saw her. Bach’s music, “Sheep May Safely Graze” suddenly popped into my head and, when she had passed from before me, an excited call was made to Emily!
This year, however, tops the previous two! I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: A statue of our Lord at prayer. I knew instantly what it depicts. He’s shown kneeling in agony, and the statue is placed in grove of trees. Seeing this figure (dimly but adequately lit) in that setting was more than a little unsettling. I went and sat with him. I kept looking at his hands. I don’t know why, but I wanted to touch them. Maybe it’s because his are the hands that made me, saved me, and healed me. So I did; I touched them.
As soon as I touched those hands, I had a healthy sense of how unworthy I am. My mind couldn’t begin to comprehend him or understand his love for me. I think that this must be exactly the point of that statue, because, as I moved out of the grove of trees, I looked to my left and saw a path I’d not noticed before. You know what happens next! I began walking it. Lining it are the fourteen Stations of the Cross, each of them beautiful pieces of sculpture set in protective booths and lit. The path winds down a hill and forms a half-circle around the grove of trees.
About half-way around the path something else struck me. In the midst of the chirping crickets and bullfrogs, a more silent witness was given to our Lord’s love and immense creative power: What seemed like millions of lightning bugs – more than I have ever seen in one place before!!! To my right there was an opening in the canopy of trees. It revealed a small valley surrounded by trees – almost like an amphitheater. From top to bottom came what seemed like millions of flashes of light! Astounding!
As I walked on (contemplating my own weaknesses and asking the Lord why I can’t seem to get past some of them), one more thing happened that took my breath away. There was a rustling in some bushes just in front of me, and out popped a deer! She stood in front of me for a moment and then walked into the deserted street. It was then that I could see that her front legs were malformed. I think that something of the spirit of Saint Francis must reside in that place! That makes sense, because, when I looked around, I remembered that I was standing in a place where outdoor healing Masses are often celebrated! Maybe the Lord was trying to show me something?!?
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Brother Nathan Dunlap, MSJ is introduced by Bishop Keith Ackerman to share about Forward in Africa with the gathered Forward in Faith Annual Assembly. Brother Nathan shared about his role as Director of Forward in Africa - having taken over the reins from his venerable predecessor, Father Francis Wardega. In the course of his talk, Brother Nathan told of the deep need for theological education on the African continent being filled by Forward in Africa.
Brother Nathan recently spent three weeks in Tanzania teaching basic Christian theology. Brother Nathan shared that his students were like sponges, writing down nearly everything that was shared in lectures. He also shared that the brothers and sisters whom he taught were very well versed in Sacred Scripture.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
This past weekend (June 3-5) St John the Apostle Anglican Church (Clinton Township, MI) welcomed Nathan Dunlap, his wife Julie, and three of his children into their parish activities. Nathan came to SJA to share with us the vision of his work with Forward in Africa. He met past supporters of Fr Francis and OFM to thank them for making Forward in Africa possible through their continued prayers and monies. The weekend was a success for all involved.
On Saturday, while Br Nathan trained with Deacon Bob Chalmers, the people of St John and the rest of the Dunlap family enjoyed a day at the Detroit Zoo. That evening many gathered over at the Moore house for a time of greeting, telling stories, and getting to know one another. From the children playing in the tree house, to the lively conversation, fellowship, and great food, the bonds of affections increased and were multiplied.
On Sunday Br Nathan spoke at both the 8 and 10 AM services. He reminded us of Africa’s great tradition and role in Christian history and the Church. He also illustrated how influential our Anglican heritage has been in spreading the gospel and how it is still bearing fruit in the furthering of the Kingdom. He told us of the needs and challenges to provide capable well-trained priests for the rapidly growing churches. He shared that the vision of Forward in Africa was to teach the teachers, encouraging us with the word that while all cannot go, all can participate in the work.