It is 2:15 PM on 27 December 2012. Two years ago today I was at Dulles Airport about an hour earlier than necessary, waiting to board a 5:30 PM flight for San Francisco. After a three-hour layover it would be time to board a China Airlines flight to Taipei. Ten days later, Taipei to Sydney to begin tertianship. I had not been aware of the anniversary nature of today until saying the office this morning. St. John. December 27. Whoa!.
Until the plane took off on time 27 December 2010 was a tense day. The forecasts had been calling for snow for several days prior. Anxiety levels climbing. Forecast was no better on Christmas Day. Anxiety levels climbing higher. Woke on 27 December to hear that New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Richmond (south of D.C.) were all closed. Reagan National, Dulles and BWI all open. D.C. was, it seems, in the donut hole of snow.
There were moments of happy surprise. As soon as I heard the announcement that those on the flight to San Francisco had to check in again because of a plane change I went over to the desk. I don't know if it was because I was wearing a collar but the lovely woman asked if I wanted a bulkead seat to California. Oh yeah!
A few moments later a United Captain was approaching as I was pacing the terminal in anticipation of 21 hours in a seat. He noticed the Penn State jacket and asked if I was an alum. A Naval Academy grad he was a PA native. He then asked for my card so he could put me on his prayer list. I remain grateful for that offer.
The flight to California was uneventful. In San Francisco another happy surprise. I had booked a window-seat. There was no one in the middle when the plane door closed. Nice. Except for being long it was a very smooth flight with almost no turbulence. At the end of 24 hours in transit Ignatius met me on time in Taipei at 6:30 AM on 29 December. It was a gorgeous day, warm and spring-like. Alas, that was the only sunny day for the next ten days.
Ten days later I flew to Sydney on one of the most miserable flights I've ever been on: uncomfortable seats, screaming children and an inability to sleep despite a bit of pharmacological help. The flight to Sydney took nine hours. It seemed longer than the one to Taipei.
Tertianship was one of the peaks of my Jesuit life. But, none of the high points can stand in isolation. Each one, the novitiate long retreat, novitiate itself, the history course, the Arrupe experience, and tertianship to name just a few grew out of and reflect back upon each other. The past 15 1/2 years have been very much a seamless garment.
With tertianship over it is now time to apply for final vows. The provincial told me to send him an e-mail with the required information after the New Year. Around 7:00 AM on 2 January seems reasonable.
In a bit more than two weeks Ignatius will make my trip in reverse and arrive at Logan just in time for rush hour on 14 January. He'll be here at Campion for six months. Looking forward to this time more than I can describe.
I took the following photos on 30 December, the day after arriving in Taiwan.
The first is the entrance to Tien Educational Center. Most of the ground floor space is taken up by Sacred Heart Church where Ignatius was pastor for the past six years.
I had sent the processional cross to Ignatius via another Taiwanese who was going home for a visit several months earlier. My friend Val gave it to me a few years ago. He had it mounted on the pole. It looks great in the setting.
The Christmas tree was just down the street. It is odd to see Christmas decorations in a decidedly non-Christian country.
My first destination with the camera was Guting Riverside Park, one of my favorite places in Taipei. It is a short walk from the community. These photos were taken early in the day. However, it is also where I spent a terrific couple of hours one night when I returned in the summer from about 10 PM to midnight. Alone. With a lot of camera equipment. And felt perfectly safe, which is how I feel anywhere in Taipei at any time. There is no way I would go down by the Potomac in D.C. alone after dark. The first is a row of restrooms. Pristinely clean restrooms.
The next is support columns for the bridge. They are painted with cartoon characters to go along with the nearby playground. Note. No graffiti. Can't say the same about most of the places on the paths along the Schuylkill River in Philly.
And finally, the bridge. Actually a pipeline next to the bridge.
Have a Blessed New Year.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD