I thought that, if I told the Filipino nun that I was a priest, that I was pastor of St. Andrew parish back home, that the loaves and fishes are vey important to us because, in the Gospel of John, it was Andrew who came to Jesus with the lad with the five and two, and that I would like for her to take a photo of the 5th century mosaic for me, she would raise the rope that keeps pilgrim from entering the sanctuary of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish and let me take the picture. No way. She took my iPad and went under the rope herself. This is her photo, cropped by me.
I looked for my new found friend Annalisa to ask for a favor. Not seeing her, I waved to a Franciscan sitting on the porch of their convent smoking a cigar. He waved back, but did not bite on my subtle invitation to ask me if I needed or wanted something. I gave up. As I turned to walk away, a man standing right there asked me if I was an Abuna, that is, a priest. I was certain that it was a “guide” who wanted me to buy some service or another of his. I did not want to run into him. As it turns out, he was the gardener of the property, and he was asking if I needed something. (That is a twist on one of the Easter stories, isn’t it? He really was the gardener.) The long and short of it is that he told me that he would take care of the favor that I was asking. He took me to the place on the edge of their property that overlooks a waterfall into the Sea of Galilee. It was the source of the water of the waterfall. (See a previous post.) He suggested that I take a photo. I did. And then I asked him if he would make movie for me. Well, it took fourteen times for him to get the hang of the use of the iPad to take a video. His big, rough fingers did not know how to “tap” the red icon. He kept pressing it like he was planting an olive tree into the screen. Just when both he and I were ready to call it a nice but unsuccessful try, he got it. And he got it well. He refused to quit. Over the fourteen times I tried to convinced him not to speak during the movie. “Quiet on the set” is not easy to translate in Arabic, as is everything for me, by the way. He couldn’t resist saying, “Yalla,” at the beginning of this video. “Yalla” means, “Go.” I think he was getting into it. It was his version of, “Cameras. Action!” Thanks, Abu George. You gave me a real souvenir to take home with me.
There is a still-producing spring on the Sea of Galilee that continues to pour fresh water into the lake. It is easy to think of this location as the place where Andrew and Peter were washing their nets, when Jesus asked them to join him. The lake is, thankfully, very high this year because of the good winter of lots of rain and the still melting snows of Mounter Hermon in the north. The higher water covering most of the walkable section of the shore, my still slightly bum knee, the rocks and uncertain surface, and not having on the right shoes all factored into to my decision not to draw too close to the place of the call. Seems like I can always come up with many good reasons for keeping my distance!
Actually, it is. It was not until I got away from home and into college that I found out what a real mango was. What we called a mango in my house, much of the rest of the world, I found, called a green pepper. That’s why I couldn’t figure out why anyone would have a mango for dessert. Anyway, this is a real mango, and yes, they do grow on trees around these parts.
At the Church of Peter Primacy – “Do you love me? Tend/feed my lambs/sheep” – by chance I met Annalisa, as she sat on the porch at the convent (where the two Franciscans on site live). She is an Italian archeologist working at the ruins of Magdala (of Mary of Magdala fame), but at this moment was studying some materials for her PhD pursuit. She offered me the hospitality of a chair to sit by the edge of the lake. I asked her how she liked her new Pope. She smiled a great big smile, “I love him. He loves to be with the people. He is so simple.” Then she asked, “It seems that it would be possible to meet him, do you think?” I suggested that she write him and ask him to visit her and the Friars at Peter Primacy. He should like the spot anyway. Who knows, he may skip Jerusalem and come right to see her. I did not tell her, but I thought of the scroll-invitation that we will be sending to Pope Francis, asking him to visit us in Milford, at least in his thoughts and prayers.
I’ve seen it often at home. It must be one of those “the world over” things: when things get too emotional and a tear rolls down, a father cleans his glasses. A great technique to distract yourself and to remove yourself from the moment for a moment so that you do not totally lose it and begin to cry. It was at Ranim’s engagement party last evening. This photo will not be the best of all those taken at the engagement, but it captures something of what many of the others will miss: the love and emotion of a father as his daughter becomes formally engaged. There is suddenly another man in your little girl’s life, and she is no longer your little girl, although she will always be your little girl. Sometimes the only thing that a father can do and the best that he can do with the moment is to clean his glasses.