Monday, October 22, 2018

Pauline in Arabia

The first blessing on my trip to the ACYC in the United Arab Emirates came when it was time to leave for the airport. The designated airport van in the convent was blocked in the garage, so an alternate vehicle had to be found (thankfully, that's not too hard on a Saturday evening). It was the "St Paul" car! I took that as a sign that St Paul himself, and not just the car under his patronage, wanted to have a special part in this world adventure.
The long flight was completely unremarkable, except for its silence. All 300 or so of us managed to rest throughout, although for me it was in bits and starts. Certainly it is not comfortable to be squeezed into a window seat, unable even to stand in place because of the low overhead bins. (I reaped a real benefit this morning, sleeping well and rising naturally at my usual 5:30 hour despite the 8-hour time difference!)

My second bit of adventure was at check-in when I learned that the carry-on limit for Emirates Airlines does not include a "personal item." You can either take a roll-aboard or a backpack/purse, but not one of each. So I had to squeeze as much as possible into my backpack while the agent checked me in. Thankfully, I was allowed two check-on bags, and had only planned for one, so my almost-empty wheelie case went, with a hope and prayer, into the cargo hold. It came out fine; my much-traveled and world-weary Samsonite, not so much:

The ACYC coordinator and a husband-wife team of volunteers met me at the airport with flowers and treated me to dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had a fabulously delicious Arab fish preparation, along with samples from the communal platter ("Sister is a foodie!"), and a Korean businessman who is staying at the hotel insisted on treating us all to dessert: "Turkish delight" (it really was).

Mass this morning was at a parish that has four daily Masses. The 7:00 morning Mass had several hundred worshippers (ten Communion stations). At the sign of peace, the assembly first responded to the priest with a bow ("and with your spirit") and then, hands still folded, solemnly bowed to each other. It was lovely. The parish has a school, high school (some students were at Mass in their uniforms), perpetual adoration chapel (with a closet for people to leave their shoes outside)--the monstrance and host are enormous--and an outdoor Lourdes grotto (above, with the mosque across the street in the background). There are ministries and special services for the many different ethnic groups that make up the local Catholic Church: Tamil, Malay, Filipino...

Today (can it already be the 22nd and the Feast of St John Paul II?) I have a bit of free time, so I said my morning rosary while taking a walk (in as much shade as I could find) from a sidewalk over a highway with a direct view of downtown Dubai and its distinctive skyscrapers. My host will take me to see some of the sites later.

This evening, I will be going to one of the other emirates to meet the young adult leaders for a conversation about modesty. I think today's Saint will guide the discussion, since he has some terrific insights in Love and Responsibility, as well as in Theology of the Body! I am bringing gift books (Theology of the Body: Some Thoughts and Reflectons, and The Genius of Womanhood) for the participants. (Truth to tell, it was the weight of the books that probably caused the broken wheel on my suitcase.) (By the way, both books are on sale, so this would be a good time to order them for yourself or as a gift for young adults.)

Counting on your prayers for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit during this week!

No comments: