Peace be with you!

My name is Nader Ata. I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar of the Our Lady of Angels Province, USA. I am a transitional deacon preparing for Priesthood Ordination in the fall.

Seeking to live with Franciscan Joy each and every day!

*All of photos on this blog were taken by me unless noted otherwise. Please ask permission before using them. Thank You!*

*Also I am not the greatest speller or writer in the world, so please let me know if something is misspelled. Thank you!"


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Man I met in the Bus Terminal...

Today, my cousin Mareena and my brother Alex came into the city to hang out and to watch the movie Hancock. It was an interesting movie, but not one I would miss if I never saw it again. Anyway, I went with them to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan as they caught the 9:3pm bus back to Jersey. After I said goodbye to them, I was on my to the subway and saw this man would seemed out of place - even in New York - I just sensed something was up. He was mumbling something when we walked by "Spring fudjei." I asked him to repeat himself and he said "Spring Valley, Spring Valley, New Jersey." He looked Hispanic - but I did not want to assume anything.

It turns out that he was Hispanic and spoke very little English, so I said a prayer and then hoped that I could help the man. He was looking for a bus to Spring Valley, NJ and was walking around the bus terminal trying to get there. He walked over to the NJ Transit automatic ticket machines becuase he saw a bus on. I figured he had done it before, just to be on the safe I began to look at the destinations on the machine and Spring Valley was not one of them. I explained to him that this company was not the right one for him and I offered to help him find the bus company that would. Interestingly he shrugged his shoulders and said ok and he began to follow me.

I tried to ask him questions "De donde Vive?" I got "Spring Valley" and "Where is your family?" again I got "Spring Valley." So I we found an open information booth, was directed to the right bus company, and a ticket was bought. It was a little tricky to explain that the gate his bus was leaving from is 420 and it was leaving at 10:40 and that his ticket had other numbers that had no relation to the first. So we began to walk back to the same gate area where Mareena and Alex left from. In route to the gate, I realized that I formally introduced myself to this man or did I ask him is name. I said, "Me llamo Nader, Como te llama?" He had trouble prouncing my name, but eventually he got close and I said "Si!" The man informed that his name was "Francisco" I proceeded to tell him "Estoy hermano, seminarista, Franciscano." A big smile came upon his face and a sense of relive seemed to go through his body. After that any questioned I asked he responded. Essentially he is a wonderful man from Guatemala who seems to have family in Spring Valley, NJ and in Brooklyn, NY.

Upon arriving at the gate, Francisco did not believe that the bus listed at Gate 420 was going to Spring Valley becuase it had East Brunswick as a final destination. After 2 attempts to explain that he should take that bus, I called Fr. Timothy (who I live with) to help me out. He was like my life-line one-time call for help person. He was able to explain to Francisco to go in this bus. Thankfully there was a kind woman who was also going to Spring Valley who offered to make sure that Francisco got off at her stop. I also explained to Francisco to get off the bus when she does.

I took the time to share this story with you becuase I was very moved by that moment. I did not have to take my cousin and my brother to the Bus Terminal, they have done it before, but something told me I should. I could have decided not to help Francisco becuase he was a strager. I really believe that I was placed there at that exact moment from all eternity as part of God's plan. Francisco was so moved that I helped him - I was so moved that I helped him. To be able to give him comfort using my broken Spanish was an honor and a blessing. Before our goodbye I gave him some extra money, said "Adios", gave him a hug and said "Dios bendiga!"

(Forgive me for any misspellings it is almost midnight)

Adios! Dios bendiga!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feast Day of Holy Mother St. Clare!!!

"I belong to my lover, and my lover who browses among the lilies belongs to me. Set me as a seal on your arm; For stern as death is love; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love." Song of Songs 6:2; 8:6-7 - The Reading from Evening Prayer II on the Feast of St. Clare

You maybe be wondering why there is a picture of Ss. Clare and Francis on the Feast of St. Clare. This pictured is posted because it is the same image that greets you as you enter the Monastery of the St. Clare in Chesterfield, NJ - which is where Friar Santo and I went to celebrate this Franciscan Feast. Interestingly the Poor Clares we visited are dear friends of the friars and live literally 30 minutes from my parent's house in NJ and I never knew it! But now I do and I will be in big trouble with Sr. Miriam, Sr. Clare Andre and Sr. Pat if I do not visit.

Anyway today is a special day for the Poor Clares and all who are Franciscan. It is more than just another time to celebrate the gifts of the saints, but St. Clare is a follower of Francis and a model we Franciscans should also seek to imitate along with St. Francis. May she continue to be a light for the Franciscan movement and we pray that more daughters of St. Clare may enter religious life!

Happy Feast Day to all the Poor Clares and Franciscans throughout the world!
Pray for us, holy mother Clare....Help us become worthy of the promises of Christ.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Singapore 1

From Wednesday July 9 to Friday July 11 we spent basically 2 full days and 2 nights in Singapore. During that time we did more sightseeing in Singapore than we did in the 11 days we spent in Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia. Before I get into the sightseeing fun we had I want to share with you my great love and admiration for Singapore Airlines and the Changi Airport (Singapore). To the left you can see us eating dinner on the flight from Jakarta to Singapore. The food on Singapore Airlines is great, it takes good, and it is free. Another reason why I like Singapore Airlines is because before take off you are given a warm cloth to clean your hands and wash your face. It such a great thing to do and I think it speaks a lot about that Airline. When was the last time you received a warm cloth from an Airline? I have not. Especially on my first flight on Singapore Airlines at the beginning of our trip it receiving the cloth makes you feel as though you are entering the flight attendants' home not an airline. Right from the get go you are shown hospitality and that continues throughout the flight. With the pillow, the blanket, head phones, the foot covers, the individual TVs, the food, the free drinks (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic), and the joyful attendants. Not only was the flight great, but so is the Changi Airport. From the moment you walk in the airport (above picture right) you do not feel as though you are in an airport but rather a mall or a hotel. In this picture you can see the wall is covered in plants. In the next picture (left) you can see that there is a waterfall feature in the airport too. As if the beauty present in the airport was not enough to have me admire it, the many - many - amenities at the Changi Airport. From this one directory along you can see a transit hotel, shower, hairdressing, gym, lounge, and free movie sections present in the airport. This does not include the many free internet stations, sleeping areas (with beds), duty free shops, restaurants, TVs, or smaller movie sections also present in the hotel. It seems like it would be fun to purposely plan a 10 hour layover at the Changi Airport just for the chance to experience all that is offered there.

The next two picture are ones that interest my stomach more than anything else. I am unsure how familiar many of you are with Goober, but it was something that I was pretty much obsessed with in college. It is a product of Smucker's and peanut butter alternately placed in a jar with jelly. In the states I have only seen this done with grape and strawberry jelly. While in Singapore I was amazed to find a jar of Goober with peanut butter and chocolate. What a perfect match, like a Reese's peanut butter cup in a jar! Anyway the other picture is of satay in the making. Satay is what I call Indonesian shish kebab. Chunks of meat (chicken, pork, beef, lamb) - in this picture chicken - are placed on skewers and grilled. Satay originated in Indonesia, but is popular in many Southwest Asian countries. It is often served with a spicy peanut sauce. This machine was amazing to watch and let me tell you - the satay from it was delicious to eat.

Now onto the sightseeing pictures. Another reason to like Singapore Airlines is that you boarding pass can be used to get you on a bus that will take you around Singapore for only 6 bucks. The first picture here is of the Swissotel, it is the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia and from its 72 floor you get a great view of the city. The second picture is one of the pictures that I took from the top of the hotel.
Next is a picture of the Singapore Flyer, a very impressive Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye. It is 42 stories tall, with 28 air-conditioned capsules, holding up to 35 passengers, and takes 37 minutes for a complete rotation. We never went on Singapore Flyer, but I took a bunch of pictures of it and here are two of them.
Lastly from our sightseeing adventures is the Merlion: a hybrid of a lion and a fish. The lion head alludes to the fable beast that once roamed Singapore and the fish body symbolizes Singapore's origin as a flourishing seaport. This Merlion is a popular tourist attraction and is located at the mouth of the Singapore River. Below is a picture of it during the day and also one at night.
The last two pictures are ones that have a short story. In the middle of Singapore right near the above Merlion statue under a bridge was this Starbucks (left). I am convinced Starbucks is everywhere and is taking over the world. At one of the malls in Indonesia you could be at one Starbucks on the 1st floor and look down by the escalator going to the basement floor and see another Starbucks, personally I thought it was ridiculous. The other picture is of Nancy enjoying her iced coffee from Starbucks waiting in the shade at the cross walk of a traffic. She was enjoying so much until we ran to hop on the Singapore Airlines bus. Upon us about to enter the bus we realized that we could not bring our drinks on the bus and Nancy ended up throwing 3/4 of it away. What a disappoint, yet somewhat funny!

Coptic Catholic Church 2

At the request of my cousins Taunt Nadia, Maggie and Sherif I took a video of part of the Liturgy at the Coptic Catholic Church. This is at the very beginning of the Liturgy, the first that incense is used. It shows the importance of incense in Eastern Liturgy, it as if the altar and the church is being wrapped with incense - the prayers of the people of God. Also on this Sunday that I went to the Coptic Catholic Church there was a Christening - Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion. In the picture on the left, the child is being completely dunked in the baptismal font by Fr. Youseff. The following two pictures were taken after my first (and sadly my last) meeting with the youth of the Coptic Catholic Church. We discussed and reflected on the story of the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56). After reading of this Scripture passage, I played the song Behold by David Kauffman as a moment of reflection. I then told them why I picked the reading that I did. I mentioned how Francis wrote, "The rule and the life of Friars Minor is this: to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus it is from the Gospels that I picked a Scripture passage. For those of you who do not know, if I had to pick any Scripture passage that portrays my vocation story it would be this one, when Mary meets Elizabeth. Why? Because it is a relational story between two people. Mary is the bearer of Christ to Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and Mary rejoices. Many times in my life I have been Elizabeth and been visited by countless Marys who bore Christ in them and in turn the faith in me was awaken. "How does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Though I am not visited by the Mother of God herself, I am visited by people who bring that same spirit. In turn I have been Mary to many Elizabeths too. And "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord." Throughout the discussion of the youth group many people spoke about trusting and believe, thus to close the group I played the song Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive a Catholic University praise and worship classic. I was very saddened when the night was over, I finally was able to make a personal and intimate connection with youth and it was the last time I will see them before I leave.

Indonesia Part 4

Are you sick about hearing about Indonesia yet? Do not worry this is the last post about Indonesia, the following three will be from our visit to Singapore. Anyway, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful drivers and maids that graciously made Indonesia feel like home to me: Parmi, Mian, Kosim, Ronny, Tarsi and Xaiful (pronounced Shy-ful). They were the first ones to greet us in the morning and the last to say goodnight in the evening. You can call them help, servants, or staff, but they were more than that. They became our friends, are members of the family, and particularly for me great witnesses to the meaning of love. To the right is a picture of two of the drivers Xaiful and Ronny. The amount of joy they brought into my day - at times when I wanted to be back in the states - is immeasurable. Thank you whether you ever read this or not!

This next picture is of a supermarket - Carrefour - that we went. As you can see no one is holding on to the shopping cart and it not crashing into Renata, Nancy and Pete. That is because at this supermarket the wheels of the cart get stuck in the grooves of the belt on the escalator and it does not move. Call me cheesy, but I thought it was cool. At this supermarket I bought coffee for the friars in Brooklyn and in San Antonio. One of the two coffee types I purchased is called Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak is a coffee produced by the Luwak - a relative of the mongoose and slightly larger than the average household cat - which is common in Indonesia and many south east Asian countries. Normally coffee cherries are hand picked and the flesh of the berry is removed a machine - in the case of the Luwak - the coffee cherry is eaten, the flesh is removed through digestion in it's stomach, and the beans are collected after they have passed out if the Luwak. Why on earth would one drink coffee passed through an animal? Essential two reasons: because the Luwak has a keen sense of smell it only selects the very best ripe coffee cherries to eat - better than humans - and because as the means pass through the digestive system of the Luwak, acids in their stomach permeate the been and leach out some of the proteins responsible for bitter coffee. If you want to learn more about it check out these two sites: Animal Coffee and The Taste of Kopi Luwak. Happy reading. On a more lighter not to the left is what I call the "Indonesian Tamale" it looks like a Spanish Tamale but is wrapped in a banana leaf instead of corn husks. And oddly enough the taste like my mother's stuffed peppers.

Here are some more interesting pictures from two of the other malls we went to - Senayan City and Plaza Senayan . The first is of a very tiny escalator in front of the one malls. Isn't that ridiculous! It is funny, the escalator is for 5 step! The next escalator was inside of the mall and this picture is taken in honor of my brother Alex (he has done some cool artwork with high heels).

Above is a picture from Plaza Senayan where there was a National Lego Building Competition. It was pretty cool to see the work of our youth in something constructive and imaginative.

The next of pictures are probably from one the most memorable if not this most memorable parts of the trip, it was from the evening that Opa came home for the hospital. On his way home from the hospital he had one request a Burger King Whopper with Cheese! This was his one food wish after eating "healthy" hospital food for over a week. And of course his children gave him what he desired and being the gentlemen that Pete and I are we decided to order Burger King as well - we did not want Opa to eat it alone! While he ate his burger the rest of the family had BM (I cannot remember the place's real name), basically Indonesian fast food. - On the left is the picture of Opa after his first bit or so. Check out the Don King hair do, the fresh hospital band, his thumbs up and lastly the joy on his face. - On the right is the group picture that was taken at the dinner table - from left to right - Pete, Sue (Pete's sister), Om Ricky (Uncle), Tante Natalie (Aunt), Mrs. Lee (Pete's mom), Opa (Grandfather), Tante Heidi (Aunt), Oma (Grandmother), Nancy (my sister), Renata (Pete's Cousin), and Mike (Pete's brother) - I was the photographer.

Here is a picture of Pete driving in Indonesia, I do not think I mentioned this before but they drive on the left side of the road there. It was Pete's first time driving in Indonesia not to mention on the left side of the road. As you already know we survived the drive! Speaking of driving, on the way to the airport, we saw the Indonesian Idol bus drive by. Yes people are crazed about Indonesian Idol in Indonesia as we are about American Idol here. One of our drivers said that on of the country's favorite contestants is the guys who play the guitar on the streets. It is very cool how the love of music transcends all cultures. Lastly from my pictures of Indonesia is 100 Awakening Sign. I am unsure what actually happened 100 years ago there, but I liked it because of the Visit Indonesia part. So let me know if you are every visiting there, I can put you in contact with one of the host hospitable families I have ever met.