Hello! Or, I guess I should say “aloha”, considering where I am. Yes, I finally made it to Hawaii this past Saturday, despite what appears to be a gorilla-abused suitcase and a double set of airline flights. The over-the-Pacific leg was long yet mostly uneventful… and ironic in a Jersey kind of way. Of all the movies in American cinema that could have entertained or enlightened its passengers on their way to a Hawaiian vacation, why did my air carrier choose “Soul Surfer”, an otherwise uplifting flick about a surfer girl who lost her arm in a shark attack in Hawaii?? Hello!? What, were all the airplane crash movies out of stock at Blockbuster!?
God’s inspired paintbrush has been busy here in land and sea and sky, and I’ve also been impressed by the island’s “aloha spirit”, the 50th state’s generosity, warmth, and kindness exhibited to one and all. Natives smile and nod, say hello, even allow pedestrians to cross a busy intersection without honking (reminder to self: toughen up when I get back home so I survive until age 51!)
But despite it all, I am a creature of habit and miss my home churches. I decided to slip into the 6 p.m. mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Honolulu Sunday night, fully planning to sit mutely and mumble a few prayers. But God had other plans. As I entered the small, sound church, a woman handed me a bulletin, made eye contact and extended a welcoming “Aloha!” The last mass of the weekend during the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time was anything but ordinary at this parish: their long-time pastor had retired and the replacement cleric was introduced to the congregation. The Indian of Portuguese descent was warmly greeted with applause and a few “Hello, Fadda!” calls from the pews. He smiled at his new flock and asked if anyone was visiting from other states. Still feeling a bit homesick, I planned to keep silent, but a young man in another pew called out, “I’m from Washington!” and my competitive juices started to flow. With true East coast pride, I declared, “I’m from New Jersey,” then straightened up in the pew. A beautiful Hawaiian woman walked over to me, handed me a prayer card, and draped a shell lei around my neck. The simple yet heartfelt gesture made me feel less alone, more part of this warm congregation, and I decided to make the most of the Mass.
It was truly lovely: I recognized all the songs and most of the sung Mass settings (though, truth be told, I had never heard the “Lamb of God” performed on a ukelele), and I was pleased to hear the celebrant invoke the name of local newly-minted Saint Damien. Their God-inspired, Hawaiian/true Christian spirit inspired me to pick up my head, reach out my hand, and welcome the late-comer who slipped into the pew next to me. It looks as if these people have a thing or two to teach this native Jerseyan….
More observations, sunscreen, and spirituality to follow….