Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Courage of Saint Oscar Romero

Lately, many of the entries on my blog have focused on specific people who I think are worth noting for a variety of reasons. These people are very different—not surprisingly there are saints and popes, but there are also scientists, rock stars, politicians, baseball players, and my own dear father.

They are different in many ways, but they have in common their humanity, their courage in different circumstances and on different levels, and in most cases their afflictions and/or deaths.

I am deeply moved by people who show courage in the endurance of affliction, people who do well—sometimes even to the point of heroism—that which is so awful and overwhelming to me, which I can only manage very badly.

I admire courageous people.

I admire the courage of newly canonized Saint Oscar Romero. The Archbishop of San Salvador was martyred in 1980 because of his persistent preaching of the gospel of Christ's justice and love against oppression of the poor by the criminal oligarchy in the long suffering nation of El Salvador.

Romero, however, challenges anyone who tries merely to admire him. He insists that we too can and must be courageous, not from our own innate capabilities, but by being instruments of Jesus and letting His power work through us.

For me, a man who loves too much my own comfort (and just because sometimes I lack certain comforts doesn't mean I'm detached from them), Romero is a provocation. The more I study him, the more provoking he is. He is outside of everyone's boxes. He followed Christ intensely: being entrusted with authority in a situation almost unrivaled for social chaos, he followed the narrow path even though it meant being misunderstood by some and hated by others.

He followed Jesus Christ and was faithful to Him. He trusted in Him. He obeyed Christ and loved Christ in the Church. And for Oscar Romero, "Christ in the Church" was the Eucharist and the sacraments and the teaching and tradition and unity with the Bishop of Rome and the faces of the poor in El Salvador and the face of every human person.

He saw Christ with simplicity of heart. We are the ones who make it so complicated. Still he had much to say to those of us with divided hearts. Christ died for all of us, even for those of us who cripple ourselves by trying to serve both God and mammon.

We especially need Christ to liberate us from this illusion, to open our eyes to see that He is the Lord of history who is present in our lives and who leads us to our destiny in the glory of God. Romero's life and his martyrdom will help us to find this freedom.

Saint Oscar Romero of the Americas, pray for us!

What I have below is a collection of some Romero quotations that I have been meditating on recently. I may continue to add to it for my own reference. These are words that give some sense of his convictions about the relationship between real faith and real life, the fulfillment of this life in eternity, and the integral reality of the Church in the world. They indicate the way he lived and the way he died. His living and dying have much to teach us, now more than ever.


Saint Oscar Romero, Quotations:

This is the meaning of Eucharist, the living presence and the life giving presence of Christ in person here in history. The primary and most important person who is present during the Mass is Christ on the altar. Therefore each time that we come to Mass it is he, Jesus Christ, whom we come to hear and follow and love.

When we leave Mass, we ought to go out the way Moses descended Mount Sinai: with his face shining, with his heart brave and strong to face the world's difficulties.

Wherever there is someone who has been baptized, that is where the Church is. There is a prophet there. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.

Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim Church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a Church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.

The Eucharist...looks ahead to the future, to the eternal, eschatological, and definitive horizon that presents itself as a demanding ideal to all political systems, to all social struggles, to all those concerned for the earth. The Church does not ignore the earth, but in the Eucharist she says to all who work on earth: 'Look beyond!' Each time the Victim is lifted up at Mass, Christ’s call is heard: 'Until we drink it anew in my Father’s kingdom.' And the people reply: 'Come, Lord Jesus!' There is a hope. They are a people that march to encounter the Lord. Death is not the end. Death is the opening of eternity’s portal. That is why I say: all the blood, all the dead, all the mysteries of iniquity and sin, all the tortures, all those dungeons of our security forces where unfortunately many persons slowly die— all of this does not mean that they are lost forever. There is an eschatological horizon that illuminates all this darkness and that enables truth and justice and victory to sing. This eschatological horizon will be the definitive triumph of all those who struggle for justice and love.


The Eucharist nourishes all of the just claims of the earth because it provides a true horizon. When individuals or groups want to work only for the earth and have no horizon of eternity and do not care about religious horizons, they are not true liberators. You cannot trust them. Today they struggle for power, and once in power, tomorrow they will be the worst repressors if they have no horizon that goes beyond history to sanction the good and the bad that we do on earth. That way there can be no true justice or effective work on behalf of the just demands of people.

When we speak for the poor, please note that we do not take sides with one social class. What we do is invite all social classes, rich and poor, without distinction, saying to everyone let us take seriously the cause of the poor as though it were our own.

Each time we look upon the poor, on the farmworkers who harvest the coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton... remember, there is the face of Christ.

There is no dichotomy between man and God's image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image.

We suffer with those who have disappeared, those who have had to flee their homes, and those who have been tortured.


A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call.

A Church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed —  what gospel is that?

With Christ's light let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness. The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God's image, which is soiled in today's humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.

When the Church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.

How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt, and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin.

It moves one's heart to think: Nine months before I was born there was a woman who loved me deeply. She did not know what I was going to be like, but she loved me because she carried me in her womb. And when she gave me birth, she took me in her arms, because her love was not just beginning - she conceived it along with me. A mother loves - and that is why abortion is so abhorrent.

I don’t want to be an 'anti,' against anybody. I simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation: the affirmation of God, who loves us and who wants to save us.

Authority in the Church is not command, but service...To my shame, as a pastor, I beg forgiveness from you, my community, that I have not been able to carry out, as your servant, my role as bishop. I am not a master, I am not a boss, I am not an authority that imposes itself. I want to be God’s servant, and yours.

I am bound, as a pastor, by divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that is all Salvadoreans, even those who are going to kill me.


Let us not develop an education that creates in the mind of the student a hope of becoming rich and having the power to dominate. Let us form in the heart of a child and young person the idea of loving, of preparing oneself to serve and giving oneself to others.


We are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.

If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The "Roberto Clemente Doodle" Brings Back Memories

Roberto Clemente, "El Magnifico," was honored on today's Google Doodle for Hispanic Heritage Month.

I saw him play live a couple of times when I was a boy in Pittsburgh, and followed him day by day on the radio, in the papers, on televised games. He was a splendid player, and it was impossible not to feel his larger-than-life personality.

It was New Years Day 1973 when we heard the news of Roberto Clemente's death on my Dad's radio. One of baseball's best players was personally supervising relief efforts to Nicaraguan earthquake victims because—since he was so admired and loved in the Caribbean—Roberto knew that he (and perhaps only he) could hold back corrupt Nicaraguan government and military agents' greed and guarantee the delivery of emergency supplies to the people.

However, the overloaded and poorly-maintenanced plane that he was accompanying crashed over the Atlantic ocean.

It was so sad and tragic, but also deeply moving and so much like him to give his life for others.

Not bad for a ten year old boy growing up with a man like Roberto Clemente for a hero. None of us where who were kids in Pittsburgh in those days will ever forget him.

He was indeed "The Great One."

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Christina Grimmie: "Keep Moving Forward!"

"Team Grimmie, you guys Rawk!"

On_September 18, 2014, Christina Grimmie made a video on her YouTube channel answering questions from frands submitted through Facebook and Twitter.

She was in the midst of a huge period in her career, and there weren't as many "Grimmie Thursday" cover videos as before. But she didn't distance herself from Team Grimmie; on the contrary, even as her circle of frands grew larger, Christina found new ways to use social media to share herself as an artist and a person.

On this video, what we encounter is four minutes of "Christina being Christina" (even though there is some editing). Fame and recognition from her magnificent run on Season 6 of The Voice did not go to her head. She remained her inimitable self, encouraging, kind, ever-wise, full of common sense, goofy, and hilarious (and so she continued to the very end).

Watch the whole video now if you wish. It's not particularly "extraordinary" in comparison to her other videos. But I just happened to watch it recently, so I'm using it as the basis for a few reflections.

Like I said, it's Christina being herself. Her current single at the time, "Must Be Love," gets a plug near the end (not one of my favorites of hers --the one and only song she released with Island Records) but then she pops in again after that.

There are some special things here: she gets a request to sing "anything" and so she sings... impromptu, no gadgets, no singing mike... and it just shows again, however briefly, that the beauty, versatility, pitch, and tone of her voice are all totally her own. It's a fact that I never get tired of being amazed by.

And it's a video "from home," no frills.

People who don't know Christina might just think, "Oh, she's just promoting her new single." Of course, promoting makes sense (even though most folks watching this video were already going to buy it). But that's not the main point.

Actually, do you know what I love especially about this video?

The garbage can.

There it is, behind her shoulder, jutting half way out, just sitting there. Just like it would be "in real life." Because this was a piece of "real life." It's a sign of openness, I think. She didn't worry about "the set." She just opened up her own environment and shared it.

Christina's videos are endearing because of the "stuff in the background," which is just her stuff, pieces of her life. Starting from 2009 with "Sonic the Hedgehog." Sometimes on the livestream, she would eat popcorn or some other snack. She came at you from right out of her own life.

While she did plenty of posting on short video venues (Vine, Snapchat, Instagram), YouTube and the livestreaming YouNow allowed her to "hang out" with people at greater length. The archives of these videos are more than precious relics of the past. She still communicates through them, just as she does with her music.

People read books by writers who lived hundreds of years ago, and they say, "This book had an impact on my life!" A communication from the past reaches a person and touches his or her life in the present.

I believe that Christina's videos also communicate in this way. It's not just the spectacular singing. It's the simple, humble, ordinary things: her way of carrying herself, her joy, her almost "authoritative" confidence when speaking about life or encouraging people, her genuineness, her sense of humor.

And this communication remains available to us. We can still learn new things from her about being human. Indeed, she has much to teach us.

I do lots of research on communications media and their impact on the psychological environment of human persons. I watch lots of videos and other media posts, and it's common to find them generating a stressful, superficial, cynical, rude, and bullying environment of negativity.

Even with a researcher's "distance," I can get worn down by these kinds of media presentations. When I need to just "clear my mind" a bit, find some human space, some "mental fresh air," I go watch some Christina Grimmie videos. She always comes through. She is a real human being, giving herself and her art.

She is loving. It's an environment of love and encouragement that she generates.

And I believe that her real, individual person lives, now -- taken up into the mystery of God, yes...the God who is Infinite Mystery, and also the God who has revealed Himself as Infinite Goodness and Love. We might dare to think that she is aware of us now (in God, who is without limitations), that she cares, that these gestures of love "from the past" are still given, even renewed, by her, so that we can know the touch of God's love, and continue to move forward enriched by the gift of her life and of the person she is, now, loving us from God's heart.


I conclude with this little piece of Grimmie's common sense wisdom. Thanks, Christina! 💚

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Abundance of God's Love is Greater than Our Sins

I am a sinner.

I do not say this as a cliché, but as a simple statement of fact.

I am also a Catholic Christian. I have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, renewed by the Holy Spirit, and made a new person in Christ, a child of God, an heir to eternal life. I have been restored by Christ through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation for those times when I rebelled against my loving Father and went my own way, only to see my proud illusory schemes dissolve into disappointment and misery.

I have learned that by trying to ignore God's creating and redeeming love and his radical outpouring of himself, his giving of himself for me, I do violence to the very foundation of my own person. Adhering to him is the only way I can be true to myself.

I don't trust my own ideas or my own power. I trust in Jesus Christ.

Still, I am a sinner.

There are those sins the Catholic tradition calls "venial sins" which hinder and perhaps even cripple but do not break off our relationship with God.

My daily life is full of these "slight" sins: the facade that I think of as "myself" is largely a construction of vanity, of "benevolent" intrigue, fibbery, excessive love of comfort, the desire to please people, laziness, coldness, negligence and evasion, sharp-edged words, impatience, complaining, sentimentalism, distraction, and--of course--that ill-governed curiosity about events and people into which rash judgment and gossip inevitably creep, wearing a thousand conceptual disguises.😑 I'm not complacent about all of this. These sins injure me as a person and injure others. They are hindrances to the fullness of union with God, and sooner or later they will have to be cleansed away by the Refiner's fire, Love's fire.

I struggle against these sins; I want to grow in love and to do God's will, but part of me is pulled in the direction of trying to cut some kind of a deal with him.

It's easy for me to forget that he's the Infinite Lover who makes me and sustains me, who first gives me myself and then gives me himself. A worldly image seeps through the corners of my mind and tries to distort the reality of God, painting him as just a "big power" in the universe who confronts me "from the outside" with some (more or less arbitrary) prohibitions and demands. My diplomatic temperament inclines me to negotiate, as though the ultimate meaning of life is to save one's own skin. I do not believe this, but I recognize it as part of a toxic atmosphere around me that can stir up what remains in me of the effects of the "original lack-of-trust" that afflicts humanity.

It's not surprising that serious Christians (far more serious and dedicated than me) still commit many "venial" sins. So much of this behavior is rooted and woven within our complex, partly inscrutable subconscious dispositions. They engage our freedom in obscure, partial ways that aren't sufficient to constitute a willful rupture in our relationship with God, but that deserve some measure of blame.

Even after Baptism unites us concretely with the death of Christ, frees us from original sin and previous personal sins, and makes us children of the Father and heirs to the kingdom, we Christians are still... kind of a mess. We must keep working with the grace of Jesus that comes to us from the cross. He embraces our entire life on the cross, so that our whole humanity might be healed and transformed. The work of becoming conformed to his total self-giving death continues throughout our lives, as we "take up our cross" and follow him. It can be hard, but we must persevere in hope, with confidence that God is good, and that he carries us through it all in his love.

We certainly can't become obsessed with a preoccupation to make ourselves perfect. God knows how we need to be healed, and the path of growth is through cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, spiritual guidance, and the powerful grace of the sacraments--especially frequent encounters with Jesus who heals and strengthens us through Confession and gives us himself, substantially, in the Eucharist.

This slowly changes the way we see reality; it empowers us to recognize the presence of our loving God in every circumstance. We change more profoundly when we begin to recognize, concretely, that the gift of God in Jesus Christ is the heart of all reality, the meaning and value of everything. In recognizing him, we begin to want him and to love him more that our foibles and insecurities and our anxious attachment to ourselves.

I am a sinner. I don't know myself. I cannot find complacency just by looking at myself. "Who can detect trespasses? From my secret sins deliver me, O Lord" (Psalm 19:12). I am a sinner who stands before God in need of his mercy. I recall the venerable words of the ancient prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

We are all sinners, but the love of God has been revealed to us. This is the foundation of our confidence and our joy. We pray to the God who has poured out his love for us in Jesus, with confidence in the power, wisdom, and mysterious fruitfulness of this love. We struggle with our still-somewhat-messed-up inclinations, and we repent of our sins and endeavor to make amends while growing in the knowledge and love of God. We do the best we can with what God entrusts to us, using our understanding, freedom, and energy to adhere to him in a cooperation with his grace that shines light on our fragility, our total dependence on him, and the wondrous power of his love to transform us. Then, beyond the horizon of our own limitations, we abandon ourselves to his infinite mercy.

We find confidence in God and a living hope for eternal life when we live and grow in this relationship with him. "Do not be afraid," Jesus says. The abundance of God's love is greater than our sins. Indeed, his love is greater than anything in us. Even the sanctity that we share in, the supernatural heroism that he empowers us to achieve in union with him, doesn't measure the "size" or the "limits" of his mercy.

These things I find so beautifully expressed in this remarkable prayer that is the Collect for the present week in the liturgical year:

"Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Though our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Anticipating Autumn

The Fall season has already begun, but you wouldn't know it from the temperature during the day or the green leaves on the trees.
The arc of the sun is shorter and is leaning toward the south. The skies are often brilliant at the day's end:

I have resorted to digital graphics to initiate the Autumn mood with this impressionistic play of light and color. I call it Anticipating Autumn:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bishop Guido of Assisi: Mentor and Friend to Saint Francis

Giotto (14th c.) "Francis Gives Up His Possessions" (detail).
Happy Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi! So much can be said about the whole life of this singular man, so radical in his witness to Christ and at the same time so deeply human that it is hard for anyone not to love him.

I find it helpful to relate certain details about his conversion and vocation experience that are not so well known. Indeed, my column Great Conversion Stories in Magnificat magazine's May 2015 issue does just that.

Therefore, I will represent that article below. The type is from the original manuscript, from the final draft which is the same as the text published three and a half years ago:

The outlines of St. Francis’s conversion from a rich young man and would-be knight to a great saint are well known. We recall his lavish and frivolous youth, his military misadventures, and his return to Assisi in 1205 after imprisonment, illness, and a mysterious experience that drew him to a greater service.

In these days, at the dawn of one of the greatest vocations in all history, God’s grace worked powerfully but mysteriously to lead the searching young Francis to the awakening of religious devotion. Francis went on a pilgrimage to Rome, and then returned not to his former life of comfort and pleasure, but to a time of solitude in the forests and the mountains outside the city, which led him in the end to the chapel and the now famous cross of San Damiano, where he heard the words of Jesus, to “rebuild My church.”

Christian and non-Christian interpretations of St. Francis often depict him as a man who left worldly life and its distractions so as to commune in a kind of isolation with God (or “nature”). Historians sometimes portray Francis as a spiritual maverick who transcended all institutions including the Church and her human ministers. But the life of St. Francis was not like the wandering of medieval heretical sectarians or today’s uncommitted spiritualists.

Rather, St. Francis was always entirely attached to the Catholic faith and obedience to the Church. In the year 1205, when Francis returned from Rome searching for God’s will, he found a person, a friend, who remained a crucial figure in the development of his vocation, a figure whose significance is seldom given its due weight: the bishop of Assisi. Bishop Guido is known to history as the man who covered the naked Francis with his episcopal cloak after the young man publicly renounced his inheritance and all his property by returning even his clothes to his outraged father. But Francis and the bishop already knew one another by that time.

It was Bishop Guido who probably first advised Francis to seek solitude, not to wander but to pray, following the tradition of the desert fathers. After Francis heard Jesus in a vision from the cross of San Damiano, he probably met again with the bishop. By the time his father came with his lawsuit, Francis appealed to the Church’s protection and the bishop’s judgment. Guido knew well already the young man who shocked so many others by embracing total poverty, and who would later draw them to follow his sanctity.

Some accounts say that Francis, after giving back his clothes to his father, said that henceforth he would call only God his Father. But Francis also knew that God had become man, and that God’s fatherhood would draw close to him through the Church, concretely, through Bishop Guido. The bishop became Francis’s “spiritual father,” advisor, and sponsor as he embraced poverty and gathered his first followers. Guido did not try to manipulate Francis. He supported him as the grace of this new way of life unfolded. He was the ecclesiastical authority, but also a true friend. And it was bishop Guido, in Rome, who first sponsored the ragtag “lesser brothers” to a cardinal of the papal court, where Innocent III met the man sent by God “to rebuild My Church.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

"Where is God?" Love and the Obscurity of Faith

The obscurity of faith is a special challenge for Christians.

This can really "hit home" in our lives when our trust in God is "stretched" (even to depths beyond the reach of natural psychology) by the experience of great trials.

Where is God in the awful grief of losing a loved one, the pain and humiliation of illness, the frustration of worthy goals? Where is God in all the failures of our lives (and we fail so much more often than we succeed), or when we try to do good and are thwarted by obstacles beyond our capacity to overcome?

Sometimes in our lives, in our journey toward God, He seems to "disappear." We seek Him in prayer and there is only silence. We beg for His help, but we continue to be crushed and crushed and overwhelmingly crushed. "Where are you, my God?"

In these times, a faith that hopes in God and loves God even through all this terrible, painful obscurity--that holds on to God alone and trusts in Him--enables us to go forward.

Even when circumstances are shrouded in darkness, we believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. This affirmation is concrete and personal to a vital Christian faith. The Lord leads us through the darkest of dark valleys; He leads us and accompanies us even (and especially) when we feel lost and alone.

The life of faith brings consolation, certainly, because God enters into a relationship with us. He is our loving Father, and all of reality abounds in signs, which are really gestures of His steadfast love and tenderness for each one of us. But the fullness of His love is the giving of His only Son to die for us so that we might rise to eternal life in Him.

Our faith strengthens us especially when we endure suffering, as we look to Christ crucified and suffer in union with Him. Suffering (in ourselves and also "with others"--com-passion) is an aspect of the personal path that each of us is called to walk with Jesus.

He is our light in the darkness. He transforms suffering into love--into His love, and He invites us to share in this love, the inscrutable inexhaustible suffering love from the Cross that saves the world.

By enduring the Cross with Him, we become more like Him. We grow in the likeness of the God who is Absolute, Infinite Love.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Thérèse: Working For His Glory

Thérėse: smallest and therefore greatest of the girls on "God's Girl Squad." She saw the one simple thing, without which nothing else makes sense, and even a self-contained "happiness" is ultimately an imposition and a constraint.

The one simple thing is love. This is what we have been made for: to go beyond ourselves in love. And God is Infinite Love.

She didn't want to suffer just for the sake of suffering. Rather, she experienced suffering as transformed by the love of God in Jesus Christ that triumphs over sin, that becomes the mysterious sign of God's own unreserved gift of Himself. Above all, here is God's revelation and communication of His own "inner life." God is, in His Trinitarian mystery, Absolute unreserved self-giving Love.
"It is a long time since suffering became my paradise on earth, and I find it hard to understand how I shall become acclimated in a land where joy reigns supreme and alone. Jesus must entirely change this soul of mine, otherwise it could not endure eternal bliss. All I desire is God's holy will, and if in Heaven I could no longer work for His glory, I should prefer exile to home" (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux).

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Real Superheroes

Let's call on some REAL Superheroes:
Michael, Rafael, Gabriel, we need your help!

The image is from a Copic icon of St Michael the Archangel.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Avril Lavigne: "God Keep My Head Above Water"

Still shot from her new music video released on Thursday.
Canadian pop-rocker Avril Lavigne shot to stardom in the first decade of the 21st century, becoming a familiar voice in the lives of late millennials all over the world. In 11 years, she recorded five studio albums with numerous hit songs. She toured relentlessly and became a mainstay of popular culture.

Then, in 2014, she disappeared. Toward the end of the year, she tweeted to her fans that she was ill. Nothing more was known until April 2015, when Avril Lavigne revealed in an interview that she was suffering from Lyme Disease.

I knew very little about Avril in 2015, except that she was a music celebrity who had the same disease I had (indeed, all too many of us have it). I wanted to learn more about her story, so I read some interviews and watched some videos.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I knew this story only too well. The systemic pain and exhaustion, the collection of other peculiar symptoms, the incomprehension of doctors, finally finding the right doctor, getting the right diagnosis, going through an extensive treatment, becoming virtually an invalid, starting to improve, having good and bad days, and so on. And so on. ...

Poor kid.

Actually, she just turned 34. She's not a "kid" anymore. Especially considering how hard her past five years have been. Lyme Disease can make people feel "old before their time."

I also checked out her music and her career in greater depth. My reaction to her whole catalog of songs was "mixed," but some things I liked very much. It was clear that she was very different from (and more talented than) the slick combination of heavy makeup, skimpy attire, and autotune that was (and still is) the sad template of the "entertainment industry" for a female pop star.

Indeed, Avril Lavigne became "iconic" (in the media sense of the term) for a different style. It is said that she took the "rebellious punk" vibe and reinvented it for the 21st Century. Recall her classic "look":

There was something real about her "in-your-face" presentation (even if it did spin a bit out of control). It resonated with lots of young people who were formed within the confusion, the pressures, the manipulative expectations and unglamorous reality, the questions, impulses, and combustibility of ordinary adolescence in a time of massive technological expansion and confusing social change.

Not only that, the kid put out some good rock 'n roll songs -- the kind that engage basic emotions and tell stories that everyone can relate to. There is a genuine creative intuition involved in the art of crafting a song that goes beyond passing trends and presents perennial themes in an original way. Avril's best music will be around for a long time.

Her image in those days was "alternative" to the overall pop style, but it had (or developed) its own ambivalent and disturbing elements. Like many artists, Avril mirrored the troubles and excesses of the times and struggled with them herself. Nevertheless I think that (notwithstanding these problems or the gratuitous "f-bombs" she sometimes threw around in her lyrics) there was in some of her songs a measure of artful, ironic questioning that challenged the shallow inadequacy and cheap rip-offs that the culture offered (and still offers) to adolescents and young people who are trying to figure out the value of life.

Avril Lavigne in 2018: older, wiser, and recovering her health
The fact is that Avril is a very skilled singer, songwriter, and musician. And in the past she has also shown a deeper and more intense side in certain places in her songs and music, a capacity to probe the complex texture of real human experience.

In any case, she had lots of success over the course of a decade, selling tens of millions of records, making more music, building a huge fan base, expanding her brand, and (apparently) "letting the good times roll."

But in 2014 Avril Lavigne's fast-moving rock star life ran into a "wall"--the debilitating wall of Lyme Disease. I have written about my own experience of "running into this wall" as some length (see, for example, my book Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy HERE ). Needless to say, I empathize with Avril's agonizing struggle with Lyme Disease. I appreciate her tenacity and courage, and I understand the challenges she continues to face.

What is Lyme Disease? I'll just note a few things in this post (click here for extensive information). It's a notoriously tricky disease. Lyme varies in symptomology and degree of severity, but it can be truly frightening, especially during the (often extended) period of time in which doctors are fumbling around trying to figure out what's wrong with you, or misdiagnosing and inadequately treating you, while you keep feeling worse and nobody knows why.

Lyme Disease is transmitted by several common species of ticks who carry its bacteria and a variety of co-infections. These ticks frequently attach to humans in ways that can transmit the disease, and there are some places where they are very common. (It's important for people to be aware of ticks and take appropriate preventative measures.) Lyme is a significant and much misunderstood health problem, and I often wonder why it isn't even worse than it is. Surely there are more tick bites than anyone can count; still it seems that "most people" don't become ill (at least, not in any noticeable way) even in endemic areas.

Those areas are not limited to New England (where the disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut), New York State, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and my own lovely Shenandoah Valley, although they remain places with a particularly large concentration of reported cases. Lyme Disease has been reported in all fifty of the United States, and the amount of real cases may be as much as 10 times what is reported.

Eastern Ontario across the border from New York, where Avril Lavigne comes from, surely has its share. As does the rest of Canada, no doubt, especially in its southeastern part. Lyme Disease is also a problem in many countries in Europe and throughout the world.

These ticks can easily go unnoticed. So why isn't everyone sick? I don't know. Scientific research will, hopefully, increase our understanding of this complex phenomenon. For example, there may be factors of the immune system that enable most people to fight off the infection, but that are lacking or inadequate in those who get ill and are in need of treatment. Meanwhile, we should not panic, but educate ourselves, be vigilant about checking for and removing ticks (especially after extensive outdoor excursions), and seek medical treatment if early warning signs appear.

Lyme Disease can be treated most successfully with antibiotics if the infection is identified in its early stages. It becomes more complicated if left untreated for a longer period, but options remain for managing the disease and its effects. There is a lot of argument among medical practitioners in the United States about the details of late-stage Lyme Disease, approaches to treatment, and long term effects (I don't know how things stand in Canada).

Everyone agrees, however, that there is much we don't understand. Too many patients fall through the cracks in the system, and must endure not only the strange, painful, energy-draining symptoms of Lyme, but also the often terrifying experience of not knowing the nature of their illness or where it's all going.

Lyme Disease doesn't appear to be fatal in itself, but no one really knows the degree to which it might contribute to or exacerbate other potentially fatal health problems. It certainly doesn't do any good.

Most of us who have fought the long and often obscure battle with Lyme, however, will agree that there are times when you feel like you are dying or going to die. If you don't know what's wrong with you, that only makes things worse.

That's_how bad things got for Avril Lavigne. At one point, she says, she was convinced that she was dying.

I'm quite sure that this is no melodramatic overstatement. As she lay helplessly in bed, held in the arms of her mother (who had moved into her home to care for her), Avril tells us that she prayed to God.

She felt like she was drowning. (And, yeah, I can really appreciate the descriptive vividness of this metaphor. How often I have used it myself!)

Avril felt like she was being suffocated, like she was drowning. So she cried out to God. She begged, "God keep my head above water!" She says she felt the mysterious closeness of God in that moment. That prayer and the sustenance she received in that dire moment also became the inspiration for a new song, and a new album.

Already in 2015 she was speaking about new songs and new music. Now we know that the album will soon appear. She says that many of its songs were written and even recorded from her bed. (With regard to the latter, it's wonderful what technology makes possible for people with disabilities or lengthy illness; this is something I have been very grateful to experience myself.)

Thanks to a long period of treatment and convalescence and her own wellness regimen, Avril has been feeling a lot better recently. She made the music video below to accompany her new single, "Head Above Water." When the song was released last week, there was a flurry of excitement in some circles that Avril Lavigne--the former cussing, hard-partying, weirdly dressed rock chick with an attitude--had undergone a conversion experience.

I think she has had a kind of conversion, a very real conversion to a profound awareness of her need for God. But people who are expecting instant religious coherence from her now that she has sung about God are going to be disappointed. Much less should they think she will suddenly fall into "conventional patterns of behavior." She is an artist, and artists are often gifted with peculiar insights and broken in peculiar ways. It's not that God judges artists by a different standard (judgment, in any case, is His business); rather it's that we should seek to understand what they're trying to say and do, even when they're flawed, or just seem odd to us.

Avril is also a human being. We really know practically nothing about her personally, her deepest issues, or her problems. The celebrity world is a weird aristocracy. I don't envy those who have had it thrust upon them, nor those who have striven to obtain its rank only to find that it doesn't give them the enduring glory they were looking for.

I am grateful to Avril Lavigne, however, for her willingness to talk publicly about her fight with Lyme Disease. Before she got sick personally, she already had a project devoted to people with serious health problems: the "Avril Lavigne Foundation." Now her foundation includes a special dedication to research on Lyme and assistance for those who suffer from it. Check out Avril's information and resources about Lyme Disease HERE.

I am grateful to her also for letting the vulnerability of her own suffering shape her musical art. Suffering might be inspiring and dramatic in the abstract. But real suffering is banal, unattractive, humiliating, and strange. When we feel better, there's a natural desire to try to forget it ever happened. Instead, Avril has chosen to give voice to her own suffering through her music, and thereby to give us all a little more courage for whatever suffering we endure.

"Head Above Water" is not a complicated song. It is simple, brief, and powerful. It is a compelling song that grows on me a little more every time I hear it. Avril was raised in an Evangelical Christian home, and, while the song never mentions Jesus by name, it contains biblical images and Christian themes. It is a genuine prayer, full of desperation and hope. It is a prayer that articulates my own cry to God, both in physical sickness and in the darkness of Depression. It is a prayer that will help many people.

Listen to the song and watch the music video below.
So pull me up from down below / 'Cause I'm underneath the undertow / Come dry me off and hold me close / I need you now I need you most // God keep my head above water / Don't let me drown / It gets harder / I'll meet you there at the altar / As I fall down to my knees / Don't let me drown ... God keep my head above water / I lose my breath at the bottom / Come rescue me / I'll be waiting / I'm too young to fall asleep ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A New Heart, a New Spirit

Thus says the Lord:
"I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart

and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you

and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your ancestors;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

~Ezekiel 36:24-28

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"September" Art and Photography

Here are a few digital art projects and photos from the end of the Summer that have been posted on other media.

This is called "September" (art).

"Virginia country house" (art).

"Blue Ridge Mountain Roads" (art).

A pic of some potted foliage in the front of a building in "the big city."
I thought the color variety was pretty interesting.

Sunset in the neighborhood (around 7 PM these days) featuring
the steeple of the local Baptist church (photo).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Suffering and Christian Life: Sometimes It's Just SO HARD

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

God brings salvation through Jesus Christ, through His suffering and death on the cross. In ways that are mysterious, personal, particular to each one out us, He invites us to share His sufferings so that we might also share in His resurrection.

Jesus unites us to Himself on the cross. Often there is consolation and a sense of strength in knowing this and calling it mind. You look at the cross and it brings peace. Certainly you should do this as much as possible.

But sometimes, in some circumstances, it's just very very hard.

It's so hard, when you can't see Him. He's brought you so close to Him on the cross that you're seeing and feeling the wounds and you can't see His face.

We believe that Christ is risen, and that our real life is in Him. There's a radical joy in the hope of eternal life. Suffering and death are not the final words on our existence.

There's also sorrow and suffering because we're human, because we don't understand, and because faith and hope can be very obscure. But God knows our hearts, better than we know them ourselves.

Salvation is not an escape from being human, from suffering and sorrow. It redeems our humanity and gives meaning to suffering that is otherwise incomprehensible, that even seems cruel.

God not only binds our wounds. He bears them in their open, bleeding, emptying-into-death and transfigures them in His risen body into the signs of the love that lives forever.

That sounds mysterious and profound and good.

But how does such a statement "connect" to the actual experience of the pain and dying of me and you from moment to moment? If we're looking for pablum, for a sentimental solution, or any solution we can measure, then these words will fail us. They will sound like abstract theology.

God didn't give us pablum for our salvation. He didn't give us "solutions" for our salvation. He gave us His Son.

Explanations fail us, people fail us, our own bodies and brains ultimately fail us. Jesus will never fail us.

"Whoever believes..." Hold onto Him, and don't let go. Allow Him to hold you.

Don't go away. Don't run from Him. Stay. Let Him hold you.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:17)... so that you might be saved through Him.

Don't lose hope. He will hold on to you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Waking Dreams of My Father

I don't know how to talk about what Dad is going through, or what I'm going through trying to stay precariously balanced in a situation that is always changing.

So I'm just going to "talk" about it, rambling and writing whatever comes out.

This is something I never imagined, ever, in the first 54 years of my life.

When my Dad started to slow down in his late 70s, and after he moved into his 80s and slowed down more, I sometimes thought that when we said goodbye at the end of one of our frequent visits to Arlington, it might be the last time.

I thought, "Maybe this is it. Maybe I'll never see him alive again in this world." I thought about that possibility. I won't say I was prepared for it, but I saw it on the horizon.

When his motor coordination and memory began to decline gradually last year, I figured it was the initiation of a slow decline.

But Dad was dependable. He was always basically the same (at least as I perceived him). He loved with persistence and dedication those who were entrusted to him. He took care of my Mom. He took care of my brother and me, taught us the value of hard work and being professional, but without goading us. Worldly success was not an inflexible imperative; when health problems brought my own career crashing down, he was there to help and to be quietly understanding.

He loved his grandchildren and they loved their "Papa." When the kids were little, they saw my parents a lot. We would spend many weekends (and longer visits during the Summer) at their place, with the kids in sleeping bags on the floor in the living room. The kids have so many happy memories of those days, growing up with their grandparents.

Dad wasn't perfect and he had his share of problems and suffering. Growing old was a particular challenge as he began (slowly, it seemed) to have difficulty doing a lot of things that used to be easy for him. He was, after all, over 80 years old. He was getting forgetful, a little hard of hearing (we thought), slower, more frail.

But he seemed to be the same consistent Dad we had known all our lives.

Then came the year 2018. What is probably an Alzheimer's-related dementia accelerated very rapidly in a few months to the point where he now only occasionally manages to speak a coherent sentence. He has also completely lost the ability to walk.

It's like a bomb fell from the sky and just blew up.

It's been a complete revolution, above all in his life but also for the rest of us. We're still in the process of trying to put things together in a new way. Both Mom and Dad are safe and getting the assistance they need, but a lot of things are still provisional.

In retrospect, we can see that there were signs of his illness in the last couple of years. There may have been more that we didn't see. Our parents loved us, but they didn't want to "burden" us. Indeed, they valued their independence, their privacy, their routines, even their furniture (some of which is older than me and still in great condition).

Dad seems adjusted to his new physical surroundings after 6 months (though he doesn't really know where he is; sometimes he thinks he's still at home, or in a hotel, or at a conference, or we don't know because he says words that don't make sense). He gets frustrated because he can't remember what he wants to say to us, or how to say the words.

My brother and I get to see him a lot, and he still recognizes us. A lot of impressions go through his mind from the past, from things that happened a long time ago, from things that never happened at all. At one point the other day, he grabbed our arms and said, "You're real, right? You're really here."

My father lives in a world of obscurity, of waking dreams. Thank God he is being well cared for, and that we can spend time with him.

It has taken me a long time just to realize how difficult it is for me to accept that my Dad is incapacitated. When he says things that make no sense, it's not my fault that I can't understand him.

It's not my fault. That would seem obvious, but it's different when it's your own father's face in front of you, still with some of the expressions you have seen--and the voice you have heard--ever since you were born. This is the face and the voice that raised you, that always "made sense," that you loved, trust, admired, and respected. Around your own middle age, you finally began to appreciate him deeply--to realize how much sense and how much wisdom and how much love came from that face and that voice.

It's still there. Occasionally something flashes through, suddenly and rapidly. He grabbed my shoulder today and said, "Solid fellow. Solid fellow." He is still the same living breathing human person; he is just handicapped by a terminal illness. He can still give and receive love.

And we have to remember that fact in the time to come, as the illness progresses and he can no longer grab our shoulders or even open his own eyes.

I know there is deep-down mysterious suffering for my Dad. I pray for him all the time, and trust in God who knows him entirely and loves him completely. God knows what my Dad needs in this last season of life, and for eternity.

Well, that's enough rambling from me. I'm battling to keep my own head above water. Even though I often feel more useless than ever, I also see (as much as a human being can see such things) that my task in this life is not yet completed.

Even if it seems like nothing, I'll do what I can for each day and throw myself upon the mercy of God.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What Would I Do Without Music?

I really really don't know what I would do without music. And it's been a good summer of music, with more than the usual amount of live music. I have already written about the concert we saw in July, but I want to at least make reference a couple of other moments.

We had a lovely evening in August when our friend Marie Miller took a break from her headlining summer tour to sing and play music with some friends at the Front Royal Brewery, a new local spot:

Not a good picture, but definitely good music: LtoR, Anna and Rachel McMahon, Marie Miller, Kenny Kohlhaas.

Then, of course, on Labor Day weekend we had the fourth annual Appaloosa Festival, which is always a highlight of the season.

With our hosts, the great Scythian....

...along with numerous other excellent bands on multiple stages. I took some good pictures and posted them on Instagram and other places. Here is a sample to serve as an overview:

After a hot Sunday afternoon, we were all glad to see this beautiful sunset, with plenty of music still ahead:

We had a great time, once again!

I don't know if I'll see more live music this Fall. But if I do have a chance, I wouldn't mind seeing the "Contemporary R&B" Queen who will be touring for her new album Hiding Place, that was just released Friday.

Tori Kelly is a California girl with Anglo, Puerto Rican, and African Jamaican roots. In this new album, she collaborates with Kirk Franklin and some excellent singers and musicians to give a contemporary spin to the old fashioned gospel music genre.

Really good stuff. And from what I have seen on YouTube she sings a spectacular live show.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Takashi Nagai's Journey to Christ

I am republishing my blog post from March about Takashi Nagai, and adding to it a photo reproduction of my article about his early life and his encounter with Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Some may have seen the article in this month's issue of Magnificat. This post will fill in a few details about the rest of his great life.

Dr. Takashi Nagai (1908-1951) was a Japanese medical doctor, a scientist and pioneering researcher who specialized in radiology, a highly respected professor, a beloved husband and father, and a convert from atheism to Jesus Christ and his Church. My article about his conversion appears in Magnificat's September 2018 issue.

But there is another story, the story of a more profound conversion, a radical change in Dr. Nagai's whole life that set him on the road to a greater faith, but also involved his passing through an almost unimaginable horror that began at 11:02 AM on August 9, 1945.

First, here is a copy of the article about his early life that just appeared in print:


I can only say that the story of this great man, his wife, his family, his colleagues, and his community is one of the most intense and heart-wrenching and terrifying and beautiful stories I have ever come across in the twentieth century Church.

It is a story he lived long enough to tell, in a book called The Bells of Nagasaki. 

The Catholics of the Urakami district of Nagasaki, the disciples of Francis Xavier, the survivors of three centuries of persecution, were not specifically the intended target of the second atomic bomb. But because of various circumstances including weather conditions and wind, the very heart of Christianity in Japan--home to some 30,000 Catholics and their cathedral--became, literally, Ground Zero.

Many thousands of people were immediately reduced to ashes, including an estimated 8,000 Christians at the epicenter who were going about their morning routines, living, working, and praying. The cathedral was packed with worshippers praying for peace when the bomb exploded in the air above it. People in the vicinity of Ground Zero died where they were standing, sitting, or kneeling, in a flash.

The Nagai children were outside the city with their grandmother on that day. But their mother Midori Nagai was in the kitchen of their home in Urakami near the cathedral. The old home was built over a cowshed where her ancestors, the secret Christians, had gathered to pray and pass on their faith for seven generations without any priests, with only a basic catechism and the sacrament of baptism.

Days later her husband found remnants of her skeleton in the midst of the ruins, and some melted metal in the remains of the bones of her hand where he could barely make out the outline of a crucifix. Like so many of the Christians at Ground Zero, Takashi Nagai's wife had a deep devotion to Mary. When the awful fire fell, she had been praying the rosary.

Dr. Nagai was working at the Nagasaki University hospital on that morning. He was pinned under the wreckage of his laboratory, seriously injured but alive. Eventually the handful of doctors, nurses, and students who survived were able to reach him, stop the worst of his bleeding, and bring him to his feet. They formed a team that for several days worked heroically to treat whomever could be rescued from the flames and the scorched ground where there had once been a city.

As doctors, they did what they could to help the wounded, without medicines or supplies. As scientists, they discussed among themselves with horror and wonder the phenomenon that had occurred. They didn't know of the attack on Hiroshima, but they were able to see that this was a wholly new kind of bombing. Dr. Nagai and his colleagues were aware of the trajectory of atomic research, and had heard rumors that efforts were being made to use that research to make a horrible weapon, a nuclear bomb.

Their experience convinced them that these efforts had succeeded, and that they were living through a nuclear holocaust. And it wasn't over yet.

In the hours, then days, then weeks that followed, many people who had survived the blast developed strange and often fatal illnesses from radiation poisoning. Still others would succumb to their injuries. After a month of exhausting labor caring for the wounded and struggling to stay on his own feet, Dr. Nagai himself collapsed and was on the verge of death. His colleagues gave up hope of saving him as he moved in and out of a coma.

He recalled that he was prepared to die, but felt the desire and the need to live for the sake of his children (who had already lost their mother). Then he had a very unusual experience, which he reported to be something like a voice prompting him in a very specific way. In order to understand the significance of this prompting, we should note that Saint Maximilian Kolbe had lived in Nagasaki from 1930-1936 and was well known and much loved by the Catholic community. He had even been one of Dr. Nagai's patients. Fr. Kolbe had, of course, returned to Poland where the final act of his own drama awaited, and all news of him was blocked by the war.

But as Dr. Nagai lay dying, a voice seemed to urge him to "pray to Fr. Kolbe" for healing. No one in Japan knew that Fr. Kolbe was even dead, much less that he had died a martyr, but Takashi Nagai prayed for the intercession of the beloved friar. Soon after, he emerged from the coma, and the injury causing immediate danger to his life was inexplicably healed.

His fellow doctors said it was a miracle.

Unfortunately, his overall health was broken by radiation-induced leukemia, which eventually rendered him an invalid. From his bed, he turned to writing. In the light of his deepening faith, he wrote about the events he had experienced and their implications for the future. He wanted to record all he could for the sake of his native Japan and its reconstruction, for future scientific research, and as an advocate for peace in the world. He lived until 1951 and wrote 20 books, including The Bells of Nagasaki.

He is held in great esteem in Japan by Christians and non-Christians, and his story deserves to be more widely known. As I continue my literary (and film/video) "tour" of East Asia, you will hear more about him from me. His story is deeply Catholic, sorrowful, mysterious, and marked by the distinctively Japanese cultural character that we need to understand better.

But you don't have to wait for me. Fr Paul Glynn, an Australian priest who lived many years in Japan, wrote a very accessible biography that was recently reprinted by Ignatius Press, which you can get HERE. It is not an easy story, but it is one that needs to be heard, and that is very important for our troubled world today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Cranberries' "New New York"

The Irish have a special place in their hearts for New York. The island people and the great American city have been associated by bonds of kinship and admiration for hundreds of years.

It's not surprising that 9/11/2001 and the days that followed were poignant, tragic, and heroic for the Irish imagination (which is steeped in such things).

On May 30, 2002 the late Dolores O'Riordan visited the ruins of the World Trade Centers in Manhattan. Her impressions became the source of the hardest-rocking song released by The Cranberries since their visceral protest statement against the violence in Northern Ireland in 1994, "Zombie."

But there is something different about "New New York." In addition to being simple, abrasive, direct, and mournful, the song looks beyond the endless repetition of war and destruction. "New New York" is an anthem to a city struggling to rebuild itself.

It concludes in a decisively positive fashion: "They won't tear us apart." With the smoke barely cleared from Ground Zero in 2002, this was a significant statement of hope. New Yorkers and their city have done much since then to realize that hope.

The beginning of this year 2018 brought another tragedy that touched the Irish soul: the sudden death of Dolores O'Riordan at age 46 from the unforeseen consequences of an accident in her London hotel room on January 15.

The conclusion of the inquest was finally announced last week, and ruled out death by suicide.

It seems appropriate to remember those who perished on 9/11/2001 with Dolores O'Riordan's tribute song, as we all hope and pray that together we will see a "new day" that never ends.

WARNING: This video contains rock music. This is not "Dreams" or "Linger," people. It's loud. Turn down your volume, adjust ear phones, etc.😉 Lyrics to the song are provided below (and, by the way, it doesn't pretend to be Yeats or anything; it's a rock 'n roll song—genre is the key to appreciating...many things).

New New York

New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
New New York skyline
wounds they heal in time
don't crawl and don't despair
it's a new New York today.

I look across these city streets
my heart is numb, it still beats
nothing to say
there's nothing to say.

I look across this empty room
my heart is still in gloom
there's nothing to say
I only can pray.

New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
New New York skyline
wounds they heal in time
don't crawl and don't despair
it's a new New York today.

I look across these city streets
my heart is cold, it beats
thirtieth of May
Ground Zero today
New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
New, New, New, Ah ah ah ah
I get down on my knees and pray
for the heroes of the day
and no comfort I can find
for the loved ones left behind.

They won't tear us apart
they won't tear us apart
they won't tear us apart
they won't tear us apart

No way

New day
New day.