Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Bunny

There's the Bunny.

"Daddy, stop!"

You're eating a carrot. You're a Bunny.

"No, I'm a girl."

A girl Bunny?

"No just a girl. Girls eat carrots."

Bunnies eat carrots.


Okay, but I am going to be thinking of you as a Bunny.

[and I just look at her with raised eyebrows and she looks back at me, and then she starts to smile...]

"...stop Daddy!"

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Dawn of a New World

The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. It is worth the effort, dear brothers and sisters, to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person, to all our brothers and sisters. I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness.                                                                                               
                                                                    Benedict XVI

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crosses At Every Turn

Someone posted a quotation today from St. Francis de Sales. At first it felt like a punch in the stomach. How can I ever have a perspective on life like this?
"I see crosses at every turn. My flesh shudders over it, but my heart adores them. Yes, I hail you, crosses little and great, I hail you, and kiss your feet, unworthy of the honor of your shadow."
And the saints are not kidding. They see it. They really do. Even as they feel the pain, they see the glory. How? Of course I know the answer to that question. It’s God’s grace, and also the freedom that His grace awakens within them, the freedom to love, which means–in this life–the freedom to suffer. I can’t look at the face of Blessed Chiara Badano every day without remembering that this is really true. But how can this become an experience for me. Do I even want it, really?

Do I "adore" the crosses in my own life with "my heart"? Wow. I see crosses at every turn, and I pray, "can you take this one away, please?" At best I manage a "Sigh. Okay, here we go again!" That’s my best...which is not very often.

Most of the time, when I see the cross (which really means when I hear that call–all throughout the day– to love, to give of myself), I try to evade it, sneak away from it, or if necessary just run, run, run. I know I’m not alone in this. Let’s face it: the Gospel verse that describes the way we Christians usually live is the one that tells us what the disciples did when Jesus was arrested: “And they all forsook Him and fled” (Mark 14:50).

I spend a good part of the day running away from my life.

And there are so many places to escape. Of course there are the distractions of technology, the media, and the consumer culture. But there are even better ones: the distractions of my ideas and plans, which are so good and important, after all. It is so much easier to talk or write about Jesus with beautiful words than it is to face that moment when my child needs the presence and the love of her father, even to do something very simple, like make a sandwich!

And I am actually called to raise these children. I am called to witness to them about the love of God. I hide from this in a thousand ways. To look upon it is overwhelming.

And then there is all the pain in life that can’t be avoided, that just digs into me and tries to engender bitterness.

But God does not leave me alone.

I run from the cross and I hide, but He passes through my walls and my locked doors and shows Himself again as the Risen One. He responds to my failure with His mercy. He shows me myself, but He also shows me Himself, and He says, “Do not be afraid. It is I.”

Do not be afraid.

In the end we all must suffer. To find His glory in the midst of our suffering: this is the “narrow road.”

I hardly understand what it means, concretely, for me. So I must pray, I must beg Him to make me more the person He wills me to be. And I must struggle to do good, to continually begin again, to cry out again and again to see the face of God and be changed by Him because I know that He is here. He is Jesus.

 I still marvel and gasp at St. Francis de Sales, but there is, I think, a tiny bit of that “heart” here, a beginning of something new.

In the end, we all must suffer. Is there anyone, really, who is not suffering right now?

And what would I have without Jesus? Just a jungle of suffering and no response except, "Go away, I hate you" as it devours me. Or perhaps, a desperate cry for help lifted to the mute heavens.

Jesus makes all the difference. Jesus is everything

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Through The Darkest Places

I hear much about different people's sufferings. How do people endure living in this world? The impetus to keep going says something tremendous about the human person. But the capacity to love from out of the midst of deep personal pain: this is a mystery and a miracle. It is a witness. There is something greater in this world than the implacable misery that wants to suffocate us.

When we pray at 3:00, let us remember that it was at that hour that Jesus cried out to the Father, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is very mysterious, but we know that on the Cross, He has taken to Himself and borne for us and is present within every suffering that we endure, even and especially the suffering of feeling abandoned and alone, of the great open wound that is our anguish and that can do nothing but cry out.

Trusting in Him even as we cry out may bring no comfort, but the truth is that Jesus is here, that there is Love, that there is healing, that He has made a way through the darkest places. The very fact that we believe this, even with the smallest glimmer of faith, is a sign that we are already beginning to be transformed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Thinker and the Call of Love

There he is. The "Thinker"!

There is a lot to be said for him (or her, of course--but I will use the masculine pronoun here since our exemplar is Rodin's statue).

The thinker is reflective. He tries to understand the world and himself. He looks at the way things are, how they are structured, how they are distinct and how they go together. He tries to understand himself. He reflects on his own experience and he tries also to understand and appreciate from within the experience of others.

The thinker is often not the same as "the debater"...the thinker can get frustrated with arguing, especially in the combative contemporary forum in which it takes place. It is not that he lacks appreciation for disagreement, or for challenges to his own ideas. It is rather the opposite: he values them too much. If he encounters a coherent challenge to his understanding, he wants time to examine it and if necessary alter his own thinking. In the face of a bad argument, he is often more interested in what the "opponent" is really trying to get at, or what genuine insight might lie behind a poorly formulated position.

This means that the most gifted and articulate thinkers can sometimes be the best debaters. They are able to distinguish and clarify. They are not so much interested in "winning an argument" as they are in joining with their interlocutor in a search for the truth. They don't "beat" their opponent; they "win him over"--and in the process often find their own positions clarified.

Such persons are rare, however. Most thinkers are like Rodin's fellow up there. They are plodders. They are often insecure in their own ideas, and find that grappling with intellectual challenges is a painful psychological process of struggling with doubt, with feelings of weakness and incompetence, and with frustration at the sheer murkiness and dimness of the human intellect. Step by step, with many mistakes, and only with a great deal of time does the thinker begin to grasp truths that are really worth knowing.

The thinker is often a peacemaker rather than a warrior. But he has his own kind of courage: he is courageous in his willingness to suffer the long human journey to truth. There is a secret fire that sustains him.

The thinker, however, considers things in the shadow of a great temptation. It is a subtle, but devastating temptation. The thinker wants to understand everything. He craves intellectual synthesis.

He can even have it, up to a point....

If he is willing to yield his mind to the way of similitude and difference, the way of analogy, where knowledge humbly gives way before a certain darkness, where he adheres and affirms a reality whose secrets are too great for him. What he sees is only in a mirror, and what he does not see is always the greater.

To be humble before reality is his greatest challenge. The thinker has a quiet, often unacknowledged, but fiercely stubborn pride.

Perhaps this is why Rodin's fellow is looking down.

The hardest thing for the thinker is to look at reality, at the actual life that greets him every day. The real things in life are given their deepest meaning by an absolutely gratuitious Love that has freely chosen to take up and give itself from within the whole business.

Shocked by this Love, the thinker is tempted to withdraw into himself. He struggles with all his mental energy to incorporate this Love into his synthetic project. There must be categories in which this can be contained.

St. Paul spoke to the thinkers of Athens. He intrigued them with his appeal to the "Unknown," but then a strange thing happened. He pointed to an event, to gratuitous Love, to a man who has risen from the dead. Some of the philosophers just laughed at him, but I have always wondered about those who said to him, "we will hear you on this another day" (see Acts 17:32).

How typical of the thinker.

In front of the explosion of Love, he says, "can we talk about this some more? Perhaps you can explain yourself?"

But Love does not explain itself. It says, "follow Me."

There is a story about Thomas Aquinas. Once he was deep in thought and working on his manuscripts (which of course have so much value for the history of philosophy and theology). The Prior told a young novice to find one of the friars and to tell him that the Prior wants him to go to town and buy fish for the community.

Aquinas was the first friar that the ignorant novice saw. The great scholar, the Magister of the University of Paris, one of the great geniuses of all time, was approached by a novice, who told him that the Prior had ordered him to go to town and buy fish.

Without a moment's hesitation or question, Thomas put down his pen and headed for the fish market.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Woman

The marriage of heaven and earth,
of eternity and history,
began in silence,
under the heart of a girl.

It is the day of the Annunciation. The Father sent His Only Son into the world through a girl. The Holy Spirit came upon her, the Power of the Most High overshadowed her, and the Son of God became the Son of Mary.

Because she said, "yes."

She stood there, on behalf of the whole of the vast universe of creation, holding in her own heart creation's most awesome mystery: Freedom.

Perfect Freedom.

She was a created person. The marvel of the cosmos. And she was truly and perfectly free: attuned to the Mystery of Being, open to cooperation from her very own self with the ineffable wisdom of that Mystery, capable of giving herself as a person, of adhering as a person, a human person, a woman, to the Mystery.

She was a woman.

She surrendered herself in her perfect freedom to Him, so that He might entrust Himself to her virginal womb, taking human flesh and human nature as His own, making each of us His brothers and sisters.

God who creates and sustains the being and the vitality of every human person has united Himself in a new way with every human person. He has begun the great drama by which He will identify Himself with every person and share the burden and the suffering and the death of every human person.

At this Wondrous Intersection of God and man--the foundation of the taking up by God of the destiny of each human person who has ever lived and ever will live--there is the Woman and her freedom.

Her love.
Her maternal love.

At the center of God's glory, of His revelation of Himself, of His giving of Himself in Love:
it is there
that we find
the Woman.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Courage to the End: The Example of a Bishop

God's reign is already present on our earth in mystery. When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection. 
That is the hope that inspires Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us. 
May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for mankind nourish us also, that we may give our body and our blood over to suffering and pain, like Christ--not for self, but to give harvests of peace and justice to our people.

These are the final words of the homily of Archbishop Oscar Romero, March 24, 1980.

Moments later, a shot rang out and the bullet pierced his chest as he stood at the altar. Before falling unconscious, he uttered his last words:

"May God have mercy on the assassins." 


Only a month before, Archbishop Romero wrote these words in his retreat notes:
“I must be ready to give my life for God, no matter what kind of death awaits me. Unknown circumstances will be faced with the grace of God. He was present to the martyrs, and if it should be necessary I will feel Him very close to me as I render Him my last breath. But more valuable than the moment of dying is giving Him my whole life and living for Him.” 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Embraced By Christ

Two weeks until Good Friday. This Lent for me has been marked with a different kind of experience of suffering. It is the stark wonder that I have found in recognizing the depths of Christ's suffering in the life of another person. A window has been opened for me to the realization of how profoundly the Cross impresses itself upon every person's life.

We just don't see it. We don't look at each other and recognize "Jesus suffering." We don't look at each other's pain, limitations, and faults, and see Jesus suffering. We don't look at the way we disappoint one another, abuse one another, and hurt one another, and recognize Jesus suffering in our very broken and scarred humanity.

We don't look at the way we are divided from one another, at the way we make war on one another--whether it's war that spans the continents, or war between peoples, or war in the community, or the workplace, or war in the household--and recognize Jesus, suffering, right there, taking it all up on His Cross.

And we don't recognize Jesus suffering in the center of our own hearts, right inside our own ugly, paltry selfishness and weakness--the very place where we don't want to look.

That is where He is.

This is the lesson that Blessed Chiara Badano is teaching me. The depths of suffering are unfathomable, because they have been embraced by Christ.

In the midst of the body-crushing, bone-piercing pain of her cancer, she says, "I am not asking Jesus to come and get me to bring me to Heaven anymore, because I still want to offer Him my pain, to share His Cross with Him."

What could possibly make someone say this?

Can God's Love really enter into and thus transform a human heart?

It is beautiful, but it is overwhelming! I admit that I can't breathe here. But it certainly clarifies the reality that everyone of us must face. Either pain is a tragic waste, or Jesus is true, and suffering really has been transformed into love. And this is not just words. It's a real challenge.

How can I even begin to live like this? How can I find this love? How, O Lord?

I believe He makes it possible. He changes us. But we have to keep asking for the grace. We have to pray. God is merciful, and He helps us to walk in His mysterious ways. And there is no other way except God's love. Jesus I trust in You.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So What Happens Next?

I have on this blog more than a year's worth of pondering my life in public, through the medium of words. The blog format encourages the writing of "vignettes" -- presenting a slice of life, or launching a proposal, or uttering a prayer, or outlining an idea that has the potential for extensive development.

So what happens next?

Why do I ask such a question? A blog is becoming a kind of literary genre in itself. In the world of electronic media, this is something very strange for a person like me who has spent his lifetime dealing with print. The fact is that the writings on my blog are already "published" - sort of. Right?

This is kind of like an e-magazine, or at least it's a regular e-column. I originally started it for my friends and former students, and as a kind of "writing project" that could help my recovery. But of course, I immediately began expressing myself in a public "preachy-teachy" persona. Here is my life! Learn something from it! Alas, this is how I am. When I think things through on my own, I find that I am "teaching the air." My mind is moved by the desire to discover the truth about reality and communicate it.

I seem to think that even my spiritual incoherence can serve as a foundation for learning and teaching about God and the mystery of life.

So what happens next?

I've been involved in publishing for over thirty years. I worked on the high school newspaper back in 1980. I published my first book in 1986. I was an editor and publisher of academic journals and books, and the director of an academic press, during the 1990s. Then I managed to publish two books of my own in the past ten years, in spite of the illness and the disability and all that stuff.

I still think in terms of books.

I could collect the prayer-poems I've written here, organize them, and upload them to Amazon Kindle right now, as an e-book. I could probably have a e-book put together by next Monday.

Wow. Strange.

But no. I'm going to hold out for a "real book" - I am going to work, if possible, through my current publisher and, yes, the editors that I so desperately need.

Or, should I put together an e-book? Why not?

It's not like print publishing is making me a lot of money.

According to Blogger, there are people in Russia who are reading this blog. Really? Maybe I should just keep blogging. Or maybe all of the above.

Have you learned anything from these ruminations? (Ha!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Little Window

Perhaps I'll start doing some video blogs. Videos open a whole new dimension on things. I often talk about my afternoons with Josefina. Perhaps people might like a peek at how we spend our time. Here is something more than a "picture"--it is a little window into our day.

The fact is, words fail me at the moment. I would like to express something about how precious these moments are that I spend with my children. I want to give thanks for what was, simply, the amazing gift of today (and there was nothing "extraordinary" about today except, maybe, the unusual way that I feel about it).

Anyway, here we are. I hope you are able to watch this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Someone Else Who Is Really There

Lord, I am afraid of sacrifice. I am afraid of suffering. I can't let go of myself. If I just look at myself and try to find a way to give myself, there is no energy. There is no capacity. I am trapped.

It's when I find You that everything changes. You surprise me by bursting into my life in so many unforeseen ways. "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" Behold, behold, listen to the voice of love that is calling me right in this moment. Here and now, there is the possibility to love. And I find it outside of myself. I find it in the midst of life.

I am so self absorbed. I need to be silent, to be aware, to listen. O Lord Jesus, open my heart. I beg You to draw me away from myself. Draw me, so that I can recognize Your presence, and act with love--give myself away, because I know I am giving myself to You.

But I don't want to look. I want to stay alone, and surround myself with things that are under my control. My only hope is that there is Someone Else who is really there, who takes the initiative, who never gives up on me.

Jesus, never give up on me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Same Place, Same Miracle

I've thought of a good idea for catching up when I fall behind on the blog: I'll just plagiarize myself! This is something I posted last year at this time, in the midst of the St. Patrick-St. Joseph holiday spree in the middle of Lent. It was a busy weekend, and, like last year, we went to some parties with our friends. I must say, however, that our friends are extraordinary people. They are the special people that Jesus has given us in His great mercy to be companions on our journey toward Him. With all their faults and incoherence, they have met Christ and they try to follow Him in His Church. We are a small fragile group, full of all the problems that afflict ordinary human life, and yet at the same time we are a people. At a simple party, I glimpse again that light that shines in the midst of any community that gathers in recognition of His presence, and in the desire to follow Him. Right here in Front Royal, there is what Msgr. Giussani calls the "different humanity." And it is not a narrow thing. It aspires to the whole world. Here's what I wrote last year, after the St. Patrick's Day party. I can still say the same thing today:
I did not begin to take Christ seriously in my life because I had a mystical vision, or some kind of paranormal experience. I discovered, in a new way, that Christ was real when I met a group of friends who really followed Him, and who also lived life with exuberance, vitality, interest, freedom, and joy. People who were able to be themselves without constraint, who were glad to be alive, who were ready to give and sacrifice themselves and also to have fun, whenever having fun was the appropriate way to respond to the reality at hand. And it is often appropriate, because real human life is full of so much that is ironic, so much that is beyond our control, unexpected, petty, burdensome, so much that is a little bit ridiculous.
In front of real human life, some are cynical, while others are distracted, detached, or sad. The miracle in front of real human life is cheerfulness, an innocent spirit of fun that is not dislodged by life because it knows the place of everything. It is a playful wisdom. It is joy.
This is what converted me to Christ. Not scrupulous religious intensity. Not intellectual brilliance. Not the desire for a safe place to hide. What converted me was meeting a group of people who believed that it might be possible for life to be fun after all--and that the laughter of children was not a deception destined to end in disappointment. Not because life is easy, but because there is Something that makes every minute of it worth living, even embracing with joy.
This is what converted me to Christ: the miracle of human beings who were glad to be alive, who were full of hope, who were not afraid. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Never Give Up

"Heavenly mother,
I ask you for the miracle of my healing;
if this is not God’s will,
I ask you to give me the strength
to never give up!"

Blessed Chiara Badano

Friday, March 16, 2012

We Do Not Have a Normal Life

Flare up. Don't worry. It's okay. I'm fine.

This is a household in which the husband and father has a disability. People who have read my book have heard all about that ( It's not the kind of disability people usually imagine: I have two arms and two legs and I can talk and walk and see and hear. I don't have much pain these days and I have a reasonable amount of energy. I am able to do some "productive work," and maintain at least some elements of my profession (even though I am "officially" retired--how odd that is, to be "retired" and have five children under the age of fifteen). Eileen works for love, and for our own children as much as the others, but the school also pay her money for it, and that's a good thing. We patch together what we can and we manage.

We do not have a normal life. We have a beautiful life, but it's not normal. I hope that as they pass through adolescence, our children will be able to continue to embrace the sacrifices of this life. I worry sometimes because I think that, as they grow up, they will be tempted to be ashamed of their father. What does he "do"?

When I wrote Never Give Up (, I said to myself, "you realize that by publishing this you are insuring that no one will ever hire you for a 'regular job' ever again...." John Janaro is brilliant, articulate, insightful, talented in so many ways; what a shame that he's such a train wreck!

I have a chronic illness. It appears to be in remission and under control. But late stage Lyme disease is a systemic infection. Nobody knows what role it might still play in the problems that continue to afflict me.

I also have a neurobiological disorder (probably inherited) that inclines me to anxiety, depression, obsessions, and all sorts of mental hangups. Lyme disease may exacerbate it. Nobody really knows. We keep me going with medications and therapy and diet. Sometimes I just have flare-ups of mental disturbance. The doctors say it will probably always be that way.

But still I wonder at my incompetence and my inability to deal with stress, "how much of this is illness, and how much of it is just spiritual laziness, the unwillingness to love?"

Sick people often have this question, "Is it my fault?" It's not a simple question. I know the illness is not my fault. I know there are some things I can't help. But sometimes I use sickness as an excuse to close in on myself, to refuse to love, to refuse to grow, to justify my "I won't!" by saying "I can't!" I know I am doing this. How much am I doing it? A lot!

I should not be so surprised at myself. We all do this. We all have our barriers and defenses that we have built up against God's love. We all have our ways of evading Him; especially, we have ways of hiding from His presence and His invitation to love in the people and circumstances of the life He gives us every day.

We all need to be broken and healed and made new. That's what's happening in our lives. It takes time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Can Be Together

We really can't live together without forgiveness.

And the foundation for forgiveness is the recognition of the fact that the other person is not perfect. The closer we are to each other, the more important it is to remember this fact. When we are close, when we live in community, when we live under the same roof, we depend on one another. We rely on one another's help.

And we must challenge one another to love and to give. That's why we've been put together in the first place.

Still, we will encounter one another's limits, and indeed be frustrated by the limits we find within ourselves. In so many places, our own inadequacy runs into the other person's fragility and weakness. These are the especially difficult moments when we must suffer because of one another. Even here, though, we can be together, we can suffer together.

I can make "space" within myself for the other. We can accept each other--even more, we can affirm each other right there where our weaknesses come together; we can say with our actions, our patience, and our discretion, "I love you, right now, in this moment." This requires true sacrifice. But here, especially, we grow in love.

Still there will be failures, every day. If we really love one another, we will be humbled. But we will also find the secret courage to grow in unity and solidarity along the path of daily life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Light of Christ: Blessed Chiara Luce Badano

This is the official Beatification image of Blessed Chiara "Luce" Badano, who lived the charism of the Focolare movement, and died from a rare and painful form of bone cancer at the age of 18, in 1990. She was beatified in 2010. I was "researching" on the internet and I "stumbled" upon her story. Here, read about her yourself:

I felt like just throwing my silly book in the trash, but then I began to look at its words again, and I said to myself, "No, she understands what you are trying to say here, much better than you do. She understands suffering. She understands you."

Blessed Chiara Badano offered her life in union with Jesus's cry of abandonment on the Cross.

And I saw this face. All the theology books in the world are not worth a single human face. Now, when I look at the faces of my wife and children I feel as though I am seeing them for the first time.

I too follow a charism, an "ecclesial movement." Alas, I have not been a very good follower. But I have seen faces like this, although they are still always new, every time. This is what Msgr. Giussani calls "a different humanity." I recognize the human person, and yet at the same time it is clear that there is "Something Else," there is something new in this person's life that sets everything on fire!

Here the fire transforms the limits of human endurance into joy.

But I have seen this fire in many faces, living and renewing, bringing an energy, a joy, a hope, a friendship. A different humanity. It comes from a living man, a man named Jesus.

There is a glimpse of this light in every human face.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

An Affirmation of Reality

This blog is a place where I reflect on my life, and lay it out there for others to have a look. I have no "strategy" here except to write things that are on my mind and in my heart, things that seem important to me and that are leading me in a certain direction. That means Jesus comes up a lot. What can I say? Jesus is the center of my life.

That is not a "pious statement." It is, simply, a fact. It is the truth. It is the truth about my life and about the life of every human being. I'm not trying to "look at my life from a Christian point of view." It is not about my "cultural outlook" or my "Traditional Catholic Ideas" or my "theology."

It is a statement of faith. But faith is an affirmation of reality. It is a way of adhering to the truth.

My life is not meant to be an exercise in trying to apply my theories about Jesus to ordinary circumstances. My life is living with Jesus, really. That is the truth about my actual life, whatever my theories may be.

I'm not trying to say I'm a saint. For me, living with Jesus means ignoring Him most of the time, trying to manipulate Him sometimes, trying to use Him to my own advantage, but also continually rediscovering again and again that He is really here, that He loves me, and that He is the One who is in charge...of everything.

A living faith means bumping into Him again and again, finding Him in reality, finding Him shedding light on things, and bringing joy and strength. It means finding Him in desperation and misery and pain, finding Him suffering with me. It means sometimes feeling that I can't find Him, but still knowing that He is with me in the darkness.

I hope this blog expresses, at least from time to time, something greater than my thoughts and insights and devotions. I hope it expresses, sometimes, the wonder of recognizing His presence.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Winter? What's That?

The weather continues to be marvelous!

This has been the most consistently pleasant winter that I can remember in the middle Atlantic region of the East coast of the United States of America. Sunny days. 50 degree (F) temperatures, and sometimes 60s. Virtually no snow! Barely a hint of the icky, cold, wet stuff that usually covers the driveway and the walkway and that nobody in this part of the country knows how to drive in. I don't think I've had to brush a single snowflake off my car this entire winter (an occasional ice scraping has been necessary in the morning, but no snow).

We had a snowstorm in October. And it would be funny if we had another snowstorm in April. The season of Winter, however, has less than two weeks to live. I'm almost sorry to see it go. It has been delightful.

I know that I should feel bad. We need snow for the reservoir levels. We're going to have a drought this summer. Right? Shame on me!

And where is my empathy? It was all due to a shift in the jet stream that gave Europe a miserable winter while we were playing tennis in January. I should feel sorry for all those poor Romans who had no boots to get around in the snow.

Finally, all of this is a symptom of an impending ecological catastrophe. Right?

Well, I hope not.

Meanwhile, with blissful ignorance and completely selfish pleasure, I have enjoyed my mild Winter.

[If you actually read this, you'll know to mention the password: BLOONK! - haha]

It's March 9, and the Forsythia bush is starting to bloom!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our Intimate Friend

We should talk to Mary, like the intimate friend she is ready to be for each of us. We can tell her the things in our hearts. She will put our hearts inside her own immaculate heart.

Mary makes things come into focus. She shows the next step, and how to make it, and she holds us as we stumble and move forward. In front of our destiny we are such tiny children.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alex In The House

Alex is getting bigger.

I guess its time for the kids to do another post on "the kitten" who is becoming a full fledged cat.

Alex, you may remember, is our "outdoor cat," ha, ha, because Daddy is allergic to cats. Of course we've had winter, and even though its been a mild winter, nights are cold. Alex can't be left out in the cold.

As a result, the second bathroom has been outfitted with a cat-bed, and other pieces of cat paraphernalia. It has become, in effect, "Alex's bedroom." This poses no difficulty for anyone else in the house, in the event that it becomes necessary to use said bathroom for other purposes. For Daddy, however, the room had become toxic. But as long as I don't have to fight for the main bathroom, I guess that's okay.

So Alex has established a place in the house. Each night, the children bring her inside, and then take her out again in the morning. As soon as the nights warm up, Alex will return to her outdoor habitation full time. I shall be glad because, unfortunately, I do "notice" when the cat is in the house. But its not too bad as long as I stay away from her.

And I must say, I am sorry that I cannot be more a part of her life. To my great surprise, I have become...well...fond of her. Its nice to come home and find her playing in the yard, or poking around in the carport. I don't know if she has caught a mouse yet, but she does eat crickets, which is very convenient. But she is more than just "useful." A few weeks ago she sprained her foot (or something) and was walking with a little limp. I felt concerned!

You must understand, I've never had any pets in my life except for goldfish.

So I am surprised to find myself bonding emotionally with a cat. And it has nothing to do with the children. I like Alex. When I come home from somewhere, I am disappointed if she doesn't notice me.

I think she even "knows"--in her catlike way--that my keeping my distance from her is not hostile. We have a way of greeting each other; we sort of make eye contact, with a mutual understanding and respect.

Monday, March 5, 2012

For My Beloved Wife, On Her Birthday

Eileen Janaro is a contemplative soul,
a poetic soul,
a receptive soul,
who takes everything into her depths
and holds it in her vast silence.

Every morning she hears Divine love poems,
whispering in the clamor of children
and the struggling man
whose health she needs so much
but whose sickness
she is always ready to bear.

She listens to these secret promises of glory
as she takes the day upon her shoulders
and puts all its parts in place.
She has no time to brood over mistakes,
but puts her trust in mercy,
quietly sets things right as best as she can,
and then keeps going,
taking up the next thing at hand,
embracing it with open heart,
and a practical mind that still
tastes the flavor of the poetry of the day.

At night she is tired.
My lovely woman is tired.
We are both tired
but we are together
and who would have thought
that this could be a modality of love?

When the waking moments draw to an end,
and we stand together before God,
I know that once again
she is saying "yes" to me in my weakness,
and that I am trying once again
to carry her with my broken heart.
The way she loves life is sustenance to me,
and by some miracle I hold her up
as we travel my path of healing.

I see her beauty still.
It is much more vivid after these many years.
I see her beauty inside of time,
a luminous patience
and determination
and hope.
She knows that I cherish
in my soul
this great enduring beauty.

Thus we are held in that mysterious bond,
the Great Mystery of day after day.
And thus we hold each other,
and give each other courage.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Stay Close To Mary"

It is the First Saturday of March. A day to draw particularly close to the all-pure, loving, Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Mother, obtain for me conversion and trust in Jesus.

The shadow of her heart is visible on her folded hands on the image of Guadalupe. On Thursday, we brought to the Montessori school the large photo reproduction of the Virgin of Guadalupe that hangs in our dining room. I told the story to the students: the story of St. Juan Diego and many of the stories of Guadalupe, including some of my own. I hadn't really prepared anything, but it all came pouring out of me like water, like a torrent that I could not contain.

The Heart of Mary, where every human longing for the Mystery of God is overwhelmed by the miracle of Divine love, the miracle that transforms the universe: Jesus.

The closeness of Mary. The tenderness in the way she looks at us. She understands each of us, and knows how to shape us and foster our growth. She makes our lives into a home where Jesus dwells. The Holy Spirit lives in her. He works powerfully through her intercession. She holds us “in the crossing of her arms,” in her heart, and it is there that the Holy Spirit forms the new life of Christ in us.

I was talking to my son as we were coming back from the church: “If I could say one thing to you, it would be this: ‘Stay close to Mary. Pray to her. Talk to her.’ Stay close to her.”

Holy Spirit living in Mary, fill the hearts of my family, draw us closer to You and to one another.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni Per Mariam!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Listening" To Benedict XVI

I was doing some research on the internet (a.k.a. "goofing off"), and I came across a quotation that struck me very powerfully. It came from a place that I have come to call "my daily bread," namely, the speeches and writings of Pope Benedict XVI. I seek him out every day, to "listen" to him. I use the word listen very deliberately, because one does not simply "read" Benedict XVI; the words he speaks enter the mind and heart, engender recollection, and inspire prayer and love. He is doing so much more than imparting good information; he is teaching us how to listen, how to be silent, how to remember God and live in His presence. His preaching is a kind of school in Lectio Divina--which is a method of reading and praying the Scriptures that grows into a posture of attentiveness to God's presence in all of the reality and the circumstances of our lives.

I would encourage everyone to listen every day to the words that the Holy Spirit is speaking in the Church, through the Petrine ministry of Pope Benedict XVI. The electronic media at our disposal make it easy to do this. It is enough to visit the vatican website (

Benedict strikes me every day. Often a few sentences from him seem to put my life "back on the rails." This is a very apt metaphor indeed. The day has been like a runaway train, and then it is suddenly back on track, at the right speed, and headed once again for the station.

Often I find it in his sermons. It can be as simple as the reminder that God exists, and that He is good. The Pope knows well that some who listen to him are agnostics, or people who are confused and searching for the meaning of life. He also knows that people like me, who have been blessed with faith and who have studied philosophy and theology for many years, are not as far from the agnostics as we would like to think. Every day, I need to be reminded--often--that God exists, and that He is transcendent Goodness. People like me, who "think about religion" all the time, can live in forgetfulness of the real God who is present to each moment of my life.

The words I found on this day, which I posted all over the internet, were actually a simple statement that I have heard many times before and know very well. And yet I have to spend time with these words. I have to listen to them. They express a "position" in front of reality, in front of the mystery of God, and in front of the fact of what God has done and what He continues to do, in history, in my history, right this moment. They are worth remembering again and again:
"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Like Falling In Love

The Christian event
does not wait for man to change,
it does not require preparations
or preconditions;
it simply breaks in and happens,
like falling in love.
Thanks to its unique capacity
to correspond
to the original needs of the heart,
[Christ's] presence is able to reawaken these needs
in all their potential,
often buried
beneath a thousand layers of sediment,
and to open wide
all man’s reason,
magnetizing all his affection.
Before the presence of the answer,
the question is unleashed in all its boundless depth.

Fr. Julian Carron
President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation