Thursday, December 31, 2015

We're Awkward, Clumsy, Blundering, but We Move Forward

Well well, 2015. Goodbye.

You have been a hard year for many people. A year of sorrow and pain. You are ending, however, with the promise of mercy. The Jubilee Year of Mercy is about so much more than we realize.

The Infinite Mystery, who gives us our being and draws our hope, wants us to know that He is with us. He is with us.

Mercy is more than just "helping those in need." It is a solidarity of the heart. Ultimately we are truly merciful when we turn to one another and say, "Your suffering is my suffering... your need is my need." That is why the "works of mercy" are not only benevolent acts we do for others. They are also a school in which we learn the depths of our own poverty, our hunger, and how these depths are transformed into the great spaces for giving and receiving love.

In this way, we can begin to understand that God is Mercy.

We will also begin to see the only possible foundation for peace in our families, our communities, our nations, and among the peoples of the world. It is not "tolerance." It is not mere "coexistence." It is solidarity.

Yes, it means that we will have to suffer. But we are all suffering anyway. We can suffer alone, or we can suffer together. We can remain isolated, holding onto our pain like a grudge, refusing to let go of the rage, the bitterness, the cynicism that we use to cover over our own humiliation. Or we can open ourselves, in a real way, to the mystery of mercy, to the discovery of our own aching need and the needs of others.

Only if we open up our own vulnerability will we find the One who has taken our weakness upon Himself, who is bringing forth from our nothingness a new existence, a new healing, a new capacity to love and to be loved.

And this openness takes place in relation to the persons who have been given to us, our "neighbors," our brothers and sisters.

This takes time. Suffering together in solidarity, coming together in our hearts, is a hard work that we must learn. It is awkward, clumsy, full of mistakes and apparent failures, messy, blundering... but we move forward. We never give up.

We find strength, courage, light, and hope, because He is with us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A God Who Has Entered Time

"Since the Day of the Lord's Nativity, the fullness of time has reached us.
So there is no more room for anxiety
in the face of time that passes, never to return;
now there is room for unlimited trust in God,
by whom we know we are loved,
for whom we live and to whom our life is directed
as we await His definitive return.
Since the Savior came down from heaven,
man has ceased to be the slave of time that passes to no avail,
marked by toil, sadness and pain.
Man is son of a God who has entered time
so as to redeem it from meaninglessness and negativity,
a God who has redeemed all humanity,
giving it everlasting love as a new perspective of life."

~Benedict XVI

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hope of the World is Our Hope

Mercy is an incredible thing.

During Christmas we remember Jesus coming among us. He comes for the poor, and for the Gentiles, and for Israel--for the whole world. He comes to seek out and save what is lost. He comes for sinners.

Jesus loves the worst sinners, the people we would consider disgusting. He has not given up on them. He loves them, He goes out in search of them, He gives Himself completely for them.

He wants sinners. He wants the most awful people, the disgraceful people, the people we don't want anything to do with. He wants to change their hearts by His grace, to bring them to repentance and conversion, to heal them, to forgive them, and to enable them to love Him. He wants them to be with Him forever. His heart burns with love for them: the ones we look upon as gross, horrible people--not just "ordinary sinners" but really bad people.

This should be a cause for great hope. For who among us looks in the mirror and sees a face with no cause for shame? The hope of the world is our hope. Jesus wants to awaken in us and draw forth from our hearts a true sorrow for our sins, and then He wants to fill our hearts with His love and transform us and make us beautiful.

On the Cross, in the Church, in the sacraments, and in these beautiful days of Christmas that we celebrate, He shows how He has given Himself to us, and how He longs for us.

He wants us to pray and to open our hearts to Him in trust. We must pray, "Lord, make me the person You will me to be. Shape me, change me, lead me. I believe in Your love for me. I trust in You."

Saturday, December 26, 2015


I'll write more about the Janaro family Christmas Day and ongoing celebration when I get the chance. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a simple message:


The "Christmas Season" is not over. Some think otherwise. In the world of Retail Sales, December 26 is...

...Valentine's Day? SERIOUSLY??? This is a real picture from a real store this morning!!!

No no no no no no no no no no no no! Just... totally... NO!!!

Oh well, sales is a wacky world of its own. But those of us who are Catholic Christians should not shape our lives according to this pattern. We should know better.

Christmas is not over. Indeed, it has just begun.

We are celebrating the fact that God has come to dwell with us. The Infinite Mystery has become a man so that He can walk with us and endure our pain... because He loves us!

Jesus is born. We need more than one day to take in the magnitude and the wonder of this event. Thus, in the great family of Jesus that is the Church, we celebrate Christmas for an entire season.

"Christmas Day" itself is extended into an Octave: like Easter, Christmas properly speaking encompasses the whole of Christmas Week, capped by the "eight day," the feast of the Mother of God in the current Roman calendar.

Then the Christmas Season continues until the feasts of the Epiphany (hence the classic "twelve days of Christmas") and the Baptism of the Lord. This concludes the proper liturgical season in the current Roman rite, but it is traditional (and very nice too in the dark days of January) to extend Christmas season and especially to keep our Nativity scenes and some of our decorations up for 40 days, taking us all the way to February 2, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem.

In any case, this is just DAY TWO. You know, "the second day of Christmas..." etc.?

So by all means, continue to have a "Merry Christmas"!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Agnese's Birthday: An Adventure in Time and Space!

We had a great day for Agnese's 17th birthday. She had grown so quickly into such a beautiful, intelligent, and talented young lady. So quickly indeed.

In fact, when I went online that morning, I immediately learned a remarkable fact: Facebook cares about me! Wow. And they showed their love by marching me down my own memory lane. Since I began using Facebook in 2009, I have (with the exception of one year) faithfully noted Agnese's birthday, sometimes with pictures.

Meanwhile, Agnese has been growing up.


Thank you, God. It has been an amazing six years. Eileen and I have "grown" too during this time; we have grown in the adventure of parenthood, which continues to be surprising and challenging and above all gratuitous. These human persons: nothing is more obvious than the fact that we did not make them. They belong to themselves, from the hand of the only One who can give them this fundamental gift.

At the heart of parenthood there is wonder. Astonishment. Gratitude.

Agnese baked her own birthday cake, as she has for several years now. (She also makes my birthday cheesecake.) The theme for this year was from everybody's favorite goofy wacky British space adventure/fantasy, Doctor Who. The reboot beginning in 2005 has been a big success in America even while preserving its silly aliens with their hilarious costumes, and its preposterous plots woven together with baloney-"science" that creates adventures for its occasionally powerful, sometimes brilliant and often bumbling hero.

The contemporary series has benefited from the talented and dashing young Englishmen who have played the role of the Doctor. I think David Tennant remains the favorite around this house. He is the imperiled Doctor in this amazing cake. His blue time/space machine, the TARDIS (disguised as an early 1960s British police phone booth) is here surrounded by the deadly Daleks (and they do look pretty much like this in the show:

Seriously, the most dangerous beings in the universe look like this, but with a bit more "metal." Just see for yourself:

Of course, they shoot death rays while shouting obnoxiously: EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! Needless to say, however, the Doctor always finds a way to beat them.

Woooosh! The TARDIS escapes through time and space, with one birthday candle representing all seventeen years of Agnese's life (you know, "wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff!").

We promply exterminated those chocolate Daleks with mocha icing and truffle tops. The cake should last a long time, because (as every Whovian knows) it's "bigger on the inside"!

Okay, I'll stop.

Actually, Agnese has many talents besides baking fun cakes. She draws magnificently. I don't hesitate to post this since she has shared it and other drawings on Pinterest and art websites. David Tennant as the Doctor rendered in pencil by my daughter:

Happy Birthday Agnese!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

An Open Letter to My Dear Former Students

Dear Former Students,

As Christmas approaches I have a few words especially for you. I speak here not only of those of you that I know well, but also the many familiar faces who never had me in class as a professor but saw me every so often on campus. We passed through important years together in the life of a growing school.

I want to say, first of all, "Thank you!"

It's beautiful to watch your lives mature after you graduate from college, to see the adventures, the work, the young families, and to continue on the path of life together as adults in solidarity.

I love your pictures: the places you live, your travels, the food you eat, and--of course--your kids. I can relate directly to kid craziness. Most of mine have gotten older, but it wasn't so long ago when they were all little. And, of course, I still have one that qualifies as a "little kid" and requires the attention of a little kid (though not nearly as much as when I started writing this blog over four years ago).

I also know that some of you are experiencing troubles, sorrows, frustration. Some marriages have led to separation. Children have been a source of many trials. People have grappled with various illnesses, including mental illness.

Some people have left the Church. I know that. You have found that the old inspiring speeches and the charge of "Instaurare Omnia in Christo" and even a solid (but by no means complete) education have been inadequate for the complexity of the world you now live in. And the questions of life are larger than you had realized.

I'm sorry, of course. At a college, we can only do the best we can with educating and building up a constructive environment. We teachers and administrators have our own idiosyncrasies and limits. We are sinners. Please forgive us.

But there is nothing in this world that can address the complexities and answer the questions that are not just intellectual but that constitute the depths of you as a person. Only Jesus can do that. The real Jesus: that tremendous Person who loves each of us with a wild and unpredictable love.

Sometimes when people "lose the faith," they are actually going through a phase of life in which what they're really "losing" are their own reductionist ideas. They are finding that it's not enough to know philosophy or theology as a collection of logically connected terms. It's not enough to have ideas about God. They are finding that they cannot live life with a mere conception of God, Christ, and the Church that is devoid of mystery, relationship, and the freedom of love.

We can become disoriented when we are stripped of our illusory images and false self-confidence. But we can also allow a space to open up within us where the Mysterious One who is beyond-all-things can really begin to speak. We can rediscover Jesus and what it means to belong to Him in the Church.

Dear students, we are all suffering in different ways. Maybe in school we teachers didn't appreciate that fact as well as we ought. I'm sorry on my own behalf. I had many sufferings in those days and yet I knew so little about compassion. I think I have learned a bit more since then.

The poor internet is not much. Just pictures and words, often ill-considered words. But I hope it at least reminds us that we are not alone.

You are not alone.

Whatever you're going through--whether things are going well or badly, whether your faith is strong or weak or gone entirely--the journey that you and I began to make together at a little college in Appalachia continues. We can still help each other.

Whatever may be the distractions of the internet, this possibility is one of its great benefits, and it is a special blessing for those of us who are united in Christ. To be able to pray for one another and share one another's joys and sorrows is a real grace.

And for those who have drifted away for whatever reason, or find themselves in darkness, please remember that we are still with you. I'm still here. I'm still your old professor, though I have no plans to lecture you. We're at a different place in life now. It's more important that I listen to you.

That is something I am always ready to do.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beethoven: One Day is Not Enough!

Dude never, never, ever smiled!

I know, you thought that was yesterday.

All that is actually known about the birthday of this great classical composer whose genius arguably ushered in a new era in musical history is that he was baptized on December 17, 1770.

In those days of high infant mortality, baptism was usually administered right after birth. There are, of course, instances in which birthday and baptismal day did not correspond (for example a birth near midnight) but we have no way of documenting this.

You see, in those days, in the Habsburg "Empire"--that patchwork of places and peoples and customs loosely tied together by aristocratic family bonds with an inefficiency that would boggle the twenty-first century mind--the Church was the primary dependable written archive for ordinary life events.

The Elector of Bavaria or the Mayor of Bonn were not in the business of keeping databases or issuing birth certificates. Nevertheless there is a tradition of marking Beethoven's birthday on the 16th of December, a date that may have originated with household memories of a crying baby in the night. In any case, scholars are divided on "the birthday question." Many experts hold that today is the most likely day, given the documentary evidence, including the most widely used and trusted modern general resource for research by specialists, intelligent inquirers, and everyone else too. The following graphic illustrates this position:

The first panel of Google's Beethoven Birthday diddly, for December 17. This is fun!

Others (including myself) prefer the more antique and persistent testimony that has dominated the literature for the past 60 years. We have based our case for December 16th firmly on the documentation of Schulz and Schroeder:

Note the date of 12/16 clearly indicated in the lower right corner.

The best way to solve the dispute, however, is simply to celebrate both days! That is what I think we will do here. Whether today or yesterday, Ludwig van Beethoven is now 245 years old.

Seriously, some who read my blog may not know that I am a trained musician and a music lover myself. I play the cello and the guitar. Circumstances of various kinds have prevented me from doing much lately with my own music, but recently I've begun to feel a desire to take up the instruments again. True, I said something like this two years ago and I have played very little since then. But, perhaps now it will be different....

Taking up music again would be positive sign that Depression might be moving into remission, somewhat.

'70s teenager JJ on a Yamaha FG-75 steel string acoustic guitar
My musical appreciation covers a large range of genres and categories, "from Bach to rock" ... which is to say a wide variety of classical and contemporary forms. I was first cellist in my high school orchestra and played electric guitar in a garage band while also composing my own instrumental pieces for classical guitar.

I still listen to many kinds of music and appreciate different genres according to analogous criteria. Beauty manifests itself in exalted and humble ways alike, in great symphonies and simple folk songs, and from the soaring cadences of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto to the "rattle and hum" of The Edge's guitar. The great masters are the tall majestic trees, but there is a whole forest of plants, flowers, vines, grasses, and peculiar weedy sprouts that can surprise us.

Along with the classics and the traditional music from different cultures, there is almost too much "popular music"--but it too can be appreciated with the discipline, discretion, and attention that respond adequately to reality as a whole. There are all the varieties of "electronic, amplified ensemble music"--I'm searching for a broader term for the most common music today, the stuff you find on iTunes, whether it's "pop" or "rock" or "indie" or "alternative" or "nu-this" or "post-that," as well as folk and roots music, bluegrass, film scores, electronica, world music, jazz, blues, gospel, choral, instrumental, etc.

Music fascinates me. Anything that makes sound can be brought into relation with corresponding sounds; these can be crafted by the marvelous powers of human intelligence and human aesthetic sensibility, discovering and shaping rhythm and harmony (and discord too) into an audible and resonant expression of beauty.

Okay, now that I have given a nod to everyone else and every other kind of music, I want to come back to Beethoven, because Beethoven will always be my favorite. And, anyway, it's his birthday[s].

Some of my earliest memories are listening to Beethoven symphonies with my Dad on "Hi-Fidelity" vinyl records. I owe my lifelong love for Beethoven to him. Thanks, Dad.

Oh wait... some of you are puzzled by words like "vinyl" and "Hi-Fidelity." We're talking about "records." You may have heard of CDs? These were kind of like CDs only bigger and... other things that I can't explain here. They looked like this:

Actually that's just the "label" in the middle. The whole record is the larger circle around it.

When I was a child, the interpretation of Beethoven was marked significantly by the towering musical figure of Arturo Toscanini, who emphasized conducting orchestral music in such a way as to attain the precise intent of the original composer as much as possible. Whether he succeeded in this project is a matter for debate, but his mid-century recordings are regarded as classic renditions in their own right of Beethoven's great Symphonies.

I didn't know any of that at the time. I just assumed we liked Toscanini because he was Italian.

Orchestral music remains my favorite, and the Symphony is a wonderful vehicle for working the full dynamic range and tone of an orchestral ensemble. Beethoven's nine Symphonies are milestones of the genre. I find it impossible to pick a single favorite. I suppose it's a tie between the fifth, the seventh, the third, the sixth, and the ninth.

But here's a record I remember vividly from my Dad's collection:

All those "Toscaninis" on one record cover. It was kind of mind blowing for a four year old kid. I don't know where this record is today (I got this image off the Internet). I have it somewhere. Or, Dad, do you still have it?

But the music... ah the music of the A major Symphony! The perfect way to celebrate Beethoven's 245th Birthday. And we don't need the record. All we need is a link to this famous 1951 performance, which I shall happily provide.

Click and enjoy:

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Guide "In Darkness and in Safety"

"In general the soul makes greater progress when it least thinks so; indeed, most frequently when it imagines that it is losing. Having never before experienced the present novelty which dazzles it, and disturbs its former habits, it considers itself as losing, rather than as gaining ground, when it sees itself lost in a place it once knew, and in which it delighted, traveling by a road it knows not, and in which it has no pleasure... But inasmuch as God Himself is the guide of the soul in its blindness, the soul may well exult and say, 'In darkness and in safety,' now that it has come to a knowledge of its state."

~St John of the Cross, from The Dark Night of the Soul

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gaudete! Rejoice!

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in His love" (Zephaniah 3:14,16-17).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Guadalupe: Mary Loves Us, and She Can Change History

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

This is the great secret of the universe: we have a beautiful Mother who bears us in God's grace through this life and "gives birth" to us in the glory of God's kingdom.

She is not a goddess. She is a creature, a human person who said yes to God and brought God Incarnate--the Word made flesh--into the world; she is a human being who says yes to us and wants to bring Christ to each of us.

And she is not shy. She loves us with all the power of a woman's love: she is intelligent, practical, persistent, and downright spunky when necessary. And all of this with a woman's love, a mother's love, that brings peace. The story of Guadalupe makes this clear. Really, it is clear in the New Testament, if we take the trouble to dwell on the woman who appears there and the great heart that is manifest in her every gesture.

Mary sought out Saint Juan Diego on this marvelous December morning in the year 1531 and gave him the great gift of this image of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet. In the image she carries Jesus in her womb (as the black ribbon indicates), ready to give Him to others. And Mary entrusted this simple man Juan Diego with the charge of bringing this mysterious gift to those around him, to the bishop of Mexico, to the peoples of this land, to the whole world.

This is the story of how Mary loves each one of us. It's the story of how she takes care of us, and even how she outwits us when we try to run away. It's the story of how she invests us with the courage to share Jesus, to participate in her maternal mission to bring the hidden Jesus to birth in the hearts of others.

And it's a story that really happened in history. You can go to a real place, a physical place, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and you can see with your own physical eyes this astonishing icon. Science cannot explain anything about it. Science cannot explain how it was made or how it endures.

Millions of pilgrims over the past 484 years will tell you that it is a miraculous image that communicates the personal presence of our merciful mother Mary, and Jesus her Son. They will tell you that it's a privileged place of encounter with Jesus and Mary.

Next year, Pope Francis will go to Mexico City because, as he says, "Our Lady is there." His predecessor Pope Saint John Paul II visited Mexico and the Basilica five times during his pontificate, where he would spend whole nights in prayer with Mary.

Miracles really do happen in history. Go to Guadalupe as a pilgrim and see for yourself. Or just know in your heart that she is there, that she is keeping her promise to offer all her love, to offer Jesus, to those who cry out to her and accept her as their mother.

The miracle of Guadalupe strengthens and deepens my certainty that Mary is a real person who really exists and who really loves me. There is this woman, a real woman, who knows me and is totally determined to crush the evils that threaten me, to draw me away from my self-love and free me from all my worries, and to give me Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus is our Redeemer, and nobody knows that better than Mary. That’s why no one can bring Him close to us like Mary. Doesn’t it make sense that, at the heart of the plan of salvation, there is a woman, a real woman, who is not just a passive vessel, but whose active, vital, feminine, maternal love really makes a difference in our lives?

Mary is that woman. She has found me in so many places in my life, but especially at Guadalupe. I have no excuse to doubt her tenderness or the goodness and mercy of God.

I know that if we give space for Mary to love us, we can be confident that Jesus will change us.

We are pilgrims on a journey to eternal life, but Mary--like a good mother--cares for every aspect and detail of our lives. She is not afraid to get involved with the historical lives of persons, cultures, nations, and whole peoples. We are all her children, and two thousand years of Christian tradition testify again and again to Mary's presence, protection, and help in our greatest spiritual and temporal trials. Mary is not afraid to change the course of history. The icon of Guadalupe changed the history of the Western hemisphere, and continues to bring change even in the midst of much tumult and violence in this part of the world.

Also in our time, Mary has promised conversion and a period of peace for the human race. Let us open our hearts to Jesus in the ways that she has requested, and then bring all our anxieties and troubles and weaknesses and fears to her, our good mother.

This is the beautiful way to become children again and thus inherit the Kingdom of God. It is also our greatest hope for peace in this world.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Words of Guidance From Benedict in His Final Advent as Pope

I found a couple of posts I made in 2012, thanks to the On This Day app. They were two rather lengthy quotations from the words of Pope Benedict XVI (who was still in office, in what proved to be the final Advent of his papacy). I'm not sure when he said them, but I posted them both on December 10, 2012:

The last thing I could have imagined "on that day," three years ago, was that Benedict had already discerned with firm conviction God's will for his own mysterious, unique vocation. He was only three months away from making the stunning, historic announcement of his resignation from the papacy.

His natural death would not have surprised me three years ago. But this... sacrifice: it was and remains a powerful witness to Jesus's authority over His Church.

Benedict was called to make this sacrifice "without fear but with simplicity and joy"--to put God entirely at the center of his life, to live in silence and prayer and allow God to choose another to take his place on the chair of Saint Peter.

Remarkably, Benedict continues to dwell in that silence nearly three years later. His quiet presence at the Jubilee Door on Monday and his embrace of Pope Francis were a reminder to us of the ways that his gesture of abandonment continues to instruct us.

When Benedict opened himself to "the divine initiative" in his vocation, he opened the whole Church. Now he continues to witness to our need in the Church to make room for Jesus first--and for the presence of His Spirit--when speaking of God, "trusting that He will act in our weakness."

Benedict continues to live in this trust "that the more we put [Christ] at the center rather than ourselves, the more fruitful our communication will be."

Do we believe this? Are we learning to trust in Him first and at the center of everything: to trust in Him to accomplish His infinite and incomprehensible will for our good even in our weakness?

Let us leave more room for God.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Our Friend Juan Diego

Here is Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in a statue that I got in Mexico some years ago during one of my pilgrimages. I took a few quick pictures of it today and worked on them in various ways with digital graphics, just to exercise my brain.

The statue is usually in the dining room looking very small beneath a great framed photographic reproduction of the Tilma. And Juan Diego wouldn't want it any other way.

Here is a "saint" who is so humble that his identity is almost entirely transparent to the Mother of God. It is true, he is a patron of indigenous peoples of America as well as all lay persons. He is a wonderful example for us all of what it means to live the gospel with faith and love, simplicity and perseverance.

But he was just a poor man who encountered the beauty of Jesus living in Mary, and followed. He gave himself over to a humble place in a great and mysterious story. And he remains standing behind the Merciful Mother, giving her a place where she can give Jesus to us. The image of the Virgin remains on his cloak today after nearly 500 years, in a great Basilica in one of the most widely visited religious shrines on earth.

I pray to him every day. I am convinced that he is one of the greatest saints of the Church. He stands forever in a humble relationship to Mary, her "dearest and smallest son" and in this way so much like Jesus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jubilee Year of Mercy: The Light of God's Love and Forgiveness

Pope Francis opens the Jubilee Door of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome (see Traces magazine HERE)

"The history of sin can only be understood
in the light of God’s love and forgiveness.
Were sin the only thing that mattered,
we would be the most desperate of creatures.
But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy....
The Immaculate Virgin stands before us
as a privileged witness of this promise
and its fulfillment."

~Pope Francis (Angelus for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening of the Holy Year of Mercy, December 8, 2015)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy 13th Birthday Teresa!

The amazing Teresa Janaro turned 13 years old yesterday. Happy Birthday, Teresa. We love you so much!

Green Belt, Shotokan Karate

Always ready to be funny.

Loves her little sister so much.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

God Seeks Us Always, but He Doesn't Force Our Love

There are many reasons why people try to escape from God.

Sometimes you just have your own agenda. You prefer your own ideas to the wisdom and love of the God who created the whole universe. You think you know better than Him regarding what you need to be happy.

Or you're just bitter. You're angry with God because of pain or the deprivations of your life. Maybe you prefer to be at a distance from Him. You want the cold solitude that lets you hold onto your own misery.

You don't want to pray because you want to avoid God, to forget Him, to run away from Him and His mercy that would change your life. And you are a free person. You can say "no" to God.

But wait... you really don’t want His mercy? Well, watch out then, because He is going to come looking for you.

Where are you going to try to hide? He is, you know, infinitely clever. He will "outwit" you. He will write straight with all your crooked lines.

But God is a lover, not a bully. Love cannot be forced; it is freedom itself. Thus the mystery of evil entails the real possibility that we might succeed in escaping from His loving embrace forever. But we will not become free and independent by escaping from God’s love. Outside of God’s love there is nothing good, true, or beautiful.

How awful.

So lift the cover from your hiding place. Turn to Him. If you are still running away, then you haven’t yet gone too far. Turn back and cry out to Him. Ask for His help, His mercy.

God helps those who ask him. He even helps those who run away, as long as they don’t refuse to come home. He helps those who do not push Him away. He helps those who have been hiding from Him, if they are willing to let themselves be found.

Do not forget God. Let yourself be found.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Brief Brilliant Afternoon

Chapel at "John Paul's college" this afternoon around 4 PM colored by the sunlight low on the horizon but bright through the spaces of bare trees.

Chapel of Christ the King, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia on the waning afternoon of December 3, 2015