Thursday, June 30, 2016

Christina Grimmie: Shine On, Bright Beautiful Star

The goodbye salute, from her room to the screens of millions of people all over the world.
I wanted to find a few words before the end of this month to express at least some part of the awful grief that cast such a shadow over America in that bloody second weekend of June 2016. This grief has been something I have shared as it has unfolded over the ensuing weeks. Though it hasn't been immediate for me personally, of course, it has also been something more than remote.

In particular, as a musician and promoter of independent music, a participant in the new media and interactive telecommunications revolution that is happening in our time, and simply as a father, my heart is broken and at the same time deeply, mysteriously touched by the awful events that took place in Orlando the night before the mass-murder at the Pulse nightclub, and the responses from around the world that continue to pour in.

Above all, I want to honor the luminous young person who died that night of June 10, but who, for a few short years, brought a singular gift and an extraordinary personal presence to the world of music and the world of the internet.

Simple beginnings in the summer of 2009
Christina Grimmie started to sing covers on YouTube in 2009, when she was 15 years old. She was a girl from New Jersey with an electric piano keyboard and a webcam, making videos in her room and uploading them to her own YouTube channel.

At the time, homemade videos that other people could actually watch were starting to catch on thanks to advances in internet speed and the quality of computer cameras. And other viewers were able to respond in YouTube's own "comments" section, as well as through links with other social media.

Thus young people, who are so often the ones who discover new possibilities, began to post homemade videos and to watch the posts of their contemporaries. Most of the videos that went up were only interesting to their small circles of friends (and this alone was enough to make it great fun). But there were those who used the medium to share some truly high quality creative work in areas like music, comedy, short cinematic productions, etc. Others just had a knack for putting up appealing videos that people watched and shared.

These YouTubers attracted tens of thousands of views and regular subscribers. The "YouTube star" was born at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. So was the "YouTube fan." Most of us older folks didn't even notice.

Christina Grimmie didn't set out to become a YouTube star. But she was a girl full of music, bursting with music, and she had a very special, soulful, and mellifluous voice. She also had something else, an indefinable gift, a charisma that enabled her to reach through the screen and connect in a striking and vivid way with viewers.

The views (and soon the subscribers to her channel) multiplied rapidly. Christina was a natural genius for the kind of audiovisual interaction that YouTube had begun to make possible.

She made followers all over the world feel like they belonged to something special, and that they were participating in her aspirations to develop as an artist. In fact, they really did help, with their requests, their comments, and their enthusiasm.

In a couple of years, her singing voice had become something really unique, authoritative, powerful, versatile, wide-ranging, and bold. I'm not especially a fan of mainstream pop-style music. But Christina took banal songs from pop-charts, brought her special vocal and keyboard magic to them, and totally knocked them out of the park. And she just kept getting better and better.

Soon she had over a million subscribers. Other possibilities opened up and she began to make studio recordings of songs she had written herself.

"Rawwk Fingers," the official Team Grimmie hand salute
Meanwhile, when she wasn't singing and expertly playing her keyboard, she was talking to her viewers, making them laugh, inviting them to share in her goofiness and wacky observations. As time went on she became more creative and more hilarious. She named her faithful viewers "Team Grimmie," invented special words, goofy spellings, and hand gestures. She built up a connection between herself and the team, and gave them credit for her own success. And they had a great deal to do with spreading her music through social media and building up the team through their interaction with her and one another.

Christina covered pop hits and sang love songs, but something distinguished her from most of mainstream music. I don't know what to call it other than a straight, upfront, unaffected joy and innocence. She was funny and stylish but never crude or indecent. Her videos were entirely "clean," but not in a laborious or self-conscious way. She was just being herself, and she had all this light shining out of her, and it was this light and its gentle warmth that she shared more than anything. She was so lovably human, but also "different" because her foundation was something greater than herself.

Though she never proselytized, it was no secret to any of her followers that at the center of Christina Grimmie's life was her faith in Jesus Christ. She was throughout her life an Evangelical Christian who lived her faith deeply and intensely but also with joy and humility. She occasionally mentioned her faith as though it were a very natural thing, but people understood that it was everything to her. This is what I perceived, and everything that was said after her death confirmed it: she loved Jesus. She really loved Jesus. This love was her freedom and the deep source of her light, and she sought to shine it even more widely and deeply into the often dark, obscure world of mainstream entertainment.

After her death, Twitter followers went back to this tweet from 2013 and retweeted it all over the world again.
This is why she turned to mainstream television in 2014. She was already a YouTube sensation when she tried out for the celebrity-coached talent show The Voice. (Her initial "blind audition" has become one of the legendary moments in the history of the genre of these TV talent shows.) She sang her way through the whole season and made the final round, finishing third and winning the hearts of some of the biggest celebrities in music as well as countless TV fans of all ages.

After The Voice she did more concert tours and recorded more of her own music. But she continued to remain engaged with her YouTube base, which grew to over three and a half million subscribers. She not only kept posting videos and live streaming with her "frands" (as she called her loyal followers), she also dedicated much time to them after live shows so that she could meet them in person, speak to them, and hear their stories.

It was at one of these meet-and-greet sessions after the concert in Orlando, Florida, on June 10, 2016, that a deranged man approached Christina and opened fire from two Glock pistols, then turned a gun on himself after being tackled to the ground by her brother and bandmate Mark Grimmie. Christina died shortly thereafter.

She was 22 years old.

Little is known about the killer, and I cannot bring him out of his own shadows. Some might see this as an example of the dark side of social media, but I think it's much simpler: people with great hearts who love courageously always leave themselves vulnerable to danger. This has been true since the beginning of the world. It's important to take prudent precautions, but when the goal of a person is to give his or herself to others, there will always be a risk. Many questions have been raised once again in our national discourse about what "prudent precautions" can be taken to reduce the violence that killed Christina Grimmie and then, the following night, killed 49 more people and injured many others in a three hour reign of terror at the Pulse nightclub. These are good questions, but I do not want to raise them here.

I only want to note, once again, that love is always a risk. But it's a risk worth taking. Christina knew that risk; she knew that God Himself had taken the risk for her, and for every person, so that love would win the victory, so that love would be marked with the promise of the resurrection.

Christina used to greet her frands with open arms when they approached, and so too on that fatal night she opened her arms to embrace the man who was about to kill her, and thereby rendered herself completely defenseless against him.

It was the defenselessness of love.

I will close on this note, with the beautiful words of one of her own songs, entitled With Love.

You called me out and taught me tough
With love, with love.
You fought my flaws, my teeth, my claws
With love, with love.
Cause every time I'm slipping away from myself,
You're the one that moves me like nobody else.

Cause when I'm down and I'm done,
And I'm coming unplugged
When I'm ready to fall
You're the one always holding me up
With love.

Your tongue won't tie; you'll always find
The truth, yeah you do
But still you smile despite the lines
I drew for you.

Cause every time I'm slipping away from myself,
You're the one that moves me like nobody else.

Cause when I'm down and I'm done,
And I'm coming unplugged
When I'm ready to fall
You're the one always holding me up
With love.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Morality and the Face of Mercy

"Christian morality is not the titanic, willful effort
of one who decides to be coherent and who succeeds,
a sort of solitary challenge in face of the world.
No, this isn’t Christian morality;
it’s something else.
Christian morality is an answer,
it is a moved answer in the face of the astonishing mercy,
unforeseeable, in fact, “unjust” according to human criteria,
of One who knows me,
knows my betrayals and loves me anyway,
esteems me, embraces me, calls me again,
hopes in me, expects from me.
Christian morality is not to never fall,
but to get up always,
thanks to His hand, which takes us."

~Pope Francis

Friday, June 24, 2016

Twenty Years Together

Eileen and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary on June 22. We had a lovely but pretty laid back day, which was just fine with both of us.

Honestly, it doesn't "seem like only yesterday." A lot of life has been lived. We have lots of memories. Yet, in contrast to many of our friends, it seems like we are still "early in the game." We have a kid in college, we have teenagers, and we have a... well, we have a Josefina (who is always "outside the box").

People my age often have in-laws and grandchildren and other adventures with their twenty-something- (or even thirty-something-) aged kids. These are experiences I still cannot even imagine.

God willing, we have plenty to look forward to in the future, and then also maybe (if time and health permit) we can visit Rome again as happy old folks and feel the Mediterranean sun on a beach while we eat linguine with fresh clams.

I thought that, in honor of our twentieth, I would revisit the photography of the years and give you a few peeks. This time, I am posting (as much as possible) pictures of just me and Eileen without the kids. Since Eileen is not a person who relishes being in pictures, it's not easy to find photos of just the two of us, but I have done my best.

What follows is a nice little photo album. I'm sure my own parents (who actually read this blog) will enjoy seeing these.

Wedding picture, June 22, 1996.
Wedding reception, June 22, 1996.
Sometime in 1996, early on.
Skipping ahead to around 2000. We're in Northern California where Eileen's folks live.
This is the summer of 2001. Again at Eileen's parents' house, at that time in the Bay Area. Always loved these visits.
The early 00's, when it was no longer possible to have pictures without kids, but while I was still clean shaven.
January 2004. Eileen is holding Teresa, who is about 13 months old.
June 22, 2004, our eighth wedding anniversary.
Spring 2005 (John Paul's first communion) and Fall 2005 (with Agnese).
Christmas 2005. This was one of the pictures that did not go out with Christmas cards that year. We're both laughing!
June 2007, at the parish picnic. A lot has happened since the previous picture. Josefina was born and back home after
her seven month odyssey in the hospital. My health is about to collapse, and Eileen will continue with great courage.
Easter 2008, during a difficult year. We decided that I should "retire" and Eileen would then begin the certification (and Masters degree) in Montessori Education that undergirds her present career. Here we didn't know how things would work out.
Christmas 2010. Eileen is teaching and all five kids are in the program. Somehow, I managed to write a book.
Summer 2011. Eileen has finished the work for her M.Ed. I've been writing a "blog" for several months.
Easter 2012.
2012 or 2013? At a Nats game. John Paul is with us too. He's taking the picture.
Christmas season/early 2013.
Christmas time 2014/2015.
Six months ago, at Christmas. I had to wear a summer jacket because it was so warm.
Easter 2016
We're hoping to do some more fun things this summer, so maybe we can get an updated picture soon.

Eileen Janaro, you are beautiful. Thank you for these past twenty precious years. I will always love you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thomas More: "A Taste of Your Holy, Blessed Spirit"

Give me, good Lord,
a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient,
charitable, kind, tender, and merciful mind,
with all my works
and all my words
and all my thoughts
to have a taste of Your holy blessed Spirit.
Give me, good Lord,
a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity;
a love for You, good Lord,
incomparably above the love of myself;
and that I love nothing to Your displeasure,
but everything for the sake of You.

~Saint Thomas More

Monday, June 20, 2016


He is our refuge. Never give up searching for Him.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Weep Wet Tears

We weep wet tears
while blood red roses bloom in the sun.
Life drains out from our eyes
and we feel like drops disappearing
in the ruthless rush of endless waters
pouring down a cold dark hole.

But our hearts know that it is not so.
We do not vanish into the arid night.

We each have faces
loved into our own shape.
And I know the unrepeatable jewel that is myself,
holding it in the light of love
for my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Time for Silence, for Mourning, for Listening to God

I have no words.

I have read so many words in these days, as if somehow we might be able to use our voluminous and conflicting words to forget the terrible fragility of human life, the awful vulnerability of our brothers and sisters and our own selves. We are so easily broken and dissolved, and nevertheless we are entrusted to one another. We are responsible for one another.

I have no words of my own for times such as these. They are too jarring, too painfully close to our broken hearts, too incomprehensible....

I need to listen again to what was spoken long ago, to listen as though I am hearing it for the first time:
"Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).
Jesus said to his disciples, "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22).
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21).
Whoever loves God must also love his brother, his sister. Do we even know what this means, or how to even begin to love like this?

This is a time for silence, for grief, for sorrow, and for listening to God.

Can we not mourn the fallen, console the sorrowful, and clear away our own noise to make space for God to come?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saint Barnabas the Apostle (June 11)

"The Church in Jerusalem...sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:22-26).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Forgiveness: Is It Really Possible?

Deep down, people don't believe in forgiveness. We may talk about it, but in our hearts we don't really think it's possible.

Why is this? It's connected to the deep alienation, the terrible loneliness that we suffer from and that nevertheless we think we must foster and validate in the name of individualism.

We are under the illusion that we must radically establish--each individually and by our own power--our personal being and value. But if I see "myself" as consisting in an autonomous project of self-definition, a project that I carry out alone, I will run into my own limitations everywhere. I will always fall short. And if I am truly alone, what can I do when I fail, other than condemn myself and suffer the condemnation of others.

Thus we become desperate. We try to bend reality itself, so that we can define our failures as success, and demand that others do the same. This can only be brought about by a refusal to look at the heritage of human experience, and the dynamics of real life and its inherent direction. We end up doing violence to ourselves and others. This violence, in turn, must be justified and redefined. We try to extend our redefinition of humanity into the realms of politics, society, and culture, and even to suppress those who dissent. The truth is that we are afraid to be alone with the horror of what we have made of ourselves.

But perhaps our society may begin to notice that redefining the standards of what it means to be human, among other things, doesn't work. We still bump into our own limitations, everywhere. We who claim to be "free" are in fact a society obsessed with guilt, terrified of failure, and full of self-loathing. We flee into addictions in a desperate effort to distract ourselves. To put it simply: we are not happy.

But what if I am not "alone"?

What if the core of my person consists in "belonging-to-Another"? What if my real life is in fact a relationship with the Source of all meaning and goodness? And what if I begin to realize that my very be-ing in this moment is the result of the fact that I am being loved by the One who is Infinite Love?

If this is true, then I am "good" and my humanity is a gift. A precious gift. I am precious to Someone. And when I fail, I can seek forgiveness. I can hope that the One who is Good will make me good. This hope is written on my heart, and I do not need to suffocate it. There is forgiveness.

We do not need new definitions of humanity and new social totatitarianisms to impose them. We need the prayer for forgiveness. Each of us and all of us need the prayer and the hope for forgiveness. We need forgiveness and mercy from the infinitely merciful One who always holds our hearts with love. And we need to forgive ourselves, and (this is especially important) to forgive one another.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Do We Live as "Brothers and Sisters," Really?

Do we really believe that Jesus makes us brothers and sisters in a unity that is more intimate than anything in this world? Do we really know what it means to live as members of one another in Christ, journeying together toward our common destiny of eternal life and love in the Trinity?

It's so easy, as Catholics, to have a moment in which we recognize, "this is the road for our journey!" But then we walk that road like we are strangers to one another.

I have a very hard time with that. For me, the road is so weird and I get lost all the time, or go around in circles. I can't do this alone. I need something more than polite fellow-travelers on this trip. Even though I constantly fight to preserve the illusion of my "autonomy" and the fantasy of my own self-sufficiency, I know that I need to live my faith together with other people.

So where can I go? The Church, of course! But what does that mean? There's the local church ...what do I find in the typical vibrant American [or insert your country here] parish? There are the sacraments, first of all, -- the fountains of Christian life are given in them. But how is this life lived intensely? Well, the parish has many kinds of groups. I may encounter something here that really changes me. Or I might just find lots of well-intended activity going on. That's good and worthwhile, but by themselves good activities are not enough. After they're over, I get into my car and drive back to my lonely fortress. Is that what the New Testament calls "the fellowship of disciples"?

I need help for my whole life, relationships, everything. I need "community." This is a fundamental human need, and for a Christian this need only intensifies. But let's face it: building and sustaining a real community is the hardest thing in the world. People always end up fighting and dividing into factions. Catholics? Oh boy, we fight more than anybody.

So where can I find intense "Catholic community"?

What about just giving up my mind and my freedom to someone who seems to know it all, some self-appointed "benevolent Catholic dictator" who just tells me what to think and what to do and relieves me of the awful burden of being a human person? I must admit that this option can be very tempting. "Conformity" and "comfort," disguised as "obedience," could shape my notions and my behavior into a formulaic routine, and give me a sense of superiority, but they would also also suffocate my heart -- that depth of me that says, "I am someone, I have been made for a reason, I have aspiration, I have hope, I don't just want to be reduced to a 'part' of a project, not even the cosmic project!"

What else is there for me? Should I just embrace and exalt my aloneness? I could say, "I'm gonna do what I think is 'Catholic' [i.e. whatever I want, as long as I can rationalize it by some veneer of Catholic theology or piety] and just blow off everybody else." For me, personally, that's the short path to the psych ward. Others seem to get by with this attitude, except that it's really crummy for their spouses (who often become ex-spouses) and their children and anyone else who needs them or tries to care about them. Not a good option.

I don't want to be alone. I need people. Clubs and casual friends and the internet are not enough. But being part of some kind of "collective" not only is humanly unhealthy, it also just covers up the loneliness. And there can be a lot missing even from the experience of being in dedicated Catholic groups that work together for the good of the Church. People can share an activity (even passionately) without sharing their lives. Passion for the cause can become a cover for not acknowledging the poverty of my person, for not sharing myself, for not loving and for not being honest about my own vulnerability, my own need to be loved.

I can even "belong" to a "movement," and wear it like a badge, and conform myself to its external style, and do all the "stuff," and still not invest myself. I can cover up the fact that I'm poor and that I need God. I can hide it from others, and from myself. I can choose mere conformity over the struggle to live with others heart-to-heart. It's so much easier than the risk of exposing my suffering to myself and others, and then suffering even more as I discover that they don't fully understand me and they can't fix me.

It's also true that I don't want people meddling in my life. I don't want to let them see my faults and then tell me what they think "I have to do." That's because I lack humility, first of all. I mean, let's be real here. I'm a proud man and I don't know how to be humble. I don't like being corrected by anyone else, even (especially!) when their corrections are spot on. I'm proud, therefore I'm afraid.

But there is another reason for this fear that I have. So often in life, my experience has been that people come along, stand on their platform, rebuke me, and then they go away! It's as if they are saying, "You don't really belong (and we won't really love you) until you correct these aspects of your personality, and you have to do that all by yourself. Then, after you've filled up all your own personal holes, then we will be with you and love you." I shouldn't be surprised by this, however, because I do the same thing to other people.

We do this so much to one another. Precisely those of us who are most committed to the ideals of community and relationships and solidarity: We do this. It happens in movements and committed Christian communities. It happens (too much) in "Catholic" marriages and "Catholic" families where we pride ourselves on our Catholic values, on how we "do things right" and how we are so different from all those screwed up families and screwed up people out there in the bad, bad world.

How different are we, really? We have an indissoluble marriage, a big family, a good Catholic community, or even an institution or movement "that has been praised by the Pope." But how do we live? Do we live as "brothers and sisters," really? Or, rather, do we live our real lives alone. Then we come out to "help" one another every so often. Then we go back to our own inner shells, to being alone.

Even when we are "together," we can easily live this dialectic of loneliness and invasiveness, reducing our togetherness into a kind of violence and alienation. This happens insofar as we forget about Jesus, insofar as we forget about the Holy Spirit. This forgetfulness can happen even when there's lots of talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Church and the Eucharist and the sacraments and community and the dignity of the human person and all the rest. It's easy to "domesticate" these words into our vocabulary and forget about the mysterious, intimate, concrete realities they signify.

I don't want to belong to a group of people who just correct my behavior and call me "brother," but forget the real Jesus, and therefore don't really, actively love me. That's not the life of the Church. That's manipulation. That's the dynamic of a fundamentalist sect. It's just another form of power imposing itself upon the weak.

Without Jesus emptying Himself on the cross out of love for sinners, for each one of us, for every human person, without Jesus and His love to the end... what are we? Nothing!

With Him, and depending completely on Him, trusting in Him, we really live the mystery of the Church. We are His presence in the world. This is our vocation, and this is what He wants so ardently, for us and for others, because He wants to love. What can I do except beg Jesus to make this happen in myself, my family, my friends, that the Holy Spirit will make this new life grow in me, change me, transform me, taking up all the weakness and the fear, opening up all the selfishness.

When we talk about our relationships within the Church, we use these terms: "brothers and sisters" and "members of a body." Why? Are we just being nice? Why these metaphors, or even better, are they just metaphors? The Church is our Mother. Baptism is a new birth. We are brothers and sisters and more, members of Christ's "mystical" body (and "mystical" means real, but in a mysterious way beyond our understanding). Thus incorporated into Christ's body, we are members of one another.

Is all this just "Christianspeak"? I hope not. Because this is what I want! I want brothers and sisters. I want a family. I want to belong to God, to call Him "Father," and to have the freedom to be with others in my life and say, "I am your brother" and "you are my brother, you are my sister."

You--my brother, my sister--you help me just by the fact that we are together, you help me even when you fail or forget. We live our fidelity to Jesus and the whole of His Catholic Church together, on the daily level. We can help one another to deal with all the junk that comes along every day, and when we look at one another, we'll start to remember that because of Jesus all of this junk has value.

And, if you think I'm being stupid about something, go ahead and tell me, because that's what brothers and sisters do. Of course you might be wrong, but if you think you see something that I'm missing about myself, you'll take the chance. I might get angry, but together we'll work it out (eventually, with patience) and we'll grow. We can look to our elders whose wisdom and example are a gift to us. We can forgive one another for having different personalities and therefore bumping against one another all the time, every day. Because we know we're a family and we're not going to go away and stop loving each other. We are together in Him. Jesus. We help one another to follow Him to the place where our hearts will all finally be at home.

Is it possible to live this way? Is it possible to even begin to live this way? It must be possible, because this is the life that God wants to give us. The Christian vocation is to love every person, of course, but the vitality of that love comes from the unity, openness, and freedom that Jesus gives to Christians who love one another. Thus we are exhorted to
"Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).
This is at the heart of Jesus's prayer for all his followers:
"...that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:21-23).
Is it possible to live this way, daily, together? It must be possible. It is, more than anything, what the world desperately needs from us. We can at least begin. We can begin to want it, desire it, ask for it. We can begin to live this way, and then begin again the next day, and every day.

As for me, I run away from this life every day. It scares me to death (why is that?). But it's still what I really want. I beg for it. Jesus, I know that this is the only way to live really, to find myself, to walk the steps of each day, to attain my destiny.

Jesus, help me to begin again.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Real Hearts That Love Us Personally

This weekend the Roman rite has observed the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which occur every year on the Friday and Saturday after Corpus Christi Sunday.

We do not worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus or honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary as though we are addressing these body parts in isolation, disconnected from their whole, integral glorified bodies, abstracted from their whole humanity. On the contrary, when we love and adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we love and adore Jesus. When we trust in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we trust in Mary.

When we speak of the human heart, we mean not merely the central organ of the circulatory system. We also mean the central focus of the mysterious interiority of the bodily person. Humans are spiritual and physical, transcendent and concrete, knowing and loving in and through a presence in space and time.

Jesus and Mary are fully human. Living in glory, the Risen One and the Mother who has been taken up into the full, definitive participation in that glory continue to be human. We don't understand how it "works," but we believe that Jesus and Mary live perfected in the flesh. The real Jesus. The real Mary.

To love Jesus in His Sacred Heart and Mary in her Immaculate Heart is to discover that they are not abstractions, that they are not a collection of ideals or cultural constructs that attempt to express some kind of alienating spiritualism. They are persons of flesh and blood, and their engagement of our lives is real and concrete, specific, particular. They love us.

Jesus loves me, and Mary loves me... "from the heart" in all the human intimacy this entails. This love is expansive beyond all imagining and mysterious beyond comprehension, and thus so often seemingly "distant" or even "absent" from our psychological sensibility in times of trial and suffering.

But they are always with us, and we must let them carry us even when all we can feel is our own pain.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Learning to Be Attentive

This reflection appeared for today in Magnificat's "Year of Mercy" Companion. It's always good to remember the tremendous mercy that surrounds us every day, the touch of God that reaches us again and again in the most ordinary ways and through the people closest to us:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

John Paul Turns NINETEEN Years Old

Happy Birthday to my adult son.

During the years of this blog he has passed from middle school to college. In January of 2011 he was still 13 and his voice was as high as the girls. Even then, of course, he was his own inimitable self.

We have marked various birthdays, sports moments, and his high school career. Now he is a rising sophomore in college.

We're so proud of him. Dear Lord, keep him always in Your care.