Thursday, October 31, 2019

WE WIN!! ⚾ 2019 World Series Champions ⚾

What a bunch of hootin-n-hollerin we let out in this house in the early hours of the morning of the last day of October in this unforgettable year of 2019.

The Washington Nationals did it! They won it all!!

I won't pretend that we "never gave up" on the 2019 Nationals. We weren't "believers" in May, when the Nats were 19-31. We'd been through this before. And there they were, back in May, after a mediocre 2018, with new injuries, with all the problems in the bullpen. We thought, "Nope, nope, nope. Ain't gonna happen."

But as the Summer wore on, hopes awoke ... maybe we could salvage a halfway decent season. At some point we realized that this was a pretty good team. A persistent team. A spirited team, a fun team, a clutch team, a comeback team.

Winning 8 straight games to finish with 93 wins and a "wild card" spot in the playoffs made us proud. With "Baby Shark" and all that pizazz, the Nats were a memorable and admirable ball club. They kept things loose and had a great attitude, but they also played hard and they played to win. They were an exciting team. Way to go, Nats!

It had turned out to be an excellent season. Of course, in the playoffs they were just wild cards, but really we figured that whatever winning they did in the playoffs would be "icing on the cake." We wouldn't have blamed them for losing to the Dodgers or the Braves or the Yankees or the Astros...

Anything can happen in baseball, after all. And, boy, did it happen! Indeed, this team made things happen.

The Nationals were down to the Brewers, down to the Dodgers, and down to the Astros, and they came back every time. All those comebacks were more than luck, more than coincidence.

These guys proved that they're winners.

So many players deserve credit: Strasburg, Scherzer, Sánchez, Corbin, Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman, Turner, Eaton, Suzuki, Robles and many more. One player stands out for me: an old school ball player, a veteran, who had a great season, and then hit the division-series-winning grand slam against the Dodgers, and another homer that scored the winning run in game seven of the World Series in Houston: Howie Kendrick.

The 2019 Washington Nationals are World Series Champions. It's the first World Series win for a Washington baseball team since 1924. It's the first championship for our own Nats, who came here in 2005.

John Paul was 8 years old when we started rooting for the Nationals. He grew up with the Nats. We went to games, and we watched game after game after game, year after year after year on television. There were some hilariously awful teams, quite a few mediocre teams, and then some division winning teams that couldn't get past the first series in the playoffs.

John Paul finally got a local champion in hockey when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Given the years of frustrating playoff drama and failure with the Caps, that was profoundly satisfying.

But we really needed one for baseball.

Eileen and I were happy to be with our son and his fiancée Emily and other friends at our own Game Seven TV watching party, and to see the Nats win it all. WooHoo!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dear Dad, These Memories Are Very Close to Me

Dear Dad: 

The last time I cared so much about a Game Seven of the World Series was 40 years ago. This is basically what we looked like in those days (from a picture of us at a game at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium around that time period). Back in 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates were down three games to one, and they came back to win it all (including the last two games on the road). 

We went to Game Four in 1979, and even though we were in the outfield seats, and even though the Pirates got crushed that night, it's a memory I cherish. Tonight, that memory and so many other sports memories seem very "close to me." 

It's funny, this past March - during your final illness - your grandson and I were telling you about the Nats' prospects for the coming season. We didn't think they had a very good team. 

No matter what happens tonight, one thing is clear: We were WRONG about the Nats. 

Dad, I miss you, and that you're not here in bodily life to share this with us. I know, of course, that the bond continues to grow in other, mysterious ways. Still, I'm thinking of you, and praying that the Lord will embrace you forever, and that in the end we will all "finish the race" and "keep the faith," that we will all be "winners" together. 

Rest in Peace, Dad.❤➕

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Remembering and Celebrating Blessed Chiara Badano

Today we honor the short but heroic life of this wonderful 18-year-old girl: Happy feast of Blessed Chiara "Luce" Badano! She is indeed a "light" who encourages all of us to love Jesus and trust in Him no matter what. Her intercession for us in the presence of the Lord is - I am convinced - very powerful.

Chiara is especially important for young people, and for the evangelization of youth in the midst of the dominant trends of secularist culture with its idolization of power and external success.

As a young person growing up in the 1980s, she shared in the normal endeavors and aspirations of her time. She played sports, enjoyed hiking and swimming, loved music, and had a beautiful singing voice. She had friends and was known to be a good listener, a confidant for peers in their difficulties. 

She had her own struggles, problems with school, and heartbreak, like any teenager. She was an exceptionally lovely young woman, bright, unassuming, accessible, modest without preoccupation, ardent, persistent, open-hearted.

She sought Jesus, to love Him and serve Him. She hoped to become a medical doctor, to tend the needs of the desperate poor of sub-Saharan Africa at that time. Instead, at age 17 she became a patient herself, struck down with osteosarcoma. 

In her final two years she fought for her life, endured immense suffering, and offered herself ever more profoundly in union with Jesus on the cross in His cry of abandonment. She died three weeks short of her 19th birthday, on October 7, 1990. Even with all her pain, she radiated a transcendent joy that amazed everyone around her.

I don't understand her, and I can't imagine such courage. But I love her for it.

And now - living forever in the glory of Infinite Love - she has opened her listening heart to my troubles and sorrows. She has encouraged me and helped me to be a better father, a better educator, and a more open person to the needs of others. She also has led me to seek the light of Christ shining in places where I would not have thought to find it.

She is a sign of the Lord's great compassion for me, and for the whole world.

"What a free and immense gift life is and how important it is to live every instant in the fullness of God. I feel so little and the road ahead is so arduous that I often feel overwhelmed with pain! But that’s the Spouse coming to meet me. Yes, I repeat it: 'If you want it Jesus, so do I'" (Blessed Chiara Badano, dying of bone cancer, 1990).

Monday, October 28, 2019

When We Were Young (1995)

It was twenty four years ago today that these two young people got "officially" engaged: October 28, 1995 (this pic is from December 1995). Eileen and I have been together for nearly half our lives.⭐❤ #SoGrateful

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"Standing Before God's Eyes..."

"To pray is to stand before God's eyes without any illusions, excuses, or justifications" (Pope Francis).

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Josefina Turns Thirteen!

The Janaro family has another teenager!

Well, "technically" speaking...

Thirteen years ago, on that wacky-and-totally-unforeseen-day-that-we-never-dreamed-we-would-end-up-celebrating-every-year, October 26 in the year 2006, Josefina made her surprising (but necessary) early debut on the ex utero "platform" of life.

She had major health issues that required emergency surgery (and ultimately another emergency surgery months later) and ended up spending nearly seven months in the NICU. I have written about this story many times on this blog and even in my 2010 book Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy.

She is fine today. But she has always been a little bit on the small side for her age. Maybe she's just a small person, physically speaking. As I always say, she is the opposite of small when it comes to personality. 

And that has been true since the beginning, when she was all big eyes and chubby cheeks, charming the NICU nurses (most of the time).

When I began this blog, she was only four years old. John Paul (our oldest) was thirteen. Now he's into his twenties and engaged. Agnese and Lucia are in university. Teresa just got her driver's licence. And now Jojo enters the teen years, in the strict sense, at least (according to the numbers). But she's hardly your average teenager.

She's still very much a kid. People could be forgiven for guessing that she's ten or eleven ("forgiven" in general, though maybe not forgiven by her😉). She's more on that level physically and in some other aspects too. But Jojo has been growing steadily since toddlerhood, and there's nothing to be concerned about.

There are some ways in which I think she's mature for her age. She can have serious and intent discussions, has a large perspective, shows a great capacity for empathy, and she's got big aspirations. It frustrates her a bit that she's small for her age, but she's going forward at her own pace. We are blessed to live in an environment (and be part of a school like John XXIII Montessori) were there is both guidance and freedom, where there's lots of friendships between kids of different ages (and plenty of interaction between generations).

There is still the dynamic with one's own peers, and that always has ups and downs. Every kid weathers the challenges of growing up in a different way.

Josefina has lots of adventures ahead of her. Meanwhile, I will continue to try to be the best Dad I can be for her (and for the others, because this task - these relationships - always matter, through the whole of life).

I love this family that has been given to me. They keep me young at heart. Again and again they humble me and show me that the meaning of my life is beyond myself. I need to pray. I need to follow Jesus, and trust in Him. But that's a wonderful thing to be reminded of. We are made for relationship with God. This is the glory of life.

Happy Birthday Josefina!!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Beer and Baseball

A beer and the World Series.⚾ (When you're my age, this is partying... woot!)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Road of Life Moves Onward

I have another vlog near the end of the month of October. It's lovely to be outside in the beautiful weather we've been having these days. Here is the latest episode of "My Front Porch," which reflects - among other things - on the possibility that I might soon be making this series from a different front porch. Check it out below:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

John Paul II and Us

If you've followed this blog or my other Internet media sites for any length of time, then you've seen this picture of the newly married John and Eileen Janaro with Saint John Paul II in Rome on July 3, 1996.

This encounter will always be precious to us. We'll never forget how he invested himself in those few brief moments with his amazing capacity to give of himself, his magnificent humanity, and also his own unguarded vulnerability as a real person. He was carrying the burdens of his 18 years in the office of Peter, his advancing age, and the early stages of Parkinson's that was slowly shaping the last heroic sacrifice of the physically debilitated final years of his singular papacy. 

On that afternoon, we spoke with him and asked him to bless our marriage, and he traced the cross on our foreheads. Then we hugged him and he felt like an old grandfather, and we kept saying, "We love you, we love you!" He said, "Thank you."

I think that, for a moment, we actually gave him some small consolation. 

I know it was a huge, pivotal moment in my life, in Eileen's life, in our marriage, in relation to all that has happened since then, to the future yet to come, everything. God alone knows...

Saint John Paul II, pray for us, for our family, for all families, for all those who suffer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

John Paul II: "Christ Bathes Life in New Light"

“The words of Jesus explaining his identity and his mission are so important: ‘I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). Our personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his witnesses. This new way of looking at the world and at people, which comes to us from him, leads us more deeply into the mystery of faith, which is not just a collection of theoretical assertions to be accepted and approved by the mind, but an experience to be had, a truth to be lived, the salt and light of all reality.... Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life's decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ” (Pope Saint John Paul II).

Saturday, October 19, 2019

New Challenges For Our Family

Our little personal world is changing again.

Last week my dear 80 year old mother fell in the condo in Arlington and broke her ankle (thank God, she had no other major injuries, but any broken bone is especially difficult for someone at her time of life). Prior to the accident, Mom had continued to live in Arlington on her own. She wanted to stay there as long as she had enough mobility to get around the apartment, and she got frequent help from us for more difficult tasks. Her mind has been (and remains) strong and active.

Now, after orthopedic surgery, she will spend some time in a rehabilitation center. After that, Mom will move out to be near us in the Shenandoah Valley. We are looking forward to having her with us. The goal is (eventually) to get a house with a small apartment attached, so that Mom can still have her own space and her own pace of life, but be near enough to get as much help as she needs.

Ultimately, this event might lead to some good things. I'll be very happy to have Mom around. Right now, she has to go through the process of healing and rehab with whatever challenges they bring. After that the challenges are mostly logistical: we eventually have to sell the condo, sell our own house (where we have lived for 18 years) and move her and us into a new place.

Right now it all looks rather daunting to me, because my health has been unpredictable and, of course, it has been such a year of changes (sorrowful ones, and joyful ones too). But there is a constructive path before us, it's steps are well known, and many of our friends have taken it.

God will give us the grace to persevere on this path, one step at a time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dabblings in Digital Art

Here are some recent digital art projects I have been working on:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Finally, Newman is a SAINT

"God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. 

"There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. 

"Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him."

~Saint John Henry Newman

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Does the World of "Social Media" Make Us More Lonely?

Ah, social media! Everybody wants to beat up on social media.

This is not without reason. First of all, in 2019 we need to recognize the tag "social media" as a shorthand term for the entire "new media" explosion of this decade, the whole scope and variety of mobile audiovisual access that seems to allow every individual the possibility of turning their life into a reality TV show.

In our daily lives we are immersed, far more than we realize, in a communications media environment that did not exist fifteen years ago. This is a fact worthy of reflection.

Anxious questions often arise. Is the phenomenon of social media destroying our psychological health? Is it taking us away from "real" human interaction and cheapening communication? Is it turning us into reactive, antagonistic, illogical, irresponsible, and damaged people?

It must be, surely... right? "Social media is the scourge of our society" — I read or hear statements like this all the time... on social media!

The Internet has certainly displayed, facilitated, and exacerbated our dysfunctional patterns of engaging with one another. People too easily post or comment or tweet without adequate thought or sensitivity. These kinds of media are open to abuse because of their speed, dislocation, and variability. They are also used to raise the levels of expectations, complexity, and stress in our society.

To put it in more concise terms, we've got a real mess on our hands.

I do think it’s interesting that almost everyone seems to agree that “social media is the problem” — which to me is an almost certain indication that it is not THE problem.

The realm of social media is crazy like everything else in our society, but it’s also a forum where people desperately try to “connect” from out of their isolated spaces. Of course, it’s generally too facile and superficial and involves too little personal risk to really build connections (though it’s not impossible, and I have seen remarkable uses of it).

The Internet today is the gathering place, the hangout spot, the public square of "the global village" (and McLuhan's paradoxical term continues to express the inherent tensions of an environment that aspires to such a vast intimacy). It's a bit uncanny, this global village square, where our attention and agency can operate in multiple exchanges involving multiple locations, all of which are physically very distant from the place in which we are bodily located at any particular time. Indeed, the “virtual commons” — in itself — requires no actual investment in any particular "feet-on-the-ground" common life, no commitments to “elbow to elbow” relationships.

People come from everywhere to social media in search of human connection, “present themselves” (by constructing their image) and seek applause or affirmation or just to know that they are not alone. This can be very helpful, as far as it goes. There was a marketing slogan about an "old media" platform that connected people over great distances (and still does) in a more private way, the telephone. Regarding the phone call, the slogan said: "It's the next best thing to being there."

Something analogous could be said about new media. Interpersonal and even communal exchanges are possible in ways we scarcely could imagine when I was young. But it still remains "the next best thing" to a whole experience of being with others. As a substitute, it inevitably proves to be frustrating and disappointing. It's not surprising, therefore, that here we are today, feeling more isolated, more alone, more "depressed," more shallow, and more bellicose than ever. Social media gets blamed, but the problem is much deeper, I think. The problem is perhaps that we have no real “commons.” We have few places where we are wholly invested in being together — places of unmediated “belonging-with-others,” where relationships can grow on a human scale.

It’s a problem, in part, of the great human crisis of this “new epoch” (what Guardini calls the “epoch of power”). I'm in the process of developing a more general survey of this emerging epoch in human history. Here let me note that this terminology must not be taken to indicate unambiguous progress for humanity, much less any kind of evolutionary trans-humanism. Human nature as such doesn't change by going through a historical process. Nevertheless, because of the richness of the inherent stature of human beings as both spiritually transcendent and concretely embodied persons in the world, human potential tends to unfold the full range and depth of its capacities through the experience of discovery during the course of history.

Thus the knowledge and agency of human beings grow through time. This growth is not linear, but it tends overall to accumulate. What we discover about the world and our own humanity, however, can never replace the basic challenge of living, which is a task for freedom. The perennial responsibility to choose the good will always entail the risk of resistance against the good. In the "field" of human history, the wheat and the weeds both grow together.

To return to the immediate subject at hand: an important feature of our shifting into the aforementioned new epoch is the ongoing technological revolution. He we note specifically how technology has affected our way of "inhabiting" space and time, and this has jolted the bases for human relationships in ways that we still haven't adequately considered. Our technological power has vastly expanded our "mobility" (among other things), allowing for many new opportunities but also dislodging what had always been the grounding of the human communal experience: that physical-location-determined network of human relationships that were “given” by the inescapable fact of being “stuck” in a place (village, neighborhood, town, etc).

People rarely consider how much their humanity is extended (and stretched, stressed, dislocated) by the entire infrastructure of technological power we live in, which is so pervasive we don’t even notice it. We live in an environment that puts powerful tools in our hands to “manage” life and relationships. This opens fascinating possibilities but also gives rise to the tendency to try to “escape from ‘the given’” whenever it conflicts with our comfort or desires, or imposes obligations (especially interpersonal ones).

It can be enriching to get away from the local village and its limited perspectives, and choose a place (or places) to live where we can grow as persons. But there is the corresponding danger that we will use our mobility to distance ourselves from the responsibilities that come with stability and commitment, and search for places to hide and stagnate. We can end up isolating ourselves in our chosen places, with whatever technological distractions we choose to provide for ourselves. Not surprisingly, rootlessness, superficial social relations, and relentless distraction prevent many people from making progress in personal maturity.

This is the “problem” that I think we need to consider. I’m not saying, “everybody should go back to the village” — this is not a realistic possibility even if it were desirable. There is much good in having possibilities to move about: thus we can travel, expand our horizons, appreciate different cultures, engage in collaboration on a global scale, and also go off (again, even far away) to specially protected nature parks when we want to “get away from it all.”

There is significant value in the unprecedented availability of all these options for human experience. Nevertheless humans are made for connection and commitment in real relationships. And since we are no longer “thrown together” in the village with literal neighbors, we are challenged to live more intentionally, more consciously aware of this constitutive human need. Multiplication of casual encounters governed by one’s own whims (powered by all this enormous technological enhancement) does not meet this need. People who "play around with" the need for human connection by using social media while trying to evade the work involved in committed relationships will eventually experience distaste, frustration, and greater alienation.

One key is to recognize and commit to the relationships that are (still) “given to us” (God is good, and He provides for human beings in every era, especially when they allow their essential needs to become prayer — to open themselves to relationship with Him). There are persons who are given to us, who are meant to be basic companions for all of our lives. Family is, or should be, the obvious example.

But here again we meet the problem of the absence of connection. Our power over material reality — combined with the pressure of extended expectations, impatience, and the desire to dominate and radically control reality — have led to the technological and sociopolitical manipulation of the family’s natural constitution and fruitfulness. While often celebrated as a new achievement for "freedom," this has already proven to be an enormous human catastrophe, painfully evident wherever the ice of "demographic winter" has taken hold. Sooner or later we will have to face it: turning sexual relations into a game (with the help of many varieties of technological power) has dissipated the energies that build and sustain family bonds.

What value is there to progress and development if they cannot be passed on to future generations? The history of persons, communities, peoples, nations, and humanity itself depends on the vitality of family life as a gift from God "written" profoundly into our human nature. In our legitimate concern for the earth's environment, we must not forget the imminent dangers that we face because of the wanton pillaging and destruction of this immensely delicate “human ecosystem,” the organically generated human structures that constitute and sustain the most fundamental human relationships.

The family remains an ineradicable source and sign of the human vocation to love and to be loved. But also I think we are entrusted to one another in various ways, by the interpersonal gifts that arise from encounters within the circumstances of life. These may even generate organic forms of community, but it is always important to discern and commit oneself to friendships that can constitute a “vocational companionship” — friends who really help and accompany us in the journey of life.

Social media platforms may be able to play a role in facilitating and fostering interpersonal relationships, and in reaching out to others. In themselves, they are another form of technological power which must be integrated into a more profound sense of being human persons called to a communion of love.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Christina Grimmie: A Daughter of God

It has been three years and four months since this wonderful human being passed beyond the limits of this present world. On June 10, 2016 Christina Grimmie, a daughter of God, was called home to her Father's house. 

She wants us to remember that His house is our home too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Getting Close Up With the CAPITALS

On the evening of October 8, we went to a Capitals game and had the best seats we've ever had. John Paul was able to get four free seats from some of his connections, right at center ice, behind the penalty box.

So Eileen and I went with John Paul and his fiancée Emily. We had a great time. The Capitals played the Dallas Stars in a game with some exciting moments. The highlight was when the Caps scored with less than a minute left in regulation, to tie the score and force the game into overtime. The crowd's roar was deafening.

Unfortunately, they lost in overtime. But they still got one point for a "regulation tie" according to the way the NHL calculates records (2 points for a win, 1 for a tie at the end of regulation that the team loses in overtime, and 0 for a loss).

It was fun. The hockey season has begun again, and it has been more than a year since the Capitals won the Stanley Cup and finally gave my son a hometown champion after a whole childhood of loyal and but often frustrating cheering for Washington D.C. teams.

Here we all are, in the fourth row!

Needless to say, baseball isn't over yet, and the 2019 Washington Nationals are still in the running... ⚾

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Rosary: "Handing Over Our Burdens"

Today is the beautiful feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Saint John Paul II has inspired many people (including our present Pope Francis) to a deeper devotion to the prayer of the Rosary. Here are a few words of that great Pope from the beginning of this new millennium, from his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary in 2002:

"Following in the path of Christ, in whom man's path is 'recapitulated,' revealed and redeemed, believers come face to face with the image of the true man... It could be said that each mystery of theRosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.

"At the same time, it becomes natural to bring to this encounter with the sacred humanity of the Redeemer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which go to make up our lives. 'Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you' (Psalm 55:23). To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother... The Rosary does indeed 'mark the rhythm of human life,' bringing it into harmony with the 'rhythm' of God's own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life's destiny and deepest longing" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae 25).

Saturday, October 5, 2019

It Really IS "Okay"...

"It's OK not to be OK."

I certainly know this is true. It can be hard for the younger generation to really accept this, even if they affirm it verbally. After all, the future still stretches before them, as yet undefined. And this is an era in which empirical scientific knowledge and technological power are continually generating new "life hacks" that overcome limits of all kinds.

We expect solutions. But still, even today, not everything can be fixed.

There is no shame in patching things up as best we can, and going with what we have. It can even be surprisingly creative, when we do what we can to build on the foundation that every human person's life has meaning and purpose, and every human person is loved by God.

I'm "not OK." I don't want to complain, but I have had a few persistent problems, so I'm aware that life can be hard, and I would like to think that through many years I have learned a little about empathy.

As I have explained in some detail on this blog, in other writings, and in what still remains my most recently published book (in 2010), I have struggled with long-standing illnesses most of my life. An avid outdoorsman in my youth, I probably first contracted Lyme disease in my early 20s (which is when I first experienced some of its now well-known early symptoms). Unfortunately, doctors in Northern Virginia in 1988 knew very little about this strange tick-borne illness that had only recently begun to afflict New Englanders but was in fact spreading throughout northeastern USA and elsewhere. It was some two decades before my illness was identified and targeted directly with antibiotics and several years of diverse treatments and therapies. Some measure of success was achieved at great cost, but at a very late stage. Frankly, I'm glad to be alive, but I still have to deal with the wide spectrum of elusive and often debilitating consequences of a Lyme infection that was neglected for so long.

Day by day, we patch things up as best as we can. We go with what we have.

Long before Lyme disease came along, I had to endure significant problems with my mental health. (This too I have written about in great detail on this blog and in my book.) I have battled major depression (in different ways) for 46 years (starting at the age of 10). I have certainly benefited from the ongoing developments in mental health awareness and care. Therapy has helped me tremendously. Sometimes medication has also helped.

Fixes everything!😉
Yes, medication. We don't need to be afraid of psychiatric medications. They won't "fix" people, and they need to be evaluated and monitored regularly. But they can contribute as part of a program of health care and maintenance just like other medicines do for other persistent conditions. Mental illness is real illness: it's important to say to people that if they need medication, that's okay. Medication can help; a good mental health professional will give guidance on this, and work with the particular needs of each person.

When I was younger, there were many times when I thought, "I'm cured! I'm fixed, for good. I'll be 'OK' from now on..." This does sometimes happen even with regard to overcoming longstanding obstacles in life. Who knows? It may still happen for me. But I'm not ashamed or embarrassed by the fact that it hasn't happened yet. In any case, I have been around long enough to know that there will always be problems, and also that life retains its purpose and offers us new ways to give of ourselves, whatever our condition may be.

For me (and many others) mental health is something patched together. We end up holding the brain together with lots of psychological duck tape. It may not be pretty. We can't put too much strain on it. We have to keep "reapplying" more duck tape. But, for today, it's moving along.

In sickness and health - as in every facet of our lives - we need to stay connected with people. We must not be afraid of the people who love us; we need to be open to relationships with people who really care about us. They have limits too, but these limits are an invitation to us to care for them. We need one another.

It really is OK "not to be OK." Ultimately, our relationship with Jesus and His transformation of our suffering in union with His love is the absolute guarantee that everything - even death itself - has a meaning and purpose. I have also written much about these themes (even though it can be overwhelming to consider - it is, after all, a mystery).

But even in this present life, in facing many kinds of obstacles that would have made me utterly panic had I foreseen them in my youth, I'm more confident that it is OK. It's going to be OK. But I have a long way to go in developing this conviction. As a "Young Senior" (😉), I'm still jumpy about the-stuff-that-can-happen-to-people-my-age, as well as what might happen if I avoid all that and then have to face the unique problems of genuine old age (which for me would be at least a generation away).

No one knows what the future holds. We are all in God's hands.

Still, I have been through and continue to deal with some difficult things. From the vantage point of the years of experience I do have, let me assure younger people: a full and beautiful life can bloom and bear fruit through all of it. We are all vulnerable in different ways but also gifted in different ways. We can all love and help one another, and that's where we discover the beauty of life.

It's not easy. Sometimes I find it all very frustrating, but overall I "manage" to go forward, grateful for every day when I can discover how limitations in some areas open up new spaces for human creativity and the constructive exercise of freedom.

I believe and hope that these spaces for freedom continue to open up (even if only in mysterious ways) all the way to the very end of a person's life. Then, through the final, impenetrable enigma of death, we are called to give ourselves freely and definitively to God and (in some fashion) to those who have been entrusted to us in this world.

I don't "feel ready" for that yet, but the day and the hour of the summons to such a gift are not under my control (or even accessible to my practical understanding). I am called to "do" what I "can" in the present moment, which is to live, knowing and loving as I am able, and trusting that what lies beyond my power is in the hands of a Mysterious Goodness who affirms and establishes life, fulfilling and going beyond all my longings.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Servants of All for the Love of God

Happy Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Some quotations from a letter of Saint Francis:

"O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and do as the Lord himself said in the gospel: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul; and your neighbor as yourself." Therefore, let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind.... 

"Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. 

"People lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.

"We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake.

"The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father’s children who do his work."

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Our Lives Are Fruitful

It has been a while since I posted a vlog update. Here, then, are just a few words about how I have begun to discover the precious gifts that are passed from generation to generation. 

We have so much to be grateful for. We in turn hope to pass on what has been given to us and lived, personally, by each of us.

I'm coming to you from under one of the Maple trees. It's good to spend time with them while the leaves are still green.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

China: After 70 Years, New Bloodshed

On October 1st, China marked the 70th Anniversary of being ruled by the largest organized crime syndicate in the history of the world. Here are a couple of pictures from the day's events.

The first picture (the top half of the collage) shows the scene in Beijing. Here is the big parade. Floats, flags, soldiers, tanks, more tanks ... but whoa, what's with "the man in the suit"?

Now it's a general rule, I would say, that when a dictator starts making 40 foot tall pictures of himself, he probably has two much power and/or two few marbles in his head. Xi Jinping is not known for losing his marbles, which makes this (among other things) just plain CREEPY!

Meanwhile, the second picture (the lower half of the collage) is from fierce clashes in the wake of several huge protest marches in Hong Kong. Cameras were all over a terrible and unprecedented moment: a police officer shot a protester in the chest with a pistol.

Real bullets this time. The last I heard, the victim - an 18 year old high school student - was still in critical condition.

This was not pepper spray. This was not an "accident." This was not a "warning shot." It was a gun, it was aimed, and it found its target.

In the cultural context of Hong Kong, this crosses a new threshold. After months of brutal, painful but non-lethal methods, a bullet has been fired. We can only hope and pray it's not the first of many...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Thérèse and the Mystery of Love

Well... wow! Thérèse is way beyond anything I can understand here. Surely, our lives are a great mystery. A great mystery of love... 

Happy Saint Thérèse Day!

God is good, all the time. And He loves us.