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.

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.