Monday, July 30, 2012

The Life He Has Given Us

It is good to live, to be affirmed, to be treated with justice, kindness and dignity, to flourish as a human being. The physical and earthly needs of the human person and human society are a concern of the Church because they too are the object of God’s mercy. God wants to comfort us in our afflictions and console us in our sorrows, but above all He wants to teach our hearts that He is with us, always.

He wants to open our hearts to the experience of something that we cannot perceive by ourselves: that the realities of our daily life mean more—not less—than we understand. Suffering must be endured, not because life is less important that we had hoped, but because it is more important that we can imagine. It is the place where God is with us.

Our hearts long for happiness, for “life.” But what is “life”? What is happiness? Do we find it only in that space of time that “belongs to us,” where we imagine that God sits in the background and allows us to play with reality, until He starts taking our toys away because “playtime is over”? No! This is not what life is! Life is God with us, every moment—in every joy (God delights in our joy) and also in the abyss....

In our trials, we may not feel the presence of God, but in our endurance and in our prayer (even our most inarticulate and desperate prayer) He is leading us to the truth that every moment of life has value because He is with us. And so we must open our hearts to Him and allow Him to shape us according to the mystery of His love. We must pray in faith and hope, that we might love God who embraces us within the life He has given us....

God knows how hard it is to suffer. But He has created us to love. Our hearts are made for God. We can only grow in this life by recognizing Him and loving Him more. Do I feel like I cannot love Him more? Do I want Him to draw away, at least a little, and give me back some of my space? Of course I feel that way, but I must pray and beg Him to teach me to love Him more, because His presence and His love are what is real in my life.

When we endure suffering, we are called to do so not with a merely stoic resignation, but with abandonment to His loving presence that is really with us and in us. And so we endure in the conviction that God offers us His love—the only fulfillment of the human heart—here and now, in the midst of our sufferings and the plodding of our daily lives. We are called to put our hearts on the line, to allow ourselves to be wounded by the hope that even in this darkness it is possible to love and to be loved, because He is with us and He loves us now. And we know that love—in the end—is always worth the risk.

The abyss is the hollow of the hands of God.

--excerpt from John Janaro's book Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy
To order the entire book, please see this link:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Guest Blogger: A Five Year Old!

Josefina keeps trying to get me to play, so I said, "Do you want to write the blog tonight?"

And she said, "Yes" and started for the keyboard. I said, "No typing. You can tell me what to write." So Josefina spoke and I wrote down what she said. I also asked her a few questions. This is a transcription of our conversation, with a few parenthetical explanations added. She also selected these pictures. Remember, she is speaking to you, dear readers! :-)

What would you like to say to everyone, Josefina?

"I'm Josefina Janaro. Don't forget that I live in Virginia. I'll tell you about Nana and Grampa's house. We went swimming. I'll tell you about school: I love painting and clay. I love working a lot. We have a garden to pray in. Do you know that I am a little kid? I cut paper a lot."

What do you like to wear?

"I like to wear dresses, pants, and shorts. My favorite kind of dresses are long dresses cause they make me warm."

What are your favorite colors?

"Purple, pink, and yellow, green, red, and that's all."

What is your favorite thing to do?

"Painting. I like mixing colors cause they turn different things. I like to draw with colored pencils. I'll tell you what I like to draw, I like to draw persons, animals, and books [?] and pigs, cows, dogs, cats."

What do you like to read? [by this I mean "what do Josefina and Daddy read together?"]

"I like to read I'll get the books... [she brings over "Corderoy and Company"]

Oh there's more! What else? What do we read?

Ummm...Mr. Putter, Henry and  Mudge, Bread and Jam for Francis. [And many other books that she just can't remember right now.]

Thank you Josefina for talking to us. Any final words?

"Hello. Do you work on computers? Do you do a lot of work?"

Josefina wants to know if you are like her Daddy, i.e. Do you work on computers a lot? Daddy works on computers a lot. But she's been very patient. Daddy is going to stop working and go play with her. Goodbye!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's Not Enough! I Want More!

Yosemite National Park, June 2012 (photo John Paul)

Longing, yearning, aching for that "something"--this is the way my heart is made.

Most of the day I smother it, but it is what makes for every authentic engagement of life that I manage in a day, and it makes it possible to perceive things as they really are and to recognize that my relationship with reality consists in a recognition of its beauty and a joy tinged with sadness--things are and yet they are not enough.

Being Christian does not take away this yearning. It intensifies it. It does not remove the sweet pain of my need for the Infinite. It is the revelation that the Infinite One has embraced my life.

Being Christian makes it possible to live life according to its true meaning, without escape or desperation. I don't live this possibility. I flee every day, into my own schemes and vain imaginings and grasping and blindness. But I have moments when I remember that this is what life is really all about.

They are moments of prayer. They generate hope. In hope, I truly begin to live.

[previously posted July 20, 2011]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Everybody's Got a "Flip Side"

I'm going through old posts, looking for topics that deserve further development, or common themes that might be stitched together. Of course, I'm dragging my feet on this project. Why? Because: (1) I'm lazy [haha, this is always number one reason]; (2) I'm obsessed with getting it perfect; (3) I'm blocked; (4) I'm going through a period of creative boredom; (5) I think I'm a huge hypocrite for pretending that I know anything about all of this; (6) I'm not ready to move to the next level beyond the blogging format, because (7) writing is exhausting, and
 (8) I'm still "walking on eggs" with my health from day to day [although I'm improving].

Things move forward, nevertheless. I don't think someone who ponders things the way I do will ever succeed in being efficient. It's a personality flaw. One of many.

It's humbling to reflect on the fact that each of our talents has a "flip side"--a defect in temperament that all too often blooms into a lack of character in some respect. Our talents and their corresponding defects develop together. Some of us are vigorous and precise, but also partisan and argumentative. Others are gentle and empathetic, but muddleheaded. The brilliant intellectual is abstracted from human relationships. The one who is adept at building relationships may also be a schemer, or a gossip. Some are friendly and nice, but also timid and afraid to take risks. Others are brave and bold, but also reckless and even obnoxious. So it goes. How many of us strive for virtue and find after many years that we've developed some meager good habits, bent, a bit one-sided and out of focus, along with many constraints, fears, and egotistical inclinations that we "dress up" as virtue?

Then there are those who are even tinged with genius -- poets, scholars, writers, actors, painters, composers, architects, statesmen, inventors -- unhappy people, socially maladjusted, and often afflicted with significant psychological problems. That spark of creativity inevitably shakes up the person and knocks the whole system out of joint.

It doesn't take much for the human animal to start to unravel. "Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong. And most of these are emptiness and pain. They pass swiftly and we are gone" (Psalm 90:10). We just can't bear much of life.

Still, we want the stars, and beyond. We keep going. We keep trying to find a way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is Christianity an Oppressive Imposition of Rules?

Too many people (even Catholics) think that the essence of Christianity consists in a series of moral demands, most of which are impossible to keep, and which therefore result in making us feel guilty and making our lives gloomy. People even tend to think of doctrine not so much as the expression of God's revelation as the "stuff that we are required to believe even though it doesn't make any sense."

An external, oppressive imposition of rules. No wonder so many people abandon Christianity.

But this is not the Gospel. The Gospel is fundamentally a relationship with Jesus Christ, and, through Him, the Father in the Holy Spirit. God loves us, and by His grace raises us up to a participation in His own Divine life. Our life consists in the fact that we belong to God, and that we are called to union with Him. God brings us into union with Him by making us His children. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He gives Himself to us. Christianity is life with God.

It's a whole new life!

And His grace is His continual gift of this life, this "energy" that enables us to become "like Him." This means becoming "perfect," becoming the persons we were created to be, becoming happy. His grace recreates us, and enables us to adhere to Him with transformed, "supernatural" capacities of mind and heart: faith, hope, and charity. And his commands show us how this life unfolds in our daily circumstances; they show us its authentic direction; they indicate the space where our love is able to give itself and grow.

We are not just burdened with a bunch of rules, and then left alone. People are afraid to embrace the demands of Christian morality because they think they have to do it themselves. But this is not what Christianity proposes. We are not "by ourselves" and we are not left in the hands of our own power.

People need to hear and see this witness--the reality and the beauty and attractiveness of this fact--in the lives of Christians. If all Christians do is preach abstract moral duties, no one is going to change. People need to learn that they are not alone, and that they do not make themselves.

The witness of the Church is that we belong to God, that He has made us for Himself, that He gives Himself to us in grace, and that He wants us to ask for His love so that there might be the space within us for Him to give His love more and more. This is how the Church prays, and how she teaches us to pray. 

The "gifts of [His] grace" bring us into a relationship with Him and empower us to "keep [His] commands." It is God, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to live according to His will. Grace is good news! We are not alone. We belong to God, and He wants us to call upon Him, so that He might give us the life for which we have been made. Thus in the collect for Sunday's liturgy we prayed:

Show favor, O Lord, to your servants
and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,
that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity,
they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

And I love this simple prayer, which can be prayed at the start of every day:

may everything we do
begin with Your inspiration
and continue with Your help
so that all our prayers and works
may begin in You
and by You be happily ended
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Magdalen: The Vocation of Every Christian

Even if her feast does fall on a Sunday this year, we can't pass by unnoticed the great St. Mary Magdalen. Jesus entrusted the message of His Resurrection to the witness of a woman, the first of the "myrrh-bearing women" who stood with Him at the Cross and continued to love Him even in death.

The Byzantine Church honors her with the title of isapostolos ("equal to the apostles"). She is one who loved greatly, and she exemplifies the fundamental, common vocation given to every Christian: the vocation to love Him. So often in the history of the Church, women have pointed to Him, and have taught us all how to love.

Kontakion (Byzantine Liturgy):

Let us all sing a hymn of praise
and a special canticle
to the disciple of Christ,
Mary Magdalen,
the first ointment-bearing woman;
for she was a messenger of joy
to the disciples.
Let us praise the God of all
who lavishes upon us
and upon the world such a fountain
of wonders and miracles.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Movie Massacre: How Does It Affect Us?

Police begin interviewing theater patrons outside the Century 16 early Friday morning. From LA Times online (photo by Karl Gehring / Denver Post / July 20, 2012)

The horrible tragedy at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado has provoked many reactions in us. This is a normal thing. When the world seems to go out of joint suddenly, right in front of us, we struggle to find some kind of comprehensible categories for what happened.

Of course, a flood of analysis ensued, on television, on the internet sites and the social media. This time we even found ourselves staring at videos people took on their iPhones while it was all going on, watching with a mixture of horror and morbid curiosity as shots go off and patrons flee the ordinary, everyday American multiplex theater.

We are strangely and variously provoked by images of blood and mayhem juxtaposed with the stuff and scenery of our regular, routine lives. We are shocked. In fact, however, so much of the "ordinary life" that we live in our society is saturated with a culture of violence, a culture in which power takes precedence over the human person, a culture in which even our aspirations to be humane are stained with blood.

We have grown accustomed and even desensitized to a way of life full of violence--a violence that would have shocked our ancestors. But we are not yet impervious to the jarring incongruity of violence when it throws off all its masks. In front of such events nearly everyone recognizes that there is something wrong. "Good" and "evil" are not simply relative terms assigned to things and situations in order to coordinate competing interests and desires. Suddenly we rediscover--even if only for a moment, somewhere deep in our guts--that fundamental human perception that "good" and "evil" have to do with reality, and that good is to be done and evil avoided.

The true position in the wake of these anonymous and gratuitous mass murders is one of solidarity, sorrow and prayer.

God have mercy on the souls of the victims,
give strength to their families,
and to the survivors
whose long path of healing has just begun.
God have mercy on the community,
and bring them together
to help and support one another.
God have mercy
on the daily victims and perpetrators of violence everywhere,
who are still very real even if we take no notice of them.
God have mercy on us,
and heal us of the violence inside us,
especially the violence by which we ignore and forget
the goodness, the fragility, and the needs
of our brothers and sisters,
our spouses,
our children,
our parents,
and every person who is given to us
in order that we might accomplish the good through love.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Mothers: God Loves You

I'm in the midst of the living room, with chirping children all around, and I'm trying to think.

I like to be surrounded by people and the sounds of life when I work, when I read and write. I even like being interrupted. I've been this way since my days as a student. It all seems to fit in with the rhythm of my concentration. When I am left alone, I begin to brood. Or else I just turn on the TV.

It's true that some types of thinking require silence and solitude. I can get that when I really need it (one way is by being an early riser--I love being the only person awake in a house full of people). And, of course, some portion of the day has to be set aside for the kind of prayer that can only be done alone, that prayer "in secret."

Everyone needs that time of silence with God. The "holy hour," of course, has a biblical foundation. "Watch and pray" (Mt. 26:41) because God wants our company (what an amazing thing!), and because otherwise we cannot hope to live truly in a world of confusion and forgetfulness and sadness and pain. A holy hour. Or a half hour. Or twenty minutes? Fifteen?

Wait, I hear the mothers out there rising up to address this point. Or, at least, I imagine that some of them may be thinking:
"We have no time for that sort of thing! You may be around the kids a lot, but you still don't know what it's like to be The Mother! They don't come running to you with every. single. thing. We can't ignore them the way you can. We can't just "think" like you can while they're trashing the house. No, no! We can never be alone. We just have to pray on the fly, and God will have to understand."
Dear mothers, I shall not lecture you. I know that even when Daddy is around during the day, the home and the children revolve around Mommy. She is the center of the home. It's an absorbing and draining thing.

And I know that God loves you very much.

I have an idea. Go into the bathroom. Close the door. Say Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam. Then take five minutes. You deserve those five minutes to remember how much you are loved.

It's just an idea....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Don't Be Discouraged: It Takes Time to Grow in Love

It takes time to grow in love.

This is not an excuse for being lazy. If I sit back and say, "It takes time..." and use that as an excuse to do nothing, to say "I'll put off loving until tomorrow"--nothing can grow. Tomorrow never comes.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm lazy. We're all lazy. Let's face it.

But let's also dwell on this fact: if we are lazy, we will never grow in love.

These words, "growing in love," sound like a platitude. This is because we don't recognize that we are made for love, that all the turmoil inside of us is the anguished cry of our being, the cry for love. Even underneath our laziness is a kind of desperation to hold onto what we have, because we don't know if there is anything out there "beyond ourselves" and we don't want to take the risk.

But really, are you satisfied with what you have now. Really?

But then comes the other side of our laziness: discouragement. "I have tried to love before, but all I've done is mess things up. I don't know how to love and I don't want to try. It's too dangerous!"

This is a moment where my freedom is challenged in a critical way. I have a choice. I can give in to discouragement. Or I can acknowledge my poverty, and beg for help.

So we cry out for help. And maybe it feels like a waste of time, because help doesn't seem to be coming. But that is not true. Look! We are already doing something. In that begging is already the recognition that we need to love and to be loved. In that begging is already the recognition that there is someone worth loving. If I were really alone, it would never even occur to me to ask. Someone is already here, helping me now.

So I begin to love. And when I fail, I get up and try again. Because it takes time to grow in love.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Signs of Her Love

The Brown Scapular of
Our Lady of  Mount Carmel
It is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

I think of the Carmelite saints, immersed in the luminous darkness of the Mystery of God, who witness to us like prophets, after the manner of the original man of Carmel, the prophet Elijah, who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11-12).

And at the center of the whirlwind is the simplicity of Mary's heart. With her Son, she lives now the promise of the New Creation, her whole humanity--soul and body--transfigured forever in the glory of God. She clothes the children of Carmel with the promise of the Kingdom woven into the very fabric of their garments; and she offers to each of us little pieces of this cloth, that we can wear to stay close to her heart.

Mary wants to be close to each of us, and she distributes abundantly among us the concrete signs of her love. In turn, as Pope Benedict XVI says, people
"...entrust to her their most intimate thoughts,
their most heartfelt wishes....
they confide to her who is all pure,
to her Immaculate Heart:
with simplicity,
without frills,
in truth.
Before Mary,
by virtue of her very purity,
man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness,
to express his questions and his doubts,
to formulate his most secret hopes and desires.
The Virgin Mary’s maternal love disarms all pride;
it renders man capable of seeing himself as he is,
and it inspires in him
the desire to be converted
so as to give glory to God."
                                               (from the Angelus, 9/14/2008)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Meditation in a Magazine

There was a "meditation of the day" in Magnificat recently that caught the attention of some people (including me). It was taken from the introduction to my book Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy. Of course I was very happy to see this, above all because I know there is a wide audience that could benefit from my book, and that has yet to be reached. It may also encourage those who have the book to read it, or finish reading it, or maybe read it again. Or talk about it with a friend or loved one.

One thing I know about my book is that it has touched the hearts of a variety of people, with many different kinds of struggles and difficulties. It's not just for "sick" people. So please check out this link ( or refer others to it.

Magnificat, by the way, is a wonderful resource for building up a life of prayer and reflection (see It is available in both paper and digital formats. Over the years, I have been able to write for a number of their fine publications. Here is a selection from my "meditation" that appeared on Thurday, July 12:

I am convinced that the sufferings of my family in these recent years are nothing more than the lot of multitudes of people throughout our world. They, too, love and struggle and seek the face of God. 
We must never lose our trust in God. Even when life is a black abyss, we must have faith, because God has promised, 'I am with you' (Is 43: 5; Mt 28: 20; see Ps 23: 4). The road is often narrow and dark, but God is our shepherd. He is by our side, even when we feel very much like wounded sheep. 
When we walk "through the valley of the shadow death" (Ps 23: 4), we must not give in to the bug of anxiety that would bite us at every turn. 'The valley of the shadow' is a long way from paradise. And yet God is with us. We must hold close to him in faith, a faith that comes through the breath of love, however faint that breath may seem.
Click here: 
click here:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fathers and Sons and Baseball


John Paul and I finally got to a Front Royal Cardinals baseball game. The one unfortunate thing about spending the month of June in California was missing half of the Valley League summer season.

The game was a disaster. They lost 16-2. Ack! Really, there's nothing wrong with your eyes: it does say "baseball" up above. Not football. It was gruesome. The team doesn't look very good this year. Still, we had a good evening.

There are various leagues like this in different parts of the country. Interested college players spend their summers in small towns, swinging real wooden bats and hoping to be noticed by Major League scouts...although I'm sure many don't entertain such high hopes. They just want to sharpen their game, or maybe they're looking for a summer adventure. It's a good way for a college athlete to spend the summer.

But if you live in one of these small towns, the summer season is one of the most important cultural events of the year.

If you have a child who loves baseball, it's a little bit of magic.

Wait,...did I say "child"?


There is something timeless about going to the little ballpark, summer after summer, sitting in the same spot to the right of home plate, and doing the "baseball thing"--watching the game, following statistics, analyzing strategy, cheering and stomping; and also getting some (hopefully fresh and cool) evening air, visiting with friends, gabbing, eating ice cream or hot dogs or nuts, or even just watching the summer sky change from evening to sunset to twilight.

For me, however, it's above all something special that I share with my son.

That part has not exactly been "timeless"! Over the past eight years, the person with whom I attend games has probably doubled in size, and more than doubled in understanding. On the other hand, he's still the same person.

Eight years ago (more or less), baseball "woke up" inside a little boy. I don't recall doing anything special to prompt this awakening, and indeed nothing like it has happened to any of the girls (at least, not yet). He barely understood what was going on: "Daddy, what just happened?" he kept asking me. He asked a lot of questions. And he learned fast.

Then came the baseball cards, the summer baseball camps, the books full of statistics. Oh, and life too. Lots of that!

Summer after summer we have gone to the ballpark to see the games and talk about baseball, and other stuff. Even the years I didn't feel well, we went to the ball games. I don't know where the energy came from. Perhaps it came from fatherhood, which has a hidden strength--something much greater than I could ever generate by myself, something that triumphs over adversity. Even in the small stuff. Especially in the small stuff.

I know he'll keep growing. He has so much talent and so many possibilities. Above all, he has a vocation, whatever it might be, and only God knows where it may take him.

Someday, God willing, he'll be forty years old and I'll be hurrrumph! years old, and we'll go to a baseball game, and talk about baseball...and other stuff. Or else, there will be something else that we share, that reminds us of that "timeless" thing that lies at the heart of every moment, and toward which we journey together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Way of Life

The Feast of St. Benedict,
our father in faith:

What could be sweeter
than the voice of the Lord
inviting us?

in His loving kindness
the Lord shows us the way of life.

Let us put nothing higher
than the love of Christ.

And never despair of God's mercy.

--From the Rule of St. Benedict

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Poor Little People

We are just poor little people.
Our family.
We make a lot of mistakes.
We are weak.
We offer it to God
and pray
that He will make something
beautiful out of us.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Long Summer Days

Home again for a week now.

Everyone is still sleeping late except for me. But I am grateful our family is together. And in these long summer days, I try to remember that we belong to a Beauty and a Greatness that are beyond anything we can express.

Jesus never forgets us, even when our minds and our plans are far from Him. And thank God it's not just a myth, or a nice story, or a "system" that we fashion to try to organize our lives.

Jesus really loves us. He really loves our destiny: me, and Eileen, and John Paul, and Agnese, and Lucia, and Teresa, and Josefina--we are real persons created and loved by God, who have a real destiny that He is working to bring about, in the midst of all of our flaws and the messes we make.

Jesus came to love the destiny of each one of us, and He remains in the Church, in the Eucharist, and in the grace through which He draws our hearts. He is here, to communicate God's love to us, and to bring us to our true fulfillment as persons. When I look at my family, I must remember these things.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

California, There We Went!

A five hundred year old tree deserves a good hug! ;)

Alright, the time has finally come to reflect upon (and show pictures of) our relaxing family vacation in California during this past June. Although our trip was common knowledge among my local friends, many internet contacts may have been unaware that I was blogging and networking and even posting pictures over the past month from a location 3000 miles from our home.

Whoa! This is not the Blue Ridge mountains!

So why the "secret"? Well, even though we have a good neighborhood watch where we live (not to mention people looking in regularly on the house), we didn't think it would be a good idea to broadcast over the internet that our house was empty for 28 days. I doubt that I have many crooks among my readership here (I don't even have many...readers, hahaha!). Nevertheless, the great Google circulates all kinds of material on the internet, so we decided to play it safe. After all, we would have felt really bad if some poor thief went through all the trouble to break in to our house, only to discover that we have absolutely nothing worth stealing! (Unless, of course, the thief is a bibliophile with a liberal arts education and a bunch of kids....)

Books and used crayons? We got those! Big screen TV and nice furniture? Heh, heh, nope.
Our favorite place to shop is  La Maison de Bonne Volonté.

We spent the days from June 3 to July 1 in California, in the Bay Area and in the Sierra mountains near Yosemite national park, having a lovely visit with various members of Eileen's family. We used to go frequently to California back in the days when the kids could be toted as carry-on bags, but it had been six years since our last visit. We are tremendously grateful that this trip was made possible at very little expense to us.

This part of the country is like a second home for me. Back in the old days, I used to explore a lot of it on my own, very early in the morning while Eileen and the (then) babies were still sleeping. We also made some unforgettable trips all together.

On this trip, however, we had the great fun of bringing intelligent, observant, and even camera-wielding kids with us. I'm no longer up to doing the kind of hikes I used to love to take in those mountains, but there are many beautiful natural wonders that can be reached along the family trails. We stuck to the paths that could be navigated by little Josefina legs (or a stroller--yes, she still fits into one of those "umbrella" strollers).

We saw many beautiful things. John Paul or Agnese took some of these pictures:

Bridal Veil Falls, at Yosemite (photo by Agnese)

At the famous "Mirror Lake"--Amazing! (by Agnese)

Walls of Rock: The Great Monoliths (photo by John Paul)

Towering Pines and Redwoods (by John Paul)

The famous "Tunnel View Overlook" with Bridal Veil, Half Dome, and El Capitan
rising up from the pines of Yosemite Valley (photo by Agnese)

The Merced River, in the Sierras (by Me)

The kids at the river, looking for GOLD!

Everybody ready for a road trip?

Mission San Juan Bautista (south of San Jose)

We also did plenty of relaxing. We got to go swimming almost every day, and enjoyed cooling off on the hot (but dry) afternoons.

I already posted about the pool. Here's the little fishie again

I love the dry air out there, and the cool mornings when I could walk a short distance to some beautiful, out-of-the-way places.

Early morning sun in the woods
I could live there. I would love it. But our work and our personal roots are so deeply planted in the soggy jungles of miserably humid Virginia. I would miss Virginia very much.

Now we have returned to the storms and the choking humidity "back East." But that's okay. Even though, for the time being, I am largely an air-conditioned prisoner in the house, it's good to be back.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Healing We All Need: Revisited

Here is an oldie but goodie from last July. A year has gone by. Progress is slow. Jesus have mercy on me.

The human being has a terrible fear of uncertainty.

I know I do. Since I was a child, my introspection, obsessiveness, and anxiety have convinced me that I cannot trust in myself. I cannot be confident about my opinions of myself. I cannot be confident that I am seeing reality in the right way.

Yet I have to judge. I have to act. I have to live my life and attend to my responsibilities. Even in my present, convalescent environment, with external pressures kept to a minimum and reliance on simple routine, still I am a man, a husband, a father, a companion to my wife and an example to my children, and--to the degree that I am able--a help to others. I still must work. Every day, I work on myself. I work on the healing process. I work on projects in the struggle to keep my profession alive.

Yet I often do not feel grounded. For many years, I attempted to trust in a kind of "Christian ideology." I attempted to impose a conception of what was "necessary to be a good Catholic" on the awful ambiguity of my life. It required a fair amount of rationalizing, interpreting, and good old fashioned fibbing to stuff the mess of my life inside this box so that it would not haunt my sense of self-confidence. Alongside of this, of course, God was at work, I was praying, seeking Him, and genuinely desiring (in however wobbly a fashion) to do His will and to trust in Him. Yet the ultimate uncertainty of my ideas constantly undermined my confidence.

Illness has forced me to face the need to rely on other people. What a relief it would be to abandon my freedom to their judgment. There is the temptation here to trust in other people's coherence, as if the reason why I follow the guidance of my wife, my doctors, my friends and my spiritual director is because they "have it all together" and I don't. But this kind of trust doesn't hold up either, because it is clear enough--sooner or later--that they are weak human beings too, with flaws and limitations and failures of judgment.

I have to trust in Jesus. This, for me, is not only a spiritual but also a psychological necessity. I am grounded in Jesus. I cry out to Him and beg for that certainty, and to keep my life centered on Him. In the Church He lives as a Presence for me now: as a way, as gestures, as a companionship. And other persons are given to me by Him to help me to insert myself into that life. It is He who works through them. It is because of His love for me that I can trust them. Even if we make a mistake, I can trust that He is behind us to catch us.

Look at this great mystery: marriage. Eileen and I do help each other and together we carry out the task of shaping an environment in which our children are growing. It's not because we are coherent. It's because marriage is a sacrament. It's grounded in Him. From here, it becomes possible to perceive that my relationships with my other companions are grounded in Him, in the communion of saints; that my relationship with every human person is grounded in Him who is the Savior of the world; that my relationship with reality is grounded in Him who is Lord of all creation.

Beyond any pathological condition, there is that radical anxiety, that radical fear of uncertainty, that afflicts us all. The healing we all need comes from Jesus. This is why He says, "believe in me."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Using Our Freedom

Happy Independence Day!

Let us use our freedom, not for indifference and isolation, but for loving and being loved, for self-giving, for the communion of persons.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Being "Like God": What it Really Means

"Human logic...often looks for self-realization through power, domination, and powerful means. Man continues to want to construct the tower of Babel by his own power, in order to reach the heights of God unaided, to be like God. The Incarnation and the Cross remind us that full realization resides in conforming one’s human will to the Father’s, in being emptied of egoism in order to be filled with love, with the charity of God, and thus to become truly capable of loving others. Man does not find himself by remaining closed in within himself, by affirming himself. Man finds himself only by going out of himself; we only find ourselves if we go out of ourselves. And if Adam wanted to imitate God, this in itself was not bad, but he erred in his idea about God. God is not one who wills only greatness. God is love, who gives himself first in the Trinity, and then in creation. And to imitate God means going out of oneself; it means giving oneself in love."

--Benedict XVI

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Precious Blood of Jesus

In the tradition of the Latin rite, the month of July is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. When we dwell upon the blood that was shed on the Cross and is poured out for us in the Eucharist, we remember that the life Jesus gives us is something fundamentally vital. He has come to transform my humanity, and the very blood in my own veins belongs to Him. The same is true of the blood of my brothers and sisters, the blood of every person. He became flesh so as to claim for Himself and thereby give a new meaning to our humanity--to heal us and transform us and make us children of the Father.

The Church presents "the Precious Blood of Jesus" not just to focus our sentiments, but to open up our hearts to the reality of the gift of His love, that we might seek Him and beg to discover Him more and more as the truth of our daily lives.

Here is a reflection I have written. My reflections are nothing more than my attempts to express the desire for His presence that stirs in my soul even in the midst of so many distractions.

Jesus, draw me close to Your heart
and let its precious blood and cleansing water
flow through me
and rouse my sluggish soul.
Awaken my mind and heart
to the reality of Your presence in this moment;
This moment,
in which You give Yourself to me
and fill everything with the torrents of Your love.
Flood my soul with the river of Your mercy;
let it surround me
and flow into all the narrow places,
so much in need of healing.
Fill me with Your life-giving Spirit,
who calls me forth to live truly
in the Father's love.

Dear Mother Mary,
pray that my heart might be filled
with a hunger and hope for Jesus,
whom you are bringing to me in this moment,
in every moment of every day.
Show me your tenderness
so that the love of God feels close to me,
and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring healing
and take down barriers
and soften whatever is hard,
soften it with compassion.