Thursday, May 30, 2019

Heroine of God and France: Jehanne La Pucelle

Today is the 588th anniversary of the execution of one of the most famous military commanders in human history. It marks the end of a dramatic (true and well-documented) story of inspiration, miraculous victories, restoration of a legitimate national leader, treachery, betrayal, power politics, and an unforgettable trial.

This military figure claimed to be inspired by God.

If the story of this person doesn't strike you as extraordinary, even unique, perhaps we should also note that she was a nineteen-year-old peasant girl.

She was no religious terrorist, though her enemies condemned her as such and worse. Rather, she was a defender of the poor and the oppressed, rallying her country's people against a brutal occupation that weighed heavy upon them.

She called herself Jehanne La Pucelle, "Joan the Maid," but is more generally known today (according to her father's surname) as Jeanne D'Arc, "Joan of Arc."

Saint Joan of Arc.

Of course, there was plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the long string of conflicts (a hundred years worth of conflicts) between England and France and their allies during the 14th and 15th centuries. Joan was not canonized until the 20th century, and in so doing the Catholic Church didn't intend to proclaim as doctrine that "God was on the side of the French." 

Indeed, the Church doesn't even define the nature or experiential modality of the "heavenly voices" that Joan credited for her inspiration (other than ruling out any demonic origin, contrary to the trumped up charges of the Pro-English ecclesiastical court that condemned her in 1431).

Joan is a saint because of her courage, her purity, her love for Jesus and the Church, her adherence to the will of God, her trust in God, her love for God. This wonderful witness - in the face of human expectations, human conventions, human threats, and ultimately a fiery death - was inserted into a moment in history in which English soldiers, mercenaries, and bandits were dominating and riding roughshod over northern France with impunity. 

The English occupied French territory, plundered French homes, lived off of French land, and impoverished French villages and peasants. That's how things had stood at least for a decade or more when Joan appeared on the scene in 1429. The rightful French king Charles VII was in internal exile in the south. Orleans was under siege.

Self-defense remains a human right. Defending the oppressed can be a work of charity and mercy. Sometimes it is a demand of justice. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

It was to the Lord, first and above all, that Joan gave her heart and dedicated her life.

I note below a few quotations from the trial records or other written sources. In the end, Joan captures our imaginations not just as a French patriot or a "maker of history" but precisely for her luminous simplicity and transcendence, her holiness, her singular love for God.
"I place trust in God, my creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart" (during campaign, 1429-1430).
"Everything I have said or done is in the hands of God. I commit myself to Him! I certify to you that I would do or say nothing against the Christian faith" (during trial, 1431).
"I beg all of you standing here to forgive me the harm that I may have done you. Please pray for me" (immediately prior to her execution, May 30, 1431).
"Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so I may see it until I die" (bound to the stake, before the fire was lit, May 30, 1431).
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!..." (final cries during burning, May 30, 1431).
When it was finally over, an English solder reportedly said, "God forgive us. We have burned a saint!" 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Maybe My Brain Just Needs a Rest

I am going to write something. I don't yet know what it will be, but here goes...

That's just it. I don't know what to say. There is so much to say, so many thoughts in my head, so many reflections, so many questions.

But I feel stretched thin, and torn in some places. I have no inspiration, no patience, no energy.

Am I depressed? Maybe. Is my brain failing me? Sometimes it feels that way.

Dear Jesus, what do you want me to do with all my talents, education, ability to communicate, passion for life (which I still have, very much), intensity, search for understanding, desire to be loved and to love? You have entrusted me with a mission in this life and I still feel its urgency. So why am I stuck in bed most of the day? Or in the house, in the yard, or exhausted after trying to do anything more? Yes, I'm sick. But that never seems like an adequate explanation for why I am so incompetent, so irritable, so vexed, so unsettled with everything, so disorganized...

Lord, I don't know why I have failed you so much.

Why am I surprised that weakness is weak? I am a sinner. That's why Jesus is here. God, save me. Have mercy on me! Lord, I need you.

I think this is something of a prayer.

But I'm so tired. I guess it's been an exhausting time - the past three months - for me. It all would have been hard enough on a normal healthy person.

Maybe I need to give myself a break. Maybe my brain just needs a rest.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Opening the Door of Mercy

"My life, my attitude, the way I live must be a concrete sign of the fact that God is close to us. Small gestures of love, of tenderness, of care, which suggest that the Lord is with us, is close to us. This is how we open the door of mercy.

"If we think in a human way, the sinner would be an enemy of Jesus, an enemy of God, but He approached them with kindness, He loved them and changed their hearts.

"We are all sinners: everyone! We all have some guilt before God. But we must not be without confidence: He approaches us to give us comfort, mercy and forgiveness.

"We can and must respond to His love with our commitment... we bring God's mercy through a commitment of life, which is the witness of our faith in Christ.

"We must always take the caress of God - because God has caressed us with his mercy - and bring it to others, to those who need it, to those who have a pain in their heart or are sad: draw closer with God's caress, which is the same that He has given to us."

~Pope Francis

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Do We Have Tornadoes in Virginia?

We had a little bit of "excitement" ("panic"?πŸ˜‰) earlier this evening in our part of the Shenandoah Valley.

An "Imminent EXTREME ALERT!" roared onto my messages. (It certainly got my attention. Nice to know that the system works.) "Tornado Warning! Take shelter immediately" and such.

We saw a big thunderstorm brewing outside. But the warning only lasted 15 minutes. We didn't even get much rain at our house.

I wonder if any of my local friends got hit by a tornado? Probably not. I hope everyone is getting safely through the unusual recent weather we've had lately.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: We Need "Awareness"

May is a month when people in temperate climates start spending more time outside. It's a flourishing time for all kinds of natural life. Trees, grass, animals, bugs, ticks...

Not surprisingly, "Lyme Disease Awareness Month" is an official designation for May in a number of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States in the USA (including my own dear Virginia). And it seems to be a common theme in many other places, and of course on the Internet.

We are prompted to be aware of so many important things that it can be hard to keep up. But Lyme is something, unfortunately, that I can't help "being aware of" not only in May, but throughout the year.

Frankly, I wish I could forget about it. But it keeps nudging me and poking me and demanding attention of some sort.

Actually, I have grown accustomed to coping with the persistent consequences of a Lyme Disease infection that went untreated for 17 years. We worked hard on fighting my infection in the previous decade (starting in 2004, when it was finally diagnosed) and I think we made some progress. Still, 17 years is a long time.

I have had to adapt, to reorient the pace of my life, to accept certain limits with the determination to be constructive - even to flourish in new ways - within those limits. It's a particular challenge, not so different from many kinds of challenges that many people face every day. All things considered, I'm doing okay. Things could have been a lot worse, and I have heard many stories from people who have endured (and continue to endure) more than I could bear.

But nobody in today's world needs to wait 17 years for a Lyme diagnosis. The awareness of this elusive, disturbing, frustrating, and in some cases catastrophic disease has grown significantly in our society. The population of the ticks that carry and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease, unfortunately, has also grown significantly.

We don't need to panic. We just need to be aware and take reasonable precautions. There are effective tick repellents now, and it's important to check for ticks after outdoor events, to be aware of early warning signs of Lyme infection, and to get treatment if necessary. The earlier the treatment, the better chance for full recovery.

For more information, check out the resources of the Global Lyme Alliance HERE.

Advances in research are very promising, but - once again - there needs to be more awareness so that this work gets more funding.

And while the "celebrity culture" is so often a source of negativity, it can be quite helpful when well-known persons share stories about their own struggles with illnesses and dedicate themselves to raising awareness as well as financial assistance for others in need. I'm impressed with all the hard work Avril Lavigne continues to do in this regard, even as she paces herself through her own remission while releasing new music.

Many of her fans would rather see her on another world tour, promoting her album, making more videos, or doing outrageous things that rock stars do to get attention and get their face on magazine covers. But fans will have to be patient with the new rhythms of Avril's life. She still has lots of music in her. Meanwhile she continues to show her face for the fight against Lyme Disease, to inform, support, and encourage others.

Click HERE to see video.

This is not easy. It's not easy for her. It's not helping her career. She would rather not talk about this stuff (and I understand why). But Avril, the perennial "rock chick," is turning out to be tough in ways she never expected. And I am grateful for her gritty vulnerability, which is real and not just part of "the show."

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A "Digital Putty Knife"

Here are the Blue Ridge Mountains rendered in what I refer to as a kind of "stucco expressionist" style.

I used computer graphics to make what looks like something you could do with stucco or paint and maybe a putty knife, but it would be messier, take a lot longer, and you'd have to be very talented.πŸ˜‰

Though I do think the digital work has its own challenges, and it's not exactly easy. I'm not entirely satisfied with this, but - like I always say - this blog is (among other things) my "workshop." #DigitalArt

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May Flowers

Lovely little flowers still blooming in the midst of a green explosion. Here's an up-close look:

Back up the camera for pretty scenery everywhere. #BeautifulMay

Sunday, May 12, 2019

John Paul Graduates from College

So this really happened. John Paul Janaro graduated. From COLLEGE*!

(*note to people from outside the U.S.A., "college" in our country refers to "university" level education, as in "high-school-was-four-years-ago." I covered that graduation on this blog in 2015.)

When I began blogging in January 2011, John Paul was 13 years old. I used to write a lot more about the kids in those days, because they were all still kids.

Then they became adolescents (well, Josefina is still not quite there yet) and I have written less about them as they have grown older and developed their own stories.

Most recently, young adulthood is becoming the reality for the three oldest ones. They were all three students at Christendom this past year (John Paul as a Senior, Agnese as a Sophomore, and Lucia as a Freshman). They have jobs. They pay taxes. They drive. They vote. It's crazy!πŸ˜‰ How did this, like, happen... all of a sudden? As a young parent, you can start to feel like your kids are going to be children forever (a sometimes winsome, other times frightening feeling). Then, boom, they grow up.

Of course, life is always changing. Family life is always changing. Sometimes it's painful to "let go" of things, but eventually we start to learn that this is the way we grow. It's necessary, even though it can also be difficult.

Significant things have changed (in different ways) for our family just in the Spring of 2019. My father finished his earthly pilgrimage last month, and now my son has completed his undergraduate education. The former remains a source of grief and deepening of faith in Christ's victory over death; the latter is a more easily perceived cause for congratulations and celebration.

More than any of the other kids, John Paul has memories of my years as an active classroom teacher, before health issues brought on my very premature "retirement" and shift to my present engagements in research and writing. It has been some time since I participated in an academic ceremony at my own institution, but my son's graduation seemed a fitting occasion to put on my own cap and gown and join my colleagues once again.

It turned out to be a very rewarding experience.

Over the years, I had many pictures taken with graduating students outside the gym at Christendom College after commencement exercises. "My students" always held (and continue to hold) a special place in my heart. They remember John Paul as a baby and at various stages of his childhood. And though I never taught John Paul in a classroom, he likes to point out that he "had me as a professor" for the first 18 years of his life.πŸ˜‰

This is true. We've been having conversations of every kind since he learned to talk. And I have enjoyed hearing about his classes and his experiences during the past four years. I'm glad I was able to be part of his graduation ceremony.

Of course, the rest of the family was there too. Eileen and I are very proud of him, and grateful to God for all His blessings through the years.

Congratulations to John Paul and to the Class of 2019!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Christina Grimmie Continues to Inspire Us

Two years and eleven months after her death, these words of Christina Grimmie are more important than ever, and the number of people who are being "given to her" continues to grow.πŸ’š

Thursday, May 9, 2019

How Can I Pray When I Don't Know "What to Say"?

Sometimes it can be very hard to pray while going through difficulties in life. This may seem ironic, but it can happen, especially during long periods of illness, pain, or grief.

In the beginning, we say things like "Dear God, please change this situation!" Sometimes He does change it, but often enough He simply remains with us within the endurance of things that have to play themselves out in time.

This is when praying "gets awkward." It's especially disturbing for those of us who are trying to live our faith. We know that prayer is (or should be) a regular part of every day. Prayer is “conversation with God.”

But we find ourselves in ongoing situations of exhaustion, irascibility, or just feeling "dislocated" from everything. We may be full of questions we don't even know how to ask, or we even feel like we've forgotten the meaning of our own language.

Prayer is conversation with God. But we don't feel like having a conversation with anybody. Ugh!

One problem is that our prayer tends to be mostly a monologue, in which we praise the Lord, thank Him, declare that we love Him, and (here is often the "meat" of our one-sided "conversation") ask Him to take care of us; we "tell God" what we want, and what we hope for. We bring Him our intentions and the intentions of others.

It's normal and appropriate to pray for all these things. God is good, and He loves us. He is our Father. It's natural for us, as children, to turn to Him and ask Him to meet what we perceive to be our many needs in life.

Trials and sufferings, however, can confuse our ordinary discourse. Suddenly things are not what they seemed to be. And we become inarticulate: "God, I don't know what I need. I can't think of anything meaningful to say. I can only wail away in the dark and be powerless. Does that even 'count' as prayer?"

The truth is that the "conversation" of prayer is one that God initiates.

That does not mean that we are suddenly going to hear Him speaking inside our heads. Rather, God is always speaking, calling to us, drawing us to prayer. He speaks to our hearts. We begin to hear Him when we become more aware of our need for Him.

This is where the conversation of prayer begins: when our hearts cry out, “God, help!" Our hearts open up. We might not even be very coherent in our heads at the time, but our hearts are saying, "Lord, have mercy on me!”

We always need mercy. But the awareness of that need arises and intensifies in times of difficulties and brokenness and suffering. In these times, we begin to listen to God in the depths of ourselves. We begin to give Him space, and we permit Him to work on places within us that we usually try to hide from Him (and from ourselves).

The “ear of the heart” that hears God has a very simple shape: “Help. Have mercy on me. I need You.” We may not be able to articulate these words, but that inward groaning that seeks Him is the foundational response to the love He is continually offering to us.

That love has a name, the name of "salvation," Jesus - "God saves." He saves us by coming to dwell with us.

Jesus on the cross has entered forever, and understood comprehensively and unforgettably, each and every one of our cries. Jesus wants to stay with us.

We are precious to God in our weakness. He is so close to us when we are suffering. He carries us even closer to Him if we allow Him to enter inside of that need that groans within us.

He shapes us, in His way, and in His time.

And so our prayer is renewed as a more profound "conversation" with the God who creates us and redeems us. He develops with us an inner, mysterious dialogue that then gives intensity and real value to whatever words we manage to say, or even just the wordless endurance of our own wounds encompassed in His.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Thank You, Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier died early this morning, following a recent illness, at the age of 90.

A great soul. A humble human being. I will be forever grateful for his words, his witness, his life. 

God, grant him eternal rest in your peace.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sorrow May Take "Mature" People By Surprise

Recently I was discussing how sometimes I still feel like a "kid inside," even though I'm 56 years old. I observed that this was a complex phenomenon for people around this age; one that involves many memories, psychological factors including gaps of immaturity in personality development, as well as the continuation within us of that essential human openness to reality. This openness enables us to see every day as new and full of promise.

We can see how "becoming like little children" corresponds to our humanity and to authentic human maturity (even while transforming it into the freedom of the children of God). In our human experience, however, it's not always so easy to distinguish or disentangle the "childlike" from the "childish."

Those of us who are over 55, who are "Young Seniors" (I may have coined a new term there πŸ˜‰), have begun to sense that we are entering a new phase in life. There are many positive aspects to this, of course, but new challenges also arise, sometimes in difficult, painful, and peculiar ways.

One thing that has struck me in particular over the past year (and especially the past month) is how sorrow can take us by surprise. This is a time of life when - more and more - we lose loved ones, as parents and other elders who have mentored us for our whole lives are called home to God.

It's difficult to be past middle age, to think of yourself as mature, and to find that the "kid inside you" has suddenly become an orphan. One part of you feels embarrassed and foolish that you should be so troubled: "this is not a tragedy, no one lives forever, they are in God's hand, you will see them again, etc. etc." Still, you grieve. You feel wounded. You feel a real sense of loss.

It takes different emotional forms at various times and for various people, but it's something we must endure just as surely as we will have to endure our own death.

It feels strange because it is strange. "God did not make death. Nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living" (Wisdom 1:13). Death came into the world because of sin. This is the tragedy of the human story that touches each of us personally.

Death drives down to our very bones the tragic aspect of life, even for us who firmly believe that this tragedy is not the end of the story.

We believe that Something Has Happened, not to take away physical death nor remove suffering but to transform them from within, to fashion out of them the ultimate ways of love, the path through which what is mortal is clothed in immortality.

God did not make death.

God became our brother and suffered death.

He passed through death and beyond death. He rose to eternal life, and we are called to join him "if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:17).

We will have much grief and many sorrows. It's human. Hopefully as we grow older we value what is human more, even when we don't understand it.

The Lord didn't say to us, "Do not suffer." He said, "Do not be afraid" (see e.g. Luke 12:7, Rev 1:17, et alia).

In the hard moments, the sorrowful moments, the incomprehensible moments, the desperate moments, the final moments, God is with us.

He is with us in the anguish, the awful solitude, the flesh and blood of all of it.

He is Jesus. He will carry us through.

Stay with him.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Jojo and the Tulips

Speaking of kids...

A long, long time ago, around this point in the year 2011, I took a picture of Josefina inspecting a tulip. It was really cute because the tulip was almost as tall as her (she was 4 years old).

Recently I convinced the now 12 year old Jojo to stand in a similar area near some similar tulips so I could revisit the old picture eight years later. Even though this was another "silly-daddy-idea," she decided to go along with it and be a good sport.πŸ˜‰

I'm glad she did. What a difference! As is clear from the collage below, she is still petite for her age, but she certainly has grown up a lot.

They've all grown so much since this blog began. We thank God for them!❤

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Human Plea for a Life that Endures

The big themes are all here: prosperity and loss, begging God for mercy, the questions we ask in the face of the incomprehensible abyss of death, and then salvation - a mysterious event happens, the Lord himself intervenes and changes everything: "You have turned my mourning into dancing..."

The text from Psalm 30 that I have been pondering a bit today covers the whole ground.

In the light of the Resurrection we can glimpse what a wonderful and definitive transformation has taken place in and through Jesus.

"Will the dust praise you?" We know the agony of these questions and how they touch the center of the drama of being human. Indeed, God calls each one of us and sows a mysterious promise in our hearts even "before" we call upon him. He has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless... our humanity is "already" stirred to seek the Source that draws it beyond itself, even if we have never thought of God.

We cannot make peace with simply turning to dust. Every human gesture is either a demand or a plea for "something more," for a life that endures. But all the graveyards of human history testify to the limits of the power of our demands.

What we seek does not come from our own power or any power we can construct from the elements of this world. "All is Vanity," said the book of Ecclesiastes in 500 b.c. ... and a tattoo on the forearm of a girl from 2014 - 2016 a.d.

There remains the plea. 

We who believe in the Resurrection know the immense goodness - beyond all imagining - of the God who answers that plea.

We know by faith, not by sight; we walk toward it and adhere to it in hope - a hope that holds onto God moment by moment, on every step of the journey, especially the moments and the steps that are the most obscure and the most frightening. And we love this God who has already given us a foretaste of his ineffable goodness, the goodness which God is, the One who is Absolute Love.

He will give himself to anyone who asks, who seeks, who does not close themselves off in delusions of self-sufficiency, but takes up personally, as their own, the plea of the human heart. He will not withold himself; indeed he has already given himself completely.

God is good. All the time.

I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never be moved."
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
[but when] you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

"Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!"

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

~Psalm 30:6-12

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Cranberries New and Final Album

Here's The Cranberries new (and finalπŸ’§) album, In the End, which was released earlier this week. 

At some point, I may write more about it. For now, suffice it to say that it's a real gift from the boys to all of us, and in honor of their lead singer and friend, the late Dolores O'Riordan. God grant her eternal rest.

I definitely wanted to buy it.πŸ’ΏπŸŽ΅

I'm glad CDs are still around. When you buy the CD, you have an Actual Thing. It even has a booklet. With pages. 

You can collect CDs, put them in display cases, and contemplate them.πŸ˜‰ They also sound better. And if there's an Apocalyptic Internet Hack some day, you've still got your music.πŸ˜‰πŸ’Ώ

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I Still Feel Like a Kid "Inside" - Is That OK?

May is here.

Life is bursting out all over the place. Spring is a natural "festival" of renewal. But the feel and smell of the air is the same as it was twenty, thirty, forty, and - yes, I can now speak from my own experience - fifty years ago.

Often I still feel like a kid inside myself, and I think there's something true about that.

On the one hand, how much time is a half-century, really? Even in human history it seems like a small dot on a long line (not to mention cosmic history). Being 56 years old means I have "self-consciously experienced" life - more or less consistently - for the past half century.

Supposedly I have not only "grown up" over this time; I have even begun to grow old.

But the process of maturity is obscure and uneven for human beings. We grow in some ways, but we can also "revert" (at least in the sense of forgetting what we have learned), and in some aspects of our psychological and emotional development we can just "get stuck" - often a traumatic event inflicts inner wounds that atrophy certain capacities to experience and engage reality.

Or there are ways we don't grow because affluence and ease have allowed us to escape challenges in certain areas of life (or perhaps poverty and marginalization have prevented access to those challenges, or caused us to give up on the possibilities for growth).

Even in our unhindered maturity, however, how can we not recognize our smallness? I am supposedly an educated man, yet the older I get, the more I realize that I actually know very little (and the few things I might reasonably claim to know, I don't know very well).

So there are many aspects to this experience of "still feeling like a kid." Time is a funny thing. It seems to go so fast, and yet we have a vast store of memories that we can "bring to mind" in such a way that they seem vivid and "present." Remembering can be a melancoly or a happy experience. Very often, it's a strange combination of both.

We remember things when we feel the Spring air, the smell of flowers, the warm sun, the long evenings. After 50+ years these memories and their associations are full of life's beauty and tragedy, of many people we have known, of our successes and our failures. Even when we don't call anything particular to mind, it's all there, somewhere - at the edges of our consciousness or submerged under it.

At the same time, every day contains new possibilities. Reality is deeper than we know. If illness or age bring limitations in certain aspects of life, they also provide the opportunity to enter more fully into the richness of what remains at hand, and discover the wonders of so many things we ignored in the haste of our youth.

Here especially is the reason we can still have something of childhood within our hearts: we bring a life full of memory into the freshness of every day, of every moment. There is potentially a large space for the play of inner freedom, for understanding and compassion.

There is also a drama at this time of life: temptations to brood over the past, to "hoard" what we think we have achieved, to nurse grudges, seek vengeance, or be consumed by envy.

Above all, there is the temptation to cynicism. Focusing on our failures or else simply tired of life, we can withdraw into a protective fortress of routines and diversions, or sink into discouragement (something different from being afflicted by depression, a psychological illness that can affect people of all ages).

We must fight against these temptations and continue to nurture that fundamental fascination with reality that most fully expresses our humanity.

This is one aspect of Jesus's insistence that we must "become like little children." Of course this seems complicated on a natural human level; it is above all a matter of grace and the Holy Spirit. Even while grace takes us "beyond" all we can imagine by giving us a share in God's own life, it also validates and fulfills everything that is proper to our humanity. Thus, "spiritual childhood" corresponds to and vivifies the genuine human reality of maturity even for those who have already lived a good stretch of their earthly lives.

As we grow older, I don't think we "outgrow" things but rather we "grow into" new things, deeper things. Our whole lives are "still alive" - all the good we have done or experienced keeps growing, and our failures can heal because we can find forgiveness - if we are willing, also, to forgive.

At my age, the tendency is either to begin to fall (more or less willingly) into bitterness and cynicism, or to begin to find wisdom.

I'm always trying to sort one out from the other, honestly.

I think the challenge is to keep forgiving people - we have enough experience to know their limits, to know that they can't give us everything we feel like we need from them.

We may find that we don't like so many people anymore. But we have to choose to love them. This is not just a matter of blind willpower. It involves a realistic intellectual judgment that leads to appropriate forms of tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation.

People are different. People are all more or less weird - some are better at hiding it from others, and all of us are remarkably good at hiding it from ourselves. People are flawed. People are sinners. (Some) people are jerks. 

Love them anyway.

We don't need to turn into super extroverts, or run around going to parties and joining clubs (unless we want to). The "quiet life" may suit us better. But let's be open to people - it's reasonable to have "boundaries" and privacy out of respect for our own dignity, but let the criteria be drawn from a rational love for ourselves and those who have been entrusted to our responsibility, and not from self-shielding anger and frustration with others, which can so easily degenerate into a hidden contempt.

People will not be perfect, and they will vex us sometimes, but we cannot withdraw into isolation. We should trust in God and welcome people, accept them, accompany them. We might even take the risk of a little vulnerability with some people; we could reach out to befriend them and accept their friendship, and we could "forgive them ahead of time," so to speak, for (inevitably) disappointing us in some ways, for not measuring up, for trespassing against us. 

But really it's not all such a grim business. If we have a mature, realistic openness to people, they will surprise us. They will show us their talents, their ideals, their ardor, and their need for us to affirm them and mentor them. Their strengths, experience, and maturity will help us. We will begin to see them with compassion and understanding, and with a healthy dose of good humor.

Above all, we have to forgive the people who have hurt us in the past, to let go of the often unacknowledged tendency to "nurture" the pain and the anger, to take silent interior vengeance against the other. It will never give us peace.

(I should note that our forgiveness and openness and realistic judgment must not be naive; it should take full account of the need to protect ourselves from physical and mental abuse. Let's keep our eyes open, and if necessary get help to recognize these situations and not allow them to continue.)

We also need to "forgive ourselves" (which is so much harder than it sounds). We have to let go of the frustrations of the past and of our own failures. Most of us have a lot of stuff to let go of. We need to do what's necessary for our own healing and freedom.

All of this can be hard, but it's good. It reawakens our hope and our capacity to be surprised by life - to see all the good there is in reality and in other people.

Life is full of its deep down promise. We need to embrace that "kid inside us," which means we need to keep living, loving, and hoping ... every day.😊