Monday, October 31, 2022

Hope Remains Firm in the Midst of Many Changes

Here is a bit of an “existential reflection” on how the past four years have been so different from what I expected them to be. It was a good time to reflect on the truth that I “belong to another,” and that adherence to Him always give light for the “next step” in the human journey.

I apologize for the shaky quality of this video, but I hope that you will persist in watching, or at least listening to it. With this we say “goodbye” to October 2022.πŸ‚πŸπŸƒ

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Surprise of an Encounter

Today’s Gospel reading about Zacchaeus the tax collector reminded me of an article I wrote on his conversion in my column in Magnificat, published in January 2016. It is a story that vividly displays the gratuitous and transforming power of the encounter with Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

“Portrait” of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano


JJ Studios presents “portrait artwork” of Chiara Luce for 2022.

The origin of this portrait is a small and very grainy photograph. It was crafted with a variety of digital graphics tools, plus detailed work by hand. It preserves the original “red tinge” of the photo. 

Chiara Badano was considered “the prettiest girl in town.” She was modest but not frumpy. She had a boyfriend at one point, and experienced heartbreak. She had trouble with math in school. She was an avid tennis player. She liked popular music (including Bruce Springsteen). She was a girl of her time, and a girl of deep faith. That faith grew immensely during her nearly two years of suffering from osteosarcoma, until her death three weeks short of her 19th birthday on October 7, 1990.

"I offer everything, my failures, my pains and joys to Him, starting again every time the Cross makes me feel all its weight. The important thing is to do God’s will. I might have had plans about myself but God came up with this. The sickness came to me at the right time... [and] now I feel like I am wrapped into a wonderful design that is slowly unfolding itself to me…. 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 Luce Badano).

Chiara still needs her second “officially approved miracle” for canonization, although I wouldn’t hesitate to ask her prayers for anything, even little things (especially “little things”).

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Happy 16th Birthday Josefina Janaro!πŸŽ‚πŸŽ‰

Today is Josefina Janaro's 16th birthday. Happy Birthday Jojo!

I can’t believe she’s 16 years old. When I began this blog in 2011, she was only four! Of all our “kids,” Jojo has been the most featured on this blog. It covers most of the years of her life, and recounts many funny observations and anecdotes of her growing-up. Back in 2011, it was still evident that Jojo had been a “premee” with a unique history of challenges. Now I have almost forgotten about that time long ago (n.b. I said “almost”…). But it’s hard not to remember the drama that began 16 years ago on this day. It was a difficult beginning not only for her, but also for us.

I have made many new connections and acquired new readers since our youngest child was born. Many of them don't know the crazy story of the first year of this irrepressible young lady's life. From the beginning, she was small in size but with a personality big enough to fill the room.

Josefina was "supposed to be born" in December, so when Eileen began having what seemed like the early stages of labor on the morning of October 26, 2006, we called the doctor's office. They didn't think anything unusual was happening. "Still," they said, "why don't you come in and we'll make sure...."

It's a good thing we went in that morning.

By the time Josefina was born a few hours later, the hospital had already determined by sonogram that she had an undeveloped intestinal tract, and we knew she would need major surgery (although it was hard to imagine what that could mean). In view of the emergency situation, I baptized her right away. The chaplain arrived some minutes later and administered Confirmation, which in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is given to babies who are in danger of death.

Before long our tiny daughter was behind glass in an enormous, technologically decked out mobile incubatory contraption in order to be transported immediately to Fairfax Hospital for emergency surgery. The neonatalogists operated on her, and amazingly connected her intestinal tract, using surgical techniques that were truly marvelous. She was then set up with an intravenous feeding tube and given her place in the "NICU" (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We were told that when the operation healed and she began digesting normally, we could bring her home. The original estimate was that it would take three weeks.

We thought three weeks was going to be an unbearably long time to wait for our little girl to come home. But we had no idea what was coming…. Josefina kept having setbacks. Weeks turned into months. The NICU staff took wonderful care of her. Still, Josefina wasn't healing properly, and no one could explain why. Christmas came and went. The Spring semester of 2007 began, and I returned to my classroom even while keeping one ear on my phone in case the doctors called. .

Josefina continued in the NICU, her condition varying, but still causing concern to her doctors and staff. Their concerns were justified. On March 6, 2007, Josefina needed another emergency surgery. Things improved after that, although there were some scary points as the recovery time stretched on. There were infections and breathing complications. My mother-in-law came from California to take care of the house and kids while Eileen drove every day to Fairfax to be with Josefina. We will always be grateful to all of our extended family members and friends who helped us in countless ways.

My wife once again proved to be heroic.

I was still working full time at my university as a teaching professor. My health had been good for a while up until then. Indeed, I had had a lengthy remission, and was in great shape until the strain of Josefina’s odyssey started to wear me down again. I would go to Fairfax Hospital with Eileen as often as I could, and I took videos so that the other children could see their sister (older children were not allowed in the NICU).

Recall that, way back in '06 -‘07, I needed a digital video camera that used micro "digital video cassettes." I would then use a special "DVD Burner" to transfer the video to a disc (we called it "burning a DVD" in those primitive days). Then we could watch the videos on our analog television using a triple-color-corded hooked-up DVD player. I was like "Wow this is the future, man!" (Meanwhile, I also had my rather uninteresting "cell phone" in my pocket, for phone calls. Period.) I did my best to make humorous and happy videos for Jojo’s siblings, who were 9, 8, 6, and 3 years old. It wasn't difficult, because the "subject matter" was so cute! (We still have all those DVDs, though we haven't watched them for a long long time.)

Josefina charmed everyone with her enormous eyes and dimply smile. She was adorable, but also fragile. The problems, and the length of time it was taking to resolve them, continued to baffle the doctors. After nearly seven months of the tension of living this way, everyone was exhausted and I was headed for another major health relapse, with a debilitating flare up of Lyme Disease that ultimately necessitated my retirement from active teaching in 2008. It was an extraordinarily difficult, uncertain time for us all.

Seven months in NICU… actually it was six months, after which she was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (or PICU). I was wondering if I should call the Guinness Book of World Records at this point, but I never got around to it.

But Josefina made it. She finally came home on May 16, 2007, still weighing only ten pounds. She started out with a nasal-gastric feeding tube, but soon she was on her own. She needed a special formula, had some digestive problems, and a moderate asthmatic condition for the next few years, but everything was fine after that.

And now Jojo is a healthy, energetic, omnivorous, sweet 16-year-old teenager who does Irish dancing, sings beautifully, and has performed on stage the past two years with her drama club. She has grown to be a very socially oriented young lady; she is good at getting to know people, making them feel welcome, and putting them at ease. She makes friends, and is kind to everyone. 

She also loves watching T.V. with her Dad, which is good because some days it’s all I can manage. But we do get to spend lots of time together, and we also have many great conversations. She empathizes with me in my pains and frustrations, but she also brings me out of myself and challenges me to be more human, to be fully engaged with life.

We thank the Lord for Josefina. We love her so much, and we are so proud of her. We look forward to the years ahead with her and all our children (and, of course, grandchildren too☺️).

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

“Impressionistic Autumn Scenes”

JJ Studios presents: “Impressionistic Autumn Scenes” by JJ (digital art from original photos, October 2022). 1 & 2.


Sunday, October 23, 2022

October 1962: The Edge of the Abyss

On the evening of October 22, 1962, television screens across the U.S.A. and in many other places in the world presented an emergency speech by President John F. Kennedy. In this speech, Kennedy made public for the first time one of the most urgent crises of the Cold War era. American intelligence had discovered (beyond doubt) that the secret construction of Soviet nuclear missile bases in Cuba was underway and rapidly approaching completion. Aerial reconnaissance photography unveiled multiple bases in remote locations on the Caribbean island, along with an increasing buildup of medium range ballistic missiles capable of hitting two-thirds of major population centers in the United States, as well as many cities in Central and South America. The time from launch to impact of these weapons of mass destruction was estimated to be less than five minutes. Kennedy demanded that the Soviet Union dismantle the missile bases, and he declared that the U.S. Navy would enforce a “quarantine” around Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from delivering any further military supplies to them. The “quarantine” was a blockade in all but name (calling it a blockade would have been an “act of war”). The American Navy would surround Cuba, asserting the right to stop and search all Soviet vessels approaching Cuban ports and to refuse entry to any ships containing weapons or any other materials pertaining to the further buildup of the bases. If the Soviets violated the “quarantine,” further U.S. military action would be taken.

The world learned that night, through the medium of television, that a confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers had reached the brink of World War III.

The Soviets insisted that their only interest was to defend Fidel Castro’s newly Communist Cuba from “imperialist invasion” by the United States. But this buildup was clearly beyond anything Cuba might have needed for its defense. It was a provocation, perhaps a gamble, by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to maximize the benefits of the U.S.S.R.'s presence in the Western Hemisphere. It was an attempt to gain an advantage in the weird standoff of the Cold War. One particular outstanding issue pertained to the Soviet leader’s frustration over the lack of a treaty between East and West Germany, and the consequent presence of "West Berlin" as an outpost of the NATO alliance in the midst of the Eastern Bloc. Perhaps Khrushchev was hoping that a military confrontation over Cuba could provide a pretext for seizing West Berlin by force.

But this would only have been one motive within a larger context that continues (at least in the background) to frame all consideration of warfare since 1945. The invention of "nuclear weapons" placed a whole new level of power — power that harnessed the energy of the core foundations of the material world as modern science understood it — into the hands of human beings, who could now choose to unleash its immense destructive capacities in warfare. The U.S.A. had already demonstrated the monstrous power of atomic bombs against Japan at the end of World War II. The ensuing generation saw the development of the much more powerful hydrogen bomb, and its voluminous proliferation in both the United States and the Soviet Union.

A strange paradox surrounded these weapons. They were so vastly, indiscriminately, and unpredictably destructive that the use of them in warfare, for any reason, seemed to be unthinkable. We might choose to unleash their power to serve our aims, but once unleashed, how could we hope to control it? Who could predict the physical and psychological effects that human beings would undergo during or after the unprecedented event of a multi-pronged thermonuclear attack? What manner of economic chaos and social disorder would remain for the survivors (assuming there would be any)? The short, medium, and long term impacts on whole human societies, countless millions of people, and the consequences for regional and global environmental health were beyond imagining.

Humans apparently saw the need to avoid ever using nuclear weapons. But how could we be sure that such a catastrophe could be avoided? This was a particularly poignant question for the U.S.A. and its allies, nations that at least in principle were politically free, open, and transparent in the way they were governed. The Free World advocated these political and social standards as the ideal, even if the realities of politics and statesmanship constantly failed to measure up to them. No such ideals hindered Soviet Communism; rather, it held as a creedal principle that political ends justified every means, including all manner of lying and deception. The post-World-War-II world, indeed, revealed that allied countries had been excessively credulous in their expectations of Stalin’s “honor” and their confidence in his promises. It seemed clear that trust was not a viable foundation for security in the atomic age. What options remained?

In the Cold War era, a sort of culture of mutual terror emerged between the rival blocs, within which a measure of "security" was at least felt to be within human reach: the perception was that the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons would never be used was to threaten to use them in retaliation if the enemy chose to use them first. 

Ultimately this became a kind of "pact" that "kept the peace" during the years I grew up; or, at least, it kept peace between the U.S. dominated "First World" and Soviet Communism, while Third World populations endured dictatorships, revolutions, and proxy wars (in a wide variety of local circumstances we have scarcely begun to understand). It was called “Mutually Assured Destruction” (aptly abbreviated as “M.A.D.”). Somehow, this strategy became acceptable (or at least tolerable) to political leaders, even though it bound them up with maintaining, as at least a threat, the possibility of inflicting enormous, disproportionate, indiscriminate violence and destruction upon entire nations and their populations.

It was a harsh paradox: our world spoke in terms of becoming more united in peace, freedom, and understanding — while also generating escalation scenarios for total war and spending gigantic sums of money to stockpile weapons that were capable of destroying the human race. It was ultimately an implausible paradox, and in trying to stretch themselves to reconcile themselves to it, free nations became further alienated from the Christian humanism they still claimed (however vaguely) as their heritage.

In his speech that night, President Kennedy laid the foundations for the difficult exchanges between American and Soviet regimes over the next terrifying week. This led to the eventual Russian withdrawal of the nuclear missile bases from Cuba, gaining for a time a measure of “security” against the possibility of cataclysmic war. But the hidden cost was high, in terms of a hardening of the U.S.A.’s political willingness to “wager” on the immediate safety of millions of innocent human lives. 

The apparent insufficiency of the “quarantine” in the days that followed very nearly led to a full scale invasion of Cuba by American forces. U.S. intelligence at the time, however, was deficient regarding the Russian military equipment already in place. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years later did the world learn that by October 1962 Cuba was already armed with smaller “tactical nuclear weapons” designed to be used in battlefield conditions. These weapons were more “limited” but still horrendous in their destructive capacities. The Cubans (and, therefore, the Russians) were prepared to “cross the nuclear threshold” to push back American forces invading Cuba. This could have triggered the protocols of “Mutually Assured Destruction,” bringing about an escalation of retaliative nuclear strikes that would have had its own bizarre logic. Both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. had their larger (“strategic”) nuclear weapons aimed at major population centers filled with millions of innocent civilians who might die in a nuclear attack without even knowing that their country had entered a war. And the escalation would have continued…

In any case, the targeting of American strategic nuclear weapons toward the indiscriminate destruction of civilian population centers required President Kennedy to press the threat “to retaliate” to any nuclear attack initiated by the Russians. The U.S.A. in effect held the civilian population of the Soviet Union “hostage” in order to dissuade the Soviet Union from attacking American civilian populations (and vice versa). It was intrinsic to nuclear deterrence to put millions of non-belligerent civilians in danger of death, and in a crisis this danger had to be presented as a threat (in atomic new-speak terms, “a full retaliatory response”). Kennedy was a man of noble sentiments who aspired to do good, and who was personally appalled by the brutal “requirements” of this crisis. Yet he saw no way to escape the evils entailed except through cowardice. And he refused to stoop to cowardice, or subject his nation to what he could only perceive as a humiliating and dangerous appeasement. Thus, he endeavored to present the available options for this desperate crisis in noble terms (a nobility which means very little to today’s political discourse). But ultimately it was the tragic nobility, born of an atrophying society that was drifting far from the resources of its original inspiration in the Gospel’s testimony to the love of God and the dignity of every human person.

Sixty years later, we still drift - as we face new kinds of war and old threats of nuclear weapons - we drift in desperation, not knowing where our politicians want to take us (or why); or we drift like beggars in search of a renewed evangelical inspiration, a renewed wisdom in which we might find the courage and compassion to affirm the transcendence of human freedom, and to discover new ways of reconfiguring vast and potentially destructive material power into the energy of service to human persons, relationships, and communities.

Words from JFK’s televised speech of October 22, 1962:

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Happy Saint John Paul II Day!

Here is another version of the “family icon” for today’s feast.πŸ˜‰ Truly, John Paul II was a “living icon” for people of our generation, a living and convincing witness to the love of Jesus for us.

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Abundance of God's Love is Greater Than Our Sins

I am a sinner.


I do not say this as a clichΓ©, but as a simple statement of fact.

I am also a Catholic Christian. I have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, renewed by the Holy Spirit, and made a new person in Christ, a child of God, an heir to eternal life. I have been restored by Christ through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation for those times when I rebelled against my loving Father and went my own way, only to see my proud illusory schemes dissolve into disappointment and misery. I continue to be sustained and nourished in this new life in the Spirit - this supernatural life of grace, of adopted sonship, of belonging to God - by the enduring offering and “substantial presence” of the crucified and risen Jesus who gives himself to me as food and drink in the Eucharist. Christ vivifies me; he is the life of my life.

I have learned that by trying to ignore God's creating and redeeming love and his radical outpouring of himself, his giving of himself for me, I do violence to the very foundation of my own person. Adhering to him is the only way I can be true to myself.

I don't trust my own ideas or my own power. I trust in Jesus Christ.

Still, I am a sinner.

There are those sins the Catholic tradition calls "venial sins" which hinder and perhaps even cripple but do not break off our relationship with God.

My daily life is full of these "slight" sins: the facade that I think of as "myself" is largely a construction of vanity, of "benevolent" intrigue, fibbery, excessive love of comfort, the desire to please people, laziness, coldness, negligence and evasion, sharp-edged words, impatience, complaining, sentimentalism, distraction, and - of course - that ill-governed curiosity about events and people into which rash judgment and gossip inevitably creep, wearing a thousand conceptual disguises.πŸ˜‘ I'm not complacent about all of this. These sins injure me as a person and injure others. They are hindrances to the fullness of union with God, and sooner or later they will have to be cleansed away by the Refiner's fire, Love's fire.

I struggle against these sins; I want to grow in love and to do God's will, but part of me is pulled in the direction of trying to cut some kind of a deal with him.

It's easy for me to forget that he's the Infinite Lover who makes me and sustains me, who first gives me myself and then gives me himself. A worldly image seeps through the corners of my mind and tries to distort the reality of God, painting him as just a "big power" in the universe who confronts me "from the outside" with some (more or less arbitrary) prohibitions and demands. My diplomatic temperament inclines me to negotiate, as though the ultimate meaning of life is to save one's own skin. I do not believe this, but I recognize it as part of a toxic atmosphere around me that can stir up what remains in me of the effects of the original lack-of-trust (i.e. “original sin”) that afflicts humanity.

It's not surprising that serious Christians (far more serious and dedicated than me) still commit many "venial" sins. So much of this behavior is rooted and woven within our complex, partly inscrutable subconscious dispositions. They divert and obscure our understanding and our freedom so that we stumble along the path of life, or we hesitate, we dither, we are distracted, anxious, forgetful. In our daily actions and evasions, we fall short or fail to follow our vocation to love.

These frequent failures are “small” and/or inadequately deliberated or mistakenly perceived by our weak and afflicted minds. They are “venial sins” (according to the terminology of classical moral theology) that aren't sufficient to constitute a willful rupture in our relationship with God, but that deserve some measure of blame. They do not lead us closer to the perfect happiness for which God has created us. They obscure somewhat our focus on true happiness. They drain our spiritual strength and make us more vulnerable to greater temptations, and more divisive toward one another..

I am a sinner. I don't know myself. I cannot find complacency just by looking at myself. My sins may be far greater than I imagine, far more dangerous and destructive than I think. "Who can detect trespasses? From my secret sins deliver me, O Lord" (Psalm 19:12). I am a sinner who stands before God in need of his mercy. I recall the venerable words of the ancient prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

We are all sinners, but the love of God has been revealed to us. This is the foundation of our confidence and our joy. We pray to the God who has poured out his love for us in Jesus, with confidence in the power, wisdom, and mysterious fruitfulness of this love. We struggle with our still-somewhat-distorted inclinations, and we repent of our sins and endeavor to make amends while growing in the knowledge and love of God. We do the best we can with what God entrusts to us, using our understanding, freedom, and energy to adhere to him in a cooperation with his grace that shines light on our fragility, our total dependence on him, and the wondrous power of his love to transform us. Then, beyond the horizon of our own limitations, we abandon ourselves to his infinite mercy.

We find confidence in God and a living hope for eternal life when we live and grow in this relationship with him. "Do not be afraid," Jesus says. The abundance of God's love is greater than our sins. Indeed, his love is greater than anything in us. Even the sanctity that we share in, the supernatural heroism that he empowers us to achieve in union with him, doesn't measure the "size" or the "limits" of his mercy.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

So, What Are We Afraid Of?

Today’s first reading in the liturgy succinctly expresses how the Mystery who creates and sustains us — the Mystery who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ as the Triune God who is Infinite Love — wants to transform our lives, how ardently He wants to give Himself to us, how worthy He is our our trust. This is Saint Paul’s inspired prayer for the Ephesians of two thousand years ago, and for all of us of every time and place:

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

So then… what are we afraid of?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Colored Leaves… at Last!

Cooler temperatures are moving things along for Autumn colors in Virginia.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Luke is the “Ox” of the Evangelists

Today is the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist and companion of Saint Paul during some of his missionary journeys. Luke is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Iconography in the Western Church identifies Luke with an ox (often even with wings). 

This symbolism is based on the association of the four gospel writers with the “four living creatures” featured in the great visions of the Divine presence recounted in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. In both visions, the “living creatures” have faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. As early as Saint Irenaeus (second century) these faces were declared to be symbols of the evangelists. In the fourth century, Saint Jerome identified the “standard” references that are found in iconography and other sacred art thereafter: Matthew is the “man,” Mark is the “lion,” Luke is the “ox,” and John is the “eagle.” A variety of explanations are given in the accompanying homiletic tradition. It’s interesting to note the manner in which the four living creatures together have a cosmic significance, representing birds, wild and domesticated animals, and the human being (a “summary” of the whole animal creation). In the visions of both Ezekiel and John, they are extraordinary beings, with wings indicating the cherubim. Symbolically, the Evangelists can be associated with these heavenly images because they serve as Divinely inspired witnesses to the glory of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Why is Luke the ox? The general interpretation was that the ox is one of the animals of sacrifice, and Luke’s Gospel emphasizes Christ’s atonement sacrifice. Also, his Gospel begins (1:9) in the temple, where Zechariah the father of John the Baptist is serving as priest. It also ends in the temple (24:53), where the disciples gather to praise God after Jesus’s Ascension. 

These associations may seem “forced” to us, but the ancient Church had a rich awareness of the interrelationship of symbolism throughout the Scriptures and indeed all of creation, where everything pointed toward the centrality of the Word Incarnate (typology expresses this most precisely in the Bible, but the typological “style” extend the imagination to an overall allegorical vision of the whole universe). This is grounded in the sense that God “made himself at home” at the center of his creation, dwelling with humans in our history and in the midst of our ordinary (even impoverished) circumstances, as Saint Luke makes clear when he tells us that the Lord was born in a stable, where Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). 

Perhaps near that manger there was an ox… an ordinary ox on earth who for one night was in the presence of the definitive revelation of the Glory of God, dwelling with us as a newborn child, resting on the animals’ hay.

The images here are from medieval illuminated manuscripts, where Luke is either represented by the ox or is portrayed together with the ox.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

The Centenary of the Servant of God Luigi Giussani

October 15 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Luigi Giussani, Catholic priest and founder of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. Here I have attempted a digital graphic “sketch” of this incomparable “man of the Church” and “teacher of humanity” (as Saint John Paul II called him after Giussani’s death in 2005).

Giussani grasped the dramatic character of human life, and the apparent “paradox” of human freedom: “Freedom is dependence upon God. It is a paradox, but it is absolutely clear. The human being – the concrete human person, me, you – once we were not, now we are, and tomorrow will no longer be: thus we depend. And either we depend upon the flux of our material antecedents, and are consequently slaves of the powers that be, or we depend upon What lies at the origin of the movement of all things, beyond them, which is to say, God.”

Pope Francis indicated the heart of Giussani’s charism in his words during the event in Rome where tens of thousands of the people of CL from all over the world gathered to commemorate his centennial:

“Father Giussani was certainly a man of great personal charisma, capable of attracting thousands of young people and touching their hearts. We can ask ourselves: where did his charism come from? It came from something he had lived in the first person: as a boy, at only fifteen, he had been struck by the discovery of the mystery of Christ. He had guessed - not only with the mind but with the heart - that Christ is the unifying center of all reality, he is the answer to all human questions, he is the realization of every desire for happiness, for good, for love, for eternity present in the human heart. The amazement and charm of this first encounter with Christ never abandoned him.

“As the then Cardinal Ratzinger said to his funeral: ‘Don Giussani has always fixed the gaze of his life and his heart towards Christ. He understood in this way that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a package of dogmas, a moralism, but that Christianity is an encounter; a love story; it is an event.' Here lies the root of his charisma. Don Giussani attracted, convinced, converted hearts because he transmitted to others what he brought within after that fundamental experience of his: the passion for man and the passion for Christ as a fulfillment of man. Many young people have followed him because… what he said came from his experience and his heart, so he inspired trust, sympathy and interest.”

~Pope Francis (at meeting with CL movement, October 15, 2022)

Friday, October 14, 2022

October Colors? Still Mostly GREEN

We’re having (mostly) beautiful weather this week. The green is still mostly green, though you can “feel” the changes starting to happen. (Our house is behind all those leaves in the first picture.🌳 In less than two months all those branches will be bare!❄️)

The red we see right now is from some lovely roses on the “repeat blooming” rose bushes in the neighborhood. Eventually we’ll see the bright red maple leaves.




Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Sixty Years Ago: Saint John XXIII Opens Vatican II

October 11, 2022 was a day worth celebrating for more than one reason. It is the feast day of the Pope we know today as Saint John XXIII. I can certainly claim him as one of my patron saints, since I was not only born during his pontificate, but named “John” by my parents in his honor (I was also named for my maternal grandfather, but my parents had the Pope specifically in mind as well). I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t pick up on his canonization and “make it retroactive” for his patronage.

But there is a further point of significance to this date. It’s connected to the whole reason why John XXIII’s feast day is October 11. Usually, a saint’s day is on (or as close as possible to) the day of his or her death. Sometimes, however, a saint’s life has a special connection to an important event in history. In the case of Saint John XXIII, his feast day corresponds to the opening of a singular historical event in the life of the Catholic Church - an event that began as an inspiration, a special grace, within his own heart - an event destined to bear tremendous fruit in the Church and the world.

60 years ago this day, on October 11, 1962, Saint John XXIII solemnly convened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, an unprecedented assembly of nearly 2,500 bishops from all over the world. It was (among many other distinguishing features) the first Council to include bishops from sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. It also had in attendance many (non-voting) observers from other Christian communities, and it was surrounded by media coverage that was new in its day for an ecclesial event, but that we have since come to take for granted.

Pope Francis marked the anniversary with a special liturgical celebration. His homily was right to the point of the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Church in the vision of the Council, and the need of the whole Church to remain focused on it.

I present the text of the homily below, from the Vatican website.
  
“Do you love me?” These are the first words that Jesus speaks to Peter in the Gospel that we have just heard (Jn 21:15). His final words are: “Feed my sheep” (v. 17). On the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we can sense that those same words of the Lord are also addressed to us, to us as Church: Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

First: Do you love me? It is a question, for Jesus’ style is not so much to offer answers as to ask questions, questions that challenge our lives. The Lord, who “from the fullness of his love, addresses men and women as his friends and lives among them” (Dei Verbum 2), continues to ask the Church, his Bride: “Do you love me?” The Second Vatican Council was one great response to this question. To rekindle her love for the Lord, the Church, for the first time in her history, devoted a Council to examining herself and reflecting on her nature and mission. She saw herself once more as a mystery of grace generated by love; she saw herself anew as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the living temple of the Holy Spirit!

This is the first way to look at the Church: from above. Indeed, the Church needs first to be viewed from on high, with God’s eyes, eyes full of love. Let us ask ourselves if we, in the Church, start with God and his loving gaze upon us. We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back on the time that Providence has granted us, in order to retrace our steps. Yet let us be careful: both the “progressivism” that lines up behind the world and the “traditionalism” – or “looking backwards” – that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity. They are forms of a Pelagian selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.

Do you love me? Let us rediscover the Council in order to restore primacy to God, to what is essential: to a Church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves; to a Church that is rich in Jesus and poor in assets; to a Church that is free and freeing. This was the path that the Council pointed out to the Church. It led her to return, like Peter in the Gospel, to Galilee, to the sources of her first love; to rediscover God’s holiness in her own poverty (cf. Lumen Gentium 8c; chapter 5).

Each one of us also has his or her own Galilee, the Galilee of our first love, and certainly today we are all called to return to our own Galilee in order to hear the voice of the Lord: “Follow me”. And there, to find once more in the gaze of the crucified and risen Lord a joy that had faded; to focus upon Jesus. To rediscover our joy, for a Church that has lost its joy has lost its love. Towards the end of his life, Pope John wrote: “This life of mine, now nearing its sunset, could find no better end than in the concentration of all my thoughts in Jesus, the Son of Mary… a great and constant friendship with Jesus, contemplated as a Child and upon the Cross, and adored in the Blessed Sacrament” (Journal of a Soul). This is our view from on high; this is our ever-living source: Jesus, the Galilee of love, Jesus who calls us, Jesus who asks us: “Do you love me?”.

Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council’s pure sources of love. Let us rediscover the Council’s passion and renew our own passion for the Council! Immersed in the mystery of the Church, Mother and Bride, let us also say, with Saint John XXIII: Gaudet Mater Ecclesia! (Address at the Opening of the Council, 11 October 1962). May the Church be overcome with joy. If she should fail to rejoice, she would deny her very self, for she would forget the love that begot her. Yet how many of us are unable to live the faith with joy, without grumbling and criticizing? A Church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and disputes. May God free us from being critical and intolerant, harsh and angry! This is not a matter of style but of love. For those who love, as the Apostle Paul teaches, do everything without murmuring (cf. Phil 2:14). Lord, teach us your own lofty gaze; teach us to look at the Church as you see her. And when we are critical and disgruntled, let us remember that to be Church means to bear witness to the beauty of your love, to live our lives as a response to your question: Do you love me? And not to act as if we were at a funeral wake.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep. With that second verb, feed, Jesus expresses the kind of love that he desires from Peter. So let us now reflect on Peter. He was a fisherman whom Jesus made a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:10). Jesus assigns him a new role, that of a shepherd, something entirely new to him. This was in fact a turning point in Peter’s life, for while fishermen are concerned with hauling a catch to themselves, shepherds are concerned with others, with feeding others. Shepherds live with their flocks; they feed the sheep and come to love them. A shepherd is not “above” the nets – like a fisherman – but “in the midst of” his sheep. A shepherd stands in front of the people to mark the way, in the midst of the people as one of them, and behind the people in order to be close to the stragglers. A shepherd is not above, like a fisherman, but in the midst.

This is the second way of looking at the Church that we learn from the Council: looking around. In other words, being in the world with others without ever feeling superior to others, being servants of that higher realm which is the Kingdom of God (cf. Lumen Gentium 5); bringing the good news of the Gospel into people’s lives and languages (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 36), sharing their joys and hopes (cf. Gaudium et Spes 1). Being in the midst of the people, not above the people, which is the bad sin of clericalism that kills the sheep rather than guiding them or helping them grow. How timely the Council remains! It helps us reject the temptation to enclose ourselves within the confines of our own comforts and convictions. The Council helps us imitate God’s approach, which the prophet Ezekiel has described to us today: “Seek the lost sheep and lead back to the fold the stray, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (cf. Ezek 34:16).

Feed: the Church did not hold the Council in order to admire herself, but to give herself to others. Indeed, our holy and hierarchical Mother, springing from the heart of the Trinity, exists for the sake of love. She is a priestly people (cf. Lumen Gentium 10ff.), meant not to stand out in the eyes of the world, but to serve the world. Let us not forget that the People of God is born “extrovert” and renews its youth by self-giving, for it is a sacrament of love, “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium 1). Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council, which rediscovered the living river of Tradition without remaining mired in traditions. The Council rediscovered the source of love, not to remain on mountain heights, but to cascade downwards as a channel of mercy for all.  Let us return to the Council and move beyond ourselves, resisting the temptation to self-absorption, which is a way of being worldly. Once more, the Lord tells his Church: feed! And as she feeds, she leaves behind nostalgia for the past, regret at the passing of former influence, and attachment to power. For you, the holy People of God, are a pastoral people. You are not here to shepherd yourselves, or to be on the climb, but to shepherd others – all others – with love. And if it is fitting to show a particular concern, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the outcast (cf. Lumen Gentium 8; Gaudium et Spes 1). The Church is meant to be, as Pope John put it, “the Church of all, and particularly the Church of the poor” (Radio Message to the faithful worldwide a month prior to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 11 September 1962).

Do you love me? The Lord then says: “Feed my sheep”. He does not mean just some of the sheep, but all of them, for he loves them all, affectionately referring to them as “mine”. The Good Shepherd looks out and wants his flock to be united, under the guidance of the Pastors he has given them. He wants us – and this is the third way of looking at the Church – to see the whole, all of us together. The Council reminds us that the Church is a communion in the image of the Trinity (cf. Lumen Gentium 4.13). The devil, on the other hand, wants to sow the darnel of division. Let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization. How often, in the wake of the Council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the Church, not realizing that they were breaking their Mother’s heart! How many times did they prefer to cheer on their own party rather than being servants of all? To be progressive or conservative rather than being brothers and sisters? To be on the “right” or “left”, rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as “guardians of the truth” or “pioneers of innovation” rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church. All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be. We are his sheep, his flock, and we can only be so together and as one. Let us overcome all polarization and preserve our communion. May all of us increasingly “be one”, as Jesus prayed before sacrificing his life for us (cf. Jn 17:21). And may Mary, Mother of the Church, help us in this. May the yearning for unity grow within us, the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ. Let us leave aside the “isms”, for God’s people do not like polarization. The people of God is the holy faithful people of God: this is the Church. It is good that today, as during the Council, representatives of other Christian communities are present with us. Thank you! Thank you for being here, thank you for your presence!

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Council. You who love us, free us from the presumption of self-sufficiency and from the spirit of worldly criticism. Prevent us from excluding ourselves from unity. You who lovingly feed us, lead us forth from the shadows of self-absorption. You who desire that we be a united flock, save us from the forms of polarization and the “isms” that are the devil’s handiwork. And we, your Church, with Peter and like Peter, now say to you: “Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you” (cf. Jn 21:17).

Monday, October 10, 2022

Christina Grimmie’s Advice About “Bullying”


Remembering Christina Grimmie, six years and four months later. This simple piece of advice is good advice. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worth the effort.πŸ’šπŸ’š

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to bullying, but it happens in many forms, and on many levels, bringing suffering to people of all ages. We must not let bullying define us. We each have unique dignity and value as human persons because we are created in God’s image. God loves each one of us immensely. Knowing that we are precious to Him, we can respond to bullies and haters *with love* (as Christina did). 

Thus, we will grow in confidence in the truth about ourselves (as persons loved by God); and - we hope - the bullies who try to intimidate us and the negative people who try to drag us down will experience that they are also LOVED. Perhaps one simple gesture from us will contribute to a change in their hearts, so that they will come to know the truth about their own humanity - that they too are uniquely precious to God - and will begin to experience healing.πŸ’šπŸ’š

Friday, October 7, 2022

War and Peace and the Rosary

The Mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Person of the Word who took flesh in her womb, the Mother of God the Son and the Mother of all of us whom He has claimed as His brothers and sisters in His redemption, is the Queen of Peace.

She brings peace to those who call upon her, and that can entail helping to protect us from the oppressor, from men of violence who want to bring ruin and destruction to our land and make us slaves. When we are required to defend ourselves and our country from ruthless invaders, Mary will help us not only to prevail, but also to remain lovers of peace in our hearts, to be free from lust for vengeance, to fight honorably, with justice, and with love - hoping for the enlightenment and conversion of our enemies, and (as Chesterton put it) fighting not out of hatred for the enemy in front of us, but out of love for all that is behind us: our homes, our families, our culture, identity, freedom as a people, and especially for the most poor and vulnerable of our communities who are already suffering violence from the enemy’s attack.

Even in legitimate self-defense - which ought not to be called “violence” because it is by nature resistance against violence - there is nevertheless the danger that the use of force might degenerate into unjust actions, using unjust and dehumanizing means as more expedient ways (or hate-filled, revenge-filled ways) to attain otherwise legitimate purposes, to “do evil so that [a ‘greater’] good may come from it.” Alas, the history of armed conflict is riddled with injustices on all sides (as is the history… of pretty much everything else). We hope, however, for a preponderance of discretion and proportion in the defensive use of force, humility and repentance for failures, and prayer for perseverance in the cause of protecting one’s own people and restoring peace and security against the aggressor.

On October 7, 1571, the pope called on all Catholics to pray the Rosary for the protection of Western Europe from a brutal and overwhelming invasion by the “Islamic State” of that time, and the world-absorbing aspirations of its powerful “Caliphate,” the Sultanate of Ottoman Turkey. On that day, a much-outnumbered European naval force turned away a massive Turkish invasion at Lepanto.

In this month of October 2022, we are once again praying the Rosary for peace. For the past seven months, Ukraine has been robbed of its peace by a monstrous invasion of Russian military forces that have been compelled to play out the grandiose and paranoid imperialistic fantasies of Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainians have a right to defend themselves, and their persistence - against all odds - has earned the admiration of the world.

Ukraine has understandably turned to the enormously wealthy and technologically advanced Western democracies (in Europe and the U.S.A.) for help. And Ukrainian defenders have received a continuous flow of highly sophisticated and otherwise-unthinkably expensive weapons. They are rolling back the Russians with a “counter-offensive,” but Putin and his regime don’t show any intention of withdrawing peacefully. On the contrary, the recklessness has only increased, as the Russian regime has annexed occupied Ukrainian territory, initiated a military draft to muster hundreds of thousands of additional soldiers, and threatens to employ more dangerous weapons (not excluding “tactical” nuclear weapons). 

The United Nations condemns Russian aggression in vain. The West appears to want to “help” in technocratic and fiscal ways, and its leaders express a remarkably unified and robust enthusiasm (at least verbally, but also to some extent in their policies) for Ukraine’s rights as a free nation. We who live in Western countries are glad for this, but - aware of the strange, troubled, deeply ambivalent condition of our own societies - we are also “concerned.” We look on with multifaceted apprehension, not knowing what our politicians are trying to accomplish or where the “line” is between a prudent assistance that seeks justice and peace, and a risky gamesmanship that has at least one eye on what benefits our own oligarchs. (Really, let’s not kid ourselves, we have “powerful interests” in the West too, even if they’re more sophisticated and less obvious than Russia’s heavy-handed, bling-adorned robber barons.)

To be fair, it’s hard to see any human means to resolve this crisis or prevent it from becoming an even greater mess. The realpolitik of the moment seems to dictate more economic sanctions against Russia, and more weapons for Ukraine. The Euro-American alliance seeks (dreams?) that Western nations can avoid ever becoming “co-belligerents” if they just use money (strangling the Russian economy) and money (buying more and more weapons for Ukraine) to enable the Ukrainians to win (“by themselves”) what can only be a long, ugly war. Or, at least, the West hopes Ukraine can hold out until Russia experiences some magical “regime change” to instant “democracy” (have we noticed yet that this doesn’t seem to happen, like, ever?).

Please forgive me for my cynical tone. I should add the qualification that many good people (including government officials) are making great, even heroic, efforts to help Ukraine in prudent and courageous ways. They deserve our appreciation and gratitude.

But no one should have any illusions about “the West” (as perhaps too many of us had back in the 1990s). Ukrainians are not getting weapons “for free,” and if they do succeed in driving out the Russian invasion, they will soon learn that the embrace of Western alliance has its own kind of muscles and its own ways of “squeezing” its friends. From their perspective right now, it’s understandable that the Ukrainians feel less threatened by a future in the West than a future in “Greater Russia.” But the former will come with its own costs. One can only hope that Ukraine won’t have to pay too high a price for Western “support” and weapons in the future, in terms of the Ukrainian people’s own freedom to shape their country’s social and economic life.

So, “what can be done” to end this nightmare? I have no strategies, except for praying the Rosary. In temporal affairs, this is neither easy nor illuminating, but its all I can offer at this time. We are living through momentous events, and I have no special information or political power. But I believe the Rosary is more “practical” than we realize.
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Where else can we place our hope in the face of these events? “Negotiations” need to be more than just an abstract symbol, and at this point compromise is nothing but appeasement. Does anyone think that the mendacious thug-ocracy that rules Russia can be trusted to play a constructive role in Ukraine’s future? Many things must change, starting with respect for the borders recognized by international law and guaranteed by Russian treaty obligations. Of course, we hope for greater things. We are praying (especially since the March 25, 2022 Consecration) for the “conversion of Russia” through Mary’s intercession. This will only happen by God’s grace, but what a magnificent grace it would be for Russia and for the world!

While we’re at it, let us continue to pray for the “conversion” of the uber-affluent, corrupt, insatiable, agnostic, deeply confused Western world. The West today is hardly more trustworthy, in the long run, than the Russians. No one can imagine where the “dominant mentality” in the West is headed in its pursuit of money, power, distraction, and licentiousness, nor how big a hole it will dig in the earth as it rages in search of impossible satisfactions. We pray for the conversion of the West, which - for many of us - includes the conversion of ourselves.

We are also praying for the conversion of Ukraine, which - along with Russia - was specially consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this past March. Something like a miracle is needed for the survival of Ukraine and the avoidance of a longer, vastly larger, and potentially cataclysmic war in the whole region and beyond it. Thankfully, miracles are possible. October 13 marks the 105th anniversary of the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, who has promised a period of peace for our poor world.

Dare we hope - through the intercession of Mother Mary, the Virgin of Tenderness - that these momentous and tumultuous events in Ukraine (since 2014) are the beginning of something new? Are they the unavoidable “heat” that might help forge a great nation in the future - a nation of “integral human development” and real progress, of genuine democracy and solidarity - a nation whose people move forward, but who are also unafraid to draw from the riches of a millennium of history, from the hidden fruits and the memory (healed through a responsive forgiveness) of the terrible suffering of the past century, and from the vitality of the Christian inspiration that has always at least grounded the Ukrainian people, even if they haven’t always been faithful to it? In merely temporal terms, this is impossible. But conversion can make it possible (at least in some measure). Ukraine needs a renewed Christian inspiration, purified from past prejudices and extreme ethno-nationalist pretensions, and freed to be true to its heart as an evangelical love that vivifies the whole of Ukrainian society while respecting the freedom of everyone.

We should keep all these needs and hopes in our hearts this month, and beyond, when we pray the Rosary. Mary wants to bring us to her Son and His saving love. She is also a tender mother to us. She knows that our lives are difficult and laden with many burdens. She wants to bring peace. She wants all her children to love one another, to respect and appreciate one another, to help and live in solidarity with one another. 

Mary is the Queen of Peace, of every kind of true peace, and she brings us hope in these violent times.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Lord Hears Our Cries, and Answers With His Mercy

In times of crisis, prayer may seem particularly perplexing. Sometimes God seems to be "remote," and we may think we don't "deserve His attention" because of our guilt, or our conflicted emotions, our lack of courage, our lack of faith, our lack of even beginning to know how to approach Him or what to ask of Him. The time of crisis is so totally beyond our power that we don't even know where to begin, how to bring our acute brokenness before the silence of God. Crushed in spirit, the question "Why?" arises within us. The human heart—made for the Infinite—struggles especially in relating to God when faced with circumstances that seem closed off, when human understanding sees no way forward or no way out.


"I have often listened to people who are experiencing difficult and painful situations, who have lost a great deal or feel lonely and abandoned and they come to complain and ask these questions: Why? Why? They are in upheaval against God. And I say, 'Continue to pray just like this, because this also is a prayer.' ...It is prayer in times of darkness, in those moments of life that seem hopeless, where we cannot see the horizon" (Pope Francis).

There is no human person in the world who cannot pray, somehow. So often that desperate question— that apparently angry or frustrated interrogation that asks, "Why?"—is really a kind of plea, a begging of the heart for radical help. The human heart is searching for the mercy of God.

No human predicament is beyond the reach of God’s mercy. His mercy is working in us during the most terrible sufferings, and His mercy seeks to empower each one of us to bear those sufferings and offer them out of love for Jesus, and with Him for the salvation of the world.

We can't imagine what this profoundly personal mercy "feels like," or how it is transforming the depths of our lives. We may experience relief and consolation insofar as the good Lord knows we need it on this mysterious road toward our perfection in Him. But the anguish we bear and the incomprehension we sometimes express are full of His presence, and He is changing us even through these moments of "darkness" (especially through them), if we let Him.

Of course, we can resist Him. We can try to run away and hide amidst superficial distractions and shallow comforts, but these evasions can never satisfy us. In the disappointment they inevitably bring, we find that once again our hearts are raising the awful question. Once again, we are provoked by our need for the Infinite and we wrestle with the question, "Why? Why?" Resentment and yearning clash within us, but there is also grace at work.

This is a question that lives on the edge of human freedom, fraught with the temptation to give up entirely on God, but also drawn by a hope—however incoherent it may be—that wants to ask God for mercy.

No human predicament, no degree of moral and spiritual disgrace, is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.

Perhaps you may object, even vigorously, that you don’t want God’s mercy.

There are some people who really don’t want God’s mercy. Generally, they don’t even think of it, because they don't think they need anything beyond themselves. We need to pray especially for these people.

Then there are people who say to themselves, “I don’t think I want God’s mercy!”

But if you are roused to consider God's mercy at all, it is because His call is provoking you in the depths of your heart. When you recognize the possibility of God's mercy, it is because you have already begun—somewhere within yourself—to desire it.

Are you angry with the Lord? Bitter? Are you shaking your fist at God? But He looks upon you in all your fury and frustration like a parent patiently caring for a small child. Look at your little fist, that fist made up of human fingers. God loves that fist of yours. With an infinitely more profound tenderness than any human mother or father can ever begin to have, God looks upon you with radically unconditional love. God is your Father—He made your fist. He knows every line of every finger.

He wants so much to uncurl those stubborn fingers and open your hand.

“But I don’t know how to ask God for mercy!” Well, in that case, ask Him to enable you to ask Him for mercy. From wherever you are, right now, you can cry out to Him; you can begin to ask Him to show you His mercy and give you a heart that wants His mercy. Everything good comes from Him.

So even if you look at yourself and say, “I am totally evil,” you can turn to Him and ask for a little drop of His goodness, and He will give it to you. If you don't think you even want that little drop, ask Him to give you the desire for it. “Ask and you shall receive”—what a simple promise!

In the face of our total incompetence and unworthiness, He loves us. He doesn't wait for us to ask, even, before He draws near to us. God sent His Son Jesus into the world "while we were still sinners" (before we even had a thought for Him). Jesus loved us first, He died and rose from the dead for us, He wants to be with us.

The Lord showers upon us His mercy, not to the demand of our measure and expectations, but because He loves us. We are made for Him, and we need Him. He draws us through the journey of life to ask for and to receive His love, so that we might freely love Him and share in His unending life. He gives His mercy beyond all measure, long in anticipation of our awareness, and then in response to our recognition that we really do need Him.

Sometimes He seems to "delay," but this is only because He wants us to keep asking; in this we touch upon one aspect of the mystery of our irreplaceable personal vocation. Jesus accompanies us on every step of that vocational journey, no matter how difficult. We can be confident that He wants us to experience our total need for Him so that we can grow greater in the love He gives us.

Ask, keep asking, and never give up. You shall receive… it is a promise from God.