Sunday, March 31, 2024

Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Mors et vita duello
Conflixere mirando:
Dux vitæ mortuus regnat vivus.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

~Easter Sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Prayer Overcomes the Darkness of Death

In his Good Friday meditations for “The Way of the Cross,” the Pope gave us much to ponder, even as we await the mystery of the resurrection. In particular, he reminded us of prayer as essential to life and death, to the whole horizon of our humanity—prayer as trust in Jesus who saves and fashions anew our humanity.

Trust, trust, trust, in the greatest darkness, beyond the most awful of tragedies, beyond the blackest holes of incomprehensibility that open in front of us, beyond all we accomplish in toil and struggle, and all our sins, failures, incompetence, weakness, all the pain that never goes away… Trust, hold onto Jesus, pray and never give up. The Holy Father says, “persevering prayer bears fruit and overcomes even the darkness of death. Love never goes unanswered, but always grants new beginnings.”

Elsewhere in yesterday’s meditations, Pope Francis prays to Jesus in reference to the moment on the Cross when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—“Jesus, this prayer of yours is unexpected: you cry out to the Father in your abandonment. You, the eternal Son, dispense no answers from on high, but simply ask why? At the height of your passion, you experience the distance of the Father; you no longer even call him ‘Father’, but ‘God’, almost as if you can no longer glimpse his face. Why? So that you can plunge into the abyss of our pain. You did this for my sake, so that when I see only darkness, when I experience the collapse of my certainties and the wreckage of my life, I will no longer feel alone, but realize that you are there beside me. You, the God of closeness, experienced abandonment so that I need no longer fall prey to feelings of isolation and abandonment. When you asked the question why, you did it in the words of a Psalm. You made even the utmost experience of desolation into a prayer. As we too must do, amid the storms of life. Rather than keeping silent, closed in on ourselves, we should cry out to you. Glory to you, Lord Jesus, for you did not flee from my pain and confusion, but tasted them to the full. Praise and glory to you, for you bridged every distance in order to draw near to those who were farthest from you. In my own dark night, when I keep asking why, I find you, Jesus, the light that shines in the darkness. And in the plea of all those who are alone, rejected, oppressed or abandoned, I find you, my God. May I always recognize your presence and turn to you in love.”

Friday, March 29, 2024

Good Friday 2024

Good Friday, March 29, 2024. Two images by Georges Rouault (1871-1958). 

Above [1] “Crucifixion” (1914). 

Below [2] “Golgotha” (1938).

Thursday, March 28, 2024

He Washes Our Feet

"When [Jesus] had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, 'Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me "teacher" and "master," and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.' "

~John 13:12-15

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Cross is Suddenly in Our Midst

William Congdon, Crucifix no120 (1974)

Holy Week has gained a sudden and specific weight in our community due to the tragic death of one of our young people. (May the Lord grant him eternal rest, and bring consolation to his family and friends.) 

I don’t have any words to address such sorrow. I have spent all of my pretenses to be able to say anything about this kind of grief on previous occasions—too many previous occasions. It is an incomprehensible suffering. Yet it is filling up the world especially in these times, weighing down the human shoulders of all those it leaves behind.

None of us can bear it. It is an anguish that cries and cries to God, and endures what seems like the silence of God. It opens an abyss in front of us that we don’t know how to bridge or circumvent. 

We must confront the truth that we are powerless. We cannot save the world. We cannot even save ourselves. We have no power to “undo” our own sins. We cannot raise the dead to life. Still, we long for life, forgiveness, and healing beyond the abyss of death. Why does this longing remain in us, with all of our weakness, in the depths of darkness? “My God, my God, why…?”

This week, and in all our days in this world, we place our hope entirely in a greater abyss of a mercy which we will never comprehend, but which has “space” for all our sorrows and suffering, for all that we think is irretrievably cut off, impoverished, botched, or “left unfinished” in our worn and ragged lives—the unfathomable abyss of the pierced Heart of our Crucified God.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Holy Week: All is Grace!

These words from Pope Francis in my archive came up recently. This point is fundamental and we must remember it. Grace is the fruit of the Paschal Mystery that we are praying and living in these days.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

We Begin Holy Week With the Memory of St Oscar Romero

[Credit for detail from iconic mural: The Claretians/Cerezo Barredo]

This year Palm Sunday falls on March 24th — which supersedes what would ordinarily be the feast day of Saint Oscar Romero. Therefore, many churches in Latin America moved the celebration of the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador to Saturday March 23rd this year — one day prior to the 44th anniversary of his being gunned down at the altar while saying Mass in the chapel of Divine Providence Hospital in San Salvador.

In fact, Saint Romero’s funeral was held on Palm Sunday in 1980, the week after his death. In the midst of the vast crowd that had gathered in the cathedral and out in the piazza on this profound beginning of Holy Week for Salvadorans, multiple gunmen opened fire, killing forty people and turning the ceremony into a scene of violence, havoc, and terror for the people.

Soon, the long and brutal civil war would begin in full force. But the people kept the courageous witness of the Archbishop in their hearts.

Today Romero’s testimony speaks to our own time. The search for a genuine and just peace must remain the formative purpose and guiding light even in the midst of conflict. Even those who take up arms to defend themselves against unjust aggression need to keep this light burning in their hearts. They must never forget that even the aggressors and their leaders are human persons with ineradicable dignity; a vigorous self-defense can (must) also be an honorable self-defense. Maintaining a spirit of “inner non-violence” is very difficult in these circumstances, but the Christian and human vocation requires it, promises the grace to make it possible, and gives it a supernatural efficacy to extend the influence of God’s Kingdom within the realities of the temporal world—which are signs (that can be imbued with the foretaste and anticipation) of the Father’s House toward which we journey in this life.

Romero expressed it in this way: “Peace is a product of justice. But justice is not enough. Love is necessary: the love that makes us feel that we are brothers and sisters is properly what makes for true peace.” How can living with this love, looking upon everyone as a brother or sister (including the enemy who attacks you and compels you to fight to protect yourself and the rights of your people), generate new possibilities for peace in the midst war or any of the other forms of struggle among human beings?

We will only find out by actually living this way. Insofar as we adhere to God with obedience and love through His crucified Son Jesus, and love every human person as brother or sister, children of the same Father, called in the depths of their hearts by Holy Spirit to eternal life in Jesus who is the “firstborn” of the New Humanity through His cross and resurrection—only insofar as we live this way will we realize the possibilities it opens up for a more just and peaceful world. Saint Oscar Romero reminds us that the vocation to eternal life confers on us responsibilities regarding this world and its concrete circumstances. Our life of faith, hope, and love touches the whole reality of the here-and-now “so that, illuminated with the vision of eternity, we make this earth what it was meant to be, a foretaste of heaven.”

But let me quote this entire segment from a homily in 1979 where Saint Oscar Romero encapsulates his understanding of his own calling as a bishop of an unimaginably impoverished and ruthlessly oppressed people, of the Church’s calling, of the calling of every Christian and every human person.

As we follow the “Way of the Cross” during Holy Week 2024, let us not forget what Romero taught us about the scope and the radical risk of living the Gospel, the totality of Christ’s love for which Romero gave witness in his words and actions, and ultimately in the shedding of his own blood:

“The voice of the Church continues to be known and wants to be the voice that preaches the eternal message of the Lord. Despite the distortions and ill-will and slanders and defamation the voice of the Church wants to be that voice that from the heights of heaven draws all things unto herself so that we can speak about the meaning of death and life, the meaning of government and the struggle for just demands, the meaning of well-being and misery and living on the margins of society and the meaning of sin. The Church wants to speak about all these realities so that, illuminated with the vision of eternity, we make this earth what it was meant to be, a foretaste of heaven and not a war zone or a place where passions run wild. Indeed, as sisters and brothers, as children of God, we are all on a journey toward heaven, toward [Christ] the head of the body.”

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Christina Grimmie and "the Band"

What is my favorite memory of a Christina Grimmie concert?” —Question-of-the-day for Team Grimmie Frands all over the world as we continue to celebrate the “thirty days” before Easter in this month of March, in honor of Christina’s 30th birthday.

I never attended a live concert or performance of Christina, but I do have my favorites. Thanks to the Internet, I have some connection with the live show experience through the large audiovisual archive of countless recordings made by concertgoers, mostly by using their phones from ten years ago.

I really want to thank everyone who made videos (whole or in part) of Christina’s concerts, especially—and these are my favorites—the concerts of the 2015 European Tour. I have watched this footage over and over... Christina and THE BAND (Marcus, Jonathan, Bobby) — I love these concerts, especially, because I'm "old school" and I love when there is a real guitar, a real bass, and real drums on stage. 

And Christina had the stuff to be a "front woman"—her voice, of course, was great, and the chemistry with the band was great. The interaction with the people in these small, intimate venues all over Europe was beautiful and had some very moving moments.

Let's never lose those precious videos. 

Christina had a terrific stage presence: she was awesome, she was a princess, a rock star — she was passionate, innocent, wise, sweet, and badass all at the same time. I’ve never seen or heard anyone like her in over 50 years of listening to (and playing) every kind of music on many stages at many venues.

Watching the videos is my "concert experience," but I wish I could have seen "Christina and the Band" live. It was a beautiful tour!

Here are some images of Christina in concert: (credit to original owners of any of the foundational photos or videos, which have been modified and presented solely for personal and educational purposes on this blog.)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Prayer of Friday, March 22nd

Good Friday is a week away. As the liturgical year reaches its apex in the annual celebration of “the Paschal Mystery” of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Church’s prayer focuses with a greater intensity on the redemption He won for us.

Our faith is founded on the Person of Jesus, who makes present and enacts God’s “goodness” in “set[ting] us free from the bonds of [our] sins.”

This is not a project to make ourselves “worthy” of God’s love by our own power. God loves us already, and so His grace stirs up in us the awareness of our own “distress,” our need for “mercy.” The Holy Spirit moves our hearts to seek Him with confidence in His promises and His goodness.

And He answers our crying out to Him in our distress. He “deliver[s]” us in a manner beyond anything we could have imagined, by dwelling among us and transforming our history through His Son’s salvific sacrifice on the Cross. Our hope for forgiveness is a response to God’s love and mercy revealed and given in Jesus.

United with Him, we find pardon for our sins, and our “weakness” is changed into “space” for His Spirit to give us new life—we live not only in the hope of “eternal life” with God after death, but in the beginnings of that life that takes hold of us even now, giving meaning to our lives in the present moment, empowering us to worship and love God and to love one another.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Liberty of Children

It is God who gives us our true identity and our true freedom. The God who creates and sustains our being saves us from slavery to sin and calls us to share in eternal life.

To be God’s children, and brothers and sisters to one another, is a greater dignity than anything we can imagine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Saint Joseph’s Obedience and Trust in the Lord

Happy Feast of Saint Joseph! Here is yet another of my poor efforts to express in digital art an image of Saint Joseph holding the baby Jesus. It is based on a photo of the statue in our home.

Here, also, are a few selections from the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde written by Pope Francis in 2020. Saint Joseph’s life reveals the relationship between obedience to God and trust in His infinite wisdom, goodness, and love for us.

“Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.

“The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning… Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments” [from Section 4].

“Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture” [from Section 2].

“Jesus’ appearance in our midst is a gift from the Father, which makes it possible for each of us to be reconciled to the flesh of our own history, even when we fail to understand it completely.

“Just as God told Joseph: ‘Son of David, do not be afraid!’ (Mt 1:20), so he seems to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid!’ We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, ‘God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything’ (1 Jn 3:20)” [Section 4].

Monday, March 18, 2024

Papa and Maria (Try to) Read a “Classic” Children’s Book

This is lots of fun, and it’s also has a special significance. Papa reads many books with Maria, one of which is the classic Charlie Needs A Cloak by Tomie dePaola.

We still have some of our little kids’ books from the old days, and Charlie is one of them. We used to read this very same copy of this book to Maria’s Dad twenty-five-or-more years ago. It was one of John Paul’s favorites.

Many things have changed since those day, but this is still a wonderful, funny, and educational book. It has been taped up in a few places, but it works fine for “the next generation.” I hope we will always have big picture books for small children.

Anyway, here are some scenes from a recent reading.☺️ This video is accessible only from this link:

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Crossing Into Spring 2024

With the later evenings and the milder weather, I am able to amble around the neighborhood a bit more, and catch some of the early bloomings of the season: tender shoots of new leaves, forsythia, quince, daffodils, and—of course—the glowing sunsets behind trees that are still bare.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

How Christina Grimmie Has "Impacted" My Life

Team Grimmie Worldwide is celebrating this whole month of March in honor of what would have been Christina’s 30th birthday. The last count I heard about had Team Grimmie represented in at least 99 countries —we are a lot of people from places all over the world, who are connected by social networks and especially by the global reach of that unforeseen 21st century media revolution called YouTube. But it would have been nothing for us if it had not been for the incredible young woman who took hold of this wild technology and transformed it into a gathering place that brought people together. Nearly eight years after her death, we remain together as her incredible legacy of music and “virtual hospitality” draws in a new generation of frands.

Here is what I wrote in response to posts on Christina Grimmie's social media sites that asked people to share "how Christina has impacted your life." These are points I often raise, but here I mention them in a more personal manner:

“Christina Grimmie is a GREAT soul. 

“She has helped me in so many ways. I am partly homebound because of the ongoing consequences of long-untreated Late Stage Lyme Disease. Christina was/is a light shining for people who can't live a normal life, because it was clear that her great love saw the human value of everyone, and was open to the ‘unique human person’ that each has been created to be by God's love. 

“I was (and still am) strengthened by Christina's great loving heart, even though I never met her personally in this world. But I still somehow feel like I have ‘known her’ as an important ‘friend’’ who has brought a new sense of beauty and courage into my life over this past decade. I have tried in many ways to express this in the series of articles I have written about her on my blog since her death in 2016. She has inspired me to see the goodness in life, even within my sometimes frustrating limitations, and to keep trying my best to use the gifts God has given me—to keep trying and not get discouraged.

“I am a Dad (and now a grandpa too). Seeing the way Christina reached out to and encouraged her peers helped me to see my five (then)-teenage kids in a different way, with greater compassion. She has given me hope for their generation. 

“And, having been an active musician myself in my youth, I'm in awe of everything she did with her music—the brilliant piano arrangements, her ardent performances, her pioneering work on YouTube and all her efforts to share her music... and, then, of course that VOICE she had—wow! She was always improving, setting the bar higher for herself, taking risks. I can't express how much I have been enriched by her devotion to working with her musical gifts and all the beauty she created and shared with us.

“Above all, Christina's foundation for living her whole life, making music, and loving everyone was that she sought to do it for the glory of Jesus Christ. She didn't ‘push her faith’ but she lived and showed that He was ‘the Heart of her heart.’πŸ’š♥️πŸ’š She has helped me to want to live more in this way, because she has shown that Christ makes it possible to have clarity, simplicity, and positivity even in the midst of a confusing and painful world. My life, our lives, have a meaning and a value—our search for beauty and goodness does not have to end in frustration. The One who creates us and loves us is stronger than all fear and evil and violence: stronger than death. Eight years later, Christina's life continues to bear fruit, her light—the light of Jesus shining through her—grows brighter.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The 30th Birthday of Christina Grimmie

Today marks what would have been the 30th Birthday of Christina Grimmie. 
In the 22-years-and-three-months of her brief bright beautiful life that she was given on this earth, she showed us so much: about talent and hard work, success and humility, devotion to her family, using media technology to make something beautiful, opening her heart to people in need, being vulnerable and authentic, and persevering in her vocation all the way to the end. Even with her great musical gifts, Christina was a "regular" young person who made others feel "welcomed" and free in her presence. Moreover, other people felt valued by her receptivity to their love and the gratitude she always expressed. She saw the beauty and goodness and the positive-value in everything, and her faith, passion for life, and love continue to shine on. Ultimately, Christina's life attained a kind of heroism that can be for young people and older people alike a constant inspiration. She inspires us to risk giving ourselves in love in our own days of living — all the way up to the day, the hour, the moment of our dying.πŸ’š

Happy Birthday Christina Grimmie! Remembering you always with love!

Sunday, March 10, 2024

The Conversion of the Man Born Blind

I should probably assume that all six of the people who read this BLOG probably also subscribe to Magnificat (if you don't, check it out HERE).

Today is "Laetare Sunday" (already!)... If your parish is following the "A" cycle of liturgical readings during this Lenten season (which is an option often chosen in churches with large groups of catechumens and candidates who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil), then you heard the beautiful Gospel of "The Man Born Blind" at Mass (John, chapter 9).

If you read Magnificat, in any case, you will find my monthly "Conversion Stories" column in the pages for today. This Gospel reading—with all of its powerful and universal symbolism about creation, redemption, baptism, and faith—is also the story of the conversion of a particular person.

It is the story of a man who knows nothing of Jesus Christ, who is chosen by Jesus, healed by Him, and led through various stages (and sufferings) to the fullness of an encounter with Jesus where this unnamed man says "yes" to Jesus's revelation of Himself.

It is a story of the grace of conversion as a transforming gift, but also a gift that fully engages the reason and freedom of the human person.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Springing Forward Again…

Don’t forget to SET YOUR COFFEE MAKERS FORWARD one hour tomorrow! 

#SpringForward #DaylightSavingsTime

Friday, March 8, 2024

Living As “Persons-in-Communion:” How Is It Possible?

Humans are both individual and social by nature. And according to the plan of God in Christ we are called to live a great and mysterious reality, to discover the fullness of life in an interpersonal community.

But building genuine interpersonal community is a seemingly impossible task. We seem always to be caught in a violent tension that pits personal freedom against collective security and affirmation.

Though some persons of great pride, unusual strength, and self-confidence might actually attempt to live according to an absolute individualism, most of us are too vulnerable and too drawn to one another to be tempted directly by radical existential autonomy. In today’s world, we pretend to affirm bits and pieces of this philosophy of autonomy to rationalize our selfish choices and habits. Yet the common reality of our humanity is a continual provocation that mysteriously grows in our midst. We recognize our value as persons, and also our orientation as persons toward relationship, to be-with-one-another, to live in community.

We are born into families that are woven together through larger groups devoted to various purposes, and we also build up social groups through our own commitments.

Yet "groups" have their own cumulative momentum, their own gravitational pull, their powerful tendency to generate uniformity. People can surrender their own creativity and sense of identity to the "group mentality," and become increasingly determined in thought and action by those who possess the most power. Or they may become afraid of "losing themselves" to the perceived power of the group, and draw back from sharing life, distance themselves in some measure, and fall into a passive (and lonely) indifference.

The only energy that can transcend this dialectic is love. 

We Christians are confident that love can prevail, because we know that we are sustained in being and called as persons-in-relationship, in community, by the One who is Love. The One who is Love and Communion is the source and fulfillment of everything.

Therefore, if we have a "group," what makes it vitally “communal” is that it is made up of persons who, in the original and radical sense, have been given to us by the mysterious design of Eternal Love, and to whom we have been given in turn, to love and be loved. And a group can only be truly human if it lives as a communion of persons, which means that it must respect and cherish every person within its sphere of vitality, because every person is constituted with an inherent and inviolable dignity. Every person is made in the image of the One who is Love.

Each and every person in a group has a unique and unrepeatable value, and this must never be reduced to their productive contribution to building up the group and furthering its ends. This is true even (especially!) when a group is united in the pursuit of social, moral, or religious concerns. We must never forget this!

Each person is worthy of love for their own sake, above and beyond what they may or may not "do" for the group.

Even when a group is so large that we cannot know every individual person, we must always remember the dignity of every person. We can at least hold that love for every person in our hearts. We must cultivate the readiness of solidarity, the openness that welcomes the stranger and that lives human existence as a great companionship.

I remember Saint John Paul II. I met him personally, but I also heard him address enormous crowds and there too I felt that he spoke to me and loved me personally. Many others who remember him would testify to the same kind of experience. The charism of Saint John Paul II enabled him to speak directly to the heart of each person, to communicate the love of God for the person.

And now Pope Francis, through his words and gestures, exercises a similar kind of gift to touch our hearts personally, to exhort us, to challenge us and awaken us to new dimensions of God's love and new possibilities for courageously sharing that love.

These special charisms illustrate for us the kind of attention to the person that we seek within our own communities, in whatever collaborative efforts we take up, and whatever groups we belong to in society and in the Church.

We all must pray for the grace to be able to accompany every human person who is given and entrusted to us on our vocational path. These are the persons we live with during the course of our daily lives. These are our “neighbors.” Within the love of the Father who calls us in Christ and transforms our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must love our neighbors with great attention to the gift and mystery of each one of them. We are called to be together, to learn to live as free-persons-in-communion. The Holy Spirit inspires us to be aware of the person, to communicate with the person and to revere, attend to, listen to, and serve each person.

This is how the miracle of “interpersonal community” begins to be born among us, here and now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A World of Suffering: “Dear God, Why is Life So HARD?”

We know that God loves us, and that our very existence in this moment is His gift. We trust that He is faithful, and yet life is so full of suffering—sometimes seemingly unbearable and incomprehensible suffering. 

It is true that much of our suffering is a consequence of our sins. So many people think they can live without God, or—worse—they simply ignore God. They refuse to pray: to worship Him, trust Him, offer gratitude and love to the God who holds us in being. No amount of self-indulgence and distraction, however, can fill the awful emptiness of life without God. So people turn against one another. They afflict one another with terrible cruelty. They bring about an increase in suffering and sorrow.

I ponder all the immense suffering in the world, the agony, the ongoing pain, the vast trauma that rattles the minds of countless human persons: victims of the terrors of war; uprooted refugees who will never return to their homes; persons who are trafficked as slaves and subjected to unspeakable sexual abuse; “political prisoners” (of course, I must mention them in these days) whose human dignity is relentlessly assaulted by their captors; and also victims of religious persecution, prevalent today in parts of Africa and Asia and throughout the world. 

Then there are millions of people who suffer from hunger, disease, and indescribable poverty. What little they have is always in danger of being plundered by gangs, warlords, or corrupt state bureaucrats. Unemployment devastates multitudes of people who long to support themselves and their families by profitable work, and—through their work—to give themselves to others by engaging their talents and following their particular human vocations. They have no resources, no opportunities, no secure places where they can build stable homes and neighborhoods for their families. Wherever they go, the world is on fire. The scourge of war falls everywhere upon them.

I ponder also the sufferings that prevail in the milieu in which I live, a society that prides itself on its peace, abundance, and widespread prosperity. Yet we too have terrible suffering here. We are responsible for much of it. As we grasp for more and more material things to “consume,” we find (if we are honest with ourselves) that they fail to satisfy, and we live in disappointment and desperation. As we search for ways to escape, forget, divert ourselves from what turns out to be the boredom of abundance, or else to numb the pains inside that we don’t understand, many of us turn to alcohol and drugs. The sad tragedy of addiction steals away so many of our loved ones, ruptures families, and leads addicts into lives of crime and degradation.

There is also the suffering of those who are the margins of this prosperous society, those who endure real poverty and those who feel that their human dignity is not seen, that they are treated as second class citizens because of racial discrimination. Many suffer from an array of problems in our society that are difficult to resolve or even to identify properly. Healthcare has advanced tremendously in scientific and technological terms, but people still endure many terrible illnesses. Mental illness is a pervasive, devastating epidemic that is still poorly understood, widely stigmatized, and inadequately treated. People with mental illness are especially vulnerable to the great variety of “stress factors” in modern technological society. These people need the special attention of our love, and our presence through active works of mercy. 

But where is our love? 

There is the agony of young mothers who have been abandoned by those who ought to help them. How often, instead, do such people put pressure on these mothers to undergo abortion, to allow hired medical technocrats to kill the innocent human beings in their wombs? Is this all we have to offer in this society to the women we are supposed to be “celebrating” tomorrow, on International Women’s Day? Are our societies so lacking in compassion, solidarity, hospitality, and friendship that we cannot accompany pregnant mothers and their unborn children in the challenge of a new and precious relationship with a new human person during pregnancy and continuing after the birth of the child? Where are our communities? How did we come to live in such profound alienation from one another that we have no energy even to recognize the needs and suffering of people in our midst? 

Loneliness is a great poverty in our world. We have gadgets and social media and big t.v. screens and we build palatial homes that become prisons surrounding our isolation, anxiety, fear, and our mourning of losses of loved ones or of broken relationships with family and friends. There is so much hidden suffering here. And then there is incapacitation and sickness, and the loss of physical strength and the increasing vulnerability of old age (so often lived alone). Increasingly, our society has nothing to offer but—once again—death for the elderly who struggle alone with their infirmities—death administered and “supervised” by medically trained technocrats. Euthanasia. Another crime against human dignity.

The world is full of so much suffering, and we all share some responsibility for it. We also must endure it in various ways. Then, there is some suffering that is enigmatic and inscrutable: the suffering of little children and 'innocent people' who are burdened far more than they seem to deserve or are able to carry. Why?? Why does God permit us to build such a world of pain? Why does He give us so much freedom? We might be tempted here to discouragement or even resentment against our afflictions, our enemies, even God. God is Infinite Mystery, and His ways are beyond our comprehension. But He is the Mystery who loves us, the Father who loves us even with all our brokenness. He loves us first. These questions come forth from the original wound that we all share (i.e. original sin and its effects). We are wounded by sin, and we are “wounded” by the greater call of Divine Love that invites us to let the wounds of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ overcome our sins, sorrows, and sufferings, so that God’s love might be glorified as His inexhaustible mercy.

Where is “our love”? It is given through the gift of God’s mercy, the healing and transforming love of Jesus Christ—God the Word-made-flesh who dwells among us. He loves us first. We need Him. Our poor suffering world needs Him.

We are led through our wounds to an awareness of our real “helplessness” and total dependence on God, and are "turned toward Him" with a dramatic and desperate openness that cries out to Him, that might include the temptation to discouragement or resentment, but that instead must be "offered" as prayer. 

We may feel overwhelmed with sorrow, but we believe in the God of all consolation, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It can be hard to pray, but if we give that sorrow to the Lord, He hears within it the "sighs too deep for words" of the Spirit, who helps us because we don't know how to pray as we ought. The Lord draws our relationship with Him more and more into that "hope" for things we do not yet see, the inward groaning which is not doubt or discouragement, but the deepening of hope which feels like it's breaking us with a longing for the fulfillment of God's plan. 

We trust Jesus, and in the dark places in life we have this hope, and the help of the Spirit who enables us to endure, to "wait with patience." In our sorrows and sufferings we grow in the experience of what Saint Paul is teaching in Romans 8:18-27. 

We who are the pilgrim Church on earth are called to witness to God's saving love in words and actions, in speaking the truth and in works of mercy. But we also journey together in hope, in the "co-suffering" by which we bear one another in difficulties and sorrows, and endure together whatever comes in this life. We wait together in patience. We wait together in hope for God's renewing all things in Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Total Dependence on “Another”

If we look at our real selves, at the motivations and hopes of ourselves-in-action, this truth becomes clear:

"Man depends, not only in an aspect of his life, but in everything: whoever observes his own experience can discover the evidence of a total dependence on Another who has made us, is making us, and continuously preserves us in being" (Luigi Giussani).

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Russians Remember Alexei Navalny

"Eternal Memory." Alexei Navalny was buried on March 1, with the full rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church that had been the vital inspiration for most of his adult life.

After his death was announced on February 16, his mother undertook the long and difficult journey to the Gulag-built town of Kharp beyond the Arctic Circle to ask for her son's body. She persevered for nine days in her demands, while security officials stalled, made excuses, and then began to negotiate (shamelessly!) the "conditions" that she would have to accept in order to receive her son's body for a proper Christian burial in Moscow. They insisted that she agree to hold a "private" burial, because the government feared that his funeral might be the occasion of massive anti-Putinist demonstrations.

Even after killing him, the regime was determined to persecute Alexei Navalny. But in fact, this is not Stalin's Soviet Russia. Social media and Navalny's exiled wife made sure to broadcast this final disgrace around the world, and his body was finally released to his grieving mother without conditions, and the government permitted the funeral to be held at a small church south of Moscow.

Thousands of people did gather at the cemetery under heavy police guard. They waited many hours on huge lines in order to honor the grave of their hero, even though they were only given a few seconds each by the police.

They have continued in these recent days to visit the grave and to lay flowers before the cross.