Friday, December 31, 2010


As I write more than half the world’s population has already entered the first year of the second decade of this new millennium and, having checked the BBC news, the ongoing story of human suffering, from war, terrorism, weather extremes, the continued expanse of poverty, remains as old as the human yearning for peace, dignity, hope.

As he ushered in the Holy Year to begin the new millennium, Pope John Paul noted in a homily for January 1st, 2000, then and now both the Solemnity of Mary our Mother and the World Day of Prayer for Peace, that: “We are beginning to write a new page of history. Yesterday evening we looked back at the past, at how the world was when the second millennium began. Today, beginning the Year 2000, we cannot but wonder about the future: what direction will the great human family take in this new phase of its history?”

Eighteen months later, a date seared in human memory as 9/11, we crossed a new threshold into a reality, still ongoing, of persistent hatred and terrorism.

As we leave the first decade of the new millennium and begin the second Pope Benedict, in his message for this day, states very simply and powerfully: “The world needs God………..Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed. A society reconciled with God is closer to peace……..peace is the result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human dignity is fully respected……..”

Pope Leo XIII was both the last Pontiff of the 19th century and the first of the 20th and directing his words in the first instance to the people of France, who in 1892 were in the midst of real anti-Church, anti-Catholic struggle, foresaw the very concerns of Pope Benedict XVI about the tremendous pressure brought against believers by political and cultural forces in our day: “First of all, let us take as a starting-point a well-known truth admitted by all men of good sense and loudly proclaimed by the history of all peoples; namely, that religion, and religion only, can create the social bond; that it alone maintains the peace of a nation on a solid foundation….”

During the protracted negotiations after the armistice which ended the fighting of World War 1, Pope Benedict XV expressed his concerns, noting: “There is no need from us of long proof to show that society would incur the risk of great loss if, while peace is signed, latent hostility and enmity were to continue among the nations. There is no need to mention the loss of all that maintains and fosters civil life, such as commerce and industry, art and literature, which flourish only when the nations are at peace. But what is even more important, grave harm would accrue to the form and essence of the Christian life, which consists essentially in charity and the preaching of which is called the Gospel of peace.”

I mention the above from Popes Leo and Benedict to stress the critical importance, in the midst of all the traditional secular celebrating that occurs with New Year’s Day, it IS the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

The secular world is very adept at urging various forms of solidarity for basically important causes such as disaster relief, protection of the environment, democratic, civil, human rights for everyone – but these humanitarian efforts will never achieve their goal, no matter how laudable, if we forget who we are: human beings, that is redeemed persons who, cut off from Jesus, ultimately, can achieve nothing, but in Him and with Him, all things are possible.

“The world needs God.”

Saturday, December 25, 2010



Thanks to the internet each year nowadays we can participate in the Holy Father’s Midnight Mass streamed live from Rome, listen to the powerful words of his homily, words which flow from a true shepherd’s and childlike heart.

In the days leading up to Christmas this year as I prayed for the whole human family, the Church, the suffering Priesthood, especially for those who in so many countries suffer from violence, for those Christians who are persecuted for their faith, I was drawn not to contemplate the various scenes, such as above, of the great event of Jesus’ birth but rather this one:

In his book “The Return of The Prodigal Son”, Fr. Henri Nouwen uses this famous painting as template for his reflections, stressing the homecoming aspect of the encounter between father and son.

In the Prologue he notes that it is ultimately a “…walking step by step toward the One who awaits me with open arms and wants to hold me in an eternal embrace.”

It is Jesus Holy Child who reveals to us that God indeed is Abba, THE Father and how our very existence from the moment of our creation, even if for whatever reason we are not always conscious of it, is this step by step walking towards His eternal embrace.

Yet the very movement of the father in the Gospel standing at the edge of the road scanning the horizon to await first glimpse of his returning son, tells us that Our Father steps more quickly towards us, and I would say more consistently, than we toward Him.

Thus these powerful words from Pope Benedict’s Homily during Midnight Mass: “God has anticipated us with the gift of His Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness to which it has strayed. God does not allow Himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again He begins afresh with us. But He is still waiting for us to join Him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010


As we know the expression “thin skinned” refers to someone who almost instantaneously reacts to a perceived slight, or actual negative whatever, and subsequently, if not simultaneously, over reacts.

I swear these days, unwittingly, my skin is so thin as to be translucent and so is John Everett’s. Lucille on the other hand is a woman of profound inner peace but I also have told her that between John and I, his adopted Dad, and the three little ones, she really is the mother of five.

John and Lucille are still in the extreme early stages of grieving with the earthly death of Dominic and with Christmas approaching things are tough on everyone.

At such times, try as everyone might to remain centered on Jesus, focused on the needs of others, emotions are like a roller-coaster ride.

It is crucial at such times to be on guard for satan can trip us up rather easily when we are weakened by emotions or too much thinking and then the grief, the sense of powerless in the face of death or any serious loss either pours out in quiet tears and ache, or explodes into some form of misunderstanding or hurt directed at the very ones we love and who themselves are burdened with, struggling through, the raw reality of grief.

Yesterday one trusted friend sent their own Guardian Angel to help me and another said I had pushed down too much of my own grief while trying to be present and serve the family and that if I did not express, simply, gently, my own grief, it would pour out unexpectedly, and in a manner which might cause others pain.

Well that happened, triggered unexpectedly and now after a night of little sleep, much profound, yes shame, and no little confusion, fear too because I have really messed up with John and Lucille, in a word done the absolute opposite of what I have been trying to do since Dominic died, namely turned from an affirming, loving, supportive presence, into yet again a thin-skinned over reacting person everyone wants to just keep their distance from.

Lest you are worried this is heading to a ‘woe is me’ diatribe, quite the contrary – for since Advent is the time of awaiting for the All-Merciful One to be born amongst and for us as a child, coming to bring to us though His life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, fullness of forgiveness, Advent then is a time of waiting to be touched by forgiveness, by love – however our waiting must be proactive, in a word I must make the first step towards other on the journey for forgiveness, first towards Jesus in the person[s] I have wronged and then towards Jesus one on one, preferably approaching Him on my knees with a child’s heart beside Him, with Him in the manger.

One great help is to do as a friend wrote to me. He was falling into depression and wanted nothing more than to abandon his vocation when he got a note on the back of a holy card which was of the Pieta.

My friend contemplated Jesus in the arms of His Mother, Our Lady cradling the lifeless adult body of the very Child she had cradled in her arms at His birth.

My friend asked Jesus if he could take His place and rest in Our Lady’s arms himself.

Jesus agreed and my friend rested in the arms of Our Blessed Mother and within moments he began to be filled with hope, trust, and re-commitment to his vocation.

So early this morning, while celebrating Holy Mass, I asked the same and already things are settling down. Grief, fear, confusion, hurt beginning to ease – but these are just the first baby steps on the journey of forgiveness which must be taken without knowing IF I will be forgiven, but certain “I” must truly, fully, forgive.

Thus, while praying about taking the next step, contact with John and Lucille, without any of self or self-need present, simply focused on Jesus and them, I heard echoing in my heart some words from C.S. Lewis and remembered and briefly re-visited an old classic The Secret Garden!

[The Holy Spirit, as we know, can use anything to bring us to His illumination of where the Father is asking us to follow Jesus.]

In his book A GREIF OBSERVED Lewis notes that: “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

The roller-coaster of emotions as a mobious strip of unabated thinking!

No wonder nerves are frayed, tempers short, wrong words spoken, reactions over the top!

So where with Lewis’ observation is the Holy Spirit inviting me to follow Jesus?

Right into the arms of Our Lady Pieta every time the thinking cycle begins, as often and for as long as it takes, without expecting this struggle will be over anytime soon, or rather when I want.

Grief in its own way is a grace and grace unfolds according to His tender time table.

Right into the arms of Our Lady whenever I know I am sad, edgy, thin-skinned, needy and to hold her hand and walk simply towards and with, in this instance John and Lucille and if my first words must be asking forgiveness, then those are the right words, or if they must be words of a type of heads-up that I am having a rough, edgy day, those are the words which must be spoken.

Right into the arms of Our Lady accepting with joy and gratitude whatever John and Lucille in their own suffering are able to give and not expecting nor seeking more, again for as long as THEIR journey takes.

Thus I was brought in my turn to THE SECRET GARDEN, not to dwell there, rather that door was into another garden, the one the Holy Spirit was offering me to encounter Jesus in.

First, briefly, about the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett: it is the story of an orphaned and emotionally wounded girl thrust into the home of a widowed and so hobbled by grief Uncle the man ignores his own crippled son and flees grief and people to travel the world in pointless flight.

After, on one of his rare passages back to the home, the widowed father experiences inner stillness by a stream he risks going through the garden door and soon the family is regenerated.

As the human family all our collective and personal disintegration is rooted in the Garden of Eden, compounded by our own experiences of deeper disintegration through own sins and sins inflicted upon us by others.

It is in the Garden of Agony that Jesus takes upon and into Himself all disintegration, sin and the consequences of sin, for every human being as one family and for each person.

There is the third Garden, the secret yet not secret Garden of the Resurrection, which within each of us is accessible in the core of our being, where Jesus knocks at the garden door, the door of our being, asking to be invited in. [cf. Rv.3:20]

The Lord Himself tells us that as His beloved we are indeed a garden enclosed [cf. Sg. Of Sg. 4:12].

It is this enclosed garden, the heart which is the true dwelling-place where I am, where I live and it is the place both of quest and encounter, for it is the heart, my heart, that prays, enters into communion of love dialogue with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, so the heart is also the place of attentive listening, accepting, of truth and obedience, of fiat, yes and of suffering and grief, for it is also the place of sweetness of love and joy, thus the whole mystery of salvation continues to unfold in the heart at prayer therefore in my heart, in the entire I of being, I must be present to Him with whom I am speaking! [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 2563, 2710, 2562, 2655, 2700]

So in and from the garden, the heart, the journey of forgiveness begins, which means risking vulnerability, interiorly to embrace the grief and fear and confusion, exteriorly to not hide it from others so they will know when I am edgy, not for them to change anything, but for me to be simple and accept this is a very human, filled with the unexpected, journey, this grief and all it contains, this in imitation of Jesus loving and forgiving.

Risky, scary?

You bet!

Which is why I have a tight grip of Our Lady’s hand and no way am I letting go!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A few years ago a Canadian Bishop went public, rather humbly, about his chronic depression and that it had gotten to the point where he was taking a leave of absence to get some serious treatment.

It remains, for me and many who find themselves, even if only rarely burdened with the darkness of falling seemingly with no end, into the pit of such emotional, and at times, spiritual darkness, an example of humble acceptance of suffering. is the link to John and Lucille Everett’s Blog where they write likewise with humble openness about the pit of grief with the unexpected death, that is crossing of the threshold from life on earth to life in heaven, of their fourth child, their little son Dominic.

What strikes me both about their witness and that of the Bishop is the absence of self-pity.

I will be honest and admit, for myself, whenever the devil of the pit, for the evil one like the hyena he is attacks when we are wounded and vulnerable, tries to succeed as he almost has done today, in tricking me away from striving to surrender to oneness with Jesus, when I know Jesus Himself, in the Garden and on the Cross, entered the pit before and for us, and I give into bending towards myself and feeling sorry for myself, then really the falling is into even deeper darkness.

So I needed, by grace if I was to not waste time on self, to re-visit in particular what John and Lucille have written, which I have done and that in turn reminded me of words from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, in his book: THE HOLY SPIRIT in the Life of Jesus, for also of late I have been experiencing a rather ferocious return of the PTSD, itself a tricky thing that satan can attempt to take advantage of so my gaze and focus shifts from Jesus and His beauteous and merciful love, from being hidden and servant of others, to a preoccupation with self.

Fr. Cantalamessa writes: “Being tempted is one aspect of Christ’s sufferings. St. Paul’s words: ‘In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church’ (Col. 1:24) are therefore true also when said about being tempted: In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the temptations of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church! The members ought to share in the struggle of the Head, just as one day they will share in His complete victory and glory. This is a universal law: it holds good for every type of suffering, even for that special suffering, temptation and the struggle against the devil.”

So there quite starkly is the choice: when suffering, tempted choose oneness with Jesus or, bluntly, choose self!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


In his homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict makes two points which really struck my heart and which I have been using for meditation.

The first is where the Holy Father notes we have begun: “….a new liturgical year, a new journey of faith….”

So I posed to the Lord in prayer this: “What exactly is this ‘newness’, of what does it consist and how can I embrace it?”

After some time sitting with those questions I found myself ‘looking’ around this world which for decades now seems to be wandering, at times deliberately heading, into ever deeper regions of the culture of death, hatred, anti-Christian anger, economic chaos, ever greater impoverishment of family life, dignity of labour, replacing pure heart beauty for forms of art which degrade, confuse, and even exalt evil.

Then I realized that most people I know, myself included, on the threshold of any ‘new’ year, liturgical or that which is still a month away, the secular ‘new’ year, once the threshold is crossed we rarely experience much more than the chronological ‘new’, for we are still who we are!

So: where to encounter, how to discover the content of, and embrace, the new?

The answer is found in the second ‘new’ the Holy Father speaks of as the ‘new journey of faith’, which if we willingly begin it becomes a renewed entering, more consciously, deliberately, attentively, it is to be hoped and the grace asked for, into both preparation for Jesus’ return in glory at the end of earthly time and history, and preparation for a deeper encounter with Jesus at His birth, and subsequently throughout the liturgical year greater communion with Him through the unfolding journey of His earthly life with Him, especially within the depths of the Paschal Mystery.

This means what is referred to as praxis: the real, nitty-gritty living out of the Gospel of Love, Charity, Life, with our lives without compromise.

Therein, drawing once more from the words of the Holy Father, we will in this ‘new’ not only remember “…the event of Jesus Christ…” but shall find ourselves fearlessly opening ever wider the doors of our being to Jesus to “….ultimate fulfillment.”

The Holy Father then moves onto reflections about the Advent reality of “waiting” stressing that we are “…alive so long as…” we are in the reality of waiting, with hope alive in our hearts.

Within this waiting with hope in our hearts we will find ourselves asking: “What am I waiting for? For what, in this moment of my life, does my heart long?”

I found the examples of waiting the Holy Father used to be gentle, common to most human beings, tender almost.

Given the great cry of the Church for Herself, Her children, for the whole human family in this season of grace is: “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”, other waiting people have come to my heart, those who cry without hope and those so beaten down or terrified they simply cry:

Into the hearts and grief of parents who have lost a child: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hearts and yearning of those abandoned in nursing homes without family visitors or anyone aware of their loneliness; those languishing in hospitals, palliative care hostels, refugee camps: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hearts and anxiety of those in prison, on death row, in labour camps: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hearts and longing for peace of all men, women, children living in countries at war, where terrorists attack, in nations where the state oppresses the people: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hearts and longing for life, freedom, love of child soldiers, child labourers, children sold into slavery, prostitution, children homeless on the street, children who live in places where they are abused in any manner and hunger to be rescued and protected: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hearts and hope for work of the unemployed, the under employed; into their yearning for better working conditions of those forced to work in dangerous mines, factories, forests, oceans: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the hope of returning home at shifts end: for first responders, military men and women and into the same yearning of their families: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the agony of falsely accused priests, priests abandoned by their bishops, priests yearning for reconciliation and restoration: Come Lord Jesus.

Into the yearning for true meaning in life, the hope there is a God, of people who do not believe or who have suffered loss of faith: Come Lord Jesus.

Into every human heart and life: Come Lord Jesus.

Yes O Jesus in the depths of our hearts and souls, in the profound yearning of our lives, we await You O Jesus, trusting You will stoop down to us, hearing our cry, come and help us and then every face will turn towards You and grow brighter. [cf. Psalms 33, 34, 40]