Tuesday, January 28, 2014


It would take pages to list, just from a brief perusal of world news, all the various civil wars, terrorist acts, ethnic and religious conflicts, human and civil rights abuses, dictatorships, the incessant demands of people upon governments to ‘gimme’, groups seeking to exclude religion from the public square etc., etc., - in a word the depth and extent of anger throughout the world, not to mention the devastation of drug abuse, domestic violence, promiscuity, abortion, euthanasia, and greed with its attendant excessive consumerism and the extent of under and unemployment, homelessness, increased poverty.
How have we come to this?
There are clues rooted in the history of the human family since, for example, the era of the enlightment, emergence of nation states, modern economy, and in particular the axial shifts which occurred in the aftermath of the First World War in terms of its impact on civilian populations in times of war, dismantling of ancient kingdoms and empires, emergence of totalitarianism on an unprecedented scale, and, another example, the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire laid the groundwork for the modern era of terrorism.
Frankly there are clues too in the evolution of media.
Show me somewhere, please, on the face of the earth where there is a media truly unbiased!
I am not speaking, for example, of state controlled media such as in North Korea, but, especially in Europe and North America, major media outlets, be they print or television, are usually more focused on pushing an agenda rather than reporting factually and objectively.
Granted, as admittedly blogs attest, the internet allows for more voices, but the reach of blogs cannot compare to that of a major television consortium or newspaper chain.
Finally the extent to which media reporting focuses on the negatives in government, in the actions, lives of politicians, is biased against Christianity in particular, impacts ordinary conversation adding to the ever deepening anger, frustration, despair, malaise, isolation.
Just take a moment and reflect objectively on the conversations heard or engaged in on a daily basis and see how much negativity, indeed anger, dominates conversations, peoples lives.
Mea culpa I admit because I find it a real struggle myself to stress the positive, fully aware of what I am writing here!
That being said I began these reflections after observing the media’s reaction to Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, in light of which I have been paying closer attention each morning to the news on various outlets on the internet from around the world, realizing more and more we truly are living in a very angry world.
When I have a sense of being overwhelmed by something, anything physical/material, emotional/spiritual, by His grace I am moved to sit with Sacred Scripture, especially the Holy Gospel and I am struck, time and again, by the sudden awareness of seemingly ‘little’ sentences/words even which, in the grand scheme of things, at first blush, do not seem as ‘important’ as the subsequent miracle of healing/forgiveness, or as striking as the Beatitudes or the commandment to love and forgive.
This, for example from St. Mark 7: 34: “…And looking up to heaven He sighed……..”
When checking the news early each morning [or if awakened during the night to pray sometimes I will check the internet news at night, often discovering there has been some terrorist attack or so-called natural disaster] I feel a great weight, an ache in my heart, a sigh rising up from my soul because of a profound awareness whatever has happened, is happening, involves human beings, my brothers and sisters.
Thus I have some inkling of why Jesus sighs.
His sigh is an essential expression of His intercessory love, of His oneness with the suffering, the struggle, the need for redemption of every human being, first as individuals near and dear, intimately, to His Heart and then of the entire human family from Adam and Eve to whomever the last human being to be created shall be.
Perhaps if each of us was more willing to be less bent towards ourselves, to straighten up and truly contemplate our brothers and sisters, to gaze upon them and open our hearts to them as Jesus does to us we would then not simply allow ourselves to experience the dark weight of an angry world but would be moved, like Jesus, to sigh intercessory sighs and more, to actually begin the praxis of real love of one another – for bent towards ourselves is truly to hide the light we Christians are and impede the shining of the light, His light, to push back the darkness of anger and hopelessness.
In his book AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, Ben Carson, speaking about the religions which are all directly connected to Abraham warns that unless not just the leaders but the majority of those religionists [Jews, Christians, Muslims]: “….confront the radical elements who advocate violence…….If they are afraid or refuse to stand up to the radicals among them, they will share in the guilt for the worldwide holocaust which will ensue.” [Bold emphasis mine]
St. Paul urges, in a sense begs us, in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
This climate of anger, fear, hatred, violence, this extent of poverty, homelessness, assault on Christianity, the family, etc., which has engulfed us, which is pushing us towards the ‘worldwide holocaust’ of which Carson speaks, is not of human origin alone, though we bear responsibility, but comes from the vile hatred of Christ, and therefore of His followers [cf. Rev.12], which is all that the evil one is capable of for there is not but darkness within him, not but death which is his legacy, only hatred which motivates him and his minions.
In his book THE STRUGGLE WITH GOD, Paul Evdokimov notes: “We can never keep ourselves alone before God; we are saved only together…as Solviev said: he will be saved who saves others…..Thus the shortest distance between God and man passes through the neighbour.”
Evdokimov, and as an urban hermit while finding this humbling it is also cautionary and a mandate to be taken seriously, adds: “Those exclusively devoted to action should understand that hermits, by their incessant prayer, intervened actively in history. The efficacy of all human action is dependent on the intercession of their prayer, on the flame of their prayer that they send into the heart of the world.”
This reminds me of the young monk in the desert who came to Abba Joseph and, after telling the holy man how, though a beginner, he already was living the true desert life asked what more he could do.
At this the old man stood up, opened wide his arms and tongues of fire shot forth and he said: “If you want you can become a flame.”
This then, the painful, angry state of the world, the human family, our response to it flowing from our Christian vocation, through meditating on the Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, from Pope Francis, is what this series will cover.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


There are various notions, including Edvard Munch’s own, how he came to paint his several copies of Der Schrie de Natur [The Scream of Nature], commonly referred to as simply: The Scream.
Most human beings who stand before this painting can relate, for who among us has not known moments of extreme anguish or horror, aloneness or despair?
For some time now much of North America has been caught in a polar vortex.
For those not used to a Canadian or Russian winter it has been a real shocker, rather dangerous for many, caused extensive disruptions for travellers, stress on cities, towns, counties trying to cope with all the ice, snow, cold and the impact on roads, highways, hydro and water systems.
The poor and homeless in particular have been most at risk.
However if you throughout this have not been travelling, suffered exposure, lost hydro, had to seek shelter in a warming centre, most likely you have been, perhaps even dispassionately, simply watching cable news.
Having grown up in a country where one of our folk songs proclaims: “My country is not so much a country as it is winter.”, none of this prolonged period of the polar vortex freezing everyone has been unusual.
That is until the middle of the night when I was awakened by the screams of a homeless man, sitting in the alley outside my window – not injured as in suffering some stab wound [itself not uncommon in the inner city] but overwhelmed by a hurting in the extreme cold which freezes the skin and burns your lungs when you breathe.
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” [Sirach 35; 17, 18]
Whenever we view the news reports about people suffering in severe weather, in wars or terrorist attacks, from hunger or flood, homelessness, or any other suffering, our hearts should burn with the awareness of the screaming man.
We should immediately cry out to God for them, and if we come upon someone, as I did with the screaming man in the alley, we MUST see them as brother, as sister, go to them – or at least call 911 and get the help of first responders.
We cannot in this world filled with so much pain and despair, loneliness and hatred, violence and hunger, continue to be observers.
It is the path to life in a world of darkness, for when good people do nothing light vanishes, evil overwhelms.
To be a mere observer and do nothing is un-Jewish, un-Christian, un-Muslim, un-Buddhist, un-Sheik, un-human.

Thursday, January 02, 2014


I awoke a few days ago with enough leg and lower spine pain to call the 24 hour health help line which, not to aggravate my American cousins, is part of universal medical care in this country.
After consultation with the nurse who took my call she recommended a visit to emergency and, checking on her computer the various wait times at the area hospitals, told me which one had the shortest wait time.
I called a friend who took me to emergency.
After presenting my health card the intake nurse checked my vitals and my blood pressure was a rather high 185/107!
I am on two kinds of blood pressure medication at the moment {at my age prescriptions costs for myself, what in the US is called “co-pay”, is a flat 3$ per} and have a little machine which I use three times a day to monitor my blood pressure which earlier today was a better 138/36!
Frankly this whole bit has been an emotional kick in the stomach, spiritually a real battle for I find the two great struggles are to learn about necessary changes in diet, for example, and to trust the Lord only permits what is best for us, as we read in Romans He loves us so much that: “We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love Him, with all those He has called according to His purpose.” [8:28]
I have three priest-friends, each about ten years older than I am, who in the weeks before Christmas themselves have been asked to embrace the cross of sickness, one of them for whom the prognosis is two months before death.
When I turned fifty and was helping with the haying and found I had to use both hands to lift and heft the bales, rather than grabbing a bale in each hand and tossing one after the other up into the wagon, it was a huge shock because my body was telling me something I did not want to hear, much less accept.
In reality I was struggling with God.
He was saying: “Arthur, will you give Me both your hands and your age.”, and I was saying: “Not now Lord, later. Please!”
With high blood pressure He is not asking for my life, though when He does I trust His promise: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…..trust in Me….after I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall return to take you with Me…..”[cf. Jn.14:1-4]
So now He is asking, simply, gently really, for with high blood pressure there is no experience of pain: “Arthur, will you give Me your sense of invincibility, will you trust Me?”
Today a friend called and asked if I would listen to an essay they have written about truth, reality, relativism, war, resistance to evil and his essay and a note informing me about a priest brutally murdered today in California by someone who broke into the rectory, are a reality check.
The only doorway into heaven is Jesus Himself and the only way He crosses the threshold to take us by the hand and bring us to be with Him forever is the threshold of death, which means as Scripture says He comes as a thief in the night, that is totally unexpectedly when, for all intents and purposes, we are most likely least prepared, though if we struggle to lead a full baptized life we will be as ready as needed.
Are our brothers and sisters who live in countries at war, filled with violent insurgency, secret police, and concentration camps ready?
Perhaps, rather than bemoan this wee medical thing I could offer the struggle to Jesus through Mary for all those who do not have universal medical care, for all victims of violence, for everyone facing death or just the unexpected challenges of daily life.
No, definitely, for ultimately Jesus is inviting me to be one with Him in His constant intercession with the Father for all of us.