Saturday, January 27, 2018



The embedding within my heart and memory of the SHOAH, the holocaust, was as a small child when newspapers and magazines produced photographs of the starved, wide eyed with terror survivors and of the ovens, the piles of bodies and newsreels when I was somewhat older, my heart pierced by the images of children rolling up their sleeves to show the tattooed numbers, which, bluntly ‘thinged’ them, reduced them and their elders from human persons to disposal units of slave labour and worse: disposal sub-humans.

The arrival in the city, sometimes on what in those days were called ‘tramp steamers’, meaning they were at the bottom of the shipping pile, sometimes in Third Class on less than luxurious liners, between the end of the war and as late as 1951, of so called ‘displaced persons’ from Europe was a steady flow of the traumatized, the survivors, the widowed, the orphaned, the frightened.

There being virtually no impediments for even young boys to wander around the docks we would, if one of those vessels of human sorrow was unloading the broken seeking hope, seeking life without terror, go and watch and be overwhelmed because both the reality of what caused these men, women, children to be arriving and the obvious hatred which was the core cause, our little brains could not fully comprehend.

Later in life, before becoming a priest and after, I was humbled to learn in conversation with survivors, not just Jewish Brothers and Sisters but a priest from Poland who had himself been stenciled and put in a camp, what evil truly is, what evil does and how otherwise apparently sane human beings, with power, factually ersatz power but bloody destructive nonetheless, can do to their brothers and sisters.

Elie Wiesel [tattooed as A-7713] who survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald writes: “Never shall I forget that night, that first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night….Never shall I forget that smoke…..{from his book NIGHT}

St. Maxmillian Kolbe did not survive, offering his own life in exchange for that of a young husband and father, who did survive.

Love is stronger than hate and is the victory, rooted for believers in God who is Love, for those who do not know Him rooted in simple faith in the foundational reality we are all human beings, each a person.

But, but, have we learned anything since the SHOAH and its six million slaughtered, since the horrors of WWII with its fifty million dead and additional tens of millions wounded, widowed, orphaned, displaced?

We live when the new normal is the violent hatred of Islamists spreading terror and death among fellow Muslims and throughout the world, when a nation ostensibly faithful to its Buddhist tradition, a religion which like Islam claims to be a religion of peace, slaughters the Rohingya and casts them out of their homeland; the new normal of not knowing when some hateful nut will plunge the world into nuclear war; the new normal when otherwise normal people elect governments which slaughter the unborn, allow the sick and elderly to be euthanized.

Today, with solemn ceremonies we make a show of remembering and honouring the victims of the SHOAH.

Yet our memory is selectively simplistic.

To remember means to learn from the remembering.

To honour the victims means never to ourselves be victimizers.

Each needs to look deep into our heart, especially those corners in shadow where lurks evil spirits of harsh judgement, rejection, hatred, a hunger for vengeance.

We need to ask Christ to purify our hearts that we exercise only the power of love, that we stop electing politicians who are anti-life, for their hands are overflowing with the blood of our brothers and sisters, blood which splashes on us each time we cast a ballot unless we choose life and vote accordingly.

73 years since.

Are we finally willing to learn?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018



Decades ago my then spiritual director told me he had been praying for me and heard in his heart from the Lord to tell me the Lord wanted me to do: “Exceedingly little things for love of Me!”

I should note that at the time I was pastor of three parishes, frequently giving missions in other parishes, giving lectures, writing, teaching – sort of big stuff, at least for a priest.

Learning to do little things, things that mostly go unnoticed, was/is a tough lesson to learn, to do, to trust.

Examples of the power of little from Scripture are numerous, among them, these from Jesus Himself: St. John tells us how Jesus used a little of His own spit and some earth to make mud and heal a man’s blindness [Jn.9:6ff], St. Luke tells us how Jesus took a few little fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands [Lk.9:16ff], St. Mark reveals to us the power of a cup of water [Mk.9:41ff], and St. Matthew reveals to us how we shall be judged upon little things like giving someone attention in various ways [Mt.25:31ff] – all examples and more of Jesus simplifying life for us to do little things, for each  other, thus for Him.

Long before I was a priest, I was on staff in a soup kitchen [ bus fare in those days was only 25 cents].

One day I observed and overheard a conversation between an elderly man and a very young man.

It was a bitterly cold winter day and the older man was going to take the bus to the shelter while the young man wanted to take the bus across the river for, he said, a chance for a job.

The old man said that all he had was 25 cents.

The young man was crestfallen.

The old man gave him his quarter – a little coin really.

Not everyone will ask for help, no matter how little the help they need may be.

However, big need or small need, if we are always waiting to be asked we will miss vital clues about need.

Yesterday I was on one of the smaller buses used on routes with not a lot of demand. One woman had been waiting at the stop with me and we had been chatting about family. When we boarded the bus, there was only one other passenger, an elderly woman.

When there was a pause in our conversation about family the other passenger said: “I have no one.”

Almost in unison the other woman and myself said: “We’re here, you have us.”

Awareness is the key to the power of the little.

Awareness of other.

If we are other aware, rather then predominately self-aware, then we will hear clearly, see clearly, and love’s imagination will reveal to us the myriad of little things we can do – and their power will do what it did for that woman on the bus: she smiled for she had been recognized, embraced as a person, included.

Saturday, January 13, 2018



Many years ago, a wonderful priest who, from the founding of his community until his death was the general superior, told me of getting a long and excruciatingly detailed letter from the superior of one of the congregation’s mission houses and how he had sent the letter back with this comment under the end of the letter: “You want to be God, job already taken!”

The other day I chuckled when Pope Francis told this old bromide in an address, one I have heard from other priests over the years:  An elderly woman came to confession and spent a long time listing the sins of others until finally she stopped expecting absolution. The gentle priest said to her: “Wonderful. Now that you have listed the sins of our neighbours, how about confessing your own!”

Ever listed God’s sins?

There is throughout the human family a dangerously dark, angry, violent tendency, today perhaps more than ever in human history, to judge, condemn, blame and when we do so, when we give into xenophobia, racism, blaming, rejecting we are factually accusing God of sin.

Since everyone is made in His image and likeness to evaluate, judge another human being is to accuse God of the sin of creating a flawed, broken, less than worthy of existence someone.

To objectively state that Islamist terrorists are doing evil acts is not only appropriate but shining a necessary light into the darkness – however to name an individual, be they a terrorist or……[choose one] – as evil is to usurp what is God’s alone, judging, for He alone sees what is the actual state of our hearts.

When I was working in the inner city, long before ordination, in a soup kitchen, there was a woman who even among the homeless was rejected, abused, because she was not just a prostitute but one totally lacking in any degree of self-respect.

Yet one day when a huge, drunk man was attacking me she used the only talent she had to distract him, lead him away, and literally saved my life, for I was being attacked by the man using a broken beer bottle, trying to slit my throat.

A few days later the police found her body in a ravine.

Jesus said of another woman, and I say in His Name of that woman, much has been forgiven her because she loved much [Lk.7:36-50] and indeed she showed, for me, that greater love of which Jesus tells us [Jn.15:13].

Globally everyone in the 21st century is reading back into history to find reasons why everyone outside our own group is to blame for all our groups’ perceived wounds, frustrations, etc., etc.

While objectively in the past one group did do horrible things to another, to be in bondage to blame and unceasingly demanding some form of compensation/redress ultimately is wasted energy and simply prevents any form of healing or reconciliation – be it unfolding within groups, between nations, religions, within families etc.

Our time and energy, our love and creative energies are better spent discovering how we can heal internally, that is within the group, between nations, within marriage and family, etc., indeed be healed ourselves.

The way is found within the Person of Christ, within the Gospel, within the moral and social teachings of the Church.

No amount of changing of laws, no amount of money will heal one single wound.

Only love is strong enough, creative enough, generous enough to heal and renew.

Nations do it, religions do it, populations regarding government do it, management does it, workers do it, spouses, parents, children, siblings, neighbours, friends, even we against ourselves do it: judge, blame, reject, wallow in unrelenting stress and an ever growing disconnect from love, peace, unity, all because we fail to head Christ’s admonition and warning about the consequences of judging and judgement: Matthew 7:2 & Luke 6:37.

We need to rediscover the difference between objective observation, for example Islamic terrorism is evil and therefore must end, and judgement: naming so and so as an evil person.

Only when, with putting on the eyes of Christ, I see other as one like myself, beloved child of God who is love, will true healing and reconciliation be possible.

The objective observation [the polar opposite of judgement] is necessary if we are to identify and respond as needed to any threat to human beings/society – thus we all need to re-learn and live out, without compromise, both the entire Gospel and the teachings of the Church, such as in Bl. Pope Paul’s Humane Vitae and St. John Paul’s The Gospel of Life.

Failure to do so, and quickly, means we are persistently, all along the way poisonously, angrily judging and condemning, heading towards and off the proverbial cliff, only this time our whole civilization will crash and burn. [Lk. 13: 1-5]