29 April 2008


we live under a vast canopy, woven by the ages

Eternal City, Eternal Sonrise

Tall Hat

Shrinking under the weight of the office?

Where's Josef?

Has anyone seen Josef?

There he is!

New Plan: From now on I say we make him wear white...

Some Popeishness

(Kissing the feet of a man with a severe mental disability)

A sketch of reality...

The camera adds ten pounds... (and sixty years)

Despite rumors to the contrary, the pope has all the energy and enthusiasm of a ten year old boy!

{found at}

What's YOUR church?

"The Vatican is a palace of gossipy eunuchs afloat on a sea of brilliant bitchery."

Written as fact, but best read as (bitter, deluded) fiction, this is my most favorite-ist line from John Cornwell's "A Thief in the Night: The Mysterious Death of Pope John Paul I". True or not, I don't care - I just love the poetic imagery and the way it sounds rolling off the tongue...


28 April 2008


Early contender for understatement of the year:

"If it wasn't for Jesus, Christianity probably wouldn't be as popular as it is today"
- From a freshman essay in my "Intro to Christianity" Class

Carve me, O Lord

A thick and shapeless tree-trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture, and would never submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor, who sees by her genius what she can make of it. - St. Ignatius


Spiritual writer Brennan Manning reminds us of that wonderful scene in the play, Gideon, written by Paddy Chayefsky. Gideon is out in the desert in his tent a thousand miles from nowhere, feeling deserted and rejected by God, a feeling that is no stranger to many of us from time to time, and others most of the time, maybe even all the time. One night, God breaks into the tent and Gideon is ravished and overcome, burnt by the wild fire of God’s love. He is up all night, pacing back and forth in his tent. Finally dawn comes, and Gideon cries out, “God, oh God, all night long I’ve thought of nuttin’ but You, nuttin’ but You. I’m caught up in the raptures of love. God, I want to take You into my tent, wrap You up, and keep You all to myself. God, hey God, tell me that You love me.” And God answers, “I love you, Gideon.” “Yeah, tell me again, God.” “I love you, Gideon.” Gideon scratches his head and says, “I don’t understand. Why? Why do You love me?” Then God scratches His head and answers, I really don’t know. Sometimes, My Gideon, passion is unreasonable.”

Do your job

"I have only done what was mine to do... may Christ, in his goodness, teach you what is yours"

-St. Francis of Assisi

Your choice...

"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgia they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - and produced Michelangelo, Leonardo De Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did it produce? The cuckoo clock."
-Orson Wells in The Third Man

Politics are far too important a thing to be left to the politicians...

Why vote when the government seems too corrupt, too controlled, too inefficient to have one vote make a difference? Because we live in a free society... And what is the eternal and ultimate problem of a free society?

It is the problem of the individual who thinks that one man cannot possibly make a difference in the destiny of a society.

It is the problem of the individual who doesn't really understand the nature of a free society or what is required to make it work.

It is the problem of the individual who has no comprehension of the multiplying power of single but sovereign units.

It is the problem of the individual who regards the act of pulling a single lever in a voting booth in numerical terms rather than historical terms.

It is the problem of the individual who has no real awareness of the millions of bricks that had to be put into place, one by one, over many centuries, in order for him to dwell in the penthouse of freedom. Nor does he see any special obligation to those who continue building the structure or to those who will have to live in it after him, for better or worse.

It is the problem of the individual who recognizes no direct relationship between himself and the decisions made by government in his name. Therefore he feels no special obligation to dig hard for the information necessary to an understanding of the issues leading to those decisions.

In short, freedoms main problem is the problem of the individual who takes himself to lightly historically.

-Norman Cousins' "Human Options"

The Jar

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration. The man stood in front of the group of high-powered over achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz."

He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and nomore rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out abucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all. "What are the 'big rocks' in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish?Time with your loved ones?Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all."

First Century Business

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
From: Jordan Management Consultants

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests, an we have not only run the results through our computer, but also have arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study them carefully. As part of our service we will make some general comments. These are given as a result of staff consultations and come without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of the nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for this kind of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We recommend you continue your search.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas has a skeptical attitude which would tend to undermine morale. It is our duty to inform you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus have radical learnings and show a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

Only one shows great potential - ability, resourcefulness, a business mind, meets people well, ambitious, highly motivated. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man.

a la Avila

St. Theresa of Avila was full of life, with a quick tongue, mischievous spirit, and ready wit. One story night she found herself in an old cart, holding the reigns of two oxen, as she bumped over a muddy road in Spain.

Lightning flashed and thunder roared; in a panic, the startled oxen sped up, and the wheel of the wagon caught in a deep hole, throwing Theresa off the cart, where she landed face first into the mud.

Theresa knew that she was supposed to thank God for everything, but this wasn't going to be easy. Just then she heard the voice of her beloved Jesus say, "Theresa, be not dismayed, but only strengthened - I offer this only to my most faithful friends."

Theresa - her face and clothing covered with mud - though for a moment and then said "Perhaps that's why you have so few"

a story

One chilly autumn day, as thousands of birds took wing and flew south to escape the frozen winter, one little bluebird decided he wasn't leaving with the rest. "A waste of time," he reasoned. "After all, I'll just have to fly all the way back again next spring." Soon, however, a record cold spell descended upon the land, and the little bird realized that he would have to leave. He winged his way up into the sky, but soon the icy air overcame him, his little wings froze, and he plummeted out of the sky. As fortune would have it, his nearly lifeless body landed in a large haystack, then fell onto the hard earth of a barnyard, near a group of cows.

Just as the little bluebird's heart, nearly frozen, was about to stop, a cow happened by and relieved itself directly above the little bird. The warm manure covered the bird, saving his life; his little heart started beating strongly, and his wings thawed out. Happy to be alive, the bluebird began to sing a beautiful song, which, as fate allowed, attracted the attention of the barnyard cat, who padded over, looked through the manure, found the little bird and promptly ate him.

This story ends with two morals:
1) Not everyone who dumps on us is necessarily our enemy
2) Not everyone who gets us out of the mess is necessarily our friend.

23 April 2008

Holy spirit(s)

a la'

Books I need to read

The Encyclopedia of British Exclamations
by: George

(get it?)

The pope is not happy...

Two articles...

The shepherd who is led...

A stubborn pope...

(two hat-tips to the bench)

Honey-do list...

"Let us concentrate on a worth-while goal: Let no child be unwanted and no person be unloved."
-Mother Teresa

22 April 2008


Getting back to the important questions...

First the priest, now the whole church!


A little light on your theology?

Priest Vanishes on Party Balloon Flight
Posted: 2008-04-22 07:36:04
Filed Under:
World News

SAO PAULO, Brazil (April 21) - A Roman Catholic priest who floated off under hundreds of helium party balloons was missing Monday off the southern coast of Brazil. Rescuers in helicopters and small fishing boats were searching off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where pieces of balloons were found.
Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli lifted off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday afternoon, wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute. He was reported missing about eight hours later after losing contact with port authority officials, according to the treasurer of his Sao Cristovao parish, Denise Gallas. Gallas said by telephone that the priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil's second-largest port for agricultural products. (more...)
If only it were Ascension Thursday....

21 April 2008


Humility is not thinking less of yourself
It is thinking of yourself less.

Pick your poison

"The second most dangerous thing in the world is becoming intimate and vulnerable enough to love someone and to be loved in return. The most dangerous thing in the world is not to." -Anon.

What do you do?

The Balinese have much to teach us about what is important in life. The making of splendid occasions where they, as a community, come together to celebrate their God occupies much of their time. If you ask a Balinese dancer what he does, he will proudly answer, "I am a Baris dancer" or "I am a mask maker." If you persist and ask again, "No, I mean how do you get your rice?" he looses interest, his voice drops, he may turn away, deciding this is a boring conversation. "Oh that," he will say.

-Corita Kent


"How can you love God whom you do not see, if you don't love the neighbor whom you do see - the neighbor that you live with everyday?" -Mother Teresa

Mystic or Unbeliever

by: Ronald Rolheiser, omi

A generation ago, Karl Rahner made the statement that there would soon come a time when each of us will either be a mystic or a non-believer.

What’s implied here?

At one level it means that anyone who wants to have faith today will need to be much more inner-directed than in previous generations. Why? Because up until our present generation in the secularized world, by and large, the culture helped carry the faith. We lived in cultures (often immigrant and ethnic subcultures) within which faith and religion were part of the very fabric of life. Faith and church were embedded in the sociology. It took a strong, deviant action not to go to church on Sunday. Today, as we know, the opposite if more true, it takes a strong, inner-anchored act to go to church on Sunday. We live in a moral and ecclesial diaspora and experience a special loneliness that comes with that. We have few outside supports for our faith.

The culture no longer carries the faith and the church. Simply put, we knew how to be believers and church-goers when we were inside communities that helped carry that for us, communities within which most everyone seemed to believe, most everyone went to church, and most everyone had the same set of moral values. Not incidentally, these communities were often immigrant, poor, under-educated, and culturally marginalized. In that type of setting, faith and church work more easily. Why? Because, among other reasons, as Jesus said, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

To be committed believers today, to have faith truly inform our lives, requires finding an inner anchor beyond the support and security we find in being part of the cognitive majority wherein we have the comfort of knowing that, since everyone else is doing this, it probably makes sense. Many of us now live in situations where to believe in God and church is to find ourselves without the support of the majority and at times without the support even of those closest to us, spouse, family, friends, colleagues. That’s one of the things that Rahner is referring to when he says we will be either mystics or non-believers.

But what is this deep, inner-anchor that is needed to sustain us? What can give us the support we need?

What can help sustain our faith when we feel like unanimity-minus-one is an inner center of strength, meaning, and affectivity that is rooted in something beyond what the world thinks and what the majority are doing on any given day? There has be a deeper source than outside affirmation to give us meaning, justification, and energy to continue to do what faith asks of us.

What is that source?

In the gospel of John, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are a question: “What are you looking for?” Essentially everything that Jesus does and teaches in the rest of John’s gospel gives an answer to that question: We are looking for the way, the truth, the life, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to satiate our hunger. But those answers are partially abstract. At the end of the gospel, all of this is crystallized into one image:

On Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdala goes out searching for Jesus. She finds him in a garden (the archetypal place where lovers meet) but she doesn’t recognize him. Jesus turns to her and, repeating the question with which the gospel began, asks her: “What are you looking for?” Mary replies that she is looking for the body of the dead Jesus and could he give her any information as to where that body is. And Jesus simply says: “Mary”. He pronounces her name in love. She falls at his feet

In essence, that is the whole gospel: What are we ultimately looking for? What is the end of all desire? What drives us out into gardens to search for love? The desire to hear God pronounce our names in love. To hear God, lovingly say: “Mary”, “Jack”, “Jennifer”, “Walter”.

Several years ago, I made a retreat that began with the director telling us: “I’m only going to try to do one thing with you this week, I’m going to try to teach you how to pray so that sometime (perhaps not this week or perhaps not even this year, but sometime) in prayer, you will open yourself up in such a way that you can hear God say to you - I love you! - because unless that happens you will always be dissatisfied and searching for something to give you a completeness you don’t feel. Nothing will ever be quite right. But once you hear God say those words, you won’t need do that restless search anymore.”

He’s right. Hearing God pronounce our names in love is the core of mysticism and it is too the anchor we need when we face misunderstanding from without and depression from within, when we feel precisely like unanimity-minus-one.

20 April 2008

No means no

ABC Nightline correspondent Ted Koppel at Duke University, Durham, NC:

"We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. Shoot up if you must, but use a clean needle. Enjoy sex whenever and with whomever, but wear a condom. No! The answer is no. Not because it isn't cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or in an AIDS ward, but because it is wrong, because we have spent 5,000 years as a race of rational human beings, trying to drag ourselves out of primeval slime by searching for truth and moral absolutes. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions."


Search for truth and you'll find beauty.
Search for beauty and you'll find love.
Search for love and you'll find God
Search for God and you'll find all three.


Shhh - relax. It is okay....

I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. And everyone kept telling me to change. And everyone kept telling me how neurotic I was. And I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but I just couldn't bring myself to change, no matter how hard I tried. What hurt the most was that my best friend also kept telling me how neurotic I was. He too kept insisting that I change. And I agreed with him too, thought I couldn't bring myself to resent him. And I felt so powerless and trapped.

Then, one day, he said to me, 'Don't change. Stay as you are. It really doesn't matter whether you change or not. I love you just the way you are; I cannot help loving you.'

Those words sounded like music to my ears: 'Don't change, don't change, don't change... I love you.' And I relaxed. And I came alive. And oh, wondrous marvel, I changed!'

-A. De Mello

One permits the next

"Life is comprised of two things: mystery and grace. But only those unafraid of the former will ever be able to recognize the latter." - +J. Cardinal Bernadin


"Genius Is the Infinite Capacity for Pains."- Abp Henry Mansell

Knock, knock...

You don't find the things you love - they find you.

At odds with circumstance...

From The Holy Longing: The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality (pp. 20-21)

"In his autobiographical novel, My First Love, Czechoslovakian novelist Ivan Klima struggles with some painful questions. He is a young man, full of sexual passion, moving among young men and women who are less hesitant than he is. Klima is reticent, celibate, and not sure why. Certainly it is not for any religious reasons. So he wonders: Is it because I respect others more than my peers and am less willing to be irresponsible? Is it because I carry some high, quasi-religious, moral solitude that I'm rightly hesitant to compromise? Or, am I just uptight, timid and lacking in nerve? Am I virtuous or sterile?

He is not sure: "Suppose I spent my whole life just waiting, waiting for the moment when I last saw that starry face? It would turn its glance on me and say: "You've been incapable of accepting life, dear friend, so you better come with me!" Or, on the other hand, it might say: You've done well because you knew how to bear your solitude at a great height, because you were able to do without consolation in order not to do without hope!"

What would it really say? At that moment I could not tell.

His question is, ultimately, a spiritual one..."

On Sainthood...

"If you wish to be a saint, do not imitate past saints in their uniqueness. Rather, imitate them in their commitment. Francis was nothing more than Francis. Augustine was only Augustine. Therese, Therese and Aquinas, Aquinas. All they ever did was play the part assigned to them extremely well."

18 April 2008



It burns...

When Jesus talks about fire, he means in the first place his own Passion, which was a Passion of love and was therefore a fire; the new burning bush, which burns and is not consumed; a fire that is to be handed on.

Jesus does not come to make us comfortable; rather he sets fire to the earth; he brings the great living fire of divine love, which is what the Holy Spirit is, a fire that burns. In an apocryphal saying of Jesus that has been transmitted by Origen, he says: Whoever comes close to me comes close to the fire. Whoever comes close to him, accordingly, must be prepared to be burned.

It burns, yet this is not a destructive fire but one that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being a Christian, then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire. Christ is the one who brings peace. And I would say that this is the saying that is preeminent and determinative.

But we only properly comprehend this peace that Christ brings if we do not understand it in banal fashion as a way of cheating one's way out of pain, or out of the truth and the conflicts that truth brings with it.

If the Church simply aims to avoid conflict, merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere, then her real message can no longer make any impact. For this message is in fact there precisely in order to conflict with our behavior, to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth. Truth does not come cheap. It makes demands, and it also burns.

Pope Benedict XVI


We must try to keep the mind in quietness. For if the eye is constantly shifting its gaze, one moment this way or that, then veering between upwards and down, it cannot see clearly what lies directly in front of it. It has to bring its gaze to bear on this object so as to see it clearly in focus.

In the same way a mind distracted by thousands of worldly concerns cannot possible bring a steady gaze to bear on the truth.

Another image: you cannot write on wax tablets unless everything previously written on them has been erased - and the soul cannot receive godly teaching without first clearing out of the way its own preconceived ideas. With this in view a time of withdrawal is of the greatest benefit, as it calms our compulsive passions and gives reason a clear space to cut them down to size

Letter Two
Basil the Great

16 April 2008

bobble, bobble, bobble....


But THIS is the rare treasure....

A prayer...

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe. I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from the desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, thought I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-Thomas Merton

On prayer:

"Don't come to get answers... come to ask questions... for THAT is where the holiness lies...

A light shines in the darkness...

Better when stale...

A Shepherd and a Promise...

13 April 2008


"Beyond all doubt, the most beautiful thing about a flower is the fact that a flower doesn't know how beautiful it is."

Religion is...

I am convinced,
is IMAGINATIVE before it is prepositional
it begins with EXPERIENCES which renew HOPE
it is encoded in IMAGES and SYMBOLS...
it is SHARED with others through STORIES which are told
in COMMUNITIES and celebrated in RITUALS

A prayer...

I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for - maybe even worth dying for - something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead.

I can't tell you what it might be - that's for you to find, to choose, to love. I can just encourage you to start looking, and to support you in your search.

-Sr. Ita Ford (Martyr)


Parades and Circuses

Met a man today. Man I had seen many times before. Just sitting. With his legs crossed, hands knotted together, head hanging, hat down, and collar up. A daily fixture on the stone bench across from the children's fountain on the town green. Asleep, I think. But his lips are moving - very carefully moving. An ordinary average-middle kind of man. Size, age, clothes, condition - all ordinary average-middle. From one to two each day he sat - undisturbed by dogs, children, buses, laughter, rain, or cold. He sat. Saying something to himself, maybe. Daily.

So I asked him. One day I had to ask him. Asked him was he alright (which meant "what's going on buddy?")

And you know what he said? Said he was praying. Praying. Not that praying is so strange, but he said he was praying the alphabet over and over for an hour each day, leaving it to Almighty God to arrange the letters into the proper words of a proper prayer. What was missing in words, he said, he made up for in fervor. He figured God could handle it and would understand.

Well. I don't know. I think maybe I would settle for a little less praying and a little more sanity, myself. At the same time. At the same time, I wish I had believed in something - had faith in something - that much.

-R. Fulghum-

The problem of evil...

Perhaps the greatest problem of theodicy is the question why God, having created Satan in the first place, simply didn't wipe him out after his rebellion. The question presupposes that God would wipe anything out. It assumes that God can punish and kill. Perhaps the answer is that God gave Satan free will and that God cannot destroy; He can only create.

The point is that God does not punish. To create us in His image, God gave us free will. To have done otherwise would have been to make us puppets or hollow mannequins. Yet to give us free will God had to forswear the use of force against us. We do not have free will when there is a gun pointed at our back. It is not necessarily that God lacks the power to destroy us, to punish us, but that in His love for us He has painfully and terribly chosen never to use it. In agony He must stand by and let us be. He intervenes only to help, never to hurt. The Christian God is a God of restraint. Having foresworn the use of power against us, if we refuse His help, He has no recourse but, weeping, to watch us punish ourselves.

This point is unclear in the Old Testament. There God is depicted as punitive. But it begins to become clear with Christ. In Christ, God Himself impotently suffered death at the hands of human evil. He did not raise a finger against His persecutors. Thereafter in the New Testament we hear echoes of the punitive Old Testament God, one way or another, saying that "the wicked will get what's coming to them." But these are only echoes, a punishing God does not enter the picture ever again. While many nominal Christians still today envision their God as a giant cop in the sky, the reality of Christian doctrine is that God has forever eschewed police power.

Of the Holocaust as well of lesser evils it is often asked, "How could a loving God allow such a thing to happen?" It is a bleeding, brutal question. The Christian answer may not suit tastes, but it is hardly ambiguous. Having forsaken force, God is impotent to prevent the atrocities that we commit upon one another. He can only continue to grieve with us. He will offer us Himself in all His wisdom, but He cannot make us choose to abide with Him.

For the moment, then, God, tormented, waits upon us through one holocaust after another. And it may seem that we are doomed by this strange God who reigns in weakness. But there is a dénouement to Christian doctrine: God in His weakness will win the battle against evil. In fact, the battle is already won. The resurrection symbolizes not only that Christ overcame the evil of His day two thousand years ago but that He overcame it for all time. Christ impotently nailed to the cross is God's ultimate weapon. Through it the defeat of evil is utterly assured. It is vitally necessary that we struggle against evil with all the power at our command. But the crucial victory occurred almost two thousand years ago. Necessary and even dangerous and devastating though our own personal battles may be, unknown to us, they are but mopping-up operations against a retreating enemy who has long since lost the war.

-M. Scott Peck-

A cellist... and a dream...

It is the year 2025. In a large Eastern European city – one that has survived the vicissitudes of more than a thousand years of human activity – in an open square in the city center – there is a rather odd civic monument. A bronze statue. Not a soldier or a politician. Not a general on a horse or a king on a throne. Instead, the figure of a somewhat common man, sitting in a chair. Playing his cello.

Around the pedestal on which the statue sits, there are bouquets of flowers. If you count, you will always find twenty-two flowers in each bunch. The cellist is a national hero.

If you ask to hear the story of this statue, you will be told of a time of a civil war in this city. Demagogues lit bonfires of hatred between citizens who belonged to different religions and ethnic groups. Everyone became an enemy of someone else. None was exempt or safe. Men, women, children, babies, grandparents – old and young – strong and weak – partisan and innocent – all, all were victims in the end. Many were maimed. Many were killed. Those who did not die lived like animals in the ruins of the city.

Except one man. A musician. A cellist. He came to a certain street corner everyday. Dressed in formal black evening clothes, sitting on a fire-charred chair, he played his cello. Knowing he might be shot or beaten, he still played. Day after day he came. To play the most beautiful music he knew.

Day after day after day. For twenty-two days. His music was stronger than hate. His courage, stronger than fear. And in time other musicians were captured by his spirit, and they took their place in the street beside him. These acts of courage were contagious. Anyone who could play an instrument or sing found a place at a street intersection somewhere in the city and made music. In time the fighting stopped. The music and the city and the people lived on.

A nice fable.
A lovely story.
Something adults might make up to inspire children. A tale of the kind found in tourist guidebooks explaining and embellishing the myths behind civic statuary. A place to have your picture taken.

Is there any truth in such a parable other than the implied acknowledgement of the sentimentality of mythmaking? The real world does not work this way. We all know that. Cellists seldom become civic heroes – music doesn’t affect wars.

Vedran Smailovic does not agree. In The New York Times Magazine, July 1992, his photograph appeared. Middle-aged, longish hair, great bushy mustache. He is dressed in formal evening clothes. Sitting in a cafĂ© chair in the middle of a street. In front of a bakery where mortar fire struck a breadline in late May, killing twenty-two people. He is playing his cello. As a member of the Sarajevo Opera Orchestra, there is little he can do about hate and war – it has been going on in Sarajevo for centuries. Even so, everyday for twenty-two days he has braved sniper and artillery fire to play Albinoni’s profoundly moving Adagio in G Minor.

I wonder if he chose this piece of music knowing it was constructed form a manuscript fragment found in the ruins of Dresden after the Second World War? The music survived the firebombing. Perhaps that is why he played it there in the scarred street in Sarajevo, where people died waiting in line for bread. Something must triumph over horror.

Is this man crazy? Maybe.
Is his gesture futile? Yes, in a conventional sense, yes, of course.
But what can a cellist do? What madness to go out alone in the streets and address the world with a wooden box and a hair-strung bow.

What can a cellist do?
All he knows how to do.
Speaking softly with his cello, one note at a time, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, calling out the rats that infest the human spirit.

Vedran Smailovic is a real person.
What he did is true.
Neither the breadline nor the mortar shell nor the music is fiction.
For all the fairy tales, these acts do take place in the world in which we live.
Sometimes history knocks at the most ordinary door to see if anyone is home.
Sometimes someone is.

Most everyone in Sarajevo knows now what a cellist can do – for the place where Veran played has become an informal shrine, a place of honor. Croats, Serbs, Muslims, Christians alike – they all know his name and face.

They place flowers where he played. Commemorating the hope that must never die – that someday, somehow, the best of humanity shall overcome the worst, not through unexpected miracles but through the expected acts of many.

Sarajevo is not the only place in the world where Vedran Smailovic is known. An artist in Seattle, Washington saw his picture and read his story. Her name is Beliz Brother. Real story – real name. What could an artist do?

She organized twenty-two cellists to play in twenty-two public places in Seattle for twenty-two days, and on the final day, all twenty-two played together in one place in front of a store window displaying burned-out bread pans, twenty-two loaves of bread, and twenty-two roses.

People came. Newspaper reporters and television cameras were there. The story and the pictures were fed into the news networks of the world. And passed back to Vedran Smailovic that he might know his music had been heard and passed on. Others have begun to play in many cities. In Washington, D.C., twenty-two cellists played the day our new president was sworn into office. Who knows who might hear? Who knows what might happen?

Millions of people saw Verdan’s story in The New York Times. Millions have seen and heard the continuing story picked up by the media. Now you, too, know.

Tell it to someone. This is urgent news. Keep it alive in the world.

As for the end of the story, who among us shall insist the rest of the story cannot become true? Who shall say the monument in the park in Sarajevo will never come to pass? The cynic who lives in a dark hole in my most secret mind says one cellist cannot stop a war, and music can ultimately be only a dirge played over the unimaginable.

But somewhere in my soul I know otherwise.

Never, ever, regret or apologize for believing that when one man or woman decides to risk addressing the world with truth, the world may stop what it is doing and hear... there is too much evidence to the contrary. When we cease believing this, the music will surely stop.

The myth of the impossible dream is more powerful than all the facts of history. In my imagination, I lay flowers at the statue memorializing Vedran Smailovic – a monument that has not yet been built, but may be.
Meanwhile, a cellist plays in the streets of Sarajevo.

-Robert Fulghum-

Fall in love...

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than Falling in Love in a quite absolute and final way.
What you are in love with...
What seizes your imagination...
Will affect everything.

It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning,
What you will do with your evenings,
How you will spend your weekends,
What you read, who you know,
What breaks your heart,
And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love,
Stay in love,
And it will decide everything.

-Pedro Arrupe, SJ

A simple prayer

O Lord,
if I, with every breath on my lips,
do not sing your praise
Then, with every beat of my heart,
let me beg your mercy.

Leave it to the internet to keep one humble...

"To parapharase Samuel Johnson: Your blog is both interesting and original; however, the original part is not interesting, and the interesting part is not original."

And yours?

"Passion is the sin of youth.
Pride the sin of middle age.
Prejudice the sin of old age."

The purpose...

"The purpose of life, you see, is not to get to heaven, but to bring your friends with you" - Anonymous

10 April 2008

All is well. Believe it.

“(I pray) that today you may find peace inside you, that you can confide in your highest power because you are exactly where you are supposed to be. But do not forget the infinite possibilities that are born from faith, that you may use the gifts that you have received and transfer the love that has been given to you, to make you feel satisfied that you are a child of God. Allow God's presence in your bones and give your soul the liberty to sing, dance, and be warmed by the sun, that there is for everyone and each of us.”

-St Theresa of Lisieux

09 April 2008

For unto us a child is born. A son is given...

Posting will return when sleep does...
(in approximately 18 years or so, we've been told...)

Wife and baby are both doing well. Dad is (wonderfully) overwhelmed...

04 April 2008

A man in white...

Pope Pius XIII

(partly funny, partly sad)

(the funny part being the conclave apparently taking place in the banquet room of the local Motel 6)

Pius IX (and his bling)


03 April 2008

Do you hear what I'm saying?

"You applaud, even though you don't understand me," quipped Pope John Paul II during a mass in Central Park, New York City after he recited a prayer in Polish to the applauding English-speaking crowd (October, 1995).

Will it happen again in two weeks?

Even if Benedict speaks in crystal clear English - will they hear? Will they understand? And will they clap for it?

Or will they just clap?

02 April 2008

Third Paragraph...

Yet glorified as he is, Jesus is still with us on our pilgrimage, and wants to share his Easter understanding with the Church as he travels with us down the long road of history. He wants to lead us into his own experience of the Father, into that 'knowing' between Father and Son which needed Easter to make it perfect in Christ's manhood.

The story in Luke 24 of the disciples going to Emmaus is a work of genius. The two travellers are not just two people who happened to be there that night; they are the Church, they are you and I, because this is Luke's inspired picture of how things are in the Easter Church, the Church of Word and Sacrament: the long journey, the distress and bewilderment, the knowing yet not knowing, the patient tenderness of Christ as he tries to open their minds to understand the Scriptures, their burning hearts, their eventual recognition that they have indeed known the Lord in the breaking of the bread of the Word and the bread of Eucharist.

The word is not always clarifying; it is mysterious, because it is the presence and self-communication of God. It is not always informative; it is performative, creative: changing and converting and renewing us. And there is something about the journey, the long experience of the road, that makes us able to hear it.

The Coming of God
Maria Boulding, OSB

And you?

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier you will become a general. If you are a monk you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter and I became Picasso." -P.Picasso

Forgive me, Father, how long has it been since your last confession?

if the priest goes
because he sees the need in his own life
he understands its importance
because he understands
they will see that he understands
they will know that he understands
they will understand that he understands
and, because of it, they will understand too
and they will go
(it is as important to the people as it is to their pastor)

Sometimes, this says it all...