Friday, February 26, 2010


A friend called to say her teenage daughter had attended a youth retreat and came home transformed: she was radiant with love. We laughed, wondering if she had met a “novio” – a sweetheart. And wondered also if that lover might be Jesus. Who was the real lover she encountered?

Earlier chatting with other friends, one commented that retreats are essential in helping us connect with God, especially during this time of Lent. They take us to new spiritual heights. But often the new “high” is fleeting…lasting only until we come back to the real world. And so it is worth asking, just as above about the real lover…What is our real world?

How do we discover it…and how do we respond to it? Peter and company saw the radiance of the transfigured Christ, and yet the evangelist Luke tells us, in Peter’s response to build three tents, “He did not know what he was saying” (Lk 9:33). Perhaps because he got so carried away with what he saw outside himself that he failed to understand that the temple to be built had to be within him…the radiance that awaited discovery was already within his soul…and ours.

How easy it is to focus on the external, to get carried away with the brightness that the world offers, and to strive to transform our minds, our bodies, our looks, our temples/houses accordingly. Just today it was reported that a rough chunk of diamond was sold for $35.3 million – a new record. And yet daily the Transfigured Christ dies in record numbers in the mud and on garbage dumps as if of no value.

Our focus gets distorted by worldly values and lights. They blind us to the presence of the Inner Radiance. Yet it is there to be found. There are a couple stories which illustrate this. The first involves a sidewalk beggar, sitting on an old crate. A passing holy nun is stopped by the mendicant, asking for change. She responds that she has no money, but has an even better gift for him. She asks him to look inside the crate on which he is sitting. Her question stirs his curiosity, and breaking the crate open...he finds it filled with precious stones. A similar story tells of a holy friar returning home on a country road. He finds a bag filled with gold coins. Later he stops to rest, whereupon a robber demands his valuables. The monk cheerfully gives him the treasure he had found. The robber leaves him only to return a short while later and says to him, "Give me the real treasure you possess that allowed you to give me these coins so easily." How do we discover the real treasure within our bodily "crate"? Perhaps we need others to affirm it in us, to more clearly see it ourselves.

Some years ago a very dear friend, Sr. Lucida, (as lucid and bright even at 95 as anyone I have ever met, who so fully radiated holiness and love) wrote, “By evening of the morning you departed, the floodgates were opened and my heart sought comfort in tears. Your loving presence in my life has released all the love and admiration I hold for you and ignited a new surge of intensity to the ‘Light’ of my life. You have graced my life with God’s presence and made me aware of God’s continual, unsuspecting way of blessing me.” Her loving statement attests to what I so strongly believe, “What people say about us, says more about them than about us.” And yet her kind words and generous affirmation has been invaluable in helping me to seek the Christ within.

If we are searching for the True Light in our world today, why not start the quest by looking within…and affirming it in others, too?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Jack Benny was one of the grand comics of old. He was reputed to be very wealthy and also had a reputation for being very tight with his money. I remember watching his weekly TV program. On one particular night he told of how he was walking down the streets of New York when a robber put a gun to his back and demanded, “Your money or your life.” In telling the story, Jack Benny put his right hand to his cheek and started to drum his fingers against the cheek…thinking about his decision. The robber exasperated said, “Hey mister, I said, ‘Your money or your life.’” Jack responded, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

More recently, I heard a variation of this story. A priest is walking in a cemetery adjacent to his church, saying his evening prayers, when a thief approaches him with knife in hand and says, “Your money or your life.” The priest checks his pockets and notices that he has left his wallet at home, and has nothing at all to give him…except a candy bar. He offer that to the thief, who tells him, “No thanks, Father, I gave up chocolate for Lent.”

Jesus, at his baptism, heard these words, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.“ He heard them…he believed them…he lived them. Immediately thereafter he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted…to be tested. Temptations are not bad…they are merely a way to prove to ourselves (and perhaps to others) what we truly believe. We know Jesus was tempted with power, wealth/security, and fame/recognition…the same temptations we face each day.

How are we doing? What words do we hear that need to be put to the test? Perhaps, like the thief above, we too are tempted to be “penny wise and dollar foolish”, perhaps giving up chocolates or other treats during Lent…but failing to see what truly matters and to make the more meaningful sacrifices and decisions to connect with God and to be our truest self. Lent is a special time to focus on what is most important…and to align our lives accordingly.

God says to us, “This is the fasting that I wish…Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:6-7) Do we have ears to hear? Are we up to the test?

Monday, February 15, 2010


Another Lent is upon us. What will make this one different? On Ash Wednesday we are marked on the forehead with ashes, reminding us that one day we will return to dust. All too often we celebrate this holy season by placing our minds on automatic pilot, re-living the "sacrifices" we learned long ago. We pass the Lenten days going through the ritualistic motions of fast and abstinence, perhaps with additional prayers and reflections, giving up sweets or other pleasures…to “die” in some fashion. Often it can seem more an endurance test than a Holy encounter. The forty days pass and we return to the normalcy of life. But if all that happens is that we return to the life of old, have we truly been resurrected?

Lent is meant to awaken the reality of who we are and whose we are! Plato's classic work "The Republic", includes a story he entitles, "The Allegory of the Cave". In this story slaves are chained within a cave, working with their backs to a central fire behind them. They are chained in such a way that the only thing they see are the shadows on the cave walls of the guards behind them. The shadows are their reality. One day, one of them escapes and when he discovers the light of day, with all its brilliant colors, he feels compelled to go back and tell the others. But they think he's crazy and refuse to believe him. Their lives remain unchanged...chained to the same old views.

Lent is a time to walk more closely and perhaps to suffer with Christ so that we see the true light of our that His resurrection is our resurrection. We don't want to simply hear, and even believe, in some mythic "fairy tale" or miracle of long ago. We want to see the Light and experience the fullness of Life. We want to be RESURRECTED!

Two thousand years ago, Jesus, above all, challenged his hearers to respond to the reality he was proclaiming. The faith that animated his life should be what animates ours. He understood the Kingdom of God as the most important reality of human life and dedicated himself totally to it. What can we do to take on his attitude and have the same relationship with God that he had? What would he say to us today? How can we make this Lent more meaningful and life-changing?

In the past, I have recommended that instead of a “fast”, we might “slow down” and intentionally make the effort to notice the hand of God in us, in those we meet, in nature or the cosmos…to be attentive to some “miracle” each day…perhaps to be aware of the suffering Christ in our midst – someone who needs our compassion, our smile, our kind words. Another alternative might be to “feast” instead of “fasting”. Imagine taking a spiritual cruise, and going to Christ’s table of plenty as often as possible, perhaps even daily…but not to simply attend Mass and check it off our list. Rather to be present to the Holy Presence…in the Word, on the Altar, in the Body of those in communion.

If we long for a daily walk with Our Lord, may I recommend the Gospels of Mark and Luke, with 16 and 24 chapters, respectively…perhaps to read and reflect on one chapter each day. The two gospels form a good contrast and help bring to life the overall story of Jesus. For the persecuted yet hopeful community of Mark, Jesus is the suffering Son of Man who will return to judge the living and the dead. But for the community of Luke which is settling down in history, this end-time portrait is modified. Jesus becomes the exemplar of Christian life – a man of prayer, who forgives easily and inclusively invites all to table fellowship, and who confronts systemic and individual injustice...for the sake of the persecuted and the persecutor.

Perhaps, we yearn to have a daily chat with Jesus and be inspired by his words to us. If so, I have made a list of 122 quotes – sayings of Jesus and God. Choose whichever you wish and enter in a “dialogue”. Select one or more each day, or simply stay with one for as long as it leads you into a more intimate awareness of the Holy…with you…in you. May this Lent not be just ANOTHER LENT.

1. This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Mt 3:17
2. One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Mt 4:4
3. He will command his angels concerning you, and “with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Mt 4:6
4. The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve. Mt 4:10
5. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Mt 4:17
6. Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. Mt 4:19
7. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Mt 5:3
8. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Mt 5:4
9. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Mt 5:5
10. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Mt 5:6
11. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Mt 5:7
12. Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. Mt 5:8
13. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Mt 5:9
14. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
15. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evi against you [falsely] because of me. rejoice and be Glad for you reward in heaven will be great in heaven. Mt 5:11-12
16. Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Mt 5:22
17. Whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Mt 5:39
18. Love your enemies. Mt 5:44
19. Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5:48
20. Take care to not do righteous deeds in order that people may see them. Mt 6:1
21. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be. Mt 6:19-21
22. No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon. Mt 6:24
23. Do not worry…Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all…will be given you…Do not worry. Mt 6:25-34
24. Stop Judging…Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? Mt 7:1-3
25. Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Mt 7:7
26. By their fruits you will know them…Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Mt 7:15-21
27. Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead. Mt 8:22
28. Why are you terrified, o you of little faith? Mt 8:26
29. Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Mt 10:31
30. Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Mt 10:38
31. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Mt 10:40
32. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest. Mt 11:29
33. I desire mercy not sacrifice. Mt 12:7
34. Whoever is not with me is against me. Mt 12:30
35. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mt 12:50
36. O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Mt 14:31
37. Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish. Mt 15:28
38. My heart is moved with pity for the crowd. Mt 15:32
39. Who do you say that I am? Mt 16:15
40. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. Mt 16:18
41. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Mt 16:19
42. What profit would there be to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Mt 16:26
43. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Mt 18:4
44. I say to you, [forgive] not seven times but seventy-seven times. Mt 18:22
45. Love your neighbor as yourself. Mt. 19:19
46. If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor. Mt 19:21
47. Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant. Mt 20:26
48. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mt 20:28
49. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. Mt 21:22
50. Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Mt 22:21
51. You shall love God with your whole heart…and…your neighbor as yourself. Mt 22:37-38
52. Woe to you…you serpents, you brood of vipers. Mt 23:15-33
53. I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink...whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me. Mt 25:35, 40
54. Take and eat; this is my body…This is my blood. Mt 26:26-28
55. Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass form me; yet, not as I will but as you will. Mt 26:39
56. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Mt 27:46
57. Go…and make disciples of all…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always. Mt 28:19-20
58. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. Mk 1:15
59. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. Mk 2:17
60. Daughter, your faith has saved you. Mk 5:34
61. Do not be afraid; just have faith. Mk 5:36
62. Take nothing for the journey – no food, no sack, no money. Mk 6:8
63. Give them some food yourselves. Mk 6:37
64. Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid! Mk 6:50
65. My heart is moved with pity for the crowd. Mk 8:2
66. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. Mk 8:35
67. How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Mk 10:23
68. Whoever does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Mk 11:23
69. To love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mk 12:33
70. This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors…for they contributed from their surplus wealth, but she from her whole livelihood. Mk 12:43-44
71. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Mk 13:33
72. One of you will betray me. Mk 14:18
73. Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house? Lk 3:49
74. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. Lk 4:18
75. Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch. Lk 5:4
76. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Lk 6:27-28
77. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Lk 6:36
78. Forgive and you will be forgiven. LK 7:37
79. Give and gifts will be given to you. Lk 7:38
80. No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God. Lk 9:62
81. Which of the three was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?...Go and do likewise. Lk 10:36-37
82. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it. Lk 11:28
83. Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Lk 13:24
84. When you hold a dinner…invite the poor. Lk 14:13
85. Everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and come to life again; he was lost and has been found. Lk 15:32
86. The kingdom of God is among you. Lk 17:21
87. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Lk 18:14
88. Zaccheus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house…The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. Lk 19:10
89. If this day you only knew what makes for peace. Lk 19:42
90. I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Lk 22:15
91. This is my body which will be given for you; do this in memory of me…This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. Lk 22:20
92. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Lk 23:34
93. Come, and you will see…Follow me. Jn 1:39, 43
94. Woman…My hour has not yet come. Jn 2:4
95. If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. Jn 4:10
96. My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Jn 4:34
97. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. Jn 6:27
98. I am the bread of life…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Jn 6: 35, 54
99. Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Jn 7:37
100. Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Jn 8:7
101. I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Jn 8:12
102. If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Jn 8:31-32
103. I came into the world so that those who do not see might see. Jn 9:39
104. I am the gate for the sheep...I came so that they might have life and have it abundantly. Jn. 10:7, 10
105. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me. Jn 10:14
106. I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Do you believe this? Jn 11:25-26
107. Lazarus, come out! Jn 11L43
108. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Jn 12:24
109. Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me “teacher” and “master”, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow. Jn 13:12-15
110. I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you. ..this is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jn 13:34-35
111. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jn 14:6
112. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Jn 14:15
113. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Jn 14:27
114. I am the [true] vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Jn 15:5
115. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. Jn 15:11
116. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. Jn 15:16
117. I pray…that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you. Jn 17:21
118. Woman, Behold your son…Behold your mother. Jn 19:26-27
119. I thirst. Jn 19:28
120. It is finished. Jn 19:30
121. Put your fingers here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side….and believe. Jn 20:27
122. Do you love me?...Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep. Jn 21:15-17

Friday, February 12, 2010


Yesterday's reading from the First Book of Kings told us that Solomon blamed his wives for leading him away from God. It seems to be a basic human trait to blame others for our misdeeds or misfortune. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the Serpent, Flip Wilson’s Geraldine kept us in stitches with, “The Devil made me do it.”

There is no denying it, those around us impact our actions and fashion who we are. Studies show that if you place a solid piece of gold and a solid piece of silver side-by-side, the flakes from one attach to the adjacent block and vice-versa. We are indeed shaped by others…but the choice is ours in deciding with whom we associate. Perhaps, there is no more important decision in life than the friends we choose. Friends are said to be God’s gift to us, but it is we who have the final say on whom we stick with.

At the end of his mission, Jesus calls his disciples “friends” – the ultimate compliment and expression of intimacy, and tells us all that we are his friends if we love each other. He also said, "It was I who chose you." Aristotle said that one of the essential requirements for happiness is friends. He added that if we treated each other as friends, there would be no need for laws.

What is a friend? Poets have said they are those who compliment us…"who help us to make a temple out of the lumber we have been given.” In the movie, “As Good As It Gets”, Melvin tells Carol, “You make me want to be a better man.” More than supporting, affirming, maybe at times even confronting us, listening to us and caring for us, making us laugh, sharing our tears…friends bring out the best in us.

Years ago I sent a Christmas letter with a sketch of a tree showing the roots, and naming them for all who had brought out the fruits and flowers of my being: peace, joy, love, happiness, confidence, generosity, etc. Some years later, a dear friend , Kathy Sea, (an artist who one morning after Mass surprised me with a painting of the Good Shepherd she had created for me – one of my few prized possessions) made a sketch of my face in the form of a puzzle – a few pieces still to be filled in. I am indeed that puzzle that so many have put together…and, yes, others will add their touch to shape me.

I am who I am because of the people I have known…my friends. When I look in the mirror, I hope to more and more see the face of Christ, but I don’t have much difficulty remembering with love those who have made their mark on me.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


This past Sunday, we heard St. Paul speak of the Risen Christ, saying how he had appeared to so many, “and last of all he appeared to me.” The readings of the day invited us to reflect on how we might proclaim those same words…AND LAST OF ALL HE APPEARED TO ME!

Isaiah’s encounter in the first reading reminds us that God is still looking for messengers to lift the hopes of those in despair. “Whom shall I send?”, God asks. Isaiah’s response, and ours presumably, is , “Here I am Lord. Send me.” Send where? To do what? To give witness to God’s active, loving presence. But to do so, we must first experience that Holy Presence. As Aristotle said, “You can’t give what you ain’t got."

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter to go back out and cast his net into the deep, even though this seasoned fisherman had been casting all night with nothing to show for it. But at Jesus’ request he goes once more and this time a catch beyond his imagination takes place, which leads to a transformation. Peter leaves everything to follow the Master.

Perhaps we too have been “casting our nets” of prayer and good deeds (with seemingly no noticeable change), and are waiting for a miracle of sorts. Recently, I read John Shea’s, Stories of Faith, wherein he writes that Jesus stopped performing miracles because he didn’t want people’s meaningless applause. He wanted a conversion of heart, and ultimately he found this only by becoming “the Suffering Servant”. This coming Sunday’s Gospel on the Beatitudes affirms this. “Blessed are they who are poor”…who feel the pain of an empty stomach…and do what they can to relieve it.

Perhaps instead of seeking a miracle to experience the Loving, Holy Presence, we need more than mere acts of kindness. We need to cast our net deep within our heart and to embrace the suffering of the wounded and broken, the poor and hungry…to see the Christ in them, as Mother Teresa did. There is a story of her washing the maggots off the body of a dying poor man in the streets of Calcutta. A passing tourist comments, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” To which she responded, “ I wouldn’t either. I do it because I see the face of my Lord in his.”

The face of Christ, we believe, is in each of us. We don’t have to go to Calcutta. Sunday night, as I rode the El from O'Hare Airport, I saw the face of Christ for a fleeting moment in a poor man standing by the door asking for a quarter, and I saw His face in a young man who as he was leaving gave him a candy bar. The poor man practically swallowed it, with tears in his eyes. One could not help but be moved. There is plenty of suffering in our own streets, perhaps in our own homes. When was the last time we truly noticed? All we need is to open our hearts and respond with love, and then perhaps we, too, can say, “and last of all he appeared to me.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Today is the Feast of St. Blaise. Tradition has it that St. Blaise saved the life of a child who had a bone stuck in his throat. On this day the Church celebrates the blessing of throats, and the healing of whatever ails us, with these words: “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may God heal you.” Often we confuse healing with curing.

My brother, Vito, has been battling leukemia for more than 12 years. Thanks to a bone-marrow transplant, modern medicine, and countless prayers, he is still active and enjoying life. But about eight years ago it looked very bleak. One of my nephews, Joe, came to me one day and said, “I don’t understand it Uncle Frank. I’ve been praying that God would heal my Dad but nothing has happened.” My response was, “How do you know that God has not healed your Dad. Healing draws us closer to God; curing merely takes care of our infirmity. There are many who may be suffering from some disease or infirmity but need no healing, while others who appear to be perfectly healthy are in great need of healing.” Often the healing that takes place is within the heart and soul. And indeed in both Vito and other dear friends I have noticed that in the heat of battle with cancer or some other life-taking malady their RELATIONSHIPS with those around them, family and friends, and with themselves, and with God GREW STRONGER. Despite their fears and desire for life, there was an internal fortitude and PEACE. And more…

Back in 1996, I was at the beginning of my religious journey in Chicago. At the church of St. Paul I met a beautiful, holy woman – Sr. Emma – a Sister of St. Casmir, 88 years young at the time. She was wheel-chair bound, and suffered from a variety of ailments. Yet her face was aglow with radiant joy. I invited her out to dinner to get to know her better. She accepted my offer but said she would like to eat early because she wanted to be with her community for evening prayers. So I said we could dine at 6:00 or even at 5:30 if she wished. She said, “Let us dine at 5:00.” I picked her up at the convent and took her to a fine Italian restaurant nearby, Bruna’s, on Oakley Street in the Heart of Chicago, where there are a number of Italian restaurants, including the old Villa Marconi, supposedly Al Capone’s favorite. Given the early hour, when we entered the restaurant it was empty of patrons. She looked around and said, “My, but you are a big spender. You reserved this whole place just for me.” I replied, “Of course. Nothing is too good for you.” When we were seated, I finally took the opportunity to ask, “Sister, you radiate such a profound joy. What is your secret?” In an instant she said, “Perhaps it’s because I have suffered so much.” That was the last answer I expected. Yet suffering can lead, and in her had led, to JOY. And more…

I previously mentioned that I used to volunteer at the Port, a Franciscan soup kitchen in South Chicago. One Thanksgiving, because they were expecting great numbers, they assigned the regular volunteers to specific duties. Mine was to be a greeter at the door. As I approached the door, I noticed a man already there. He had such a brilliant smile. When I was almost upon him, I also noticed that he had a long, white cane. He extended his hand and said, “My name is Wayne. What’s yours?” Despite his blindness, he knew that I was within hand-shake distance. I gave him my name. We had both been assigned to be the “welcoming committee.” I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. Wayne quickly shared his story with me. He had been a photographer and reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Then he began to lose his eyesight. He not only lost his profession, he became so angry and bitter that he also lost his wife. He contemplated suicide. One day as he was thinking how best to end his life, he walked by what he sensed was a church. He walked in, and sat for a long time. In fact, the pastor had come to him to say that it was quite late and they were closing the doors. However, when he noticed the white cane, he said he could stay a while longer. Wayne said he would leave, but asked if he could come back. “Of course”, the priest said. Wayne went back a number of times. Though he was brought up in another faith, he found so much serenity, warmth, and comfort in this Catholic church that he converted. He said to me, “I used to get so angry when others wanted to help me cross a street, because I felt helpless…less than whole. Now I am so grateful. I welcome all who want to help so that I can share with them my encounter with the Lord. Just as St. Paul said, ‘When I am weak, then I am made strong.’ Now I can share the Good News and EVANGELIZE by giving witness to my own journey of faith.”

Entering into a stronger relationship with God, feeling inner peace and deep joy, and being an instrument of sharing God’s love and presence…TRUE HEALING...(and as a current commercial says, PRICELESS).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


There’s a beautiful old melody, made famous by Nat King Cole, which begins, “It was fascination I know…” sharing the love story of an encounter that made a lasting impression. Perhaps, each of us has met someone who has touched us in a most special way…someone unforgettable, who has helped to shape our outlook and our life. Perhaps, today is an invitation to remember that person, savor the encounter, and give thanks for this blessing.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Lord’s presentation. We read in the Lucan Gospel about Simeon who waited a life-time for this holy encounter, and upon realizing this life-long goal, is most grateful for the blessing he has received, and is ready for the next phase of life.

Christ continues to be “presented” to us. We don’t need to ask when? Where? We know…in each and every moment of life…in everyone we meet…in ourselves. What will it take for us to realize our dream and not only believe He is here, but of embracing this holy encounter, and to move on with the next phase of our journey…to affirm His presence (and the impact He has had on our life)...and to make Him present by how we treat one another…by how we treat ourselves?

Of course, this is nothing new. We've heard it countless times...but we forget. A dear friend of mine, Fr. Gabriel, a Franciscan Friar who died a couple years ago at 95, loved to tell jokes. But he would always forget the punch-line, and would always say the same thing, "My memory is good. It's just short." So, too, is ours. Perhaps, more than our words and actions today, what we most need to do is take a moment to reflect on our life, and when we have experienced the Holy Mystery...and let that inspire our make it truly UNFORGETTABLE.