Thursday, November 29, 2012


   Some years ago I visited a rehab facility for people who suffered from severe accidents, especially head wounds.  A nurse took me around to visit the patients, many of whom could hardly lift their heads to see who was there before them.  I spoke to each one of them and offered a prayer and blessing for them.

   After we finished the rounds, the nurse told me she was going to resign the next day.  She said she had trouble coming to work every day because her work had so little success.  The job was simply too depressing for her.  It was Advent time, and the facility was decorated for Christmas.  That made her even more depressed.  "What does Christmas mean for my patients?" she asked sadly.  "Or for me?  I'm not really helping them."

   For a moment I let her sadness touch me.  I told her I understood the great challenge she faced.  Then I disagreed with her.  "You're here every day," I said.  "So you're accustomed to seeing your patients.  I just saw them for the first time, and I saw something that you're not seeing."

   Curious, she asked, "What do you mean?"

   "As we walked into each room and approached each patient," I explained, "I saw that each one of them was sitting there in deep sadness and loneliness.  But then, as each one of them saw you, they lit up and smiled, obviously happy that you had come to see them--to be with them and minister to them."

   My statement startled her into new awareness.  "Well I...  Well, I guess I'm so used to them, I don't notice..."

   I continued.  "Your patients are like the world at this time of the year, waiting in expectation for Christ to come, to bring joy, peace, new life and salvation.  Every day, they live through their own, very personal Advent, and every day you come to them and bring them a Christmas moment of joy and peace.  In a way, that's the most important thing you do for them.  For them, you are Christmas.  You come to them and stay with them for a while, and because of you, they know anew, every day, that they are not alone."

   I wished her well, and left.

   A few weeks later, I returned to the facility for another visit.  To my surprise, the nurse was still there.  She greeted me with a big smile.  "I want to thank you," she said.  "Every day now, I come to work with new joy and a renewed commitment to help my patients as much as I can.  I feel like a new person."

   As we look forward to celebrating the coming of Christ, I pray that all of us will find renewed ways to brings joy and peace to the world. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


   On the occasion of Thanksgiving Day here in America, I wish to say "Thank You!" to all of you who read this blog.  When I started it, I had no idea I would be reaching people in 51 countries!  

    Let us all thank God for the gifts, talents, possibilities and opportunities he is giving us, and let us express our gratitude and appreciation by committing ourselves anew to developing our gifts for the benefit of ever increasing justice, peace, faith, joy and love throughout the world.


Monday, November 5, 2012


   Recently Cardinal George of Chicago was quoted as saying, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."  He attributes this dire outlook to the problems created by aggressive, anti-religious secularism.  A few years ago, the Cardinal was reported to have said to Pope Benedict XVI that the church in America is being besieged by our culture.  So without a doubt, he sees the church under attack by a dangerous enemy, namely, the everyday world in which we live.

   Let's take a look at secularism.  "Secular" means, "of the ages," or more clearly, of space/time.  The space/time world is the everyday world that God created.  It is the world of nature, people, families, communities, nations, education, work and business, religion, science and the arts.  Space/time by its nature is incomplete; the space/time world is and always will be incomplete.  Sadly, the world's incompleteness is exacerbated by sin.  The incomplete, sin-containing world is the world that Jesus came to save, to bring it forgiveness and make it complete, beginning here in space/time and reaching its fulfillment in eternity.

   An essential part of our spiritual life depends on how we view and relate to the everyday, space/time world.  Cardinal George sees it and relates to it as an enemy to be defeated; Vatican II saw it as a world to be related to in open humility and service, a world to be listened to, learned from, and taught, uplifted and corrected on its space/time journey to eternal completion.  Most certainly, sin is our enemy, but the sinful, space/time world it not our enemy.  It is ourselves.

   Certainly there are segments of our culture that militate against religion.  Here we must distinguish between attacks against religion and against faith itself.  They are not the same.  An attack against religion is not necessarily an atheistic attack.  In fact, in could be an attack by believers in defense of their faith.  Sadly, one outstanding example of this is the opposition many Catholics are expressing against the way their leaders are expressing  our religion today.  If Cardinal George's religion is built upon power-oriented control over the world (and the laity), then he will see the world's opposition to him and his religion in a self-aggrandizing, paranoid way.  I wonder if this view is behind his prediction that his successors will die in prison and as martyrs.  I fear that the truth is more likely to be that they too will die in bed, totally disregarded by disheartened Catholics who have simply walking away from those leaders' self-aggrandizing, paranoid kind of religion.

   The disheartened Catholics will have been abandoned by leaders like Cardinal George and his successors, leaders who should have helped them relate openly, humbly and prophetically to the everyday, secular world, to deeply and spiritually understand it, i.e., to read the signs of the times and see God's intentions for it, and therefore work to heal, complete and save the world in the all-loving grace of Christ.