Thursday, December 19, 2013


"On that day, a shoot shall spout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the Lord's afflicted." These words from Isaiah chapter eleven were a message of hope for a people broken, bruised, battered, and afflicted. They, the chosen ones, were far from looking like being "chosen." They could even say "If this is what it means to be Your chosen, please do not do me any favors." Being the chosen of God has NEVER meant, nor does it do so today, that somehow life is going to be easy if you are one of the chosen. I was going to say a walk in the sunshine, but then the chosen people did have a long walk in the desert where the sun does hang out a lot. It lasted forty years. It was not an easy stroll; rather it turned out to be a long slog. (Kind of like our lives at times?) The account of that journey is a great source of comfort, encouragement, and wisdom for us as today as we make our journey as individuals, as families, and as a community of faith. It is so reassuring to know that no matter how far off, and to where "The Chosen" strayed, God as it were strayed with them. They acted as if He was not present for them, but that was their illusion. Over a period of time they were guided back to the right way and right relationship, and not always with their willingness intact.

        God does not need us to be perfect, in any way, for Him to accomplish His mysterious work.  He does His best work when we get to that place, in our desert journey, where we are forced to accept the fact that we are, ever will be perfectly imperfect. We will NOT get away with just mouthing the words. This acceptance of our innate imperfection has to be pain-fully drawn from the depths of who we are. This is the beginning of our faint, and often frightened "Yes" to our stump/stumps. The most convoluted "Yes," on our part is enough for the miracle of His grace to become operative in us. We are now becoming aware of our stumpy-ness. How many stumps we are faced with will be in direct proportion to our honesty. WE must also keep in mind this wonder-full reality, the more stumps we own the more blossoms and fruits our garden eventually will produce. Is it not great to see a root slowly produce its unique, wonder-full harvest? The place where once, to the naked eye, there was nothing of any value to be seen, now everything has changed. There is beauty, to enliven and delight us. There is nourishment for body, soul, and spirit. An abundance of life springs from those stumps. It is The Lord who has done, and will do that which to the human eye seems impossible.  A caveat, a warning, all that is now and has been bestowed on us is not for ourselves. Pope Francis keeps that hard, and for some, a very disturbing reality constantly before us. He is not too popular with some individuals who are not familiar with Catholic Social Doctrine. The Pope is NOT saying anything new. What has been said in the past has either been forgotten or was, at the time, ignored. WE are in constant need of being reminded of who we are, a chosen people whose origin is the womb of our Creator’s infinite love. Love is our origin and it is also the reason for our existence. We are to be DISTRIBUTERS of the gifts we have been entrusted to our care. We are not going to take anything with us. "There is no U-haul behind a hearse" (Graham) All is given, to be given away." All that we keep, we lose, and all that we give away, we keep. "I do not have to tell you what that is!”

              Honesty with who I really am in not easy. Thank God we are told that we grow into being honest. My journey into honesty began, the day I was able to own my dishonesty about being honest. My honesty was a little stump, so my ability to grow spiritually was frustrated. Honesty is a pre-requisite for growth. The presence of The Truth is essential for us to grow into our real truth. Our real truth the true self, is the person who God created and keeps in existence. When I am living a lie there is no God connection, hence we wander and wander as did The Chosen of long ago. It took a long time to grow into a willingness to be honest. "Once we admit we are honest about dishonesty, we are being, wait for it, being honest." This is a great paradox, meant to stretch us, as do all paradoxes. Ouch!!! I am at times willing to forego this stretching. I tell God “enough is enough” I am willing to stop, but somehow God chooses to ignore this willingness. Like a parent ignoring a child's unreasonable request!!! So the question has to be asked, will this stretching ever end? The answer, I am sad to say is, "as long as I am alive, I am and will be stretched." We know that stretching is essential for good health. We are encouraged to stretch for at least five minutes each morning. Whatever is healthy for us physically of necessity is essential for our spiritual health and growth.

                 This season of Advent is intended to sharpen our lenses. Advent is meant to provide new insights into old truths. Truths that have shrunk into unattractive and somewhat meaningless stumps. God will take flesh anew, as He does within each and in every moment of our daily living. The Angels will sing a familiar word that our Pope has given new meaning to. We are again to encounter the shepherds, the outcast within, sent to see and then become broadcasters, proclaimers of "The Good News of The Gospel." To proclaim the Reality which they saw, and then CAME to believe in. WE are asked to discover again, but in a new way, all those we encounter in the Gospel narratives. These are not places and events in a book; they are living realities within the depths of who we are. They are there, resting, in the patient expectation of being discovered. Some WILL appear as unattractive realities, but exposed to the transfiguring power of grace they reveal a beauty that is incomprehensible to the mind, but known to the spirit. There are no words to describe the happening mystery. Words are useless, what we can offer is reverential silence. It appears to be nothing. It is everything our true self wants, desires.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The.....Season .......of....... The....Surpriser

This year we have already been blessed and gifted with a surprise gift. This gift has appeared before the official, giving season. This gift is intended to enrich us individually, and collectively. The gift is the gift of a wish, "a dream." It comes to us from our Pastor-in chief, Pope Francis. In his writing of "The Joy of The Gospel," he has spelled out in pretty much real detail his dream for our Catholic Christian Church, CCC. (To get the full text of what the pope has written just Google, Pope Francis, "The Joy of The Gospel") I encourage you, no, I beg you to gift yourself with his power-full words. These words are meant to be drawn into the depths of who we are, where they will transform us. This will happen when we take the risk of saying "Yes." Yes to the challenging truth, which will lead us into ways ,and places unknown. "I believe, The journey of faith is of its essence a journey into the unknown. On this mysterious journey we have been given Mary as our model. Her "Yes," her "Fiat," is always pointed out as the reality to be followed. She did not know where her "Yes" was going to take her, neither do we. All we know is that we will never be alone. We will never be forsaken. We may feel alone, and/or forsaken, but deep within we never are. We cannot be, otherwise the scriptures lie, and God has reneged on His promise "to be with us always." "I believe Lord, help my unbelief/disbelief. This is also Merton's great prayer; "Lord God I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me..." If you do not know the rest, Google it and???

 Pope Francis has outlined a wonder-full, exciting, and challenging vision. It is, however, up to each one of us to take that vision within and respond according to the gifts that have already been bestowed up us by the Holy Spirit, (St.Paul)  Special gifts that have been set in place are within us so we will be able, if we so choose, to respond to the Pope's challenge to be  a "church of the poor, for the poor." The gifts of The Spirit are to used to grow worldly riches. On the contrary, we are warned all the gifts given are NOT for ourselves, but for the building up of the common good. (Paul) What a challenging, some would use the word radical, vision our Pope has for us. In one way there is nothing new in what Pope Francis is saying. While in another way he is leading us to a new and more radical understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian Church, rooted in Gospel values. This "radical living" has not been, nor will it ever be easy.

On the contrary, the certainty of death always awaits those who live the Gospel message. This "death" will come in many different ways, but it will come. Are we to be surprised? Of course not. We are, after all, followers of the historical Jesus. This is He, Who because of the nature of His mission and ministry, Jesus, the enfleshment of God was conspired against and killed. The Rabbi Jesus challenged the leaders of His own religion to change. They never got to the place where they were able to connect the voice of The Prophet Jesus, with the voice of God. They were not able to believe that "this Jesus of Nazareth," the local carpenter, and the God they believed in, were one. These outwardly good people when their security was threatened, conspired with the secular powers to condemn Him to death. Not just any death but the worst possible death, crucifixion. From this we learn that it does not pay to challenge the status quo. Those with vested interest will defend their "kingdoms" by all means at their disposal.  All one has to do is read the accounts of the opposition to what the Pope intends to do. As it was then, so it is now, and ever shall be until the end of time.

 Thank God our Pope is moving inexorable forward. He is not backing down from his vision that our Catholic Church, must be a poor church, for the poor. We poor, we come in many shapes, sizes and  disguises. We are catholic in our colors, black, white, yellow, brown, red, and all their many hues. We all belong to the great family of humankind. We all spring from the same Womb, so where does the fracturing come from? There is no division, only Oneness  in The Spirit from which we sprang. That original spiritual unity, must be reclaimed. We are encouraged to claim the fact that we are the beloved again and again, as often as we remember to do so. (Nouwen) We all share the common desire, and our need for acceptance and love. The Pope is pointing us in the direction of The Mercy-full, Prodigal love that is ever and always being offered to us. After all, we are the beloved, of The Beloved Lover. Love is always being offered to us, and as a result new life is being offered to us. However, we have to claim for ourselves, our church, and all of creation this ever "newness" in which Pope Francis is so fond. With him there is always a newness to our life. It is never "the same old same old."  How exciting!!! We are loved as we are, so we can become the actual dream our God has of us.


Monday, November 25, 2013

A...Mystery...We...May...(choose to)...Ignore

Another year has almost passed. All passing's must be celebrated for healthy living. That is why at this time we are in the midst of celebrating the ending of The Liturgical year. In the liturgical year, we take 365 days to reflect on the gift that comes to us in every moment, and nanosecond we are privileged to live. As we think of a second, or any given moment it is so sudden that we blink and it is gone. No big deal! How wrong we are. In each and every moment, every nanosecond, The Infinite, The Unknown, The Unknowable, is perfectly hidden and revealed. We can take each moment for granted and look to a future event to give us what is present, in this present moment. In this now moment comes to me all that I need. Many times because the "now moment" is not giving me what I want, I just blow it off and turn my attention to something else. I am even expecting that "something else, or somewhere else" to give me that which will never bring me peace, or happiness. As it was, so it is, and ever shall be. The Liturgical year's liturgical celebrations as it were, takes the mystery hidden and revealed in each sacramental moment, and does what with it? It extends, stretches the moment, through minutes, days, and weeks so are afforded the opportunity to not only look at, but be lead to see the ever newness of The Mystery, God. No two seconds, no two moments are the same. We may think so, but that thinking needs to be challenged. Without that ongoing challenge we will live a life-less, boring, self-centered, selfish life. Actually we do not live, we just exist. Then we are driven to look for a scapegoat to blame. We will want, we will need this scapegoat to carry the blame rather than take responsibility for our own inaction. "Growth begins, when blaming ends" (Powell). Darn that!!!
                        Our Liturgical celebrations, given a chance, afford us the opportunity, and the means to journey into the mystery of our lives  and there, encounter The Presence, The Mystery within. We are reminded that liturgy is what? (Before you read on, how do you answer that question? What is your personal understanding of the action you take part in each time you gather with other members of your faith community? Your understanding will color, for good or for ill, your participation in the liturgy.) Liturgy we are now given to understand, and accept, is "the WORK of the people." It is the whole community gathering together to honor and worship their God, present in Word, Sacrifice, and Sacrament. Each is invited, by our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, to come and celebrate their individual and collective participation in The Priesthood of Jesus, The Christ. Liturgy is not about our relationship with Jesus, but with Jesus The Christ.  Jesus The Christ, is the historical Jesus, Who has journeyed through death, Resurrection, Ascension, and now through His Spirit dwells not with (The Historical Jesus), but WITHIN each one of us. The Christ knows, from His lived experience as The Human Being, what it means to suffer, die, be buried, then rise, and ascend to send His Spirit to dwell within our depths. Jesus, The Christ, The One Whose Body we are called to be, and Whose priesthood we are consecrated to share in each liturgical gathering. This is just one of the wonder-full, mystery participation gifts that we are gifted with by our Baptism, but is either taken for granted or just ignored. As a result our participation in the liturgy is life-less, or nonexistent.
                           If The Mystery within our depths does not connect with the presence of The Mystery hidden and revealed in each celebration is there a reason? I wonder.  Is it because we do not  see our everyday life connected with our liturgical life? Do we see in each and every moment fodder for our next Eucharistic celebration? Each moment we live, we are encountering The Paschal Mystery we have been baptized into, but we do not consciously name the deep, hidden, reality of the moment. In each Eucharistic celebration as we proclaim, The Mystery of Faith, we are proclaiming publicly what has been so often a private experience. That is why our preparation for each coming celebration begins as we walk out the door of the place we have just worshipped in. All of our life experiences, no matter how "ordinary" they are, go into the new creation of who we are. This "new creation" will be brought, through a response to grace, to celebrate the newness of its creation. In the Sacred Meal celebration. there is a deepening, a solidifying of the relationship between Creator and creation. Liturgy celebration and the life we lead, then are one. The same Christ is present, and encountered in both. What a gift this liturgical year is. It gives us 365 days, 8,765.812 hours, and 31,556,926 seconds, so we can choose in what timeframe we choose to delve into The Mystery, to find that which will give an ever deepening meaning to the life we live. In this way we will not have "liturgy without soul." Our every moment soul journey will be an unending source of light, life, and love to be celebrated in The Liturgical celebration. Which leads to what.....???

Sunday, November 17, 2013


"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." M.Basho. Home is a word that will crop up in conversation a great deal over the next many days, and weeks. Time that, hopefully, we will live in, and not just, exist in. We will be asked the question, "Are you going home for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for the New Year, are I/we? We will hear the excitement in the voices of those who are blessed with the opportunity to experience this very spiritual event.  Like all that is really real, and so an essential part of this spiritual journey there are two realities to face. The positive side has been expressed in the above questions. Yet when we are honest, we have to also deal with this sad commentary, on that same reality, "I/we have to go home this year, and I/we, do not want to."  One reality two, two responses.  Some journey home with a mixture of both.  There is the excitement, tinged with fear and trepidation.  There is the excitement of reunion, but reunions carry the challenges of having to face unresolved issues. Issues that are part of our family story, hence an essential part of our own story. That is a reality we have to face whether we like it or not.
              To be healthy, we will have to face that which we prefer not to face, given a choice.  To be spiritually healthy we have to face our own fears, and journey into our own darkness.  It is then we are strong enough to face the familiar challenge.  The challenge that comes with belonging to a human, frail, finite family of origin. In so far as we allow ourselves to allow the process to happen within ourselves will we be bearer of the solution?  As opposed to being contributors to the ongoing, and ever so developing dysfunction.  Family life is messy, but as the messy-full-ness is dealt with the wonder-full and surprising gifts are bestowed on those who have the courage to dare face what is called "the family secret." "The secret," can be hidden, denied, medicated, but only for so long.  It will eventually, and not in a very acceptable way, come into the light of day.  That is a guarantee. "Whatever is whispered in darkness, will be shouted from the rooftops."  I cannot count the number of times I have seen this dynamic become part of oh so many, many families' reality.  Over these 50 plus years in ministry, I have come to accept, not understand, that the "holidays" seem to bring out the best, and the worst in individuals and families!!!  That saying:  "Every blessing is a curse, and every curse is a blessing" is so very mysteriously true when it comes to family.  Every family has "the family secret." Each individual's unhappinesses and difficulties can be traced in so many instances to their participation in the covering up and so denial of the secret which must be protected no matter what the cost.  Many, many, oh so many sacrifice themselves to death rather than divulge that which is known but never admitted. Kudos to all who are brave enough to speak the unspoken secret.  In speaking your truth, you are being a force for good in the ongoing creation of this world.  As you speak your truth, you must also accept that this is not you speaking, but The Spirit of Truth, God, within you.  Whenever we are dealing with real truth there within lies The Divine Presence.  As you speak the truth, you are never alone.
                        I was really stuck when it came to this blog.  No movement for a couple of days.  Then I went on a hike this morning, and took the struggle with me.  I have found out over the years, that when I have a challenge to face, Joe better take a hike.  On these particular hikes, I seem to get what I need to know not necessarily what I want to know.  Some of the truths that are placed before me, I would much prefer that they had never appeared."  The truth will set you free, but first it will tee you off."  In retrospect, I wish I had not started to reflect again on that opening quote, "Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."  Out of the blue the following questions popped into my head, Have I found a home on this life's journey?  Am I at home to all that the journey, I prefer hike, has brought, and is bringing to my consciousness?  Am I fully at one, at peace with the reality of the Joe I am constantly discovering?  If I am not at one, at peace, and so at home why not?  My Gracious Creator would have this wish for me.  That I may have life, and have it to the fullest, but this is not my reality.  After all the years of struggle, I still am not completely at home with who I really am.  I have to keep reminding myself of the fact I will never find real rest, real lasting peace on this journey. ("You have made us for Yourself O Lord, and we will NEVER rest until we rest in YOU.")  I will have temporary glimpses into what it means to be "at rest."  Because of "the changing moods of the human ear," they do not last.  In this struggle to be "at home," I have had to learn the hard way that "home-coming" to who one really is, is a process and not an event.  We are told "Home is where the heart is," and this begs the questions where your heart is, and what really is in your heart?  There is a reality that we are challenged to face, but only on a moment to moment basis.  Thank you God for never deserting me in those moments when I do not feel Your presence, Your gift of faith reveals that a feeling of Your Presence is not necessary for Your actual Presence.  I have been given a human heart with which to deal with my deepest, mysterious reality, "A spiritual being immersed in the human condition."How fickle human nature is, and what mystery lies within the human heart! We are challenged to find our home within this mysterious place we call the human heart."  Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging, and joy --the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the power of our light." Brene Brown.


Saturday, November 9, 2013


             The seasons we observe in Mother Nature are used as a paradigm for the seasons of our hearts and souls. As we reflect on the physical realities we are brought to the understanding, that  behind all that we see is a far deeper reality.  In all reality is perfectly hidden, and perfectly revealed, "The Real." What we see only touches the surface. To see beyond that surface we have to have the x-ray eye of faith. As we reflect on the vast treasures bestowed upon us by the combined reflections, of the artist, poet, writer, composer, and mystic something happens. We, as the result of these gifts, receive an invitation, or maybe a challenge to see, feel, experience, and celebrate the hidden spiritual realities which up until now had remained hidden. The autumn season had had great wonder for me, this year Autumn has come with a twist. Twists do add that something, like a twist of lemon in a cocktail?  I have read about that!!!

             Autumn this year for me is different, it has come with that twist which adds a certain something.  I am now having to deal with the reality  the challenge, of seeing and living this Autumn through the lenses of my personal Winter season. ( In the golfing parlance it is called, "playing the back nine" I just hope that when I am on the 18th green I will get a hint when lining up that "final putt.")  This is a whole new sacramental experience from which gifts will flow. Some will be welcomed, others will come as a challenge.  From each and every new experience I have been lead to believe something new will bubble up from within.  There will be a new understanding, a new little insight that was not there before. This/these insight(s) when accepted, and reverenced always results in change.

         I must wait for that bubbling up, which always happens.  This bubbling up is not on a timer, and so cannot be scheduled into the pattern of one's life.  Now I am being challenged to accept the reality, my Autumn has passed. I, also, have to own the fact there was no celebration in its passing. One can, and does allow one's self to be so caught  up in "the doing of life" that the  richness behind "the being of life" is never really seen, known or reverenced. What a void that leaves.  A void that sooner or later has to be filled up.  It will be filled up with  a deeper sense of gentleness, kindness, empathy and compassion. These are mysteriously bestowed as the  result of healthy grieving.  On the other hand, the void can and will be filled up with all kinds of dysfunction when the healthy grieving process is not experienced.  Then we are angry, cynical, vindictive, just to name a few. The grieving process is not easy. However, it is essential for a healthy, whole, holy life. There are no short cuts.

                   Being in the process,  I came across the following, and it spoke to me of one aspect of Autumn:  "A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes; the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives--all bear secret relations to our destinies." de Chateaubriand. Then here are some other reflections of the same reality:  "Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive Autumns." George Eliot. "No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face."  The mystical poet, John Donne.  "Autumn...the year's loveliest smile." William Cullen Bryant. "I love Autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it." Lee Maynard. "Fall colors are funny. They're so bright, and intense and beautiful. It's like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary." Siobhan Vivian, Same Difference.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another........Spring...... To.... Be.. ???

The last six months have been some of the best months of my life. Ever since Pope Francis was elected there has been such a wonder-full change. When things were, as an old friend would say, "not looking good," along comes The Holy spirit and blesses us. That Holy Spirit sure has a way of getting things done. As the result of these " workings," I have been blessed to be "bookended" by two great Popes. I was ordained into the church that was led into the new Spring which sprung from the reforms of The Second Vatican Council. This council was called into session by then Pope, and soon to be Saint John The Twenty Third. Pope John was elected just to be a caretaker Pope. To keep the church going until a certain cardinal would be old enough. The Holy Spirit had other plans. The result was truly earth shattering, or more to the point "church-shattering." Those early years were amazing. There was springing up of ministry, upon ministry to meet the challenges that came about with the empowerment of the laity. It was no longer father's church, parish, pastoral council etc. it was the people's. Then words like collaboration, inter-dependance, team building, shared responsibility, accountability,  job description, evaluation, paper trail, etc., became part and parcel of our vocabulary. Unfortunately that did not last very long.

Change is unsettling, and triggers a  great deal of fear. Fear, as we know is the opposite of faith. Does not that leave a great question to be asked, and answered with time??? Let us be honest about what happened. Honesty frees us to live in the truth. The truth will set us free, but not before it tees us off. Anger brought to faith-full prayer is the way to compassion. For those of us who have trudged the road, it was sad to see, and even harder to bear, the pendulum swings backwards. As a result, "The good old days" eventually became the present day reality. We had to endure so much of what was the vision of Vatican II, it was regulated to the back burner, and the power was turned off.  There the reforms sat alive, but dormant. That was our sad reality for decades."Man proposes, but God disposes," right? That "dormant" stage was not to be a lasting reality. God's great sense of humor, and mysterious timing has been again  revealed through the workings of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that blessed our Faith with John the Twenty Third has now gifted us with Pope Francis.  It is by no means a stretch of the imagination to say that another Spring Season has been bestowed upon us. We are on that dusty road, a road that has not been travelled for many years, which is leading us to regain the true vision of who we really are. We are being reminded of the fundamental fact that we all, humankind, are the beloved of our Gracious Mother/Father God. We are loved as we were loved in the eternal womb. Nothing changes, or can change that so simple a reality. We are loved as we are by a God Who does not or better still, CANNOT change Her/His love for us. It is only when our lenses are tweaked do we lose focus on who we are in the love of our  Infinite Lover. Since we are loved with an infinite love we will never, in this life ever have even the remotest idea of what it means to be loved by The Infinite Spirit of Love. What we can ever imagine that to be, will not even be close. Dream, and dream big, of what it means to be loved without condition, restriction, or reservation, sad to say we will not be close. Is it not sad that we settle for limited, restricted, and conditioned, as the way we are loved by our Eternal Lover. That it's right we have been loved from eternity by this Love. A love we are told we must claim again, and again, every moment of our lives. This must be a real commitment on our part, so the commitment of our Beloved may be reverenced, and celebrated. We cannot earn, deserve, or qualify for this, it is a pure unadulterated gift. It is so great that we are inclined to not only question the extent of this love, there are those who question its very reality. It is just plain too good. As one author wrote, "If it is too good then it is God."  Why is it that we are more ready to accept the negative without question, but question the positive???

That  reinforcement of Pope Francis of lovability of each individual, no matter what, brings us back to a simple truth. This simple truth, our Pope wants us "keep simple," not complicate it. That is ego at work. We must remind ourselves, again and again, we are the beloved.  We are loved just the way we are. Is this easy? No way. It is a moment to moment struggle, especially when we are alone, on our own. When one spends time alone it's more like doing hard time. When alone we have to face again and again our issues of "negativity, addiction, fear, and control" (Rohr). From my own experience it does not get any easier. As I spend time away from the distractions of the world, I have mistakenly so imagined it would get easier. On the contrary for me it getting more and more challenging. When I get to the point of where I think I cannot be surprised any more, I am surprised, big time.

The journey into the depths of our broken humanity really leaves one broken, bruised, beaten, just like Someone else. The One we call, The Crucified One. Through the experience of each and every crucifixion we are lead into an ever deepening encounter with The Crucified One within. As a result, the Resurrection becomes an ever deepening reality as well. All this is summed up in "no pain, no gain."  So listening to the 
Pope speak about his limitation has given me permission to grow in honesty with my sinfulness. Knowing it is only through the acceptance of my screwed-up-ness that I can have a vital relationship with The God "of mercy and compassion." In this way, I am brought to deep understanding of The Living Father-God that Jesus, The Christ spoke about  in 75% of  parables. So now my life becomes a parable. Parables do not answer questions, they draw one deeper into The Question.
The following is something I wished I had read so many years ago. Then I have to remind myself of the adage, "When the student is ready, the master  appears." This is what one of my "masters," Henri Nouwen, has written. "As soon as we are alone...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again.

Entering a 
private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires.  On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves in full force. We, (I am so guilty here) often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude
all the more important." Not any easier, but......"more important." This I have to accept, not like!!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


 “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin, and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our will. This point of nothingness and of ABSOLUTE POVERTY is the pure glory of God in us...It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in EVERYBODY, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely...I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.” These are the famous words of Thomas Merton which I first read as I was reading a book of Henri Nouwen's thoughts. They really startled me, and have been food for thought over the years. What great treasure lies, sometimes undiscovered, in our spiritual tradition. Thank God our Pope is leading us, as one writer has so aptly put it, down “dusty roads.” These so called “dusty roads” are leading us back so we can again be encouraged, and revitalized.

             Our Pope is not saying anything that is really new. All he is brave enough to do is to remind us of who we really are in “the unconditioned, unlimited, unrestricted love” of our Gracious Prodigal Father. He is not saying in which has not already been taught in theology class. Maybe because there has been a lack of healthy theology flowing from the pulpits, that we are not aware of whom we really are in the love of our Mother/Father God. How many sermons are given on how difficult it is to commit a mortal sin?  Those words “mortal sin” are thrown around like shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day. There is no teaching of what state of consciousness is required by church law for the committal of such a sin? It appears that grave matter, perfect knowledge, and full consent are not preached anymore. This leads to people confessing as mortal sin that which is venial sin. It results in Catholics living in unnecessary guilt, because they are not informed as to the true teaching of Catholic Morality. There is a constant struggle to bring penitents to a healthy understanding of what sin really is. This actually takes up a great deal of time in the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. When asked what sin really is, so very, very few can give a theologically correct answer. There is always the possibility you are told you do not know how to do your job, because one does not buy into their messed up theology. There can quiet a conversation!!! It at times leads to the confession of a root sin, which has never been really been dealt with. It was “glamorous” enough. Really!!!!  There is so much to be done in this field. That is why now we hear so many shocked gasps when the Pope is only teaching the REAL TRUE theology of the church. Some want to make excuses, “He really did not really mean that.” Let us be honest, the emphasis has not been on what is right with us, i.e. Merton’s  words above, so we are not geared, disposed to hear the good news. We are not disposed to readily accept the fact that we are ever and always the beloved of our gracious Father/Mother creator. That is why I love that quote; “God help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful.”

      As I reflect on my days in Dr.Lennon's Moral theology class I remember that the first thing that was pointed out was that mortal sin was as the result of the human action of a person. A human act was the result of a knowing mind and a consenting will. No one can judge the individual state of mind of another person. That is why a confessor is taught to listen to the person’s story. Any story has so many levels to it. That which we are conscious of and then there is the unconscious acting out. Any action can only be judged to be such a sin by the informed conscious of the individual. Not in the estimation of the confessor. The confessor can point out the gravity of the action. What sin it is, mortal or venial, lies in the existential, the here-and-now, and state of mind. Our action will reflect the relationship, as it is being lived out right now, between us and God. Sin has to do with the frame of mind of the person at the moment, not 5 seconds later, nor 5 minutes later, nor 5 years later. We must remember all the circumstances of the moment will have an effect on our freedom, and our ability to respond, and so, be responsible.

          Sin is the free, deliberate, conscious decision to knowingly reject God's love and choose that which is opposite. It has to be the deliberate, thought-full rejection of Goodness so as to choose a destructive evil. It is to say to God, consciously, “I am by this action rejecting your love, and the possibility of heaven, and choosing to go to hell, a place where Your love is not. I want to be separated from You, beginning here and now and for all eternity.” We must also keep in mind that of all the billions who have passed through this world the church has never taught that even one of those billions is in hell. There have been some bad “dudes” and "dudettes" on this space ship of ours and we teach no one is definitely in hell. Here is something I have said so often, I can now use it in a sermon without a note:  “God’s mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but rather to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and our failings, and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says I am too sinful to deserve God's Mercy. It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride” Henri Nouwen “A cry for Mercy.”

Monday, October 14, 2013


"Mercy within Mercy within Mercy" these are the words of Pope Francis telling  me he is familiar with the work, and words of Thomas Merton. As you may well know I just love the wisdom of Thomas Merton. It was a number of years ago I  was real lucky to read his book, "Love and Living." It was a real grace-full experience, actually it could be called an encounter, because of the continued change that has been part of my life since. There is a wonder-full chapter in that book entitled, "Climate of Mercy." The reading of, and then further reflection of what that chapter had to offer effected me. It resulted in me being opened up, unfortunately very slowly, to a new understanding of the mercy of our Gracious Prodigal Father. As a matter of fact, I made it a point to make that available to many, many others over the years.

It was in there I read the words of an English Mystic describing the mercy - full God as, The One who "Abides patiently, He forgives easily, He understands mercifully, He forgets utterly." That was a new, exciting, freeing, enlightening, and enlivening understanding of God, and the way He sees me. I was formed in the very opposite understanding so this is what I was seeking and searching for, for so long. (I really believe now, that saying, "When the student is ready, the master appears.")I also read the following later in that same chapter; "The mercy of God shows the sinner to himself, no longer as essentially opposed to truth but as reconcilable with it." I later learned that reconciliation is a process, and a slow process at that. It happens, through the mystery of grace, as one falls more and more deeper into the bath, filled to the brim, with the soothing, healing, comforting oil of the mercy of God. We will do anything to avoid this "fall." We will go to terrible extremes, and cause tremendous havoc before we ultimately fall into the compassionate, loving, reconciling embrace of our Prodigal Father. Merton goes on to write: "Mercy heals in every way. It heals bodies, spirits, society, and history. It is the only force that can truly heal and save...Mercy heals the root of life by curing our existence of self-devouring despair which projects its own evil upon the other as a demand and accusation. We are enabled by God's gift to become merciful, we are given the power to understand mercifully, to accept and

to pardon the evil in others, not as a fruit of some Godlike magnanimity rooted in our own justice, but first of all as the fruit of self-knowledge which is liberated from the need to project its own evil upon the other" "To receive mercy and to give it is, then, to participate in the of the new creation and of redemption."

Last week that word "hesed" appeared in a quote as the Hebrew for the Greek "eleos" which is mercy in English. Merton spells it as "chesed." He describes chesed in the following quote from, "Seasons of Celebration:"  The chesed of God is a gratuitous mercy that considers no fitness, no worthiness and no return. It is the way the Lord looks upon the guilty and with His look makes them at once innocent. This look seems to some to be anger because they fly from it. But if they face it, they see that it is love and that they are innocent.(Their flight and their confusion of their own fear make them guilty in their own eyes.) The chesed of God is truth. It is infallible strength. It is the love the seeks and chooses His chosen, and binds them to Himself.  It is the love by which He is married to mankind, so that, if humanity is faithless to Him, it must still always have fidelity to which to return to: that is His own fidelity. He has become inseparable from man in the chesed which we call "Incarnation," and "Cross," and "Resurrection." He has also given chesed in the Person of His Spirit. The Paraclete is the full, inexpressible mystery of chesed. So that in the depths of our own being there is an inexhaustible spring of mercy and love. Our own being has become love. Our own self has become God's love for us, and it is full of Christ, of chesed. But we must face and accept ourselves and others as chesed."I guess that is why said "Be who you already are."

As we look further into the understanding of mercy we can see where our Pope Francis is coming from. It is up to each one of us, as the church of the poor for the poor, to get into touch with that chesed within. There will be a great connection with the journey into our own poverty, and the healing, soothing, and comforting we will experience. Because "the people are the church," so then wherever we are, there is the church. Is not this is a huge dignity and responsibility? We have to face this question, what is the quality of mercy that we are offering to those who are so desperately seeking, and searching for. This seeking and searching is so often in the unconscious and needs to be loved into to consciousness. We also have to face the fact that that the quality we bestow on ourselves will  be that which we can sincerely offer to another. As we make Merton's understanding of mercy, chesed a deepening reality there will be people paced in our lives for a reason. The reason for their presence is that we impart to them the gifts of empathy, understanding, and compassion that are now ours. Gifts that have appeared not through any success of ours but because of our many failures, and failings. I sometimes see God's mercy as a great giant hot tub into which I can lower that part or parts that need to experience soothing, comfort and healing. This hot tub is always open for you and for me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


"Mercy..." "...Mercy…" and still more "Mercy," is the word we are hearing again and again from Pope Francis. Our, Pastor of Pastors, is in reality just reminding us, and I am in the need of being constantly reminded of a gift that is always being offered. We must also be cognizant of the fact that 75% of the parables of Rabbi Jesus were about the mercy and compassion of God.  Jesus, Who became The Christ, is seen as the enfleshment of the mercy of God. We are  all in the constant need of "the medicine of mercy." Thanks to our Prodigal Father-God it is always made available to us. All that needs to be done is ask for mercy, and forgiveness, and it is ours.  We can use the words put into the mouth of the publican by Jesus," Lord, God be merciful to me a sinner."  We also have in our spiritual heritage, The Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Our Pope encourages us to keep asking for forgiveness. Why is he so encouraging us?  Simply  because our Prodigal loves to forgive. So then let God do what God does best. The "best of God," meets the worst of us and in this encounter a new reality is created through the action of creative love. We are required to reverence this new reality that has resulted from the encounter  of opposites. We can never understand the miracle of grace, only gaze in awe-full wonder as we are drawn into a new, and unimaginable reality. This is God's deepest wish: "I will, not the death of the sinner,  rather that he be converted and live." Let us then, just have the desire for this miracle of grace to happen and in the depths of our being, a new creation will take root. It is only in Kairos time, God's time, will we become aware, ever so slowly of this new life now breaking through. The image of a wondrous flower breaking through the brown earth, in a very out of the way place, comes to mind. It will not have much of an impact on the world but to our world an inexhaustible source of joy has entered.

          That word "converted,"  from which we have, "conversion," is a great word.  It means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. It also involves a new way of seeing. To be converted then is to admit, to own the fact that we are going in the wrong direction and seeing in a spiritual unhealthy manner. We need then a new way of seeing, leading to a new way of being. This is not easy. It is tough to go through a conversion. Yet on this hike/ journey we have to be converted again and again. Always changing, always seeing anew, and never ending. This can only happen under the guidance of The Creative Loving Spirit. Since the spirit is invisible, we will not be able, with the naked eye, to actually see the process that is taking place. May I be so bold as to suggest a new understanding of mercy is essential for an ever evolving healthy spirituality. This will lead to the freedom envisioned by God for you and I.

      What then is the life enriching understanding of that word mercy which is so much part of our Pope's vocabulary, as in the following.  "A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold, and more just." What warmth, what compassion, what understanding, what acceptance, has exuded from our Pope. He speaks to us of the God of mercy and he encourages us to administer "the medicine of mercy." Mercy as medicine? New to us in the Latin church but not in Orthodox spirituality. One writer has suggested that The Pope has borrowed the Orthodox understanding of mercy. The Orthodox understanding really expands that old narrow understanding of mercy as just  being about the forgiveness of our sins. I have found, over the years, that mercy as understood in other languages has really broadened its meaning for me. The following has brought about about a great personal conversion, which has resulted in a new freedom. The following is being offered for your personal reflection, and spiritual nourishment: "The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. The word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, olive oil: a substance which was used exclusively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured into the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for "Lord, have mercy are "kyrie, eleison" that is to say, "Lord soothe, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love. Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal a very western interpretation but to the infinite loving-likedness of God, and His compassion for his suffering children!"(Orthodox Worship)

             So we can see what the Pope is driving at. Mercy is that which sooth the pain that sin brings into our reality. Mercy is there to comfort those who are in some way victimized by acts contrary to the universal law of love.  It brings healing to the beaten, broken, betrayed, exploited of our sisters and brothers. Healing Sin, as I think of it now is:  a non loving act which in some way  makes it  now more difficult for me or another to freely respond to the offer of God's love. Sin is that action or non- action by which the loving, creative action of God is opposed or hindered. I have to face sin in relationship to myself, my neighbor, God, and all of creation. Wounds can happen so suddenly, but it takes time, sometimes, a long, long time for the healing to take place. Healing cannot be rushed, darn it, how often have I wished it were otherwise!!  This is getting too long, right?? Will continue next blog D.V.


Saturday, September 14, 2013


"Have mercy on me, O God, in accord with Your mercifulness; in abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. For I know my transgressions; my sin is ever before me. Against you only have I sinned; I have done evil in your eyes...My sacrifice O God, is a contrite heart, a contrite, humbled heart you will not scorn. 'From this Psalm 51 we see that humankind's need for mercy has been around for a long, long time. That need continues for us today because of who we are. We as "spiritual beings," are forever and always, having to face what "immersed in the human experience" is constantly revealing to us. Some of the revelations give cause to celebrate. We are the beloved daughters/sons of a Prodigal Father whose infinite-love- vision of us never changes. As we are immersed in the confining limits of a broken humanity we do not readily see, or believe all that is ours because of who we are. Because we, at least for me, are not able to be conscious of our inner dignity.  We can live our lives in estrangement, not knowing what to do. We are lucky, however that our Prodigal Father, out of His infinite love for us, sent us His Beloved Son, Who became enfleshed, became incarnated, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The historical Jesus, who became The Christ of God, was the revelation of fullness of the infinite, mercy-full, love of our God. Out of His personal love, for you and me and all of creation, He assumed our broken humanity. Why would The All Powerful One empty Himself of His divinity, and be immersed in a broken humanity?  Simply put, through His life, His mission, His ministry the Prophet Jesus would model for us how to move from estrangement to oneness, to unity, and eventually to peace. By entering the human condition God "conferred on human nature immortal value."  The Mystery of The Incarnation calls us, no, challenges us to see our humanity as evolving into an everyday, every moment, of newness. We are asked, and indeed challenged to enter this mystery, as we are with all mystery, with an attitude of reverence, and respect. We do this with the knowledge that we are never going to solve the mystery; we are however, going to be drawn deeper and deeper into, said mystery. This journey is endless in this life. We must not be discouraged by our limited knowledge, and vision. The Holy Spirit, The Wisdom of God, is in charge of this journey and She will make sure all that we need is right there before us. All that we will ever need will be there, when we need it and as we need it. Notice the word want was not used. There is such a difference between what we need, and what we want. "God takes care of our need, not our greed"( Ghandi).  Our Shepherd God will make sure that we, His sheep, and lambs are going to be led to running waters, and green pastures. To the good grazing fields of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and freedom. As we are journeying through the darkness of the valley, and this IS a certainty, we will have The Light of Lights to guide us securely on our way. We will never wander to a place where the Good Shepherd will not seek, and search for us. According to the scriptures it seems that the lost sheep get special care and attention.  In The Cloud of Unknowing the author says that God seems to do His best work with HABITUAL SINNERS.  "Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more." There is such hope and consolation contained in the healthy spiritual writers. We seem to have forgotten their tenderness, or choose to ignore it!!! 


                We do not have to know how this miracle of grace happens. It is none of our business. This is in the realm of The Divine.  All of our God's workings are way beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. All we have to do is simply allow it to happen.  Easy to do?  No way. We will have to go to war; do battle with the egocentric ego, the false self takes. This false self, where The Father Of Lies makes his dwelling will offer what APPEARS to be a better way, a more attractive one.  It will appear to be "An easier and a softer way."  As a result we will stray, go our own way and get lost.  How often will this happen?  As long and as often, as it takes for us to wake up and admit, this way is not working, there must be a better way.  Usually, we will slowly have to let go, the way of the false self, with all the pain and suffering which has become part of our so-called life. We are NOT living; we are existing. The way of the false self buys us nothing but a ticket to the dungeons, the hellish prisons of guilt, fear, and shame. We will have many encounters with that good old toxic trinity before we will awaken to the real truth, and follow the healthy way.


        Sheep and lambs do not have to know the path; all that is necessary is that The Good Shepherd knows the trail. The sheep know, recognize The Voice that calls them by name and then follow.  (That is the same Voice who is always calling us. Calling us by our unique name. A name that has been chosen for us. A name most of us will never know, so the mystics tell us. Pretty neat to have God personally choose a name for us.)  They follow that voice even though the trail may be rocky, and steep. They follow knowing there will be rest, refreshment, and safety at journey's end. For the sick, the weak, the injured there will be comfort, care, and time to rejuvenate. All their care is provided by the kind, compassionate, mercy-full, loving, tender presence and actions of the shepherd who is good. That is what a good shepherd does. In his mission and ministry, The Good Shepherd showed Himself to be everything that one could expect from a good shepherd, and even more. Jesus showed Himself to be mercy-full, healing, comforting, compassionate, kind, accepting, The Presence, and The Revelation of Love.  While on earth The Historical Jesus went before the apostles and they followed Him. Now that Jesus is The Risen Christ, He now travels with, and within each one of us. While on earth, He was not able to do that. We can say now that we have The Guidance System to guide and direct us through the darkness of the deep valleys, and its challenging trails, on our way to the eternal sheep-fold.  Darkness is not dark to the One Who is Light. Such is shinning within our depths, lighting our way to the treasure, to the pearl of great price that is waiting for us to discover. 



Wednesday, August 28, 2013


As a consequence of my being, "a spiritual being, immersed in the human experience," there are zillions of questions seeking answers. Why does it we seem to never get a satisfactory, complete answer? All the answers I seem to get just lead to another new question, which leads to another new answer, which leads to another new question. Duh!!! I get tired, and very frustrated. I want it to stop. That "I," who wants this to stop, is my ego, my false self, not my true self. My true self is always seeking and searching for who it is, in the unconditioned, unlimited, unrestricted love of A Prodigal-father-God.  What the "I," the false self is, is an end to that endless moment to moment battle, fought in the depths of our souls.  It is a battle which the false self cannot win, but goes down fighting every inch of the way. Joe has to become reconciled with that endless searching, seeking, and ever deepening journey into the "beyond" of everything, and everyone. I have come to the realization that as it is, in the sacrament of the now moment, so it was, and ever shall be, a journey into the ever mysterious, Beyond. This Beyond exists outside time and space, and outside the ability of words to communicate such a Reality. Thomas Aquinas reminds us "whereas we can come a knowledge of the existence of God, we will never come to a knowledge of the essence of God."


          So many of us are drawn to the ocean, and its many looks, voices, and moods. Our journey into the mystery of God, is like a person entering an ever receding sea. The endless, mysterious ocean, is a common metaphor used by the spiritual writers. Even at this stage on my life's journey the ocean still stirs within me something in which I fail miserably in my efforts to communicate. There is a certain reality which is deep, deep within, and aching to be expressed. The desire is there but, for some reason the vehicle, the language to express  such  reality, I am sad to find out, has been lost. In the past, the ability to communicate at such deep levels was present within humankind, what a gift we have been deprived of and why? So we settle for conversation about the accidentals of life, and never wonder why we are not satisfied. The restlessness we all experience will be with us until we hear those words of welcome to our eternal home," Come you who are the blessed of my Father inherit this eternal kingdom..." We will then find eternal rest, and peace in that place, from which in reality, is our place, of origin. What a mysterious circle we are called travel.


             "You are never too old and it is not too late to dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out it's secret... (so) Deeply I go into myself. My God is Dark, and like a webbing made of roots that drink in silence." So Rilke writes. He also writes that we: "Believe in the love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have Faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so LARGE that you can travel as far as you wish without stepping

outside of it...the only journey is within." Despite what my ego wants, to stop all this journeying into uncertainty, the true self will be restless until it rests in its, True Home. This true Home we are given just an introduction to, on this part of the journey. We get a taste of what is awaiting us, so as to encourage us to continue 'our trudge," through this "vale of tears."  We call these moments, our moments on The Mount of Transfiguration. 


Remember how the prophet Jesus, before His "passing over," revealed to The Big Three, Peter, James, and John, His inner light, on The Mount of Transfiguration where His divinity shone through His humanity. Was this to show off? Of course not. It was done so that they would have an inner, deeper, understanding to strengthen them so they would be able to face the coming apparent disaster. Jesus wanted to reveal to them that He was so much more than what they thought, saw, or understood. It was through a long, pain-full process before those Apostles came to understand Who this Prophet, Rabbi Jesus really was. They had to move beyond their relationship and understanding of the historical Jesus, The One who was "WITH THEM" daily as a fellow human being. What an authentic human being that Jesus was. WE do not place enough importance on the humanity of Jesus, through which Our Gracious, Mercy-full, God is revealed to us. Jesus is God in human form.  They too, had to endure a death and resurrection so that they could grow into a new enlightening, and enlivening relationship with the Risen Christ. What agony those early disciples, our ancestors in faith had to endure so that their understanding of the historical Jesus, Who was with them, could give way to the birthing of The Christ, "WITHIN THEM." I wonder how often did the Big Three return in memory to those sacramental moments on their Mount of Transfiguration? I wonder what part that played when question and doubt invaded their hearts, soul and minds?


   The Big Three had only one visit to the Mount, of which we know. We, on the other hand, have many, many visits to that sacramental place, and space. But are we aware of that which is happening to us? Yes, we are privileged to journey again, and again to the place of transfiguration. Jesus "took with Him, Peter, James, and John" up the mountain.  The spirit of that same Jesus, who became the Christ, is with us as we enter our moments of encounter with transfiguration.  These are the sacramental moments when the hidden Presence, breaks through, and we are not able to say anything, but, WOW!!! We, like Peter are tongue tied.  We have no real words to express that depth of feeling welling up from deep inside. We are in those "wow" moments caught up in the wonder, the mystery, The Presence of that which is beyond, thought, feeling, and emotion, it is The Beyond. Is it not very sad when people, places, events, actions, enter into the realm of the familiar? There is no sense of the sacred, the holy. Then we see that person, place, etc. as something we take for granted. We are then well on our way to our own private hell. We are condemning ourselves to dwell in that heartless, soul destructive, life destroying, awe-less, place we call, The Land of the Ordinary, and the Familiar. These two lands do not exist in God's creation. They are illusions we ourselves create, or are forced by the circumstances of poverty, and violence to inhabit. Unless we break free we will just exist, not live. We will die, without ever having lived. How sad is that?