In her latest post, “Creativity During Advent”, Vinita Hampton Wright invites us to imagine that Jesus is going to be born in our neighborhood. The following is where my imagination took me.

It is a somber, grey, cold day in my part of the world. The hill behind my house is lost in a cloud. I can’t even imagine how the Jura looks this morning. It is a bit lonely in my big house, half of which is covered up by the painters’ tarp. A fire was started in the stove, with wettish bark. It created hoodles of smoke which started the fire alarm. The phone rang. The security agency calling to know if they were to phone the firemen. My husband was running all over the house opening windows to let the smoke escape.

This is when I heard the bell ring at the old front door. I rushed downstairs to answer, afraid a neighbor had been alarmed as well. But no, at the door, a man and a pregnant woman — both looking as if coming from a Southern country.

“My car just broke down. I was driving my wife to the closest hospital. I see you have a car in your driveway. Could you take us?” Suddenly the young woman clutches the front-door in pain. Water runs down her legs. “I can’t go further. I can’t.” Panic fills her eyes and her husband frantically racks his brain to find a solution. “I have a bedroom upstairs. Can you take her there?” He looks at me, afraid for her. Then, he takes her in his arms and follows me.

We walk through an empty corridor, a freshly painted staircase, another corridor, to our bedroom, where a wood fire sings in the stove. “But it’s your room,” he says. “I know, but it’s the only one I can offer you at this time.”

He helps her remove her clothes. I bring her a housedress she can lay down in. “Oh, dear, I believe the baby is coming.” While he talks to her soothingly, I call to my husband asking him to boil some water and prepare a basin. It will not be easy to find clean towels — they have all been put away for the renovation. I google “emergency birth at home” and we follow the instructions. Suddenly the head appears, the shoulders, the baby slips out — small, perfect, unique. He lets a cry out.

Now it is time to straighten up room to leave the mother and her baby boy in a safe environment. The baby is fast asleep on his mother, both exhausted and happy.

“Would you mind if I gave a few phone calls? Could my family come and see the new baby?” I nod and smile. Forgetting my usual selfishness, I can’t see any problem with more strangers coming to our house.

Within minutes, a couple of cars park outside, by the church. Her husband is waiting outside and take the new arrivals upstairs to the infant. A while later, our bedroom is filled with happy people, surrounding the mother and her baby in the bed. “A new life is a blessing to all,” they all repeat. There is kindness and joy flowing through the room and the whole incomplete house.

Our daughter and Sasha her dog are returning from their morning walk. Smelling something afoot, Sasha rushes upstairs barking. She’s coming to the bedroom and an older man bends toward her, calling her softly, his hand out to pet her. She calms down right away. Her mistress arrives just then and smiles at the man. She calls her dog and takes her back downstairs.

The visitors do not stay long, understanding the mother and her baby need to rest. The new Dad sits next to the two of them beaming. As the family and friends leave the house, the older man turns to me with a soft, gentle smile. “Thank you for inviting my son and his wife in. You’re very kind. If you have a prayer, tell God. I’m sure he’ll answer it.” I wave goodbye and they’re all gone.

I sit in the kitchen, pondering his suggestion. I know. “Dear God, give me the grace to open my house to those in need of a place to rest.”A

Image

My blog on blogger has been hacked. The Apple technician, with a tendinitis, cannot help me at the moment. So I will attempt to post here and see how it goes.

Paul and I are just back from six weeks in Manresa, Spain, where we were invited to go deeper into Ignatius’ autobiography and spiritual diaries, the sources of his Spiritual Exercises and how they developed over his lifetime; some of his letters; the origins and foundation of the Society of Jesus; its first Companions; its voluminous archives (Monumenta); its Constitutions; and, finally, Ignatian spirituality for today. Add to this daily morning prayers and evening masses, an eight-day silent retreat the second week, and a walking tour of Manresa where Ignatius lived nine months in 1522-23 (there he prayed, fasted, worked, meditated, had visions, and fell sick…), and trips to Montserrat, Loyola, Javier, and Barcelona.

We were thirty-five participants from fourteen different countries (with large contingents from India, the Philippines, Australia, and the U.S.). Our youngest member turned 32 during the Course and the older participant was 76. A majority of men and Jesuits, some religious sisters, a few laypeople and just one couple, Paul and me.

The Course was made of seven modules, the second one being the silent retreat, with one transition day in-between each. Those days were meant to help us process all that had been given to us (e.g. the medieval origins of the Autobiography, connecting the Spiritual Exercises with mysteries in our faith; the personalities of Ignatius’ first companions; the importance of Juan de Polanco in the creation of the Society of Jesus, his importance as well in the writing of the Constitutions and Ignatius’ very unique style of participative management. Finally, the new cosmic theology and new ways of looking at Jesus’ teachings (e.g. table fellowship, inclusiveness and openness to sinners and marginalized folks).

Our lecturers are all University teachers, whether at the University of Barcelona, Javier Melloni SJ (a scholar and writer of many books, involved in inter-denominational dialogues); Jose García de Castro, from Comillas University in Madrid, with an insatiable love for archives and books, able to pass on his passion for old papers and the first Jesuits; Carlos Coupeau, SJ, from both Boston U. and the Gregorian University in Rome, who helped us understand the composition and intent of the Constitutions; and finally George Pattery SJ, from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth in Pune, India, who introduced us to a cosmic vision of the Spiritual Exercises, bringing together Ignatius’s cosmic experience on the banks of the river Cardoner with Teilhard de Chardin’s very own understanding.

This time out-of-time was made possible thanks to the support and care of Josep Sugranyes SJ, the Director of the Course, Joachi Salord SJ a wonderful patient and ever smiling shepherd to us all, and Asun Puche, the Course’s feminine smile and intelligent presence.

Dear to everyone of us, as well,  were the women in the kitchen who fixed three meals a day and two snacks, making sure we could sustain those brains of ours so heavily taxed at times. Teams of us worked along them, clearing and setting tables, and drying dishes. Our Spanish improved at their side; we even caught a couple of Catalan words.

I come back with my head filled with images of young noble men giving up their wealth and station in life to walk thousands of miles across Europe, begging on the way, their hearts filled with love for Godde and her creation. Finding Godde in all things…

I think of the many women who helped Ignatius all throughout his life, the very first persons who were guided by him through his Spiritual Exercises, those who cared for him when he was on death’s doorsteps, who paid for his studies and his many journeys, many of these women asking him to become a Jesuit themselves.

My heart is filled with the graces of many moments, looking out to the mountains of Montserrat, inspired with a Spirit of openness, adventure, and longing. I catch myself humming songs sung every day or for special moments. I remember holding Ignatius’ begging bowl…

We drove home with boxes of books to read and a list of more to buy, papers and lectures to process and digest, a longing for prayer, quiet times, long walks, and notes to write.

Many times in Manresa I wondered what I had done to deserve such a blessing and grace to be there in the very place where he had prayed, met Mary and Jesus or understood the Trinity. I hope to share some insights received here, because I cannot stand the idea of keeping all this to myself.

Blessings and joy.

Photo: Statue of in Loyola, Ignatius wounded in the Battle of Pamplona, 

30 May 1521.

I have recently returned to Joyce Rupp’s book Fresh Bread and came a poem on page 86 which reads:

the demon of discouragement 
trips me up in hectic times, 
takes my heart apart 
and dumps out all my hope.

The demon of discouragement 
points fingers at my weakness, 
jaws his mouth at all my errors 
and threatens to undo me.

The demon of discouragement 
despises rainbows, relishes rancor, 
fights to hold my moody darkness 
and loves to see me weary.

The demon of discouragement 
fails to have the last laugh, though,
 for I've too many people of promise 
whose love outlasts my struggles.

If the demon of discouragement happens to be haunting your nights, may its spell on your heart and mind dispel in the light and love of Godde’s hope for you.

Note: Photo by author

What matters more: #BlackLivesMatter or #Facebook?

I will be honest: I left FB at the time of Cambridge Analytica. That would be 2018. It came out that FB had sold 50 million profiles. To Cambridge Analytica and advertisers. Mark Zuckerberg made money from what you and I like and dislike. I disliked that big time, so I left.

Now I see that many Facebook workers, like many Amazon and Google workers, are unhappy with their employers. Sunday it was announced that more than 140 Zuckerberg-funded scientists called on Facebook to rein in Trump.

Mr. Zuckerberg is a Trump supporter, and I guess he is entitled to. He must feel deep down that the bile poured out on FB pages represents what he, Mr. Zuckerberg, feels toward the world. A world that he also exploits in his own way.

What surprises me is that people who believe that #BlackLivesMatter, who find Mr. Trump’s inflammatory posts repulsive and reprehensible, stay on Facebook. And I’m talking of US citizens here, people who are directly involved and touched by what America stands for.

Because on Facebook, Amerikkka speaks freely. How can they bear it? Is there no cognitive dissonance? No feeling of moral discomfort?

I realize that Facebook is an addiction; it was for me — first thing in the morning and last thing at night. A way to connect with friends and families, to make new friends as well. A place to post my blog, to share articles I like… But dang…

So I came up with an idea: why not boycott Facebook as long as there is no moderation of the oil Mr. Trump pours on the social fire? It won’t be forever. There will be a time to return to the clicking of likes and dislikes on the Facebook feed.

Or maybe it’s too hard to do.

Who am I to say anything? I am on Instagram, a Facebook product 😱

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Note: Photo found at New Economy Coalition (photo)

Could the Spirit be with the demonstrators?

Come, Holy Spirit, come! … Come Father/Mother of the poor! … Come within our bosoms shine… Oh most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts of yours, and our inmost being fill!… Where you are not, we are naught… Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour your dew…

Isn’t it odd that confined in my garden on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I follow the news online and I can feel the pain of folks who have been enduring injustice for centuries? They stand up in grief and clamor for change. I walk with them in prayer and spirit.

Epidemics, it has been written, change history. The confinement has brought many of us to a stop and forced us to look at our lives. Many of us say, “I don’t want to go back to the way it was. I want to help bring about a better world.” But change doesn’t come easily, especially when change shoves our routine aside.

The recent murder of George Floyd, one more black person killed by a white police officer, has been the final straw for the black community, and many other folks.

How many disasters must come our way before we understand our need to change? Climate change is upon us, and we’re not doing a thing. Children go to bed hungry. No day care help for single mothers. No health protection. No unemployment compensation… A meat-packer has to die so that I can eat my steak or my pork chop… An Amazon worker has to die so that I can get my new blender…

Jesus walks with the poor; they are his Kingdom. To enter His Kingdom, I guess, I need to walk with Him and the poor of this world. To nestle safely in my cozy life will put me with the goats. I have to start doing the right thing.

As the Trinity looks at our world these days, they look at the mess we have made of Its Creation. “What shall we do?… We’ve sent them floods, wars, plagues. We sent them Jesus, and the Holy Spirit…”

So I have this strange feeling that Jesus and the Spirit are walking and chanting with the demonstrators — and this brings tears to my eyes.

How can we change our system? Can it be changed?

Black people standing up for their rights will not suffice. We must all join them, like the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan did. Priests, nuns, and bishops must march with them. Older white men and women must lock arms with the demonstrators and walk in front to protect the young.

We have to build the new Jerusalem, folks! It’s kind of an inspiring project really.

The Spirit is moving among us. Let’s listen.

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth

Note: Photo from the New York Times. Passage on the Holy Spirit from yesterday’s mass.

Joan Chittister, OSB

Give us, O God,
leaders whose hearts are large enough
to match the breadth of our own souls
and give us souls strong enough
to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.

In seeking a leader, let us seek
more than development for ourselves—
            though development we hope for—
more than security for our own land—
            though security we need—
more than satisfaction for our wants—
            though many things we desire.

Give us the hearts to choose the leader
who will work with other leaders
to bring safety
to the whole world.

Give us leaders
who lead this nation to virtue
without seeking to impose our kind of virtue
on the virtue of others.

Give us a government
that provides for the advancement
of this country
without taking resources from others
to achieve it.

Give us insight enough ourselves
to choose as leaders those who can tell
strength from power,
growth from greed,
leadership from dominance,
and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.

We trust you, Great God,
to open our hearts to learn from those
to whom you speak in different tongues
and to respect the life and words
of those to whom you entrusted
the good of other parts of this globe.

We beg you, Great God,
give us the vision as a people
to know where global leadership truly lies,
to pursue it diligently,
to require it to protect human rights
for everyone everywhere.

We ask these things, Great God,
with minds open to your word
and hearts that trust in your eternal care.

Amen.

Please Check Sr. Joan’s Website or again Monasteries of the Heart


    

It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep... Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.. Rom. 13:11-14 …Therefore, stay awake! … Mt 24_34-47

Ensconced in the quiet of my countryside, this late November, trees left with a few golden and red leaves, the morning light late in coming, I feel tempted to linger in bed and postpone waking up. Do I really need to throw my covers aside and get up, walk through the darkness and turn on the light? Harder still, awaken from my own darkness and turn my heart and mind toward the light…

Darkness, darkness within me, what are you made of? Which truths are you hiding from me? What do you fear I find?

It is easier to focus on the darkness around me, the darkness everyone talks about, the darkness out there, in the political and financial realms. Focusing on that darkness, I avoid looking at my own. Advent, however, is a time of awakening, inner cleansing, scrubbing my heart clean for the coming of the Prince of Peace…

Awaken from sleep… I often sleepwalk through the day, my mind on my computer, my cell-phone, Twitter, the news, instant messaging… How often do I turn my attention to those or what is around me? How often am I open to the Now, to Godde’s gifts and surprises, to Godde’s joy? I’m not even sure I give five minutes a day to the Now…

The works of darkness… are at work in me when I don’t practice mindfulness, when I live on automatic pilot, when I react rather than act. This again is most of the time.

The armor of light… makes me feel uncomfortable. It conjures up a sort of spiritual Wonder Woman, a sort of magic protection against darkness… unless it’s the white alb of baptism radiating in the morning sun, a vestment of peace and friendship…

Stay Awake… Can I stay awake for twenty-five days, not 24/7, but a few minutes a day when my heart and mind welcome the Now and its gifts? Can I commit myself to a daily moment of mindfulness when I remember that my heart is awaiting its beloved teacher? Can I die to my newsfeed — just a tiny bit?

With your love and your grace, O Godde, nothing is impossible…

IMG_2749

I march for the 17 that cannot

Millions of folks yesterday participated in the March For Our Lives in response to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. So did my husband Paul and I.

We did it for different reasons.  Paul  looked back at what he had done, or not done, fifty years ago or so, and found himself not having been public enough on his views of the issues then. “This time I want to be on the right side of history.”

I went because Emma Gonzalez’s words shortly after the shooting: they moved me. I also went because of my two grandsons, who both feel part of the school shooting generation.

So we bought two tickets for Washington, DC and found ourselves with hundreds of thousands of other people: many high schoolers, of course, their teachers, their parents; women and men with their pussy hats; whole families whose children are old enough to get killed in school shootings since they have the age to go to school: 5-6 years old…

“I knew how to duck bullets, before I knew how to read,” said one very young black girl at the microphone.

I expected to march. In fact we stood still. Standing still for three hours is not that easy and it completely upset my iWatch which took those three hours standing still for ‘Move’… Maybe because my heart did the walking my legs couldn’t do.

I’m glad there were no politicians or celebrities on the stage. Well, there were celebrities, just not the Hollywood kind. Miley Cyrus sang — I had to ask two young students who she was. And I missed Ariane Grande. Sorry. I heard her, but didn’t get who she was. I would have liked to know, because I really admired her during and after the Manchester killings.

Most of all, I listened to the children who spoke to us. I realized that they were ‘witnessing’. I can’t think of anything more moving than someone witnessing.

I have heard poor women from the slums of Madras (now Chennai), witnessing about the moment they suddenly found the courage to stand tall and address their sisters in poverty about the harsh reality of their own lives.

I have heard women and men witnessing about Godde in their lives, as they gave a rollo during a Cursillo weekend.

I just didn’t expect to hear young boys and girls, from 9 to 18, I guess, witnessing about the excruciating pain which comes from losing a sibling or a friend to gun violence, the constant fear to be the next one, the stress that comes from having gone through it.

I fell asleep still hearing their voices . I’m going through today  their voices still ringing in my ears.

And I’m glad I’m still hearing them, because their voices, their stories, will help me keep the momentum going.

Everyone can read the many articles or watch the youtube videos about yesterday. I don’t want to repeat here what you can find elsewhere.

I just would like to mention the young Edna Chavez, from South L.A., who talked about her brother. She opened her speech in Spanish, and my “Puerto Rican” heart rejoiced to hear her words.

Or the young black boy who spoke so well, so articulately, about what it means to lose his big brother to gun fire.

Or the young black girl of 11 who talked of her beautiful dead sisters nobody else talks about, of the promise of their lives cut short…

I was taken by surprise by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s granddaughter. That little kid had us repeat after her four times, if I remember correctly, those words that she wanted us to say with passion. When we finally did what she expected of us, she told us we could give ourselves a round of applause.

When it came time to sing “Happy Birthday” for what would have been  Nicholas Dworet’s 18th birthday yesterday… tears came before the words…

There were also of course those six minutes + of silence during Emma Gonzalez’s speech. At first I thought it was a minute of silence, then I got that those minutes were the time it took the 19 years old killer to stop short the lives of those seventeen human beings .

I feel unfair not to mention everyone, every young girl, every young man who found the courage to stand up and witness to us what it means to live with the fear of guns in their lives. They each are now in my heart and I will find out, learn and remember their names. I do not want to forget one of them.

What I didn’t expect was the involvement of youngsters whose lives are threatened by gunfire not only in their schools, but in their neighborhoods. I heard them loud and clear. I am just not sure how I, a white grandmother, can come to the rescue to help their world be a safer place. But I heard them. They made sense to me, and I’m pretty sure they made sense to each person listening to them on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday.

I feel grateful the Spirit moved us to go to Washington, DC yesterday. I saw a poster which said “Fuck your prayers.” I can’t say I feel comfortable with the words, but I understand the feeling behind them. What’s the point of prayers without actions?

Godde meant this world to be a good place. How did we let it come to the point it is at now? But the kids came along, and it’s our turn to listen, to learn, and help them in their “nonviolent revolution.”

Bless the Lord, all you angels, you ministers, who do his will. Ps. 103

October 2nd is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. While praying the readings of that day last month, I felt a movement in my heart. It suggested that I spend some time in silence every day with my guardian angel.

Do you believe in guardian angels?

My mother did. She named hers ‘François’. My maternal grandmother taught me a prayer her own father had given her, asking the good angel to look after my body while I am alive and to take care of my soul when I die. Even though I say this prayer pretty much every night, I cannot say that until the recent Memorial I nurtured a close relation with my guardian angel. To this day, he has no name.

Angels come in different ways, in both the Old and New Testaments, protecting, healing, guarding. They can be good or bad. Angels can also be found in daily life: someone appears out of nowhere, gives a break at a crucial time, and moves on. Who was that person? I expect everyone of us, hopefully, is an angel to someone at one time or another in the course of our life.

I had a powerful encounter (of a different kind) with an angel more than thirty years ago. I was living in Lima, Peru at the time and was writing a story on Eve. I had read Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman. Her book had removed the scales from my eyes and unbound my mind. The story of Adam and Eve is a patriarchal story produced to destroy women’s myths and rites. A three or four-thousand year old myth had stopped being the burden it had been until then. The sinfulness I had inherited from Eve was a myth… Poof! Gone!

As I was thinking about Eve in the garden, I ‘saw’ that the snake was in fact an angel who happened to have a snake embroidered on his robe. The angel came upon Eve by accident. Why did he happen to be in the garden, I do not know. What the embroidered snake meant, I cannot say either. We are told that angels are neither male nor female. I am not sure about that. In our days of gay liberation, the idea that the angel might have been female adds a new twist to my story. But in Peru I imagined the angel as a male, without his being aware of it. God does not need angels to reproduce themselves. What angels do not know cannot hurt them.

Anyway. The angel comes across Eve. He has heard of God’s earthly creation: the sky, the ocean, the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, trees, and flowers. Everything so incredibly new, different from Heaven, and beautiful. Our angel is stunned by Eve’s beauty. In her virginal purity, she just sees the angel as one creation among others. She does not notice a difference. She does not question. Why would she? She takes for granted that he belongs in the garden, like everything else. The angel, on the other hand, cannot not keep his eyes away from Eve. He watches her for days, slightly annoyed at Adam’s presence, whom he sees as an dim-witted oaf, an awkward boor.

Comes the time when the angel finds Eve alone. They start spending time together. She enjoys his presence; he is not like from Adam; he seems to see something different in her, which makes her feel nice.

How does the angel think of suggesting to Eve to eat a fruit from the tree of good and evil? He wants her to be more like him and less like Adam. He hopes that through eating the apple from the tree, this will happen. Of course, he never imagines that Eve will offer Adam a bite from the apple. The angel never anticipates the repercussions. As we know, in the story, Adam and Eve are chased out of the Garden. The angel is expelled from heaven, forever reviled and feared.

In the days that I imagine the story, I could feel the connection between Eve and the angel, as if the two of them were with me in the kitchen as I was preparing dinner. In fact, as I really did not know what to ‘do’ with the angel’s presence which felt so real, I filed the story away and did return to it until now.

In more recent years, as I was preparing once again to walk the Camino, wondering whether my body would withstand one more time on the road to Santiago, I remember one day, lying on the ground in tears (and in pain). Suddenly, the play of light coming through the window did create, for a few moments, like a sparkling presence hovering over me, showering love and encouragement.

These days, when I think of my guardian angel who must have been getting white hair trying to protect me from myself (mainly), I dialogue, ask questions, wonder. Of course, by now, I do see the angel as a companion getting me ready for the hereafter. It is a nice feeling.

Is my guardian angel an imaginary friend, with whom I walk, dance, daydream? Does my guardian angel look at me the way the angel looked at Eve? Am I just a weird creation or someone with the incredible luck to have a divine spark hidden in the depths of my being, which makes me infinitely lovable?

I do not know. Still the movement in my heart on October 2nd remains a reality, something which did happen, an invitation to spend time with the invisible, this agent of the All-Loving…

Art: Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497, Angels

A marriage in the West usually starts like in the photo shown above. Girl meets boy. A strong physical attraction brings the two together. Sometimes, the relationship never quite moves beyond that passionate kiss. At other times, the girl and the boy decide to tie the knot and start a life together. Of course, mores have changed. Girl and boy can choose to live together and have children without getting married. It can also be girl with girl, or boy with boy. Woman and man happens too; love does not stop at age barriers. In fact, the variations are nearly infinite.

I can see these differences in the friends and relatives around me. Some have stayed happily married (with ups and downs, of course). Others are divorced, widowed, remarried. A few are single.

The idea of this post came to me while watching Korean dramas, which are usually very romantic. A kiss only comes after several episodes. A bed scene is very rare. So very different from French and Anglo-Saxon shows. Drama takes place, of course, through thwarted love (“les amours contrariés”).

One drama, Healer, particularly seized my imagination. The chemistry between the two young people is fabulous, pure in a way, and the attraction between the two is undeniable. Add to this, martial arts, a journalistic investigation, corrupted politicians, you have a great story.

A young couple who falls in love is delightful to watch. It is refreshing, charming, and inspiring in a way. This reminds me of the weekends of Marriage Preparation in which Paul and I participated. The young couples gained some insights in their relationship and were preparing to a life of Catholic bliss and challenges. For us, presenters, we were left at the end of the weekend with a renewal of our own marriage. Those young people’s delight in each other (most of the time ‘young’) was contagious.

As I reflected on the interaction of the two heroes in Healer, I realized that their age in the story was Paul’s and mine when we met. Like in the story, Paul was very attractive and I did turn him on. Then, I tried to imagine the heroes in the drama forty-five years later. How have their appearance changed? Are they still together? Do they have children? What did life bring to them that shook up or threatened their love for each other?

Watching Korean love stories has me revisit my own. Just today I was looking through our wedding photos. One gave me the thrill of a shiver: during the wedding reception, Paul and I are standing by friends sitting on benches in the field where we all have lunch. His left hand is on my shoulder. How wonderful this hand still feels today…

I have no idea really why Paul and I stayed married. My mother once told me, “You’re lucky: you got married for love”. I guess she hadn’t. True, neither he nor I fell in love with someone else, or became attracted enough to somebody to be tempted to leave our marriage.

I did not get married thinking that our marriage would last, however. Having seen my maternal grandparents and my parents unhappy in their own marriage, I had always thought that if it did not work out, unlike them, I would leave. Also, I felt pretty sure that after two years I would know everything there was to know about my spouse, and might not want to stay with him any further.

I was wrong, of course. I still don’t really know all there is to know about him. I did think of leaving sometimes over the past forty-five years, but I always gave myself more time — to be hurt. Six more months… In six months, I will see. I had my escape plans: how I would get from where I was to where I wanted to take refuge… It all got easier after the first twenty-five years. But it’s still possible to get really hurt now. Not today or yesterday, but even so.

Paul and I have succeeded where my grandparents and parents have not. I feel grateful for this ‘success’, but have no recipe to offer. I have seen how a broken marriage hurts those involved; how much of one’s self-esteem seems to be linked to marital success. Sometimes, of course, spouses are unaware of what is really going on in the mind and heart of their significant other. The revelation can be dumb-founding or heart-wrenching.

Among the many gifts that Godde has given me in the course of my life, staying married is one of them. The attraction of that first kiss is still there and somewhere inside of me, it is not only the sixty-nine years old woman who breathes, but also the twenty-fours years old who fell for this young American man and was, and still is, so very much turned on by him.

Thank you Godde for this.

Photo: Robert Doisneau (found here).

I am just back from the States, after spending some time in Manhattan. Our children have moved and we will now visit them there. Manhattan is a big change from Puerto Rico, where we spent fourteen years, off and on.

The idea of spending time in New York is thrilling: so much to do, so much to see. It is one thing to spend three days in New York and fill them with theater and museums. Living there is different. It is a move, basically. It is taking me time to adjust, to act, to mobilize, to start anew. A poor night and my day is shot. Lethargy sets in, and not much is achieved.

Life is good, and a bit unreal. We have a room with a view; we stay minutes from our children; everything needed is within a short walk. So yes, we’ve seen a ballet, movies, been to museums. I already have a to-do list when we return. What to keep our eyes out for…

The surprise came from the feeling I get from seeing homeless around where I live. They help me feel ‘home’ somehow. They ground me in reality. They remind me that they will be rich in heaven, and I will be poor. I will beg for their attention then.

I am grateful for their presence. They reveal the glitter of the big city for what it is. A few folks live at the top, while the rest struggles to make ends meet. And there are those who no longer have any ends to meet.

One Saturday morning we joined some thirty or forty other people at the rectory of our parish to hand out a bag with a few goodies to people on the street (a sandwich, a ticket for a McDonald’s meal, a t-shirt, a list of shelters, soup kitchens and showers). We went in small groups to Grand Central Station, Penn Station, the Port Authority, or stay in the neighborhood. Paul and I chose the fourth option. With three or four bright green bags to hand out, we set off to meet our street brothers and sisters.

Whereas I had come across several homeless folks in the previous days, that night it had rained and it had been cold, so we walked through empty streets. The people we were looking for had disappeared having found shelter somewhere. It took a bit of walking to meet those we were looking for.

I remember a young man, Tom, with so many pieces of luggage around him; or this tall black man, born in Kenya from a US father and a Kenyan mother. I joked with him that he had points in common with President Obama, which made him and his friend laugh. (Unfortunately, I have now forgotten his name.) I met Kenny on that day, next to a grocery store. A couple of days later, I saw him at another place, and he was surprised I remembered his name.

In each encounter, the point was not only to hand out the bag, but also to connect. Kenny was the one who needed most to talk, which is why I found easy to remember his name. He too was lugging around a heavy suitcase and a couple of bags. He had spent the night in a hospital because of a bad back following a work accident…

Before we started on our journey, still at the church, one group leader mentioned in passing how easy it is to become homeless in New York when one loses one’s job…

At the end of the morning, with still one green bag to give someone, on the door steps of the church, I came across a young black man, with dark sun glasses. He too had a black suitcase with two smaller bags stacked against the lifted handle. He looked ready to go on a business trip, but was hanging around other homeless. So I assumed that he was one himself. What took me to ask him if he lived on the streets? He found my question very rude, insulting, and stupid. Would anyone consider living on the streets and be run over by cars, he asked. Would I ask this very same question to a family member, to Jesus?

I was lost for words, thinking that indeed I would ask a loved one if he or she was living on the streets. Undoubtedly, Jesus was living on the streets… Which better question should I have asked him, I inquired. Angrily, he went on… The idea of having insulted him brought tears to my eyes and I found myself lost for words. After he rejected the food I was offering him, I walked away with a heavy heart.

This young man stayed with me most of that day. Our encounter churned in my mind and heart. He was angry, he was hurting. An old white woman, with a roof on her head and food in her fridge, was doing her thing, − and insulting him in the process.

I am ashamed somehow to admit that the presence of homeless in Manhattan makes this place beautiful to me. They, who have nothing, give me so much, just by walking the streets, sitting on bench, or begging for change with a piece of paper where it’s written that they feel so ashamed to have to do this.

How I wish I could be a fairy-godmother and change their grim reality into something warm and safe! I hope to find a way to make their life a tiny bit better. How can I receive so much from them and only give some change in return?

Photo: Midtown Manhattan from Weehawken, NJ, wikipedia