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…


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

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…

Eph 4:1

To live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…

As Paul read this passage aloud this morning, my heart stopped. Am I truly living in a manner worthy of the call that I have received? I knew the answer even before I gave it. No.

Every so often, a line in a daily reading echoes through my whole being and does in me the work it is meant to do… As the rain and the snow… do not return… till they have watered the earth… so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me… (Is 55:10-11).

Last night at mass I felt quite unworthy and somewhat ‘removed’. The sermon was wonderful (oh, to hear a priest talk about poverty, homelessness, gay equality…). The activities of the parish are inspiring. Still my attention was somewhere else.

This morning’s reading realigned my time, interests, dreams, hopes, and velleities… Suddenly, Godde feels back in my life again. Her love is there; this very special attention, as if her eyes were on me, looking at me with kindness. The longing to do better, more… Magis, our friend Luís would say.

In recent months, I have taken a vacation from life. j’étais aux abonnés absents, disconnected from much of what my life used to be. A new passion has entered my life, a disordered affection of sorts. A Korean drama on Netflix introduced me several months ago to another world, country, language, history, lifestyle — and I fell in love with it. It has opened up a new window in my mind. I love it so much that I have dropped most other things. Hence the rub.

This new love has triggered me into looking at the other loves Life has brought me over the years. It started with the English language when I was twelve and spent three weeks in England. I returned many times. I worked in English, fell in love with an American in Geneva, and discovered the Anglo-Saxon world. Then came Spanish (Peru) , Hinduism (India), Catholicism (Cursillo and RCIA), Ignatian spirituality (our Jesuit friend Louis, CVX/PR, Manresa), and now K-drama.

I do not know where this new love will take me, but I trust it will take me somewhere, as every other passion has. I am learning Korean very slowly, reading about Korean society, following the news, and enjoying Hallyu (Korean pop culture). I don’t think I have had that much fun in years. I have no friends and relatives with whom I can share this passion, but I have such a grand time with it that it does not really matter. The only impact I have had on my family is that now we exclaim ‘Fighting!’ when we want to encourage each other (one of the few Korean words I can understand).

The letter to the Ephesians this morning came attached to the reality check which I face every day as I come across so many homeless on the streets of Manhattan (where we now spend some of our time). I know that I cannot let my life be consumed with this love which has come to brighten my final years. The time to end my vacation from life is here. Like every vacation, I come home with new ideas, new projects, ready to go back to be more present to those extraordinary gifts which Godde showers upon me and to which I want to respond.

It is time to go back to living more in a manner worthy of the call I have received.

Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA,


Statues in museums remind me of beautiful wild animals in zoos: they have been removed from their natural environments so that many folks who could not see them otherwise can have an idea of what they are. But museums and zoological gardens only give an approximation of the true nature of what is looked at.

I have never liked much to see animals prisoners behind bars. I always feel sad for them. I love going to museums and admire what I would never come close otherwise. Well, this was the case until I stood in front of a Ganesha and remembered my days in India when I learned of this generous and all powerful god.

Years ago, in a whim, I had prayed to Lord Ganesh. I found to my great surprise that my request had been granted. An Indian friend of mine explained then that Lord Ganesh cannot turned down a prayer. Possibly all prayers from all denominations and all corners of the planet end up in the same place. I don’t know. I trust in prayer, whether to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Anthony of Padua, Saint James (of Compostela fame), or Lord Ganesh.

All these receivers of prayers can be found in museums. How often, however, does one think of praying to the St James that can be seen on the ground floor of the Met?

What is the difference between Mary Mother of Jesus in the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris or in the Cloisters? Why would one pray in one place and not the other? Isn’t the statue representing the same holiness here or there?

This is what I felt the other day as I came upon this Lord Ganesh (I think). Suddenly, it was not just a museum piece standing there for my aesthetic and cultural pleasure. It was the representation of goodness incarnate, a God who can never say no to a prayer. So I bowed my head and prayed. I addressed my most heartfelt hope to the Remover of Obstacles. I felt a connection which I feel in churches and temples right there in the museum.

In the movie One Night At the Museum, the statues, animals, and scenes all become alive when the museum closes. What about the gods and goddesses, saints and holy women and men in all the world’s museums? Do they miss the place for which they were meant? Do they remember the prayers addressed to them, the ceremonies celebrated for them? Are they tamed forever once they are removed from their place of origin or do they remain just as sacred and powerful as they were before, in a reality of their own which we cannot even begin to imagine?

Art: Standing Ganesha, pre Angkor period, Cambodia, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The other evening we went to the supermarket. Every office worker working nearby had rushed to its aisles. Seven p.m. is definitely not the right time to go grocery shopping, if you can avoid it. Neither is the lunch hour. We bought what we needed and headed toward the cash registers where the lines looked like an airport on Christmas eve. As if heading toward the security check, I wove my way till I found a hole to slip in. I turned around and noticed Paul right behind me, just outside the queuing area. I lifted the elastic tape separating us, and invited him to move in with the shopping cart. At this point, a nice tall young black employee in charge of crowd control pointed out to us that we were jumping the queue. For this time, however, he would let this go.

I did not think anymore of it. I did not feel I had jumped the queue. I was in it and had invited Paul to join me. Paul, on the other hand, felt embarrassed for having done it. This was not right. It is only the following morning that he mentioned the incident, expressing then strong feelings which I had neither noticed nor imagined. After a few minutes, he muttered that he had to let ‘this’ go.

Jumping the queue runs in my DNA. It’s basically a sport in my country of origin, France. If it is no longer French, it’s very much deeply rooted in what I happen to be. (The French have gotten better when time comes to receive the Eucharist. Some time back, it was a free for all, as if there were a risk of running out of hosts).

I remember years ago, in my early teens, hopping on an English bus ahead of the queue and heading straight to the back of the bus. An irate older gentleman pointed me out to the conductor and I was asked to get off the bus. I never jumped a bus line in England again.

My mother liked to recall how in Dunkerque, in June of 1940, an English officer, gun in hand, asked a friend of hers to get off his ship because the soldier had rushed onto it without paying attention to the queue. Stranded on the beach, this friend ended up spending four years in a German prisoners’ camp. Still he did not to get killed like so many others.

Yesterday, we returned to the supermarket where throngs were shopping for Labor Day weekend. I headed for the lines, with the shopping cart, while Paul was running for something we had forgotten. No queue jumped this time.

I tend to jump queues without noticing it. If at all possible, it feels normal to make my way toward the head of the line… I am grateful that Paul shared his embarrassment. I will be more careful.

This led me to reflect on those reflexes we all have. I jump queues; a black youngster starts running away when a policeman calls him; a trader cannot resist the rush of the deal; a mother snaps angrily at her child because she’s scared. We all have reactions which are not helpful, but which at some other time came in handy and has become way of being.

Anything specific comes to your mind?

Art: Stephen Escher

‘It is our most cherished belief that there is no one who is irredeemable, no situation that is without hope, and no crime that cannot be forgiven.’

The Book of Forgiving, Desmond and Mpho Tutu, 6

The idea of forgiveness has been with me ever since I learned the Our Father, those evenings that I knelt by my bed as a small child. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.’ A very demanding prayer.

Hurts have usually found a way of making a home in my heart. They sniff their way around, like a dog before he lies down. Once settled, they can remain there forever, or so it seems.

The idea of forgiving entered the living-room of my soul in the early RCIA sessions I attended more than twenty years ago. Forgiveness is a choice. Hm…

Breast cancer came along and thanks to Stephen Levine’s book, A Year to Live, I started to work systematically on gratitude and forgiveness. I made lists, if nothing else. I became aware of my grudges.

While working on a degree in Pastoral Studies, I wrote a timeline of those times when I had felt close to and far from Godde, when I was happy or miserable. This is when I realized how unhappy I had felt in the very early years of my marriage, while living in Paul’s hometown. The idea of returning to visit filled me with dread. The mere idea of going there made me want to bolt. I did not find hard to meet my in-laws individually, but family gatherings felt overwhelming. Usually, by the end of our stay, shortly before leaving, some random event would take place and leave me flat out.

From 2005 on came our Camino years. I can think of many reasons to walk the Camino. One of them is to work on forgiving those people whose memory fills me with bile. I would pick up a stone or two, each for a different person. My fingers would play with them as I walked along, till the moment when the anger seemed gone and I would leave the stone by the side of the road or on a cross along the way.

Grudges really smell like stale cookies or vegetables passed their prime, but I had learned to live with their smells.

This year, after a decade or so, came the time to return to the Pacific Northwest to show it to our grandsons and visit Paul’s relatives. The same old angst filled my heart. Two books, however, came to my rescue: Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Aging and Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s The Book of Forgiveness (mentioned above). (Note:I have only started these two books and still have quite a ways to go before I finish them.)

From KDS’s book, I realized that I did not want to take my fear of relatives with me in death. I would rather leave them all behind; this meant coming to some sort of understanding and resolution. I also came to see that in view of our respective ages (60s and 70s), this might be the last time I see some of these people (or all of them if I happen to die first). This thought put a distance between what was to come and my feelings somehow. I found safety in distance.

The Book of Forgiveness, where Desmond Tutu and his daughter address the need for reconciliation in South Africa — and the rest of the world –, revealed to me that Paul’s relatives had not harmed me in any way. They all are good people who come from a culture quite different from mine (not all Westerners are alike). I just met them in my 20s and simply did not know how to cope with my culture shock. My angst had sprung from who I was, not from who they were. Truly, I had nothing to forgive them. This turned out to be quite a revelation. An odd and amused peace spread through my heart and soul. Had it been this easy all along and I had not noticed it until now?

As we were preparing to leave for our family visit, I mentioned my experience to our younger daughter. ‘My fear is gone,’ I told her. She looked at me and said, ‘Maman, it only took you forty-five years.’

And so it did.

Photo: Ruby Beach, Washington State, August 2015

… whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor 9:6-8

This reading struck me yesterday because, if I read it correctly, whatever abundance Godde gives us in our life is to be shared with others, some of it, at least, to be given away. The word ‘abundance’ brings back memories of my reading, and saying, years ago affirmations like, Every day in every way I become more prosperous…

This passage stopped me in my track and had me wonder how much of my ‘abundance’ do I share?

Today, Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change,  Laudato Si, Praised Be, is to be released. Much noise has been made already, for it and against it. I will read it as soon as I can lay my hands on it.

Until then, what dawned on me this morning is the link between our abundance and the climate change. Our abundance comes basically from the grabbing by the First World of the natural resources in the Third World. As you may already know, if everybody in the world lived the way most US citizens live, it would take seven ‘earths’ to maintain that lifestyle.

Our abundance comes from the Industrial Revolution and this Western sacred cow which capitalism is for some of us. Our planet is being raped again and again, so that we can drive gas-guzzling cars,  eat salted almonds, turn on our A/Cs, enjoy strawberries at Christmastime and buy cheap goods made and sold by exploited workers.

I expect some people to rave about Pope Francis’ encyclical. But will those who rave be willing to change their way of being? Will I be able to live with less so that others can live with more, all that without destroying our Mother Earth?

Of course, some people are going to fight tooth and nail the reflections and recommendations proposed by Pope Francis. Strong political anti-bodies are going to react violently to a reality they prefer not to see, because this reality is too deeply challenging to the way we are.

Today’s situation is fascinating: Are we truly followers of Christ and willing to save both our poorer brothers and sisters while saving the earth as well? It is in our power, in our own interest even, to do so, but is it also in the realm of our will?

May Godde give us the grace to change.

Photo: ICCG’s tweet, 9 June 2015