Bombs and explosives, killer vans and forest fires, mudslides and floods, gangs and cartels. Jails that are overflowing and churches that are near-empty. TV images of people running for their lives. What’s going on? Who’s in charge? Has hope abandoned our world?
A recent trip to Moscow and St Petersburg was eye-opening and a bit mind-boggling. The majestic palaces beautifully restored from the imperial centuries, the huge museums that house old European and Russian art treasures, and the onion-domed cathedrals that strain at the seams with stunning icons and mosaics – each one in itself a cultural and visual feast.
All sorts of folk drop by our local bakery. It may be for a chat, a quiet read over a cappuchino, escape from the house, a couple of tourists to check it out or whatever. I am not immune to any of the above and I like to engage with others in the congenial surround of the bakery and its denizens.
For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about Pope Francis lately. He is deep into his 81st year and there seems to be no let-up to his energy level. I’ve been looking over his daily homilies which he gives Monday thru Friday at Casa Santa Marta, his home in the Vatican.
Lisa Goertz lost her family – husband, children, siblings and parents – in the Jewish holocaust. In her book she told her telling story. Having lost everything and everyone dear to her Lisa, overcome by grief, became suicidal and decided to end it all. And then an extraordinary thing happened. “I walked out into the night feeble with hunger, half-crazy with fear and fatigue, and made my way to the river Neisse. ‘In a few hours it would be all over,’ I told myself. What a relief! And then it happened. Across the dark river I saw the Cross
“If you knew the gift of God…..” There is one who knew this gift of God, one who did not lose one particle of it, one who is so pure, so luminous that she seemed to be the Light itself….One whose life was so simple, so lost in God that there is hardly anything we can say about it.
Age and Understanding
Growing old is a journey into gratitude; into serenity, wisdom, empathy and into a kind of solitude – each reflecting a center like the sides of a prism. Those of us of a certain vintage are on those journeys and, like any growth journey, they’re not without pains and bruises. Of embarrassments and goodbyes, I’ve had my share along the way.
The Western Wall, or “wailing wall” in the old city of Jerusalem, is the holiest place in the world where Jews come to pray. It’s all that remains of the Temple which stood there in the time of Jesus Christ. An 84 year old Rabbi prayed at the wall twice daily for more than seventy-two years, and when asked about prayer by a priest he is reported to have said, “Prayer is talking to the Wall.”
Christianity grew out of Judaism. It didn’t replace it but, largely unknown to ourselves, we inherited much of Judaism’s biblical insights and traditions. The idea of the Sabbath is a case in point that I find to be enriching.
We readily fall victim to society’s values. People today want success more than anything. Popular religion often focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not know much, if anything at all, about the spiritual fruits of failure. Failure and defeat, material or spiritual, are things we don’t dwell on.