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Normal?

So here we are...weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown.  There's so much to say about it,  and I think most of it has probably already been said.   My own state, New Jersey, appears finally to have rounded the bend, so to speak,  and we're hopeful that the numbers of positive cases and deaths will  begin to decrease.  Still,  it may be a long time before things get back to normal.

And that word "normal" is the reason for this particular blog.   What's the "normal" that we hope for?  Is it to return to things just as they were? 

Or has this forced retreat from the life we're accustomed to,  perhaps been an opportunity to do a little visioning,  a little re-thinking, of what life can be? 

Many people have found themselves with a lot of extra time on their hands during this stay-home time.  If you find  yourself in that situation,  grab a few minutes of that extra time,  sit quietly,  turn off the news,  and re-imagine "The World After Covid-…

Suddenly, Everything Matters.

I must admit I've never paid too much attention to how many seconds I take for hand-washing...to how many times a day I touch my face...to how close I sit or stand next to someone.

All of a sudden,  all that matters,  and could literally mean life or death for someone whose health is delicate or compromised.

As we sequester ourselves in the hope of "flattening the curve"  and helping to stem the tide of COVID-19,   let's be mindful of "what matters".


1.      Many people will not have the "luxury" of sequestering themselves until the siege is over.  They will go to their daily work in clinics, pharmacies,  hospitals,  firehouses,  police cars, sanitation trucks,  and utility companies.  They'll be there to sell us needed supplies,  to tend to electrical and plumbing problems, to staff the offices of "essential services", and so on.   They will risk their own health to be of service to others.  They deserve our gratitude and need our pray…
Poinsettias and Thorns

Advent came and went in its lovely darkness,  and Christmas burst in with lights, wonderful music, joyful festivity,  and so many opportunities to connect and re-connect...

In our monastery church,  which has been spectacularly bright and colorful with Christmas trees,  poinsettias,  and a  beautiful creche,  one seemingly discordant note stands out:  a crown-of-thorns plant in bloom.   What is this Good Friday reminder of Jesus' passion and death doing in the middle of poinsettias,  Magi, and brightly-lit trees?

Well, it belongs to the story,  because that Baby arrived in Bethlehem for one reason:  to bring us home to God and to one another in love, peace,  and reconciliation.  He accomplished it by preaching, by miracles,  but ultimately by surrendering His life to God on the Cross.   His Resurrection promises us the same hope in our own lives,  as we also give of ourselves to God.   And that mostly happens  as we give of ourselves to one another in servi…
A Change of Color

As a kid, I always looked forward to this Third Sunday of Advent.  The Mass vestments would change from the darker violet hues of the season to a cheerful, rosy pink,  the pink candle on the Advent wreath would be lit,   and I knew it was a sign that Christmas was getting closer. 

Was this a spiritual insight?   Perhaps a little bit -- most Catholic children knew that Advent would lead us into Christmas and the celebration of Jesus' birth.  Of course, that also meant that school would close for a while,  that we'd be decorating the tree,  that there would be gifts, festive meals,  and some leisurely fun activities.  Even those traditional pickled herring that we ate in our house every New Year's Eve counted as something to be anticipated with delight.    The rose-colored vestments were a sign that all of this was getting closer.  So  the spiritual meaning of the color change was accompanied by lots of seemingly less-spiritual anticipation.

It's easy…
A Beauty in Darkness

Advent....we're into the second week and our monastery church reflects the season.  In addition to stained-glass windows,  we also have a lot of clear glass,  and so bare outlines of tree branches,  the steady and faithful color of the evergreens,  and the early darkness before Vespers all greet us as we enter this sacred space.  The movement of the sanctuary light flickering  over the tabernacle provides a sense of comfort and warm presence on  dark and chilly evenings.

So often we tend to think of darkness as negative and forbidding,  but it also provides a sense of quiet,  calm, rest, and healing.  Stars that disappeared at dawn return as the sun sets;  a bright, crisp moon makes itself known.

During this short but lovely liturgical season,  we listen to readings that promise the coming of God's light and life and love.  The promise is made to us as a people -- but the intimacy of darkness reminds us that the promise is also made to us as individuals: …
One Thing Only

Today's Gospel passage from Luke,  on this Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time,  is the famous story of Martha and Mary.   Many different "takes" on this story have evolved over the centuries, but it often strikes me that Martha takes a beating in many interpretations. It's sometimes assumed that Jesus is telling her that she has made an inferior choice in how to deal with him as a guest -- she's preparing a meal and therefore carrying out the details of hospitality, while her sister Mary is sitting at the Lord's feet, listening to him and enriching her discipleship by imbibing his teachings.  Jesus' comment that Mary has chosen the better part has invited a lot of criticism, however gentle, of Martha.  It's also created comparisons of Christian lifestyles to the detriment of those whose lives are necessarily busy with family obligations,  with work responsibilties, even with Church ministries.

No doubt writers will be cheerfully ar…
Right There, At My Door

Today's Gospel is that familiar reading, from Luke,  about the rich man and Lazarus.   As I was doing lectio on it this morning,  what caught my attention was the fact that Lazarus,  poor and sick and covered with sores, was at the rich man's door.   Does this mean that every time the rich man entered or left his house,  there was Lazarus?   Had this desperately needy man become so much a part of the scenery that the rich man simply stepped around him, without a second thought?

I can become very opinionated about what's going on in the world and in the nation.   I can sign petitions,  attend demonstrations,  read and listen to the words of both Church and civil commentators on social justice,  sustainability,  concern for the most marginalized and vulnerable.  And I should!

But is there a poor person at my door that I don't even notice?   It could be the unexpected phone caller, or the individual who drops in at my office when I'm in the mi…